31 December 2011

Casual stuff

"What I fear about the casual stuff is
that it stops you seeing photographs
as pictures."
Joel Snyder

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29 December 2011

Strobe Flash techniques

First attempt:
Whilst I have been experimenting with lighting and flash I thought I would try a technique I have read about - strobe flash. This involves setting the flash to strobe a desired number of times a second whilst the camera is set to a long exposure. This means that you will be able to capture a moving object as it progresses across the frame all in one shot.
  • First issue is that the flash has to be attached to the camera - you cannot do this with the flash off-camera.
  • Second issue is you need a dark background so that the object is captured in the strobe of the flash moving across that dark background.
  • Third issue is to choose a moving object that will behave the way you want it to. For example move in a straight line across the image.
Well this was lots of fun. Here is the best of my first attempt:

You can just about make out the chattering teeth as they progress across the towel

A failure I know - but failure is welcome because then I can put it right. If you want to see complete failure then this is the very first attempt when I had got everything wrong!

You can perhaps see the chattering teeth to the left?

I think it might work better out in the dark at night and to use a person who will walk exactly where I say. The background was far too light and therefore resulted in it being over-exposed. The wind up toy ended up just winding me up because it would not travel in a straight line. Made me laugh though. Will try this out at weekend when I will have people over who will be happy to be bossed about! Friends eh? They are brilliant.

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Extruded light drawing - Fire

Fire experiment
Finally got the chance to try out my holographium and with the help of my assistant I created this:

This is a lot of fun and very clever - my hat is off to the people at Dentsu London who produced light drawings using the iPad for a project Making Future Magic. They had to work out how the letters would extrude out of the iPad and then create a programme to make it happen.

dentsu London

dentsu London

I was fascinated with this project when I first found it in Autumn 2010. I discovered recently that they had created an app for the iPad to allow you to create your own extruded lighting drawings. My first attempts were full of mistakes. I quickly realised what I needed to do but did not have the correct equipment to hand at the time but was determined to set things up better, have more time to plan, consider the angles and position of the camera to the iPad and understand how the varibles within the holographium would affect the result. Here was my first attempt:

I realised I had got the timing wrong and that I was at the wrong angle to the iPad but I could see how to put that right and make it much more interesting.

This is such fun and now I have mastered the techniques I will have a think through ideas and then produce them.

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28 December 2011

Legs need a tweak

Set up the product table and discovered a very slight issue with one of its new legs. I will pop and see the engineer next week to get it sorted - but in the meantime it was quite a success.

Takes a while to set everything up as the table needs putting together, the cold light needs putting together, the flash soft box needed putting together, the ETTL lead needs connecting to the flash and camera and the camera needs attaching to the tripod. Phew.

Here we have the table on its legs, the cold light and the camera on tripod

This is the image that set-up captured - it needs some light behind the subject

Once it was all set up it was surprisingly interesting to experiment with the lights in different positions in relation to the products. 

With the flash light placed behind the table
I think it was too far away as there is still bands of colour and vingette visible

Glass needs to be lit completely differently to solid objects and so I spent quite a while experimenting with what worked best. Tried a few shots with other objects. Although I had not quite got the technique correct I did find this amusing:

Still need to do a lot of work to get this right - but it's getting there

Now all I need is some real products and a real brief to try it out properly. Will set it all up again on Saturday and this time I will try with two flashes and the cold light just to push the envelope a bit further (to mis-quote Chuck Yeager).

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27 December 2011

Photo Tips #1

Top tips for you and your camera


Let's start with your camera - first things first let's protect the lens. Your lens is an expensive piece of equipment buy it a filter and protect that expensive glass. If you always keep it on you will protect your lens and avoid having to replace when it gets scratched or damaged. A simple UV or skylight filter is a good starting place and wont effect the finished look of any images you capture. However if you have a particular interest then the following might be interesting alternatives:
  • If you do lots of outdoor photography then a polarizing filter might be more your thing and will give you images that have beautiful blue skies and lush green trees.

  • If you like your water to look misty and smooth then think about neutral density filters - these will allow you to shot in lower light levels and lower shutter speeds and slow down water.

  • If you are a colour fiend then you might like to add a colour filter to your lens - every colour in the rainbow is available.
Whatever you decide look after your lens. Buy a filter for each one. I have a UV or skylight filter on each of mine.

Next top tip 'improve your images' appears next week.

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"Do not argue with an idiot.
They will drag you down to their level
and beat you with their experience."

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26 December 2011


This is another lovely part of my work. Restoring people's precious treasured images. Have been given two photographs to sort out.

As you can see one needs tidying up to remove the creases and tears and the other I need to try and bring back the detail.

This is going to be lots of fun.

Noticed in the image on the left that the gentleman in the centre is holding a rabbit - which I had not noticed on the original. I love the backdrop cloth on the image on the right which only became apparent when I was getting up close and personal with it and repairing it. I think I have over done the contrast on the image with the two people so will revisit that.

Realised I haven't put on my website how much I charge for this service. I need to include that I can scan 35mm negatives (colour and black and white) and 35mm slides along with photographs in any state of repair. Must sort that out.

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Deepest darkest Shropshire

Phase two of the holiday adventure occurs today and we are all heading to Wales - almost. The other side of the family will be descended on and I think we have goose to look forward to for lunch. There is one bit of the journey to Baschurch that you can see the Welsh mountains. Last year, of course, they were delightfully snow capped. This year I should be able to see them if it is not too misty. Think I'll take camera. Been thinking about the things I need to do - going to be terribly busy for the next week. But looking forward to it.

As we travelled down the M54 the sun did shine

However once it became the A54 and the mountains came into view the sun disappeared

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23 December 2011

Private Eye

Day down in London on Wednesday - and no not for Christmas shopping - do people not know me! I detest shopping so much that even though I'm going down the dress sizes because of all the exercise I'm doing at the moment I have no desire to go shopping for new clothes. I will just add more holes on my belt. Anyway back to London ...... a grey day but the Shard looked interesting and already the top of it is in the clouds:

Popped into V&A to see the Private Eye exhibition - very amusing. Had to remortgage the house in order to buy two cups of tea and a slice of cake, but the cafe is a gorgeous place to sit.

Over to Tate Modern to see a number of exhibitions including:

Photography: New Documentary Forms:
Mitch Epstein, Luc Delahaye, Guy Tillim, Akram Zaatari and Boris Mikhailov

Mitch Epstein
Of all the photographers work on display I think I preferred Mitch's work - not just because it was the first one I looked at and I am inherently lazy! - but because he had a good idea, he researched it, he got people interested, he took his time completing it and he has got recognition at the end of it - oh to be so lucky.

Arte Povera
In the late 1960s artists began to experiment with using old, everyday materials. They were after all impoverished students. As I have learned recently at a lecture given by Erik Knudsen - Poverty can bred better work - so I was excited to see this exhibition. Some of the work was quite dull and other pieces very imaginative. Not only did they explore using poor materials but they also explored changing physical states. The piece about masturbation was - hum - interesting! I particularly loved this piece - which reminded me of my friends work.

Cubism, Futurism, Vorticism:
I got to see a Picasso and a Braque side by side - lovely.

Reminded myself just how much information I get from the Art timeline. It is painted across the entire wall of the Tate charting and marking the time of each Art movement and who was involved in it. I need to get my copy back up in the gallery dining room.

Silver birch trees outside the Tate Modern:

Had tea overlooking the Thames and St Paul's, watching the tide go out and watching people.

Then to the Odeon at Marble Arch to watch new Sherlock film. Home at 2am and totally done in.

For a long time the Tate only ever exhibited photographs that were taken by artists who use photography - like Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince - but what is clear now is that they are changing their policy on acquisitions and exhibiting photographer's photographs. I believe this has a lot to do with the the new appointment of their first-ever curator of photography - Simon Baker. This can only be good for photographers and I am pleased to have read that he asks photographers how they want their work to be displayed and this was clear to me when I saw the room containing Boris Mikhailov's Red and At Dusk projects.

This has finally answered a question which was raised in my head after reading 'Sausages and Food' by Keith Arnatt 1982 where he explored and examined whether we are artists or photographers and questioned why the Tate did not currate any photography exhibitions. He was certain that the Tate would change their policy at some point - seems it took another 25 years.  

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The Internet should offer us the chance to learn more, read more - but we usually only read things that have been recommended - because of our shopping habits or because a friend suggests it, or we look at things we already know about and are familiar with. In a way I feel that the Internet can narrow some people's horizons instead of broadening them. For this reason I continue to visit the library.

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Last network meeting of the year and we had a secret Santa. Such fun. My gift was just perfect - a pig shaped computer screen wipe (I'll be using it on my iPad). Wonder if my secret Santa knows about my Angry Birds addiction!

My Christmas pig cleans up my Uncle Pete!

After the meeting I went off out into the woods to shoot things. Mostly they are standing still but a few moving things came close! Need to improve my skills here too, it helps develop the core and it's great to get stuck in.

Home to warm up with a sherry and a mince pie and to wrap all the presents. Perfect day pretty much.

Tomorrow I work.

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22 December 2011

It's got legs and I know how to use them ...

Product table with its new legs has arrived. All works remarkably well and is extremely well engineered. Perfect height, neat, all fits into the carrying box. I am going to set it all up with lighting tomorrow afternoon and experiment and refine my skills.

Here are the legs:

How fantastic is this? The cold light which you can see in the background fits perfectly underneath the table. In this shot I was trying the flash (with the soft box on it) underneath to see what effect that gave me.

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Fantastic place

Meeting up with a jolly good old friend tomorrow. Not sure how this will go. Hoping I get a mentor out of this. But just staying good friends would be a result. Re-ignition?

Need some guidance - have so many great ideas, need some help focusing on the correct one to start on, and one that does not move me away from my main goal of 'the five year van plan'.

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19 December 2011

Another dilemma

I am going to a meeting early Friday morning - this is a business meeting - but have been invited to shoot immediately after the meeting. The dilemma is - what to wear for the meeting?

I'm thinking that as this is the last meeting before xmas - and it will be a fun meeting - that attending in my shooting gear would not be seen as a 'lowering of standards'.

Fingers crossed. I'll be armed just in case.

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17 December 2011


It's a year since I had my beloved horse put down. I should have done it sooner but I couldn't bear it but when the time came I knew and she told me.

Not a day goes by that I don't think of her and remember all the silly little things. Sitting on her back was the most comfortable place to be in the world. I loved seeing the frost on the cobwebs along the country lanes this time of year.

I have to confess that I haven't missed the mucking out, but I have missed the companionship I had with her. I still shed a tear each time I go into the loft and I see her saddle, grooming kit and rugs (which are currently being used to lag sensitive water pipes).

I miss her nudging me so hard in the shoulder that it hurts, the smell of her, the sound of her whinny when I arrived, the thud of her hoof as she stamped her feet in impatience, the feel of the leather, the thrill when jumping, the tingle in my fingers and the funny faces she would pull when I offered her an apple, the way she swished her tail when I groomed her, the obedience, the acceptance and shying at daffodils in March - and so many other things.

Me and Ellie

Miss her so much.
The best view in the world

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Went to a 'talking business' event at my bank last month and a small business customer gave a talk about his business. He discussed how the bank had helped him and how he had expanded and become a success in four years - all very interesting and inspirational.

One thing I took away from the talk was how he talked about his mentor. He sees his mentor every fortnight and that he discusses with him his ideas for marketing, expansion, dealing with customers, staff issues and in fact, it seems, most things. He said his mentor gives him confidence and sees his ideas from the outside offering succinct and valuable advice.

Until the beginning of the summer I had a mentor, someone who knew me and my plans, someone I could bounce ideas around with, and - most importantly - someone whose advice I trusted. As they have been a bit busy it has not been convenient to continue. I realised recently that I am missing this advice and guidance.

My plan for the next few months is to find someone who is willing to give me a little of their time to give me some advice and allow me to plan and develop my business - it's going to be tricky but I think I know where I can look. Just need to see how willing they are.

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Product Table

All ready to start experimenting over the next two weeks ready to get out and capture product shots for some of my business contacts.

I have the cold light to go under the product table; a lead for my Speedlite flash so I can get it off camera and do more interesting things with the light; a second Speedlite flash which also has a soft box and will be triggered by infra-red - both of these can be attached to the product table. All that is missing is the product table itself. It is being adjusted so that I can fit the cold light underneath it. Hopefully it'll be here on Monday and then I'll start experimenting.

Once I have it all set up and ready to go I shall post images. Very excited about this because if I can make all this work I can offer my small business clients studio quality product shots that can be completed in their home or office. Have worked really heard to get the elements of this into manageable and relatively easy to carry boxes/bags.

All this is helping me understand where I want the business to be and the unique offers I can make. Will also make it easier for me to develop my business plan for the coming year.

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16 December 2011

Rankin on Life

"It's about the pictures."
John Shearer - LIFE photographer

Just watching the programme which was on recently, presented by Rankin - America in Pictures: The story of Life magazine where he is interviewing former Life photographers. Extraordinary, and very interesting.

Two things:

One - is he going to talk about the future of photojournalism and the fact that photojournalists are being made redundant because of the ubiquitous iPhone and the rise of the citizen journalists? Read this article.

Two - is this programme just a way of advertising his new magazine? The new D&AD competition is a brief he has set. It is an interesting brief and one I am looking forward to creating something for it - but one has to consider whether it is a master stroke to raise the profile of the mag. Good luck to him he clearly has a savvy marketing and PR team.

Oh he didn't mention the future of photojournalism. But it was a film filled with truly great photographers who are braver (and some my say) more talented than Rankin.

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Had a posh hair do for an event this evening. Here's the dilemma - will it still look OK in the morning for my early meeting?

The answer is - yes.

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14 December 2011

Digging through the archives

Had to look through my archives for some images I captured when I first had my camera. I need them to help me illustrate a point about film and digital cameras in a talk I'm giving.

Wow what a trip down memory lane that was.
Anstey 1980

Photos of me with spots and ripped jeans - what a state I was - and yet I thought I was so cool! Photos of some favourite people that whilst I hadn't forgotten about them I had forgotten about these images. One in particular made me realise why I fancied them all that time ago (can't show that one - people will get upset) and another that made me realise why my sister keeps saying what she does about him.

Anstey 1980

Memory lane I do love you at times. Really made me smile at the end of a very long day. And I found my attempt at a William Egglestone - this was taken in the early 80s:

Edale 1980
Cambridge 1990
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13 December 2011

Day at Hospital

Spent a very pleasant couple of hours at Queen's Hospital today. Capturing images for their Annual Report. Today was all about familiarisation. Really enjoyed it. Met some fantastic people - so devoted to their work. Am really looking forward to the work I will be doing next year.

Just processing some images - here's some I can show you:

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12 December 2011

Books Books Books

Yesterday I ordered three books.
One for a client made for her parents to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.

Copy of the one I made for my mum earlier this year. I can't keep using her copy to show people. So I have ordered my own copy.

And finally, blurb were offering a new product - a notebook. A notebook which contains your images every 6 pages or so. I thought I would have a look at them 6 x 9 inches sounds a good size for a notebook. Then if I like them I can think about ordering more for gifts to clients and also offer it as a product I can create for people.

I love creating things. I should have been planning and preparing a presentation and an essay but creativity comes first in my book.

Oh see what I did there!

Tee hee

My website does not contain information about the fact that I can create photo books for people nor how much this might cost them. Spent half an hour updating my website to link to the Joan book I created for my mum (above). I also added prices based on the book I created for the 40th Wedding Anniversary (above).

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"When your demon is in charge, do not try to think consciously. Drift. Wait. Obey."
Rudyard Kipling

Not sure how seriously I should take this quote because mostly life is all about deadlines. Get it. Do it. Deliver it.

C'est la vie.

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11 December 2011

It never ceases to amaze ...

It never ceases to amaze me when I read some people's facebook pages how nasty and vitriolic they are. When I see it I make sure I delete them (cousin deleted) - or never add them. I also tire of the ham psychology and nasty sayings about the opposite sex that people love to add. This is often posted by people my age, people who should know better. I am sad they are not happy. I guess that's life - would be a horrid place if we were all the same.

Happy holidays everyone - hope the bed bugs don't bite.

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Turner Prize 2011

Learnt something new today. Not only do you need to be under 50 to be considered for the Turner Prize but that the judging is done on the exhibitions of the artists work over the previous year.

It has been running since 1984. This year, for the first time, it was held away from the Tate in London, at the Baltic in Gateshead. It has been such a success and boosted visitors to the area that they are going to hold it away from London every other year - starting in Derry in 2013.

Previous winners that I am aware of are Tracey Emmin 99 (who actually was only ever nominated and never won). Damien Hurst in 1995 and nominated in 92. Wolfgang Tillmans in 2000 - the only photographer to win. Grayson Perry in 2003 one of my favourite artists and I will be seeing his latest exhibition the 'tomb of the unknown craftsman' at the British Museum on 21st December and use my Art Pass. Anish Kapoor in 91 whose work I enjoy seeing and have seen two of his exhibitions over the last year.

This years' winner - Martin Boyce is 42 and from Glasgow. Some say he was the safe choice because they were nervous about being away from London.

A younger Martin Boyce

He is good and his work is very nice. He is experimenting  with his work - just like everyone else does - but it's not obscure, it's not cutting edge. It is art as we know it rather than a new development in contemporary art, which surely has to be the point of the Turner prize.
My favourite piece was the 'Air Vent'
Image courtesy of Guardian.co.uk from Channel 4 recording

Do you have to suffer for your art or can anyone do it? If you haven't suffered has it been worth it? After all when Picasso's work started to get noticed critics were heard to say: "Why a child of 6 could do that".  



The Turner Prize celebrates new developments in contemporary art and awards a prize each year (except 1990 when the sponsor went bankrupt). The prize is currently in excess of £40,000.

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10 December 2011

Erik Knudsen

Well our first guest lecturer of the year - a long time to wait but I hear there are many more booked for the new year - which will be fantastic.

Erik has been about to visit for the past year and finally he arrived. In doing my research before he arrived I discovered that he would either be a white teenage actor from Canada or a black 40 something film making Salford professor. My money was on the second.

Here are my notes from the talk:

Films he showed clips from: One Day Tafo - his first feature length film. Vainilla Chip (2009) - which was very moving.
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I find the visiting lecturers very stimulating - even when it is not a subject area I am familiar with. I think this is because they are passionate people, clever, talented and gifted. I always feel motivated after a lecture and they get my ideas flowing. Erik was full of words of wisdom and routes to be creative by. I scribbled an idea for a portrait shot, which I will try out soon.
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