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
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.
Gerald seems an unlikely name for a boat. I mean, why would you call your boat Gerald? It’s more suited to an elderly gentleman. Unless this boat was named after an elderly gentleman. Anyway, this is a picture of a boat called Gerald, as indicated by the painted metal buckets (?) perched on its roof. Most narrow boats seem to have these but I have no idea what they are used for. Perhaps someone can enlighten me? I always thought that they might be fire buckets but I have seen them with flowers in. Or are they just to carry water? I took this picture very early in the morning and I think you can tell. The muted light from the sun rising in the distance gives the colours a bit of a boost – they wouldn’t look the same in bright sunlight. So, another canal picture… maybe I am turning into a waterways photographer if such a thing exists? Too many questions in this blog for my liking already so I think I’ll stop there. Next challenge is to avoid pictures of canals, particularly in black and white, unless that is I decide not to…
OK, OK I admit it. Too much on tonight and when you are attempting to blog every day for a year then sometimes corners must be cut. This is a black and white version of the picture from earlier in the week because YOU the reader demanded; well at least two people said that they would like to see it in monochrome. Is it better? I’m not sure. It’s certainly more dramatic but I don’t think it has the colour version’s sense of early morning optimism. It is now almost a picture about working rather than pleasure. I like both versions but it does goes to show the difference feeling that a black and white picture can convey compared with colour. Although I prefer the colour version it’s probably this one that I will upload to my Society6 store. Experience so far shows me that everyone would rather have a black and white image on their wall than colour. Is it because it’s more dramatic or is it a perception of being more ‘arty’? I’ll leave that for you to ponder as my dinner’s ready…
Back out into the outdoors for today’s picture and I must admit to really liking this one, despite its simplicity. It’s a very English picture – witness the overalls and the cloth cap – and one that I think captures life on the canals. This was taken very early morning as the boats were leaving the marina. I took it from the footbridge that crosses the canal, under which the swan from previous blogs was nesting. When I took it I was looking for some depth of field between the two boats, which I think I have got; however, it was only when I looked at the picture full screen that I realised the focus should be elsewhere. The undoubted star of this image is the cat perched in the doorway, which I didn’t even know was there when I took the picture. Another happy accident.
I find this picture very calming and really quite romantic. I’d like to know where the man and his cat are off to next; it seems like a very restful way to spend your days. The smoke adds to the effect. It seems to me that this picture is all about the little details, the ripples on the water, the oily rag in the man’s hand, the flat cap and that cat. Lovely
As I mentioned in the swan’s nest post of a couple of day’s ago, on Good Friday I was rudely awoken and so nipped out to take some pictures, specifically to catch the swan on her nest while she was still there. Given the unseasonal weather it was quite a bright morning, with a slight mist and this was the first picture I took on arrival at the canal basin. If you are interested the swan is nesting under roof with pillars in the centre of the image, just to the left of the footbridge.
Mornings and early evenings work well for photographs, particularly landscapes and I like the stillness here. The reflections work well and the single plume of smoke adds a bit of character, and I think the misty haze adds a bit of further character. This image has been cropped to 20” by 8” which is not a standard size but I have come to a bit of an epiphany. Photographs exist to be printed out, framed and hanged; therefore I had a look at the website of my preferred printer to see their standard dimensions for wall art… Lo and behold (and this is probably blindingly obvious to all but me), standard dimensions for print exist well beyond the dimensions I have been using. So, since I can print and frame this picture at this size I have cropped it accordingly. Another illustration of my ability to get constrained by the rules.
I’ve gone with the colour image here as the canal boats are so brightly coloured that I wanted to preserve this; however, as usual, I have also processed a black and white version. I’d be interested to know which works best. I have an opinion but want to make sure that it tallies with consensus.
Today has been scorchio! But this picture was taken last weekend when sunshine and showers were the order of the day; hence the rain on the surface of the pond. Photography in the rain is usually a bad idea but in this case I think it works, helping to beak up the reflections on the water. Busy day today. Shopping for birthday presents, Roald Dah’s Twisted Tales at the Liverpool Playhouse (excellent, even though we initially went to the Everyman by mistake), pub tea and home! Hope your weekend is going well and that you won some money on the Grand National. I didn’t. Hence the sad picture.
Another one-word blog title and another revisited picture. Well, yesterday’s blog produced a fair amount of comment and advice via the usual channels; as usual most of it was conflicting and some of it was very helpful and informative. Whilst I wrestle with the dilemma of whether I am a fool unto myself allowing my photography to be used for free (it seems that I am) it is also enlightening to realise that times are tough for professional photographers at the moment, which is why many are drifting into wedding photography. I sometimes lose sight of the fact that I do actually have a full-time day job, and a job that is pretty well paid. True, its not what I envisaged myself doing but then that applies to most people I know. I do need to explore other avenues – such as stock photography – but then i am mindful of the fact that I have stock photographs out there that have never produced a single sale.
I think I’m reaching a point at which I need to book some time off and get my house in order. Be it commissioning someone to build me a proper website or pro-actively sourcing wall space or maybe even blogging elsewhere. And what has spurred this? A friend of mine (Adam Christopher – his blog can be found in my blogroll) who works in the same industry (at the moment) also writes novels. In his spare time. In fact I think that it would be safe to say that he has levels of dedication and a drive that I can only marvel at. It is difficult for me to work, eat and update this blog before I run out of time. Admittedly my friend does not have kids [that’s my excuse for everything although I wouldn’t change them for the world] but that is just a cop out on my behalf. His zeal and dedication and belief are breathtaking. I was lucky enough to be asked to beta read a novel he was submitting and I foolishly said yes, despite having never beta read a novel before. I really enjoyed the book and yet when I sent back my comments I was uneasy that I was being too harsh, too critical. Thankfully, the friendship survived and I am currently in the middle of beta-reading another book for him. And why I am I telling you this? Because today he announced that he has got a two-book deal (with an option on a third) and that the book I read Empire State is going to be in print and on shelves early next year.
This thrills me. First, because he so deserves it . Second, because the book features a photographer called Nelson (Briefly. In one chapter. who may admittedly end up cut in the edit). I think that this shows that if you really want something you need to work at it full time. And hold down a full time job and I am not sure that I have that level of dedication. Hence the need to set some time aside and just go for it. However, at the moment I am runaground and listing to one side; the depression of earlier in the year has gone – this I credit to the running and the subsequent weight loss – but I feel that I have channelled so much energy into snapping out of the terminal malaise that I have let the photography slip. This needs to be corrected (but not in The Shining sense of ‘corrected’). So onwards and upwards! I am inspired by a knowledge that hard work does pay off and that you need to put the hours in. Whether I will or not is an entirely different matter…
Back into colour today and a bit of good news. This picture will soon be gracing the pages of the April issue of Cheshire Life and will be the fifth photograph of mine that they have asked to use in the magazine in the last year. Of course this isn’t paid photography but the way I see it, it’s the perfect way of getting my photography out to a wider audience beyond the 100 or so people that read this blog on a daily basis. I know that it’s a two-way deal; the magazine gets photography for free and I get a picture credit and a url link to the blog/website. This strikes me as being a good thing. Of course I have had many people telling me that I should charge a fee or say no but the only way to build awareness is to get your photographs in front of the widest possible audience. Call it a loss leader; as the old adage goes there is no such thing as bad publicity (or a free lunch). Besides, there is something really quite wonderful in seeing your photography in print. I have now had photographs reproduced in Cheshire Life, Lancashire Life and The Guardian and each time has thrilled me to the core.
Hopefully there will come a time when I can charge for my photographs and I have already undertaken some successful commercial photography thanks to the partnership with Didsbury Life. But at the moment I am still working 9 to 5 in the day job and to be honest its going to take a lottery win or a windfall of some magnitude to ever be able to devote my life to photography full time. Unfortunately mortgages still need to be paid and children clothed and fed and watered – our juice bill alone would shame a small country. Whilst I have sold pictures via exhibition where there was a ready-made audience walking past the door I have only ever sold a couple of pictures online. Even though traffic to my website and the blog is pretty good I need to do something a bit more professional rather than asking people to contact me if they would like a print. It’s all a little vague. And while plenty of people take the trouble to say they like my photographs (admittedly mostly friends or social network contacts) , this is yet to translate into any meaningful sales. I recently toyed with the idea of hiring some exhibition space at the Chester Food, Drink & Lifestyle exhibition next month in a concerted effort to get some more pictures framed and printed but on reading the exhibitors pack I realised that I just can’t afford it. Which is why, when Cheshire Life ask for permission to use a photograph I invariably say yes. Primarily because they always ask so nicely and agree to whichever picture credit I ask for. And its a way of getting my photographs seen.
So, if you are a Cheshire based person pick up the April issue; maybe write to the Editor and ask where you can get a copy of that wonderful photo of the Nantwich canal at sunset :-). One other reason to get it is that they have asked for a mugshot to go with it. I’m not particularly photogenic, although my wife claims that all this running is hastening the re-emergence of the fabled cheekbones of yore.
There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
OK. It’s Sunday night. We’ve all got work in the morning. Shall I just make it brief? Although what you’ll all be doing now that Lark Rise to Candleford (or LR to the C as my brother calls it) has finished I don’t know. Tonight is definitely going to be an early night as I am absolutely shattered. The building of the garden fence took most of weekend and I have to say that working all week in an office followed by two days manual labour is not really how I saw last week panning out. Given that it’s Sunday and I’m pretty sure that no-one will be reading this I thought I’d do something a bit more avant garde today. Usually, when I play around in Photoshop the response is less than enthusiastic but in the absence of any real training I quite often like to explore and mess about. And to paraphrase the above quote there’s nothing quite like messing about in Photoshop for a photographer.
This is a photograph I took of the marina that leads onto the Pontcysyllte aqueduct. I thought that the life rings in the foreground made for an interesting image and liked the lines that the narrow boats made into the distance. However, when I viewed it on the computer it was a bit washed out and no amount of processing could lift it ; the sky in particular was overexposed. Knowing me I probably forgot to change the camera settings… I am trying to get better at this. When a camera has such a huge amount of functionality you really do have to plan each shot. Often though I will take a picture and then forget to change the settings back. Thankfully most cock ups can be put right in the digital darkroom.
So for this image I decided to make it simpler using one of Photoshop’s ‘Artistic’ filters. This was the result I liked best. I suppose you could argue for hours over whether a photograph made to look like a painting is still a photograph but as far as I’m concerned the only thing that matters is whether it works or not. I hope this does but you may of course disagree, as many of my reader’s quite often do; its certainly an improvement on a not particularly impressive photograph but you’ll have to take my word for that. Comments welcome is anyone is around to read this. But if you are slumped in front of the TV, glass of wine in hand, trying to blot out the fact that work starts again tomorrow then I don’t blame you if you haven’t got the energy. I know exactly how you feel. Anyone know a good remedy for blisters?