Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Geek Advent Calendar: Day 15

Today is the last day for orders before Christmas! Buy your calendar today and we’ll post it to you in time for the holidays. It’s the perfect gift for that special geek in your life – even if that geek is simply you.

Our last advent present to you is another photograph of Jonathan Ross, looking quite the evil genius.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Geek Advent Calendar: Day 14

For a bit of fun, our journalists hid behind their newspapers in our September photoshoot. Having to hide your opinion about scientific and medical topics for fear of being sued for libel is wrong, and the laws that force this kind of behaviour are outdated. Geek Calendar is raising money for the campaign to change this. Buy your calendar today to support Libel Reform. And if you buy it now, we’ll post it to you before Christmas.

For more out-takes from this shoot, pop along to calendar star Ed Yong's blog post.

Monday, 13 December 2010

And the winner is...

A couple of weeks ago we asked you to send in a photo of your Geek Calendar in a suitably nerdy setting. The photo that impressed us the most was by @kingmuskar on Twitter. Mostly because his calendar is so wonderfully framed by a Rancor beast, and at least one of the Geek Calendar judges is a big Star Wars nerd:

@geekcalendar  Yay, my #geekcalender arrived today and is bei... on Twitpic

You can't say we're totally biased towards our preferences though. The very same judge (okay, it's me) is very scared of dogs and yet this photo by @shell_here was chosen as the runner-up entry:

@Wossy The Professor's so adorable! Here are my elder st... on Twitpic

Congratulation to @kingmuskar, who will win a signed copy of Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw's book, Why Does E=MC2?, and @shell_here, who is getting some limited edition Geek Calendar badges in the post.

p.s. We also loved this photo of the Geek Calendar and a Christmas pterosaur that was posted after the competiton deadline. Thanks @physicus!

The Geek Advent Calendar: Day 13

Petra Boynton’s shoot took place at Cross Bones Graveyard, where prostitutes, the poor and other outcasts of society were buried until its closure in 1853. Every 23rd day of every month, a small group of people gather to honour those buried at Cross Bones. Their lives are commemorated with ribbons and tokens tied to the gates seen in the background of Petra’s calendar photo. In this alternative shot, you can see the gates in their full glory.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The Geek Advent Calendar: Day 12

We decided to see what Frank the rabbit got up to after Adam Rutherford’s Donnie Darko-inspired shoot. Frank said he uses public transport to reduce his carbon pawprint.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

The Geek Advent Calendar: Day 11

Photographing comic artist Sydney Padua in her studio was like capturing a lovely creature in its natural habitat. This alternative shots shows her drawing the cartoon that we included in our pre-order prize draw.

Friday, 10 December 2010

The Geek Advent Calendar: Day 10

When the Geek Calendar crew piled into the home of Gia Milinovich and Brian Cox, a few days after Brian had recovered from altitude sickness and in the middle of them moving house, we did not expect our Valentine’s couple to be such good sports. Gia had back-combed her hair into the perfect 1950s hairstyle, and Brian looked dapper in his tuxedo and monocle. In this out-take, our photographer Greg took things back to basics with a lovely portrait.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Our Videographers, part 2: Greg Foot

The next in our series highlighting our videography team is our star Editor, Greg Foot (you've heard from him on this blog before).

This is something of a coup for us really, as Greg is now a TV star with a growing fan following. He recently convinced Gavin Henson to take 750,000 volts of electricity and you might have seen him on BBC3 recently. We knew him way back when he was but a wee lad....

Greg the filmmaker

Would you call yourself a geek?

Yep, definitely! Geek and proud! I don’t have an obsession over one particular thing like many geeks do, I’m just really interested in how the world works and finding fun, different ways to understand it. My twitter stream is full of links to cool or quirky science stories I’ve come across, wicked little videos of experiments & high-speed camera stuff, or just some clever little animation.

However, my main geeky side is probably linked to my love of escaping the Big Smoke for an adrenaline fix. I’m never happier than when I’m careening down a piste or surfing across a wave, but I’ll always find myself wondering about how long that wave has travelled to get here or how the latest climbing tech has been designed to get you up that rockface and keep you safe. So, my geeky passion is in uncovering the science that’s all around us and we never really think about.

What's the geekiest thing you've ever done?

Ha! Well, that’ll probably be when I decided to get my mates together for a big dodgeball tournament (love that film!). That meant fancy dress of course, so I drew on some geek inspiration and went as C3PO. We’re talking full-on gold costume with wires, gold boots etc! The mask got in the way a bit tho. Which is why we didn’t win of course...

[INSERT IMAGINATION HERE. Greg declined to provide photographic evidence of this escapade, sadly.]

Which was your most enjoyable Geek Calendar shoot?

Well, I actually only went to a couple of shoots as Barry J Gibb and Tom Ziessen kindly offered to go film them for us so I could tackle the editing! Watching Evan Harris maneuvering giant chess pieces in torrential rain in the BMA quad has to stand out!

Face Off

What was the biggest challenge in putting the videos together?

Trawling through over a dozen tapes and then cutting all that material down to a short trailer vid! Our geeks said so much interesting stuff about their jobs, their geekiness and their passionate thoughts on Libel Reform it was hard to select the best bits!

Do you have a favourite month from the calendar?

I think Adam Rutherford’s photo is my favourite. It’s a brill shot in a great location that captures Adam’s film-loving geeky side. Plus, thinking of Mun-Keat being inside that bunny outfit on the hottest day of the year always makes me laugh – that’s some serious dedication to the Geek Calendar cause right there!

January 2011

How did you get into filmmaking?

When I was at uni studying science I got really into making short films and radio shows. I still wanted to stick with my passion for science but wanted to combine it with this newly discovered creative side so after I graduated I spent a fun year doing a Masters in Science Media Production at Imperial College London. That opened doors for some cracking work experience and since then I’ve been working in-front and behind the camera making science documentaries.

I think the key now to getting a job in TV or as an online multimedia producer is to have as many strings to your bow as possible. So if you want to get into this sort of thing jump at every chance you get to learn how to shoot, write, edit and make great tea! Oh, and chat to as many people as possible as you never know where the next job will come from.

What's a normal day in the life of a filmmaker?

I’m freelance so every day is different – which is great because you don’t get bored, but also a bit of a juggling act! Until recently I’ve been most often found huddled over a laptop coming up with new TV show ideas for an independent TV company, filming and editing taster tapes, or eating far too many biscuits in brainstorms!

In amongst those days I’d been squeezing in the really fun days where I could be found on the beach teaching a bunch of students about the science of surfing or out filming a show and getting to do cool things like build an Archimedes Death Ray. In the last few months though I’ve been spending more time on the latter type, so fingers crossed for more!

Who's your favourite geek?

That’s a really tricky one. I’m torn between two. Carl Sagan has to get a mention for being such a passionate science communicator and for enthusing so many people with the wonder of the cosmos.

The second is a curveball – Garrett Lisi. He’s the guy who proposed his model for a unified field theory a few years back. But I don’t mention him for his scientific work (which received a whole barrage of both support and skepticism), but more his way of life: he lives in Maui and splits him time between theoretical physics and big wave surfing. And for me, that’s a geek I want to be like!

Anthony Garett Lisi

The Geek Advent Calendar: Day 9

This photograph of Chris Addison examining the runners of an airfix model spaceship was Mun-Keat’s favourite shot. It was a very close second indeed!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Geek Advent Calendar: Day 8

The old adage goes “never work with children or animals”. In this shoot, we worked with both (although the animals, including my cuddly polar bear Ice Cube, were stuffed). In this shot, Simon Singh's baby son Hari shows early signs of comedy genius as he yawns while Simon reads his great tome, the Big Bang.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Our videographers, part 1: Barry J Gibb

Along the things we're most proud of at Geek calendar are our fantastic videos. The trailer has been viewed over 10,000 times (and not just by us!) and the Geeks on Geekiness and Geeks on Libel Reform vids were featured on the Guardian. All this was made possible by our fabulous videography unit, and we'd like to pay tribute to them with the latest in our series of posts on Team Geek Calendar.

First up, star cameraman Barry J Gibb (no relation to a certain 70s pop star...). Barry is a Multimedia Editor at the Wellcome Trust (watch his films on their YouTube channel), a former neuroscientist, author of The Rough Guide to the Brain, and a massive gamer.

Barry filming

Would you call yourself a geek?

Affirmative. And in that sense I think I grew up feeling a bit abnormal. Not until I made it to university did I realise the planet was also populated by these other oddities who were obsessed by machines, biology, history, science... It was a nice moment.

What's the geekiest thing you've ever done?

Maybe it was when I made my Steve Austin (the Bionic Man) action man figure ride the programmable vehicle, Big Trak. In my mind, this was technological nirvana. It might have been the time I wrangled over my gamer tag for days (until settling on 'digitaldestiny'). It's really hard to say; I still show off how many online kills I got to my wife as she nods wryly.

Which was your most enjoyable Geek Calendar shoot?

Probably the one with Brian and Gia, though not for the reasons people might think. I tend to be entirely oblivious to fame and celebrity - as far as I was concerned this was just another shoot for my mates. That said I'm quite voyeuristic and love watching people (this does help if you're a filmmaker).

What struck me was, far away from the usual lights, cameras and fuss they must inevitably experience, were two lovely human beings with a young child and cats. And we were in their home. It was touching and a real privilege to share a slice of their 'real' lives.

cat and camera portrait

Which was the most challenging shoot?

Easy. Lewis Dartnell's. Every thing about his shoot was a challenge (which makes it a lot more fun, actually). Interview? In the taxi on the way to the observatory - rubbish audio, confined space, jiggling around...

Then we get to the observatory whereupon I felt compelled to explain to those around me (except Ben, the photographer) that cameras, like the human eye, tend to work by capturing light, a phenomenon that appeared to have escaped everyones attention as we stood in the pitch black dome. Pretty much every day I will thank the Gods for my iPhone but on that day it was vital: my entire dome shoot was lit by Louise's screen being maxed out. Oh, and I managed to get locked in!

Do you have a favourite month from the calendar?

They're all such wonderful images but if I had to pick one it would be July (Aleks Krotoski). The composition and setting are wonderful and the intensity of her personality shines.

July 2011

How did you get into filmmaking?

By sheer force of will. I don't believe you can do anything well unless you love it. For years I loved science at the lab bench but then I became aware of new ways of expressing this fondness for the natural world, through words and film.

I resigned, went freelance (my parents thought I'd lost it), wrote The Rough Guide to The Brain and reinvented myself as a science filmmaker. I'd been using Final Cut Pro for fun since its very first version, so it was just a question of finding people brave enough to take a punt on me and my new camera. I worked harder than I'd ever worked before, got film gigs, became known at the Sheffield Doc/Fest and never looked back.

What's a normal day in the life of a filmmaker?

A good day involves filming or editing. Everything else is a distraction. For example, I'm writing this on my iPad as I travel to Edinburgh to make a film about a very cool breakthrough involving blood. There hasn't been a chance to do a recce, so I'm walking into the unknown, as is frequently is the case. I'll show up (on time), must develop a good relationship with the interviewee in a matter of minutes, then acquire as many fabulous and relevant shots as possible to tell the story. Working with scientists is a bit like herding cats - apart from the odd few, most will happily avoid the gaze of the camera; it's my job to make them feel willing and comfortable.

The flip side of this is editing. I'll need to sit down and watch all the rushes in real time, then start building the story, the film, from scratch. I love editing - it demands level of patience I feel carries over positively into many other facets of life. I've never yet met an editor I didn't want to sit and chat with over a beer.

What's the best thing about your job?

Two things, dancing on the edge of chaos, and people. Documentary filming means knowing what you want but frequently having little idea of whether or not you'll be able to get it. I find this need to be adaptable and fast very fulfilling. You absolutely need to think on your feet and you must be able to work the camera flawlessly (geek alert) - what the camera sees and hears is the only thing that matters, knowing how to control the beast like it's an extension of yourself will save your life.

And I love meeting the people. I'm getting to chat to scientists all over the country at the top of their game - it's fascinating and a genuine privilege. The other week I was having dinner with Sir Walter Bodmer and his team in Islay (see the film below) - amazing company (and lovely whisky).

Who's your favourite geek ever?

It just has to be Sir David Attenborough. As a kid I watched this man on telly both obsess and enthuse over the various lifeforms inhabiting the planet and was immediately drawn into his world. He is the reason I became aware of the natural world, he helped inspire my entry into science and the work he still does acts as a source of continuous amazement. I once stood next to him in the Royal Society and was weak with admiration. Even away from animals, his humility and clarity of thought leaves my humbled. David, you rock.

david attenborough aka "god"
Image credit: Flickr/aSIMULAtor

The Geek Advent Calendar: Day 7

When mathematicians get angry, calculators go flying. In the photo that made it to May 2010, Matt Parker and Alex Bellos got a little verbal. In this shot, things are rather more heated!

Monday, 6 December 2010

The Geek Advent Calendar: Day 6

So many people have asked if the Toy Story alien in Lewis Dartnell's picture was Photoshopped in. It wasn’t! I had to act as ball girl while photographer Ben threw the alien up in the air for each photo, retrieving the toy from wherever it landed in the Planetarium. Thanks to Ben’s great skill and timing, we got the shot we wanted. Here’s Lewis cuddling up to his extra-terrestrial teddy.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Geek Advent Calendar: Day 5

Kat Akingbade is so photogenic that we really struggled to decide on which photo should go in the calendar – she looks amazing in all of them! We decided on a close-up, but here she is standing in front of Henry Wellcome’s collection of glass bottles, skeptically examining some pills.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Geek Advent Calendar: Day 4

My heart sank on the day of Evan Harris’s photo shoot. Having planned for a glorious, sunny photograph in the beautiful BMA quad, I couldn’t believe we’d had the bad luck to book the shoot on the one rainy day in August. But the soggy chess match between Sabrina Chevannes and Evan made for a perfect “April” showers spread. This photo comes midway through the match, when Evan still thought he had a chance at beating chess champion Sabrina.

Friday, 3 December 2010

The Geek Advent Calendar: Day 3

In this shot, the 1970s orange chair in Wellcome Collection’s Club room became Ben Goldacre’s throne, making the media his subjects.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

The Geek Advent Calendar: Day 2

At Imran Khan’s shoot, our first idea was to photograph him with toys all over his desk at the offices of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, where he is (probably) the youngest Director ever. In the end, our photographer Ben noticed the beautiful sunset outside, and snapped the shot on the rooftop that made the final cut.

Here’s Imran’s desk as we imagined it should be, for minimum productivity and maximum fun:

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Geek Advent Calendar: Day 1

Over the next 15 days, we’ll be posting up photos you won’t find in the Geek Calendar. Some of them are alternative shots that were almost chosen for the final spread – we really agonized over these decisions! Others are out-takes that we hope you’ll find amusing.

The last photo will be posted on 15th December, the day for last orders before Christmas. We can’t promise that any orders received after this day will be posted out before Christmas, but we will make sure that any received on or before this day will be with you before the holidays.

To kick off, here’s Aleks Krotoski doing her best Minnie Mouse impression: