Category Archives: Mark Weeks, Photos

My Top 5 Favourite Google Tours – Mark Weeks, Photographer

Since starting out as one of the UK’s very first Google Trusted Photographers in early 2012, my company Weeks360 has become the market leader in creating virtual tours for businesses. With clients such as the Hilton Hotel Group, Regus and a number of well-respected brands, Weeks360 has lead the way in promoting and delivering on “see inside” tours for Google Streetview.

It’s never easy to identify (and always somewhat dangerous) to identify a favourite tour (or client for that matter), but the following five tours do stand out for me, both from a photographic standpoint, as well as from a personal standpoint.

5. Somerset House: This tour is one of my all-time favourites because it is both such an iconic venue, but also because on my first date with my partner, we went to Somerset House. The beautiful staircase, Nelson’s war rooms, the grand fountain and of course the terrace bar all make for a wonderful tour. The staircase was perhaps one of the most difficult areas to create a virtual tour as the stitching software used to create the panoramics got confused nearly every time! Go deep into the bowels of the building and you’ll also find the crypt, complete with graves. Very cool tour indeed.  

4. Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam: For the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, I was commissioned directly by Google to do this hotel. This was the first time I’d returned to Amsterdam as a photographer (I lived there previously), and as such it was a bit of a coming-home/milestone for me. While taking a breakfast break, I rang home and spoke with my partner and our kids using FaceTime. We spoke for about five minutes and then said our goodbyes. A week later when I was processing the tour, one of my boys asked what I was looking at. I told him it was the room where I had called them on FaceTime. I asked if he could tell me where I had been sitting when I had FaceTimed them. He looked carefully about the room and then pointed to a blue sofa in the corner. “That’s where you sat!” he exclaimed. He was correct. A week later the whole family returned to Amsterdam for a long weekend break. We passed by the Waldorf and I asked if they wanted to go inside. The four of us trundled up the steps and into the lounge. Once inside, the boys beelined their way to that very same sofa. They knew where they were. Pretty incredible.

3. Aldiana Andalusien: When Google first started Google Business Photos (later Google Business View), they had a restriction on the total number of panoramic photos that could be included in a tour. This restriction was 30 panoramics in total. This restriction was in place for a number of technical reasons. As the program matured, this limit was raised. A little over a year after I started the program, my partner Lee and I created the two largest tours ever created, Aldiana Andalusien and Aldiana Alcaidesa. In publishing these two tours, we helped pave the way for other massive tours to follow.  

2. Regus Edinburgh : The serviced office company Regus has been one of my favourite clients for the past two years. I’ve had the great fortune to create many tours for them and am always impressed with how each office has its own character. The St. Andrew Square centre in Edinburgh really stood out as it was the former headquarters for Scottish Widows, and its boardroom is something out of Bewitched or Mad Men. I walked in and was immediately wowed. I also just really love Edinburgh, so what’s there not to be happy about this shoot.  

1.Hilton Park Lane The Hilton Park Lane has to be included in my list. From the very onset of this project, I had the Hilton on Park Lane as my dream client. It’s such a lovely place, incredibly chic and a landmark hotel not just in London, but globally. They had approached me a number of months earlier, but then suddenly all systems were go! The tour is one of the largest hotel tours created. It features a number of beautiful suites as well as the stunning Galvin at Windows bar & restaurant.

Mark Weeks discovers London’s oldest hotel

Browns 

Mayfair happens to be one of my favourite neighbourhoods in London. There is something intrinsically grand about this patch of land in the middle of London. While much of what was once a largely residential area has been converted in to posh offices for hedge funds or boutiques with price tags so far out of my budget that I might just catch a nose bleed, it is without a doubt one of the prettiest neighbourhoods in (dare I say it…) the world. The grand facades of the homes and buildings are a lasting legacy to the people of this small island nation that once ruled the world. (Cue the music please…)

Since starting shooting tours for Google, I can say without a doubt that Mayfair happens to be one of the best places to find properties that simply call out to be on Streetview. Whether because they are so stunningly beautiful, such as No. 4 Hamilton Place, or because what they offer is so exclusive, you would be hard pressed to find anything close outside of Mayfair, such as Hedonism Wines where you find a bottle of wine that would nearly match my mortgage.

Browns 2

Just a standard terrace house, albeit in Mayfair

While I always enjoy an occasional walk through the stately streets of Mayfair and getting to work in some amazing places, I rarely spend much time socialising there as I’m more of a pint man. That said, earlier this summer Flea and I were invited to drinks at the bar at Brown’s Hotel. Tucked into one of the more quiet streets of Mayfair, snuggled amongst the other terraces on the street is Brown’s. We made our way into the bar where we managed to knock back a couple of tasty cocktails, enjoying the slightly decadent feeling of being out in Mayfair, and at th same time, I knew at the time that I wanted to add it to my portfolio of hotels done for Google Business Photos.

A couple of weeks later, I was finishing up a shoot for a tailor nearby and happened across Brown’s again, this time, however, I was in pure work mode. I stopped into the hotel, introduced myself and a few minutes later was greeted by a delightful woman Sophie that gave me a tour of the hotel and practically arranged the shoot on the spot. (Nice thing about Google Business Photos…when someone gets it, they get it.)

Browns 3

Prior to my conversation with Sophie, all I knew is that I was in a beautiful hotel that had delicious cocktails and exceptional artwork. I had no idea of its history  or its relevance in the modern world. First off, Brown’s Hotel is the oldest hotel in London. It was established in 1837 by James Brown and his wife Sarah, who were employed by  Lord and Lady Byron respectively. The hotel has played host to royalty, celebrity and world leaders. Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt had their honeymoon at Browns, Queen Victoria frequented Browns and Agatha Christie based her novel “At Betram’s Hotel” on Brown’s.

Browns 4

But what stood out to me more than almost anything was that in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell made the first ever telephone call from Brown’s Hotel. The call was placed to the home of the Hotel’s owner, all the way out in Ravenscourt Park.  While today there are over 1.2 billion telephone lines across the globe, the first–THE VERY FIRST–test was done here at this chic and understated hotel. Call me a bit of an anorak, but I do appreciate a bit of technological history.

Browns 5

So with that, I’d like to raise a glass, and toast Brown’s. Cheers!

For further information and a no-obiligation quote for your business, visit Weeks360.

– See more at: http://markweeks.com/blog/#sthash.M2y6ijal.dpuf

Weeks-360 and LCI — BRX Marketing Cooperation

LCI Productions Ltd asked Mark Weeks to help promote their amazing demonstration facility.  Mark is a Google-accredited photographer and is one of the few who can create the official Google 360 view. LCI are eager to invite as many potential clients as possible to view the demonstration facility in action, so, a teaser can be seen on Google when one searches for LCI Produstions.  Click Here for a personal tour.  Click around!  You can zoom in and out of the images and objects in the studio from the comfort of your laptop.  Intrigued?  Call Mark Weeks on this web page for advice on Weeks-360. Call Brad Alexander on this web page to book a demo at LCI.

Promote your business with one of the UK’s few Google Trusted Photographers

As well as working on portrait and fashion shoots and with corporates and creative agencies, our photographer Mark Weeks has now (via a BRX introduction) also been talent spotted by Google. He’s been chosen as one of a handful of Google Trusted Photographers in London, and is authorised to shoot the images for Google Business Photos – 360º indoor virtual tours that form part of a venue’s Google Place Page. Mark’s Google Business Photos service is available from www.weeks360.com and  is a great marketing tool for any business in the capital open to the public, such as cafes, hotels and gyms.

 

The ‘indoor Google Street View’ – get potential customers exploring your venue from the comfort of home

Part of Google Maps, Place Pages have resulted from Google’s mission to create a dedicated webpage for every place in the world. Businesses can register FREE for their own Google Place Page (Google Places for Business) which appears in Google searches and has info like a map, transport details, review and photos. (To find out more about Place Pages or to register your business see: Place Page Tour and Getting started ). Obviously a Place Page can be a great additional way for businesses to promote themselves online.

In particular, in December Google launched a new service in the UK, called Google Business Photos, that enables businesses open to the public to have a panoramic 360º virtual walkthrough (the indoor equivalent of Google Street View) as part of their Place Page. This service allows a viewer to virtually walk around a venue from the comfort of their own home, and is an incredibly powerful tool for showing off the venue and attracting extra customers. Google Business Photos has already proved hugely successful in the US, where it was launched a couple of years ago, with businesses using the service noticing a dramatic increase in customer traffic and sales. Mark, as one of a very few Google Trusted Photographers in London, is authorised to take shots for the walkthrough for any London business within the M25 open to the public – this could include businesses like cafe, restaurants, hotels, bars, theatres, pubs, shops, event spaces, cinemas, gyms, designer boutiques, spas, art galleries etc. The Google Business Photos service is not designed for offices and government buildings.

 

How it works

London-based venues interested in having their location photographed can contact Mark through www.weeks360.com to commission the project. Mark is already receiving a lot of interest from businesses such as pubs, restaurants and hotels. He charges £250 per venue for an all inclusive Google Business Photos package which includes uploading the virtual tour onto each venue’s Google Place Page. The turn-around time from  the location shoot to having the tour on the Place Page is 1 week. Mark has been specially trained, vetted and authorised by Google. He follows a set procedure that involves using specialist equipment to take photos at regular 10 foot intervals along the venue ‘walkthrough’ route. This produces a series of panoramic images  that are then ‘stitched together’ to create a seamless 360-degree walkthrough of the venue. This is then posted on the venue’s Google Place Page where people can then  “walk around” the venues virtually from the comfort of their computer.  The result is that people looking up a venue can now see (nearly) first-hand what the venue is like by using Google’s easy-to-use navigation tools. Prior to the images going live, Google’s team of professionals ensures that the quality of each of these interactive panoramic shots meets their stringent quality controls. If there are people in the shots, their faces will be blurred to protect their identity.

 

See  examples – a virtual walk around Hakkasan Mayfair and a San Francisco bakery

A good example of Google Business Photos  is the London restaurant Hakkasan (Mayfair). If you click on this link http://bit.ly/HGGMWn you will come to the search results for Hakkasan (Mayfair). Click on the photo of the restaurant interior to the left of the Google map or, on the map, click on the  little red pin showing the restaurant’s location, then click on the box that comes up which will take you to Hakkasan Mayfair’s Google Place Page, and then click on the photo showing the inside of Hakkasan with a “click to view” label on it (directly below the map).  This will launch an interactive image that allows users to walk through the restaurant.  For an example of an inside walkthrough showing people do a Google search for ‘Tartine Bakery’ or click here http://bit.ly/HfQ4GR

 

An all inclusive service for £250

Mark, as a London Google Trusted Photographer, offers a straightforward package for capturing venues.  This Google Business Photos service available from www.weeks360.com comprises:

  • Panoramic photography of the interior of a venue (up to 30 panoramic shots)
  • Stitching the panoramic photos together so that the user can follow the little arrows on the screen, and navigate through each of the venues
  • Uploading the panoramic photos to each of your venue’s Google Place Pages
  • In addition, Mark will also take a series of static point of interest photos that will also be posted to each of the venue’s Place Pages, all of which will help promote your venue.
  • All final images are then your property. There is no ongoing royalty or licensing fee.
  • If  any changes, corrections or additions to these photos are required, Mark acts as your primary point of contact.
  • The turn-around time is one week from when the venue is photographed to when it is uploaded to the Google Place Page.
  • Total cost for the service: £250 per venue

Note: The £250 offer applies only to the Google Business Photos service available through www.weeks360.com which is a set package and as a result has a set price. Other photography projects  are done on a project basis and are quoted accordingly – for examples and details of these please visit www.markweeks.com

 

Contact Mark for your London Google Business Photos

If your business has a venue in London that is open to the public and you would like it photographed for a virtual walkthrough for its Google Place Page, please contact Mark by calling 07890 987 860 or emailing mark(at)markweeks(dot)com

www.weeks360.com

www.markweeks.com

 

Kicking & Screaming

 

 

Fitness instructor from Bootcamp PilatesFirst posted on my personal blog site: www.markweeks.com/blog

One of the greatest things about being a photographer is chance to learn life lessons from the people I shoot. Though my interaction with each of my subjects may range from a quick portrait to a full-scale production, I generally have the luxury of my subjects’ undivided attention at least for a few frames. By watching them, examining them, preening them and of course talking with them, I am able to assess their character quickly with relative ease, and generally take away something of value (besides a photograph) from the shoot.

Take the successful architect. He showed up an hour and a half late and chain smoked through the entire shoot. Gruntingly boorish in his manner, I was certain to capture his greasy hair, big belly and booze-pocked nose. Returning to the office to process the images, there was no retouching required. I uploaded the files from my camera, had a quick look to pick out the best ones, exported the RAW files to TIFFS and sent them off to my editor.

Conversely, there was the portrait of managing director from Cyprus. Though incredibly successful at the helm of his company, he didn’t seem to fare too well when it came to his diet. “Can you make me look slimmer?” he asked in a polite and childlike manner. “No problem,” was all I said as I positioned his body in a way to diminish his size and eliminate one of his chins. Afterwards in Photoshop, I gave him a bit of a tummy tuck, whitened his teeth and brightened his eyes. He never looked better.

These two shoots exemplify just a couple of things I learn from my subjects on a daily basis. If you want to look like a surly and bloated bohemian, be a jerk to the photographer. If you want to look the best you possibly can, a cordial conversation goes a long way.

There are shoots, however, where the impact that my subject has on me goes deeper than simply affecting my mood that day. When I shot a series of images for a youth charity in Seattle, I asked one of the subjects to sit alone with her backpack on a quiet staircase and look as if the bag was the only thing she had in the world. She shared with me that when she first came to the charity, it was all she had. I had to breathe deeply so as not to cry. Having come from a stable family with loving parents, it’s easy for me to take for granted all of the many opportunities this has afforded me and forget that many people don’t share that experience.

A kind dragonWhen I had the opportunity to photograph Rachel Elnaugh, a successful entrepreneur and former Dragon from the BBC’s Dragon’s Den, I didn’t have an assistant that day and had a bit more kit than I could comfortably manage myself. Without batting an eye, she asked what she could carry, picked it up and off we went. A simple gesture, and one I gleaned typified her chief cook and bottle washer approach to life. Clearly she didn’t get where she is today by sitting back and expecting others to take care of everything. If a task was at hand, she’d roll up her sleeves to get the job done.

While simple interactions like this are great anecdotes for dinner party conversations, occasionally, however, what I take from a shoot hits a bit closer to home, leaving me reflecting on the issues well beyond the tube journey home. Earlier this summer I was commissioned to photograph a series of images that would be used for the launch of a fitness studio in London called Bootcamp Pilates. A high-end exercise facility targeting urban professionals and yummy mummies, Bootcamp has four studios across the city and a large pool of fitness instructors to keep their clients in shape.

The photo brief was to capture three distinct shots of each instructor for use on the company’s web site and in its promotional literature: a portrait on a white background, a shot of each trainer giving instruction, and a photo of each instructor demonstrating one of the Pilates positions used in class.

On the surface it was a very straightforward shoot that went completely to plan. The instructors were chipper and cheerful, and very easy to work with. We experimented with a number of different positions and lightings to ensure that each one was shot in a way that best represented Bootcamp’s brand. I’m not completely sure when it happened, but perhaps while photographing the third or fourth instructor, I began to feel a bit, how best to phrase this, old and fat. Granted, most of the instructors were somewhere between twenty-five and thirty-two (whipper-snappers), and as they were fitness instructors, their bodies were active all day long—so of course they were in great shape. But my brain had no room for logic. As I took a sip of my cappuccino, the lyrics to Paul Simon’s song Call Me Al, “Why am I soft in the middle…” raced through my brain.

I finished the shoot on schedule and made my way back home, all the while pondering when I had transformed into this older, flabbier version of me. At home, I put away my gear and hopped into the shower. While drying off I looked down at my belly, my middle-age trophy, and pondered, how? This was what Bette Midler would probably refer to as the moment my sautéed chickens had come home to roost.

OK, admittedly I wasn’t obese, but I had to ponder where the body of my youth had gone. I was an aerobics instructor for years in my twenties. I’ve run a couple of marathons, but when—or better yet—how, did I allow myself to reach this point. I stepped onto the scale and realized I was the heaviest I’d ever been. I tucked that away into my brain and went about my day. The truth is, I’ve always struggled with the demons of flab—more precisely, my lack of self-control and my whole-hearted willingness to overindulge myself have been two guiding forces in my life, constituting the two little devils sitting on my left shoulder. Opposing these demons is the angel of determination who steps in when necessary to counteract their evil ways. Somewhere along the line, however, that angel fell asleep on my right shoulder, and as a result, I was now carrying an extra twenty extra pounds.

As I write this, I’m acutely aware that this posting has the potential to sound self-righteous, fattist or just raise the hackles of people I know and love, but my intention is to be quite candid about a problem that affects the bulk of Americans and many others in the developed world including me, over-nutrition. According to WebMD, 63.1% of adults in the US are either overweight or obese. SIXTY-THREE POINT ONE PERCENT! That’s huge. And the UK is not far behind, with just this week the government predicting that by 2030 over 40% of the population will be overweight here. The US Department of Health estimates that 300,000 deaths per year are the result of obesity and the cost to the taxpayers to deal with issues related to obesity run to about $117 million per year.

Stepping off the scale, I found myself at very upper limits of the target weight guidelines for men of my height, and that was disturbing. I’ve been close to this before, but each time before I’ve simply donned my running shoes and lost the weight. But somehow, this time it felt different. The word diet dashed through my brain. Diet? What? Me? How? I heard the voice of the cook from movie The Women whisper, “That Adonis figure won’t last forever without a little help from the kitchen,” and knew what I needed to do.

I’ve never been on a diet before. In my teens I drank Diet Coke because it was the rage, but at some point concluded I hated the aftertaste of any artificial sweetener, and went back to the real thing. I’ve never counted calories nor denied myself when tempted by a cookie or piece of cake. The truth of the matter is that I like to eat too much, drink too much and when given the option between a going for run or going for a sausage roll and a pint with Lee, I’d probably choose the pub. Something had to change.

While back in Seattle in June, Lee and I met up with our friends Gay and Troy for dinner, and they looked amazing—fit, fresh and genuinely youthful. We’d seen them a couple of years before and at that point they had gotten into shape after years of toiling behind their computers. Over a wonderful dinner of steak and salad, we grilled them on what they’d done to get so trim and stay that way. They shared that they’d incorporated exercise into their daily routine and when asked about their diet, they candidly said they’d not gone on a diet, but rather changed their diet by dramatically reducing the amount of carbohydrates they consumed each day. Hmmm, exercise and watching what you eat, you mean it actually works? Say it isn’t so. Armed with that sage advice, Lee and I left Seattle to complete the rest of our eating/drinking festival across the US.

Returning to London after our travels, I felt like a bloated pig. My intentions to keep fit while in the US had been quashed by late night catch-ups with friends and eating out every meal. But I had no fear, Lee and I had mentally embraced the challenge to slim down and redefine our bodies. While that may sound extreme, it was a very active decision to take charge of our bodies, get in shape now, and create a foundation for keeping fit moving forward.

Whenever I think of friends who are in shape, my friend Rod is one of the first to pop into my mind. We were roommates in the early 1990’s and once I lamented to him about how slowly the fat was burning off, he simply asked, “How long did it take to get there?” Touché. What sets Rod apart from many people is how he has incorporated exercise and a balanced diet into his daily routine. Keeping healthy and fit is his norm rather than the exception to the rule. He enjoys eating and drinking as much as the rest of us, but has a managed approach to his consumption, sort of like paying off a credit card at the end of every month. If you don’t, you simply carry too big of a balance over and incur unwanted interest.

For the first couple of weeks of the changed diet, Lee and I grappled with our decision. No bread, no crackers, no nuts, no fruit. No sodas, no milk, no beer, no wine. As we bemoaned what we were missing, and our cravings just seemed to increase. It was hell when attending our niece Hollie’s fifth birthday party were we had to forgo not only the cake, but also the homemade chocolate chip cookies. I’m not one wired for denying myself. You know when you walk into a Starbucks and see a sign that reads, “Indulge Yourself” or “You Deserve It,” I’m certain those copywriters have me specifically in mind. The truth is, however, that though the words desire and deserve may start with the same three letters, they are not interchangeable. I may desire a double-choccie-mocha-fappie-latte, but I wouldn’t deserve one any more than an eighteen-year-old looter in Croydon deserved that color TV or pair of sneakers he stole during the London riots.

As the weeks passed, however, adhering to the new routine became pretty easy. We had eggs and bacon for breakfast, snacked on cheese cubes and avocados, and ended the day with suppers of meat and vegetables. At the same time, both Lee and I re-established our exercise routines, knowing we needed to strike a balance between good eating and consistent exercise. The weight began to go away, not at a stupid-fast pace, but a couple pounds a week, and by the end of week seven, I’d dropped fourteen pounds. Not bad. While my objective was to drop the full twenty pounds, I was pleased with the initial results, and following the general guidelines of the new diet, began to introduce things back into my diet.

This is where the all the good work has the potential to go to hell in a hand basket. One piece of toast in the morning easily becomes two slices with a little bit of jam thrown in for good measure. Go on, indulge yourself. One pint of beer leads to a second pint of beer leads to the third pint of beer. You deserve it! Don’t even get me started on the bag of cinnamon saltwater taffy our friend Will brought back from the US—it was gone in a matter of hours. These “special treats” that are meant to be my exceptions have the potential to become the norm.

Over the years, I’ve had a number of wake-up calls to address my gluttonous behaviors. When I was in fifth grade, I remember telling my teacher that I typically ate ice cream once a day. He kindly replied, “A kid your size shouldn’t be doing that.” When I returned from living in Taipei, my friend’s dad poked my belly and said it was time to get into shape. And in my early thirties, while on holiday in Sitges with my uber-fit friend Alan, he pointed out I needed a serious fitness regime.

Previously, however, losing weight wasn’t a problem. When I was ten, I didn’t need to pay heed to my teacher’s wise words. I hit puberty soon after and got taller, dispersing the fat while keeping the ice cream. Problem solved. When I was in my twenties, I just picked up my running shoes and lost the weight. No change necessary. When I was in my thirties, I resorted to the gym in order to lose the weight so I could land a boyfriend. But now that I’ve hit the forties, am a bit more settled in my ways. I have a partner, own a house and run my own business. I know that my metabolism has changed a bit, and more importantly, my lifestyle has changed a great deal. The question at hand, what would motivate me to do something to prevent slipping even further. Vanity? Perhaps. A lot of gay men I know tend to have the Barbie complex—you can never be too rich or too thin (or in this case, too fit)! But Lee and I have never really subscribed to that mentality. Sure, I’m probably just as vain as any other guy I know, but vanity only goes so far, there has to be a motivating factor that is deeper than what I see in the mirror. Some motivating factor to transform my Pilsbury Doughboy self-image into one a bit more along the lines of a maturing Ken doll. And that something was found at the Bootcamp shoot. People who had embraced fitness as part of their life and reminded me of that lifelong commitment to themselves.

Practically every summer over the last six years, I have photographed an annual forum in Seattle called the Pacific Health Summit. Here healthcare leaders from across the globe come together to discuss the major health issues confronting society across the globe. Two years ago the topic was nutrition. The forum focused on the problems of malnutrition in the developing world and the issue of over-nutrition in the developed world. One of the speakers shared an interaction he had with his own GP. As I was photographing the event and not responsible for the minutes of the event, my recollection of his exact words are a bit cloudy, but the message was quite clear. Will exercise, watching his diet and keeping consumption of alcohol to a minimum make him live longer? His GP’s response was, probably not, but it would help him live better.

The story got a number of chuckles across the audience of industry professionals, but the speaker’s message was loud and clear. We in the developed world have the choice to look after ourselves. We don’t have to worry where our next meal or snack or drink is going to come from. We have the choice to regulate or indulge ourselves, and have the luxury to choose to exercise or not. The net result of our choices, however, is perfectly clear. As a society, we are choosing that extra cookie and we are choosing that pint of beer over a run, and we are consistently choosing it on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Myself included.

So what’s the punchline? I’m still confronting this issue head on, and truthfully, I expect that I will continue to do so for as long as I have the will power. I’m back at a comfortable weight, but for how long? How long is a piece of string? I gain strength from the Rods in my world and accept that maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is an ongoing process. I also remind myself of the things in life I truly deserve: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. A slice of chocolate cake may give me pleasure, but somehow that doesn’t fall into an unalienable rights. While nothing in life is ever set in stone, let’s hope that the next time I wish to indulge myself, I’ll simply add an extra mile to my run or do a few extra sit-ups to make my day. I may not live longer, but it will help me live better.