Sometimes you really gel with the people you work with, and this is the case with the team at Wharton Natural Infrastructure Consultants.
I was just thinking about getting back to work as a photographer (recovering from a broken back) when I was contacted by the company director Pete Wharton.
Pete explained that the company was rebranding, had taken on new people due to expansion, and so needed a range of fresh staff photographs for a new website.
After a couple of email exchanges, both of us had a very clear idea that headshots in a natural environment would be perfect. Pete also had the brilliant idea of taking shots while the team were walking together, talking through things – something they often do.
I looked through their existing website, and as I have a degree in environmental science and having been a wildlife conservationist for many years I quickly found an affinity with the company and what it does.
I also trawled Google, finding dozens of headshots of ecologists and arborists, as well as various team shots. To be honest, most were pretty dire, but some were rather good, and inspired a few ideas.
We walked to a local nature reserve for the shots, and I found just the right backdrop – the sun gleaming through some foliage, and we set up on the shady riverbank.
As I was still struggling to carry things, My Darling Jules came to carry some of the equipment, and hold the reflector. In the end the best light to be had was by taking the reflector panels off and holding just the diffuser panel up to soften the light hitting the team’s faces. I also used just a touch of flash to brighten faces and give a little catch light in the eyes.
I’d asked the team to bring a few items of monitoring equipment too, so we could take a few ‘at work shots’.
We had time to take some shots in the office as well, while the team got back to work. I didn’t want anyone to pose, so I just sat on a chair and scooted around to catch everyone at their desks.
I have to admit, it’s hard to be innocuous when you’re six foot four, with a Gandalfian beard, propelling yourself backwards on a wheeled office chair, but somehow the team managed to ignore me 99% of the time, and I could get very natural shots.
I’ve done two more shoots with the team, to include different team members, and capture them in different environments. And we’re planning more shoots of the team on site, doing the various types of survey work they do – from trees, to bats to entire habitats.
If the men’s England football team ever need a replacement for Gareth Southgate, then they should get Peter Wharton. I’ve no idea whether he knows much about football, but he’s built an amazing team spirit.
During the three photo shoots with the team, I’ve become more and more impressed with how everyone works together.
I think part of it is that they all really care about what they do, not just the job, but the whole subject of how humans and nature interact. In fact they can get very nerdy, in a wonderful way, when they see a particular tree or dragonfly.
But there’s something else, it’s not just the passion for what they do. Peter has brought together people with energy and humour – there’s a lot of good-natured banter and fun. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve found myself giggling and grinning when I’m in the middle of a photo shoot with them.
It’s not the kind of banter you see in Ricky Gervaise’s ‘The Office’ (which I’ve been re-watching recently). It’s the kind when people really know, trust, respect and like each other.
I’m so ‘in the zone’ when photographing – concentrating on light, composition, camera settings, and catching the moment – that I usually don’t hear what people are saying. But, inevitably, I do catch snippets. And those snippets reveal people who take their work seriously, intensely seriously, but who have a great time doing what they do.
You can see several of the photos from the three shoots on the Wharton Natural Infrastructure Website. Just click on them to see that page on their website.
If you’d like photos of your team, doing what they do best, as well as warm, friendly headshots, indoors or outdoors, then get in touch with me.