30 Surreal Seconds in Leeds….

Surreal Leeds!

You’d not normally bother with the camera on a day like this was, but here’s what I tried, making a surreal Leeds….


It’s mid-afternoon…

  • The sun is bright
  • There is a slight wind blowing the clouds
  • There are people and cars around
  • I’ve just left a meeting in Leeds…
  • So do I take more bright day shots of Leeds Town Hall – or do I go home….

Then I remember I have one of these “10-stop filters” and the clouds are moving… so decide to get some long exposure shots of the city, something a little different.

The Techy Bit…

A 10 stop filter is to the eye, a piece of black glass you can’t see through – a bit like a welding mask glass.

Its purpose is to reduce the flow of light into a camera. Here’s how it works:-

  • A 1 stop filter stops 1/2 the light entering the camera – so you need to double how long you expose your photo
  • A 2 stop filter stops another 1/2 the light entering the camera (so 1/4 of the unfiltered light) – so you need to quardruple how long you expose your photo
  • So if we go on, the 10 stop needs 2^10 times the exposure – which is 1024 times more exposure time

So if you’re shooting at 1/100th without the filter, you’d need to shoot at 10 seconds with the filter on. 

What they are used for…

So you can shoot really long exposures in bright light – what does this mean?

  • Water becomes smooth and waveless
  • Passing cars disappear
  • Shopping centres look odd – only people who stand perfectly still appear
  • Streets look empty
  • Skies look surreal – the clouds slur across the picture leaving totally alien patterns

So I didn’t stray too far from the Town Hall – just popping around Millennium Square and back

The Photos


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Leeds town hall


Leeds town hall

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Leeds town hall


Team Shoot for Ardent – York City Centre


York based financial advisers, Ardent Financial Planning, are having a new website site and brand built by digital agency “Plump Digital” – Rob Colley invited McFade over to capture some great new shots of directors.

Being a York based company, I was keen to create some images with York in the background – it’s a stunning city; including the river and bridges would show to anyone viewing the website.
Before we hit the city, we needed some head-shots of each staff member and the office “in action”, which we did over an hour at Arden HQ – then headed into town.

The Hottest Shoot Ever….



Did I mention how hot it was?

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It was one of those days when 30 degrees was seen and humidity stifling. It was also incredibly bright – so the challenge for any outside photos was was keeping the directors from squinting and over heating.

First off we captured each director looking over the river – a friendly “chilled out” look to the shots. Unfortunately, it was a little busy so they felt a little awkward at first, but a little coaxing and direction got their minds off the 30 Japanese tourists watching!

Moving inside… not the easiest location


We went into City Screen and found the only table available – the one below the stair case. We got them all drinks to cool off and staged a few meeting type shots, using iPads and phones… we had one director missing – so we had to wait for him to arrive to get the complete team shots. The main issue with the location was access for me – I could only really shoot from 1 angle and the stairs above their heads prevented any creative lighting… such are the challenges of “location shooting”.

That said, a pint or 2 each made for some far more jovial and natural shots.



Client Meeting Shots

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Rob and I were keen to have some shots for the guys meeting with clients – these show “potential clients” the directors in action. Rob is a real client of theirs, and another client popped in to talk with them – so we got some great shots – this time on a separate table with loads of room around, making life a LOT easier.

Final Headshots

Once we’d finished in the City Screen – I spotted an ancient wall which just looked like York’s famous city walls, so I quickly set up some lights and quickly got some “studio style” shots of all 4 of them – at this point they were totally comfortable with the camera and light – and it shows. Great shots – with that York city wall feel in the background.

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Wind Farm Workshop with McFade Training

Wind farms are, by definition, positioned in windy, desolate places. This makes for truly atmospheric shots – given the right lighting conditions.

The best time is sunset or sunrise, because the sun light comes in low and lights 1/2 of the turbine, leaving the other half in shadow. It gives a 3D feel to them.

Also you get coloured skies at sunset/rise. This provides a dramatic background to your stark, white turbines.

The other thing to look for is the “interaction” between turbines. When you look at them, try make them “sit” together in the photo nicely – I usually avoid them “overlapping”, but it’s really down to the individual.

So here’s a few shots from the night… wasn’t the best night ever, but was pretty close.


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Business Profile Shoot – Mark Broscombe



Mark’s been in the shipping game for 15 years – mainly sending containers around the world for clients. He’s just started a new role in a brand new business so needed some new shots to promote both him and the business.

Images of Shipping… in Leeds?

So the challenge of finding a suitable location began – we discussed the vibe of the shoot, and I always try to get a bit of a story in there… then I remembered there’s a huge container storage facility in Strourton, but not only that, there’s the canal and Aire flowing past there too.

So the story builds… I locate a suitable road with views of the containers on Google Earth, the photographer’s friend! We agree a time and place – Thwaite Mill in Stourton. It’s quiet, lots of car parking space and well sign posted.

Meeting Up

Another blistering day, my 2013 shoots seem to involve a lot of heat, graft and sweat….

Driving down the little road to the Mill I spotted a huge stack of containers  – we could do the whole shoot on this one location! So I get 3 lights set up, 2 with light benders, the other with a 1 meter softbox – and we’re raring to go.

The Shoot…


Putting people at ease is the most important part of the shoot – for me anyway.

So before the camera gets pointed, you spend time getting to know them – I found out about how the “freight forwarding” business works, how big these ships really are, that Hull is actually quite a small port, Liverpool has a cracking nightlife associated with its port and that Felixstow was the biggest…

So we then set up with a cool “Sin City” feel to the lighting, and got a few shots in the shade – nice green backgrounds. From there we walked up the “island” between river and canal, taking shots of mark with the containers in the distance.

A little further is a huge lock and old bridge – so we used those as backdrops to get that “shipping” message in the background.

Then we left the canal and wandered back down to the car park, stopping 3 times – once with a grey building as backdrop, once with the containers right behind Mark and finally some more chilled out shots with his tie off… which apparently his mum wants a print of!



They needed the photos for a press release, so within 2 hours they had all the shots on Dropbox to choose from – then the chosen high res-shots with them the same day.

The Photos…

So here’s more of Mark

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5 Photos from Ribblesdale – the McFade Workshop

Coming from Ribblesdale, this is one I’d been looking forward to leading.

The Ribble is around 70 miles long – we were at the source, I’m from about 35 miles downstream… so it wasn’t really “my hood” – but I’ve been around Horton, Settle and Ribblehead many times so knew a few gems to show the delegates.

1 – Catrigg Force – Starting at Stainforth

Stainforth is about 3 miles out of Settle and has a handy car park in the village – you have a 1 mile walk up a steep track (it’s worth taking water to lubricate the climb!) then you wander down a little path to the top of the falls.

The gorge is a real treat, Lord of the Rings in character. The falls are in 2 distinct steps and getting up close is a slippery challenge over rocks and fallen branches.

The light levels are low, so even with a polariser (highly recommended) you can get long exposures, like the one in this shot -which was around 15-20 seconds.

_MG_0850-22 – Pen Y Gent

The most impressive of the 3 peaks when viewed from Ribblesdale, with his stepped end and “led down lion” shape, you can capture Penygent from just about anywhere and get a great shot

What you “really” need is a bit of dramatic light to get the most of it, and we were treated to a windy, cloudy day – so the patches of bright and dark changed perpetually.

The silhouette of the hill says it all to me – foreboding to climb!


3 – Stainforth Stepping Stones

If you’re heading to or from Catrigg Force, you’ll probably see these stones over the stream. You can use them as a lovely foreground and make these pseudo-olde-worldy photos. The only anachronism being the clothes the father and daughter are wearing!


4 – Ribblehead Viaduct – Magic Light

We were heading over the the Whernside end of the viaduct when the clouds parted letting through this fleeting flurry of light.

Landscape photography is often a hugely patient job – getting up at 3AM and climbing in the dark for that perfect sunrise… but just occasionally a dull day, as this had started to become, can offer up a short spell of magic.

You’ve just go to be ready for it!

So I was encouraging the delegates to get as many shots as they could and test the skills they’d learned on the workshop – we never again get light as good as this on the workshop


5 – Ribblehead Viaduct – Long Exposure

So if you’ve no light, how about trying something different – here’s a demo shot I took using a 10-stop filter, which gave me a 30 second exposure in bright day light. All the clouds had blown a long way in 30 seconds, hence the look of the sky.




Sunny Holbeck

I’d just put an exhibition in the Midnight Bell pub and had the camera with me… so decided to get all nostalgic for 15 minutes and capture the end of town I worked in for 2 years – Holbeck.

It’s had one hell of a face lift since 2000, now housing lots of businesses, 2 new bars and lots of eateries – a long shot from the red-light district reputation of old.

So here’s my nostalgia set for August 2013 – Water Lane and Marshall Street in Holbeck.

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