british airways

London with Bolshoi Ballerina’s

It started with a comfy red eye flight into London Heathrow on BA business. I ditched my bags at the hotel, got changed and went running in downtown London. It was a chilly Sunday morning in the Financial district so felt like a real ghost town. It felt great to be back in a city I called home in 2001 although I struggled to find my way to the Thames. Little seemed to have changed really. Clearly the rate of change in Dubai is not a global standard! I was in the capital for just a couple of days to create a picture story with dancers from the Bolshoi Ballet and crew from British Airways. All in the name of creating some buzz around the inaugural Boing 787 flight to Moscow.

I figured running would be the best way to find good shooting locations. I was in search of iconic London, space to work with an energetic vibe. I’d also promised my little boy that I’d check to see the London Bridge wasn’t falling down (seriously!) and in the process got confused between Tower Bridge and London Bridge. Felt like a daft tourist! Thankfully both bridges are doing just fine…

15km later, I had my shooting spots figured out and got them ‘signed off’ ready for production the next day. The crew at Direct Photographic provided an awesome service in renting me studio lights.

We were blessed with the weather. Sun, blue skies and poppy white clouds. Thank you British Weather Man. The shoot ran smoothly albeit with some minor chaos. With just one pair of hands, there was a lot of moving around to do on set. I wifi-ed my Canon 1Dx to an iPad for a bigger display unit and to seek instant client approval. Four locations and five hours was all it took to get the strong set of images we were after.

The next morning I was up early to check in on BA233 to Moscow. Ten minutes before boarding, we got permission to shoot Bolshoi Ballerina, Olga, in the huge 787 engine. We’d talked about this lots but never thought we’d actually pull it off. Five minutes to shoot. Freezing cold London, No lights. No planning. Ample time!

As a surprise for the passengers on board , BA hosted a ballet performance with opera singer Katherine Jenkins in the sky. A world’s first at 12,000 ft. What a magical moment to be a part of.

With six hours to kill in Moscow, I deliberated whether to stay in the airport terminal and drink bad coffee or to spend a few hours on a train venturing in and out of the city. The latter won of course! I managed a quick stroll through the streets and captured the quintessential photo opportunity at Moscow’s Red Square. It had to be done…

Wk.

With Jagger & Waterhouse in Hong Kong

Granted my portfolio may not be overly strong on shooting high end fashion models, but hey… life throws us all serendipitous opportunities from time to time. Work with David Gandy already had me in Hong Kong (link) so extending my time with Lizzy Jagger and Immy Waterhouse made perfect sense.

Success is all in the research, detail and pre production. The key was to create Hong Kong related content with stunning models yet with a different look & feel to David Gandy’s images. During my research, I came across well-known established names like Mario Testino, David Roemer and Peter Lindbergh. All have the habit of stripping down clothes, whilst my shoot was all about the uniforms as both girls were to wear stunning old British Airways uniforms from the BA Heritage Museum.

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With the iconic Hong Kong Island as our backdrop, I found a perfect location on the Kowloon observation deck and as the weather cleared, we shot a bank of great images.

Wk.

With David Gandy in Hong Kong

Back to where it all started. Back to the place where I was born. Shooting in Hong Kong with the UK’s best known model David Gandy and re-creating a bit of history for British Airways. Following some recent stints with BA in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, they showed me an old heritage poster from Hong Kong dating back to the 60’s, followed by the question of whether I could recreate an image with a similar feel? 

 I spent 36 hours on a scouting trip in January, scooping out possible scenarios. And yip, Hong Kong has certainly changed. Drastically! Pottinger Street today, is a far cry from the image on the original heritage poster. The Peak view is blocked with high-rises and the shops replaced with bars (and tasty beer). The impossibly steep steps are all that really remain. Quintessential to the poster were the neon lights and the Chinese promo’s making it so iconically Asian so I was on a mission to find a street with a similar feel. This proved no easy task!

I researched online, walked for hours in the pouring rain, spoke to lots of people and finally settled on one workable junction close to Argyle Street and Nathan Road. Despite being jam packed with regulars, night time shoppers and tourists, it worked. 

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Key to the shoot is the jacket. David is wearing an original pilots jacket from the BA heritage museum. It even came with the museum curator, in charge of looking after it. Judging from its size, pilots in the good old days must have been tall, super fit and muscular… there was no autopilot in those days so it took real muscle to fly a plane. Along with the jacket came all the old cabin crew uniforms, also from the BA Heritage Museum, the perfect showcase of how uniform designs have evolved. 

As you can imagine, the shoot was insanely chaotic and with a crew of 30, we attracted a fair deal of attention. We couldn’t close the road so we just had to manage the flow and make them part of the story. I hired a local team of assistants and studio lights… this was the first time I used Profoto B1 which made a great fit for working in low ambient light.  We settled on two frames; firstly an Armageddon style shot and secondly, a more candid hero shot with the light popping out of the subject. 


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Hong Kong is an amazing vibrant city and the local team was fantastic in getting things sorted. It was a great shoot all round and I hope the content may be used as visual reference in many years to come.

 Wk.

The world’s hottest helipad

As part of the recent British Airways PR roll out, we recently shot on the helipad of Abu Dhabi’s Hyatt Capital Gate hotel. It’s a pretty cool location with aerial views of the Abu Dhabi skyline. We were shooting Hollywood actor Orlando Bloom, a celebrity heartthrob who first landed in the limelight for his role in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies.

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As his schedule dictated, we ended up shooting just after 1pm. This meant harsh sunlight along with super warm temperatures, unusual for early November, making the conditions far from ideal for photography. But then again, do the perfect conditions ever present themselves? You just have to work best with what you have. In this case, the key was to keep it short and sweet with a well orchestrated, highly conceptualised and pre-figured set of images. I had shot on this helipad before with Matteo Manassero so I had some advantage of knowing what to expect.

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Arriving on set early with my assistant Kish, we dragged all the kit up stairs, worked on our shortlist, had a rehearsal with the BA crew, then agreed on our ultimate three shots. First up was the usual head-on pose, second, a more dynamic shot of Orlando surrounded by BA crew. I gave the crew a real scare when I tripped over my studio light cables when walking backwards, near the edge of the helipad. Thought was quite funny (but might have been the only one…).

Finally a fisheye shot, that really captured the lines of the helipad and the curve of the skyline.There’s a similar shot in my aerial series when I photographed the iconic Palm Jumeirah using a fisheye lens. Taken from a helicopter, it made the cover of the national newspaper. I don’t use this lens very often, but I carry it with me always and when mounted at the right time, the results are amazing.

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Quick doodle visualising shot list. 

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Rehearsal – Behind the scenes image by Kish

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Behind the scenes image by Kish

Our short and sweet plan panned out perfectly… we were in and out within the hour.

Wk