Tag Archives: seascape

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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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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Moving forwards


As the end of April approaches it would appear that I am now a quarter of the way through a post a day for 2011. To be honest I never thought that I would make it even this far so I’ve surprised myself. The hardest thing about this whole process is deciding which pictures to blog and how much to write. I must say that taking on this challenge has focused the mind in terms of pictures AND words. So I thought it was maybe time to take stock of recent developments; it has been a pretty busy year thus far, mostly because of the enforced blogging but also in terms of developing an audience for the photographs, no matter how small.

  • I’ve recently set up a gallery on Society6, an on-line artists collective. It is from here that I had a print accepted for sale by the Urban Outfitters print shop. Over the last few years, I’ve been asked on several occasions to upload photographs to such sites and also to photo libraries (and even created my own rudimentary website) but with no interest generated in terms of sales. Society6 appears to be different. Not only am I in awe of some of the talented individuals in the community, particularly in terms of graphic art, but I’ve also been heartened by the response to some of my work. And yes, I have made some sales, particularly from the aforementioned print that Urban Outfitters have optioned. Despite the fact that it all works on commission, it is the artists themselves that get to set the commission rate; so in other words I can set a commission and let Society6 handle print, format and despatch of the pictures. This sees me generating real, tangible sales for the first time online and to be honest it’s rather exciting that somewhere in the world, probably the US, there are walls with my photographs hanging on them. With this in mind I’ve been concentrating my energies here of late and I would recommend the experience to other photographers/artists/crafty people out there. The rewards may not be great just yet but if I can build a presence and get more work accepted for the various affiliate print shops then this could become a means for financially sustaining my hobby, which is all I’ve ever wanted. Most importantly, all copyright remains with the artist so I am free to sell the same works elsewhere should I so wish. This has led me to consider abandoning Flickr, especially given recent coverage of abuse of image rights (by the Daily Mail you will no doubt be unsurprised to learn).
  • In other news, I’ve been asked to photograph another wedding (my third) in July and on this occasion the approach has been unsolicited (i.e., the other two weddings that I’ve photographed were family of close friends and a work colleague [and friend], respectively), which means that it is not the wedding of someone I know. This is good as means that someone has seen my photographs and liked them, but at the same time daunting as they are unlikely to give me the leeway that I may have got previously.
  • Also this year, I had two photographs shortlisted for a national photography competition and even though I didn’t win this would seem to suggest that I am moving forward. Said photographs (and others) have also appeared credited in both Cheshire Life and Lancashire Life magazines.
  • Some photographs that I took for the website of a furniture shop in West Didsbury, Manchester have been used (again credited) in a lifestyle magazine; what was particularly pleasing about this is that the shop-owner wanted to use my pictures as the ones taken by the magazine’s photographer were not of the standard he expected.
  • I have put in a submission for exhibition space in Manchester for 2012 thanks to a contact made on Twitter.
  • Finally, I have continued to receive help and support from a great many friends – old, new and virtual – some of whom are rather surprised (like me) that I am doing this at all, let alone that I don’t suck at it big-time (as my children would say).

It’s only when I write this down that I can actually see the progress made in the first 4 months of this year alone. Hopefully I can keep it going for another 4 months and do another recap at the 2/3 stage of the year, after which I will have photographed that wedding and made my annual pilgrimage to Glastonbury. Apparently, I am pretty expert at non-promotion and wallowing in self pity. This post is an attempt to buck the tend. Onwards and upwards…

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Popularity contest


As I was out last night I have the penultimate episodes of The Killing to catch up on so I thought I’d attempt something suitably dark and Nordic. Incidentally, if you do like dark Scandinavian crime and/or ghost stories I can highly recommend Johan Theorin’s book The Darkest Room, the second of his series of books about the island of Oland, which is set in a remote lighthouse. Regular blog readers will no that I have photographed Talacre lighthouse before and I used one of my pictures from last November for yesterdays blog.

Yesterday, as I was doing my crash course in photography for two willing students, I thought it might be a good idea to get some practical picture taking in and Talacre seemed ideal as its only half an hours drive from my house. I am glad we went as it helped me explain all sorts of things in terms of composition, exposure compensation, etc but while we were there we started to amuse ourselves by counting photographers. As the light faded and families left the beach they were replaced by middle-aged men with tripods (and yes that did include me). In total we counted 12 or 13 photographers in the space of about half an hour. It was like that scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds. All it needed was a climbing frame. There was lens envy and wariness aplenty.

So here lies the problem. Places, such as Talacre, are now over photographed and to do it justice therefore I have tried to attempt something different here. The colour version of this photograph is quite good, especially the sky. And a lot bigger. Here I have cropped about 60% of the original wide angle image away and put my money on the evening sky being just as spectacular in black and white. Whilst it undoubtedly is  a picture that has the lighthouse in it, it’s really a picture of the sky. I think it works and my quality controller (who I also happen to be married to) prefers this one over the colour version so who am I to argue.

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Very, very short blog post tonight as I am off out ( yes, AGAIN!) and only just got in after a fun afternoon teaching two very lovely people how to use their new digital SLR before they head off on a round-the-world-trip-of-a-lifetime. Am I jealous? No! Well yes I am actually  but I have to pretend I’m not. Anyway, they seemed to appreciate the lesson imparted and even paid me for the privilege! Result! After a couple of hours theory we headed into North Wales to Talacre (pictured) to try and put the theory to some practical use. They claimed that they could already see the difference in their pictures (although they could have been lying). Anyhow, this all came about due to the magic of the internet and social networking and I am amazed at how smoothly it all went; especially the fact that the students’ gratitude was genuine. Maybe I’m not too bad at this after all. I certainly know more than I thought I did.

Don’t forget to look out for the supermoon tonight!

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Aground 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…

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The cruel sea

storm clouds

Being British, as I am, I have a bit of an obsession about the weather. We all do. Mainly because it’s so unpredictable. Just as you think that Spring has finally arrived it then leaves again as if it has remembered that it has left the oven on at home. Regular Glastonbury goers will discuss the weather for months in advance; it has become a communal experience. Weather prediction websites are pored over, even though there is nothing we can do about it. A wet Glastonbury can be hellish – think the Somme with vegetarian food – whereas a hot Glastonbury also has its problems, namely peeling skin and sun stroke. Weather plays a big part in the life of this sceptered isle I call home.

It has to be said though that certain parts of the country are hardier than the rest of us. This picture was taken on Bamburgh beach in Northumberland. Last August. Yep, that’s British summertime distilled right there. Sitting on the horizon you can just about make out Holy Island. But wait, what’s that over to the left. Could it be that two people are actually making their way into the sea? One with a body board. When I was working on this image my wife suggested getting rid of the people to provide a straightforward seascape with foaming waves and angry clouds but I felt it better to leave them in. They add scale and context. They deserve praise and recognition for venturing into the North Sea under that sky. Despite it being August, I myself was wearing wellington boots, a fleece and a waterproof jacket. The thought of swimming never crossed my mind. But then I am not from the North East but the North West and it has to be said that they are hewn from sterner stuff. Maybe it’s conditioning? If you are forced into the North Sea enough as a child on regular occasions perhaps your resilience builds up; much like Grigori Rasputin made himself immune to arsenic poisoning by taking small doses himself at regular intervals so it is with the North Sea. Anyway, I think they deserved to be left in the picture.

And why am I banging on about the weather? Because today’s planned portrait shoot today starring yours truly was postponed due to the rain. It rained all morning. To be fair, this afternoon was brighter but by then the decision had been made to cancel. It’s going to be re-arranged for March, when hopefully Spring will have remembered to come back, and remembered to lock the door behind it.

This photo was originally a 12 x 8 standard size with much more beach and cloud. On cropping to a square though I felt that it got a little bit more claustrophobic which is what I was after. It’s another one of those pictures that I had forgotten about, so its nice to do something with it. The sea is lovely and green but its the angry clouds that make it. Believe it or not it rained soon after. Who’d have thought it?

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Buoy oh Buoy


Bet you thought I wasn’t going to make it today and to be honest this is a bit of a cheat as it’s an old picture that you may have seen before. However, there is a reason for blogging it as it has been voted … drum roll please… the best picture of a buoy on Flickr in 2010! No, really. OK its not exactly the Oscars and its a very narrow field of specialty but I’m still quietly pleased. Mainly because the decision was made based on a poll – which means that other photographers voted this picture the best of 2010. And yes, even though its a very niche group, this means an awful lot. It means I must be doing something a bit right. So there you are. Of course this also means that I am going to be taking pictures of buoys whenever I can  in an attempt to retain my crown in 2011.

So a short blog post today so I can bask in the glory. The picture itself was taken this time last year on a cold January Sunday on the mud flats at Thurstaton on the Wirral. Of course when I took it, it was the boat and the clouds that I was really interested in. But you know buoys, always forcing their way to the front of the picture…

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Wherefore art thou?

_MG_0532 square

Time for this blog to tackle the big question, namely ‘Is Photography Art’? The answer of course is ‘Yes’ so perhaps I should re-phrase the question:  Is My Photography Art? This is a bit more difficult to answer. You see, dear reader, I have always without question for my entire life been absolutely, apocalyptically awful at art. I have never been able to draw, or sketch or paint. I have a CSE grade 2 in art and I achieved this by bribing my younger brother to do my art homework for me. I was hopeless. My self portraits were the stuff of legend; they had a Picasso quality but not in a good way; for a start I didn’t even know who Picasso is. Fortunately, over the years, I have developed a deep love of great art from all schools and enjoy visiting a great gallery as much as anything; art history interests me as it is indelibly linked with real history. A period’s art sheds light on a period’s political and social development like nothing else.

So why the rumination on art? Last weekend I sold my first pictures whilst exhibiting alongside another photographer in a small gallery space at WestFest 2010 in Didsbury, Manchester. The idea was that my colourful landscapes would provide a counterpoint to the black and white, grittier images of Manchester taken by my fellow exhibiter Stephen Campbell. At first it didn’t go well. I thought my mistake was that my images were from all over the UK, whereas Stephen’s were from Manchester. My worst fears were realised when someone walked in and almost immediately bought £290 of Stephen’s work. But then, slowly, something wonderful happened. My pictures started slowly to sell. And, what’s more, it seemed that the people who liked my images didn’t buy Stephen’s and vice versa. Not one person bought a picture from both of us. In other words, people know what they like.

By the end of the weekend I had sold 8 pictures which was a result (and all the money has gone in the camera fund jar) but really it wasn’t about the sales. It was about all the people coming in and, unprompted, saying nice things about the pictures, asking questions about where they were taken and what equipment I used. This was genuine interest from the great British public and it felt marvellous. This brings me back to the title of the blog. One interested woman asked me ‘Are you the artist?’, to which I replied ‘No, but I took these photographs’. After she had gone I was castigated by a friend (thanks Thea!) who insisted that this was a stupid thing to say and that, to paraphrase Withnail and I, ‘of course your the bloody artist’. The thing is, this is not something that I have considered before. With my past history of artistic endeavour it seems ludicrous to describe myself as an artist, let alone ‘the’ artist.

Debate has raged for decades as to whether photography is art. The naysayers suggest that there is no innate creativity involved. The camera does the hard work and the photographer is just the lucky soul who was in the right place in the right time to press the button. Others argue that anything can be art (like Duchamp’s urinal and Emin’s unmade bed) and that photography is a natural extension of the artists repertoire. Just as a painter uses brushes and paints, a photographer uses a camera. I can see both sides of the argument and am still deliberating about the big question. If I am an artist then its for the first time in my life that I have excelled at anything creative. But I now cannot shake the knowledge that there are several households in Manchester that as I type have my pictures on the wall because they liked them and want to look at them. This makes me very happy and very proud. This is why I write this blog.

P.S. The picture accompanying this post is another from Northumberland and shows the walkers path over the sands to Holy Island (the poles in the distance). The wooden construction is there to rescue those poor souls who don’t find out the tide times or who misinterpret the information to find them caught by the oncoming sea. The picture was taken just after the tide went out again uncovering the causeway and the route across to the island. Another picture of this was in my exhibition but didn’t sell; perhaps its natural market is in Northumberland?

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Figures in a seascape


OK, this is going to be a very quick blog post primarily because it’s late and because I have not posted in a while. Many posts ago I figured out that I’m a landscape photographer and hopefully this picture illustrates why. Landscapes are where I’m happier; I have total control over the camera and can set things up. Landscapes are usually predictable. They do not move (apart from clouds) or head off at speed in a different direction. They don’t mind being photographed. I suppose you could say that this is the easy option but I have proved to myself of late with the wedding photography that portraits are not beyond me. I am always drawn back to landscapes and seascapes.

One of the reasons I agreed to photograph the wedding in Northumberland is the opportunity to capture scenery such as this. It was taken on the causeway on Holy Island literally 20 minutes after the tide had receded meaning the island was no longer cut off from the mainland. If you look carefully you can see walkers and the odd vehicle heading across the causeway. But of course this picture is all about that sky and the fluffy white clouds counterpointed by the darkening storm in the distance. At this size I can’t really do this picture justice. It needs to be enlarged printed and framed for the full effect; something I intend to do very soon.

Tomorrow and the day after (Saturday/Sunday 4th/5th September) I am heading off to Westfest 2010 in Didsbury to exhibit some of my latest landscape and hopefully sell a few prints. If you are in the area pop down to 212 Burton Road (Didsbury Life offices) and have a look at pictures both by me and by another talented photographer Steven Campbell. I personally think his pictures are really, really great and the idea is that his striking monochrome images of Manchester will provide an interesting contrast to my colourful landscapes. That’s the theory. I’ll let you know how it goes. Please do come and see us if you get the chance. The above picture is not in my exhibition, only because I have only just downloaded from the camera. I wish it was but maybe next time.

I’ve never said this before (probably because I’m not very good at this sort of thing) but needless to say all the pictures on the blog are available to purchase as prints/wall art. Just drop me a line… OK, its late and I need to get some sleep; this week has been a good week photowise and I’ll hopefully have more to say next post. I also realise that I have not done one of my more personal, rambling posts about life, the universe and everything of late. Maybe this means I’m happy? Never fear though, normal service will be resumed…

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