Tag Archives: art


New York Triptych

Our camping exhibition to North Wales has been cancelled due to a) inclement weather and b) lack of enthusiasm for all concerned. As a result the womenfolk have gone out on the razzle leaving us men with only the comfort of the Champions League final cling to. Its a hard life! In truth, the only downside is that we have the kids to look after also but given that its Doctor Who night and we have a voucher for Dominos pizza there is no mountain that cannot be climbed. At the moment they have gone to play with the kids over the road so I am taking the opportunity to do some photo work.

This image is one I put together last month from the old photographs of New York that I found in the loft. It is my first attempt at a triptych and as such I’m pretty pleased with. As usual YouTube  proved invaluable and this is one thing that I have learned that should be passed on. When stuck on how best to process an image have a look on YouTube. Nine times out of ten, someone will have uploaded a handy video taking you through the process step by step. As I am self-teaching with regards to photo processing this has proved a real lifesaver.

Although I have blogged a couple of these images before I think they work well as a threesome, particularly with the twin towers in the middle. Again this is another small step forward towards doing things with more artistic merit than just landscapes. By trying to think this through as a piece of wall art I think the three images together work much better than they do individually.

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Caution: artist at work


This week has been a very stressful week work-wise for reasons that are too complicated to go into here. But it’s Friday so time to forget about it until Monday inexorably comes around again. I had a really nice email today from an old friend who used to be a professional photographer many moons ago (in the days of film) but, in his own words:

I fell back into design because people started being able to do what I was doing on the computer and I wanted to catch up. So I ended up putting my camera down and shamefully never picking it back up again.

Now this person is now a very talented graphic designer and layout artist with his own business but he has decided to pick up the camera again and invest in some new kit because he wants to do this professionally again. The icing on the cake for me is that has been partly inspired to do this after reading my blog, which is actually pretty cool. At the risk at this sound like a bit of a love in he said in his email that:

I’ve loved your blog though because its about looking and learning, … you are starting to notice the world through a different eye, seeing things that others don’t, noticing that even the most mundane scene or object has ‘something’- the domino picture the other day for instance I thought was sublime- its not technically your best picture, but nonetheless not any weaker because of it

When I started writing this blog that was all I wanted to achieve. To have someone who is a successful artist in their own right say something like that about my photography is really encouraging. Of course, its not all good news. The Fractalius plug-in did not go down well, and he’s also very ambivalent about the use of spot colour, although appreciate that  it has its uses when done subtly.

In my defence, the fractal effects were just me messing about with a new toy really. I certainly wouldn’t consider either the Odeon image or the Orang-utan stunningly good in their original form… Indeed, with regards to the image on the blog last night, the background to where the ape was sitting is a horrible puke greeny mustard colour so I just wanted to concentrate on the ape and get away from the distracting surrounding wall. I have a friend, another pro photographer, who thinks spot colour is an abomination. Personally, I think it’s acceptable when used more considerately and sometimes it does work. Such use of effects and Photoshop filters does polarise opinion though… As you know I dabbled in HDR photography for a while but soon dropped it for something a bit more natural. Art is always in the eye of the beholder. I like the oppressiveness of Rothko but cannot see the point of Jackson Pollock for example. In photography, some effects work and some don’t. I have had positive and negative comments about all the pictures I’ve done where I have deliberately manipulated the image.

Its very easy to get hung up on other people’s opinions; whilst one friend didn’t like the last couple of pictures, I am doing a print of the Orang-utan picture for someone else whose opinion and feedback I value and have also agreed to let another friend use the Odeon picture on a campaign leaflet (she is running for local councillor. We all like different things, otherwise life would be very boring.

Of course the true artist here is my daughter (pictured). That’s proper art using paint and brushes and stuff and she’s actually pretty good (at least that’s what we were told at parents evening last night). It’s the weekend, so that’s it for now. Hoping to get out at the weekend and add to my alternative Chester pictures but until then, have a great weekend

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We are all made of stars

Never forgetfractal

Something a bit different tonight and I’m afraid its going to be a short post as Match of the Day starts in 30 minutes and I want to see how my team gets on having just sold its star striker. The photos this week have been a bit grimy and urban so I wanted to try something a bit different. Also, I have been messing about with a new plug-in filter for Photoshop called Fractalius. It’s really hard to explain what this does other than it introduces fractal patterns into your photographs to produce results that are more loose in terms of photography and push it more towards illustration. As regular readers will know I do not have an artistic bone in my body, certainly in terms of painting or sketching or pottery, etc; and, whilst I like to think that I have an eye for what is artistic I could never create an original work of art myself that did not involved the use of a camera.

Now I have no wish to overwhelm the blog with fractalised images (as I did with HDR many moons ago) but its something I have enjoyed playing with and I’ll probably post some more experiments to my Flickr stream. This is the abandoned cinema I mentioned in previous blogs this week. The original picture is here for the traditionalists:

Never forget

I had it in mind that I could perhaps bring a little bit of the stardust back and I’ll leave it up to you to let me know if I have succeeded or not. It’s such a shame to see a glorious art deco building like this boarded up and of all the lame quotes that Odeon could have left on the front this one is really rubbish. I would have preferred ‘See You Next Wednesday’ but only film nerds like me would that get that joke. Anyhow, plans are afoot to maybe turn this building into a theatre/cinema/arts venue, unless the evil council gets its way – the preferred option is a new building on a car park on the city’s outskirts. This building is crying out to have new life poured into it; ideally an arthouse cinema/theatre/gallery space but who knows what will happen. It will probably end up as a Weatherspoons…

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Sometimes they come back…


The title of today’s blog post is a title of a short story by Stephen King but it seemed to fit in well with the topic of today’s blog. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, sometimes it is very hard to see the wood from the tress when it comes to photographing stunning scenery; there have been occasions when I have literally taken hundreds of photographs and, as any pro photographer will tell you, you have to take hundreds in the hope of getting the one photo that is right. For a long time I used to agonise about all the awful pictures that I took; images that were under or over exposed, or badly composed, or badly cropped, or had the camera strap visible in the shot, or suffered badly from camera shake because I had failed to set the aperture or shutter speed correctly; pictures where the subject was yawning or cross-eyed or blinking; pictures where what I saw when I took the photograph just doesn’t seem to be there once the image is viewed on-screen. It was very heartening to slowly realise that ALL photographers, both amateur and professional, have the same crises. You cannot get a perfect image every time, you will cock up, and the only way of learning how to cock up less in the future is to make the mistakes in the first place. I once wasted a whole days shooting by having my camera set on the lowest possible image quality setting (I had been putting stuff on ebay the night before).

The best advice I have had as an amateur is to check the camera settings before taking any picture. Is the aperture or shutter speed correct for the image you want? Is the ISO (which changes the cameras sensitivity to light) set too high or too low? Is the white balance set correctly? Do I need to bracket the exposure (i.e. correct for harsh light such as snow or bright sunlight coming through a window)? I try to answer these questions but sometimes I just get lost in the moment and hope that things are going to turn out OK. Many a time I have viewed a spectacular image on the cameras 2” viewing window only to find it blurred when looked at full size. Also, there is a temptation to delete images that you are not happy with on the fly, as you take them, which must always been resisted. An image rejected in the field in harsh sunlight or under rainy overcast skies might not sing until you have looked at it full size and had the opportunity to crop and tidy up.

Digital photography has enabled photographers to do things in minutes which used to take hours in the darkroom but it is still a laborious process sifting through hundreds of images, deleting some, ignoring others and getting all excited about a view. Thus, I regularly go back to previous shoots to see if anything has been missed or passed over. Also, as my processing and post production skills have improved there are opportunities to fix things that maybe I didn’t have the confidence or time to look at before.

As you have probably guessed, this is one such image. The pictures I took on Crosby beach in January this year are amongst the best I’ve taken. There are hundreds of them. This was one that I rejected almost immediately – the exposure was wrong, the colours were muted and I thought it a bit dull (you may still think so). Going back I thought I would have a go at fixing the exposure and the tone and boosting the colours and lo and behold the picture came alive and revealed its hidden depths. Suddenly the cranes of the Liverpool Port authority were visible on the horizon, suddenly the angry blue/purple of the clouds that I was sure had been there when I took the picture were back. And from a picture that was definitely in the ‘meh’ pile emerged an image that I now really like. Now of course I have had to use Photoshop to boost this picture but not a great amount and I believe it still holds true to what I thought I was capturing when I took the photo. In the past I have dabbled in HDR (some of you like it, some of you don’t) but that does not apply in this case. There is no manipulation other than correcting exposure and tone and lifting the colour. HDR has its place and I am a fan of its judicious use as a technique but after my initial experiments when it was all new and exciting I am now moving back towards more natural photography and I think it shows in my pictures from the Lakes.

So, the messages are:

  • Make lots of mistakes, criticise yourself and learn from the experience.
  • If advice is offered from another photographer take it. 99% of pros and amateurs I have met have been helpful, supportive and willing to explain/teach.
  • Never delete images in the field – always take them home and review them on  a large screen.
  • Don’t be afraid to use software to process your photos as long as you are true to what you wanted to capture (unless you are deliberately  going for an arty or otherwordly feel.
  • Write a blog or keep a diary to keep track of your progress (and try and update it more than I have been doing of late).
  • Let time pass and go back to old images, you’ll be surprised what you might find.

Here endeth the lesson. I hope you like the photograph and please let me know via the comments button if you think it was worth saving or not. Thanks…

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Dream a little dream…

DREAM, originally uploaded by Zardoz67.

After the foray into agit prop last post it’s back to the world of photography for the first blog post of March [as an aside my last post failed to rally the masses as it looks like 6Music is to close]. I have recently come to the conclusion that I need to take more photographs, buoyed by recent developments in my life photography wise I should probably be doing all I can to improve my technique and widen my fields of ‘expertise’. This is difficult at the moment given the full time job, dark nights and awful weather but thankfully Spring will soon be upon us. Spring and Autumn are probably the best seasons photography wise, although Winter can be great if snow puts in a performance. It’s not that I don’t like Summer, it’s just that harsh sunlight brings a new series of problems that need combating. That said though it’s the best time of the year for stunning sunsets.

I am aware that I am waffling and contradicting myself again, so apologies. Last weekend was not ideal for taking pictures – dull, overcast, rain – but in the spirit of doing more I headed out (as you do) to an reclaimed industrial wasteland near St Helens. ‘Why,’ I hear you shout with incredulity ‘would you want to that?’; well the answer is today’s photograph…

A couple of weeks ago, as you remember, I stayed in the Hard Days Night hotel in Liverpool. Amongst the usual array of toursity bumpf in the room was a leaflet on Dream, a sculpture by Jaume Plensa on re-claimed ground near St Helens. Why, hadn’t I heard of this? After all St Helens is less than half an hour away? It looked impressive in an angel-of-the-north type way. Shouldn’t the installation of a giant sculpture of a head have received more coverage? If it did then it must have passed me by for until I read about in that hotel bedroom I had never heard of Dream.

The sculpture is very easy to find (if you have a satnav at least) and dominates the skyline [Again, why is it not more widely known]. It’s a short walk uphill from a pub car park to the sculpture itself and all I can say is that it is well worth a visit. The head is of a young woman with her eyes closed but it’s dimensions are as you see it here (i.e. the head is tall and thin and appears stretched to the naked eye). Of course, as you walk around it you get entirely different perspectives. Oh and it is HUGE.

Whilst I was there I encountered lots of other people, although surprisingly I was the only photographer not using a camera phone. Given the overcast sky the pictures weren’t great and I intend to go back when the weather improves. This image has been tone-mapped slightly to give the clouds a bit more depth but I think it’s quite impressive. The piece itself is quite beautifully serene and contemplative and it was good to get away from the mad whirl of recent events, if only for a couple of hours.

This week has started badly. More tyre blow outs (back wheels this time). Really stressful week at work. All building to the official ‘opening’ of my small exhibition in Didsbury on Friday evening which I must admit to being a bit nervous about [recurring dream about people pointing and laughing not a good sign]. On a better note, the photos from the tapas bar shoot have been well received, the website is under construction and should be up and running soon with a gallery of my photos (at which point I will share a link).

Anyway, that’s enough for today. If you ever find yourself near St Helen’s go see Dream. It really is very impressive.

One man and his dog (and Gormley)

Man and dog and Gormley, originally uploaded by Zardoz67.

The more observant among you will have noticed that I changed the layout of the blog. One of the great things about WordPress (apologies for the shameless plug) is that idiots like me can construct a photoblog and get it up and running in seconds. This new theme is a bit more contemporary and, dare I say it, a bit more sexy; not to mention modern and shiny looking. Nearly a year ago, the pro photographer that I spent a day with urged me to start writing a blog or diary as it was the best way of tracking my progress. This was the result and, after only 9 and a bit months, it has already proved its worth in terms of generating interest and meeting new contacts.

One of the other new-fangled inventions that I use regularly is Twitter. Now Twitter is one of those things that you either ‘get’ or ‘don’t get’. I know many people who use it brilliantly to make people laugh (@serafinowicz, for example), to make people angry about the Daily Mail culture that we are now living in (@antonvowl, @uponnothing), to promote local businesses and things to do with the kids on a wet weekend (@didsburylife, @kidsguide, respectively). Twitter is a very powerful tool and there is also a thriving community of photographers using it to promote their blogs, point people towards their Flickr streams or just share photographs with friends. Yesterday I read a brilliant blog post on why photographers should use Twitter and you can read it here. Many thanks to @smashandpeas for the original blog post and @LightStalking for pointing me in its direction.

It is often said (and I am sure that its a sweeping generalisation) that young people don’t get Twitter; in fact I read recently that the average age of people that tweet is 31 which would seem to support this view. And while it is true there are a lot of ‘I am having my lunch’ or ‘I am sitting on the bus’ tweets there is also a lot of laughter, discussion, thought provocation, bubble pricking, truth-finding, channelled anger, political comment and, yes, really great photography. Twitter only works if you are focused on getting your message across as concisely as possible (there is a 140 character limit on all tweets) and have something interesting to say. People who say nothing apart from telling you what they have had for lunch are often cut loose (or unfollowed) and it is these people who think that Twitter doesn’t work, is pointless or will contend that it’s a passing fad. I myself must hold my hand up and say that I am guilty of tweeting the mundane but I try to be funny, witty and erudite most of the time.

The Twitterverse (sorry, but I couldn’t think of a better word) has real power; think about the political dissent in Iran – it is only via Twitter that we know that there is a young, switched-on, tech savvy generation of Iranians that do not agree with their political leaders on every issue; think about how Jan Moir of the Daily Mail was exposed as a homophobic bigot following Stephen Gately’s tragic death.

It is thanks to Twitter, or more importantly my friend @uncouthamerican, that I am in the position of framing some of my photos to hang in a small gallery space. This is proving to be a very difficult process as I just cannot decide what to include. I find myself changing my mind on an almost hourly basis. Pictures that my wife really likes I’m a bit less confident in and vice versa. Should I try and theme them or is an eclectic mix better? To try and help make the decision I asked friends on facebook to suggest their favourites but this didn’t really work either as everyone suggested different pictures and pictures that I hadn’t even considered. It seems that beauty or ugliness for that matter really is in the eye of the beholder and this was proved beyond doubt with the reaction to my lighthouse picture (the one where I was playing about with spot colour) which people either loved or hated.

Thankfully, there are a few pictures that everyone agrees on and this seems to be one (sorry I’ve taken so long to get to this point). It’s probably not the most striking of the pictures that I took in Crosby but it is probably the one I like the most. I think, and this is only a theory, that it’s the human element that lifts it. I took this picture on one of the coldest days of the Winter and although I was on Crosby beach for almost 3 hours saw barely a living soul apart from this man and his dog. Presumably a Crosby resident he must be as used to the Gormley statues now as if they have always been there. And while I, the visiting photographer, was marvelling at their beauty and power – especially when coupled with stunning winter skies – the dog walker shrugged his shoulders, pulled in his neck against the cold and carried on with his 4-legged friend. In other words, I think that I might have made a decision about one picture at least.

Another Place

Seul contre tous, originally uploaded by Zardoz67.

So there I was. Saturday 2nd January 2010 on Crosby Beach, Merseyside. Sub zero temperatures. Water up to my knees, no wellies, no gloves, fingers so cold that I could not feel the shutter button to press it. Was it worth it? I think so. For once I am not going to waffle on. I am proud of this photo and if I take another one half as good in 2010 then I’ll be very happy.

Anthony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’ is an installation consisting of countless statues of the artist (although all are tagged and numbered) spaced out along a huge stretch of North Sea beachfront in Crosby. Some are always visible, others are almost always submerged and can be viewed only when the tide is out (like the one pictured). The location is industrial, with wind turbines and dock cranes at one end, but the effect, especially in fading light on a cold Winter’s day is magical. If you live in the North West and haven’t been then why the hell not.

Again I seem to produce my best pictures by the sea… maybe there’s something in the genes (my surname is Nelson after all). I hope you like the picture. Comments are welcome

Banksy: Artist or vandal?

Banksy rat, originally uploaded by Zardoz67.

Now before I even start this post I should say up front that I don’t even know whether the picture of a rat in my image is by the famous, yet elusive, street artist known as Banksy. To me it certainly looks like his work as featured in his marvellous book ‘Wall and Piece’. Also, a quick Google image search suggests that it is indeed his work.

This picture was taken in Liverpool in July and I suppose is a counterpoint to my previous post about how the city is being transformed. In that post I stated that you don’t have to walk very far from the newly transformed Liverpool to find the Liverpool I remember from when I lived there in the late 80s. The rat is certainly in keeping with the building on which is painted (stencilled?) and as the building is up for sale and redevelopment continues one wonders how long will it be there?

Of course you could argue that the rat is probably worth more money now that the building on which it is painted. Would any developers see this as an investment? Or could the building be demolished whilst at the same time preserving the wall as piece of art in its own right. I must admit that the title of this post is probably a little bit Daily Mail (in that they probably see Banksy as a vandal). I, however, am firmly on the artist side of the argument and I find Banksy’s work to be funny, audacious and thought-provoking in a way that is missing from a lot of modern art. The fact that the press have gone to such great pains to ‘unmask’ him, and the chutzpah by which he has semi-successfully managed to elude them, also adds to the mystery. Although he has now moved on to exhibiting successfully in galleries (his recent exhibition in Bristol was smuggled in under cover of darkness with most of the gallery staff completely unaware that it was happening) I like the ephemeral nature of Banksy’s street art. Many of his works have already been destroyed or painted over. As a photographer I have at least captured his art at a fixed point in time (as have many others).

Last time I was in Covent Garden, London, I saw a market stall holder who was basically making money selling mounted and framed photographs of Banksy to tourists. I wonder what he would make of such an enterprise. Would he give a toss? It’s something I would ask him if I could. Anyhow, here’s my photo of someone else’s piece of art.

As you can probably tell this is another HDR image which really brings out the detail of the static elements (the rat, the red paint on the wall). I was not intending the car to be in the shot but it drove through as the timer was counting down and in the end didn’t turn out too badly. I have had to retouch the car a bit in Photoshop to repair some elements (HDR is not good for moving objects – although I have recently discovered a good cheat that will make life easier) but all in all I think it works and the movement of the car is a good counterpoint to the static buildings. Also, I like the fact that the rat appears to be watching the car as it passes.

Hope you like it. Today’s picture was a conscious effort to get away from the flowers and landscapes