Ironman Films

Earlier this year an interesting mission arrived at Riley Towers.

Create a portfolio of films for a client who had just landed the contract to host the international Ironman event.

We needed to make 3 thirty-second teaser films that showcased each of the event elements, swimming, running and cycling. We also needed to show some of the environment where the events would be taking place. The client wanted the films to be eye catching, exciting and full of anticipation. The films were to be used as teasers prior to the official announcement of the event. We were also tasked with producing a 90 second montage film that would showcase all of the sports together. Creative direction came from Geoff Dodd. Geoff is an amazing talent and I really enjoy working with him on projects like this.

So it was that we found ourselves leaving a hotel in Staffordshire at 4.30 am. We had spent the previous day doing a recce and had a pretty good idea of what we were doing. I was directing and shooting all of the land and water based shots while Chris was taking care of the aerials. I made the decision to use our Sony FS700 camera for all of the land-based shots because of its slow motion abilities. Action looks great when shot in super slow motion and there is always the option to speed footage up if a sharper edit is required. I used the Metabone Speedbooster with a selection of Canon lenses. Mostly shooting on the 16-35, 24-70 or 70-200 F2.8 lenses. In addition I was packing a Canon 5d Mark3 in a waterproof dive housing and a GoPro Hero Black Edition with various mounts and accessories.

The drone was equipped with a stabilised Panasonic GH3 and Zuiko 12mm lens.

We moved through each of the films over the course of the day, alternating between ground shooting and aerials. All of the athletes were amazing and helped us brilliantly by advising on each of the individual elements and giving us a real insight into their sport. We called “it’s a wrap” on the final film just after sunset at about 10PM. We went through our usual process of packing down all the kit and backing up data before leaving the location and heading for home!

The editing process was very fast because the client needed a quick turn around. In addition to the 3 x 30 second teasers we produced a 90 second compilation of each of the sports for the client to use at the News Conference where they announced the good news. We used quite hard grading to give the films an edgy look and licensed royalty free music.

I love working on projects like this. They are always extremely hard work and consume 100 percent of my mind body and soul. But that is almost cathartic and I find the process almost meditative because there is no room for any other thoughts or worries. The films were well received and have gained many views during the campaign launch. Thanks to everyone involved. Especially to Geoff who is the best Creative Director I have ever worked with.

Below is a link to each of the films and a little bit of info about each one.

This was the first film of the set, shot at Chasewater and with the amazing Jude as the swimmer. There was lovely early morning light and we capitalised on this for our walking on and detail shots, I wanted to focus on the dive into the water and shot the same scene from several points of view. The water shots were gained from a RIB using my own invention camera mount to get the camera into position! Jude really is an amazing swimmer and keeping up with her was a challenge all by itself! The drone was massively helpful in getting a point of view that showcased the location.

The cycling film was challenging because we had to change location halfway through and because the weather had clouded over and we lost the good light we had been blessed with for the swimming film. Filming on a busy road proved to be too hazardous so we switched to a private estate where some of the race will be held. This enabled us to really put the drone through its paces and resulted in a couple of epic aerials. Again a home made invention worked a treat for gaining some car to bike shots as the cyclists powered down country lanes. The problem with shooting on such a tight deadline is that if the light goes or there is a problem there really is no room for manoeuvre.

We started filming the running film at about 6pm. The location was the beautiful Shugborough Hall. We had been working for over 12 hours non stop and I was particularly worried that again the light had faded to grey and there was not much sharp or dramatic light around. We had a bunch of athletes for this shoot and again they all proved to be wonderful, doing everything I asked without hesitation. Luckily the condition were right for the drone and again we gained some dramatic aerials that really help to show the environment. Another homemade invention of the Masai Spear Camera mount and gymbal stabiliser came into it own and with a mixture of slow motion footage I think we managed to create something that works really well.

Here we created a 90 second compilation of all of the sport elements. It was particularly tricky to keep everything in order but dramatic enough to remain eyecatching. I love the end reveal of the athletes on the steps and the bloom of light at the end was an amazing way to end a very long day.

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Photographers and cars

Roy Riley shooting with the Volvo XC70

All sorts of weird stuff has been turning up lately here at Riley Towers. A months worth of muesli, a box of little black dresses, a roll top bath and a brand new Volvo XC70. Im not entirely sure why this beast of a car arrived, it had something to do with my wife Sarah and her mysterious internet ways.
So last week went something like this, after trying on a number of pencil skirts we would tuck into a hearty muesli breakfast and then head out into the world in the XC70. Before returning home for a nice hot bath and a last bowl of muesli before bed.

Its all rock and roll here you know..

I think this might well be the perfect photographers car. It looks great, is super safe, has loads of room and because of the four wheel drive system, getting to an assignment at the top of a mountain should not be a problem. When your done shooting it has more than enough technology on board to keep you entertained while you download your images. The drive home could be rather thrilling too.. Perfect.

Hated saying goodbye to it. Just wish I could afford one!


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New York for a young Jay Z

A young Mr Riley on tour in NYC

Its admin time again and I’m sitting in the office sorting through heaps of paperwork. Yuck! But I did just happen to come across a little envelope of memories I had almost forgotten about. Never one to be distracted, I decided to put the paperwork on hold and share the story. Its funny doing my job sometimes. Occasionally things happen that are completely mind blowing for a few days and then somehow they just get pushed into the background as the next crazy mission kicks off.

The envelope contained a dozen or so little prints of Jay Z. The American Rapper, songwriter and Mr Beyonce.
Roll back a good few years and there I was in New York all juiced up and ready to go. A commission to shoot Jay Z! Whoop Whoop!! I had ideas dangling out of my camera bag, I was going to shoot him seven ways from Sunday..In my head I was going to take the best set of pictures ever seen of this guy.

But no, no, no. Mr Z was having none of it. We waited for days and days for him to get enough time in his schedule for a photo shoot. Every day my stress levels rose and my expectation grew. I was desperate to start the shoot and get the assignment completed for my client. I was wandering around biting my nails and checking in with his people every 10 minutes “He is happy to do it but is just a bit busy at the moment” they kept saying “We will let you know when he’s free” I couldn’t go anywhere in case I missed the opportunity, so I spent my days hanging around at Mercury Records. I would wake up super early and go for a walk in central park. I found some great old fashioned swings with really long chains. I can remember jumping over the chain link fence, with scenes from West Side Story running through my head and swinging and swinging until I was chilled to the bone by the New York winter.

Finally on Something like day 5 or 6, I caught my first glimpse of the Z man, he looked a bit cross, surrounded by a huge entourage and with security everywhere I started to feel the first cracks appearing in my game plan. There was a rumour spreading through the building like crazy. Apparently there had been some trouble the night before. It began to seem like there was no way I was going to get my opportunity.

The next day with his NY departure imminent I was feeling like the whole mission was about to tip upside down. I was back at the Mercury building. Fed up with being fobbed off by “his People” I had a new plan. If I could get close enough I was just going to ask him straight.
In he came and jumped straight into the lift up to the executive suite. I followed and met him on the landing, I slipped through his cordon of minders and introduced myself, desperate not to look too nervous “Hello I’m Roy the photographer” I tried in my best British accent, “I’ve come all the way from England to take your picture, when might be a good time?” eeek..had I just upset this guy and blown it or was it going to work…..

“Do it now” he said and held out his arms. waiting for me take a picture “You got one minute”… Oh b****r! This was not the way I wanted it to be. All thoughts of yellow cabs, steaming drain vents and neon City scapes went out the window and I dived into crisis mode. The grey walls of an office interior were no good. no way. I started crashing through doors looking for something, a window, any window or anything, just not grey walls. Heaven know what the office workers thought as I bundled Jay Z in through the door and physically pushed him into the window I had finally found. I figured I had about 15 seconds left and he kindly reminded me of that as I grabbed a camera and thanked the stars for my earlier preparation. Fresh film, fresh batteries. 16-35mm, EOS 1. Hands shaking with adrenalin, Half nice background. Flash bounced off a nice white wall. Click, Click Click. That camera ran at 5 Frames per second and I think I dropped 15 frames before he hip hopped off. Gone. Finished. My mission over But was it successful? Had I got anything worth having? Had I fluffed it? Had I forgotten to check exposure? Had I even remembered to focus? It was that quick and it took all of 2 minutes for screaming paranoia to kick in.
I had my darkroom at the hotel but instead decided to trust snappy snaps. I dug a groove in the pavement as I paced around waited for the film to be processed. getting my loupe onto the lightbox I was relieved to see that I had in fact got something. Not the best set of images in the world and certainly not what I had initially wished for. But something none the less. with my head spinning I made my way back to the UK via a quick visit to the top of the Twin Towers (this gives away how long ago this was!) All that way, a week of my life and all for 15 frames in about ten seconds.

The client understood the situation and was happy with the final images. Me? Im never happy with anything I do and still wished that the opportunity had yielded a better crop of images. Looking back at the little envelope of snappy snap prints now though, I think I did the best job possible on the day. It would have been so easy to have just not got a picture. Im just happy to have the story to share with you and the blessed relief of being able to forget the paperwork while I write this blog. Thanks for listening.


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Shooting Peter Wilson. Olympic Gold Medalist

Here is a collage of images of Olympic Gold Medal winner Mr Peter Wilson. A true gentleman who is pretty handy with a shotgun!! I had the good fortune of shooting Peter a few months ago. I’m so pleased to hear of his success at London 2012. I hope you like the dramatic lighting and effects used on these images.


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A short piece to advertise a cool new app

I have just finished an interesting project for one of my clients.

The brief was to create a short, eye catching multi-media piece to advertise a new app they are launching. The app is called My Devon and is a really useful utility for finding things to do and places to stay etc in Devon.

The advert was to appear on big screens at the Gold Coast festival to officially launch the app. Because of this water sports, surfing and beach life were right at the top of the content menu.

Luckily I had shot a series of still images last year showcasing some of our water sport athletes and beach lifestyle.

With no time to capture new content we decided to use a selection of the existing images entwined with some clever animation and a few bits of new video footage.

The duration of the ad was to be just 20 seconds with 5 seconds being a closing screen with a clearly visible QR code and call to action. The piece was to be show every 20 minutes throughout the festival so a viral, eye catching, superfast feel was required.

Have a look a tell me your thoughts.

The Breaks Collective are responsible for the amazing music. They are doing amazing things. Check them out… you will not regret it.

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Foreign Assignments

I used to travel for work often. Sometimes managing huge chunks of time away with only minimal returns to the UK for clean underwear and cups of earl grey.  With the addition of children to the Riley enterprises portfolio I have limited the amount of oversea travel to a few trips each year. This year is no exception and there are 2 or 3 interesting foreign missions in the pipeline. The arrival a few days ago of a big white envelope nicely stuffed with plane tickets, car hire vouchers and accommodation details  bought back  a truckload of memories of adventures gone by.

From my first ever foreign assignment for the Times Newspaper…. “Can you head out to Mauritius for a week or so” they said. “Take this money….you might need it” a couple of thousand dollars worth of currency slid into my back pocket. I scurried around assembling camera equipment and just made the airport in time. Settling into my business class seat I honestly don’t think I had ever been so excited. Finally, a well funded, foreign assignment for a world class title. I was barking with the big dogs now….. Reaching into my pocket to check my mobile phone was off I was surprised to see an answer machine message waiting. “Hi Roy, its the office..don’t worry about Mauritius. The story’s off..Can you head back into the office please” ….


To the more fortunate experience of island hopping around some super exclusive 5 star  hang outs of the Caribbean. We stayed in amazing hotels and met some incredible people. The sun shone constantly.  The sand was golden white, the sea a perfect blue. There was rum and fun and cover shots galore. Its moments like these, on jobs like this, when your at the controls of a private airplane , being egged on by a crazed Vietnam war veteran pilot, on the approach to landing on a private tropical island in the West Indies to spend the night in a hotel room that normally costs a thousand dollars. That is when being a photographer really makes sense.

I love the highs and Lows of foreign assignments. Hope to share some more with you soon.


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On a mission to the City I found myself in a hotel with a great view of the business district. Time Lapse was right there  at the top of the room service menu for me that night.

I have always been captivated by the way Cities come alive as the lights go on. Its a pretty incredible transformation and I love how the pace of time lapse can so easily communicate the magic that is so easily lost or ignored in real time life.

I am really excited to be getting into time lapse. There are so many options and so much creative juice that can be milked from this particular fruit laden tree.   (“Can you really milk a tree?” I hear you ask… )

Do not hesitate to drop me a line if you want to bang heads together and create something cool.

Hope your days are beautiful.


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