Category Archives: Places

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.


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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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


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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Dark side of the room


No pretences about art today but at least its a new photograph. In fact it’s so new that I took it about 2 minutes ago in my hall at home. Photography is all about light and here we have the full spectrum. Very occasionally, when the sun is shining and the curtains are open, the light floods our front room in a certain, it hits the glass crystals of the chandelier (not a real one you understand – its from British Home Stores), splits and shines through onto the inside of the front door. It happens very rarely and usually lasts for a minute or so and so tonight I thought I’d take a picture of it. The kids get very excited about having a bit of rainbow in the house. A short lesser blog post but i wasn’t going to let that pun get away from me…

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Words and pictures

Chester noir

Mark is very certain about his tastes in music, fiction and drama [I think this means I’m an opinionated git but I’m going to go with it – Mark] and it’s surprising this certainty doesn’t carry over to his photography. Because it should.

The wobbles of confidence he shares so readily with readers of this blog are surprising because his images are striking, confident and, most of all eloquent. He worries about supplying the words and sometimes forgets that he doesn’t need to because the pictures are often telling the story very well.

In May I stood as the Labour Party* candidate in the local Council elections here in Chester. The ward, which we successfully took from the Conservative Party covers the city centre. It’s a beautiful and historic ward but it does nevertheless have parts suffering from dereliction and neglect.

Mark, and his wife Helen, were really supportive during the campaign and in true Kelvin MacKenzie style, Mark can claim that it was him “what won it” as he was generous enough to allow me to use his images of the City centre that highlighted dramatically places where things were not so pretty in the garden, places off the beaten track that needed attention.

I used Mark’s striking images to make effective campaigning material. Given that I have a slim majority, every vote really did count and I’m sure that the resonance of Mark’s pictures helped.

So now I have the honour to serve as the Labour Councillor for Chester City ward and as I go about meeting residents, traders and officials, I have the privilege to see nooks and crannies that many people wouldn’t see in the normal run of things.

This week, on a lovely sunny day, I was on the roof of St Peter’s Church at the Cross looking down Bridge Street, over the river and beyond to Handbridge. And I found myself, as I often do, thinking: “Mark would love it up here”.

I think Mark’s got talent and his pictures are an inspiration. He should stop worrying and carry on doing what he does best. Telling stories.

Samantha Dixon

*Other political parties are available 🙂

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Americans often take our great big vistas and scenic views for granted.  We don’t have the same sense of ourselves as bounded or constrained by our shoreline as I suspect many English people do.  We only rarely refer to ourselves as an island, and even then, it’s usually crazed fundamentalists who are alluding to our existence as an island of religiosity and morality (yeah right).  But I am just as guilty of taking the immensity of my country for granted as the next Yank is.  I’m pretty lucky because I have gotten to experience some of the amazing big skies, mountains, and plains that we have to offer, the same ones that so enchanted Stephen Fry on his American travels.  This image is from Christmastime 2009.  I was visiting my family in Scottsdale, Arizona and riding in a car.  One could write a whole other posting about adult parents and their adult children and the diplomacy and rules of engagement when it comes to who drives whom.  I shall just say that, after what my father still refers to as the scariest ride of his life when I was a freshman in college, I have never driven my parents anywhere, ever again.  Thus I was in the back seat when I took this snap.  I was hanging out the window and used a tiny Nikon Coolpix to capture it.  It’s no Mark Nelson image, but I’m pretty pleased with it, as the man himself might say.

Jennifer Craythorne

Mark writes: As I said in my post of yesterday I had several offers of help on the blog after my late-night rant about giving up. So this is a guest post from my friend Jenn – only the second guest post that the blog has had since starting – so be gentle. It is much appreciated and takes the pressure off me. Plus it must be nice to have a non-English perspective once in a while. I think that this picture proves that even the simplest point-and-click camera can capture something special. I have never met Jenn, we met via LastFM as we share an almost uncannily similar taste in music. That said, I do consider her a real friend rather than a virtual one. My how times have changed.

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Buttermere bridge

Buttermere bridge crop

Yep, after yesterday’s histrionics I am back. The fact that I am is down to several factors. First, I must thank the many people who commented and gave advice via blog comments and Facebook; the comments fell into two camps i) You can’t give up when you have come this far or ii) Have a break, no-one will think the worse of you and sanity is more important. I have taken all comments on board and I would like anyone to think that I had ignored them. I was particularly indebted to a long and detailed comment on yesterday’s blog (which was in category ii and was one of the most constructive and positive comments I have received). Yet here  I am, blogging again…

I have also received a few offers from people willing to do a guest blog post and I think that this is something that should be positively encouraged. However, I am pretty certain that I won’t be entering the post a day challenge in 2012. A more sedate pace may be in order.

Which brings me onto my second thank you – friend and professional photographer Pete Corcoran – who has enable me to see the wood from the trees re the wedding photos and provided some wonderful advice on technique, software and workflow that should help me process the wedding photos with much less stress to myself. Plus I have got a little bit more time to complete them in! I think last night’s post was borne out of frustration and the enormity of the task; this has now receded somewhat. It has also been pointed out to me that a) I have been at the point of giving up before and b) that I said at the start of the year that I was doomed to heroic failure (thanks Catherine and Roy). Therefore the stubbornness has kicked in again. Yesterday, I couldn’t see the wood for the trees but today there is light at the end of the tunnel (and who could argue with metaphors as mixed as that). Whether the light at the end of the tunnel is the light of an oncoming train, as Half Man Half Biscuit would have it, remains to be seen but a crisis has been averted for now.

And the photo? It’s Buttermere in the Lake District but the village rather than the lake itself. This is the stream/river that flows through the centre of the village. It’s another old photo that has gained something from the black and white treatment.

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The tower

Tonight is the night that this blog almost died. In fact it still might. After a frustrating night of processing wedding images (and boy do I so not want to be a wedding photographer – hats off to the brave souls that do it for a living) I find that I am losing the will to live. To be honest I can see no way of delivering these images by the end of the month and keeping the blog going. I know that I have set a difficult task in attempting to blog every day, but to be honest I don’t really thing anyone cares, least of all me. Its only my own stubbornness that has got me this far and July is pretty good going. I may feel better in the morning but its ten to midnight and I can see no end in sight. This, coupled with the fact that hardly anyone reads this anyway,  means that it may well be time to throw in the towel, admit defeat, take a break, get these wedding photos done and pick up the blog again in a few weeks time (if at all). The edifice is crumbling and for the sake of my own sanity and wellbeing something is going to have to give.

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Creatures of death

Creatures of death

Very short blog post today as I am dead on my feet as I have been photographing my third wedding today; in fact the blog may be brief for a while now as I literally have 100s of wedding photos to process in the next 2 or 3 weeks. I find wedding photography, scary, stressful, exhilarating, even more scary every time I do it. This was my first in the rain – it had to happen – and hopefully I’ve coped. You never know until you look at the pictures up close and its a daunting task. That said, providing I deliver on time and the happy couple are happy it should help pay for our trip to the Edinburgh fringe festival in August. Every time I photograph a wedding I think ‘never again’, which is a bit like my attitude to Glastonbury (see picture, possibly my most tenuous link yet). I have been told that this pictures looks like it was taken in the mid western USA rather than a field in Somerset. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not but I’m taking it as a complement. Now for a glass of wine…

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