Niks Blog

The Grace Project

My romance with photography started when I was about 16. It came through the unlikely love of all things Japan (70s-80s band rather than the country, although I like the country too) and their lead singer David Sylvian.

David Sylvian had an exhibition and book of Polaroids entitled “Brilliant Trees”. If that was good enough for him… well you know how the saying goes.
My passion started with an old Polaroid. Through my career I have used all sorts of cameras; both film and digital SLR’s, Polaroids and medium format cameras. I will talk more on how I came to Fuji later.


Firstly I want to tell you how the project “Grace” came to be. As all of us photographers know, our business can be a lonely game, but the internet has changed all that. I have learnt (as is the case with the fantastic new Fuji Academy) that you can connect with great photographers from all over the world that you admire and learn from them. One of my peers is Chase Jarvis who is involved with Creative Live, a fantastic learning resource for all creatives.

He said that I should shoot what I love and put it out there on the internet for all to see. Make the leap and do what I love and see what happens, So I did just that. I booked my studio out for me for a day, put the word out to followers of my social media sites that I was looking for models for creative portraits and the next thing I know, I’m shooting three different people in the studio in exactly the style I wanted to. Just this person, me, my camera and my lights.

I got a number of good shots out of that days shoot but one in particular stood out of a good friend, Mike. I put the photo of Mike up on my social sites and my website and of course gave a copy to my friend who had taken his time to come into the studio. He used this image as his profile picture and that is how the great Tim Hartley enters the scene. (Global creative director for Vidal Sassoon and in the words of Vidal himself one of the 4 best hairdressers of all time – –

It just so happens that Tim is a friend of my friend Mike and he loved the image and things went from there (with grateful help from Mike for connecting us).

I met with Tim and we discussed his new project. The commission was to shoot a series of pictures in black and white in my style with the influence of the artist Sarah Moon. Bingo! Dream commission.
The rest, as they say, is history. Grace was born. We agreed upon the date and I drove down to his Berkshire house where he has a built in hair dressing salon and photo space.

I had been a Canon shooter professionally for 12 years by this point and had switched to Fuji when the XT1 was released. I had used both, side by side, for a few months but quickly realized that Fuji was the way I wanted to go. I had first tried a friends XPro 1 I was really excited about it but for my work I thought it was not for me. As soon as I got my hands on the XT1 I was smitten. I simply loved it for all that it was. However I was very apprehensive to use it on such a dream project, with such a prestigious client and knowing that we were looking for magazine covers and pages! This was the summer of 2014.

I packed the car with all my kit, going over my lists at least 5 or 6 times. The drive down from York saw me running over and over lighting scenarios etc. I arrived at Tim’s beautiful Bauhaus inspired home; there was a warm welcome with a lovely meal at a famous TV personality’s restaurant that evening (Tim pulled out all the stops in wining and dining the whole team for the duration of the shoot, thanks again Tim).

That evening I was so nervous I hardly slept. I was up by 4 and started setting up the lights etc. I had brought with me by 5.

We had two great hairstylists, a fantastic make up artist and three beautiful models. Two Danish and one Russian, plus a fabulous wardrobe. My XT1 and me. It was on!

We shot for two long enjoyable days. The team I worked with were amazing. It was such a creative environment and I learnt so much from Tim who, by the way, has such fantastic vision. It was incredible!
After an incredible and intense three days we wrapped up the shoot and said our goodbyes. I spent a few weeks post processing the images with a combination of Light Room, Photoshop and Nik Software to get our desired result.

It was a strategic move on the part of Tim Hartley and his team where and when to release the pictures. In fact it was not until 2015 that the pictures were finally released but I am proud to say that they went down very well. I saw the images projected upon buildings in California and in many other places on the internet but, more than that, we got two national magazine covers with the British Hair Journal and the Canadian Hair Journal plus 6 full pages of images from the shoot! It was a very proud moment for me. Getting physical copies and seeing my photographs in print was a real pleasure.

I shot with my Fuji XT1 + 56-1.2 Using, at some points, 4 Bowens Esprit lights and sometimes just one modeling bulb.

My kit worked perfectly and although I was slightly concerned how the magazines would take to the XTrans Cmos 2 – 16mp images they had no problems with the quality of the files (in fact front page).

Moving to Fuji has really changed my photography for the better. Previously although very good, my kit was the tool standing between me and the photographs I saw in my minds eye. That’s changed since using my Fuji kit. Now it not only influences the way I shoot things but is the pleasure, with which I shoot them through!
I look forward very much to getting my hands on the XT2 as although 16mp worked fine for this shoot it would not hurt (especially where I need to crop) to have some more pixels to play with.

Work wise I am currently talking to Tim about a possible new project and otherwise shooting all sorts in and out of my studio.

Please check out my website


 Tansy beetles (Chrysolina graminis) – 

Had a fantastic time working alongside Caroline Howard (wildlife park manager) @ Askham Bryan College and her student rangers. 
I was photographing the very rare Tansy beetle check them out here – 
We were doing a count of the population to see if there were enough to translocate some to the “Tansy Ark” at the fantastic new Wildlife park opening 2017 -Check it out here-
There were not quite enough about as it is late in the season and they are starting to go to ground, so we will have to wait till the spring. However I did get some lovely shots of these beautiful blingy beetles.
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