Tag Archives: river

Across the Mersey

Above_us_only_sky

This is a photograph that I unsuccessfully entered in the recent ‘Capture Liverpool’ competition, which was part of Look 11, the on-going Liverpool photographic festival. You were only allowed one entry and I chose this one purely because I thought it offered something unusual in that I was attempting to capture the WHOLE city (plus Birkenhead on the other side of the water). Since I have got the ‘thanks but no thanks’ email re the prize winners I thought I might as well blog it. Liverpool is a city that means a lot to me as it is my alma mater (see I’m right posh me) and the place where I first lived away from the family home. Admittedly it is a very ‘unique’ city, a city that tends to look outwards towards Ireland and America rather than inland to its neighbours. But that is no bad thing. My love of water and seascapes can probably be traced back to the years I spent in this city and it’s a place I visit often, being only 35 minutes away. With hindsight its probably not that great a photograph but its emotional resonance holds; also it was taken from a very precarious position at the end of one of the breakwaters in New Brighton and I’d like to think as a result it’s pretty unique (although I’m probably wrong).

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Why I take photographs

Thurstaton

I have been really struggling today in terms of what to blog about. There is so much going on at the moment – multiple revolutions in the Middle East for example – that I feel unqualified to comment on them and certainly would not know where to start in terms of illustrating my thoughts on the chaos . In terms of posting every day I am now 52 days in and this is the first time that I have genuinely struggled and thought about packing the experiment in. To be honest, I can’t believe that I have gotten this far. I suppose I could just post a picture and be done with it, but that would be the easy option and since starting to write the blog the writing has become just as important as the pictures. As I have said before, I’ve never written a diary or attempted anything like this before. Maybe I would have had the Internet come a little earlier; it has certainly facilitated both my photography and my written musings. I have always enjoyed writing but lack the drive or dedication to write properly. I know people who have written/are writing novels and their drive and dedication never ceases to amaze me. I find sitting down in front of this screen every night to write something for the blog arduous at the best of times and I’m just rambling. To sit down knowing that I needed to write several thousand words and juggle plot and character development, etc would just fill me with fear and dread. I tried to write a short story once and had a really good idea for it. Three pages in I was really pleased with myself and then I stalled. I had no idea where to take it next. I think I’m better at abstract concepts/ideas and have a feeling that if I had any self confidence whatsoever that I would perhaps have been OK at advertising pitches or coming up with ‘high concept’ movie pictures. Perhaps in a parallel universe I am Don Draper [fictional] or Don Simpson [real – but Google him and his life read like fiction]?

In my hour of need I asked friends via a certain social networking site what I should write about. Thankfully, as my friends are witty, intelligent and lovely people I got lots of suggestions but one really struck me [take a bow Lisa]. The suggestion was this:

How about what drives the urge in you to create photos in the first place. You’ve passed it off as a midlife crisis thing, but it’s more than that – and why photography and not writing a book, or painting or forming a middle aged Dad Band.

What I liked about this was the suggestion that my photography was ‘more’ than just a midlife crisis. If you read the ‘about the author’ page that heads this blog then I do indeed state that picking up a camera was a midlife crisis. It certainly felt like that at the time as I had never owned a camera before other than a Kodak instamatic. The other examples I give – buying a motorcycle, forming a band, getting a tattoo – are things that friends of mine have done in their late 30s/early 40s. But why photography? To be entirely truthful as I have said above I don’t have the dedication or intelligence to write a book. Friends that do say that ‘books write themselves’ but I am not convinced. Painting was out too as I do not have an artistic bone in my body as my CSE grade 2 in art will attest. I’m pretty sure I could take up abstract art but I’m also pretty sure that my heart would not be in it. I have very funny ideas about abstract art. I think Mark Rothko with his oppressive blocks of colour was a genius but that Jackson Pollock was essentially talentless. Of course, its all subjective. As for forming a band; again I am just not musical. In fact I am tone deaf, can’t sing a note and was thrown out of the recorder group at school for not being able to play ‘There one was a windmill in old Amsterdam’.

Why photography indeed? First up. I had a very real desire to do something creative and so photography was the only option open to me [I did consider poetry but then gave that up as a bad mistake after reading Ted Hughes and Phillip Larkin for inspiration]. I also admit to being fascinated by the technology; when you have grown up in the era of sending 35-mm film to Boots for processing the world of digital photography is akin to alchemy. The fact that you can do on a computer what used to be done with chemicals in a dark room is amazing to me. What I like about the comment above is the assertion that my photography is more than I assert it to be. The inference there is that I must be quite good at it (although I’m sure my friend will correct me if that is not want she meant). When I had my small exhibition I struggled with the question ‘are you the artist’? and I have discussed this dilemma at length on an earlier blog. Am I an artist? I don’t think so. Am I photographer? Most definitely. Photography can be art but just because some people (most of them friends) have my pictures on the wall doesn’t mean I’m there quite yet. At the end of the day, it is after all the camera that puts in the hard work; sure I decide what to photograph and then try and drag a decent image out of what I have taken using my digital box of tricks. When I think of photography as art I think of Henri Cartier Bresson and Annie Liebowitz and  Robert Capa to name but three).

The real answer as to ‘why photography?’ is intangible. Like climbing a mountain ‘because its there’. I take photographs to capture a moment that has gone and will never come again. I take my best photographs when I am on my own. There is a thrill to being in a certain place at a certain time with no distraction and catching something in a split second that no-one else was there to witness. There is a further thrill to sharing it with people and getting feedback. The picture for today is an old one, taken on the mud flats at Thurstaton on the Wirral last February. I am hoping that it makes sense in light of everything that I have said above and it sort of encapsulates what I am trying to say. I like its clarity from the shells in the foreground to the small boat in the top right. I like the reflection and the ominous rain clouds that are moving in from the right. It takes me back to the moment I took it on a cold winters afternoon, knee deep in estuary mud. It’s an image that can’t be recreated. That’s why I take photographs.

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Walking the dog(s)

IMG_6446

First up I should probably come clean. These aren’t my dogs. I don’t own a dog and I never have owned a dog. At  this moment in time we have four chickens and 1 guinea pig. We used to have a fish and a rabbit but they recently shuffled off this mortal coil (the rabbit is officially living a life of luxury in the the allotments down to road, gorging itself on carrots; the truth is closer to my last blog post). I do not come from an animal family and, given that the UK is often portrayed as a nation of animal lovers, this has always been a constant source of embarrassment. Over the years people have said to me ‘what do you mean, you’ve never had a pet’ but its true. Actually, I lie we did have a goldfish from the fair but it died after two days.

Since I have never had a pet  I find it difficult to connect to people that do. I have friends who love their cats like children; I once had a work colleague who mourned the death of her cat for 4 days and was unable to come to work. At this point I should point out that I don’t intend to scoff or pour scorn here; I understand totally how people can become attached to the animals that they have raised and nurtured, but because its an experience that I never had I feel out of the loop. Cats to me are aloof. Dogs are smelly and stupid. Rabbits are suicidal (or at least the two my children have owned were). Guinea pigs are pointless. Fish even more so. This is all down to me and my deprived upbringing. My brother and I were never allowed pets; I assume because of the cost, the upkeep, the cleaning. My mum always said that she did not want animals in the house (even though as she had a dog when younger, a Highland Terrier called Rex who makes the odd appearance on old black and white family photos).

Of course, my children have always clamoured for pets from a very young age and whilst I appreciate that its a great way to teach them about mortality I still have to admit that I would rather they weren’t there. However, we now have chickens, one of which – a blackrock for those that are interested – is officially ‘mine’. Now, I don’t consider the chickens to be pets. First, they are useful ( 4 eggs every other day at the moment), quiet, self-sufficient, reasonably low maintenance. I actually wanted to blog a picture of the chickens en residence but was unable to get one that I really liked; despite spending half an hour in the chicken pen trying. For some bizarre reason I have bonded with the chickens and I have no idea why. They are not attractive, or cuddly or loyal. Maybe, I’m a farmer at heart 🙂 Or maybe their lack of neediness makes chickens the perfect animals to keep. Whatever it is the eggs are marvellous, particularly in omelette form.

And today’s picture? A long walk on a Sunday afternoon in the Cheshire countryside brought me to the ‘Roman Bridges’ over the river Gowy, near Waverton. These two were just sat in the water waiting for their owners who were obviously somewhere back along the footpath. I like this picture because it makes me laugh and foe no other reason. It almost makes me wish I had a dog. Almost…

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Ghost boats

Ghost boats, originally uploaded by Zardoz67.

This week is speeding by in a bit of a blur and I am having difficulty finding the time to slow down and enjoy the view. Not only am I extremely busy at ‘real’ work it’s also been quite hectic photography wise, what with the exhibition going up in Didsbury and my first proper photoshoot at Pinchjo’s tapas bar on Monday. To say I was nervous would be a bit of an understatement and so I had everything planned to the nth degree: extra memory cards, tripod, monopod, flash gun, etc, etc. However being the amateur that I am I forgot one vital piece of equipment (no, not the camera even I’m not THAT stupid). I forgot the attachment that screws the camera to the top of the tripod… Now when you are shooting inside a restaurant, at night, in subdued lighting this is a quite a problem.

After 5 minutes of panic I calmed down enough to ask the Didsbury Life people if they had a tripod and could I borrow it. Thankfully, the answer was yes on both counts. The shoot went OK and some of the colours were pretty amazing but given that this was a commission I am not sure I should be blogging any of the images until Joe, the owner of the restaurant, has seen them. Thankfully, the restaurant was open only to a select invited gathering who knew they were there to be photographed so all was well (although I think the free [and gorgeous] food and proseco might have helped oil the wheels of conviviality). So, disaster narrowly avoided and another experience to tick off on the imaginary ‘things-a-photographer-should-do’ chart.

I still have a load of pictures from the weekend to process which have sort have gone on the back burner in light of all the above. So today’s picture is from several weeks ago and is another one of the pictures I took on the river Dee in Chester, during January. So why this picture now? Primarily, at the moment, for its stillness and calming influence. I can shut my eyes and remember the conditions in which it was taken: early evening, heavy snow, total silence, on my own. Also, its another one of those pictures that has taken on a second life. I initially dismissed it out of hand but when I asked friends to suggest photos to include in the exhibition, this one kept coming up. Therefore, I revisited it and converted it to black and white; in fact the print that is hanging on the wall in Manchester now is the black and white version and it looks pretty good. This is the original version though and thanks to everyone who prompted me to go back to it. If I had to sum it up in a word it would probably be ‘ethereal’ and that would probably be the wrong word anyhow.

That’s it for now but before I go a reminder that my small exhibition of pictures is currently hanging on the walls of the offices of Didsbury Life, 212 Burton Road, West Didsbury (opposite Folk bar).

My photographs are being exhibited in the vicinity of a wonderful painting by a proper, talented artist, Lisa De Prudhoe. In order to raise money for the UNICEF effort in Haiti, this painting is to be raffled and can be seen here. Very soon you will be able to buy a virtual raffle ticket online – however, in the meantime, if you’re near to Didsbury you can buy a real raffle ticket from either Didsbury Life or the Wendy J Levy Art Gallery, Warburton Street, Didsbury Village, Manchester M20 6WA [0161 446 4880].


Among my swan

Dee swans, originally uploaded by Zardoz67.

Have not had much time to blog of late as work has kicked back in so this will probably be a short place-holding post until the weekend. This is another of the pictures that I took last Saturday that I am happy with. I actually really like wildlife photography but being a city dweller have not had much opportunity besides bugs and insects in the garden and the occasional bird. It’s something that I intend to do more of but it’s a skill that takes practice, patience and a really decent zoom lens. I have a zoom lens but the motor is a bit shonky and it’s a bit difficult to get pictures with it as I keep having to manually adjust it. Top of the wish list then is now a decent zoom and a dedicated macro but who knows when I’ll be able to afford them?

In the spirit of proactivity I have entered some more competitions this week and I was also delighted to find out that a national photo library wants to licence 50+ of my images. Of course, this means nothing in itself; it’s all very well being accepted as good enough for inclusion but if the killer is if no-one buys your images. Still its a move in the right direction. Also, now the thaw appears to be in place I hope to get around to meeting up with that agency in Manchester I told you about.

So, to the picture. It’s of the same two swans that were sleeping in the previous post, their peace having been disturbed by a man in a motorised dinghy. I think its quite a nice shot with good perspective, a decent reflection – in the background you can see that the river is still frozen – and some subtle ripple effects. Hope you like it. And the blog post title? It’s an obscure music reference. There will be a prize for the first person to spot it without using Google or Wikipedia. Or then again maybe there won’t…


Sleeping swans

Sleeping swans, originally uploaded by Zardoz67.

So this weekend in the spirit of behaving like a proper photographer I got up very early on Saturday morning (6 AM as it happens) and headed off into town to try and get some pictures at that special time an hour before sunrise and just after. There was still snow on the ground and parts of the river were still frozen and I was emboldened by the great night’s photography I had experienced in the blizzard conditions of the previous Tuesday. Now, as regular readers will know, 2010 is the year of positive thinking but sometimes things just don’t go as planned. Don’t worry I am not going to descend into yet another pit of self-doubt but I got the general feeling on Saturday morning that something was not quite right.

Not sure what I can put it down to… the ungodliness of the hour, the freezing conditions, the pissed-offness of losing yet more lens caps; a slight miscalculation in lens choice and camera setting; yet try as I might I had the overwhelming feeling that things weren’t going too well. This was confirmed when I got home to discover that of 150+ photographs taken there were only 20 or so that I was remotely happy with. I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t upset about this but, in the new spirit of positive thinking, I began to reason that surely 20 or so good photographs is better than no good photographs; after all, don’t professionals take reels and reels of pictures to get the shot they are after?

I do think that I have a tendency to be over critical of my own efforts and I have an annoying habit of considering every photograph I look at on other peoples’ photostreams on Flickr as being better than a single one of mine. I don’t know if this applies to other amateur photographers but when it comes to my own pictures I have difficulty seeing the wood from the trees; I find it very difficult to critically appraise my own pictures and I have lost track of the times that my wife has said ‘oh, that’s good’ just as I was about to hit the delete button.

This post is not meant to be negative, in fact far from it – it simply serves to recognize (at last) that sometimes I have good days and sometimes I have bad and that even the bad days can produce images that I am happy with… such as this one.

Taken very early Saturday morning, the sun not yet risen behind the houses on the other side of the river. The two swans were obviously fast asleep, on a river that was half frozen. I got a few good shots of them before a man disturbed their peace my motoring up river in a dinghy and breaking the ice. I like the light in this picture and the houses reflected in the water but most of all I like the swans, totally at peace, tranquil and mysterious. Comments on any of the above ramblings welcome as always


View downriver on a Winter’s day

View downriver, originally uploaded by Zardoz67.

So, first blog post of 2010 and still no snow in Chester… My city appears to be the only place in the UK where no snow has fallen over the Christmas and New Year period. Inches of the stuff have fallen just 10 or 15 miles away but nothing here. That said, heavy snow is forecast for Wednesday of this week so I shouldn’t speak to soon (although the Met Office also predicted heavy snow for the week just gone which failed to appear).

2010. Blimey. 2009 went very quickly. I started blogging in May so am pretty impressed by the amount of posts I have managed to rack up and some of the pictures have been pretty good as well. During the Christmas break I have been beset by friends and family urging me to make 2010 the year that my photography takes off; however, I am not too sure on how to achieve this. I think the plan should be to start small, maybe try and sell photos at local art fairs, keep an eye out for local competitions and if possible find somewhere local that is willing to display some of my photographs – So, if for some reason you are a local business from Cheshire, UK (or even if you are not) and have stumbled upon this blog then please get in touch if any of my pictures interest you… Of course another route open to me is self publishing. Providing I can save some capital then maybe producing my own cards, calendars, postcards, etc may be a way forward.

I am not kidding myself that this is ever going to be much more than a hobby but, as I said at the outset, if I can at the very least finance some lenses and a camera upgrade this year then I will be made up. There have been some low moments this year so 2010 is going to be the year of not feeling sorry for myself, of enjoying my photography for what it is and of not descending into a pit of self doubt. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions per se but this is as close as I am going to get to one.

I also need to find new avenues to promote my photographs; Flickr is great but not particularly secure – many amateur photographers have had pictures stolen and with no recourse. Of course, as soon as you post something on the Internet then it becomes known in the public domain and despite the fact that I assert my copyright on all my images (even if no-one wants them) it’s not hard for someone with a little technical nous to appropriate an image. Most people though are thankfully honest and supportive, such as the wonderful people at the Bollington photo blog who kindly asked permission to use some of my images here. A result of which has been more contacts on Flickr interested in my pictures…

So the first picture of 2010, taken on a Winter walk along the banks of the river Dee in Chester (note the lack of snow). I like the sky in this one and also, perversely, the giant hogweed (which is apparently poisonous).

This weekend, both the children were at their grandparents so on Saturday I took the opportunity to get out and about. As with my lighthouse pictures, the set of images that I am processing as I type this is another step forward in that I am immensely proud of them. Hope you agree when I start blogging them later this week…

Comments, as always, are welcome and Happy New Year to you all.