I’m With Alice

One of the stories I return to time and again for inspiration is Alice in Wonderland. There is such an abundance of imagery in there I could (almost) forgive Carroll his proclivities.
The Body Snatchers and Down the Rabbit Hole, both featuring different versions of Alice, began life as studio shots and were then subjected to some digital artwork – a very little in the case of Body Snatchers and quite a lot for Rabbit Hole.
The Mad Hatter and Only Make Believe were taken at an Alice in Wonderland themed day at Studio 3 by Severn. The model playing the role of the Dormouse coped very well with having my fisheye lens literally half an inch from her nose.

The Body Snatchers was accepted into eleven FIAP Salons and a won a Ribbon
The Mad Hatter was accepted into three FIAP Salons and a Diploma
Down the Rabbit Hole was accepted into three FIAP Salons and won a Silver Medal
Only Make Believe was accepted into four FIAP Salons

Last three …

These are the last three images I have of my AFIAP application. There were a few more but they have been lost in the mists of time.

This is my grand-daughter, Hannah on what (I think) was her very first time in the studio. We were all a bit nervous (well, I was!) but somehow we muddled through and I came away with some memorable photographs. I liked this pose a lot and carefully cut her out from her background and popped her on some haystacks we saw near Frampton Marsh. The wigeon just crept in somehow and gave the picture its name (although it’s a duck really).
The Goose Girl was accepted into one FIAP Salon in Finland.

Mating Migrant Hawkers was accepted into two FIAP Salons.

A Wasp, Masticating was accepted into eight FIAP Salons.

Animals and Birds

On my birthday, very many moons ago, we went to Alvaston Castle in Derbyshire so I could practice with my new 21mm Zeiss lens. This is part of the stable block and I was quite pleased with it until Jan said, “It needs a cat.” It did indeed and now it’s got a cat, a rabbit, a textured layer and a modicum of faffing.
Cook Will be Pleased! was accepted into twelve FIAP Salons and won a Silver Medal, an Honourable Mention and a Highly Commended.

One of my few ‘straight’ nature shots to make any impression on the judges.
Tree Sparrow was accepted into one FIAP Salons.

This sky-gazing grey heron was at Attenborough Nature Reserve in Nottinghamshire and the blasted trees were at Titchwell Marsh in Norfolk. When they came together it snowed on them.
Keeping an Eye on the Weather was accepted into two FIAP Salons.


This is Meerkats in the Snow, a very early composite picture. I had shot the snowy scene at Rutland Water and Jan said it needed some foreground interest, so I popped in the meerkats. I remember doing a lot of ‘rubbing out’ and colouring in’ as it was before Photoshop and I really became friends.
It was accepted into twenty five FIAP Salons and won three gold medals, two silver medals and a bronze medal. It also picked up a few medals in the BPE Salons.

Vigil in the Snow. This was never meant to be a competition picture. The tree is at Wilford Hill, a cemetery on the outskirts of Nottingham. I have photographed it many times in all four seasons on my visits to my daughter, who left us a long time ago. I particularly liked the misty atmosphere on a snowy morning and moved the lady along a little way to add human interest.
It was accepted into two FIAP Salons.

Feeding the Ducks. A very early morning at Clumber Park with the trees disappearing into the foggy background. I transferred the man and the ducks from another photograph taken on the same day to add a splash of colour.
It was accepted into one FIAP Salon.

Hoar Frost at Clumber Park. My abiding memory of this picture is that the temperature was -10 degrees and I was complaining bitterly. The conditions were lovely for a landscape shot, though, and the swans floated by at exactly the right time. I was already gaining a reputation for adding ‘bits and bobs’ and had to explain more than once that this was a straight shot.
It was accepted into ten FIAP Salons and won a silver medal.

Early Portraits

This little group of portraits is a fair representation of where I was at photographically back in 2014 and in pursuit of my first accreditation of AFIAP. In the Pink (top left) and Grunge and Roses (centre) were taken at a workshop where all I was required to do was turn up, know enough to turn the camera on and click the button. Cabaret (top right) came from a lighting workshop. I thought I was doing pretty well to convert it to black-and-white and add a little smoke. Love Amongst the Ruins (bottom left) is an older shot, taken in the studio at university in my second year and later amalgamated with a shot from Stratford-on-Avon. It was my first nude shoot (not me, the models) and they kept their pants on to preserve their modesty. It was only when I viewed the shots later that I realised the flash had rendered his posing pouch transparent. Hello, Old Friend (bottom right) was a lovely moment on a nature reserve where Jan was feeding the robin on her hand; it seemed to strike a chord with judges as it won a Gold Medal in one of the BPE Salons (another story) and came second in the Nature category in the British Wildlife Exhibition.
All Nikon shots, except Love Amongst the Ruins, which was taken with a Leica.

In the Pink was accepted into three Salons
Cabaret was accepted into fourteen Salons and won an Honourable Mention
Grunge and Roses was accepted into three Salons
Love Amongst the Ruins was accepted into five Salons and won a Silver medal and an Honourable Mention
Hello, Old Friend was accepted into four Salons

I’m Walking in Sunshine …

Horrible as the idea of lockdown is, it has had some positive energy, as well. Lots of household ‘I’ll get round to it one day’ – type jobs got done; I’ve finally made a start on cataloguing my photographs and finished my first novel, Circles of Confusion’.
Nevertheless, the relaxing of the Draconian rules (a little) and the advent of some glorious weather has come as a welcome respite, allowing us to get out in the sunshine and hunt for mini beasties.
Clockwise from top left: Mother Shipton moth, Tree Bumblebee, Orange Tip butterfly,Burnet Companion and Common Blue butterfly.

A Walk on the Wild Side

Long before I ever set foot in a studio and long before I retired from work to go to university, I cut my photography teeth on nature and wildlife in the nature reserves of the East Midlands and surrounding counties. Spending a day in winter finding and watching birds or, in summer, hunting for butterflies, moths and insects remains one of my abiding passions.
When it comes to wildlife competitive photography, I have only intermittent success, pitted as I am against some of the wonders of the wider world. My domestic animals struggle to hold their own against monkeys in frozen ponds, horses in the Camargue and the many exotic beasts seen on safari.
Every now and then, however, one of my favourite pictures will do well at one of the International Salons and it gives me that little extra bit of pleasure to know they’re having their moment in the sunlight.
The five pictures here were all successful in my first year of competing for the accreditation of AFIAP.

Mating Migrant Hawkers was accepted into two Salons
Broad Bodied Chaser was accepted into two Salons
Brown Hare Running was accepted into four Salons
Brimstone on Scabious was accepted into four Salons
A Wasp Masticating was accepted into eight Salons

First time working in a studio

I loved being at university, enjoying the freedom of picking and choosing which elements of the course I would take seriously, because I wasn’t depending on my results to get a job. So I immersed myself in the history of photography and studied the working practices of contemporary photographers. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the darkroom and, to this day, am a digital-only kind of photographer. I love my computer nearly as much as I love my camera.
My first experience of working in studio was shortly after my expedition with Hannah to create the Working Girl series. Along with three other people, I paid my £45 pounds to photograph ‘models’ in a lighting set-up arranged by the studio owner. I quickly realised this would not be my ‘thing’, as I like to be in control of any given situation. But it did open my eyes to the fact that portraiture was what I’d like to pursue.
Too Cool for School was the first photograph I ever converted to monochrome and Only God Can Judge Me was the beginning of my love for composites, where I settled down and used YouTube videos to learn how to do them ‘properly’.

These two photographs, modelled by Jayden, were early entries in pursuit of AFIAP, the first level of FIAP Salons.
Too Cool for School was accepted into sixteen FIAP Salons
Only God Can Judge Me was accepted into six FIAP Salons

Where it began …

… did that get Neil Diamond singing in your head? Never mind; maybe you’re not as old as me – or a cricket fan. Anyway this is the story of the first ‘real shoot’ I did after I finished at university. They were taken for a competition in the Amateur Photography magazine and the only criteria was to use added light, but not in a studio.

We drove in convoy out of the city at night to a retail park in Netherfield. Martyn and Beverley in the first car, because Martyn knew where he was going; Hannah and Mason following on; then Sian and Jack; and finally, Jan and I.
The dark street was perfect. The story was that Hannah was a ‘working girl’, standing under a lamp post waiting for a punter. So I had light shining down on her head and also from Sian’s car, parked to the left of the shot with the headlights on. Mason was driving the car in Mean Streets, pretending to be a punter.
It all went pretty well, considering I had only a shaky idea of what I was doing. Working Girl ended up being a composite but Mean Streets is a straight shot. It was either 2013 or 2014 when we did this and I look at them now and think, “I wish I’d known ….” but everything’s a learning curve, is it not?
It was only as we were packing up to go home that we realised the fence to the right of the shot bordered the Royal Mail depot and we’d had a very interested audience of postal workers while we were working!
It was Hannah’s first experience as a model and she proved that night, and many times since, that she’s a natural, responsive to direction and patient, as well as being adept at the snappy answer.

These were the first two pictures I ever entered in a FIAP Salon, hoping to achieve the first level of AFIAP.
Working Girl was accepted into five FIAP exhibitions.
Mean Streets was accepted into twelve FIAP exhibitions and earned a Highly Commended, an Honourable Mention and a Judge’s Award.