What better a way to start a trip to California than by photographing this iconic landmark at twilight from the Marin headlands...
Continuing my Abandoned Spaces series, I recently visited St Agnes, a gothic and majestic church just outside downtown Detroit which has been abandoned since late 2006.
Following its completion in the 1920s, the church quickly grew and by the mid fifties was the focal point of a thriving community serving approximately 1,600 families, three priests, 22 nuns and an adjacent girl's high schools with just under two hundred students.
However, by the mid 1980s the LaSalle neighbourhood in which it sits, had become run down and dilapidated leaving the church with only 160 families worshiping at the space. Although a number of cost cutting measures were made to try and save the church, it was soon deemed impractical to keep it open and it was forced to close in 2006. Coincidentally, St Agnes once so splendid and grand, even hosted a sermon by Mother Theresa in the 1980s where she spoke to thousands; she even insisted that all food provided at the event be given to the poor.
As with so many of Detroit's ornate buildings since closing, scrappers have colonized the space removing all the valuable piping from the organ whilst precious glazed tiling from walls and pillars has been stripped away. On entering, I also noticed that weather and further vandalism has ripped away much of the facade as the floor literally crumbled under foot as I carefully explored the space with my cameras. As with all abandoned churches, it is somewhat creepy and a little eery to see places of worship in such a sad and sorry state.
I hope my photographs do the space justify. I certainly feel that they are a worthwhile addition to my ongoing series which I hope to exhibit soon.
Last week, I was at Twickenham Stadium, the home of English rugby in South London on a shoot for RBS photographing two English rugby legends, Jason Leonard and Graham Rowntree.
Whilst there, I took the opportunity to photograph the stadium empty before the shoot. As many, of you know empty arenas are one of my favourite subject matters to shoot evoking memories of all of the great moments of triumph and jubilation along with anguish and defeat that have occurred within these magnificent arenas throughout their histories.
With an attendance of 82,000 making it the largest rugby union venue in the world, Twickenham is a particularly interesting stadium to shoot replete with vivid green seats and modernist architecture despite it being over a hundred years old. Below are a couple of my favourite photos of the stadium including a panorama which is a composite stitch of fifteen photographs.
Recently, I visited Paris on a short trip to capture some of the cities most iconic landmarks. The city is steeped in history, culture and romance and lends itself fantastically to taking fantastic photographs. Since returning a lot of photographers and friends have asked me about the best places to shoot in the city. In all honesty, there are so many diverse things to shoot from the eclectic winding streets of the Merais district to the exposed modernist architecture of the Pompidou that making a definitive list is almost impossible. However, below are a few of my favourite spots to photograph in the city:
1. Arc De Triomphe
One of Paris' most iconic landmarks situated at the end of the world famous Champs-Elysee this military monument lends itself brilliantly to being shot at dusk. Once the arch is illuminated, a long exposure will allow you to juxtapose the warm light of the stone with the energy of traffic whizzing around the Place Charles De Gaulle.
2. Notre Dame
This gothic cathedral is not only stunning from the outside replete with gargoyles and stained glass windows but also absolutely beautiful inside. You may also want to shoot it from the River Seine to get some nice reflections of the towers and turrets in the water.
3. The Eiffel Tower
Ok, granted this is an obvious one but, no trip to Paris is complete without some shots of one of the most famous landmarks in the world. There are many spots in the city to shoot the tower from; whether from right underneath it with a wide angle (first shot) or from one of the many rooftops where the public can access for free. I highly recommend the Printemps department store which, has the added bonus of a cute cafe for an amazing 360 degree panoramic view of Paris.
4. Montmartre/Sacre Couer
Despite being a little out of the city, it is well worth making the trip to Montmartre for more than just the climb to the Basilica of Sacre Couer which does though offer stunning vistas from the highest point in the city. The church itself when bathed in sunshine shines a brilliant white and looks great in photos and there is a bustling street market with hundreds of artisans and painters, enough to keep the most avid street photographer occupied for hours.
5. The Louvre
As well as being home to the world's most famous painting the Mona Lisa, the Louvre is a fascinating structure to photograph where modern and classical collide. The accompanying Tuileries Garden is also a fun place to shoot charismatic Parisians scuttling between the busy Place De La Concorde and museum district.
6. Montparnasse Tower.
I always love viewing cities from above and a journey up the Montparnasse Tower is a must. It has a very well designed viewing area, you can take tripods and there is plenty of time/space to photograph the entirety of Paris below. I would recommend going up just before sunset to watch the lights come on in the City. I also think it has the best view of the Eifflel Tower anywhere in the city. If you want your postcard picture, this is the place.
One of my favourite personal projects is exploring abandoned spaces across both the US and UK. After the break are some of my favourite shots showing the urban ruins of Detroit set against the evocative words of the poem “See it Through” by Edgar Albert Guest.
I recently decided to take some time off commercial shooting and traveled to Northern Norway to photograph the Northern Lights. After extensive research, I decided to base myself out of Tromso. This small university town sits about 300 miles inside the Arctic Circle, is appropriately cold (about -17 degrees Celsius!) and has a healthy reputation as one of the world’s best places to see the Aurora Borealis; a natural phenomenon caused by the collision of solar charged particles and atoms when entering the earths atmosphere and magnetic fields.
You need three things to see the lights: clear skies, minimal light pollution and maximum solar activity. On arrival, things were not looking promising as my flight was delayed by a huge blizzard and as my cab took me the short cab to my hotel visibility was no more than five feet…this was not going to be easy.
I had done a lot of research beforehand on Google Earth and OS maps to see where the best places might be in order to get good photographs of the lights; I wanted to ensure that I got some water in my shots to achieve some reflections from the lights. However, on the first two nights I was out until 5am having driven 3 hours out of Tromso in search of clear skies and saw little more than the shot below due to inclement weather. This photo was taken on the Eastern coast looking out on the Atlantic Ocean and although the green activity of the lights is JUST visible behind almost 100% cloud cover in camera, it was barely visible to the human eye. Also, it was taken in gale-force 35 metre per second winds (the strongest I’ve ever experienced). In fact, the wind was so strong that it stripped some of the paint off my 14-24mm lens. Needless to say I was already planning my return trip next year with my spirits dampened by two nights of failed attempts of chasing the lights.
Determined not to give up though I headed out the next night with a different strategy to head west towards the Finnish border having seen on radar that there was the possibility of the clouds parting and some clear skies developing for a few hours just before midnight. Fortunately, as I got further and further away from civilization I began seeing stars until the whole sky was covered in constellations as I sped eagerly towards a Fjord that I had identified could potentially make for a good photo spot. I couldn’t have timed my arrival any better as I pulled over, looked up and began seeing one of the most phenomenal sites I’ve ever witnessed in person. Words cannot do it justice as you see flashes of coloured lights meander and manouver their way across the sky; it as if God is playing with a paintbrush. The show lasted about four hours and I’ll let my pictures describe the scenes better than my words.
I was very lucky as I have spoken to numerous photographers who have spent weeks in Tromso and seen very little. On the other hand, you could turn up for a day and see a far better show than me; you really are at the whim of nature. Nevertheless, I left more than contented. Thanks to Arctic Guide Service for their help and advice.
p.s. I also got extra lucky on my SAS plane on the way up to Tromso when speaking to a flight attendant and telling them about my planned trip. They happened to be able to see the Northern lights from the cockpit during the flight and invited me into the cockpit! Even better they let me take my camera in (you never know unless you ask) which I was amazed at; truly blessed and an unbelievable experience to be able to see them from the air as well as ground. The below shot was therefore taken by resting my camera on the dashboard of a commercial 737 at 37000 feet with the towns of Northern Norway below whilst my camera was resting on the cockpit making an impromptu tripod.
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Undoubtedly, the highlight of my photographic career so far was the opportunity to photograph, meet and spend time with Nelson Mandela while on assignment in South Africa; arguably the most inspirational, charismatic and compassionate icon of our times. In fact, meeting Madiba is arguably one of the greatest moments of my life to date.
Hearing of his passing is such sad news as I was so touched, inspired and moved after our meeting. Following the opportunity to photograph him whilst working with the US delegation at the World Cup in 2010, I have read and endeavored to learn as much as I can about his incredible story. As President Barack Obama so elegantly surmised Madiba “took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice”. Below are just a few of some of my favourite photographs from my shoot with Nelson Mandela and President Bill Clinton at one of his homes on the outskirts of Johannesburg…photographs that I will cherish forever . May his legacy live on and his message of freedom and equality for all continue in his memory.
In his own words: “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”