The Gear……

I have been asked a number of times about the equipment I use for the Veterans Portrait Project UK.  Here is a list of the main equipment I take with me on a typical engagement:

Lighting and Backdrop

4 x Elinchrom BRX 500 Compact Flash Head
2 x Elinchrom Skyport Speed Transmitter
2 x Elinchrom 21cm Reflector
1 x Elinchrom Rotalux 100 x 100 Softbox
1 x Elinchrom Rotalux 50 x 130 Softbox
1 x Manfrotto Background Support System
4 x Manfrotto Stackable Light Stands
1 x Manfrotto 055  – Tripod + 498RC2 ball head
1 x Sekonic L-308S Light Meter
1 x Colorama Paper Roll (1.35x11m) – Arctic White

VPPUK studio equipment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baggage

Manfrotto Prolight LW-99W
Manfrotto Prolight LW-88W
Manfrotto Pro 70

Cameras & Lenses

Canon 5D Mk3
Canon 6D
Canon 650D – video
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM
Canon 17-35mm f2.8L USM – video

Accessories

Gaffer Tape, 240v extension leads,  Model Release Forms, Batteries, Battery Chargers, Bulbs, Scissors, etc

A large car……

Thomas Fox, Army - Royal Miliratry Police (CID), 1946-1970, Warrant Officer Class 2, Malaya, Hong Kong, Germany, Veterans Portrait Project UK London England
IP Thomas Fox – Royal Hospital Chelsea – Home of the famous Chelsea Pensioners

The Veterans Portrait Project UK relies on the support of the following companies:

Elinchrom

Manfrotto UK

The Flash Centre

If you are in the market for new equipment please consider using them.  Tell them Spike sent you 😉

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The VPPUK Team

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The Gear……

First Engagements …..

Charlie Martell
Charlie Martell

Now fully embedded in our hotel we could begin to get the show on the road.  After an initial mix up over conference facilities we were able to set up our studio and test fire.  Being relatively new to Studio lighting, the next few days were to be a crash course, but I was in safe hands.  Thankfully Elinchrom and Manfrotto UK had offered to extend their support to the UK project so my equipment mirrored that used by Stacy in the US.
A few weeks prior to arriving in London I had used the Sapper network and touched base with Charlie Martell.  Charlie is known as the ‘Charitable Adventurer’ due to his various challenges (and a few Guinness world records) including rowing the Atlantic, Pacific and skiing to the North Pole, all in the name of good causes.  Charlie had graciously agreed to take part in the Veterans Portrait Project and came down to London to see us.  Initially I watched as Stacy went about interacting and photographing him, the first of many masterclasses.  My turn, the nerves were now kicking in but I refused to let them show.   Why was I nervous? I knew what I was doing, didn’t I?
After a while I began to relax and even enjoy myself. It wasn’t until I looked at my watch I realised we had been there for 2 hours!   Thank you Charlie.  Thank you for seeing value in the Veterans Portrait Project UK and finding the time to take part, it was a pleasure.

First engagement over, equipment tested successfully.  So far so good.

———

Blind Veterans UK (formerly St Dunstans) strive to make sure that no one who has served our country battles blindness alone.  Since 1915 they have been assisting and supporting veterans who have been blinded due to accident, service or illness.  Our first major engagement was to take place at the Brighton centre, an impressive building overlooking the English Channel.

The Trophy room made and ideal location to set up and it wasn’t long before the veterans began coming in.  WW2 veterans and National Servicemen and Woman alike.  One thing that struck me was the sense of humour that we all connected with immediately.  I was greeted by one individual like a long lost friend.  Steve, he said, How are you Steve?  Have we met before?  I asked.  No, everyone here is Steve, the guy in the gym is Steve, the guy in the canteen is Steve…………….

Every one of the veterans here made an impression on me.  I do consider myself a veteran, however, these guys and girls had been involved in more action in a few years than I had seen in almost a quarter of a century.  Inspiring, enthralling, funny and extremely welcoming.

We had a fantastic visit to Brighton and I can’t wait to go back.  My thanks to Mark Wheeler for making it possible and thank you to everyone who took part, including:

  • Clifford Gower who was blinded during a German Stuka attack during WW2 in North Africa.  You can read more about Clifford here
  • Elizabeth Nelson who was an Operations Officer at Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain.
  • Robert Dunn who served as a Signaler during WW2 and made it through the North Africa Campaign.

We didn’t get lost today and I only drove past the Blind veterans centre once.  I did take a wrong turn leaving Brighton, but I knew where I was 🙂

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First Engagements …..

Almost there……

1 week to go until we converge on London.  The planning is done, the press release is out and my ferry is booked.  The BBC contacted me yesterday.  Nothing confirmed, but an exciting step in the right direction.  We have had confirmed coverage from Forces TV and the British Forces Broadcasting Service who will accompany us to the Royal Hospital Chelsea also Soldier magazine and national Radio will be covering the Veterans Portrait Project UK.

The British Government recently announced 3 days of commemorative events to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, which is fantastic. Unfortunately this made things a difficult for some of our launch engagement venues which resulted in some rescheduling and panicking.  It will be a memorable weekend to be in London.

You can find out more about VE Day 70 here

ve70

In an attempt to keep current and seek inspiration I generally have a video or podcast playing when I’m in the office.  Recently  Scott Kelby  released the latest video in the trailblazer series entitled, Powerful Woman in Photography.  The first  interview is with our very own Stacy Pearsall , founder of the Veterans Portrait Project.  I have seen many of Stacy’s interviews, mainly as research as we have yet to meet in person!!!  This one is the most powerful.  Stacy lays bare her combat experiences, how it feels to lose friends and colleagues in combat and how her own injury lead to the Veterans Portrait Project.  An inspiring, humbling and extremely moving account which will strike a chord with veterans and service personnel alike.  You can view the video here.

I am now literally ‘chomping at the bit’.  Almost 3 weeks of meeting some of our countries veterans, meeting and working with Stacy.  Being a more hands on kind of student, this will of course be a huge learning opportunity for me.  One that I will grab with both hands.

The VE70 weekend is also a huge date in the military re-union calendar, particularly to Army and Navy veterans.  The annual rugby match will take place at Twickenham on 9 May.  Having attended this event on more than a few occasions I know there will be a huge number of veterans attending.  If you are going and fancy joining the Veterans Portrait Project UK family please drop me a line and we will let you know the details.  We would love to see you.

I’ll update the blog as we head into the launch so please stay tuned.  I best start packing……………can’t wait!!!

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Almost there……

The Generosity of Strangers………..

One of the major issues with launching anything is cost.  This is particularly true in London and especially when you have no budget or funding on which to draw.

Concept Building Services have arranged our accommodation in Central London, which is a God send.  This was the cause of some of those sleepless nights I mentioned in an earlier post.  An old friend [Steve Whitlock] has been an absolute legend, as has his boss and company owner Joe Carty.  Joe has never served in the forces, however he has seen the true value of Veterans and provides an enormous amount to our community through his charitable work and providing employment opportunities.  I am looking forward to thanking them properly in May.

Photography_show

Last year when I was introduced to some of our sponsors, I found myself in new territory.  I have never had to sell anything to anyone.  The UK Photography show took place in March at the NEC in Birmingham and our main sponsors, Manfrotto UK, Elinchrom and The Flash Centre were there.  This was the ideal opportunity to put faces to names and sell myself and the project to them.

What a fantastic experience.  I admit to being a more than a little nervous before hand but was soon put at ease by the team from Elinchrom and The Flash Centre.  Their enthusiasm for the project and their grasp of the potential it has was incredible.  In particular Chris Whittle, President of Elinchrom, seemed genuinely excited which was wonderful.  When Chris told me that I was no longer asking them to be part of the Veterans Portrait Project UK, they were telling me they wanted to be part of it, I was over the moon.  Mark Astmann took time out to run me through the complete Elinchrom range which was very kind.  Having never used these lights before a personal guide was a massive help.  Mark hails from New York and I think my Scottish accent may have confused him at times, sorry Mark.

Manfrotto UK next and Mark Langley.  A busy man who was looking after their ambassadors.  I was scheduled to discuss the details between the talks given by some fascinating photographers but ended up watching some speaking about their work.  It was quite Inspiring.  Again, I was blown away by the enthusiasm shown for our project.  Something you should never say to a Sapper (Google it) – “have a look round and let me know if there is anything else you need”……….so much shiny stuff, sorry Mark!!!

On conclusion of the meetings I made my way to one of the many eatery’s within the NEC, I was hungry and tired but the place was mobbed.  Eventually I found a table and sat down next to some other visitors.  I got talking with another Scot who sat opposite and it turned out he had spent some time with the Army Reserve. He went on to explain that he wanted to join the regular Army, however his father would not sign the paperwork, which at that time was mandatory.  This led me to explain about the Veterans Portrait Project and that I to was a veteran.  The guy was immediately excited, extremely complimentary and wanted to take part.  It then transpired that he attended the same karate school as I did in the early 1980’s and was also good friends with a friend of my late father.  I have to thank Ricky for the 30 minutes or so we spent chatting.  I hope to meet up with him in Scotland and take his portrait.  What a small world.

We are also fortunate to be sponsored by many other companies, Truprint, Photobox, Photoshelter and Snapper Stuff to name but a few. Please visit them on the web, maybe they’ll be able to strike you a bargain.

RHC_Web

I could not finish this piece without expressing how grateful we are to the Royal Hospital Chelsea, Royal Naval Association, Royal Air Forces Association, Royal Naval and Royal Marines Charity and the Scottish Veterans Association for their outstanding support.  The support and generosity of companies and organisations such as these is crucial to us, we would never have gotten this project off the ground without it.  I will be forever grateful to all of you.  Thank you.

My final vote of thanks must go to you.  Thank you for joining us as we ready ourselves for what lies ahead.  Thank you for reading this blog.  Thank you for caring.

The planning is now almost complete, in a month Stacy and I will meet for the first time and the Veterans Portrait Project UK will be officially launched.  Excited?  You bet.  Nervous?  Definitely.   My overwhelming feeling though is one of pride.

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The Generosity of Strangers………..

A Hard Slog……

I remember how I felt last year when Stacy Pearsall told me she would love to bring the Veterans Portrait Project to the UK.  I was beaming from ear to ear.   Then the realisation set in.   Was there really an appetite amongst UK veterans to take part?  Would the project be feasible in UK?  I was now responsible for everything leading up to and beyond the project launch, was I up to it?  A million and one questions.  This project was someone else’s baby. Potentially Stacy’s reputation was on the line, she had put a lot of faith in me, we had never met, we had never even spoken.  Was she nuts?  Maybe.  Maybe she saw something she liked.  I don’t know.  Maybe it was a veteran thing.

I put my hands up when I say I was not aware of Stacy before becoming involved in the Veterans Portrait Project.  I am sure Stacy will not be offended by this admission.  Shortly after agreeing to bring the project to the UK I done a bit of research (nothing like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted).  Those of you who have never heard of Stacy Pearsall, stick her name into Google.…………..you’re punching a wee bit above your weight here Mr Porteous!!!  To be honest I am glad I done the research afterwards, there may have been no UK project otherwise.

Fast forward 6 months and I feel like I have been tied to my office at home forever.  Emails, phone calls, letters……mostly to prospective sponsors and venues, many of which have gone unanswered and there have been many disappointments.  It started to seem like it was never ending.  It has also been quite stressful and I admit to a few sleepless nights.  Sound like I am having a gripe?  Absolutely not…..This is one the most meaningful and exciting project I have ever been involved in.  The late nights, the worry, the doubt….pffffft.  No one said it would be easy and I am still beaming from ear to ear. Roll on May………..

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A Hard Slog……