alan frost photography

in monochrome with occasional colour lapses

Posts from the ‘Portsmouth’ category

My first commission – The finished result

Vail Williams Commission - for publicity frame

This is the last entry describing my first ever photographic commission. It would have been posted much sooner, as I wanted to include some images of the framed photographs in their final resting place i.e. – hanging on the walls in the offices of Vail Williams, but lack of time and other commitments have prevented me from making a trip to North Harbour. Another day perhaps and an excuse for another blog entry. For the time being I have put together this composite of all ten photographs.

The Stern
The Stern

The last stage in the process of this commission was not without its challenges. As far as I was concerned every one of the A2 size prints had to be printed perfectly. No blemishes, no banding, just perfect results. My Epson 3880 performed extremely well but on a few occasions the print quality was not to my satisfaction and when this happened, in the bin it went, and another one was printed.

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Printing the images with an Epson 3880

Mounting each image proved fairly straightforward. I had recently bought a new mount cutter by Longridge which would cope more easily with the size of board and opening I would be cutting. I had already calculated the size of the finished print so that I could cut each mount board identically to fit the black frames which I had purchased beforehand. Using archival ‘acid free’ tape I made ‘T’ hinges to fix the print to the mount board. I then used ‘acid free’ double sided tape to fix backing board to the mount board to keep the print flat and ensure a good fit inside the frame.

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The Longridge mount cutter made easy work of this stage in the process

Perhaps the hardest task was placing the mounted photograph inside the frame. This task should be the easiest of all, but there were countless times when dust or some other tiny fragment would get trapped between the clear perspex and the board or the photograph itself. I simply can’t ignore it when this happens so I remove the print, clean the perspex and start again. I got there eventually but it can be most frustrating!

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Commission completed – The stack of ten A2 photographs

My work finished I invited Ian Froome round to check that he was happy with the results. He was, so out came the bubble wrap and each of the ten framed photographs was packaged and stacked carefully in his car.

Inside Lakeside
Inside Lakeside

A few days later Ian contacted me to let me know that the ‘North Harbour handyman’ had hung each picture and the commission was well and truly completed. I received payment for my expenses and as agreed at the outset Vail Williams made a generous donation towards The St Peter Project.

Spinnaker Tower across the harbour
Spinnaker Tower

I thoroughly enjoyed my first commission, from agreeing the brief, to taking the images, making up a short list, processing them and finally making them ready for display. It did take a lot of time but I learnt a great deal in the process, and I would happily take on another commission given the opportunity.

The first entry – Agreeing the brief can be found here.

The second entry – Taking the photographs can be found here.

The third entry – Processing and selection can be found here.

My first commission – Processing and selection

This is the third entry in my series charting the progress and experiences of undertaking my first photographic commission.

In the previous entry I wrote about the photo shoot and the locations I visited. Back home, I swiftly downloaded all the shots into Lightroom and backed them up. I wanted to make sure nothing was lost before deleting the files from the SD Cards. In total I had taken 417 exposures and I needed to get this number down to about 30 or so images from which Vail Williams would hopefully choose about 8 for framing and display in their offices at Lakeside.

Old and New Portsmouth
Old and New Portsmouth

As I had never undertaken a commission before, trying to decide which images to process and then include in the shortlist, was always going to be a problem. It’s easy of course to remove those which are technically flawed, of which there were a number, although not that many. This was not so much down to me but the technical functionality of the Olympus EM1.

Lakeside, North harbour.
Lakeside, North Harbour

Other shots simply didn’t work whether for compositional reasons, subject matter, wrong angle of view and so on. Others in my view really had merit and were worthy in my opinion of being included in the final selection to put forward. Inevitably I guess I was drawn to images that I liked but which also fulfilled the brief set by the client. However I was very conscious of the fact that for the first time I was creating a set of photographs not for me but for someone else; in fact a group of people who might have very different ideas as to what they would want and actually pay for!

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Processing the images 

Over a period of a couple of weeks, I made my selection and processed all the images in a consistent fashion ready to show Ian Froome, who would then share them with other members of his team. I took a lot of care during the processing to make sure there were no blemishes or sensor spots. I wanted to ensure that all the images were print ready. Given that they were going to be printed on A2 paper, any marks or imperfections would be magnified and more likely to be noticed.

Sunsail 4022
Sunsail 4022

For the presentation I decided to prepare them in three different ways. Firstly I produced a MP4 slideshow which is relatively easy to do in Lightroom. I put them in an order which I considered appropriate and transferred the slideshow onto a disk which I could give to Ian. Using small file sizes I also copied the individual images on to the disk as well, so they actually had thumbnails of each one if they needed to easily share these around the office. Lastly I printed a contact sheet onto the photographic paper I would be using for the finished prints, namely Ilford Galerie Gold Mono Silk. This paper in my opinion produces some great black and white results although unfortunately the factory in Switzerland producing the paper, Ilford Imaging, went into liquidation at the end of 2013 so the paper is no longer available. Fortunately I had a good stock of A2 size paper to complete the commission.

Gosport tower
Gosport Tower

I invited Ian round to my home to see the images and take away the disk and the contact sheet. He seemed suitably impressed but I would have to wait for his confirmation that he and his team liked the photographs sufficiently to want to hang them in their offices. I took nothing for granted, as I did not want to assume they would want any of the 26 photographs in the selection I had provided.

A week or so later and great news. Ian contacted me and they had chosen not just 8 photographs but 10 images. I was delighted but it soon dawned on me that I now had to print, mount and frame all these photographs. This will be the subject of my next and final entry on this topic.

The first entry in this short series can be found here, and the second entry here.

My first commission – Taking the photographs

This is the second entry in a short series about my first ever commission. The first entry ‘Agreeing the brief’, can be found here.

Having talked through the brief and worked out a time scale for the commission, the next stage was to get out with my camera and take some shots. This proved rather more difficult than I anticipated. The weather in the early part of the year can only be described as atrocious. Heavy and frequent rain, coupled with high winds are not ideal conditions for taking photographs and certainly not the ones which would conform to the brief we had agreed. Whenever I had spare time, the weather seemed to be against me, so the weeks passed by and no shots ad been taken. The time scale was looking increasingly unrealistic but finally the forecast appeared a little more promising and I set a day aside to visit Portsmouth and the various locations listed in the brief – Gunwharf Quay, Old Portsmouth, Port Solent and their offices at Lakeside at North Harbour. A lot to fit in and I knew another visit to some of these locations might be necessary.

Bow in reflection
Bow in reflection – Port Solent

First stop – Port Solent. The idea here was to capture some more abstract images of the sailing boats in the harbour together with their reflections in the water. I must have spent an hour at this location before deciding that I had enough images to work with back at home.  A short detour and I drove down to the harbour and looked across the water to Porchester. There was a good view from here and the clouds were interesting, so more shutter releases were made.

Towards Porchester
Towards Porchester

Next stop and I thought I would visit the location of Vail Williams offices at Lakeside at North Harbour. I had been told I would need permission to take any photographs, so this quick stop was to explore what opportunities there might be for another day.

Office grater
Office Grater – Lakeside, North Harbour

After Lakeside I made my way to Old Portsmouth. It was late morning, the weather still good and although I had visited this part of the city before I was unsure what subjects I might want to photograph, even though I had done some research at home using Google Maps. The area proved to be quite fruitful and I was happy with some of the shots I had taken.

Old Portsmouth
Old Portsmouth

A short break for lunch and instead of taking the car, out of the boot came my Brompton folding bike and I cycled round to Gunwharf Quay. Having the bike really enabled me to move around so much more quickly than I could have done on foot. I knew Gunwharf quite well and had taken photographs at this location before, so I pretty much knew what I wanted to try and achieve.

No 1, Gunwharf Quay
No 1, Gunwharf Quay

By now it was getting fairly late in the day but I had one more place to go to – Gosport, not that I wanted to take photographs of Gosport itself but I was very aware that the views from here across Portsmouth Harbour and towards Gunwharf itself were well worth taking. I had left this location until the end of the day, because the setting sun would be behind me and hopefully the light would be right to illuminate the buildings across the water including of course Spinnaker Tower. I was very fortunate the light could not have been better.

The sun finally set and the last images of the day had been captured. I was tired but satisfied with my days work so I headed home, keen to transfer the files from the SD card onto my iMac and get them backed up.

It had been a very fulfilling day. The research I had done beforehand had been well worthwhile and the weather on the day could not have been better. Blue skies with good clouds and plenty of light to create some contrasty black and white images.

A few days later I made arrangements to meet up with Ian Froome of Vail Williams at Lakeside. It gave me the chance to see round their offices as well as having the required permission to take internal and external shots of the office complex, which was home to many businesses large and small. There were plenty of opportunities here for some quite graphic architectural photography and I enjoyed looking for different angles and reflective surfaces.

The task of taking photographs nearly complete, the next stage would be to process a selection of images for the client to see. This will be the topic of next entry.

My first commission – Agreeing the brief

Towards Gunwharf
Towards Gunwharf

This is the first in a short series describing my first ever commission. I will illustrate these entries with some of the photographs chosen by the client, as well as a selection which didn’t make their final short list but I thought were worth including.

This all started back in December, but I only successfully completed the commission a couple of months ago. Now the project is well and truly complete, I feel comfortable sharing the experience.

It was just before Christmas when I displayed some of my photographs on a stand at a local Christmas Fayre in aid of The St Peter Project. I was very pleased to sell a couple of my framed prints and quite a number of people said how much they enjoyed looking at my work. As I was about to pack everything away, one particular person approached me and he told me that earlier last year his firm had moved offices but the walls were looking rather blank. His name was Ian Froome and he asked me if I would be willing to take some photographs, mount and frame them ready for hanging in their hall and meeting room. I was rather taken aback and explained that whilst I had sold a few of my photographs I had never undertaken any sort of commission work. Of course I was interested and we agreed to meet in the New Year to discuss a possible brief and to establish some sort of budget.

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Sunsail 4010

We got together in January and he showed me a plan of their offices and a few internal photographs so that  I could get an idea of what might be required. The offices were typically modern and large (A2 size) monochrome photographs would look excellent. We both thought that eight framed images would be sufficient but what subjects did they want and how much should I charge?

Fortunately Ian already had a clear idea of what he and his staff thought they might like and he had agreed a budget with his Finance Partner. I made it clear that I did not wish to make a profit so providing they covered my expenses for materials etc, the difference could be paid to The St Peter Project by way of a donation. He was very happy with this arrangement and we went on to discuss in more detail the type of images he felt would suit the offices.

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1000 Lakeside

Perhaps at this stage I should say that the company concerned is Vail Williams a firm of commercial property agents and their offices are at Lakeside, North Harbour in Portsmouth. The town of Portsmouth has a variety of architecture as well as two attractive harbours, one at Port Solent the other at Gunwharf Quays. In addition to capturing something of the area, he was also keen we had some images of the offices where they are based. Some abstract work would also be considered. We looked at examples of my work on my iPad and he pointed out ones that he liked and ones he didn’t. This helped to give me an idea of might appeal but perhaps more importantly what wouldn’t!

Roof light
Lakeside Rooflight

Given we were in the middle of winter coupled with the fact that I do not take photographs professionally, I was keen to agree a generous time scale. I said that I would hope to have a selection of images for him to look at in 6 to 8 weeks, or in other words by the early part of March.

Last but not least, and never having been asked to do this type of work before, I made it quite clear that should his team of staff not like any of the photographs, he should not feel compelled to have them and obviously I would not make any charge. I explained that I love being out and about taking photographs anyway, so I would still enjoy the taking if not the making.

In my next entry I will write about the photographs themselves. The link for this entry is here.

Gun Wharf Quay and Spinnaker Tower

Last Friday was a significant day for me. Earlier in the year I had agreed with my business partners that as from the 1st October I would reduce the numbers of days I work each week, from five to four days, electing to take Friday as my day off. The 5th October was therefore the first Friday I didn’t go into work, which left me free to do something completely different to what I would normally do on that day of the week. I decided to head on down to Portsmouth and Gun Wharf Quay in particular, to take a few shots of Spinnaker Tower and its immediate surroundings. It was good fun, I didn’t go inside any of the shops although I was questioned by a security officer who must have assumed I worked for a terrorist organisation! I can’t blame him for questioning me, he was only doing his job. In fact once we got talking he was quite interested and liked some of the shots I had taken.

Here are selection of the images, all taken with the Olympus EM5 and as is usually the case with my workflow, imported into Lightroom and converted into Black and White with Silver Efex Pro2.

Spinnaker Tower – an unusual but symmetrical approach to this very tall structure
12mm f10 1/500 ISO200

Spinnaker Tower


Spinnaker Tower looking across the harbour – a much more traditional approach
12mm f13 1/320 ISO200

Spinnaker Tower across the harbour

A statue near the entrance to the Historic Dockyard with the tower in the background
45mm f3.5 1/4000 ISO200

Spinnaker Tower and sculpture

A Ship’s Head again with the tower in the background
45mm f4 1/4000 ISO200

Ships Head and Spinnaker Tower

The rigging of the ‘Old Warrior’ ship – part of the Historic Dockyard
45mm f4.5 1/3200

The Old Warrior, ships rigging

A view across Portsmouth Harbour
45 f6.3 1/500 ISO200

Portsmouth harbour

The ‘Ship Leopard’ pub now closed down
45mm f4 1/1000 ISO200

Closed down pub in Portsmouth

The pedestrian walkway leading to Gun Wharf Quay and its shops
12mm f13 1/8 ISO200

Entrance to Gun Wharf Quay

A Busker in Gun Wharf, fiddling for a drink perhaps?
78mm f5 1/1000 ISO 200

The Busker

An old dockyard crane in front of No. 1 Apartment Block
67mm f6.3 1/800 ISO200

No 1 Apartment block and crane

Another unusual angle looking up at Spinnaker Tower
12mm f10 1/500 ISO200

Spinnaker Tower
HAPPY FRIDAYS!