On Wednesday we went to Gibraltar Point, near Skegness in Lincolnshire. Traditionally, this is one of our “big days out’ in the year and, after a long break because of Covid, we were ultra excited at the prospect of what we might see. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. There was a dearth of birds and even the weather turned against us, so it was a sad and sorry journey home. So, to cheer myself up, I’ve had a look through some of my favourite birds from previous years. And here they are.
Clockwise from top left: Female Wheatear, Male Stonechat, Spoonbills, Female Reed Bunting, Juvenile Whitethroat, Cuckoo, Juvenile Avocet and Centre: Female Redstart.
Naked, that is. I’m often asked if I feel uncomfortable, or even exploitative, when photographing nude women or men. I don’t. We all are naked under our clothes. Theirs are just younger and more beautiful than mine.
Clockwise from top left: Mischkah. Model: Mischkah Lady of the Mist: Model: Rosa I Dream in Pink: Model: Eachelle Penance: Mason Nearly Nude. Model: Mischkah
I’d never met Tanya before she walked into the studio on a ‘blind booking’. As soon as I saw her, I knew I was going to shoot her in black-and-white and my instincts didn’t let me down. Over three hundred frames and not a single one in colour. Every photograph of her that I entered into Salons was accepted multiple times and The Courtesan was an award winner.
This isTicket to Ride, one of my more successful images in my early days of competing. It was accepted into Salons in twelve different countries and won a Gold Medal, a Silver Medal and an Honourable Mention. It’s a composite image; nearly every element in it was placed there by me, including the ticket in her hat. I worked hard on the final overlays to blend the tones. I should be very proud of it, but it makes my eyes bleed to look at it. Why? Because the perspective is completely wrong. I shot the model at a group night, in the days before I hired my own model, where you had to dive in for a few minutes to take your turn, no input into pose, costume etc. I was happy enough at the time. The model, Kelli Smith, knew what she was doing and the studio owner excelled at lighting. It was only when I came to put it all together that I fell flat on my face. I had the photographs of the railway station already, so
all I had to do was cut out Kelli from the stool she’d been sitting on and pop her on the bench. Right? I couldn’t have been more wrong. If you look closely, it appears that Kelli’s legs would have been about six feet long to have been in that position. And it’s all down to perspective. I was looking down on Kelli when I photographed her, using (probably) an 85mm portrait lens. I shot the railway station at eye level with a 50mm lens. To get the perspective right, I should have shot both pictures in exactly the same circumstances – bent knee, same distance, same lens, same lighting etc. OK, same lighting can be difficult but that’s adjustable in Photoshop. And, finally, shadows – they’re all over the place. I’ve learnt a lot since then and still learning all the time.
Up, Up and Away was one of those whimsical pictures that ‘just appears’. I was keen to do something lighthearted and with a bit of colour, as a lot of my pictures can be, shall we say, a bit on the sombre side. Vicky May, the model and a talented actress who has appeared in the West End of London, had brought along this patterned dress and the umbrella was leaning on the wall in the corner of the studio. Along with Vicky’s hairstyle and shoes, the whole thing was taking on a decidedly upbeat and quirky feel.
I felt a ‘Mary Poppins’ coming on and dug the red ribbon out of my props box, quickly shooting the dangling foot. It wasn’t until I was assembling the whole thing a bit later that I remembered the squawking gulls (a little bit of faffing required on their beaks) and so they were added in, looking suitably shocked at this strange creature floating in their air space. The only thing left to do was add a cheerful sky and there it was – one of the quickest composites I’ve ever done and it still makes me smile.
As we’re still confined to barracks with not much hope of any bird photography on the horizon, I’ve collected a few winter birds taken in the East Midlands (UK) over the last few years. We can only hope that one day we’ll be out in the sunshine again listening to birdsong.
Hope is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul – And sings the tune without the words – And never stops – at all … Emily Dickinson