Another trip into the archives. Tillie Feather was both a dancer and a gymnast and a pure joy to work with.
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.
This Tuesday, my Camera Club is hosting an informal competition. An external judge will critique each picture and award points out of twenty. There is an Intermediate category and an Advanced category. I am in the Advanced category and these are my three entries. For variety, I have selected a composite image (Death of a Maiden), a fisheye image (The Cheat) and a straightforward monochrome (The Fascinator). They’re all pulled from my archives and all have done very well when entered into International Salons, so it will be interesting to see how they fare. I’ll come back on Wednesday and enter the scores.pho
Devonn is the grand-daughter of one of my best friends, Dawn, who was also the best friend of my late daughter, Aisling, so she is very special to me.
As well as being a very beautiful young girl, Devonn is fierce on the football field and destined for a great career in her chosen sport.
She was just fourteen years old when she first came to the studio for a photograph session with her friend, Emma. (Teenyboppers) I was keen to shoot with her again and she proved to be a very responsive and intuitive model. I’m sure we’ll work together again one day when the Covid clouds roll back.
Naked, that is.
I’m often asked if I feel uncomfortable, or even exploitative, when photographing nude women or men.
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
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.
Left: Lost in Thought. Right: The Courtesan.
A few pictures of Hannah, pulled from the archives; my favourite model, not just because she’s my grand-daughter but also because she’s so versatile.
Girl in a Red Scarf was a serendipity moment. Hannah was waiting to go on set when I noticed the drama created by the red wall, the scarf and her pink hair. This is literally a grab shot as she moved a few seconds later and the moment was gone. It did fairly well in the international Salons, garnering twelve acceptances and a Silver Medal.
Sunshine and Showers was taken for a competition at Beeston Camera Club. The category was Wet and Hannah’s young man was stood on a stepladder pouring water from a watering can. We hadn’t factored in the wind and she did get quite wet when gusts blew the water In her face. It was all for naught, as well, because I had to add rain in an overlay anyway. Not only that but the picture didn’t overly impress the judge on the night.
Geisha Girl was shot at my daughter Beverley’s home. I took my portable lights round and Hannah’s sister, Sian, painted her face. The flowers were a leftover bouquet from Mother’s Day which was languishing in he shop at half price so we made good use of them. It got accepted into five international Salons.
Wild Child and The Chase came about because I wanted to photograph Hannah’s dad’s Harley Davidson. We couldn’t get it into the studio (two flights of stairs) so Dave Severn arranged for us to use a small room in a car dealership. Wild Thing has only been sent out once (I stopped competing just after I made it) to a circuit in Finland, but it was accepted into three of the four Salons. The Chase has only seen the light of day at Beeston Camera Club where it scored 20/20.
This is Ticket 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.
But, hey, two medals and an HM – I’ll take that.
Today I’ve been working with the remove background tool in Photoshop. I want to use this photograph of Devonn on the front cover of Ashes on the Tongue, due for publication around Easter time. I was having great difficulty in separating her hair from the black background and was on the verge of giving up when I attended a Zoom lecture last night at Nottingham & Notts Photographic Society where John Bermingham drew my attention to this neat little tool.
This is a quick and dirty practice run on a very low res photograph but it has encouraged me enormously. That’s the trouble with Photoshop, it’s so bloody enormous that the answer to a problem can be right under your nose and you don’t know it. Move the slider to see the results.
This original painting, Tirkane Road, Maghera, is another image I am using for the Ashes on the Tongue cover and the reason why I was so anxious to separate Devonn’s hair from the background.
It’s by George A Gourley, an Irish artist, who has given me permission to use it. I am delighted because it has just the right feel for the era I am writing about.
I met Gail Noble through a multi-photographer / multi model day and was instantly impressed by her unique ability to lose herself completely in a character.
We went on to do a couple of shoots after that where we could explore different ideas, aided by the fact that she is also a very talented seamstress, able to create her own costumes, as in the portrait of Gail posing as Queen Victoria. The background to Her Majesty is an interior shot from Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire.
We has fun with Stand and Deliver, making full use of a wind machine, although I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me she’s holding the knife in he wrong way. She looked pretty determined to me so I wasn’t going to argue with her! All I did to this one was add a few trees and a bit of mist.
Fear Not the Dark was taken at the initial shoot mentioned above and is a (nearly) straight shot, only needed the addition of a flame in the lamp.