Doing their bit for conservation…WDFFA in action

 

This is a departure from my usual photo blog, as you can see I did take some photos, but I felt compelled to write this as there is a more important story to share, so please read on.

Last weekend I spent Sunday morning on the banks of the River Alyn as it runs through the little hamlet of Pontblyddyn. The sun was warm as my husband, father-in-law and I walked along the bank through huge drifts of wild garlic, not yet in flower, but releasing its unmistakable but pleasant aroma as we brushed through the leaves.  I also spotted butterbur growing in abundance too.

Perryn and his Dad, Hugh, are members of the Wrexham & District Fly Fishing Association and meet regularly with a group of other members during the early part of the year with the aim of tending the river-banks, fixing bridges and fencing and generally ensuring the river is kept flowing through the stretch they are responsible for in order that members may fish safely and easily once the season starts.

Following recent high winds, a large tree had come down across the river and whilst the water was still flowing around it in places, albeit slowly, a raft of discarded rubbish from further upstream was growing and getting stuck behind the fallen tree.

Pete, in his waders had the dubious honour of balancing on the tree in order to remove some of the larger branches, thereby reducing the weight and making the task of moving the tree somewhat easier. Perryn, John and Ken were the muscle, taking the strain and making sure they fell the right way.

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Slowly but surely, the tree was reduced to something more manageable. After some discussion, a plan was hatched.  The guys would sever the trunk on the near-side bank and then float it across the river to tie it up on the other side.  With the help of ropes and winches this was eventually achieved.  The benefit of this is that it not only stops the tree from blocking the river again, but it will also protect the far bank from erosion.

Throughout the morning it really was a case of all hands to the pumps, everybody (including my octogenarian father-in-law and me on occasion) got on the end of the ropes and chainsaws to do their bit and clear the blockage in the river. And it wasn’t all about the offending tree either, a number of additional large branches and trunks were also removed from under the water, including a 12 foot length of spalted wood which really was quite beautiful.

For me, the saddest thing was that the guys couldn’t safely reach the bottles and bits of rubbish (due to the depth of the river) to remove them all before they floated downstream.

I should point out that none of the members are paid for doing this work, they do it in their own time and use their own tools and they do it for two reasons, to keep the river and its environment healthy and for the love of fly fishing and I think they did a brilliant job in a very short space of time and I’m happy I’ve been able to document their endeavours.

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I’ve been surfing the Internet…did you know:

  • Up to 15 million plastic bottles are used per day in the UK?
  • That plastic and polystyrene can take hundreds of years to decompose?
  • That approximately 60% of dustbin waste could be recycled? And almost 50% could be composted?
  • That recycling a plastic bottle would save enough energy to power a 60w light bulb for nearly 3 hours? (I counted at least 20 plastic bottles in the slick of rubbish in the river).

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I’m neither political nor am I a crusader by any stretch of the imagination, but I think my parents brought me up properly, teaching me to respect my surroundings and take my litter home.  Perryn and I also try to recycle as much as we can…but I think we could do more.

We are custodians of our planet and are merely looking after it for the next generation – I’d like to hope my own generation will leave them something they can enjoy.

Until next time

Tracy xx

 

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A new photography technique…and a whole heap of fun!

Yesterday I tried a new photography technique for the first time.  I’ve been wanting to learn about the more technical aspects of long exposure photography for a while now, and always thought that it would be in the form of landscape photography, however following a discussion with a friend, we decided to try to capture that wonderfully ethereal movement so often associated with dance images.

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There was a lot of trial and error in this session, much tweaking of light settings, metering exposure, altering of shutter speeds and practice waving the fabric around to get just the right shape which is not as easy as it looks. I learned that the Internet doesn’t always hold all the answers, that you need more space than you think to create in this way and that organza fabric has a life of its own! However perseverance paid off.  Rachel was professional, enthusiastic and as energetic as always, performing move after move persuading the fabric into elegant shapes.

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I recently undertook a creativity challenge and learned a lot about my own approach to photography, one of which is that I have a tendency to be a bit of a perfectionist.  It will therefore come as no great surprise that I will be trying this again in the future and employing some of the learning from our short session this weekend.

As Gene Kelly said “you dance love, and you dance joy, and you dance dreams…”

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Thanks to Rachel and David for helping me capture some of what was in my head – I couldn’t have done it without you both.

Until next time

Tracy xx

Posted in Dance, Fuji, Long Exposure | 2 Comments

It is not where it is or what it is that matters, but how you see it…

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?

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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.

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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!

Amelia Music Background

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

Tracy xx

 

Posted in Everything Else!, Fashion, Fuji, Street, Wedding Celebrations | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A photograph can be an instant of life captured for eternity that will never cease looking back at you

Wise words indeed from Brigitte Bardot.

As is customary at this time of year, I’ve taken a wander back through my images for 2015 and picked out some which give me a warm and fuzzy glow for a variety of reasons with my apologies if you didn’t make the cut, it’s just so hard to choose. Unusually for me, this isn’t a long post in terms of words, but it comes with heartfelt thanks to all who were happy for me to turn my camera lens upon them, as well as those friends who helped me along the way and to those who ensured my 50th year was a blast.

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I hope our paths cross again in 2016.

Until next time

Tracy xx

 

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My first festival…at 50, it’s never too late

I’m still catching up on a number of blogs from earlier in the year, but I’m pausing to write this one as I had such a great time this weekend!

Several months ago when my husband raised the question of attending a festival, I have to confess it wasn’t something at the top of my personal ‘to-do’ list, especially as he wanted to camp out under canvas! We eventually compromised (no tents involved, I need my own bed) and tickets were duly purchased. Fast forward to Friday 18th September 2015…and we arrived at The Good Life Experience in Hawarden at 6.00pm on a pleasantly balmy evening and a favourable weather forecast.

This is the festival’s second year. The Good Life Experience was founded in 2014, and it is curated by Cerys Matthews together with Charlie and Caroline Gladstone and hosted on the Hawarden Estate just a few miles from our home in Hope. Billed as a festival of culture and the great outdoors, it brings together an interesting mix of food, literature, music and performance, as well as a host of activities for festival-goers to try.

A well-thought out layout of the site, with sufficient food, drink (lots of local beers available) and clean amenities made for a great evening. The current Mr E’s initial reason for booking the tickets was to see the legend that is Wilko Johnson play the music tent. The warm up act was The Clameens, a young band from Derry who have recently released their first EP ‘Techno’. They reminded me of the Arctic Monkeys amongst others, and played their set with enthusiasm and energy and the audience loved them.

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After a short break (and another pint of Purple Moose for my husband), the main event took to the stage. Wilko Johnson recently overcame a battle with cancer, but you would never have guessed. He tore up the stage and delighted the audience with tracks including Going Back Home and Roxette. An added bonus was his bass player in the form of Norman Watt-Roy from The Blockheads. The energy of these mature musicians leaves you in no doubt they still have not lost their passion for performing and leave you in no doubt of their zest for life.

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Saturday brought one of those wonderful crisp autumn days, a chilly start, but with a bright blue sky and the promise of sunshine through the haze. Breakfast in the form of porridge for me and a bacon bap for Mr E set us up for the morning.

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It was lovely wandering through the eclectic mix of stalls including a mobile bookshop (purchases made of course!), we were fascinated by the skills on show in Makers Row (dovetailing, weaving, enamelling t0 name but a few) and of course, no Saturday would be complete without our friends from local store, VOD Music – well there had to be a record stall in there somewhere didn’t there?

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I tried a beginner’s yoga class…and left with a sense of well-being and a desire to find a regular class in the not too distant future. We listened to speakers in tents, watched cookery demonstrations, ukulele demonstrations, ate a little, and drank a little too…all to the soundtrack of people enjoying themselves.

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There was of course, a distinct literary theme as well. The Gladstone Library, The Idler Academy Book Shop and Caught By The River all offered books on a variety of topics, all with the aim of living the good life.

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In the afternoon, we listened to a line-up of speakers and musicians, including Gabrielle Drake, Daisy Vaughan, Nonny Denny and Jeb Loy Nichols in a session called ‘Nick Drake Remembered for a While’. It was insightful and moving and held the audience’s attention in its thrall right through to the very end.

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A further wander saw us enjoy home-made ice cream, axe throwing and a little bit of Cuban music at the Cuban Dance tent, we weren’t brave enough to join in the dancing, but it was fun to watch people having a go and they were very good at it too!

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We sat and listened to Daisy Vaughan’s set in the Caught By The River tent, it really was standing room only, as this young woman entranced her audience with original songs played on guitar, some in Spanish too.

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By now, my feet were starting to feel as if they belonged to someone else, and shortly after the lively and very energetic Cuban Revolucionarios set in the music tent, I conceded defeat and called for our lift to pick us up and take us home…

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But not before I captured the sunset…a fitting end to a wonderful day.

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This morning I snipped off my bracelet (other commitments, so no visit today) and pinned it to the noticeboard by my desk as a reminder of a great couple of days which really was the perfect introduction to festival-going, family oriented, genteel, cultured, feel-good and fun. So from me just a huge thank you to everyone who took time to make it such a great experience.

Until next time

Tracy xx

 

 

 

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Fill your paper with breathings from your heart…#1

Thanks to this quote from William Wordsworth, I have finally found the time and the inclination to catch up on my blog, but seeing as it is some 6 months since I’ve committed my thoughts to print, it’s not fair to inflict my readers to a blog of epic proportions, so I’m splitting it up into manageable chunks!

It never ceases to amaze me that despite feeling as if I have not had many opportunities to make photographs this year, when I look back at my catalogue of images I’ve had far more than I realise. Since my last blog in March I’ve clocked up eighteen different photo-shoots in one form or another, that’s three a month, not bad for someone who claims to have very little free time, just imagine what I could do if I improved my time management!

So my first catch up blog revolves around those shoots where fashion is the prevalent theme.

I do consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to call upon young friends to support my efforts to improve my photography, none more so than Rachel, Amelia, Georgia and Jaime, all of whom are in my view, self-possessed and confident young women who blossom in front of my camera.

One bright spring in April, I hired a local studio and together with Rachel, spent a wonderful time creating a variety of looks on a very small budget indeed. I am an avid user of e-Bay and often spend time looking for clothing or props for a photo-shoot, but I don’t like to spend more money than necessary! Having checked my accounts, all the images below were styled for less than £50. When I feel I’ve done with the outfits, they’ll go back on e-Bay and I’ll find something new.

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Of course, no blog would be complete without a few images from a day out with Damian McGillicuddy. Attending one his Big Shoot Experience days at the start of May saw me in a post-apocalyptic setting with models Portia, Jess and James. School’s Out? You’re not kidding it was certainly one of the more unusual locations I’ve worked in.

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It is always nice to be called upon to supp0rt my friends in return and when I received a message from Amelia asking if I could help her create some photographs in support of her final ‘A’ level project I immediately said yes. The brief was very clear and straightforward, we needed to create a variety of images representing both classical and contemporary dance styles. On a pretty grey day, I packed my camera bag and we headed to the local church hall where we proceeded to bring the world of dance and movement to life.

I have the most fabulous backdrop the purchase of which was a bit of a well-earned gift to me a few months back, and it provides a lovely feel to images. Most of the static poses were lit with just a single speed-light and soft-box, and I introduced a second flash-gun for the images where Amelia leaped with grace and poise across the hall, to ensure I froze the movement sufficiently.

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Next up was a test shoot with a new face. Introduced through a mutual friend, Georgia is making starting to make her way on the pageant circuit and Lisa (Georgia’s Mum) thought it would be a good for her to experience a photo-shoot in preparation of things to come. I like Sunday mornings in Mold, it’s quiet and has some great locations. Georgia had never done this type of modelling before but it didn’t take long for her to relax in front of the camera and with Lisa’s help, holding reflectors, lights and even me on occasion we made some cool images together.

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I’m very also fortunate to be involved with the Welshot community which affords me further chances to refine my photo skills and they regularly host fun-filled events for photographers of every age and inclination. The Steampunk inspired event in May was a brilliant if exhausting day out (I am a mature photographer now don’t forget!). Sebastian, Radha, Hazel, and Rachel were as always a delight to work with.  I love these days for the social aspect as much as the photography and I am always pleased with my images.

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May was clearly a good month for photography. Another couple of hours with Rachel saw me tackle ‘Hollywood’ inspired lighting, the styling was spot on thanks to Rachel, but I definitely need more practice with the lighting. All was not lost however, as I resorted to my own favourite, natural light and created some of my all-time favourite images of the lovely Miss G.

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Next up, another Welshot event, this time a Narnia inspired theme. I wrote the Welshot blog on this particular day, head on over using the link here and take a look if you are interested…Narnia

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As the June edition of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar hit the doormat, my good friend and fellow photographer Tim Charlesworth and I arranged an evening up Hope Mountain with Georgia and Jaime with the aim of creating some Boho -chic inspired images. No flash required just natural light and a reflector.  The late evening summer sunshine provided some very special light indeed.

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One of the best things about the summer is that my perennial model, Rachel is home for the holidays (although I use the term home loosely here as she has a habit of jetting off to foreign climes!). However when she is available, she is very happy to stand in front of my camera and listen to me ramble about f-stops and shutter speeds. An inexpensive prop from Primark (a £4 hat) gave me inspiration and we set off on another photo-adventure. A meadow, a roadside verge filled with ox-eye daises (and tooting of horns from passing lorries), a local parkland, and a bus-stop, all natural light locations produced what you see here. It is to Rachel’s eternal credit that she doesn’t bat an eye-lid wherever we end up!

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Another Sunday, another Welshot event! The weather nearly stopped play, but as you’ll see in the blog,Liverpool Fashion,  the delegates and models are a creative bunch and a fab day was had by all.

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Last but not least for this post, a quick resume of a very messy and creative photo-shoot with the ever-patient Rachel. Inspired by an article about the Holi festival and a number of images which popped up in my Facebook feed I just had to have a go. This kind of shoot comes complete with a health-warning, do not try this in a confined space, flour travels at an alarming speed when thrown by an enthusiastic model!

Two flash-guns, a black back-drop and a large hay barn (courtesy of my sister-in-law and her husband) meant we could make as much mess as we liked and there was no tidying up to do.

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Incidentally, all of these images are taken using either my Fuji XT-1 and XPRO-1 (also known as my toy cameras by some of my friends!!), my usual retorts being (i) size doesn’t matter and (ii) it’s not what you’ve got, it’s how you use it! My favourite lens is the 50-140mm, especially good for portraiture and as I’ve recently learned, energetic flour shoots!

As always, big thanks to all my friends, too numerous to mention, who join me in my photo-fun, none of this would be possible without you!

Until next time

Tracy xx

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Just Be Yourself…

My closest friends who know me well understand that I am not particularly comfortable being the centre of attention. However this is a blog post with a difference, because I’d like share with you something that I recently did as a gift to myself, and how good it made me feel.

Now, as hard as it might be for you to believe, in February I celebrated my 50th birthday! I had made no major plans other than to have a quiet day on the coast with my husband, to visit a favourite pub for lunch and let it pass relatively quietly. (The best laid plans and all that, if you keep up with me through Facebook, you will know that my family and friends had different ideas, but looking back I can now say it was a most wonderful time.)

However, I did make one specific plan which was going to push me right out of my comfort zone even though I’d be with someone I trusted implicitly. To mark my birthday and a time in my life where I’m feeling incredibly positive and comfortable in my own skin, I decided it was high time I was the subject of a photo shoot. I have been on what is in my view, the ‘right side of a camera’ since I was seven years old. The time had come for me to experience what my subjects feel when I point my camera at them.

To capture this unusual event, I turned to my friend and talented photographer, Jo Rutherford. We’ve known each other for about four years and whilst we don’t see much of each other in person we regularly stay in touch through the Internet. Even though I know Jo well, I found myself slightly apprehensive as I got ready to go and meet her.  I’m not a follower of fashion, and I’m not sure I will ever keep the cosmetic companies in business but remembering all the advice and guidance I’ve ever given to my own subjects I did the best that I could!

Despite printing off detailed instructions on how to find Jo’s studio I managed to get lost, thank heaven for smart phones and sat-nav applications! I therefore arrived a little later than planned, but was met with a very welcome hug and a cup of tea from Jo. We chatted for a little while whilst I gathered my composure (I hate being late for anything!), and Jo suggested a suitable location nearby for our shoot. However before we went, there was the little matter of meeting Ted, Jo’s adorable dog who it has to be said is one of the cutest canines I have met in a long time!

The Botanical Gardens in Southport was the backdrop to what was a memorable couple of hours in the spring sunshine with a good friend. We wandered through the gardens chatting as we went, until we reached a slightly quieter spot and Jo turned her camera on me.  We moved about from location to location, and came across the most fabulous sea of crocus and a community mural both of which feature in some of the images.

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(C) Jo Rutherford Photography

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(C) Jo Rutherford Photography

(Thanks to Jo for sharing these so quickly)

It was an interesting experience, and all my nerves seemed to evaporate as Jo thoughtfully went about her task, constantly chatting to me, making me laugh out loud on more than one occasion, especially with her definitions of anatomical features! Any feelings of self-consciousness soon vanished too. One of the best things about the shoot was that Jo allowed me to just ‘be’, I therefore found it easy to relax and enjoy myself.

What will I take away from my photo-shoot? An enormous sense of well-being, a feeling of empowerment along with a feeling of achievement for being the subject and not the photographer for a change, being incredibly at ease and losing my usual reserve for a little while.  And I think every photographer should do it at least once in their life.

In summary, I don’t think the model community has anything to worry about as I’m not going to take it up as a profession! I’ve learned I need to stand up straight! Has it made me think about how I will photograph my next model? Yes, I think it has. Did I enjoy it? Absolutely! Would I do it again? Do you know, I think I would!

And so, to end this post, just one important thank-you to my photographer. Jo, I’m so glad we’re friends, and I can’t imagine anyone else I would rather have shared this experience with. Coco Chanel once said ‘a woman should be two things: classy and fabulous’ you made me feel both x

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Until next time…

Tracy x

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