Travel and photography in Qatar

I probably should have posted this a while ago but better late than never right? 

I'm huge fan of the middle eastern architecture and the new modern buildings are beautiful. I've been fortunate enough to have travelled to a number of countries and I think Qatar is now one of my favourite places to visit. Firstly, the airport, dear god the airport is beautiful. I only wish I wasn't half out of it due to lack of sleep and took some proper pictures of it. 

For this trip I stayed at the Oryx Rotana Hotel, I managed to get a pretty good deal. The hotel interior was amazing and the room I had was stunning. I definitely tip the proverbial hat to the hotel and the staff, to say they were helpful is a severe understatement. 

The reason for my trip was architecture and the country does not disappoint. The Corniche was by far my favourite place to relax in the evening. The view of the city skyline and the National Museum really make this place extraordinary. 

Overall I think the country is beautiful, the buildings are unique and awe inspiring and really make Doha stand out. There are still various under developed areas in the country however I think with the world cup coming in 6 years they have plenty of time to really bring Qatar onto the world stage. 

Anyway that's enough from me, here are some images. 

 

Travel and AirBnB

Recently I found myself travelling more often, either to meet new clients or for work around the country. This of course is not a matter for complaint, however one can imagine travel and accommodation costs really start to mount up. The average cost of a one star hotel in London for two nights, is approximately £100.00. The costs increases significantly as you start adding more stars.  This of course is dependant on the date and time of the year you're visiting, however you can't always choose when your clients need you. 

finding ways to save money whilst travelling is extremely important, especially because it starts to cut into your profit margins. Even if your not travelling for business, I'm sure you can agree saving money is a good thing.

AirBnB is a website/platform which allows home owners to rent out a room or their whole home for a short term period. The service is essentially like how you would expect a hotel to operate except with more of a homely feel.  I have used the service a number of times and I'm very impressed. 

Bookings are done online and the beauty of this service is the flexibility of where you can stay at reasonable prices. There are some beautiful homes available and so far all the hosts I've encountered have been fantastic. 

The images in this post are of a home we stayed at. The home was lovely, and very close to the tube station too making it very easy to get into the city. The family were very accommodating and had a beautiful, big fluffy cat (that didn't like me very much). Lastly the room itself was spacious and comfortable. 

Overall I'm a fan of AirBnB, I think the platform has been well thought out and making a booking is secure and easy. I found their verification process to be quite thorough and it's reassuring, especially when you consider how complete strangers are meeting for the first time. This is a platform I will using often and to get your £13.00 credit, please use the following link :-). 

https://www.airbnb.co.uk/c/usmand1?s=4&i=1 


Creams British Luxury Leeds

I'm always looking for an excuse to indulge a little and a new tearoom in Leeds is just too difficult to resist.

Creams British Luxury, recently opened their doors in Leeds city centre and wow is it something. Although I haven't visited their original location in Huddersfield, the new location is very impressive. Upon entering, you can immediately see the attention to detail and how much effort and investment has gone into the place.  A single chandelier costs £20,000, and the piano... well, let's just not get into that, it's safe to say the interior is pretty awesome.

Now considering the fact this is a tearoom/restaurant, let's get down to brass tacks and talk about the food. I've had the pleasure of dining there a number of times and in my humble opinion, it's very good. The presentation has been thought out properly and the cutlery feels premium. There are a number of dishes available from sandwiches to believe it or not, Fish and Chips. The food is reasonably priced and also the portions are far from pretentious. Lastly the tea and desserts are where Creams really excel. They haven't made the classic mistake of making the desserts overly sweet, instead there is a great deal of discernible flavour. My favourite has to be the strawberry scone. They have a large selection of teas available and depending on your mood, I'm confident there's something for mostly everyone. 

There a few things I think could be improved, for instance the physical menu, it feels and looks tacky and not at all like the brand. The food selection also feels a little scattered and lacking identity, some of what's offered seems out of place. Also the location they have in Leeds is almost hidden away and took us a bit of time to find it the first time. Lastly being the photography nerd that I am I think the images they currently have could be improved. As you may be able to tell, I am nitpicking and the negatives I have pointed out, are insignificant when considering the overall experience. 

Even the view compliments the interior. 

My favourite thing about Creams is the fact that the staff are so amazing. I've visited both as a customer and a photographer and on every occasion they've gone above and beyond. I have allot of admiration for the team at Creams and I think with them managing the tearoom, it's in safe hands. 

Overall I definitely recommend Creams, I think they've done a fantastic job. There aren't allot of places like this and it's a very welcomed addition. I understand they're expanding quite rapidly and new locations will be coming soon all across the country and in Dubai too. 

In the meantime click here to check out some of the other images we've taken for Creams. 

Why Canon is failing

In 2013 you may have heard that Nokia sold their mobile division to Microsoft at a price considerably lower than what it was once worth. One of the main reasons behind this is because they failed to keep up with the market and customer demands. Canon seems to be facing similar issues and has recently had to cut it's profit forecast for 2015. 
Now admittedly the profit cut was due to several issues and not just a Canon problem, however there are a number of underlining problems at Canon.

A good number of our sources agree that Canon is facing some internal problems and it's preventing them from operating effectively. There are internal conflicts and due to this they seem to be reacting extremely slowly to the market and customer demands. Canon seem to be more interested in maintaining their faltering position as opposed to innovating, or executing their innovations. Customers are very quick to notice when companies drip feed features and it's frustrating and alienating. Their latest DSLR the Canon 5DS and 5DS R has a 50mp sensor which at a glance seems amazing, however when you dig deeper you find 2010 technology repackaged with a premium price.  Compare this to the Sony A7R II and you'll see why this is not innovating. 

The main reason why Canon is failing to innovate is because of how they manage their two divisions. Essentially their Cinema and their DSLR divisions are constantly looking to ensure they don't step on each others toes. Basically they don't want to make any cameras that could affect the sales of another camera. Now if this was done by two separate market leading companies then it could work, similar to price fixing (which is illegal of course). However when this is done internally, it's illogical and benefits no one but your competition. The most frustrating aspect about this is that Canon is aware of this huge problem, but has failed to come up with a solution. 

Companies like Nikon and Sony have been making significantly better cameras for a good number of years capitalizing on Canons unwillingness to keep up. A quick look at sensor technology on DXOmark shows how Canon has remained behind for quite some time now. They also seem to believe 4k is still some elusive feature that can only be added to the most expensive high end cameras, even though it's been available for 12 years now. 

Lastly their latest camera The ME20F-SH boasts 4 million ISO and can pretty much see in the dark. Again this sounds pretty cool but then when you break it down, it's a 2mp camera with a 30k price tag, simply ridiculous in my view. 

Ultimately Canon are facing some tough issues moving forward and it doesn't seem like they're doing enough to fix things. Internally their departments are not working together effectively and it's creating a negative loop. Should this continue which I'm guessing it will, there could be some really difficult times ahead for Canon as their market share inevitably shrinks. 

I'm a fan of Canon and would love to see them continue as the market leader. I hope Fujio Mitarai has a plan for the future which does not involve doing the same thing and hoping for a different result. 

Architecture in Leeds city

It's no secret, Leeds city centre is one of my favourite places for photographing architecture. The city is in the middle of a development boom and it looks extremely promising. With places like Victoria Gate and Sovereign Square being developed in Leeds, the city is definitely starting to look and feel very modern. The glass and steel structures are really impacting the landscape and although some may disagree, I welcome it. 

Sovereign Square - Currently under development

From my experience the main reason why some may disagree with the new buildings in Leeds is because they feel it does not keep to the surroundings. Although this may be true, I believe architecture is about creating our own surroundings. Progress can be steeply reduced if we continue to try and serve the current as opposed to finding the new. 

Having said that I'm a big fan of the older buildings in Leeds too. I love the contrast between the old and new, in my mind it really adds to it. For instance if you take the Corn Exchange in Leeds, a building steeped in history and even faced being demolished once, still stands proud. The interior of the building is simply beautiful and now serves as a place for many independent retail stores. 

I think by far my favourite part of Leeds is right in the heart, City Square. Admittedly driving around this area is an absolute nightmare, with the horrible one way system and parking anywhere habitable is a complete pain. Aside from that mini rant the buildings are simply wow. I absolutely love how some of the buildings in Leeds transition from old to new so well. Some of my other favourites are of course the Civic Hall, The Parkinson Building and not forgetting Bridgewater Place. All in all I'm quite proud of the architecture in Leeds and really looking forward to the new developments. I honestly can't wait to photograph them all. 

City Square - Leeds

A week with Leica..... and $50,000 worth of equipment

Yesterday I must have spent more than 6 hours looking at different Leica cameras trying to figure out which body and lens is best for me. My wife has heard nothing but Leica this and Leica that and after using and reviewing the Leica SE for a week I might be a little smitten. The Leica S 007 is soon to be released and in preparation for that we decided to review the currently available model.  

Cambridge has to be my favourite city for street photography and the Leica does not disappoint. Even handheld the image quality is jaw dropping, especially when you consider how heavy a lens and body combination really is. 

As this is a medium format camera the sensor, the body and the lenses are bigger. My 5D mark III looks small in comparison.  So what's the actual camera like, well its big, its clunky, its slow at focussing, I'm used to having multiple focus points and medium format cameras only have one in the middle of the frame. The camera has no image stabilization which makes handheld even more difficult especially with let's say the 180mm F3.5. The Leica SE has a CCD sensor which means low light performance is pretty bad  and ISO can only be boosted up to 1600 (you'd be wise to stay below 800). There is no live view, no video mode and the top part of the camera is made of plastic, possibly due to the GPS node being there, but who uses GPS anyway?  Lastly although its considered to be a medium format camera, the sensor is only 20% bigger, its less medium format and more "Full-Frame Plus". 

HOWEVER...

We used Dylan Patricks technique for the above headshot, for more information and to learn this technique, please click here.

When you attach one of those behemoth sized lenses onto the camera, all of the above issues seem to magically disappear. The image quality is simply astounding, even with just 37.5MP (for medium format) it feels like the lenses are making use of every single one and maybe a few more just to be safe. I don't profess to be a great headshot photographer but even my shots are looking pretty good. The way the Leica renders fine details, skin texture and contrast really make an image pop. The lack of noise at its base ISO (100) is really impressive and the amount of detail that can be brought back from the shadows still surprises me. Although we talked about this camera having a CCD sensor and it's low light performance, this camera wasn't built for those environments. When you give this camera enough light and use it for what it's been built for, it truly excels beyond expectations. 

Being an interior and architectural photographer my favourite Leica lens is of course the 24mm F3.5. This is a beautifully made lens with fantastic build quality, the front element is big and gives off a slight reddish reflection. Leica are known for their lenses and I could be wrong but to my eye this lens has absolutely no distortions. The 24mm lens isn't a tilt shift making some architectural photography a little difficult, however, I've been told Schneider are currently developing a wide angle tilt shift lens which will be compatible with Leica, this is definitely great news for us :). I had the opportunity to take some images of the The Midland Hotel in Bradford whilst using the 24mm lens and the results speak for them self. 

FB Before FB After

 In conclusion I think the Leica S system is amazing to work with. The camera has been built for settings where the light can be controlled. It's probably not the best camera for events and wedding considering the ISO performance but then it would be pretty overkill for that too. When this camera has enough light it really comes into it's own. The Leica SE may not be the best medium format camera considering it's smaller sensor size and the fact that you can't upgrade "the back", however it has a really well built DSLR form factor making it very straight forward to use. All I needed were two dials and a shutter button, and because of it's form factor even street photography was easy. This camera is a true photographers camera, it doesn't need all of the other fancy features when it produces such amazing images, The lenses are simply wow, I really can't say enough about how great they are. Some of the people at Leica tell me that relative to the other medium format brands, they make the best lenses, and honestly I don't have any reason to disagree.  

Ultimately I'm very pleased with the Leica S system and would definitely consider upgrading to it, however as the Leica S 007 has been announced I think I'll wait till I've seen what that can do before making a decision. 

Innovate or die

Too harsh for a title...? 

We all know how important it is to innovate in any business to remain relevant. Innovations don’t necessarily have to be earth shattering because, small changes for the better can make a huge difference in the long term. It’s kind of like going to the gym (something I haven’t done in a long, long…long time) being consistent is what’s important.  

It’s amazing to see how the photography industry has changed over the last 10 years. The tools and resources available now are simply amazing. We have ‘moving images’ through the use of video stills thanks to the Cinemagraph app, mobile photography which can be considered as professional work and drones to create some amazing aerial images. With all of this happening the average photographer can feel a little lost, searching for a bit of identity.

on top of this the amateur market is growing fast and pretty huge by now, DSLRs are not difficult to get hold of and the amount of resources available is astounding for anyone with drive and ambition. 

One of the key resources are online tutorials and many successful photographers have come to understand how the growing amateur market can be tapped into. Online tutorials are slowly becoming big business. A single tutorial from Fstoppers has been sold to at least 850 individuals, at a cost of $299.00 each, it really adds up to some big figures. This is a great example of how some photographers have studied the market properly, saw the rise in the number of amateurs and took advantage of it. Even YouTubers such as Jared Polin cater strictly to the amateur market and provide information and tutorials.  

Filming and selling photography tutorials has become quite a lucrative industry and also a saturated one. The point is that simply being a photographer may not be enough anymore. Online tutorials are just one example of the innovations currently happening, the amateur market is growing fast, is there something you could offer? 

"Professional photographers are always going to be in demand", I'm not so sure, I believe as technology progresses the professional photographer may start to become a rare thing. We're already seeing signs of organisations being content with many of their smart phone images. When it comes to commercial work the role of photographer may become a small part of a larger position for many individuals and companies. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing however the industry may be changing too fast for some of us. 

Aside from trying to find ways of catering to the amateur market and seizing any opportunities, you still need to cater to conventional clients. Professional photographers may dislike the idea of amateurs taking their jobs and charging less. You may even say, that they are bringing the value of the industry down, but does this matter from the clients perspective... the short answer is no. Should clients care... possibly, however, ultimately it's the market that decides value and innovations can keep you ahead. 

Does professional gear mean professional results?

Kinda.. 

In the video below Tony Northrup demonstrates how professional results can be achieved by almost any entry level camera. it's amazing how many times I'll be showing a client or friend some pictures and their reaction to it is "wow you must have an amazing camera". Well...  I do and thank you for noticing however I'd be able to get the same results with a cheaper camera, it's a matter of time and effort.

Now don't get me wrong I'm not having a go at the friend or client because I understand they're simply complimenting me, which is always appreciated. 

A professional camera can make a huge difference to the results and the workflow can be significantly improved, however at the end of it all it does come down to the actual photographer. I do believe professional equipment is important and not just for bragging rights, but there is a balance. 

Anyway enough from me please watch the video below. 

 

Professional Photography is Critical for Virtually Every Industry

My interaction with professional photography has made me agree that it’s a very significant part of every industry today. The job of a professional photographer is to be able to capture some of the best aspects of every industry.

You might be asking why interior and architectural photography. Well it’s mostly because of the fact that architecture as a visual art lets buildings talk for themselves.  With professional photography equipment and a creative attitude goes a step further and interprets it in a number of ways.

Whether it is photographing the interior or exterior or capturing the unique and magnificent images through various techniques, the professional photographer is helped by an observant eye capable of realizing different capture points and points of view. This is the kind of photography I love and provides both clients and artists, amazing images.

However, professional photography is real, diverse and very vital today. Every industry today deserves great, quality and perfectly captured images and moments. While everyone can take a selfie and some images it takes a professional photographer to bring out the details, points of view, angles and all kinds of aspects out of a simple item. Food related photographers are one of the key reason we make orders for groceries, pizzas, meats, ice creams, hamburgers, French fries and all kinds of delicacies because of the way they capture them. I love taking a peek at these photographs and marvel at the way they literary compel you to eat fruits, green leafy vegetables, salads, make an order or simply eat at a certain exotic hotel.

It is also the same with wedding photographs. They are so vital that while you can take another image of a delicacy a fortnight later, you cannot do so in the case of a wedding. Everything has to be perfect from the beginning and the expectations are way too high. Just any photographer is not sufficient. A professional is demanded, sought and given the job.

Any professional interior and architectural photographer will tell you why clients demand professional photographers. Even high school senior year photographers must be professionals and schools are very meticulous. This is the reason any yearbook looks awesome and perfect 30 years later. At the same time, professional baby photography is big business and a superb job is expected.

A real estate firm dealing with properties also demand professional photography. I love a well taken image of a building for sale, both the interior and exterior. A shoddy photography will not draw any buyers and this is counterproductive for any seller.

In a nutshell, professional photography is extremely important in virtually every industry today. I’m aware this post is very biased self-serving, however it’s difficult to refute the argument. I work within an industry that is over saturated for a reason and I absolutely love it.  

The Part-Time Photographer

Just like you I have noticed there are affordable DSLRs compelling so many people to consider photography either as a part-time or fulltime career. Camera equipment can really be expensive, but photography is one of those businesses with a low overhead and once you have your own photography gear you can enjoy a flexible yet rewarding part-time job.

As you’d expect, to begin with things were quite slow for me so I used that time to develop my craft and learn as much as I possibly could. A subscription with Lynda.com and a ridiculous number of hours spent on YouTube watching anything and everything about photography. I loved the technical aspects of photography and I think that really helps with my interior and architectural photography. Once I felt like I was ready (which didn’t take too long) I was able to get my first job through the help of friends. I gave them the world and got paid peanuts for it, amazingly I still made a profit.

Profit was the key thing because I needed to make enough money to leave my part time job, dear god I hated my part time job. The work was menial, I was not being utilised properly in any way shape or form and I had so much more to offer, so I set out to create something for myself. Working initially as a part time photographer meant the majority of my free time was taken up by something I love.

One of the most prominent thing I kept hearing was how difficult the photography industry was and how competitive it is. It seemed like every other video had a warning included about how tough it’s going to be. Honestly I don’t know what all the fuss is about I haven’t found it difficult at all. Anything is difficult if you don’t know what you’re doing, if you haven’t prepared a sound strategy or done sufficient research. Business fundamentals remain the same across all industries and I made it a priority to understand business before understanding photography. I think anyone who wants to set up their own business should do it because I can tell it’s an amazing feeling.

One of the great things about working as a part time photographer is that hopefully your part time job can cover your essential costs. This means the majority of your income from photography is extra income and can be used to properly develop a potentially thriving business. There is of course a pitfall in that when you have disposable income, fancy gadgets and shopping sprees starts to look very appealing. I know I've made a few questionable purchases and even recently I purchased a set of Bang and Olufsen headphones for £399.00!

 

But they're sooo pretty....

But they're sooo pretty....

Fortunately I was quite disciplined when it came to my company and I'm very aware of the affliction known as Gear Acquisition Syndrome. I can’t stress how important it is to manage your finances and remain strict when it comes to any purchases.

The main disadvantage of being a part time photographer is the lack of time. Just when you’re in the middle of doing something amazingly creative, you’re rudely interrupted by that deep dark pit of a feeling… tomorrow is another day at work. Sundays were probably the most heart breaking days ever. Managing time is essential when it comes to being a part time photographer. The week is split into two sections, days when you’re working and days when you’re at your job. Utilising any and all time is so important especially in the beginning, in my mind any time I was not working on my company was time wasted. I keep asking myself one question, “Is there something I could be doing right now to further my company”, the answer is always YES!

It’s amazing how much time can be spent procrastinating, looking at Facebook and Twitter feeds, watching random videos, stuff on Netflix and just surfing the net. Don’t worry this post does not come with a familiar warning because I procrastinate too and yet I still manage a growing company :).

I've now left employment and set up my photography company. I worked at British Gas and while the company may not have had the best reputation in the industry some of my co-workers were pretty amazing. I used to hate every minute in that place and couldn't wait to get out and do my “real job”. It was strange, when I was close to leaving British Gas, I suddenly became very thankful for having that job and realised how important it had been. Without having that part-time job, I wouldn't have been able to set up my company, so in short,...

Thank you British Gas. 

We got Married!

We got Married!

Most people believe that architectural photography techniques can only be used for shooting buildings. That is not the case at all! There are plenty of situations and instances wherein you can incorporate architectural photography techniques to come up with a stunning image even if it is not of a building. Photography, as much as it’s about technique, has also a lot to do with passion. 

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