Let a horse whisper in your ear and breathe on your heart…you will never regret it.

I was recently transported back to my childhood when I found myself in the little town of Llanberis. As a child the majority of holidays and weekends were spent not far from the town and as the sun beat down on one of the warmest days of the year, memories of family (particularly my Nan), friends and lots of adventures came flooding back. However, as lovely as reminiscing is, I was here for a very different purpose on a Saturday morning.

I met Luisa earlier this year and learned that her photographic passion was horses and all things equine. We linked up through Facebook, so when Luisa put some feelers out about a possible opportunity to photograph horses, I jumped at the chance. That it happened to be in a location dear to my heart was an added bonus.

Arriving at the location, I was met by Luisa grabbing her breakfast from the back of her car, as she shared a few details about the day with me, I caught sight of two familiar faces and found myself enveloped in a group hug with Sharon and Sonia, I knew then it would definitely be a fun day.  A few minutes later and it felt like home from home as I discovered Nuala, Ann, Gary and Cathy were also in attendance. It’s always good to catch up with photo friends!

Dylan Jones runs Dolbadarn Film Horses, and provides horses for TV and big screen productions including Merlin, Game of Thrones and War Horse to name a few, and hosted the day from his family’s hotel. He joined us all for a short briefing session (resplendent in a very well-fitting costume!) and explained how the day would run, gave us a little health and safety reminder and shared the history of some of the horses we were to meet throughout the day. Of course, Diablo’s story touched everyone’s heart (he lost his sight in both eyes at a relatively young age), but I found it particularly poignant as we have our own little one-eyed warrior, our springer cross, Tom, at home.  During this time, MUA Niamh was working her magic on Amie and Molly, two of Dylan’s team of riders and she did a great job, I also had time to make new friends including Millie and her mum, Sasha, and Millie’s friend Milly (hope you followed that!). Millie’s website is well worth a look, I think she has a great future with the camera.

Having hitched a lift with Sasha and the girls down to the lake, we all waited patiently for the horses and riders to arrive and familiarised ourselves with the location.  It’s fair to say the mounting excitement was palpable and as the clip clop of hooves grew louder everyone reached for their cameras in anticipation.

Now I have always loved horses, although I’ve been a little wary (having been thrown from a horse many years ago), however I was not prepared for the wave of emotion that hit me when these majestic creatures and their riders lined up in front of us all. I felt a little embarrassed that my eyes were watering a little, but realised that I was in good company as Sharon clearly felt the same.

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For the next couple of hours, Marc and Odysseus, Dylan and Casquito, Amie on the legend that is Diablo and Molly with Harley worked tirelessly with the all of the photographers to make image after image, be it wandering through shrubbery or creating a splash in the pools much to the delight of on-lookers.

 

After a light lunch back at the hotel, we made our way up the lane to one of the fields where Amie and Titan (the naughtiest horse of the day!) helped us capture romantic horse and rider images, until Titan decided he’d had enough and made a bid for freedom, only to be thwarted by the closed gate. Ably retrieved by Molly, we tried a little longer, but Titan made it clear he’d done his bit, so Amie asked Molly to bring Toscano up in his place, what a stunning creature he was!

 

After Toscano, we wandered down to the menage to await the arrival of Beauty. With a wild mane and a glint in his eye, this majestic creature tore up the ring, rearing on command when asked to do so by Amie, to the sound of camera shutters clicking furiously.

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By now it was close to 3.30pm and we made our way back across the fields to wait for the final session of the day, but with the exception of Luisa, I don’t think any of us quite knew what to expect. First up came Marc and Amie, dressed in medieval style costume on Rabanete, a gentle horse who was happy to be loved by everyone.  Then Dylan appeared on a most beautiful grey, Valmorim. I think Val knew he was gorgeous, he was a very noble animal and strutted and pounded the ground with his hooves making it shake as he passed by the photographers.  Supported by a couple of fire artists to add to the ambience, Dylan and Marc demonstrated with ease how disciplined, calm and fearless the horses were when faced with fire and smoke.

 

 

The finale was quite simply breath-taking, so much so that I only took a handful of photos as was quite transfixed.  Dylan on Val proceeded to charge through a line of flames and it felt as though we were all on a film set. Val’s hooves thundered and he snorted and tossed his head proudly as he emerged through the flames as well as the smoke once the fire had died down. It was understandable that at this point, everyone put their cameras down and applauded the team for what had been the most wonderful day.

 

Throughout the day it was clear that both riders and horses alike were having fun. There was respect, trust, kindness and a lot of love between the riders and their horses, but particularly Diablo and Amie.

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All of the team were kind, accommodating and patient with the raft of photographers who attended the event and they worked hard to ensure we came away with lots of great images.

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I’ll close this blog by thanking everyone involved in making this event happen, riders, horses and photographers alike, but particularly Luisa and Dylan and I’m just putting it out there, I would love the opportunity to work with you all again in the future!

Until next time

Tracy xx

P.S. If you are a regular reader of my blogs you’ll know I like to share the love, head on over to the websites below, you’ll be glad you did x

http://www.filmhorses.co.uk/pages/default.asp

https://somethingfromthehart.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/GlamByNiamh/

http://www.justjones.photography/

Posted in Animal Antics, Creative Photography, Everything Else!, Fuji XT2 | Leave a comment

A weekend away…Rotterdam rocks!

Almost twelve months ago, my friend Tim and I decided we wanted to do a photo-shoot based on an iconic image by photographer Peter Lindbergh, you know the one, the five supermodels on the cover of Vogue magazine.  If you follow us both on social media you will know that we achieved that goal thanks to Georgia, Jaime, Rachel, Abbie and Ellie.  However, during the time it took us to bring it to fruition, Mr Lindbergh launched his exhibition which led Tim to suggest we should have a trip away to see it for ourselves. So that’s exactly what we did.

Arriving in Amsterdam and after a slightly eventful transfer to Rotterdam, we arrived at Hotel One in the centre of the city and checked in.  Dropping the bags in our rooms, we dashed out to find something to eat.  It appears that chefs go home around 11.00pm in Rotterdam, but thankfully we found a Chinese restaurant willing to serve us and a short while later, we all tumbled into bed.

I love waking up in a new city, there’s always a sense of excitement as to what will be discovered.  We all descended to the hotel lounge and tucked into a continental breakfast, mulling over the US presidential inauguration and what it may mean, one thing is for sure, the world is likely to experience some change over the next four years.

Bright blue skies, sunshine and sub-zero temperatures met us as we stepped out of the hotel as we made our way to the main event and of course, there were photo opportunities everywhere, however we arrived at the Kunsthal Art Gallery at 10.00am and headed inside.  Almost two and a half hours later, we had a cuppa in the café and reflected on what we all felt was, without doubt one of the best exhibitions we have visited full of iconic images and so worth the effort (Even Mr E agreed – so it must have been good).

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Our next destination were the rather surreal cube houses (Kubuswoningen), near to the market hall.  Designed by architect Piet Blom, these three storey homes are indeed cubes, tilted at 45 degrees – I have no idea how people live in them, or deal with the constant stream of curious visitors.  The horse-shoe shaped market hall is a very new building which was opened in 2014. It is a combination of office and residential premises on the outside and houses a very impressive food market within.  It would also be remiss of me not to mention the artwork which covers the inside of the hall, some 11,000 square metres it is a cornucopia of fruit, flowers and vegetables – it’s affectionately known as the Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam.

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Food in Rotterdam is a very cosmopolitan affair, with no obvious style which makes it typically Dutch, although croquettes seem to be very popular, we did find a very typical dish later during our stay, but more on that later.

Fast forward a couple of hours during which there was browsing of shops (very similar to back home) and of course more picture-taking, where I stumbled across a new model – not sure what he was advertising!

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Following a quick drink and a warm up back at the hotel it was soon time for dinner.  We realised our hotel was surrounded by oriental and Asian restaurants and decided on Vietnamese, on the basis that none of us had ever tried it before.  Of course, faced with the challenge of interpreting a menu presented in Dutch and Vietnamese there were a few problems and much changing of minds, particularly for one of our party.  Suffice to say the memory of dish 116 will stay with us for a very long time – Gail even has her own hash-tag now #116!. The food was however quite delicious when it came, fresh taste, lots of flavour, definitely recommended.  It was still early when we finished and we found a tiny little bar where Binky the Boston Terrier was helping(?) his owner, just 7 months old, he was having a grand time chasing a chew and shoes – just look at his little face.

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We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on Sunday morning and even though we decided on an early check-out, we were still hitting the streets at 10.00am. It was obvious that we had gotten our bearings on Saturday and we quickly found ourselves back at the harbour, where to everyone’s astonishment, the water had frozen. As we wandered along the front, the ice was moving and almost singing to us – I caught it on my phone (have a look on FB) and it sounded very odd indeed. It does however support my earlier observation that the temperature was sub-zero for the duration of our visit and I was glad I’d packed my vest!

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Peering into one of the maritime museum sheds, the door suddenly opened and we were invited in to watch a local blacksmith at work, whilst he did most of his explanation in Dutch I think we got the gist.

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A little further on we came upon the Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug) also known as ‘The Swan’ due to its’ graceful lines. Spanning the river Maas, it consists of four traffic lanes, two tramways, two cycle-ways and two pavements. I feel duty-bound to point out it was not Flint bridge as one of my friends Gill suggested via Fb following my uploading a photo and I thought it had a distinct look of New York about it (Do you recognise the couple in one of these?)

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A late lunch beckoned and we finally managed to get a table in ‘Syjf’, a recommended eatery. It was here we discovered a real Dutch speciality, ‘bitterballs’ and Lee could not stop herself from ordering some for us to try.  They were in fact similar to croquettes, deep fried and containing meat and cheese, very tasty, but what a name for a dish!

So, what did I like about Rotterdam? Everything!

It’s a clean, modern, compact city, easy to get around on foot, has lots of museums and culture, good food, even better beer and wine, but for me it was the people, a warm, engaging bunch, always ready have a chat.

Of course the highlight was the Peter Lindbergh exhibition at Kunsthal, and I’d seriously consider another trip back should another interesting exhibition arise.

Thanks to Gail who was an excellent tour operator, Tim, Eifion, Lee and of course, the current Mr E who exercised considerable restraint and only bought a single CD from a record shop – it was all in all a perfect short break with good friends.

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Until next time.

Tracy xx

 

 

 

 

Posted in Creative Photography, Culture, Everything Else!, Fuji, Holidays, Street | Leave a comment

Imagination is more important than knowledge…

Every time I sit down to write a blog, I am still amazed at the number of times I’ve been able to get out and about with my camera.  The world continues to turn, the day job is still busy, we’re travelling through autumn at a rate of knots with Christmas looming and the ironing mountain at Edwards Towers still needs to be done, but despite all of this, I still find time to enjoy my photography.

One of the things I love about photography is the way that it brings like-minded people together. As I’m writing this blog I’m also looking back at a variety of photo shoots I’ve undertaken and the people that I’ve met along the way. Never is this more true than the days and weeks which follow a photographic event or workshop. Models, make-up artists, dress designers, stylists and other photographers all play a part in my creative journey, yet our paths may never cross again and I am always left feeling thankful that we met. Even if some of them only grace my world for a short period of time, it feels as if they’ve all left tiny footprints in my life.

This weekend I had the absolute pleasure of attending two photographic events, very different in nature, but each one as rewarding as the other albeit in a different way.

If you’ve never heard of Walter’s Wardrobe I would urge you to go and track it down on social media. The brainchild of a remarkable young woman who has enjoyed a pretty stellar modelling career in the creative photography world working with people such as Brooke Shaden, Ben Von Wong, Lovegrove and McGillicuddy to name a few, Jen Brook has now turned her hand to organising highly professional, creative and exciting portfolio building photographic events. Drawing on her own experience, using her extensive network of contacts and I suspect a pretty persuasive manner, Jen has been able to run events in the most amazing locations including Allerton Castle, Wentworth Woodhouse and most recently, a private home in Yorkshire.

As Mr E and I drove along the M62 corridor on Friday morning the rain and fog made for a very challenging journey, however as we neared the White Rose county the weather picked up and the colours of autumn glowed along our route.

Reaching our destination I was very happy to recognise familiar faces, including Jane, this time with her husband accompanying her; a very dear friend and ace photographer (she is not only because her work is top notch, but because she made me look and feel amazing when I had a photoshoot for my 50th birthday last year) Jo Rutherford (check her out and look for her Alter-Ego Portrait series), along with her mate Donna (who was quickly added to the creative team) as well as Maureen and Lesley from another aspect of my photographic world. Greeted by Jen and her dad John, after a quick cuppa we were treated to a tour of the house to help us get our bearings, and start to formulate some ideas for the day ahead.

Jo and I agreed we would work together, and we were joined by the third member of our group, Deborah Selwood (another creative worth seeking out on social media if you get a chance).

First up we had the pleasure of working with the lovely (if slightly crazy but delightful) Charlotte in a dreamy ethereal pink dress created by designer Sharon Bowen-Dryden (as were all the dresses) with millinery by HF Couture (all millinery save the pom-poms). Working in the Turkish steam room was a real challenge, natural light was very limited albeit there was enough for beautiful portraits, and so we resorted to using flash, having to be very careful where we positioned the lights as they bounced off the reflective tiles all around the room.  Charlotte could so easily have been lost amidst the highly patterned decor, but with a little imagination, we were able to make sure she and the dress were the stars of the show.

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I was testing out my latest photo purchase, the Fuji 90 mm F2 lens, having convinced myself following a talk from Wayne Johns at Digital Splash, that it needed a place in my camera bag. It is fair to say that for portraiture, this lens is up there with the best of them, and is razor sharp. By way of a specific test, I cropped in on one of my photos and this is the result.  Make up for this look was by Sophie Battersby.

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I know I’m going to enjoy using this lens in the future. As our first session drew to a close, we were given the obligatory ten (or should that be Jen?) minute warning and set about returning the room to how we found it.

Every now and again I am reminded how vertically challenged I am (at my fullest height, I might just muster 5’ 5”), never was this more true when Siobhan introduced herself to us. She is a very statuesque 6 feet tall and she commanded the gold room with grace and elegance (well mostly!).  This room was beautiful, the ceiling which I forgot to take a photograph of was exquisite and the light through the long casement windows was just perfect.  No flash for me this time it was natural light all the way. I was intrigued by Siobhan’s unusual headpiece which was designed by Jen who makes pom-poms like a pro, but with Livvy Morewood’s flawless make-up, the result was a very couture look which I love.  Highlight of the session was my friend Jo being taught how to model by Siobhan, the very short video taken on my phone can be found on the Walter’s Wardrobe Facebook page. I don’t think the modelling community is under threat!

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We broke for a short lunch break and a well-earned cup of tea and I popped outside to enjoy a breath of fresh air admiring the garden and grounds which looked like a painting in the hazy autumn sunshine.

Our next location was the grand staircase leading into the main hallway and we were greeted by lovely Bethany a titian-haired model in a voluminous mint green dress. By this time we were starting to lose the natural light, my little Manfrotto Lumimuse light came in very handy indeed.

Once we’d finished with the stairs, we moved into a cosy sitting room filled with paintings and comfortable seats. I like the image of Bethany on the sofa reading, but my favourite portrait with the garden clearly visible through the window.

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Our final session was in the most wonderful library, surrounded by volumes, some of which were clearly hundreds of years old, the atmosphere was unlike any other room in the house. Elle-Beth patiently accommodated my request to once again ascend the library steps in order for me to channel my inner Tim Walker and make the image below.

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Now there’s one person I have so far failed to mention, cinematographer Devin Schiro is a great friend of Jen’s and had flown in from LA to capture this event and film for her. Devin is a talented filmmaker and his work can be found all over the Internet and is well worth a look.  I’m looking forward to seeing what he creates from this event.

He is also a talented piano player, as we were creating our images the sound of the piano washed over us adding to the magic of the location.  He was also kind enough to allow me to use him as a prop for one of my images, and as lovely as both the back of his head and his left ear are, I’m happy to confirm this is not his best side – his smile can light up a room.

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And suddenly it was 5.30pm and time to draw the day to a close, goodbyes were said and friendships formed and the wardrobe door closed for me for this year.

I cannot recommend these events highly enough, they are on a different scale to anything I have done before, well worth the investment and they make me stretch my creative streak. These days are full of inspiration, participation and collaboration and I am delighted with the images I made inside the wardrobe this weekend, I can’t wait to see what’s behind the doors for next year!

In contrast, my second event of the weekend was held at Cambrian Photography in Colwyn Bay and was a talk by fashion photographer Wayne Johns.  I recently heard Wayne speak at the Digital Splash event in Liverpool and was very happy to sit through his talk again, I found myself as enthralled as I had been the first time and managed to take even more notes and jot down some ideas for future shoots.

Wayne’s talk was followed by a practical session in the studio, and he took us through the lighting set up we would be using, it is true sometimes that less is more, the simplest set-ups often yield the most pleasing results.  The added advantage is I can try this for myself at home.  Model Romanie was a real trooper, fending off a nasty cold and was the epitome of a 1950s pin-up queen.  Once again it was a chance to test out the Fuji 90mm lens, and partnered with my XT2, it’s a match made in heaven.

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So there you have it, my most recent adventures.  I do have a few other photo-shoots I may blog about in coming days, time permitting, so be sure to watch this space!

Until next time

Tracy xx

P.S. in case you were wondering, there’s always a quote…

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Albert Einstein

P.P.S.

Walter’s wardrobe Credits:

Models: Siobhan Priest/Charlotte Atkinson/Bethany Bennett/Elle Beth

MUAs: Olivia Morewood/Sophie Battersby

Designer: Sharon Bowen-Dryden

Millinery and stylist: HF Coutoure/Jen Brook

Assistant: Donna Graham

Production: Walter’s Wardrobe Events

Posted in Couture, Creative Photography, Everything Else!, Fashion, Fuji, Fuji XT2, Style | Leave a comment

It’s the good life, to be free, and explore the unknown…

This line from the Tony Bennett song ‘The Good Life’ sums up last weekend and the second occasion Mr E and I spent time at ‘The Good Life Experience’ in Hawarden.  Very conveniently (for me), this is only a few miles from our home, within easy reach of the train station, a taxi ride away or, rather helpfully again, a lift from a willing nephew (thanks Al xx).  What this means, is that I don’t need to sleep under canvas and get to spend the nights in my own bed…although Mr E is desperate to ‘do the festival thing’ at least once!

Once again, we found ourselves driving the few miles to the festival with the roof down, and enjoying the late evening sunshine.  First stop was one of the most eclectic little bookshops I have had the pleasure to visit…Dylan’s Mobile Bookstore, filled with racks of books we never seem to see anywhere else…poetry, art, photography (of course!), welsh myth and legend, the list goes on, and just like last year, we took several books home with us later that evening. After a quick hello to Tom of Vinyl on Demand (VOD), we made our way to the food stalls and enjoyed the most fabulous south Indian chicken and coconut curry.

As we made our way to the main stage, we caught the tail end of a performance by gritty Manchester poet, Mike Garry. His rendition of ‘What Me Mam Taught Me’ a poem he wrote for his Mum’s funeral was both poignant and humorous in equal measure.

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Then it was time for the main event, John Cooper Clarke.  Amazingly, at 67 years of age, this punk poet machine-gunned his audience for over an hour, regaling them with anecdotes and poems since his career began in the early 70s.  Sometimes irreverent, sometimes sailing a little close to the wind, he entertained the packed tent with renditions of Evidently Chickentown, I Wanna Be Yours (used by the Arctic Monkeys) and of course, Beasley Street and left you in no doubt, you had witnessed culture at its’ best!

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Saturday morning dawned with the brightest blue sky and sunshine as Mr E and I hopped onto the train at Caergwrle and just twelve minutes later alighted at Hawarden, wandering down to the festival site.  We’ve both driven through the village countless times, but it’s not until you are on foot and your pace slows down do you see things you’ve never seen before (the water pump and the gateway to the ‘house of correction’ being just two of a number of interesting things).

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After a quick coffee stop, we killed time looking at some of the rather eclectic stalls in the Market Place and Makers’ Row waiting for a ‘ping’ on the phone to let us know that good friends Gaynor and Phil had arrived.  It’s fair to say that whilst Perryn and I had thoroughly enjoyed our first festival experience last year, this year was made even more fun by having excellent company to share the experience.

There were talks on a variety of topics, including bee-keeping (and honey whisky making ‘Bees’ Knees’ ); culture (Timothy Leary & KLF; Michael Morpurgo), cookery (Brazilian Chefs Samba Grill), floristry (Wild at Heart) and of course the Gin Palace where we sat in the sunshine whilst music from  the Flintshire Male Voice Choir and Booka Brass Brand washed over us.  We reached the conclusion that collectively we had experienced lots of interesting experiences we wouldn’t ordinarily come across every day.

The evening was a given over to a variety of music, DJ 78, Booka Brass Band, Diabel Cissokho – who played the most unusual stringed instrument we’ve ever seen (the Kora I think), Fanfare Ciorcarlia from Romania and toward the end of the evening, the Hooton Tennis Club (brilliant set!).  Given Perryn’s passion for music, I’ve learned that it pays to have an open mind when it comes to music…and I loved most of it.

Last year, I lasted until 9.00pm, when I realised I couldn’t walk another pace…this year, our pretty cool nephew (who had looked after all the dogs during the day) came to pick us up at 11.45pm…clearly I am getting used to coping with festivals (or I am sitting down a bit more and saving my feet!).

A stunning start to Sunday (here’s hoping for an Indian summer!) saw us once again driving to Hawarden, grabbing a coffee and a bacon bap before I set off to create a floral crown with Wild at Heart.  What a fabulous way to spend an hour on a Sunday morning, the floristry team were patient, sociable and incredibly encouraging, and I was pretty pleased with my effort.  I will be definitely be making use some of the techniques learned for props for photoshoots in the future.

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During my creative spell, Mr E attended ‘Howl Sixty, Ginsberg in Wales’…he was the first to admit it was a little ‘deep’ for Sunday morning! He then dropped in to listen to Hugh Miller talk about Japanese Wood Craftsmanship at the Academy… I was fortunate enough to join just before it started and we sat through a passionate talk about the Japanese approach to woodworking and design which inspired on so many levels.

Catching up with Gaynor and Phil, the guys went their separate ways, Phil to a talk on entrepreneurship, Perryn to another woodworking talk. Gaynor and I made our way to the gin tent deckchairs and enjoyed a wonderful hour or so in the sun, soaking up the atmosphere, talking to people who just stopped by to chat (and enjoying another gin of course!) to the backdrop of children laughing as they played on an improvised slide made out of hay bales, coupled with music from the main stage it made for a very relaxing Sunday morning.

We wandered down to the lake to watch the coracle regatta (think sailing in a walnut shell!), which consisted of racing and water polo and generally lots of fun.  Basking in the sunshine and enjoying a late lunch, it was soon 3.00pm and we said our goodbyes and set off on the short journey home.

So…we’re very tempted to book the ‘early bird’ tickets for next year…Cerys Matthews and Charlie Gladstone can you guarantee the fabulous weather again?!

Until next time

Tracy xx

Footnote:  As I hope my images show, the festival is a photographers’ paradise!  The majority of these images were taken using my Fuji XT2 with either the 16-55mm or 50-140mm.  It’s still early days but I already love the upgrade from the XT1, particularly the focusing paddle and the multi-way flip-out screen, I also like the locking dials which make sure I don’t inadvertently change my settings and the Acros B&W film simulation setting is rather nice too!

Posted in Culture, Dance, Everything Else!, Festival, Fuji | Leave a comment

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort

Franklin D Roosevelt’s quote was never more apt today as I stepped outside of my comfort zone and I experienced both!

I’ve been a subscriber to PurplePort for a couple of years, but it’s fair to say I’m not the greatest user of this intriguing resource for creatives.  More often than not, I forget about it until I get an e-mail reminder from the ‘purplebot’ when I am prompted to log in and I marvel at the wonderful images being made all around the world.

However a couple of weeks ago, I received a notification that someone liked my images enough to get in touch and ask if I would work with her.  I was flattered, but somewhat apprehensive, my previous experience of working with an unknown model was not a great success…in fact she never turned up, and it rather put me off trying again, but as I chatted with the young lady in question I felt sure that this would be worth trying again and we agreed a date when we could get together.

On arrival, I was met by Amy, pretty, tall, and willowy with vivid eye make-up and hair bunches who immediately welcomed me into her small garage where we were going to shoot.  Together with Amy’s Nan, the three of us set about ensuring her fitness pole was straight – no easy task I can assure you, but after a few minutes of ‘left a bit, right a bit’ we managed it. Just to be sure, Amy’s Mum appeared with a spirit level and it was spot on, I always knew a photographers’ eye for a straight line would come in handy one day!

Now the space we were working in was compact and bijou to say the least…I reckon it was no more than 12 feet in length, but with a bit of perseverance on my part and professional refinement from Amy I think we have created some fun images.  I would however like to try another photo-shoot with Amy in a larger location to allow her to get really creative with her shapes!

One of Amy’s objectives for the shoot was to get some images of the fitness clothing she wears when she’s doing her thing.  The t-shirts and teeny tiny shorts were provided by one of her friends,  a designer who goes by the name of Aerialist Boutique and I have to say I loved the t-shirts, especially the black one…it says:

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An acrobat who performs feats in the air on a pole, aerial hoop, aerial silks or trapeze

See also: badass

 

I tried a little more creativity with a single gridded softbox and really like this one

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Amy then asked if I would take some photographs of her using her silk hammock using a nearby location, I was very surprised when after a short walk she rigged the fabric up on a horizontal branch and proceeded to produce some very impressive poses indeed!  We are already thinking about another photoshoot of this nature for the future.

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Today I met a lovely, smart young woman whose strength and passion for life left me in no doubt that she will be a great success when she goes to University later this summer, but before she does, I’m hoping we can squeeze another creative photoshoot in – I’ll be waiting!

Until next time

Tracy xx

P.S. As always these days, all images were made using my beloved Fuji XT1, this time paired with my recently repaired 16-55mm – I’m happy to say it worked a treat.

Posted in Everything Else!, Fashion, Fuji | Leave a comment

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears…

I searched long and hard for a quote to start off this blog post…and found just the thing courtesy of style icon Audrey Hepburn, a woman who didn’t have to try too hard when it came to fashion and style.

I’ll share the full quote with you towards the end of this blog as I think some of the images I made on a recent photoshoot will make it resonate with you, the way it did with me.

This weekend, after lots of internet chatter over several months with good friend and fellow photographer Tim Charlesworth and young friends Georgia and Jaime, we finally found a date we could all make for a photoshoot in Liverpool.  The idea had grown from reading an article in the Telegraph shared by Tim which made reference to ‘street style’ photography, the trick being to make it look as if the person being photographed doesn’t know that they are the subject of an image, although they are aware that they are. I should mention here that this should not be confused with the current vogue for the more candid genre of ‘street’ photography where the subject doesn’t usually know they’ve been photographed.

And so, having gathered images on a shared Pinterest board which had been gleaned from the internet and magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s, a theme was agreed, a date set and our adventure started to take shape.

It was almost two years to the day since a previous photo-shoot with the girls was almost scuppered by the great British weather, and so in between household chores on the Friday I found myself checking the forecast and getting a bit twitchy as it changed hour by hour, threatening thunderstorms and torrential rain.  Last time we had a ‘plan B’, this time there would be no such luxury given our intended location around the Baltic Triangle in Liverpool which Tim had scouted several months before.

Awake at 5.20 a.m. (yes, you read that correctly!) thanks to Mr E who was going to spend the day at a record fair, the weather looked reasonable enough, I pulled the quilt up and had another hour in bed before getting up, seeing to the dogs and checking my camera bag and equipment one last time before I set off to pick up the girls and rendezvous at Chez Charlesworth.

As Tim drove us all to Liverpool, we all enjoyed an intelligent and lively exchange with the girls over the EU referendum, however I noticed the weather was closing in and by the time we reached the Wallasey tunnel, it had started to rain.  I started to quietly pray to the weather gods to be kind to us otherwise this was going to be a washout!  Thankfully, as we arrived at our destination, it was grey but not too damp…but the threat was there and so we set about working quickly.

 

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but our photo-shoots with the girls seem to follow a bit of a pattern, albeit unconsciously.  We start off creating images of them together, Tim (Mario) Charlesworth then works with Jaime (I think he wants another 50k hits on his web-site ;-)) and I create images with Georgia and then towards the end, we all come back together.  This shoot was no exception and during our day I found myself marvelling at the difference a year makes. Both of the girls have matured into beautiful young women, have grown in confidence and are clearly more comfortable in their own skins and the images we made together have a lovely editorial feel to them.  I love that the girls actively contribute their own ideas to the photo-shoot bringing both freshness and dynamic energy to the images…very often all Tim and I have to do is press the shutter!

 

We took a break from shooting to visit the Baltic Bakehouse…what a find!  Home-made bread (Mr E loved the sourdough loaf), builder’s tea & earl grey, danish pastries and butties restored all our energy and we set off again to create some more pictures.  There was, as always, lots of fun and laughter on this photo-shoot, not least of all the fear of hands creeping out of hidden doors ( G & J have very fertile imaginations!) and of course, beautiful legs (you had to be there didn’t you Georgia? xx).  As ever, you do find little snippets of art and inspiration along the way, graffiti takes various forms, but I do rather like this one.

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As I heard a clock chime 2.00 p.m. and one of our young friends stifled a yawn, it was time to call it a day and we headed home to North Wales with cards full of great images to the sound of gentle snoring in the back of the car (don’t worry Jaime, I’ve deleted ‘that’ photo on my phone x), not even the torrential rain could wake our hard-working models.

Incidentally, I had a very interesting exchange over the ether recently with a good friend who made an observation that I was lucky to be invited on so many of these photoshoots, but I explained to her that this, like so many, was no invitation and that it was all our own work. As a group of friends, we enjoy spending time making plans, collaborating on ideas and bringing it all together in a photo-shoot.  I do agree that I am lucky to have so many like-minded friends in my social circle that want to do the same thing, but do you know, anyone can do it…you just need a little imagination and inspiration!

As ever, all these images are taken on my wonderful Fuji XT-1…and the 50-140mm…such an amazing combination! The majority are natural light, with a few off camera flash thrown in for good measure.

And so to that quote…Ms Hepburn was wise indeed, in its’ entirety it reads…

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It’s the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows and the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years…

I see this in my young friends each time I photograph them, and for this reason, I consider myself both privileged and blessed to watch though my viewfinder as my young friends blossom and grow, trusting me to capture them at their best, and also to have such good friends who share my passion for engaging in an exploration of creativity and the making of memories.

I have so many lovely images from today, but I’m keeping some back for Georgia & Jaime.

Just jotting down some more ideas…watch this space!

Until next time

Tracy xx

P.S.  If you want another take on this adventure…take a look at TC’s website…here’s the link, Tim’s web-site it has music too! (Note to self…more sophistication required!).  There are a few in here I wish I’d caught in camera!!

 

 

 

 

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Enjoying Life in the Slow Lane

I have discovered this week that there is something very special about a mode of transport which forces you to live life at a significantly slower pace than usual!

We live our lives at such a hectic pace, needing to be in a certain place at a certain time, bound by the convention of 9-5 and an expectation that everything runs to time, so when an opportunity to throw off the shackles of convention presents itself, seize it with both hands, it is an extremely welcome distraction indeed.

Sitting on a narrow-boat pootling along at no more than 4 miles per hour (2mph if you are passing moored craft) makes time stretch out like you wouldn’t believe, and I was astounded at how quickly I found myself relaxing.

Together with Perryn, my sister-in law Louise, her partner Mark and of course, Dave the dog, we travelled to Reedley Marina near Burnley to pick up Portus which was to be our home for a week. After a quick crash course on the technical aspects of the boat for the boys, we slowly made our way up the Leeds-Liverpool canal to the first set of locks, where we were met by John who showed us how to tackle the ground paddles and lock gates. Thankfully, it’s all down to physics, a case of increasing or decreasing the volume of water depending on whether you are going up or down, a bit like filling the bath, you do however discover muscles you never knew you possessed!  We did however quickly learn that there is no point in trying to open the lock gates until the water is absolutely equal on both sides of the gate. The trick is to lean your weight on the gate, then, when the water is level, the gates will move of their own accord and you can use your weight to open or close them fully.  As a certain meerkat might say ‘simples’!

As you leave the marina, you are on a stretch of water which passes through an industrial landscape, however, once through the seven locks at Barrowford, the industry gives way to a peaceful rural idyll, no traffic noise save the puttering of the engine, the sound of the water lapping the banks of the canal and birdsong.  Unless you are steering or leaping off the boat to open a lock, there’s very little to do than sit back and enjoy the ride.  Less than two days in I felt as though I had been on holiday for a week and I had already lost track of time.  Of course it helped enormously that we were blessed with the most lovely Spring weather, warm sunny days and cosy evenings.

 

Having mastered the lock setting, the next part of our adventure took us through the Foulridge Tunnel – at 1640 yards long, just short of a mile, it works on a traffic light system to ensure no snarl-ups.  It is an eerie 15 minutes or so, but thankfully the little spotlight on the front of Portus lit the way and we could see the limestone deposits which formed amazing patterns on the roof and the walls. This section of our journey was punctuated with the odd grumble from the back of the boat as Perryn and Mark got dripped upon a number of times.

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Once through the tunnel we stopped at the little berth alongside the village and stretched our legs a bit and to have a well-earned cup of tea before pushing on to our first evening stop at Barnoldswick.   We bumped into another boat here (literally and gently I might add), and the people aboard kindly allowed us to share their mooring chains so we could attach the boat to the quay.

The Anchor Inn at Salterforth is dog friendly, so we decided we’d have our meal at the pub and a couple of drinks and round off our first day in style. The Anchor Inn is well worth a visit, good food, real ales and an interesting history – the current building was built on top of the original one, and the cellar which once housed the front door is now home to an amazing display of limestone stalactites which we were permitted to see.

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Our first night on board was peaceful until around 4.30am when a certain black Labrador decided he needed a little more comfort, and he crept onto and up the bed, finally snuggling between Perryn and me…despite several attempts to put him back on his own bed, we were unsuccessful, and so it was a fitful few hours until the sun rose as we competed with Dave for the bed!

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The following morning, our neighbours on the Sorceress suggested that they would wait for us at the next set of locks at Greenberfield, explaining that it is considered boating etiquette, shares the effort and a more conscientious use of water if two boats share a lock if they are travelling the same way, it also has the benefit of stopping the boats from bobbing around in the lock when you open the paddles!  That was the start of a beautiful friendship with Phillip, Lyn, Barbara, Teal the aging flat-coat retriever and the even more elderly border terrier Peanut, and we shared the trip up through countless locks including Greenberfield, Scarland, Stegneck and Bank Newton, finally arriving at Gargrave at around 4.00pm.

 

Gargrave is a pretty village, full of limestone cottages, the River Aire runs through it and there is a lovely Victorian church, and of course it has a dog-friendly pub…it was only a matter of time before we found ourselves basking in late afternoon sunshine, nibbling on some sharing platters and enjoying a drink before returning to the boat for a leisurely evening.

It was here that one of the local swans decided he had a thing for Louise…he was persistent in his attention seeking, but thankfully the window was shut, we think he was used to be fed and had picked on our boat this particular evening,

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Wednesday morning arrived and I was woken up by a wet nose in my right ear, followed by a slap with a paw…Dave was on the bed again! I checked my watch 6.32am, thanks Dave! However all was not lost, Perryn slid back the hatch and called me up on deck, and it was breathtakingly beautiful.  Ribbons of mist danced along the canal backlit by the early morning sun – I dragged my clothes on over my pyjamas and set off down the towpath armed with my camera, I only took a few images, I found myself content to just be and enjoy the moment, it didn’t last long and the mist disappeared revealing a sparklingly bright blue sky and the promise of another beautiful day.

After breakfast we headed for Skipton, sharing the locks and swing bridges with our friends on Sorceress, passing through rolling dales and picturesque countryside, with curlews, peewits and buzzards calling as we went. It was on this stretch we had a minor incident, Dave saw Perryn point out a hare in a field alongside us, there was a resounding splash and off he went on a retrieve, thankfully he came back on Perryn’s command, however he had to swim back to the boat and was hauled unceremoniously out of the canal by his scruff, cue one very sheepish dog who hid behind Mark’s legs for a while at the back of the boat!

As we arrived at Skipton and tied up, we said our goodbyes to Phillip, Lyn, Barbara, Teal and Peanut, they were great companions along the way and helped us get to grips with canal life much more quickly than if we had been cruising alone.   One thing I noticed all the way along cruise was the warmth of the people we met, whether it was a jogger or dog-walker on the towpath, or another boat, almost everyone called out a greeting and wished us a good trip, making it a very sociable experience.

Skipton is called the ‘gateway to the Dales’ and it’s easy to see why, it’s a pretty little market town with alleyways and courtyards around each corner, and off course there is a record shop…no prizes for guessing who paid a visit there!  After a good wander around and a bite to eat, we jumped back on board and made our way back to Gargrave for another evening.  We were old hands at the locks by now, however some of the swing bridges do call for some brute strength as Lou and I found out!

Wednesday evening comprised of some rather complex card games before an early night as we had an early start on Thursday if we were to get within striking distance of the marina for Friday.

Thursday dawned as beautiful as the day before, more mist played along the canal and after a good breakfast we set off calling in on Foulridge and the Anchor Inn one last time before we moored up above Barrowford Locks and enjoyed another quiet evening, with more card games, albeit slightly easier than those shared with us the previous evening, along with a couple of glasses of wine and a natter.  We captured the best sunset of the week – only on my phone, but you get the gist.

 

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On Friday morning, after a bowl of porridge, we set sail at 8.00am and thanks to the three lock-keepers on duty all of whom joined in and helped with the seven locks, we were able to arrive back at 10.00am on the dot and hand Portus back to the marina staff before we tootled across to Hebden Bridge before coming home.

So the million dollar questions…

Would we recommend it as a great way to spend a week? Absolutely, it is an incredibly relaxing way to travel, although it is an active experience dealing with the locks and steering 15 tonnes of narrow-boat.

Did we enjoy it? It’s a resounding yes, although the weather played a large part in that, it might not have been so much fun had it poured with rain.

Would we do it again? Yes, undoubtedly, and we might even take a boat out just for a day in the future.

However, don’t take my word for it, experience it for yourself, it is a brilliant way to kick back and relax.

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Until next time

Tracy xx

P.S. All but a handful of these images were taken on my Fuji XT-1 and 16-55mm lens, a perfect combination in my book!

 

 

 

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