Steven J Burnett: Blog en-us (C) Steven J Burnett (Steven J Burnett) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:29:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:29:00 GMT Steven J Burnett: Blog 80 120 Homeless World Cup Cardiff 2019 HwcDay8-1652HwcDay8-1652

I’ve been lucky enough to call Cardiff my home for most of my life and I can honestly say that nothing in those 40 years has brought so much joy and emotion to my life as the hosting of the 2019 Homeless World Cup.

Over the course of eight days over five hundred players from 48 countries came together in a joyous celebration of football, music, culture and, above all, humanity at its very best. Thankfully I had opportunity to be involved across the duration of the competition; from the riotous, celebratory opening parade through to the heart-stopping, fast paced final games which saw both the men and women of Mexico taking home both main trophies.


Look, everyone wants to win a trophy and, make no mistake, the winning teams’ celebrations were no less heartfelt and exuberant than if they had won the FIFA World Cup, however, of all the sporting events I’ve seen, this one really was about the taking part. This event took 500 people who happen to be homeless and gave them opportunity to shine on a global stage. Almost 2M people watched the event worldwide and the people of Cardiff turned up in numbers to see these street footballers visibly grow in confidence and stature to the point where they were holding autograph sessions for the fans. Everywhere you looked there were smiling faces and, in part thanks to the ‘dry’ policy, there was not a hint of trouble all week.

TheHWC2019-9855TheHWC2019-9855Homeless World Cup 2019

It could have all turned out differently though.  Having won the bid to bring the World Cup to Wales the organisers saw the financial situation begin to unravel early in the year and it is to the lifelong credit of Welsh legend Michael Sheen that he felt able to step in and give his own financial backing and enthusiastic personal investment of time and energy to make this happen. I genuinely cannot find the words to express the esteem in which I hold this humble and generous man and it’s clear that this is a view shared by people across the globe who have been touched by this event.  Michael Sheen was onsite for every minute of the event and worked tirelessly to ensure that everyone was engaged, happy and entertained. If anyone deserves the highest honours that this country can bestow then it is Michael Sheen.

But, as energetic and passionate as he is, Michael Sheen could not have done this alone and, along with all of the low-profile but essential support from an army of wonderful volunteers and the 3rdSector, the event was boosted by the donations of time and talent from a range of contributors including James Dean Bradfield, Charlotte Church, Euros Childs, Sara Pascoe and The Guilty Feminist.  


And here we come to the only sour note of the week for me, ideally I’d not raise it but, for me and many I spoke to, it is the elephant in the room.  For all of the support given to this joyous even by the general public, musicians, poets, comedians, actors and sportspeople there was once sector that was conspicuous by its absence.  In my humble opinion it is a national disgrace that the world of professional football did nothing to engage with this event.  At a time in which we have some Welsh national players being linked to £1M a week salaries and when both Manchester United and AC Milan are playing within a ball’s kick of the Homeless World Cup it is shameful that, to my knowledge, not a single footballer, or club or national organisation did a single thing to support, promote or finance this communal celebration of life and football.  I suppose I am naïve to be surprised by this and, in effect, what it does is bring into sharp relief the disgusting levels of inequality in all global societies.  Speaking personally, my life has been immeasurably enriched by watching the street footballing careers of these people who are homeless blossom over the week, including a Zimbabwean man who could terrorise any defence and score with both feet despite actually having only one foot.  As I watched the crowd of 80,000 trudge from that Man Utd v Milan friendly in the Principality stadium I didn’t get the impression that their lives had been enriched by the experience.  


It is so difficult to pick out individual highlights of such a uniquely positive event but I will never forget the magical experience of accompanying the procession of players from the imposing Principality Stadium and past the stunning Cardiff Castle keep as they headed for the opening ceremony.  It was also beautiful to see Michael Sheen swooning over James Dean Bradfield as he bravely tackled the Manics’ classic anthem Motorcycle Emptiness with just his voice and an electric guitar.  Charlotte Church and BuzzardBuzzardBuzzard brought unbridled fun to the stage and ensured people went home happy while, in the tent, it was splendid to see Cymorth Cymru’s Katie Dalton get the opportunity to tell the Guilty Feminist about the #PlayYourPart19 campaign before instigating a mass retweet. We also got introduced, en mass, to Michael Sheen’s parents as he busked it between bands and who can forget the fabulous facial hair of Holland’s Dennis Beard or the underplayed nonchalance of the Welsh Warriors as they rattled in the goals.  Best of all though was the pace, the skill and the immersive thrill of both Mexican victories, and the rapturous celebrations that followed. More than a game?  You bet. Finland, you have a lot to live up to next year.

PS - I have uploaded a few hundred downloadable jpgs of my photos of the event here - please share widely as I'd love the players to find them


(Steven J Burnett) cardiff cup homeless HWC19 morethanagame playyourpart19 steven j burnett wales world Mon, 05 Aug 2019 23:57:52 GMT
James Dean Bradfield James Dean Bradfield and the Mynyddislwyn Male Voice Choir - 23/3/2019

As a music photographer there's nothing I love more than capturing unique moments, so when I heard that Manic Street Preachers frontman James Dean Bradfield was going to be the special guest at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Mynyddislwyn Male Voice Choir at Newbridge Memo I knew I had to capture the once-in-a-lifetime event for posterity.

JDBJames Dean BradfieldJDB with Mynyddislwyn male voice choir at Newbridge Memo With my brother Dave in tow I foolishly followed my SatNav up a vertical side-street to nowhere before eventually finding Newbridge and its stunning Memorial Hall.  Not knowing what to expect from the event we were pleasantly surprised to be thoroughly entertained and moved by performances from the choir before they were replaced on stage by Tom Jones proteges from The Voice, Into the Ark for their first live performance of the year.  The local duo soon had the audience in the palm of their hands during a short set of original numbers and inventive covers before finishing with a stirring version of Hallelujiah with the choir.

Into the arkInto the ArkTom Jones' proteges Into the Ark from the Voice Into the arkInto the ArkTom Jones' proteges Into the Ark from the Voice The second half of the show featured a whistle stop tour through the history of the Mynyddislwyn Male Voice Choir before we were treated to exactly what we'd hoped for. Rather than a standard acoustic performance from JDB we were fortunate enough to witness a one-off collaboration with the choir.  In a brief but magical set James led the choir through a rousing version of Elvis Presley's American Trilogy then, after explaining that his uncle used to perform with the choir, finished with a wonderful performance of the Manics' working-class hymn A Design For Life.

James Dean BradfieldJames Dean BradfieldJames Dean Bradfield performs with Mynyddislwyn Male Voice Choir

James Dean BradfieldJames Dean BradfieldJames Dean Bradfield and Mynyddislwyn Male Voice Choir Relaxing in the bar after the show my brother Dave Burnett was ecstatic to see James stroll through and, in his own words, like a drunken rhino locked in and managed to grab a selfie with the dazed star before he knew what hit him.  In his defence he did grab some excellent footage of the performance of ADFL which you can view on his youtube channel here.

James Dean Bradfield selfieJames Dean Bradfield selfieJames Dean Bradfield selfie

(Steven J Burnett) concert james dean bradfield live music male voice choir manic street preachers manics newbridge memo steven j burnett wales Sun, 07 Apr 2019 18:10:39 GMT
National Parks @ 70 Short-eared owl at SkomerShort-eared owl at Skomer I was amazed this week to find out that my photograph of a short-eared owl hunting over a carpet of bluebells and red campion on Skomer Island had been one of just 10 images shortlisted for a celebration of 70 years of UK National Parks.  You can see all shortlisted images and the winning shot here on the Guardian website.

Wildlife photography has been a passion of mine for over a decade and, whilst I don't do it commercially, it really has been the catalyst for my taking up the camera as a full time job.  One of the first birds I photographed was this Bearded-Tit at Cosmeston Park in Penarth.  It was so obliging and would happily sit on a reed within feet of the busy boardwalk. Foolishly I assumed all wildlife photography would be this simple.

Bearded Tit at CosmestonBearded Tit at Cosmeston

Since that time I've photographed the UK's stunning wildlife as often as I can and nowhere has been more rewarding than the highlands of Scotland where I've encountered masses of wildlife including this cheeky Red Squirrel, the elusive Crested Tit and the bubbling Red Grouse.

Red Squirrel at Loch GartenRed Squirrel at Loch Garten Crested Tit in CairngormCrested Tit in Cairngorm Red Grouse at LochindorbRed Grouse at Lochindorb Aside from Skomer possibly the most impressive wildlife experience in Wales for me has to be the incredible sight of hundreds of Red Kite swirling in the updrafts at Gigrin Farm. I'd seen plenty of kites before heading to Gigrin but nothing could prepare me for the awesome, uplifting experience of so many stunning birds in one location.

Red Kites at Gigrin FarmRed Kites at Gigrin Farm I really hope that the NP70 campaign and the photographs taken by wildlife photographers everywhere inspire you to get outside and engage with our natural wonders and, just as importantly, inspire you to add your voice to the many demanding that we address the crisis that is threatening its existence.

Yellowhammer at Findhorn BayYellowhammer at Findhorn Bay

(Steven J Burnett) bluebells cairngorm cardiff crested tit gigrin grouse guardian island national parks np70 owl pembrokeshire photography red kite red squirrel scotland SEO skomer steven j burnett wales wildlife yellowhammer Fri, 15 Feb 2019 12:24:29 GMT
Music Photography Primal Scream at ATPPrimal Scream at ATP

I wasn't sure how to begin my blog so I opted for the sage advice of going with what you know.  Before I embarked upon a career as a wedding photographer I spent many years in confined spaces - wedged between bands and their adoring public.  One of the most common questions I heard in the photo pit was 'how do you get to do that?'.  It's not a straightforward answer and certainly not easy to explain whilst surrounded by screaming fans and pounding bass cabs!

In my view the best route to take is to start small and test out your skills and equipment in a local club where there's no restrictions and no requirement for a photo-pass.  You'll need to brave the front of the stage and probably come out with some bruises but that's a price you have to pay.  Another price you will have to pay is a financial one - you will need a camera that shoots well in low light conditions and that allows you to have a degree of manual control.  Ideally you will have a digital SLR and the good news is that each year that passes produces new cameras that have better and better capability to produce stunning, noise free images as high ISO.  (Not sure what ISO is?  - I'll come back to that...).

You will also need a 'fast' lens.  That is a lens which has a wide maximum aperture such as F1.8. (Not sure what F-stops are? I'll come back to that...).  Most manufacturers produce a fairly low cost F1.8 50MM prime lens and that is the ideal starting point for any aspiring music photographer.  These lenses allow maximum available light (as you won't be working with flash) to enter the camera in the shortest possible time and can result in images such as the one of Primal Scream above.

Once you have started shooting I recommend that you send your work to online music websites such as The Digital Fix who may be willing to give you a shot. Once you have an outlet for your images you can start to build relationships with promoters, PR companies and record companies and secure some photo passes for increasingly higher profile shows. 


Airbourne in BristolAirbourne in Bristol

Once you have built a reasonable list of contacts and a portfolio you can then think about trying to hook up with an agency that will provide you with assignments and market your images to the wider media and press.  Remember that, if you want to succeed, you cannot afford to be choosy about what you shoot and that the most important attribute is not photographic skill but reliability and trustworthiness.  You don't get second chances with the likes of Warner Music.  I wasn't always thrilled to photograph the likes of Boyzone but there is a demand for the images and if you turn down an opportunity you may not have another.

Music PhotographyBoyzone in Cardiff

So, to finish off, I promised to touch on the importance of ISO and aperture.  These are actually 2/3rds of an important relationship that also includes shutter time.  To shoot gigs you are working in constantly changing and often low lighting conditions.  You therefore need to get as much light into your lens as quickly as you can to freeze the action.  A wide aperture/F-Stop is a big help here as the wider the lens opens the more light comes in. There is a price to pay though as the wider the aperture the harder it is to get critical elements (usually the eyes) in focus.  You can also gain more light by upping your ISO level. The ISO is equivalent to the old film speeds.  A low ISO (100) is suitable for a sunny day photograph. For most shows you will want an ISO of 1600 or more. There is a price to pay for a high ISO and that is noise creeping into the photograph. Noise is similar to the grain you might see in old film photographs but, unfortunately, it is far less aesthetically pleasing.  Happily most modern camera bodies can deal happily with an ISO of 1600.  So, my advice to you is get a DSLR, a cheap 50mm F1.8 lens - set your aperture to F1.8, set your shutter speed to 1/60th of a second and adjust your ISO to where it needs to be to get a good exposure.  Now, start shooting and, like me, you could go from local club to national stadium.

U2 in CardiffU2 in Cardiff


(Steven J Burnett) blog bristol cardiff engagement gig photography music photography newport steven j burnett swansea tutorial wales wedding weddings Thu, 31 Jan 2019 14:39:27 GMT