Tag Archives: black and white

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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I don’t take many pictures of people and those that I have taken have been wedding photographs or performers at Glastonbury. I am yet to get into street photography, primarily because I find it difficult, not to mention rude. I know that if a stranger took a photo of me in the I’d want to know who they were and why they were taking it. Another thing I don’t understand about street photography is that it is drummed into you in books and magazines that when taking pictures of people you need to get permission or a release form or both, certainly if you intend to publish your image. Yet street photography is currently very in. But do street photographers seek permission for the candid intimate shots they capture? If not, what makes street photography different to portrait photography when it comes to permission etc.?

So, here is a rare picture from me of people. And since it is from a public performance then I think I am OK to use it. It’s from the mystery play of The Creation that was part of the recent Chester festival. The production featured children from local schools of all ages and the dancers here were from the Hammond School, which is Chester’s principal school for ballet, dance and the arts. I actually really like dancing in terms of going to a party, getting drunk and po-going to indie records but I have a very mixed response to dance as an art form. My wife loves the ballet whereas it leaves me cold – I am more of a words and pictures and music kind of person. Yet there I was in a tent in Glastonbury watching experimental Russian dance theatre, which I thoroughly enjoyed, even though it scared me to death.

I can however appreciate the talent, the athleticism and the beauty of dance in short bursts. The dancers in this photograph were portraying Adam and Eve in the mystery play and even a curmudgeonly old bit like me had to admit that the dancing on show from these two performers was superb.

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Harbour wall


I have just been trawling through old posts (pardon the pun) as I was sure that I had blogged this image before but it seems not.  It was taken on the harbour wall in Craster, Northumberland, which is one of my favourite places in the world. I like the texture of it, especially the ropes in the foreground. Craster is famous for its smoked kippers but these are lobster pots. Bit of a celebration tonight as I have finished the wedding photographs and its taken less than two weeks – all thanks to a lot of help with my processing and my guest blogees. Much appreciated. I now need to get back to taking some new pictures for myself, i.e. for pleasure. I am starting to get a feel for what sells in my Society6 studio [free worldwide shipping until Sunday folks] and what doesn’t and my strategy is now to plan my photographs more rigorously and maybe even come up with a long-term project or signature. We’ll see how it goes. It will be good to get back to taking pictures for myself. It’s far less stressful.

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Wedding nerves

Dean and Alex (105 of 459)

It looks like I am nearing the end of the wedding photographs. That is I have culled and chopped and tweaked and agonised and then repeated the same actions all over again. I know that I am supplying too many but I think its up to the bride and groom to pick the ones that they discard. I am terrified that they won’t like them. Don’t get me wrong, some I am really pleased with – including this one, which I think manages to convey the nerves of the wait before leaving for the ceremony more than a picture of a face could. I won’t be blogging any of the other wedding photographs as it would not be fair but I felt that this one was suitably vague to give you a hint of what I have been up to whilst all the guest blogging was going on. I will let you know what feedback I get (if any). The nerves apply as much to me as they do the bride in the picture.

All told I am looking at about 450 colour images and I have converted about 300 of these to black and white. I have no idea if this is typical, but as I say I am certain this is probably too many. My wife has told me that I should brutally cull them down to no more than 100 and she is probably right but when you have been tasked to capture a whole day, from wedding make-up to the speeches I feel that my cautious strategy is better. In other words, its the old adage that if you throw enough mud at a wall some of it will stick. Fingers crossed for a positive reaction!

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Back to basics

Mima 6 b&w

Another guest post from a friend – I’m Sophie and I’ve know photographer Mark Nelson since about 1995, when we first worked together (I know he’ll be cringing at me calling him a photographer 😉 [yes that is right but I’m not going to argue with a guest blogger] ). We were partners in crime at two different publishers and ate a lot of McDonalds together. That’s me on the left. I like this shot because, apart from the fact that Mark took it and my daughter is looking beautifully smiley in it, it also makes my nose look relatively small, which is no mean feat. Thank you, Mark, for finding my best angle!

I often book photographers for my work (in PR) and over the years I’ve spent plenty of time selecting shots for publication. I know what works – however, I still have no idea why. I’ve sat in on numerous shoots at locations varying from unglamorous construction sites and factories to a literally glamorous and slightly uncomfortable experience at a topless shoot for a lads’ car mag. I’ve even been an emergency foot and bum model for cheap shoes and cut-price jeans (RIP TJ Hughes) and a ‘blur’ in a home interiors mag.

I’ve been a fan of Mark’s photography since I first saw it – I think what has impressed me most is that he has picked up his photographic skills with almost no formal training, yet produces beautiful, creative shots at a professional level equal to much of the photography I’ve seen (better than some of it, in fact). I love the fact that Mark pushes himself to take on new challenges which sometimes go against his self-effacing tendencies. I felt guilty and proud in equal measure when I dragged him to a charity fashion show a few months back, where he got some amazing shots under pressure.

photoI don’t know how anyone achieves this combination of artistry and technical knowhow – just mention apertures and I glaze over. My own photographic skills are nil, for instance, yesterday I tried to take a picture on my phone of a black dog in artificial light with no flash. What I ended up with looked like a furry lump, as you can see (this was one of the better shots).

So I’d like to challenge Mark to take a successful shot of a black dog (this black dog, preferably at a canal side pub of my choosing) within the next couple of weeks, and then to explain how he managed to get the shot to show actual body parts and eyes properly. If he doesn’t have time, some tips on getting a better shot myself would be appreciated!

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Glass bw

An old photo revisited in black and white. I think I may have blogged the colour original way back at the start of this craziness but I can’t find it in the archive. No matter, it was so long ago that I probably didn’t do my best job on it. Besides, all that glass and steel looks so much better in black and white, like some nefarious clinic from a David Cronenberg film.

Still ploughing through the wedding photos and have finally whittled down the 700+ to approximately 300 – far more manageable and a weight off my mind. Guest posts still gratefully received… Contact details can be found in the ‘About the Author’ tab

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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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Boat noir

Boat noir

Awful pun, but then you’ve probably come to expect it from me by now. Another old picture that I have attempted to do something different with; one of a series I took in Coniston last year. The picture I took immediately before this one has just become my most popular on Society6 but that was landscape and this was portrait and try as I might I just couldn’t get it to the level of the landscape version; it just wouldn’t work, primarily due to overhanging trees which required removing from the top portion of the image. So because I could not replicate what I achieved with the previous picture I decided to go to the other extreme i.e. black and white, dark and grainy. Same place, same subject, taken just a few seconds later, yet an entirely different feel to it. It’s nowhere near as good as its better-looking sister but in the right place I think it could hold its own. As my confidence has grown in terms of processing my photos I am slowly realizing that a single photo can have a multitude of lives depending how you process and crop. The file sizes on my new camera, when shooting in RAW mode are HUGE: about 25 MB per image; this means that when I take a picture now I can crop it down pretty small and still get an image of a decent size. So one picture may yield several different and distinct images through careful cropping. It opens up a whole load of possibilities. So today is not so much an image rescued but an image repurposed for a different aesthetic; I’m not sure than grain and landscape go together – it’s a much more urban feel – but I quite like it. Rules are there to be broken.

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As I said on Saturday, and given the dearth of Glastonbury, pictures I have been revisiting some old pictures of late to try and wring some aesthetic value out of them. This is a picture from our recent trip to Bala and again shows the lake (Lyn Tegid) and mountain in the background that feature in the ‘Twaflete’ post from last month. It is also from the same set of pictures that I took of buttercups on the lakeside, which quite a lot of people seem to like. The colour version of the photo is nothing to write home about but I did like the contrast between the dark blades of grass and the bright yellow of the buttercups so I thought I would process a black and white version to see how things turn out. I’m pretty pleased with it and consider it an image rescued . It was taken using the trusty 50-mm prime lens with a wide-open aperture of f1.8, hence all that lovely blur – or bokeh – if you have been paying attention. And yes it was deliberate. File under ‘arty’.

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