Last weekend I was booked for a commercial shoot. The brief? To spend the weekend wandering the streets of Sydney for a collection of images for a corporate brochure. Basically, I was being paid to do some street photography. This is the type of thing I do for fun – whenever I get the chance – and so to be given it as a paid assignment was a double dose of excellent.
It was a great brief I was given too. I was armed with a ‘treasure hunt’ type of map giving me the heads-up for relevant locations. Two days for a comprehensive set of specific imagery from the streets is a tight window. It was made feasible by the fact that I didn’t have to waste time trying to hunt down a heritage building, a funky dog-cafe, or the best street for cafe culture that Sydney has to offer. I had my map, my iPhone and the car. Sorted!
Now, one of the main things I loved so much about living in London for years, was the sense of infinite nooks and crannies that make up that city. It is so dense and layered, so old and mysterious, that even after 10 years of living there, I knew that I had only scratched the surface. One of the things I find hard about Sydney is a lack of these nooks and crannies. Sydney is beautiful and glistening, but it just doesn’t seem to have many dark corners.
Turns out I’m the superficial one here.
Through my assignment last weekend, I was directed to an abandoned mill. Mungo’s Mill is an old flour mill from the 1920s. I’ve done a quick internet search and this is all I can find about it:
The Summer Hill flour mill was built circa 1922, utilising the north-south goods railway line that was constructed during World War 1. The silos were added from the 1950s onwards. The flour mill has been owned by various companies, including Mungo Scott, and Goodman Fielder, and then Allied Mills. In October 2007, the mills were sold to a developer, EG Funds Management, who plans to redevelop the mill site into a residential and commercial precinct.
(disclaimer: I’m a lazy internet researcher, there is probably a whole website on this place and I’ve completely missed it)
Now…this isn’t a tiny building, is it? I have driven around in the area of Summer Hill before. I have actually driven down the street that this mill backs onto. AND I NEVER SAW IT. It seems that Sydney is not entirely to blame for a lack of nooks and crannies. Just open your eyes, woman. Peer over a hedge or two!
I only had about 15 minutes at this site. I walked the block and took shots of the outside from various vantage points.
When I finally arrived at the front gates, I fully expected the gates to be locked.
The gates are NOT locked.
Joe and Jane Public can walk right on in and have a nice wander around. I was instantly smitten, but mindful that (a) time was limited and (b) detail shots of a 1920 Flour Mill were not part of my client’s brief relating to community and family.
I indulged myself for about 10 minutes, but regretfully had to move on. Guess what’s been added to my endless TO-DO list? Especially if this is beauty is going to be knocked down to make way for yet more yuppy Sydney property development in the near future.
Watsons Bay, founded in 1788, is Sydney’s oldest fishing village. Although only 8km out of the city centre, most days here it still feels like that isolated fishing village of 2 centuries ago.
Paddington Reservoir. I’d never heard of it, probably walked past it and certainly drove past it, all without ever noticing.
Would I have eventually found this place on my own? Perhaps. But I love the webby, interconnectedness of the internet, no matter how ethereal and tenuous. It’s like online dating for photo geeks.
The remnants of the reservoir’s watery past is a simple water feature in the middle of the site.
The whole area is labyrinthine: steps going up, then down, then across. It’s too small to get lost, too open-aired to feel spooky, but I still managed to spend the best part of an hour walking up and down and around and up and down again.
The East Chamber is closed now. Permanently?
Who wouldn’t want to relax for a moment under a palm tree while next to (but below) one of Sydney’s trendiest thoroughfares?
As photographers, we often talk about learning through photography. The journey of interacting with the world through our lens, and what we learn about ourselves and others through images.
Well, I’ve got something slightly embarrassing to share. I’ve discovered that I have a bit of a foot fetish. That’s right. Feet.
I think they are the pictures I take in between taking pictures, if that makes any sense. The ‘downtime’ where I’m just photographing without really thinking. I’m not entirely sure when or why, but there they are. Pictures of people’s feet: while they walk along the street, run up the escalators, or wait for bus to arrive.
Mostly, the shots are rubbish. But sometimes I find myself really drawn to them. I like them. There’s something expressive about feet, doing their thing quietly while the real story unfolds around them.
All these pictures were taken on my Canon G10 with a high ISO. The grain’s intentional, sometimes I just like how it looks.
To show I’m not totally obsessed and single-minded with this weirdness, I’m also partial to the odd belly.
There’s a lovely coastal walk from Bondi to Bronte beaches (actually, it goes much further than that, if you’re feeling energetic). Once a year a selection of artists create a huge variety of weird and wonderful sculptures that sit dotted along this stunning mix of cliffs and ocean for an exhibition called Sculpture by the Sea. The tourist pull – as you might imagine – is huge. I’d never been around to see the sculptures in the past, and only realised a couple of days ago that this year’s it’s due to finish this weekend.
So I headed down there to see what’s on offer.
As a photographer, (and a girl) I was particularly taken with the shiny things. Shiny is pretty. As the evening progressed, and the sun started setting, pieces that were previously interesting, became stunning as the falling light played on their forms.
There were all sorts of crazy characters made of all sorts of crazy materials.
This guy made me do a double take….
Most of all, though, I enjoyed watching the interaction of the people with the artworks.
One thing that has always struck me is how much of the imagery that features in photography magazines is landscape photography. Stunning shots of mother nature at her most awesome. Good landscape photography always impresses photographers and non-photographers alike, and so it’s a pretty safe bet with magazine editors, I imagine. It’s just so pretty, isn’t it?
I’ve never really tried my hand at it, so of course I dismissed it as easy. With that particular strain of naive arrogance that only ignorance seems capable of, I just assumed that it wasn’t that difficult. You know, a bit of patience and an alarm clock, a filter or two, chuck in a sunset and you’re off.
So this week I decided to see what all the fuss is about. I’ve been running around trying to find the perfect spot, and you know? It’s hard to find those perfect spots. I’ve found a couple of ‘alright’ vantage points, but nothing stupendous. I’ve developed an unhealthy obsession with the sky and with light. I mean, I’m always looking at the light, but this is light-obsession on a whole new level. I now know what time sunset actually is, and am working out the best window either side of it. I even woke up before the crack of dawn one particularly wet and miserable morning and promptly swore never again. I’m more a sunset sort of girl, I’ve decided. Even if this was the week that every sunset occurred behind a huge wall of clouds.
And guess what I’ve discovered? That it’s not easy. Of course it’s not. Not easy at all. I managed to get a couple of alright shots, but nothing that’s going to make any magazine editor wet themselves in the immediate future. In fact, the main thing I’ve discovered this week is that I have a previously untapped lust for wide-angle lenses. And that I quite like landscape photography.
Now…I’m off to write a letter to Santa…
I spent some time wandering around Kings Cross last weekend. The streets shimmered with the quiet, slow vibration of late afternoon, as the warmth of the day was slowly fading away. The neon-light craziness was creeping up, but for that in-between hour or two, it really did feel like the calm before the storm of infamous Kings Cross night-time debauchery.
I had a plan of sorts, in that I wanted to do some work in black and white. I used to mostly shoot on black and while film, but have gotten out of the habit with the explosion of the digital world in colour. I have been reading up lately on pre-visualing when shooting in monochrome, and tried to keep some of these tips and ideas foremost in my mind. Ideas like trying to ‘see’ in black and white while you’re choosing what to focus the camera on. Instead of looking for colours, pre-visualise in terms of tones, contrast and textures. Also, thinking about what the subject of the image will be when the dimension of colour is removed. There’s a reason why some images work better in black and white, and others in colour. At the moment I’m struggling to properly articulate what that difference is, but my own understanding of it was at the forefront of my mind during this shooting session, and it really informed what I chose to photograph at that time.
Yes, keeping all those thoughts in mind, layered on top of the usual considerations of focal length, aperture and quality of light, was as difficult as it sounds.
What I keep discovering, however, is that each time I approach a session with mindfulness – in this instance, trying to see in black and white – I am forced to slow right down. I stop taking the pictures I might instinctively go for straight away as I consider how the image I’m looking at fits into what I’m trying to achieve. The end result is that I usually end up with fewer images, but because I am being more careful about what I focus on, it often yields stronger results.
That’s not always the case; but even when I hate every single frame, I still feel like I’ve achieved something important by adding an extra dimension to my shooting style and approach. The more we practice these things, the more they become like second nature. Ultimately, it is by increasing the pool of internal resources to draw upon for our photography that will make us better photographers.
I love travelling. Who doesn’t, right? The thrill of the exotic, making new friends in different places, learning another way of understanding day to day life. Other languages and cultures and ways of being.
I’ve been addicted since even before I hucked my first backpack onto my over-excited 21 year old shoulders. Since then, I’ve done my fair share of galivanting around the globe, and while I’m nowhere near done with exploring the world, right now I’m in the process of putting down some roots. Maybe shallow roots, granted, but even shallow roots need time to take hold. And so there are no big adventures on my immediate horizon.
Of the places I have been so far, one of my favourite is definitely South East Asia. Laos and Cambodia have a particularly special place in my heart. My favourite vicarious past-time is to greedily consume the images of photographers who live there, or at least get to shoot there on a regular basis.
But guess what Sydney has to offer? An overlooked, quiet suburb out in the west called Bonnyrigg. On face value Bonnyrigg is just another mish-mash of identikit houses and wide, empty streets with a sleepy and quiet feel. But Bonnyrigg is home to a little gem of a secret. There are Buddhist temples – Chinese, Cambodian, Laos – tucked away down in the side streets. Apart from the Chinese one – which is huge – they are sprinkled around the suburb, just begging to be tracked down with the help of the street directory.
They were mostly closed on the day I visited, and so I was only able to lurk around the outside, but the thrill of seeing Asian architecture nestled amongst Sydney homes and gardens was a lovely thrill all of its own.
It’s been a while, but I have not been neglecting my Sydney market project. Between inclement weather and the restrictions of only being able to pursue this project on weekends, it is turning out to be a long-term venture. And as I really want to get something out of it, what I am trying to create is proving more of a challenge than I originally thought. What does that mean? I think it means that this is a good project for me. It’s stretching me, helping me see the boundaries of where I am right now, and hopefully will be a vehicle to help me push beyond them.
I am a long way from what I want the final product to be, and so please consider this a work in progress.
Rozelle markets was next on my list, and I must confess, I’ve become slightly obsessed. I have not only visited Rozelle once, it’s now been 3 times. And each time I captured a little something about it, but wasn’t completely satisfied with what the images were saying. I also got a bit distracted while there and – just maybe – spent more time shopping than taking photographs. Such is the danger of choosing as a subject one of my favourite shopping past-times!
So, this weekend, I returned with determination. Determination to not get distracted by all the glittery, retro, interesting, must-have items on offer. My aim was to capture some of those things in my images. And to capture some of the lovely quirkiness of the stallholders who run this market.
Also, going up and talking to strangers is finally getting easier.
It’s been a crazy few weeks around here lately. Work stuff, personal stuff; sometimes life just takes over. This week it all finally calmed down, so I’m hoping to get some work that I’ve been doing up here. I haven’t been sitting around twiddling my thumbs, I promise!
A few days ago I had a spare morning, and so I decided to fill it doing the thing I love doing best. Wandering around, camera in hand, seeing what I can find. Sydney is still a huge mystery to me, and I know so embarrassingly little of this city. So I took a route from Edgecliff into the city, gave myself a few hours, and hoped that something fun would cross my path.
In Kings Cross, I turned a corner and saw this amazing, eclectic garden. Full of plants yes. But also garden implements. Foraged wood and fences. Statues. Aboriginal rock drawings. As luck would have it, the man responsible for this urban jungle was walking past as I was peering over the fence, wondering if anyone would mind if I took a shot or two.
Not only did Barry not mind me taking some pictures, he unlocked the gate, gave me the padlock, and left me to wander around to my heart’s content.
Monsoon season has returned to Sydney. Can you believe that this city was in a semi-permanent drought status for (insert a convenient number that fits the argument) a decade or thereabouts? Nowadays, it sure does rain a lot. And it’s pretty cold. I’ve been duped.
This morning, I was out and about very briefly. On route from one destination to another, armed with my camera and simplest lens – a 50mm f1.8, I walked a suburban street. There weren’t many people around, but more than the human element – or lack thereof – I became distracted by the cold, wet season soggily on display around me.
The camera doesn’t lie. Sydney. With raindrops.
Soggy. Soggy. Squelch.
These trees love the rain. Look how plump and proud they are. If slightly sinister.
Spring hopes eternal. Right?
I organised a photowalk for this weekend with some other Sydney-based photographers, and we had decided that whatever the weather was going to throw at us, we were going to be out in it. It was a challenge to the weather gods, who have been bombarding Sydney with endless, torrential downpours for the past three weeks. In one of those gloriously perfect examples of making your own luck, we were given a window.
Half a day of sun and dryness for us to wander about, multiple cameras in multiple hands, enjoying the combined geek-fest of a group of strangers united in the their love of photography.
Glebe market was the starting point of our photo walk, and so I grabbed the opportunity to add to my Sydney markets project. Wandering around as a group created a whole different dynamic, as well as creating new opportunities. I had brought along a small softbox and flash in an effort to work on some portrait work on the fly. My inherent fear of approaching strangers was completely overturned with the help of the others in the group, and as a team we pulled innocent bystanders in and out of our impromptu portrait sessions. It was an absolute blast.
There isn’t much point to this post.
I’ve recently tried to keep a promise to myself to always carry my camera with me. Even if I only pull it out for a few moments a day.
Out of all the things I did today, taking photos took up literally about 5 minutes of my time. This isn’t necessarily a time-to-shooting ratio that I’m particularly happy about, but those 5 minutes gave me this image, and a reminder that wet weather can open up fun opportunities.
I went round various corners of Sydney today, striking out to find photographic inspiration. My original plan was to continue with my market project, but as with the rest of the week, today was incredibly wet. I was going to soldier on in spite of the rain, but by the time I arrived at the market late this morning, most of the storeholders had gone home already, and those that remained had the majority of their wares hidden under plastic tarpaulin.
Not particularly inspiring.
It wasn’t a (pun alert!) complete washout, however. I spent some time having a bit of a chat to one of the stallholders and found out – to my horror – that many of them start much earlier than I imagined they would. Some get there to set up from about 5.30am. On a Sunday. It has piqued my interest though, imagining how the early light would add so much beauty to that process. I’m going to have to drag myself out of bed at some ungodly hour one of these weekends, but I’m sure the results will be worth it. At least at this time of year the sun is getting up a bit later, but I am so, so, so very not a morning person. Why is the lovely morning light only around so…early?!
Market idea put on hold for today, I quickly bought myself a jacket (this project has so many layers, personal AND professional), and headed over to the beach side of the city. I figured rain and drizzle would mix well with swelling seas and hardcore surfers. One thing you can be sure of is that no matter how miserable the day, someone will be out there in the sea, chasing the perfect wave. Bondi during the winter is a different animal.
By the time I arrived it had stopped raining, and was approaching late afternoon. No, Sydney is not very big, I’m just not very sense-of-direction savvy. I may have got a little bit lost. In hindsight, this worked out for the best, as by the time I got there, the light was turning in my favour.
Going through my images, I’ve decided that a couple of different stories or ideas have emerged. The one I’m focusing on in this post is the sense of calm and serenity that I felt down on the beach. Without the strong sun and endless sunbathers, a completely different feeling and sense of place emerged for me. I became captivated by these 2 surfers who had just come out of the sea. They were not together, but both seem to be mesmirised by the ocean in a similar way. It was really very beautiful and calming.
Being a strong believer in that you should practice what you preach, I have allocated myself a personal project.
I love street photography and I want to spend time getting to know Sydney through my camera. But I wanted something that was more focused than just a series of images of the different corners of this city.
So I put my thinking cap back on. And – typically, predictably and just so female-ly - starting going off in tangents in my mind regarding shopping, and vintage things that I love, furnishing my new home, and wondering just how good the markets are in this corner of the world. Oh, I do love a good market.
Ting! A lightbulb went off in my head. A quick Google search and without any effort whatsoever, I’ve already got a list of about 15 markets within a 10km radius of where I’m living.
I started on Friday evening at the night market in Chinatown. I don’t often do a lot of nighttime photography, and so this was the perfect opportunity to dust down my tripod. I’m planning on revisiting this one, as I only managed to squeeze in a quick visit, but it’s a good starting point and I’m quite excited about the potential for this series.
Photographing Sydney is proving to be quite difficult. Not because it isn’t a photogenic city, because – without exaggeration – Sydney is as photogenic a place as you could dare to dream of. I’m living in the supermodel of world cities, and it’s hard to stop staring. The problem that I’m finding is that this city is rather too photogenic, and it’s turning my head.
Honestly, it’s next to impossible to not be blinded and dazzled by the beauty of the harbour, the intensity of the light and the iconic draw of the Opera House and harbour bridge. I’m sure this is normal. I’m sure that it takes time to see past the stunning loveliness of what is one of the most naturally beautiful cities in the world. But, lord alive, this place is gobsmackingly beautiful. And I’ve lived here before, I knew what to expect.
Does that sound weirdly like a complaint? I don’t mean it to – but as a photographer interested in people, place and culture, my interest tends to lean towards capturing the feel of a place. Searching for the stories that walk along the streets, sit on benches and make up the substance of what makes a city unique. At the moment, however, I am blinded by sea and sky and sparkling bodies of water. All I want to capture is the surface beauty that confronts me every time I look out the window, or go for a walk along the clifftops.
OK, that was a bit of a longer break than I had planned. It’s so easy to just get out of the habit of doing certain tasks, and I well and truly got out of the habit with this one. Yes, I have moved to the other side of the world, and I have to admit that it’s been more of an upheaval than I anticipated. As I result, I stopped being sure about what it is that I am going to be writing here, because all that I’ve been up to is finding my feet. Yeah, yeah…excuses, right?
I went for a long walk a few days ago, just me and my camera and the local area that I’m living in. I had a good think about my photography career and this blog’s role in that career, and I reached some conclusions. For now, anyway. Making the choice to pursue photography a little over a year ago – at the risk of falling back on trite cliches – was the beginning of a journey. And it is the journey that is important, that has to be important, because from one day to the next I have no idea where the final destination will be. Especially right now, and believe me, this is a prospect at once exhilarating and terrifying. Part of the process is going to have to be documenting that journey, both as a place to articulate my creative needs and discoveries, and as a way to maintain my focus.
So, here it is. I’m starting over. The progress I was making in London has kind of ground to a shuddering halt, as the work I was getting was location-specific – jobs for people and companies rather than magazines and publications. Or at least, the publications I was working with were region-specific too. It’s not so easy to pop down the road to shoot a cover of a local landmark or a portrait of local business people when the people and place in question are a 24 hour flight away.
When I first decided to turn my long-suffering hobby into some semblance of a profession, I spent an inordinate amount of time researching the careers of successful, working photographers. Trawling the internet, magazines and books for the special secret that cracks open that magic professional door. You know the one; the secret, magical, hidden, special one. That other’s know about but that the rest of us can just never find. I then applied a bit from here, and a tip from there, came up with a personal plan, and discovered for myself that ‘secret’. It is a ‘secret’ in that it there is nothing secret about it. It is the one refrain that you will hear and read and see. Over and over. And over.
Hard work, and plugging away. Keeping at it. Taking rejection, filng it away, and then going back for some more.
I’ve already gone down that path once, and it’s time to go down it again. And, for a while at least, this is going to be my space for outlining how I’m going to approach this. With practical tips and links and everything. Because, well…it’s a blog. That’s how they operate.
My bible along this journey will be this, as well as my well-worn copy of The Freelance Photographer’s Market Handbook. Australia is still feeling exotic, so I’m going to run with my impressions and work on finding a market for my stories. That’s the beauty of working in these times – there are fewer geographical boundaries to restrict our choice of clients. The market over here in Australia is quite significantly – and worryingly! – smaller, and so I will need to leverage my UK experience for all I’m worth.
I recently put a 4 image portfolio together as an entrance into one of the biggest annual travel photography competitions – The Travel Photographer of the Year.
This is a hugely prestigious competition, open to professional and amateur photographers alike. The standard of entries is extraordinarily high and I am competing against the very best of the best. So, really, if I’m honest – I don’t have a chance! You know, though, I still decided to enter. One, I may get lucky . But two (and mainly), the process of entering competitions – no matter the level – is always a worthwhile exercise. I makes you sit down and really look at what your images are saying; and let me tell you, putting together a coherent series is hard work. Especially if, like me, you suffer from chronic indecision and mind-changing.
In the case of this competition, submission was in a portfolio of 4 images which have to work together to fit into a specific theme or brief. Picking those 4 images is supremely difficult. You may pick 4 images that you really like, but actually don’t work particularly well together. You may have 3 very strong images that tell the exact story you were envisaging – but the 4th in that series just isn’t there. Or – and this was the case in the series below – the technical standard of the images just isn’t 100%.
You see, to enter an image into a competition, it needs to be technically perfect. I has to be sharp and in focus. Quite simply, unless it is exactly spot on, the judges are going to discount it, no matter how good it may be otherwise.
I put together the below group, and was starting to feel quite excited about their potential. The section of the competition I had in mind was ”People of the World’ and this group is a series of some of the schoolgirls during a lesson at the school I visited in Zambia a couple of months ago. I like the light in the shots, the intimacy of the images and the expressions on their faces. I liked the feeling these images gave me when I look at them, that often undefinable something that photography can produce. And I think they work together well to tell a story about education in Africa. That story isn’t necessarily the typical African one of deprivation and poverty – what I was most happy about with these images was the more universal theme of enjoyment in learning and the potential for a better future through education.
But then I had to be honest with myself. They weren’t 100%. The classroom I shot these images in was very dark, the only useable light was coming through one door and a couple of tiny windows. One the one hand, this natural lighting setup is what gives them the feeling and intimacy that I like. The flip side is that I had to shoot at a high ISO and low shutter speed. I managed to get away with it in 2 of the shots, but a close and frank inspection revealed that the other 2 images were slightly soft. Only slightly, but there was no way the judges were going to miss it.
I submitted a different series in the end, and I was equally happy with that. I’ve been thinking about this set though, and decided that I want to put it together somewhere. And hey! that’s why I’ve got a blog.
The magazine I’ve been doing some work for has just released the October issue, with the front cover graced with an image by yours truly. It’s the local comedy club, in case you were wondering.
Do you ever feel that life is just dishing out too much goodness, do you feel like maybe you’re not getting your fair share of petty grievances, and you want to even up the balance a little? Here’s a tip to ensure you get your fair share of frustration and misery. Take the last bank holiday of the summer, that one right at the end of August. Plan a camping trip, preferably to the West Country, but anywhere that involves a motorway that begins in London will probably do. Throw in some glorious summer weather the weekend before, to make sure that it’s all been completely used up. Pack the car and off you go. You’ll be guaranteed colossal traffic jams, overheated cars but underheated beaches, plenty of rain and a thoroughly miserable time squeezed alongside about half a million of your fellow Britons.
If, however, you think that maybe it’s time things went your way for a change, I’ve got a couple of sneaky manouevers up my sleeve to share with you. We gave them a test run over the weekend, and – miracle of miracles! – they paid off. A 6am start on Friday morning was a little bit early, yes, but as we made our way westward, we were practically (although sadly not literally) flying down the M4 and then the M5, with barely a car sharing the road. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve even crossed London in 40 minutes before, so maybe we set all sorts of records that morning. Sure, I was very tired for the rest of the day, but believe my sincerity when I tell you it was worth it. Add a return trip on Tuesday (thus avoiding the Monday mayhem), and your weekend will be bookended with hassle-free driving. No small feat, I think you’ll agree.
We chose a campsite that caters for the less rugged of camping customers. That would be us, in case you were in any doubt. The tents were provided. Not only provided but pitched and waiting for us. There was a dining tent, no less, fully kitted out with camp stove, cutlery, crockery and even a cool box. Clever design with wooden pallets and bark ensured we stayed dry and comfortable inside our tents even when it was raining outside. No waterlogged nastiness for this little holiday.
And. And, there was a hot shower. (But let’s quickly gloss over the compost toilets.) In fact the only thing not provided at Hole Station Campsite (follow that link, campers) was a dog. And so we brought our own.
That’s Dave the Dog. Technically, he doesn’t belong to me, but I am an official Dogparent (God spelt backwards, gettit?!) and I do love him so very much. Incidentally, that is one of his favourite poses – to just sit there, and stare coyly at the ground. I’m sure he’s a genius.
While we got lucky with the driving, the weather was a little more…predicable. In being unpredictable, that is. It’s not an English holiday without a spot of rain, followed by sun, then gale-force winds, some more rain and then – suddenly - it’s baking hot. But only for an hour, because now it’s raining again. The day we visited the coast, the grey of the sky was resolutely reflected in the flecks of surf being blown onto the beach all over those hardy souls who refused to relinquish the holiday dream. We even saw – and I kid you not – someone swimming in a jumper. Now, that is dedication. I didn’t get a shot of our waterlogged beachcomber, but I think this juxtaposition of ice-cream van and umbrella is mining the same happy vein.
Our final day, however, was glorious. We went for a drive through Dartmoor and it was truly spectacular. Quintessential English countryside, narrow lanes, rolling green hills. I really don’t think there is anywhere in the world like it; it has a rugged beauty all of its own. And makes for some very pretty pictures!
I have been doing some work with a local magazine here in London, and so here is a copy of the cover image I shot for them last month. Getting a sunrise shot in summer in England is no laughing matter – to get up before the sun does requires setting the alarm somewhere in the region of 3am. Still, it was worth it, to get these lovely colours and light.
On Friday I managed to visit Highgate Cemetery – a photo session that’s been on the ‘to-do’ list for ages. It was a lovely day actually, very sunny and bright (in English intervals, of course), and I spent those hours running around between statues and tombstones, waiting for the sun to break through the clouds and fervently hoping a beam of light would land on the angel that my camera was poised to shoot in that instant.
I’ve always loved wandering around cemeteries. Maybe that makes me a little morbid, and maybe I shouldn’t even be admitting it, but the peace and quiet and gentle silence always soothes me.
I don’t find them in the least bit spooky, but then I’ve never found myself locked inside one at night…
Last week I spent a few hours wandering around Covent Garden, doing some ‘training’ to build up the courage to approach strangers and ask if I can take their portraits. The training involved not actually doing this, but instead asking street performers for permission to photograph them. So, yes, I had to speak to strangers, but also yes, it’s a bit of a cheat. Street perfomers make their living through garnering attention and are a safe bet for being happy to have their picture taken. Throw in the promise of sending through some of the photos, and it’s an approach that’s actually pretty easy and stress-free. So much for conquering the fear then.
Anyway, I came acros this guy setting up his act for the afternoon and joined the crowd gathering round him. I guess I assumed his performance was going to last maybe 15 minutes or so, but full credit to his energy and personality, his act lasted for the best part of an hour. That’s 60 whole minutes of talking, bantering, running around, squeezing through the head of a tennis racquet (oh yes, he did!), riding a unicycle, juggling and….well, that’s enough, isn’t it? I was exhausted by the end of it just from watching.
I thought I was being brave by plucking up the courage to be obviously taking photos – rather than hiding behind the candid approach I often prefer. But here was a guy who makes a living from bossing around and entertaining complete strangers. Just your run-of-the mill nightmare for those of use who shrivel up under too much scrutiny and attention. He, however, was not bothered by my big, fat lens. Not in the slightest.
Definitely a wall flower.
I recently went down to Brighton, to visit some friends and to shoot some seascapes. The light down by that coast is amazing – so blue and clear. Driving down the motorway into Sussex feels a little like passing through a portal; one moment everything looks a bit smudged and dull, the next moment it’s as if your eyes have been wiped clean.
The world suddenly looks more blue. And crisp. And there. It’s really very lovely.