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Thursday, 26 June 2014

A complete battery recharge...

Back in January when I was away in South Africa I had an email from a friend of mine asking if I fancied a week away on a juicing retreat.  She mentioned yoga and hiking on a mountain in Turkey.  I liked the sound of it and checked my diary.  Of course I had a wedding booked - but only on one of the Saturdays so I agreed and said I would join Katie 2 days in.

It's safe to say that I didn't really prepare beyond buying some new yoga/fitness kit and asking Nikon if I could borrow a smaller, more transportable camera than my pro bodies.  I took the Nikon 1 V3 with me and 2 lenses - the 10 - 30mm 3.5-5.6 and the 32mm 1.2.  It's very small very powerful tool with a tilt screen touch monitor - 18.4 megapixels with an ISO range from 160 - 12,800.  

I turned up late on the Sunday night and Katie showed me to our tent - it wasn't the quietest first night with a variety of sounds including donkeys, dogs and call to prayer.  Turns out I slept well after this from pure exhaustion.

Juicy Mountain is not for the faint hearted - and Katie and I swopped many a 'look' between each other which said something along the lines of 'how did we get ourselves into this'.  The daily scheduled began at 7am and involved about 7 hours of exercise on juice.  It was proper hiking in the heat, a lot of yoga and then incredibly tough classes like circuits and 'insanity'.

I loved the juicing and can hand on heart say I never felt hungry once.  I had a headache from hell for 24 hours as the detox kicked in.

We did get a break during the hottest hours of the day and most people would head to the pool and collapse.

On Wednesday you get an afternoon on a boat - very much  needed and we all loved every second of it.  The boat left from the port at Gocek which you can see below.  I absolutely love the panorama feature on the camera.

Although the scenery was stunning probably the best part was actually getting to eat some fresh fruit!  I put the Nikon 1 to the test by handing the camera to a complete non photographer and asking him to try and capture me diving off the boat - I was amazed by the option to shoot at 60 frames per second.  When you flick back through the stills it's like watching a movie in slow mo...

The yoga and rebounding platform was built to make the most of the stunning mountain views and I desperately wanted to see an amazing sunset.  Finally we got one and I ran back to the tent to get the camera. In all these images the camera was in touch screen function - you literally put your finger on what you want in focus!

This is me just taking it in and below are 2 pics of Natalie the yoga instructor who was awesome and the amazing Sally shown rebounding - whose mantra of 'get over yourself' kept us all going through the pain and heat that week...

And below my lovely friend Katie and I - an image for us to both remember the trip.

Everyone is encouraged to take a shot at the end of the stay to capture the physical change in your body.  I'm definitely slimmer, stronger and healthier and people cannot stop telling me how well I look. The truth is I feel even better.

On the last day after check out we had a few hours more in Gocek - where we ate our first meal.  We all opted for yet another fresh juice despite people drinking cold wine and beer around us.

I ordered myself a juicer and blender from the retreat and continue to juice every day alongside a more normal but healthy diet.  I can't recommend the retreat enough but it's no holiday...  My batteries are completely recharged.  Turns out I don't want to give the Nikon 1 back - it's a very clever  little camera.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions from Students!

I get contacted regularly by students asking me to fill in quite lengthy questionnaires and whilst I wish I had the time to write back to you all individually it’s just not possible!  So I thought it would be helpful to list some of the more frequently asked questions and give you the answers…

About Me:
•    I am a freelance photographer and run my own business – Kate Hopewell-Smith Photography
•    I do location portraiture, boudoir and wedding photography
•    I train groups and individuals regularly and you can find out more on the Training section of my website
•    I write a monthly column for Professional Photographer Magazine and am featured in many other photography magazines on a regular basis

What do you wish you’d known when you first started photography as a career?

How time consuming it is and how difficult it is to manage a work/life balance. There are hours of work involved in digital photography in terms of editing and most clients want to book me at the weekend.  This means I don’t get to spend as much time with friends and family as I’d like and I often miss out on fun social events because I was booked months in advance of knowing about them. Being a freelance photographer also means you don’t get paid for time off, so you can’t take sick days and can’t afford to be lazy!

How do you advertise your business?

I don’t advertise but view FB and my blog as marketing and advertising.  The majority of my business now comes word of mouth.

Do you think a digital copy or printed copy of a portfolio is better?

This isn’t quite so relevant for a lifestyle photographer in the strictest sense - commercial and fashion photographers probably still need a printed portfolio.  For me it is largely digital and my website and social media platforms are essential. However, it is also important that wedding clients who come to meet me see printed images from previous wedding in albums or on the wall.

What equipment do use in your most recent work?

Nikon D3s, Nikon D3, Nikon D800, Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8, Nikkor 35mm f/1.4, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, Nikkor 85mm f1.4, Nikkor 105mm f2.8 macro.  In addition I have Nikon SB910 speedlights and both continuous and flash lighting systems.

Do you have a favourite lens?

My desert island lens?!  Tricky - depends on what I'm shooting.  Outdoors my 70-200 2.8. 

How did you get into photography?

I move out of London with young kids and we found a house with a dark room.  I signed up to a 35mm film course but it was cancelled due to lack of take up.  After this my husband brought me a Nikon D80 and a couple of kit lenses and I found a distance learning course through the Open College of the Arts called the Art of Photography. I was then asked to shoot a wedding by a friend of a friend and discovered Brett Harkness who pointed me in the direction of Aspire Photography Training and the Bespoke Programme.  This was the point when I had to consider whether to turn a hobby into a business and make a big investment in training and kit.  Under the guidance of Aspire I began to network locally and this led to my first few shoots – often for small local businesses. My portfolio building shoots (for friends and family) led to my first paid work via word of mouth.

When did you start work as a photographer?

The business was launched in April 2010.

How often do you shoot?

In the winter months maybe 2-3 times a week but much of this is training shoots rather than for clients. In the main season I shoot 4-5 times a week.

Who are your inspirations?

Whilst I am inspired by the legends of the past I find the greatest inspiration from people who are currently working and successful: Jerry Ghionis was the photographer who showed me what high end contemporary wedding photography should looked like and Aspire Photography Training showed me what a contemporary lifestyle photography business needed to be.  I also have Adam Alex to thank for showing me how to see and shoot light and being a hugely supportive friend.   I also love the work of Susan Stripling in the States.  Martin Middlebrook also taught me a lot about metering and dynamic range.

Have you published a book?

Not yet despite being asked to.  I am planning to publish some online education material over the next few months.

You started off photographing your children. How big a learning curve was it?

Massive. Initially, you’re just trying to capture something, a feeling about what they’re doing. All you’re doing is looking at their expressions. At the time I had no concept of light whatsoever.  Now light haunts me – it’s all I see wherever I am. Every photographer needs to go on the light journey - from BEFORE LIGHT to AFTER LIGHT.  You know if you see light - and many aspiring photographers don't.

What has been your most nerve-wracking shoot?

I still get a bit nervous before shoots - it's only healthy and proves I'm still striving to produce work that I'm proud of.  Probably my most nerve-wracking experience was David Tennant's wedding. 

How did you turn your hobby into a successful business?

I viewed the year-long Bespoke Programme as a big investment and at the time my husband said, “Right, if it doesn’t work, you’re back on the commuter train to London!” When I joined, I wasn’t worried about the business side. I was more worried about being a better photographer because I knew I could run a business. The small amount of money I had left in my kitty wasn’t spent on lenses – I spent it on my website and my brand.  Branding and market positioning is critical to the success of any business and it is such a misunderstood area of marketing.  I have tried to outline why a brand is so important in these blog posts.

I think that a lot of boxes need ticking to be a successful photographer BUT if you tick them it will happen.  These are the boxes:

•    Technical competence
•    Professional level kit
•    Vision and a good eye
•    Composition skills
•    A consistent portfolio and recognisable style
•    Effective branding and positioning
•    Strong web and social media presence
•    Business and admin skills
•    People skills
•    Work ethic and ambition
•    A plan – ie set some goals so you have something to aim for.

If you have any other questions that you think other people would find interesting then send me an email.  Best of luck to all of you!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Caroline & Gabe's Engagement Shoot in New York City

This is a shoot that I won't forget - an absolute gem in terms of the gorgeous couple - Caroline & Gabe, the location - New York City and the golden hour light....

I met Caroline and her lovely mum on a very wet day last year near Henley to talk about photographing her wedding this summer.  She told me about how her and Gabe are based in New York and during the conversation we discussed the possibility of doing an engagement shoot out there.

A couple of weeks ago we made it happen and I remember sitting on the plane thinking about the shoot and hoping for good weather.  The forecast wasn't looking great and during my stay we emailed back and forth about a plan 'B'.  My golden hour app suggested that, if the skies were clear, we would have 35 minutes of beautiful light the night before our scheduled shoot.    

I warned Caroline that we would need to work fast and I was very aware of the pressure this put all of us under - I hadn't met Gabe and I don't like to start shooting until I have spent some time chatting to a couple.  However - they were both amazing and so willing to listen to my suggestions and put their trust in me.  

So - the light.....Truly breathtaking and rare.  Their apartment block had an amazing roof terrace with incredible views and this is where we started.  After shooting for a while we headed out into the streets and down towards the Hudson - all 3 of us watching the sun sinking at an alarming rate, very aware of the lanes of rush hour traffic between us and the pier.  Caroline and Gabe were brilliant and totally understood the time pressure - running with me to grab the last moments of golden hour and sunset.  

And that's what happens - one minute you have amazing light and the next it is gone.  We had a chilly hug goodbye and made a plan to meet the next morning on Downing Street - Caroline wanted a shot of the street sign because it's her maiden name... As I walked back to Soho where I was staying I took pictures of sunset - just incredible.

The plan the next day was to head towards Meatpacking District - stopping at Oscar's where they regularly have brunch, bars where they have spent evenings, the Magnolia Bakery and so on until we had reached the start of the High Line.  We had more time during this shoot to get some lovely portraits and talk about wedding day details. 

I really can't wait to see them both again and photograph them against a British rural backdrop - it will be a wonderful contrast to this.  I only hope that the UK delivers a little bit of magic light for  them again. 

I hope you enjoy looking at the pictures as much as I enjoyed making them.  Click for a larger view. xx


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