NEWS FLASH – New Website Photography across Europe

May 25th, 2017 | Posted in Private Equity Company Photography, Corporate Portrait Photography, Location / Annual Report Photography, Websites

Photograph of Senior Management in Paris

A challenging balancing act for Equistone Partners Europe’s new website

Our brief from Equistone Partners Europe, a leading mid-market private equity firm, for its new website demanded eye-catching but informal shots of its Partners and employees that captured ‘a sense of place’ in France, Switzerland and the UK, reflecting the importance Equistone sets on being local capital partners working in local markets.

Location photograph for Private Equity Company in London

The other important consideration was how well the photographs would display on the new site. When framing the pictures, we had to make sure we had allowed room for the site’s navigational banners.

And we needed just the right depth of field to keep subjects sharply in focus, while blurring the background to avoid distraction but leaving sufficient visual ‘clues’ about each country where Equistone operates. In the end, we were happy we had achieved this challenging balancing act.

Mangement outside in London

For the technically minded, nearly all the photographs were taken on a new Leica M240 coupled with a 35mm Summicron ASPH lens.

The Leica M240, with its famous rangefinder design, is invaluable on location assignments, being light and durable with an almost silent shutter. This allows me as the photographer to blend into the background, which relaxes the subjects and is much less intimidating. It’s worth saying again that the Leica rangefinder is the camera behind most of the memorable and iconic images of the previous century.

Can we help you with your website?

I think your photographs are fantastic and there are some group shots in particular that capture a moment so perfectly and look so natural, I think they are brilliant. - Barbara Hand, Design Manager Equistone Partners Europe Limited

NEWS FLASH – The incredible Leica Noctilux Lens

January 25th, 2017 | Posted in Tips and News from Piranha
Photograph of Leica camera with Noctilux lens

The Leica Noctilux lens on M240 rangefinder camera

The incredible Leica Noctilux lens

OK this post is about an insane lens, insane in more ways than just its huge cost of nearly £8K. This is a lot of money for small amounts of glass and brass, so how can it possibly justify the hefty price tag? Perhaps its neutron star density?

Well, like the volume control in Spinal Tap, this lens goes all the way up to ’11’. In photographic terms its top setting is f0.95, making it the fastest production lens yet made by man. Its light gathering abilities are better than the human eye, which means there isn’t a shoot yet devised that requires available light that cannot be tackled by this lens.

It doesn’t end there. This lens renders images that border on the magical, with sharpness even at its top setting as good as many other lenses at more sober apertures, yet still producing superb colours and contrast.

Low light photograph in Dorset taken with Leica Noctilux lens

The image above was taken in very low light and is pin sharp.

The holy grail of all lenses

The expense is down to a meticulous, hand-crafted manufacturing process. Each lens is repeatedly checked by technicians during production, to ensure the highest possible quality of image.

It has long been considered the holy grail of all lenses, so where does this leave my clients?

As recently demonstrated to corporate clients, I use it at for events or conferences where I need discreet but comprehensive coverage using available light only. It’s also fantastic in board room situations where I can use the lens’s incredible razor thin depth of field to isolate individual directors even when they are seated close together.

What this lens allows is corporate photography that is much more interesting and elegant. It offers new solutions to photoshoots, and in the hands of a pro, makes the images for websites and annual reports more attention-grabbing and able to stand out from the crowd.

Of course not every shoot requires available light or shallow depth of field. In normal shooting conditions when used with studio lighting, its colour rendering is unsurpassed. Unlike other lens makers, Leica do not rate ‘sharpness’ as the sole criteria for a lens’s construction and design. For example, the lens is designed to give skin tones a tactile realism, in addition, colour, contrast and even the out of focus areas are extremely important to the overall way an image looks. This applies to all lenses in the Leica range; they are incredible quality and built to last a lifetime. But it’s just as well given the price tags.

This lens is fantastic in board room situations, where I can use the lens's incredible razor thin depth of field to isolate individual directors even when they are seated close together. - Douglas, Photographer

NEWS FLASH – Street Photography in Soho

July 4th, 2016 | Posted in Tips and News from Piranha

The above photographs were taken by Douglas Fry in Soho over one afternoon.

If You Frame It They Will Come

In the documentary ‘In No Great Hurry’ – photographer Saul Leiter discusses the importance of being slow. He talks about how the chances of a great photograph are rarely thrust upon you. Instead, he believes they come by waiting, by being patient, but most of all by being ready to take the picture at the right time.

Leiter’s pictures were regularly in demand for the pages of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar but he was far from a fame seeker. He enjoyed most his quiet photography, which of course went on to become his most sought after body of work.

These images today are displayed in galleries the world over and command many tens of thousands of pounds.

Leiter lived on the Lower East Side of New York in the same flat for more than 50 years and walked the streets unobtrusively, seeking out tranquility in the busy hustle and bustle of the city and opportunities to capture these moments on film.

I had Leiter’s dictums very much in mind while on a one day course organized by The Photographers Gallery in London. We spent the morning discussing his methodology, style and trigger points. He looked for something that caught his eye, such as umbrellas, bad weather, glass etc). Theory over, we set off into the wilds of Soho to see what we could find, followed by a pleasurable afternoon reviewing pictures and critiquing each other’s work.

Leiter shot nearly everything in the vertical or portrait format, which was new for me as most commissioned photography is in landscape. This technical requirement forced me to slow down while framing images and also waiting for various other elements to fall into place before finally pressing the shutter.

For example in my image above, I mirrored the rungs of the ladder with the slatted barrier in the foreground, and the barrier itself with the orange bucket carried by the window cleaner.

With the barber shop image I ensured the customers car was reflected in the frame at the same time as he had his hipster trim.

I found it a very healthy exercise and gained a lot from the day. It showed that good street photography takes considerable amounts of time, but the benefits are a much-enhanced perception and observation of colour and composition. I have included some of my favourites from the day. And if I am lucky, they too will be available in the not-too-distant future to buy from galleries both here and abroad.

I had Leiter’s dictums very much in mind while on a one day course organized by The Photographers Gallery in London. Douglas Fry, Photographer

NEWS FLASH The Lessons Photographers Can Still Learn From Film

February 1st, 2016 | Posted in Tips and News from Piranha

Film Cameras - Hasselblad and Leicas

Black and White Film Photography

A few weeks ago I decided to shoot exclusively on film and give myself a short break from digital photography. I dusted off my two Leica M6’s and a Hasselblad medium format camera and loaded them with good old-fashioned film.

Both types of cameras were, and indeed still are, of excellent quality, highly reliable and built to last.

Bingo Hall Beach

My main motivation was to have some fun. I wanted to take a pleasurable trip down memory lane by once again handling film.

Before digital took over, I had happily used film for years and only switched full time to digital cameras once the quality was good enough for professional work.

However, despite all the digital advantages, there are things that film can still teach a photographer, and it’s instructive for any professional photographer to take a refresher course every now and then.

The first lesson is one of speed. Film doesn’t give second chances so it demands one thinks about exposure, composition and timing before pressing the shutter.

The Decisive Moment

One of the surprising pleasures of working with film is that there is no instant feedback from the camera to distract while shooting. The ease of use of digital can often encourage photographers to take loads of pictures and sort out problems later in Photoshop. Quality gives way to mass production.

In short, it means the time you think you’ve saved during the shoot is lost later to wading through through dozens of remarkably similar images which soon start to fatigue the eye.

The irony of taking loads of digital pictures is that you tend then to miss this important ‘decisive moment‘ anyway.

Black and white film image

Communicate with the Subject

Another lesson from film is it doesn’t distract me when working with subjects. I spent more time actually communicating with them while taking portraits, rather than being tempted to keep glancing at the camera reviewing work in progress. I don’t think it was my imagination but they were able to relax more, which I think actually produced better results. I will definitely bear this in mind when using digital again.

The Analogue Advantage?

Unsurprisingly most of the fast batch film processing facilities have closed down all over the UK. Conversely the few that remain are doing very well and offer hand processing and exhibition quality prints instead of mass processed output, appreciating that it is serving a quality niche market. The surviving film laboratories recognise that they are serving similar needs to people who want vinyl records, reel to reel tape decks, or mechanical watches.

The Quality of Film

Without being too esoteric, with film there is something that communicates more completely with the human spirit. Perhaps it’s that the medium comes with flaws and slight imperfections that forms much of its appeal, like the crackle and hiss on a vinyl record, it’s so much more authentic.

And it’s not just single image photographers who appreciate the difference. Hollywood blockbusters such as Star Wars, Interstellar and the popular art house film The Grand Budapest Hotel were all shot on film for its ‘hard to pin down’ aesthetic quality, despite the not inconsiderable processing costs.

Black and white film portrait

The Final Results

The experiment was a success. It only took a few days to readjust to a more considered contemplative approach. Assessing the results, there were more ‘winners’ by the end per roll than on a typical digital shoot.

I had to remember to pack my camera bag with film before setting off for the day, which was strange as one small robust SD card is all I need these days. But I soon was once again in 120/35mm film mindset and quickly became adept at changing a roll of medium format film in near gale force conditions and putting it back on the Hasselblad without losing any frames.

As  well as the pleasure from the technical challenges, I’ll remember to slow down, think more carefully before shooting and maintain a more continuous dialogue with my subjects, and this way I hope to spend a lot fewer hours on Photoshop this year.

The slower process of shooting photographic film forced upon you by the total lack of visual feedback is a healthy lesson in getting exposure right, composition and shutter speed too. - Douglas Fry, Photographer

NEWS FLASH – Street Photography and New Leica M240

August 6th, 2015 | Posted in Tips and News from Piranha

An Old(ish) Dog Learns New Tricks

As a busy corporate photographer who works nearly every day there is precious little time to swap notes with other professional photographers if I want to extend my skills.

But I always want to learn new tricks and cover new ground. Like most creative people, I never want to be stuck in a rut.

Which led me to plunging myself firmly in the deep end spending a day devoted to street photography. Street photography is the very opposite of my usual studio and location work. It requires working in a completely different way, putting me in the somewhat scary position of not being able to rigorously control lighting, poses and sets.

Street Photography Session

Through The Photographers Gallery in central London I signed up for a day’s session all about street photography with Matt Stuart. Matt’s a very well-known street photographer who has achieved great success by taking images that capture the quirky and humorous side of London life. It’s down to his skill and often enormous patience that his striking pictures are published around the world.

New Leica M240 Camera

I have been shooting with Leica film rangefinder cameras since the early 90s and have a good set of lenses. But now the digital Leicas have come of age, today these are my equipment of choice for an increasing number of shoots. What’s so good about them? First, their build quality makes Rolex watches look flimsy! The lenses are called ‘brass and glass’ with justification, because that’s all they are made of and they are the sharpest lenses on the market in a compact, virtually indestructible, format.

The camera body too is unusual. Its design means little of the photographer’s face is covered when shooting (unlike an SLR) which is far less intimidating to the subject. Consequently, I can get much closer for better shots that will be sharper and with truer colours compared to the much larger SLR versions. The Leica M has been the camera of choice for street work for years.

I digress, however. Under Matt’s guidance, I tried my hand at two types of street photography. The first involves being in one place and waiting for something special to happen within camera frame.

The second is to walk the streets, spot a likely character and then follow them for a short while to get the best frame from a series of shots.

Sounds easy? It isn’t. No one expects a stranger to take their picture when walking down Oxford Street. It takes a bit of guts to snap people you don’t know from close range. The best way is to shoot quickly, smile and move on.

Once I found my mojo, I could start taking pictures more spontaneously, producing, dare I say it, results that were fresh and eye catching.

I realised the trick is to never put your camera down, or away from your eye, because it requires an enormous act of will to raise it again and continue shooting under such circumstances.

After shooting in the Oxford Street area for a couple of hours, we had to choose which images for Matt to review and critique. With lots of other professional photographers also learning street photography it was great to hear everyone’s feedback and to meet new people, and I’d happily repeat the session because I am sure every time will present new challenges.

Douglas is an absolute delight to work with. Having seen many portraits he has taken, they all seem to capture the spirit of the individual whilst maintaining an element of allure and glamour. I would definitely recommend him - highly in fact. - Client at Corporate Communications Agency, August 2015

NEWS FLASH – Transition to New Sony A7ii cameras

May 19th, 2015 | Posted in Tips and News from Piranha

New Sony Cameras

Pictured above – One of our cameras is fitted with a Leica 90mm APO Summicron, one of the sharpest portrait lenses made today, designed so that the red, green and blue shades of the spectrum all focus on the same point for maximum clarity of image. The Zeiss 55mm next to it, isnt too shabby either.

New Cameras

We have decided to move to the new Sony mirrorless cameras after trialling them for a few weeks, preferring their image files over the Canon 1DX.

We like the combination of these smaller rugged higher tech camera bodies when used with our amazingly high quality Zeiss and Leica lenses.

What does this mean for you?

First, the software files are higher resolution than ever before, which allows for easier crops and better richer black and white conversions. The lenses are smaller and more compact and very high quality – which together mean more accurate colours and a greater dynamic range – ideal for improving the images in your Annual Reports and other marketing materials.

During the trial, we found that the files need much less tweaking in Photoshop to achieve the optimum image quality. For example, bright pictures of skies retain the detail in the clouds, while darker scenes have richer blacks and other deeper shades. The range of lenses is equal to our current Canon system so lenses from the very wide 15mm through to the super telephoto 300mm lens is available.

Great improvements too can be seen with video on these new cameras with facial recognition and tracking, coupled with 5 axis stabilisation for smooth movements.

So when during a corporate interview a subject might lean forward for emphasis the camera continues to track the face and remain precisely focused even at the shallowest depths of field.

In summary, we believe our introduction of this new family of high quality Sony cameras, and the latest versions of Photoshop, Lightroom and Final Cut-X opens up new possibilities for higher quality images and video for all your photographic requirements.
Lenses and Equipment for Corporate Photography

Do lenses matter?

In short, yes they do. It’s only when you compare images side by side can you see the incredible difference between the kit zoom lens that often come as standard with cameras and lenses altogether in a different league, the very best ones are from Zeiss or Leica. Images produced by equipment from these manufacturers offer unbelievable sharpness from corner to corner, at even the shallowest depths of field.

The clarity is also incredible, in fact almost 3D in its nature, with natural, accurate colours. When you see a whole collection of these images on a website, Annual Report or brochure everything seems to stand out and almost jump off the page!

Leica lenses enjoy an enviable reputation in the photographic world; their build quality and optical clairty is unsurpassed, but it does come at a price. We think the quality of image is worth the cost however.

We believe our introduction of this new family of high quality Sony cameras, and the latest versions of Photoshop, Lightroom and Final Cut-X opens up new possibilities for higher quality images and video for all our client's photographic requirements. Douglas - Lead Photographer

NEWS FLASH – Old Leica Lenses Resurrected by New Cameras

March 16th, 2015 | Posted in Tips and News from Piranha

New Sony Mirrorless Camera
Test Sony Camera
New Sony Camera – the A7II Mirrorless SLR

Times change, and technologies improve at an exponential rate, the latest example of this in the photographic world is the Sony A7II mirrorless SLR. Sporting the latest 24megapixel sensor and 5 axis stabilisation on the new Sony/Zeiss lenses.  There is great news too if, like me, you have a line up of expensive but older Leica M lenses, 3 axis stabilisation on ANY lens..Which means crisper, sharper images, with great colour depth at virtually any shutter speed.

We took delivery here of this new slimline camera, an adapter for the Leica M lenses, put on the Leica 35mm F2 Summicron (one of the sharpest lenses ever made) tossed the manual to one side of course and started shooting. Well I was very pleasantly surprised to see how easy it was to focus with an older lens with this new hi-tech camera, the clarity and detail is phenomenal – the images have a 3D quality about them, such is the legendary nature of Leica glass.

The new Sony cameras have been a very impressive addition to our collection, they are small, discreet and very high quality, especially when coupled with the famous Leica lenses. - Douglas, Photographer

NEWS FLASH – New Backup System with Extensive Space

December 19th, 2014 | Posted in Tips and News from Piranha

Netgear Backup

With new cameras getting higher in resolution and our 4K corporate video offering just around the corner we decided to reappraise our storage and backup. We needed enough space firstly then a convenient backup solution locally, and in addition a remote backup in case of fire, flood or alien abduction. The backup process should be automatic but monitored (so we know and can be reassured it works) and should we need to restore TB’s of data it should be simple.

We opted for three 24TB Netgear 516 storage NAS boxes, these have specifications like a standard PC. 4G ram, i5 processors and X-Raid-2 drive which allows for really fast data transfer. The X-Raid 2 allows any disk to fail and the box will still have all our files, it will email me then as to which disk needs replacing. All in all its a good system.

Backing up is a vital but often overlooked task for businesses, the less it relies on human intervention the better, its too easy to forget or make a mistake and not realise etc. With an automated system that keeps an audit of all files changed and backed-up and emails me every day is very reassuring for us and our clients.

Backing up is a vital but often overlooked task for businesses... With an automated system that keeps an audit of all files changed and backed-up and emails me every day is very reassuring for us and our clients. Douglas, Photographer

NEWS FLASH – Portable Equipment for ‘A Studio in Your Office’

July 4th, 2014 | Posted in Corporate Portrait Photography, Tips and News from Piranha

studio set up in office

A Studio in Your Office

Achieving clear, consistent staff portraits when taken in a client’s office and not in a photographic studio needs specialist portable equipment.

When on location, we will bring to the shoot our own compact studio system; this allows us to get the best possible lighting. Leaving the photographer free to concentrate on achieving required poses and expressions, so they look strong across a company’s team profile page.

Our favoured lighting solution is the Elinchrom Octo Softbox, which casts a large, soft and very even light across the subject. It produces results that tend to flatter and please even the most camera shy people.

Another essential piece of equipment is the Quadra Ranger battery flash – which is the perfect partner to the Softbox. From a single charge, the flash can be fired hundreds of times in a long shoot, but will remain remarkably consistent in terms of its colour and power output. It seems a small matter but it makes a major difference when displaying a large number of different portraits on the same page.

And our last piece of vital kit in the compact studio system is our humble pop up backdrop. We use a variety when clients require a neutral background, or to make it easier in postproduction to create cutout portraits when backgrounds are to be replaced after the photoshoot.

Douglas is great to work with - quality outputs, always delivered on time and enjoyable to work alongside. Private Equity client
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