Monday, 31 March 2014

Scottish Nature Photography Awards - Allan Wright's a Winner!

Galloway Photographic Collective member, Allan Wright, has won first place in the Scottish Landscape Urban Greenspace category of the Scottish Nature Photography Awards:

Allan says of the image:

"This shot revealed itself whilst at Glasgow Green late October last year. I was updating my Glasgow image bank around the Clyde Walkway and the People's Palace on what was a fine crisp autumn day with a rich and intensely colourful light quality. At the time I thought it was good find, but only later appreciated it was also quite an eloquent description of a significant , if less well known part of Glasgow's heritage.

"The St Andrews Suspension bridge makes an appearance as do the brand new "des res" apartments along the restored riverbank habitat. The benign steaming chimney of the Strathclyde Distillery may dominate but it does not diminish the sense of tranquillity. The only element missing is an olfactory blend of autumn ripeness and distilled malt fragrance!

"Most of all though I like the fact that this is a picture of the "Glasgow Gorbals", a catchphrase universally synonymous with the worst of urban squalor and deprivation. An identity now resigned to legend, as here is the new reality. Glasgow is good at stuff like this!"

Allan Wright

Monday, 24 March 2014

Dhoon Beach - Allan Wright

Accepting I am perhaps better known for my landscape work, a comment from my principle photo library to the effect that image sales are often achieved more easily when there are people in the photograph led me to trawl my files for people pictures, (an interesting journey in itself!).

Out of curiosity I pulled out these two images which have a "before and after" story behind them. The scene is The Dhoon Beach, Kirkcudbright circa 2009 (locals will know it well) A balmy and magical haar lingers across the bay and there in front of me is a timeless scene, a score or more of young children making sandcastles. This kind of light invokes in me an eagerness to explore possibilities. Working quickly while the action lasts I rattle off two or three shots with a longish telephoto lens, conscious of the need to keep my distance where children are concerned. Enjoying the candidness of the scenario, primary colours popping out from the neutralising fog and even the ghostly boat skeleton in the distance, I thought, this is nice material to work with.

There was an edge to my creative moment though, too good to be true you might say, I sensed trouble brewing and from experience I knew exactly where it was to come from. Teacher was quickly on to me, not happy, suspicious and presuming the worst of course. Down goes the camera, metaphorically hands go up, professional status presented, assurances offered, demonstrations of virtual anonymity of said children in such a long distance shot etc etc. In short no acceptance of the benign nature of my purpose was accepted and the shoot was abandoned. Meanwhile in a display of protectiveness our conscientious teacher took the kids away from the scene.

It's an awkward ethical quandary for the "street" photographer to have such a "no go zone". Most of us anyway, love children and childhood and so naturally would wish to share such experience as this time-honoured tradition illustrates. Arguably we have been in an semi-hysterical state about child photography for many years now and we all know why.

Will the tension ease over time and we can get back to a more innocent time where one can explore and celebrate child innocence and personal sentimentality without zealously upheld constraints? Let's hope so.

Allan Wright

Monday, 17 March 2014

Finding the Zone - Morag Paterson

Sometimes when I head out on a shoot potential pictures or subjects are jumping out left, right and centre, at others my camera stays resolutely in the rucksack – either I’m too engrossed in my surroundings to want to take pictures (there are occasions when it’s important to experience what’s going on without the complication of trying to achieve the perfect composition and exposure scenario) or nothing catches my eye as a possibility.

This particular photo was taken on one of the latter occasions. We were on a snowy hike up Cascade mountain in the Adirondacks – if you haven’t been I can thoroughly recommend a visit – and had crested the rocky plateau following the arrows painted on the rocks to get to the summit.

While the vista was undoubtedly spectacular we’d missed the peak of the autumn colour and the light was somewhat flat for capturing the “big view” in my opinion.

I sat there regardless, enjoying soaking up the last warm rays of sun I was likely to experience for the next six months and revelled in the ability to be sitting on a mountain top without a coat, something rarely achieved in Scotland even in midsummer.

Letting my eyes and mind wander I started picking out some of the smaller details on what was essentially a smooth rock surface, a small plant, some rock features, grasses dancing gently in the breeze and came to settle on a cluster of tiny ice formations under some of the larger rocks, hiding in the shadows from the sunlight that would surely melt them.

This was clearly going to be a job for the macro lens – the formations were smaller than my hand, and I was soon down on my belly, face flush with the rock trying to achieve a fast enough shutter speed to capture this hand held.

Needless to say after a few checks of the LCD review screen I was off, barely moving over a couple of metres for the next hour experimenting with capturing these delicate first whisperings of winter.

Typical that having climbed for a couple of hours to access an incredibly view, I come away with a photo of a couple of square inches of ice peeking out from under a rock, but that’s what keeps photography fresh and exciting for me – being open to the unexpected.

Leeming + Paterson Photography

Monday, 10 March 2014

‘Swirl’ – a personal reflection on one image by Phil McMenemy

As artists why do we produce what we produce?

Why do we create what we create?

Why do we work in the way we do?

Is it a conscious act or is the unconscious at work?

In a previous life I worked as a psychiatric nurse with children, young people and their families and was always interested in the unconscious drives behind children’s behaviours and the possible reasons for these behaviours.

I think in the same way about my work – at times more deeply than at other times - why do I do what I do? Need it be a hidden process?

The image I’d like to share today is a very important and very personal image – ‘Swirl’.

This was and still is an important image in terms of my career as this was the first time I had ever won a national photographic competition (it is an irrelevance that this was the first one I had ever entered!) The image won first prize in the Scottish Nature Photography Awards competition (natural abstract) in 2010 – and brought attention and questions but not fame!!!!

It was only later that I was able to start to piece together the componenets of this image - jigsaw – it was quite revelatory.

Capturing this image was the first time I had ventured forth with my camera following the death of my beloved dad – following a degenerating period of ill-health and infirmity due to an industrial illness – mesothelioma – asbestos induced cancer, basically.

It was a tough time but a time full of love, treasured moments and long journeys – both physical and metaphorical.

I was proud of the role I played in dealing with dads illness and remain so – but I was in a place of mixed emotions: pride & contentment and extreme sadness, conflict (turmoil) and feelings of loss about dads death – after all we only have one father!

I think, on reflection, that this image completely and truly captures my emotions at this time. The turmoil represented by the vortex of swirling within the image and my contentment mirrored in the stillness and stability offered by the ‘solid’ leaf and my loss by the presence of ‘dead’ space.

I view my photography as a completely emotional journey and the images created as emotional pieces. I instinctively withdraw from talk of technical proficiency and the purely technical merits of my work – this, to me, misses the point. For me emotionality has to come first.

This is my photographic truth.

Phil McMenemy

Monday, 3 March 2014

Fun with a torch and long exposures - Kim Ayres

While the longer nights of winter are still with us, leaving less daylight time for photography, when the weather isn't too bad other options to play outside are still available.

I'd been out creating a photo of my friend and poet, Mark Williams, to fit with a poem of his. On the way home from the shoot it was a cold, clear night and I thought I’d stop and try photographing the stars. I didn’t have much success in capturing anything interesting, but while the camera was out, I figured we could have a go at a bit of light painting.

With the camera sitting on a tripod, I asked Mark to stand as still as he could and set the timer for 30 seconds. After clicking the shutter release, I then moved the torch around the edges of his body – slowly up one leg and arm, over his head and back down the other side. Because the exposure is so long, and I was moving, my presence wasn’t captured, although if you look closely, you’ll see a couple of dark shadows either side of him, which was caused by me standing still for a few seconds while I moved the torch.

With the glow of the town on the horizon and the stars in the sky (you can see Orion’s belt just up and to the right of his head if you look carefully) behind him, it gives a slightly sci-fi feel to the image, like he’s just landed.

We did it a few times, and this was the best one. We might have done a few more, but by then our fingers and toes were going numb, so we packed up, climbed back in the car and set the heater on full blast.

But you don't have to wait for a cold clear night to try out this kind of thing - just close the curtains and switch the light out to try some light painting around the living room, kitchen or anywhere else indoors.

Kim Ayres