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!

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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.

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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!!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Everything Else!, Fashion, Fuji, Street, Style, Uncategorized, Urban Fashion | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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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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

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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?

Rachel 20160108-3

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.

Rachel 20160108-5

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

 

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