Month: August 2016

21 Aug

Distilled witterings & no, I don’t have a beard

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A while ago now, I somehow found myself in the living room of someone I’d never met before in deepest, darkest Swansea, sat across from them at a kitchen table, facing a microphone and nervously gripping a steaming hot cup of tea, wondering how on earth I was going to say something that was witty or erudite which would be vaguely interesting to those reading a future issue of Outdoor Photography.  I don’t consider myself to have an interesting backstory to my photography or life in general, it’s been fairly mundane in all honesty and no different from the vast majority of people who go to work every day and have a hobby of some description outside of work to keep them sane.

Somehow though, Nick Smith managed to do a grand old job of distilling my ramblings.  He’d read a couple of my blogs as research before we met, and by his own admission, his challenge for this interview would be to ‘keep things concise and keep me on track’.  I’d never met him before, but he’d already got the measure of me…damn him.  Clearly Nick has gone through this whole process once or twice before, ok, over a hundred times at least, but I still don’t envy him his job in extracting information and quips from photographers, most of whom I’d assume are like me and don’t really like to talk much about themselves.

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Interestingly, much of the content that appears in the interview occurred after Nick had turned the recorder off, an all too familiar story apparently, but somehow Nick duly managed to weave that together with the conversation he’d caught on tape to craft the words that appear in this month’s issue of Outdoor Photography…issue 209 (on sale on 25th August and available from all good retail outlets, and some crap ones as well)

I’m hugely grateful to Nick for conveying what we discussed that otherwise dreary Sunday afternoon in Swansea, to Steve Watkins for asking me to be in the magazine in the first place and for pulling together a selection of my images and Nick’s words into a spread I’m immensely proud of.

Although, I do need a new headshot though.  I sent a new one to the folk at OP as the previous one they had on file had me with a beard.  An image taken during the only two weeks of my life where I actually had a full beard, which has led to several people meeting for the first time being shocked that I don’t have one.  I’m no hipster…I have no beard…it itches too much, however apparently the current one is no better as it makes me look like a serial killer…which again, I’m not. Back to the drawing board on that one then….

In the meantime, please pick up a copy of the magazine, and enjoy the wealth of great imagery and articles that are always on display month upon month in Outdoor Photography from a host of great photographers and writers.

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16 Aug

Coping with sunsets, a golden-hour virgin’s guide

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Allow me to start this short missive by giving a bit of background for those who don’t know me very well.  I don’t do sunsets, and I really, really don’t do sunrises.  Admittedly if you rummage through the galleries here on my website a couple have managed to slip through the net, but they are a rarity, and to be perfectly honest those images are pretty much there as a record of the suffering I had to endure in order to get them in the first place…ahem.

Apologies in advance, I know I’m committing landscape photography heresy here, and it’s not done for dramatic photo-snobbery effect, or to somehow grab wildly at making my own drab images more ‘worthy’, but as a rule I just don’t like the golden hour.  I’m much more often to be seen walking off a beach or trudging back down a hill as the sky starts to go nuclear, usually accompanied by disbelieving looks from other photographers as they coo and hammer away at their shutter buttons from behind their sunglasses…I jest of course…a bit…I do sometimes hang around for the blue hour.

There are any number of reasons I guess for my personal dislike of golden hour, or more precisely Lucozade half hour, chief amongst them the fact that I generally think in black and white first, instinctively looking for structure, line, form and space and as a result my favourite colour images are more often than not those where the subject of the image is colour and colour itself provides one of the key compositional elements in the image.  Sometimes for me the glorious, soft, unctuous light of the golden hour is too easily used to mask an otherwise average or lazy composition, relying all too often on the viewer being seduced and made to ‘oooh’ at the sheer gorgeousness and drama of that brief moment of exquisite light. I know I’m hugely in the minority here…so don’t hate me too much…but a Peter Lik fan I ain’t.

Anyway on the weekend I found myself atop a greywacke pavement in Snowdonia helping a fellow tog recce a few locations as the sun started to drop away to the horizon over the Lleyn Peninsula and the sky began to colour up. I’d spent the previous hour or so with the lens pointed firmly at my feet searching out abstract patterns in the rock surface, but as the colour temperature began to increase, the familiar war cry of my photographic compatriot rang out…by text, as he was out of earshot…’Boom!’.

For some reason this sent me into a mild panic, and a combination of golden hour fever and groupthink set in, causing me to hastily frame up a vista with a sun-drenched erratic leading the eye…badly…to the distant peaks of Snowdon.  I fired off a couple of frames as I passed the camera on each of the 25m laps of the pavement I made whilst attempting to outrun the ruddy midge cloud that was intent on turning my calves into something closely resembling corned beef.

Then as Mr Lik painted the sky and turned the saturation up to 11 to make my retinas weep, I looked down….and there beneath my feet the bedraggled stems of heather were suddenly burning under the low orange sidelight and contrasting with the blue shadows of the sandstone…hmmm…interesting.  I grabbed the camera, pointed it down and for the next 10 minutes ran around exploiting the Lucozade effect and the slightly disorientating perspective you can get where the subject’s relief can appear reversed due to the strong sidelighting.  A few of those images are included below…don your sunglasses first though…

So I’ve only gone and enjoyed a photographic sunset haven’t I?  Does this mean I’ll shoot another? Probably…Does it mean I’ll walk off a beach or a mountain as it all goes nuclear above me? Maybe not, I might be tempted to hang around and point the camera at my feet again and exploit it that way. But as for sunrise…..nah….you can just sod off…you’re having a laugh there…