The clocks have gone forward and we’re officially in British Summer Time here in the UK which means the first quarter of the year is nearly over, so it’s high time I committed my thoughts to print.
I started drafting this blog whilst sitting in a pub in Richmond, watching the England v Wales rugby match on a big screen with a glass of wine by my side, it was not the required result in the end, but thankfully my photography so far this year has been more successful (in my view)!
Several weeks of planning across the ether with my favourite model Rachel saw us visit the country park at the top of Hope Mountain in January. It was fair to say a day of two halves…up until 3.00pm it had been cold but bright, with blue sky and sunshine. As we reached the summit we were met with a winter squall of biblical proportions, hail, rain, sleet and even a few flakes of snow pounded the car, but luckily for Rach and me I had packed a flask of tea and some chocolate, so we sat it out and watched it slowly clear. First challenge…it took over half an hour to calm down, which meant we were left with just an hour of light in which to make some images. Rachel was dressed in a Wuthering Heights inspired outfit kindly provided by Paula Cain of Chester Costume House but despite being wrapped in hooded cloak, it was not warm, so whilst set up my Elinchrom Quadra kit (thank you Si and Bri from The Flash Centre – you’ve opened up a whole world of creativity for me!), I tucked Rach into the little cave at the top of the mountain to keep as warm as she could. The light was quickly falling as Rachel and I set about making some images, the flash recycled very quickly indeed and I was mindful to work equally as quickly to prevent Rachel from turning a delicate shade of blue! We wanted to create some slightly darker images with a touch of a story to them…do you think we succeeded?
By now it was almost 4.20pm and the light had all but vanished, I had one last shot in my head, but it meant poor Rachel would need to endure the cold a little longer. We climbed to the top of the escarpment and I photographed Rachel in natural light using my Fuji Xt-1 and the 50-140mm lens – the image stabilisation on this lovely piece of glass meant I could hand-hold the camera to ridiculously low shutter speeds and still get beautifully sharp images…and these are my own favourites from the session.
Looking back, I feel that the Wuthering Heights inspiration morphed more than a little into the French Lieutenant’s Woman – but it’s amazing what you can do when faced with somewhat adverse weather conditions and a little imagination and a patient and accommodating model.
Next up was an informal session with my eldest nephew Ryan and his soon to be wife Natalie. The main purpose of this session on another grey winter’s afternoon was to reassure Ryan that he would survive having his photograph taken by me a couple of weeks later at his wedding ceremony. He was not the most natural subject I have had in front of my camera, but we got there in the end, and the wedding images turned out OK too (but more of those later).
My second creative photo-shoot of 2016 was an absolute pleasure to capture as I met up with good friend and fellow photographer Tim Charlesworth at Loggerheads Country Park on a dismal grey day. We had been asked by Jaime if we would help photograph the dress she had designed and made for her University project and we were more than happy to help. Once again the weather was decidedly unkind, and so following a quick call to my sister-in-law, we invoked ‘plan B’ and made our way to the farm where we were able to work under the cover of the hay barn.
Armed with a speed-light and soft-box and a few well-chosen props, Tim and I used off camera flash to illuminate the lovely Abbie who modelled Jaime’s amazing dress – and rocked it with the wellies! As the weather finally broke and the sunshine arrived, I switched from using flash to natural light and once again pressed the Fuji 50-140mm into service. Shooting wide open with a reflector to bounce a little light back to my subject resulted in crisp, clean portraits of both Jaime and Abbie and a couple of images with an almost editorial feel.
I’ve never actually attended a Chinese New Year celebration, so this year Perryn and I decided to put that right. On a crisp, sunny Sunday morning we headed for Liverpool and enjoyed a pretty amazing couple of hours which assailed all the senses. I tried a little street photography again, it’s not something I’m good at and would like to improve on this year, but the images do reflect the vibrant celebration which carried on long after we had left.
Valentine’s weekend saw Auntie Tracy come out of retirement from wedding photography for one time only. I had the pleasure of photographing the day for Ryan and Natalie in the beautiful surroundings of The Lake District. My last wedding was three years ago and it was hard work, but I could not have been more proud to be asked to provide a lasting memory of such a special celebration. I even managed a quiet half hour as the sun rose on the morning of the wedding to have a go at long exposure, a technique I am going to try and master this year.
Of course, no blog would be complete without the odd Welshot event punctuating proceedings…and both evenings I attended this year featured musicians from a variety of genres. It is always fun to catch up with old friends and help some of the newer members get some great images.
I was lucky enough to visit London, not once but twice in very quick succession, one a day trip, the other the rugby weekend I alluded to earlier. Blessed with great weather both times, I spent time with great friends, visiting photo exhibitions (Vogue 100 at the NPG and Saul Leiter at The Photographer’s Gallery), chatting about photography, eating good food and drinking good wine – and laughing – a lot – it’s good for the soul. I find I am using my little Fuji 100 as my street camera…it seems a little less intrusive somehow and I’m quite liking the images I’m capturing. I’m not a brave street photographer, but I’m having a go!
I thoroughly enjoyed an overnight stay in Birmingham for The Photography Show, definitely a good way to do it, highly recommended and you do not knock yourself out in a day…listened to a couple of great speakers including Lara Jade and Paul Sanders, and caught up with Damian McGillicuddy…who I’m glad to say is as cheeky as ever! Spent it in wonderful company in the shape of Val, Robin, Jack, Jude, Sarah, Elaine, Jo, Gaynor, Matt, Robin, Richard, Warren, Adam, Rich, Jim…the list could go on and on…thank you one and all.
Finally, just this weekend, I spent a couple of hours in the company of an ace group of women (they know who they are) learning some post processing techniques from an award-winning photographer and digital artist…Lynne, thank you for opening my eyes to the endless possibilities of Photoshop…I learned so much in a short space of time and have already tried some of it out…I look forward to learning more in the coming months!
One last thing, if you are wondering about my title for this post, it is a wonderful quote from Saul Leiter and it really sums up where I am with my own photography just now…I have set myself a couple of goals, but ultimately, I’m shooting for me…I’ll share more with you all in due course.
Until next time