Category Archives: Photography

Home town tilt shift

Home town tilt shift

OK. I know. It’s been a long time. Far too long in fact. But after posting every day for 7 months the freedom of giving up overtook me and I went in the opposite direction. I swore that that this blog was not going to die and the fact that I am writing this at is means that this may well be true, although I am still not convinced.

I know at least one person who has missed this blog (she knows who she is) and who keeps asking when I am going to post again so here I go. One post for the whole of September is pretty shameful but I have not been idling. Honest. I have been adding more and more photos to my Society6 page and it is beginning to bear fruit in terms of recognition, feedback and, yes, sales; which sort of explains why the blog has been quiet of late… It’s a case of priority and being able to fund the photography. So whilst I have been attempting to live up to the tag ‘artist’ I have also done some commercial portraits that have been well received and left me thinking that maybe I would like to do more. I have now had enquiries about four (!) weddings – all next year – as well. There are good reasons why the blog has been through this dormant period.

It’s now pretty clear to me that word of mouth is a very powerful thing, especially from friends. And it also seems that after 2 or 3 years of plugging away I am starting to see a little reward. Since this blog was about logging progress maybe it has run its course but not quite yet. Are you still an amateur if people have bought your photos? Does amateur solely refer to professional status or is it ability to use a camera? These are questions I need to find an answer to.

However, this blog has always been less about photography and more about me pouring my thoughts out onto the page (you may have noticed). The writing has been just as therapeutic as the photography if truth be told and its something that I enjoy. So, moving forward, it may just become a depository for random news, the occasional rant, the odd blatant plug before being integrated into a wider on-line presence. Grand designs, etc…

And why today? Well for a long time now I have been attempting to create some tilt shift photography. A technique by which you make cars, people, etc look like toys. When done well it can look stunning. I have been attempting and failing for a long time and this picture is the first time I have got remotely close. It’s not great by any stretch of the imagination but it’s a start and signals that I may at last have got the hang of it.


Look into the eyeball

 

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OK, so how to explain… this may be a first although I stand to be corrected. I did not take this photograph. It was taken today though. It’s actually a picture of the inside of my eyeball, which is either interesting or pretty gross depending on your point of view.

I am a glasses wearer, which means I have all sorts of problems when it comes to my photography. I need to take my glasses off to take pictures as a) its uncomfortable and b) most modern digital SLRs have this funky little focussing wheel that you can turn so that everything is in sharp focus. And, before you ask, I cannot wear contact lenses. I have a bit of a problem with eyes or more specifically touching my eyes or putting anything in my eyes. Even eye drops are pretty impossible to get in as I usually blink. Not sure where this comes from but it’s probably the eye trauma from films like Dead and Buried, Zombie Flesh Eaters and Opera that I lapped up in my youth.

Anyway, today I reluctantly went for an eye examination (the first in 5 years – very naughty of me since you’re supposed to go every two years) and it seems that technology has moved on. Not only have they made that thing that fires air into your eyeballs slightly less painful, they now also photograph the inside of your eyeball – to check for signs of diabetes, glaucoma, etc – and then e-mail it to you! My, how technology has changed the way we do things. Now, providing I keep to regular eye examination appointments, they will be able to compare images from test to test and hopefully catch anything nasty earlier.

So there you go; a photograph of the inside of the photographer’s eyeball. Don’t say I don’t spoil you. Or go that extra mile to bring you something different. Apparently, everything is fine, my prescription has not changed in the 5-year period since my eyes were last examined, and that is actually a picture of a healthy eye. Bought some new glasses too so that I can put them down and forget them, stand on them or leave them up a volcano, all of which I have done in the past.

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Softly, softly, catchee monkey

monkey

Back off holiday and another blog post for August. It seems odd having only blogged once before this month after blogging every day for 7 months but I do feel that a weight of expectation has been lifted. As usual Northumberland did not disappoint and I am somewhat daunted by the sheer number of photographs that I took. Of course some of them are family shots and will therefore never see the light of day on this blog but there are still several hundred others to prioritise and get through. Processing all the wedding photographs recently has finally opened up my eyes to the blindingly obvious fact that my old PC is not really up to task in terms of speed or capability. It has become a chore and I spend a lot of time just sitting, with the fan whirring, waiting for it to do something.

For many years I have harboured a dream of upgrading to an Apple Mac, primarily because I don’t know a single pro photographer that is not Mac-based. So I have now made the decision that any income made from photography – meagre as it is – is going to go into a savings fund to trade in the PC for a Mac at some point in the future. This may well take more than a year given my current incomings.

I am more than pleased with Society6 in terms of generating income as it is the first outlet for my photography that has actually worked, and lord knows there have been many failed attempts. I’ve never had a photography sale via this blog or the website I set up for example. The sums involved from selling via Society6 are small but growing and I can see a steady increase in interest. In addition, it’s nice to be seen as an artist by a community of other artists who have no idea who I am.

Also, I have had three more enquiries about photographing weddings; this I am noticeably less excited about, primarily because I find them very stressful and as word of mouth takes them away from friends and friends of friends to complete strangers then my stress levels can only increase further. Nonetheless, it is heartening to be getting word-of-mouth recommendations even if it is only as a cheap and cheerful option. Whether I will do them or not is an entirely different matter.

And what other news? I will continue to add images to my Society6 store and this may well become my primary focus over the blog (to be honest it already has) as operation Mac continues into 2012. I know have three images for sale via the Urban Outfitters print shop (again via a deal they have with Society6) and it is obvious from my stats that it is these images that are selling the most, though the commission is lower. So I suppose my strategy should be to try and get more picked up by Urban Outfitters. The three images they have picked up so far are not my best – in my opinion anyhow, which may be worthless – and are undoubtedly all images where I have consciously attempted to do something quirky or ‘arty’. Again, maybe there is a lesson to be learned here? And this opens up a wider question. Why is it that the photographs of mine that are rated the highest by other artists hardly sell at all? It’s an interesting conundrum and I only wish I knew the answer.

I had a very good meeting with a PR-oriented friend of mine who insisted that I do something or anything to promote the photography and I now have a list of actions, some of which I might actually do something about if things didn’t keep getting in the way such as holidays, first Northumberland and Edinburgh to come. That said, in Edinburgh I am taking some photographs of friends for their company’s website so will be combining business and pleasure (and ticking something off the action plan).

I never really envisaged selling ANY of my photographs when I started this whole adventure and I certainly never envisaged being seen as an artist, as previous blog posts will attest. I am not the most proactive of people – you may have noticed – but it seems to me that if you keep making small steps towards an achievable goal then that is better than making no steps at all. It has been a very slow build since my first blog post in May 2009 but I have come pretty far and learned loads – certainly I have achieved more than I thought I would. I catch myself getting impatient sometimes about the slow pace I am setting but then I think of the day job and the family commitments and overall I’m pretty pleased with my progress. I have also had a lot of support along the way from family and friends, social networkers and other photographers/artists too. So thanks all!

Sometimes I feel a bit like the Wizard of Oz and that any minute the curtain may be whipped away to reveal an old man pulling levers. I am still not completely convinced that I have ‘an eye for it’ and my ability with the camera fluctuates wildly; however, I am improving in terms of my digital darkroom skills and this appears to be half the battle. Sorry that this post is a bit disjointed; I’m not really sure what I am trying to say other than to reassure myself that the blog is still valid and worth updating. I still consider myself an amateur, albeit one that has managed to achieve a modicum of recognition as a tiny fish in a very very big pool of photographers that is growing all the time.

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It’s not grim up North

Holga island

After my last post on the 1st August I said that this blog was not going to die so here is another post just to prove my point. I will admit that not blogging has been a blessed relief for the last couple of weeks, although during those two weeks it seems that England (yes, England NOT the UK as news outlets would have you believe) has gone to hell in a handcart. This blog is not going to try and understand why the recent riots happened but I do I find it very sad. A lot of lives and livelihoods have been ruined and even lost but I think last week’s events have been coming for a long time. Our culture is now obsessed with the accumulation of goods and the cult of celebrity then it should come as no surprise when those that have nothing decide to take what they don’t have. The violence cannot be condoned and those involved must be punished but at the same time those at the other end of society – bankers, MPs who were economical with the truth expenses wise, huge corporations avoiding tax – must also be seen to be punished. But that will not happen. Indeed, our current Prime Minister, and the Mayor of London, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer were members of an exclusive club at university (the Bullingdon) that used to regularly behave badly, smashing windows and trashing restaurants. Of course in their case they could pay for the damage and it was only ‘youthful high jinks’. Similarly, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has admitted to setting fire to a greenhouse full of rare cacti in his youth.

It’s very sad that a student – with no previous convictions – walking home from his girlfriend’s house who stole a 3.50 bottle of water gets 6 month in prison and does not deserve a second chance; conversely, Andy Coulson, the Prime Minister’s disgraced communications chief did deserve a second chance despite allegedly overseeing widespread criminality at the News of the World. Of course the majority of the rioters deserve to go to prison for a very, very long time but for a government obsessed with fairness this seems to be in short supply. Knee jerk reactions are almost always wrong and there seems to be no proportionality.

But enough hand-wringing. I never meant to write all that but got carried away a little. Despite the news coverage coming out of England this week, its still a beautiful country and today we are heading up north to my favourite place, Northumberland. From a photographer’s point of view I find the landscapes of Northumberland, where it seems you are never that far away from a castle, a rugged coastline or mile upon mile of empty sandy beaches, to be inspiring. I am hoping to get lots of good pictures that I can share as the blog progresses at a more sedate pace.

This picture was taken in Northumberland, on Holy Island, last year at the same time as I was photographing a wedding. Of late I have been experimenting a bit with different effects and tints and this was an image that I liked but which in its colour form was bleached out by the sun rising over the headland. This seemed to work and prints are available from my society6 shop.

In other news, the last set of wedding photographs that I did, which I agonised over for so long were delivered to much praise (phew) and as a result I have had an enquiry about shooting another wedding next year. Sales are picking up slowly on the society6 site and a friend in PR has decided to take me by the scruff of the neck and put a plan in place for promoting my photography more widely. We’ll see how that goes. But first a holiday… Back soon

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Waving the white flag…

OK. its 1st August which marks7 months of non-stop blogging and I am afraid that that I have reached my limit as far as blogging every day is concerned. I have admitted defeat, thrown in the towel  and removed the post-a-day badge from the blog. In the end it was just too much of a commitment and I was running out of pictures to post and things to say.

Writing the blog every day has become too much of a chore and a burden; furthermore, looking at the stats, fewer and fewer people are reading it. Familiarity breeds contempt, or at the very least  waning interest.

It has been suggested that my time may be better served by posting less frequently and when I have something to say and I honestly think that is probably the best way to go; certainly it will free more time to concentrate on doing something more constructive with the photography such as has been achieved via Society6.

This is categorically NOT  the end of the blog, just the end of the post-a-day 2011 experiment. In a couple of weeks time I will be off to Northumberland again (one of the other reasons for calling it a day now) and will no doubt come back with some great new pictures. But in the meantime thanks for sticking with me thus far. Hopefully, less will mean more going forward.

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The knights are drawing in…

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I had it all planned… today’s photo was going to be current and I was going to attempt a review of sorts, which I still may do. This afternoon we had tickets to see the family play ‘Merlin and the Woods of Time’ at the open air theatre in Chester’s Grosvenor park and I intended to take some pictures for this evening’s blog. However, on arrival we were told that camera’s were not permitted. I have no problem with this, but it sort of scuppered the plans somewhat. Therefore to illustrate the blog I have had to go back to a picture taken at Warkworth castle in Northumberland and one that doesn’t really fit with the performance we saw this afternoon.

At this time of year you can’t move for medieval knights. It seems that ever castle – be in National Trust or English Heritage – is awash with volunteers dressed in armour. Indeed, Beeston castle, which is about 8 miles from where I live was having a 2-day medieval festival this weekend titled ‘Clash of the Knights’. And it’s not just knights… as a family we have seen Romans, Cavaliers, Roundheads, Highwaymen, Vikings, Gladiators, etc, etc. It has to be said as well that the various groups that dress up for the public and re-enact these golden periods of history (such as this knight pictured at Warkworth) take it very, very seriously.

This was not the case with ‘Merlin and the Woods of Time’. It’s probably the most spectacularly non-sensical and silly play I have seen in a long time. And its all the better for it. In fact, I loved it and so did the rest of the family. I’m not sure I can explain the plot – it did involve all the usual Arthurian characters but with a few more thrown in for good measure. And kazoos. Lots of kazoos. And time travel. And jousting commentators. Think Monty Python and Holy Grail – right down to Black Knight (and star of the show) Mordred losing his head at one point – and you are close. The cast are perfect and their are lots of laughs for both kids and adults. It is subtly smutty and yet exciting enough to hold the attention of the smallest of attentions. One running joke has a character speaking Welsh all the way through whilst the rest of the cast dismiss it as gibberish. The Welsh family sitting near us though roared with laughter and the fact that the Welsh speaker emerges as the heroine of the play (and the only sensible character) is commendable. A good time (and picnic) was had by all.

‘Merlin and the Woods of Time’ is running in conjunction with Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ with the same cast doing both plays on alternate days until the 21st August. Pictures from the actual productions can be found here. Highly recommended if you can avoid the rain…

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Dusk

Dusk

There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.
Jean-Paul Sartre

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Sea Fever

Spray

I MUST go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

John Masefield (1878-1967)

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Blue Peter Badge

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Today, my daughter achieved something that I always wanted to but never managed – a Blue Peter Badge. For those not aware of Blue Peter, it is the UK’s longest running children’s programme; a magazine show for kids fronted by an ever-changing line-up of presenters. Blue Peter do not give out their badges to just anyone. You have to write in and show that you have earned the accolade. My daughter got hers for writing a poem about the seasons. She sent it in months ago and to be honest we had all forgotten that she had send it in at all. But this morning the badge arrived together with a nice letter explaining how much the Editor of the show – and the presenters Andy, Helen and Barney – enjoyed reading the poem. My daughter is of course glowing with pride whilst my son is glowering with jealousy. As a kid I always wanted a Blue Peter badge but was too lazy to actually do anything  to earn it. I too am insanely jealous. What’s more is that Blue Peter badge holders get free entry to museums, galleries and stately homes the length and breadth of the country. So that is one less entry fee to pay. I have told her to look after it and keep the letter as it will be something to look back on and cherish; not to mention the fact that the Blue Peter badge never goes out of fashion or loses its caché. I am currently in negotiations to get her to write another poem. Is that so wrong?

.

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Ladybird, ladybird

Ladybird

Ladybird, ladybird fly away home,
Your house is on fire and your children are gone,
All except one,
And her name is Ann,
And she hid under the baking pan

Go on, admit it. I bet you didn’t know the full rhyme. I didn’t until I looked it up on t’internet 5 minutes ago. I certainly didn’t know about Anne hiding under the baking pan. I also didn’t know that ladybirds are commonly viewed as lucky. I could do with a bit of luck at the moment as routine bites hard and ambitions are low… Again, I have no idea what this plant is, which I suppose makes me a pretty rubbish flower photographer; maybe I should stick to buttercups and daisies? In the meantime, luck be a ladybird tonight. I going now before I run out of clichés to spout and Joy Division lyrics to purloin

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