Earlier this year I had the great pleasure of working with SME Ltd. A world class engineering firm that has a fascinating heritage. Based in Steyning, West Sussex.
The Scale Model Equipment Company founded by Mr. Alastair Robertson-Aikman in 1946. Began as a designer and manufacturer of precision models for the exhibition and model engineering trade. The company expanded and diversified into engineering subcontracting, producing precision aircraft parts for prestigious companies such as Rolls Royce, Hawker & Martin Baker. The company went onto design pick up arms and turntables for the high end audio market and today continues to manufacture highly complex precision components.
Taking place over two days the photography for SME captured both the heritage aspects of the company alongside the modern precision engineering. It was clear on my first visit to the factory that the company was unique from its 1950’s era architecture to the ethos of hand crafted engineering alongside cutting edge lathes and milling machines.
Everyone I met had a passion for the company and engineering. I was impressed also to see that the founder Mr Robertson-Aikman’s original office remained untouched retaining the original decor of the 1960’s. Most of the product photography took place here and it was like stepping back in time, with wonderful objects from the era such as a desk fan, intercom and telephone. As well as the original furniture and furnishings.
The photographs taken were primarily for a redesign of the SME website which was recently launched. With a long shot list the photo shoot presented many challenges. I was tasked with photographing both exterior shots of the factory as well products on a white screen and environmental imagery of the factory and the precision components. The challenges consisted mainly of working in a confined space that was not
Looking back over 2013. Lots of ground has been covered this last year both professionally and personally. With travel to Poland to photograph the Doosan Way and with my own relocation from Cambridge to Reigate, Surrey. As always corporate and healthcare has been a primary focus for my work. I had the pleasure of working with the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust Hospital taking photographs for their Annual Review and a visit to the Brompton Hospital by the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt. I have begun to focus more on portraiture and in particular environmental portraiture, working with the Financial Times on a Business Life feature and the Netherlands largest medical school Erasmus MC.
Creating natural lighting on location with speed lights.
During the recent snowy spell in Cambridge I went out with a warm flask of tea and some small Nikon speed lights to try and capture a natural looking environmental portrait.
The sun was low and behind my subject and was casting sun beams through the pine foliage, I wanted to shoot my subject as though some of this sun light penetrating through the forest was providing the illumination on my subject. I also wanted to keep the background low key so that the dark depth of the forest was retained while keeping detail in the areas light by the ambient light.
Two Nikon SB800’s were used off camera and synced with pocket wizards. I used a white umbrella and soft box umbrella both placed camera right about 45 degrees in front and behind the subject. My working aperture of f/11 determined the final camera settings: iso 400 1/80s @ f/11 I wanted to have a reasonable depth of field to retain depth and clarity of the sun beams in the background. In hindsight a third light placed high up and without a modifier to create the effect of sunlight falling on the surrounding forest floor would have have added more realism perhaps or possibly placing my subject nearer to where light was hitting the forest floor could have added something. However at the time I wanted a muted, low contrast image with a broody tone and the focus to be on the subject and background. The whole effect is aided by the snowy conditions acting like a giant fill reflector. In the end this was achieved. Lighting diagram below.
I recently had the pleasure of photographing the watercolour artist Alvaro Castagnet for a feature in Artists and Illustrators Magazine. It was great fun photographing a very flamboyant and charismatic personality who took the whole process in his stride. The shoot took place at Dedham Hall, Essex. In the heart of ‘Constable Country’ I used available light and 2 SB800 Speedlights off camera, one with a white brolly and the other bare.