Monday, 30 November 2015

Kim Ayres - Album cover for Robyn Stapleton

Robyn Stapleton is an extraordinarily talented singer of traditional Scots and Irish songs.

Last year she won BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year and in Spring this year she released her debut album, Fickle Fortune.

I met Robyn last autumn when she took part in the photography I was doing for the Macmath project. Then earlier this year I received a phone call from her.

She had completed recording her album but didn't feel she had the right photo for the cover and wondered if I might be able to help.

Initially we talked about a narrative image, perhaps taking inspiration from one of the songs on the album - skipping barefoot through the heather had obvious appeal, but we were at the wrong time of year to make that happen.

We discussed the style of the music and the audience she was hoping to attract, which included keeping one eye on the international market (about 5 million people live in Scotland, but there are about 40 million people who live outwith Scotland who call themselves Scottish, or of Scottish descent).

Robyn has been blessed with striking Celtic looks - pale skin, blue eyes and wonderful curly red hair. In terms of branding for the music she sings, it doesn't get much better - so the more I thought about it, the more a close up headshot seemed to be the way to go. A simple, yet striking portrait.

These things are never as quick and easy as many people think they are, and the shoot took 2 or 3 hours as we played with lighting and expressions - although quite early on we realised a particular lighting style gave a painterly quality we liked. Far more time than the photo shoot was then taken in the editing afterwards as I played with subtle shifts in light, shadow and tone to enhance the effect we were after.

Robyn Stapleton by Kim Ayres

To say I was pleased with it would be an understatement - it captured everything I set out for, and then some. Fortunately Robyn was delighted with it too.

It's always a little bit odd, to see something I've created on a physical album cover, rather than in the back of the camera or on a computer screen. After it leaves my hands and is sent to the graphic designer, more adjustments are made to the image for style and practical considerations before sending it to print, so it's never identical. But I was thrilled to see it has worked out so well and had the impact we were seeking.

Fickle Fortune by Robyn Stapleton

I'm also delighted to tell you it sounds amazing too.

For more about Robyn Stapleton, here are her web and Facebook addresses:

Kim Ayres

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

David Moses - Why go on a photography workshop?

Why go on a photography workshop?

You could go alone to somewhere you think will have potential and then hope to stumble across a couple of good spots and then hopefully take some pictures that might work.

Or, you could sign up for workshop from a pro photographer who knows how to get the most out of a given situation, can guide you through the process and be on hand to offer feedback and advice as and when you need it. I know what I prefer. And the good thing is, whatever your preferred taste in photography, there is probably a workshop happening nearby that will be appropriate.

Advantages to you - the biggest advantage from attending workshops is that they give you a way to do things. For example, I don’t know much about wildlife photography. Now I could go and try to take some pictures of animals and maybe I would get lucky. More likely though I would come back with mediocre shots. What I would actually do is attend GPC member Tom Langlands workshop (here) and I would learn tried and trusted methods of getting results. Now that is a much better place to begin isn’t it?

Good photographers are always learning - just like successful people in any industry. They jump at the chance to learn new skills, methods and techniques.

If you are interested in street photography, I am running a workshop (click here for details) in January to show how I approach it, what techniques I use, what settings I start with, what I look for and how I work a scene.

I think my favourite thing about attending workshops is that I always leave filled with ideas and hungry to go out and shoot more, and that is always a good thing.

David Moses

Monday, 16 November 2015

Roger Lever - History, learning curves and working in mono

When I was a young lad in Yorkshire I purchased a Praktica Nova 1 SLR camera. Boots couldn’t give me much advice about using it as it was new on the market.

Getting a film into the camera was the first hurdle. I remember going into a pitch black room and fumbling around trying to get the d—n thing into the back of the camera. Then I discovered that I really didn’t need to do it in the dark at all. This was the beginning of a long l—o—n—g learning curve which continues to this day. Ok, now what? Point and shoot? No, there were also sorts of dials and settings even on the simplest of SLR cameras like the Praktica that needed to be set first! I worked through the brief manual that came with the camera. Then it was a case of “having a bash”

Ok, I had a bash and took the film back to Boots for developing and printing. I don’t really remember what those very first images were like but whatever they were it certainly encouraged me to carry on. All the prints I did then were were in black and white of course. To cut a long story short, I was fortunate that a friend of the family lived just down the road from our house and he was a keen amateur photographer. He developed and printed his own pictures.

I spent a lot of time in his dark room 'messing about' developing and printing films. I learned about the chemicals and the different ways of changing the final print. Eventually I created my own darkroom, developed my own films, enlarging and printed my own images. When I look back at some of those photos I produced then I am really quite pleased with what I achieved.

Colour photography quickly took over from the black and white images I was producing so it became necessary to send the film away again to be processed as it was rather more complicated to develop and print colour film in those days.

I never forget though and still admire good black and white images of landscapes and portraits. I regularly look back through my collection of books on photography just to get inspiration. I still produce many of my own black and white images although now I work in my digital darkroom which is my computer. I have a printer which I use to print many of my own images. In fact when I look at the equipment I now use it all looks pretty complicated. The cameras are like mini computers and have far more capabilities than most photographers require. You can pay a few hundred pounds for a good camera but several thousand for a Rolls Royce of a camera.

The lenses we attach to the front are similarly priced. That’s before you ever take the photo. The computer and the software again can cost thousands of pounds. So as a professional photographer these days the level of investment is pretty high. We would all love to have a Rolls Royce of a camera of course, a mere £26,000 or so just for the camera body. Then there are the lenses and on you go. The fuel consumption is pretty pricey too!!

Oh! And if you have a camera like that you need a special vehicle to drive around in! Just to look the part! Dream on.

I still have that old Praktica camera and I do believe there is a film still in it.

Roger Lever

Monday, 9 November 2015

Giles Atkinson - Surely you can just Photoshop that...

Photoshop seems to get a bad rap in the press, with models being made to look superhuman before going on the front page of glossy fashion magazines. It is however a valuable tool for photographers to master.

As a wedding photographer there are always certain group shots required and I always make sure I get a list from the bride and groom before the big day. It's important that I know exactly what shots are required and I can get them done quickly and with the minimal amount of fuss. No doubt someone will want the occasional extra shot, like 'All the Grandchildren with Granny' or 'All the Aunties' which, of course, I am always happy to oblige.

A couple of years ago now, I was contacted by the sister of a groom, a little after the wedding, she'd been a bridesmaid and had wanted a photograph with her brother. An additional photograph that had been overlooked in all the excitement.

There was a group shot of her and her brother with the other bridesmaids and she wanted to know if I could remove the other girls?

At first glance this seemed easy enough..

Masking out the groom and then cloning information from the grass, trees and low wall, it was easy enough to remove the two bridesmaids on the left. Although the trees are repeated this is something that will disappear once the image is cropped in.

The next issue was the sister's elbow which was originally hidden by the bridesmaid's flowers. So before I removed the last bridesmaid, I borrowed her elbow and re-jigged it enough that it could replace the missing part of the sister's arm.

That done, the sister is masked and then the final bridesmaid is cloned out with the trees, wall and grass from the right hand side. Finally a tight 7x5 crop removed any duplication in the picture.

The sister of the groom was delighted with the finished result.

Yes, You can Photoshop it, but it is a painstakingly long process and I would much rather get the shot in camera from the very start!

Giles Atkinson

Monday, 2 November 2015

Moments in Time - An Exhibition by Galloway Photographic Collective

Moments in Time is the brand new exhibition by Galloway Photographic Collective that opens to the public tomorrow (3 November 2015) in Shambellie House at New Abbey near Dumfries.

It is always difficult to put on an exhibition with seven different photographers who all work in different styles and genres albeit with occasional overlaps. However, photography is all about moments in time or perhaps several moments in time or even the passage of time and this exhibition is a show of precisely that.

From landscapes to wildlife, portraits to fantasy, 'Moments in Time' aims to have something for all viewers of all ages no matter what aspect of photography fires your interest or imagination.

There is also an audio visual installation by Roger Lever Photography that recreates the passage of time amongst the gannets on the Bass Rock.

Moments in Time has been several months in the planning and features work by the seven local photographers of Galloway Photographic Collective. Each of the photographers will be hosting a 'meet the photographer' session where you can pop along for an informal chat or just enjoy a coffee with the artist. The photographers and the relevant dates to meet them are:-

Tom Langlands      5 November
David Moses          7 November
Kim Ayres              8 November
Roger Lever           11 & 18 November (mornings only)
Giles Atkinson        22 November
Holly Burns            21 November
Allan Wright           (not available)

In addition to the exhibition by Galloway Photographic Collective there is also a Scottish Members' Print Exhibition  by The Royal Photographic Society.

The above exhibitions run from 3 November - 29 November 11.00 a.m. - 4.00 p.m. daily (except Mondays)

Shambellie House is a wonderful building that oozes history and charm but also needs care and attention. Bringing the building back into use and finding ways to allow it to show something of its splendour is one of the reasons that this is the venue for this exhibition.

Please pop in to see 'Moments in Time', meet like minded photographers, purchase early Christmas presents, exchange ideas or just have a pleasant trip out.

We hope to see you there.