Guitars to Gumshields

Guitars to Gumshields

A friend in the US recently commented ‘You’ve become quite the sports photographer!’ and this made me smile at her appreciation of my photographs while also making me pause a while and take a few moments to reflect on my experience as a photographer.

This friend, Patrice, knows me through the Bluegrass and Americana radio shows that I used to produce which then led onto me acting as an MC (or if you are across The Pond, emcee) at some prestigious festivals in Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina which – naturally enough – gave me the perfect opportunity to take photographs of the artists performing at the festivals…I’ve been a lucky fella, and that’s for sure!

Through the generosity and hospitality of so many people in the US, I have made many friends through the music played on my shows, the tales of my travels to the US (which I would relate to listeners) and, of course, my concert photographs; for photography, I was known as a concert photographer.

(Pictured: David Peterson at The Mural Stage of Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion in Bristol Tn/Va)

As I have relayed elsewhere, I used to work as an IT Manager* but reached a point where I needed to see what I could achieve with my photography and so I walked away from the world of Desktop Support and picked up my Nikon in earnest.

One downside to this (some might say) rash decision was that trips to the US might become a lot less frequent which, of course, meant that I was not attending the music festivals that I loved and had become a small part of.

I knew that I need to take myself outside of my ‘comfort zone’. Taking photographs of performers had become second nature to me but the opportunities to cover major festivals are few & far between and getting a press pass for the Pit would not be easy. With this in mind, I decided that I would take any opportunity to cover events to build up my knowledge (dare I say: expertise?) in unfamiliar situations. One such event was a local ParkRun and would strongly recommend shooting a ParkRun for anyone wanting to work on their technique for sport, panning, working in difficult light and suchlike; the advantage is that the participants and organisers will invariably be delighted to have a record of their run. You can also be guaranteed a few friendly waves though it’s not often that a runner will jump for joy mid-run when seeing a camera but, if it does happen, you better be ready!

*Though have also worked with ‘disadvantaged’ young people, driven a fork truck, launched & chased hot-air balloons and hosted various radio programs amongst a variety of assorted activities)


As well as the ParkRuns, I have taken still for a local independent film company, amateur theatre productions, publicity for local musicians and a host of other sessions to improve my skills as well as introducing myself to folks in my locality instead of being  one of those figures shuffling to the train station at 6:30am to return ashen-faced and weary at 8:00pm.

Has it been worth it? – Yes.
Has it been hard work? – In some respects, Yes but equally, massively enjoyable.
Has it been frustrating getting known? – Yes, of course – photography in incredibly competitive.
Has it been worthwhile? – Absolutely.

The title of this blog is Guitars to Gumshields alluding to the progression from being a guy at a festival with a camera & radio show to a photographer comfortable in more challenging scenarios. Am I still learning? Every single day! With every shoot (even if I am taking photographs of my wife at her archery club) I will be critical of what I have taken, scrutinise the EXIF data to see what setting I used and what I might use in future. 

Two things happened recently that made me feel that my hard work and diligence was paying off. Because of my concert photography and familiarity with shooting (sometimes) in challenging lighting I was asked if I would like to cover an event for Ultra White Collar Boxing.

Ultra White Collar Boxing and Ultra MMA run events where participants receive training, appear at a ticketed event where family and friends can cheer them on while raising sponsorship in aid of Cancer Research UK (to date, over £25million has been raised by the various Ultra Events). It has to be said (and it will come as no suprise) that fighters in a ring move a lot quicker than a fiddle player and are far less predictable too…MMA is somewhat easier as you perch on top of a ladder overlooking the octagonal ring though, nevertheless, a strange experience for that first bout. I’m glad to say that I have now covered several events for Ultra and hopefully will do so again for some of the Autumn events.

The other pleasant surprise was being asked to cover a 10km & Half-Marathon event at short notice; when I enquired how the organiser heard of me I was told that he sought recommendations and it was a friend of a friend who had heard of me and seen my pictures – word was clearly ‘getting out there’.

This organisation is principally centred on Triathlon training and events so, shortly after I delivered the 10k/Half-Marathon photographs I was asked if I could cover an open-water swimming event. The effort that I had put into covering the running, the skills transferring from my earlier concert photography were all coming together.

I have some more sports events lined up over the next few weeks (golf & cycling) and some – much calmer – headshots to take too. It’s been quite a journey from guitars to gumshields (with some glamour thrown in for good measure). The Grateful Dead sang ‘What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been’… yes it has and long may that continue.

#concert #concertphotography #event #community #fundraising #fitness #socialawareness #socialaction #swimming #triathlon #boxing #mma #ultraevents #northamptonphotographer

Guitars to Gumshields Pictures

Guitars to Gumshields

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