Monday, 28 April 2014

An Autumn Walk up Merrick - Morag Paterson

I’d been asked by a client to take a photo from the top of the Merrick and having waited for an ideal forecast for some time I decided to lump it and go up in marginal weather with the hope of some decent visibility between showers.

Knowing I was likely to get wet I’d packed as much gear as I could carry, stuffing my f-stop pack full and fixing the big tripod with panoramic levelling head on the back (weighing in at about 15kg going up a hill with this baggage gives you a decent workout) and headed on up from the car park overlooking Loch Trool.

The first part of the walk up Merrick is easy going, if a little rough in places, following a lovely burn before turning up into the trees. After coming through the darkness of the coniferous trees and out onto the ridge I realised my dreams of staying dry were not going to manifest. Stinging rain and wind came in from the coast and I had to stop in my tracks to don all my waterproof kit. It seemed worthwhile to push on though and at the top as I was indeed rewarded with a decent vista, with just the right level of drama from the sky. Knowing I had to work quickly I began a rapid assembly of my gear, only to find that one of my tripod legs had obviously fallen out on the way up.

This was exasperating; especially as this was the hill I’d done a double ascent of a couple of years previously, the first time for a photo and the second to retrieve my favourite jacket, which I’d managed to leave at the top. Not only did I not fancy doubling back to look for the leg – which could have been anywhere – I also knew I was unlikely to get the shot if I delayed further.

Bizarrely, just as I was wondering if I could get a decent panoramic while hand holding the camera, a couple arrived at the summit, the man carrying a walking stick that was the exact dimensions – I kid you not – of my missing tripod leg. Without any hesitation I asked if he would mind me borrowing it and after a moments consideration he acquiesced.

The stick slotted into the hole perfectly and I got my shot, and I thanked fate for smiling on me.

Coincidentally, I had a box of pear cider in my van (a thank you for another photographer that I hadn’t managed to catch up with) and I was able to leave it as a thank you by their car when I got back to the car park.

Another lesson learned, always check your kit before setting out (and check it again before packing up from wherever you end up shooting).

Amazingly, I found the tripod leg on the way back down, just a few hundred yards from the car.

Leeming & Paterson Photography

Monday, 21 April 2014

Storm Tree - Phil McMenemy

A tree is a tree is a tree - isn’t it?

I think for many of us that’s the case. I think it’s easy to see why this might be so when confronted by huge swathes of forestry plantations or tangled, confusing woodland. But if you look more closely trees can be different, well they can be to me at least.

I’m not saying I know every tree I’ve ever met, that’d be daft but some trees are worth getting to know – and I know a few... like I know ‘Storm Tree’.

She was old when we first met. We were on nodding terms and viewed each other from afar for almost eight years – I knew I’d go visit her to say hello at some point – and then I did.

It was the most special evening, a dramatic sky and wonderful, electric light – a large, angry black front was moving across Galloway from the east... yet before it was the most clear blue sky imaginable – perfect.

I knew where I had to be – I was going to the tree, Storm Tree, though at the time she had no name – that came later.

Drive, leave car, walk – eyes fixed on tree watching and waiting – anticipating the light (and the rain), still waiting.

An approach, an embrace, a hello - then to work – the result ‘Strom Tree and Rainbows’ – a glorious moment.

A complete soaking, as payback, on the way back to the car - a small price to pay.

The image took me about a year to display and promote as I thought no-one would believe it – they did, thankfully, and it has been fantastically well-received ever since.

An interlude of three years – children grow, hair greys and business develops – then came the winds, the massive destructive and damaging winds here in Galloway of December 2013.

Power was lost, roads were closed and the village became cut-off briefly due to many, many fallen trees.

Then came a conversation, a conversation with a knowing friend, who mentioned that ‘it’s a shame about Storm Tree’, (many now knew her as Storm Tree), ‘ a shame she’s gone!’ Gone? What? No?

A clarification to ensure that we were talking about THE Storm Tree – we were and she was gone - gone with the wind!

A sadness, a loss – and a need to revisit, to pay respect and to say thank you.

There - fallen, broken and smashed is ‘my’ tree – ‘Storm Tree’.

Paying respect was quite straightforward as she appeared to be lying in state – just as, across the other side of the world, another great elder statesman was lying in state Nelson Mandela – the two were linked, in my mind.

Two great structures, two great symbols and two great losses – both very different but to me the resonance remained.

Enjoy trees, hug trees, love trees but most of all protect and cherish trees.

Phil McMenemy

Monday, 14 April 2014

It's not all just point and click... - Kim Ayres

These days, pretty much everyone is a photographer to one degree or another. The rise of digital photography with cameras on phones that have auto-focus, auto-exposure, image-stabilisation and even face-recognition mean, for the most part, so long as we wave the camera roughly in the right direction we'll capture an image that's approximately what we set out to get.

And if someone clicks often enough, eventually by sheer chance alone, they can end up with a reasonably decent image.

But for the professional, leaving it to chance isn't what it's about. Years of learning and practice hone skills. We learn to narrow the odds and craft an image so we can go beyond the reasonably decent to the excellent - again and again

For the kind of photography I do, it's not just about capture - there is a great deal of creation going on. I don't just mean in the construction of sets or choosing of outfits or locations, but also in constantly making adjustments to the lighting and composition once the shoot has begun.

Additionally, when photographing people, the thoughts, moods and feelings of the model also need to be taken into consideration and worked with. Portrait photography is not product photography - the relationship between the photographer and the model will have an impact (positive or negative) on the outcome of the shoot.

So I will take a photo, adjust the light, take another, move an object, take another, ask the model to turn this way or that. And so it goes on - adjusting, revising and tweaking until eventually I reach a point where I'm satisfied every part of the image is as good as it can be.

In a recent photo shoot, the model's brother videoed it with his camera and kindly gave me the footage, which I was able to edit down into a wee 2 minute video.

Hopefully it will give you a taste of what goes on during a shoot and how it's not just point and click...

Video of the shoot

The final photo

Kim Ayres

Monday, 7 April 2014

The leaning glass or the level horizon? - Roger Lever

October 2013 Crete.

Having endured a Scottish summer of non stop rain and family bereavements my wife and I decided that we needed to boost our endorphin levels by visiting one of our favourite destinations. Paleochora on the South Coast of Crete is a must for those who want to get away from the crowds of Northern Crete and it is almost guaranteed to have sunshine. Even in October the water is still warm enough to enjoy a pleasant dip in the Aegean. ‘Apres Swim’ of course is an absolutely necessity after burning up all those calories on the beach!! Indulging in Cretan wine with a healthy salad followed by yoghurt and honey. Bliss.

The camera does go on holiday as well of course and it seeks out those unusual images that just happen to present themselves here in this wonderful mixture of the old and the new.

We sit overlooking the sandy beach enjoying our wine and watch the sun go down over the western horizon. The colours start changing and the sky turns pink, orange, purple and wow if you look through the half empty/half full wine glass, the sun is in focus just disappearing with its tiny reflection in the distant Aegean Sea.

Using my towel to steady my camera I played with the exposure, the focus and the framing. I tried to capture the colours as they were continually changing This image is just one of several that I took.

Now comes the intriguing bit. Was the stem of the glass bent or the table tilted. Maybe it was a trick of mine in post production in photoshop or had I had just too much wine? Which do you think? One other question for the geographers amongst you.

Was it the Aegean Sea in the West or was it another sea?

Roger Lever