Sunday, 31 May 2009

SoFoBoMo Book

Water bottle and bench - York city walls

Well it's done. Finished. Completed. I finally got the book finished after working on it solidly over the weekend. It was fun too. It was challenging at times, but the sense of achievement is unbeatable when you finally see the finished item.

Am i pleased with the book? Yes i am. I set my goals fairly high for a first attempt at a serious book, and i think i delivered... but i'll let others be the judge of that. Saying that, all that matters really is that i'm happy with it as a piece of work. Not that i'm totally finished with the book. I'm still trying to reach the optimum quality/size ratio for the book's pdf file. Twenty two megabytes is about the size of three songs from iTunes but i think i can reduce it further. More tweaking and fiddling about is required.

To download the 21.9mb PDF of the book called 'Walled City - Photographs of York' go to

[Update] A new 14.9mb version of the book has been uploaded. Click on the link above to download.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

SoFoBoMo Edit

Postbox near the art gallery in York

The photographs have been taken and now it's the editing part. I took around 500 images yesterday, although actual individual images probably work out at around 200. This is about what I'd take on a average commission. I double up a lot on shoots just to have backups. That's the benefit of digital photography over film - you can shoot as much as you want. It could be interesting to do a SoFoBoMo project with just one roll of 36 exposure film. With 35 images needed for the book, you would have to control your shooting very very carefully. The margin for error would be tiny.

Over the next day or two, I'll be converting images from the RAW format to jpeg, and then put the photographs through photoshop. By Monday I'll be adding the finished images to the book. Then it's just a matter of finalising text and the book will be nearing completion. I want to get the project completed and uploaded by Friday 5th, which is a couple of days before the final deadline for the project.

Friday, 29 May 2009

SoFoBoMo shoot

Couple walk along York's medieval walls

It was hot. Very hot. It was a good day though for shooting images for the Solo Photo Book Month project. York was very busy and lots of tourists were exploring the old medieval walls. The walls are an integral part of York's identity and also an important asset in the race to attract tourists. York has more miles (1.9 miles) of intact city wall, more than anywhere else in England. Some sections date back to Roman times although the vast majority dates from the 12th to 14th century.

The above image was among the last taken. The image nicely reflects the popularity of the walks around the walls for both locals and tourists. It's a great way to see the city and get around without having to cross the busy roads. The photography will reflect the wall's importance as an architectural and cultural feature of York using a mixture of landscape and documentary styles. The height of the walls give you a unique view of the city and the day to day activity there.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Sight unseen

Seeing with Photography Collective - Radiant Abyss, 2003

Photography is often said to be about what you feel rather than what you see. An exhibition called 'Sight Unseen', currently on at the California Museum of Photography, goes a long way to proofing that theory. I mentioned the link on my twitter feed but the images are so wonderfully exquisite that i thought I'd mention it again here.

What makes the photography at the exhibition so astounding is the fact that the images were taken by twelve blind photographers from all over the world. Many of the photographs are visually powerful and range from portraiture to fine art. To be honset, it's some of the best photography i've seen in a long time. I especially love the photograph above. To visit the online gallery and view these fantastic images go to http://www.cmp.ucr.edu/.

The BBC website, where i came across the work, also have a rather good little audio video presentation about the exhibition that can be viewed HERE

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Going underground

On the Underground - October 2008

The recent spate of photographer arrests/police problems seem to be going up, or it could just be that these incidents are being reported more. One thing is for certain, many photographers, especially those abroad, may see these headlines and think that the UK authorities are stamping down on photography in public places.

Last week's incident on the Tube involved a Greek tourist who, while on his way to an exhibition, decided to start taking photographs of tube travellers. According to his account of the story, a lady took exception to him photographing her daughter and then things got out of hand. The photographer apologised and deleted the images but another person called the police. It ended with the Greek photographer being charged under the public order act for 'public harassment' and causing ' alarm or distress'. Two questions need to be asked. Firstly, was the photographer blasting away, taking photographs in the wrong place at the wrong time? Secondly, did the police/public over react to the situation? It's a tough call but from my own experience of photography on the London Underground , i think the photographer either pushed his luck or he picked on the wrong sort of person to photograph. Confined in a carriage with a photographer is many people's idea of hell. If you are doing a project and going to spend some time on the Underground network, then a photography permit from London transport is a very good idea.

That incident on the London Tube has received lots of coverage, both from the media and the online community via websites like twitter. One comment i spotted was posted by an American twitter user who seemed to think that Britain had become a police state that clamps down on the freedom to take photographs. No it hasn't, and photography in public places is still allowed and often encouraged. However, a bit of thought is required - you HAVE to be aware of where you are shooting. The photographer has to evaluate the location and be aware of any potential problems, after all, not everyone likes their photo being taken. Some people hate it! Imagine someone coming up to you in the street (or even worse a Tube train carriage) and snapping away like a demented paparazzi photographer. You'd want to get rid of them... quickly! It's the approach that can make all the difference and if in doubt ASK before you snap. Look, evaluate and then photograph.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Seaside special

Entrance to Cromer pier - Norfolk, UK, July 2008

If there is one element of the British seaside resort that seems to remain popular, it would have to be seaside entertainment. We are talking about the end of the pier theatre shows that have a mixture of singers, comedians, orchestras and dancers. These shows are about as close as you can get to old music hall and variety theatres these days. This style of entertainment was even turned into a British TV show in the 1970's called, unsurprisingly, Seaside Special.

You can sing along to Glenn Miller's hits one minute, before embarking on a 'rockathon' to hits from the sixties and seventies, played by a variety of tribute bands. Nostalgia plays a big part in seaside show business. People love it. Most of it is aimed at families, but it must be said that most of the audience tend to be made up of ladies and gentlemen from the older generations.

Yes, they may be rather old fashioned, and yes it can look quite naff. but seaside specials add a whole lot of fun and colour to the sea front. Long may they continue.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Out of this world

British-American astronaut Piers Sellers spacewalking in 2006

Yet another space related post, but i couldn't resist after seeing the quality of light up there via the TV footage of the current Hubble repair mission. This shot of Piers Sellars just shows the wonderful clarity of light without the dust and debris of Earth's atmosphere affecting it. Another rather cool photograph seen HERE shows the loneliness of space. I just love the deep blue colour of Earth.

So... if NASA needed a photographer quickly and offered me a place, would i go up there? Hmm yes, especially with all this wall to wall coverage about British MP's expense claims abuse on TV at the moment. Without hesitation. I could just go for a spacewalk, sit back , have a cup of tea and watch the world slowly turn. So if the lovely people at NASA are reading this blog, all i can say is I'm ready and waiting for your phone call.... Now what camera do i take?

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Geo Photo

Fallen sign - Slingsby, North Yorkshire, UK

The last couple of weeks have been busy. I started a little project from an idea developed during the winter. I'm photographing where i live. It sounds easy but I've had to really think about what and where I'm taking images because this project involves geographically locating images to where they were taken.

The website I'm using for this is called panoramio. You may have come across images stored on this website if you use Google Earth. The process is straightforward. You upload your image to the website and then place a marker on a map to locate where the image was taken. Simple. The tricky part is working out what you photograph to represent the location in the best way. Before i started on the project i made some rules to work by, just to make things easier for me. Most of these rules concern privacy which involved being very careful what filled the viewfinder. No individual houses or business premises and nothing that could constitute an invasion of someone's privacy.

The photographs form a visual landscape of the village's landmarks, like the church and village green, without giving away to much about residential life. Maybe I'm being a little too cautious but I don't want to be accused of invasion of privacy by anyone. Hopefully in about two or three months, after they have been reviewed and cleared, my images will be available to view in Google Earth at the location they were taken at. It will be interesting to see if there is any reaction... good or bad.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Phone home

An unloved telephone box

Out and about today, i spotted this battered telephone box that despite having given years and years of service, looked a little worse for wear. I don't know if the phone worked but i hope nobody has to find out the hard way that it doesn't. In North Yorkshire villages the mobile phone reception can be iffy to say the least. Non existent is probably a more accurate description.

Besides, the red telephone box is a recognisable part of British culture - just as the red double decker buses of London and the red post boxes on most British streets are. Maybe the mobile phone is making theses bright colourful boxes more and more irrelevant. I just hope the British Telecom phone people come out and give it some love soon. It deserves it!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Shock and awe

A street child slept under a bridge to take shelter from the rain in Manila - Image by Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

There is a believe, within certain sections of the photojournalist community, that the right sort of photograph can change public perceptions about wars, famine and poverty. That's probably true, but i personally think that it's very rare for an image to have as profound an affect as to change the way people think. Sadly, we are becoming more and more immune to images of suffering. Far to often we hear someone state that a new story is a shocking story. Is it? Is it really shock or is it just a soundbite to get our attention? A truly shocking event is something like 9/11 where even the media were in a state of shock. Real shock!

While looking through the photography on the Wall Street Journal photoblog, i came across the picture of a young boy, no older than eight or nine, sleeping under the feet of passers by on a busy Manila street. The photograph is both tragic and heartbreaking. The image probably has more intensity because the boy is sleeping and vunerable. This small area is his bedroom with only a piece of cardboard for a bed. What is he dreaming of? It's a great photo and yet i hate it. I hate what it tells me - some poor kid actually lives like this in the 21st century. What i hate even more is the fact that the photograph probably won't change a damn thing. Go to that bridge and the boy may still be sleeping under it. The photograph just becomes a record of child poverty in the Philippines but it changes nothing regarding solving the problem itself.

A radio show recently commented that anger is a totally negative emotion - nobody benefits from it. I disagree. The right image or TV footage can move mountains, if it gains momentum. A good example would be the Live Aid campaign of the 1980's which was largely due to images creating a compassion for the victims of the Ethiopian famine. Anger too played a large role as governments stood back and just watched. It took Sir Bob Geldof 's sheer determination to get commitments and action to help. I doubt if those same TV images would have that effect now. People are too used to seeing them now and the market and media interest for human interest stories is very small. Celebrity is king. What makes me so angry about 21st century images, like the one above, is often the response to the photographs. There is no response.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

News desk

Sailing at Blakeney, Norfolk - July 2008

The start of the Solo Photo Book month is nearly upon me and I'm just about ready. A number of decisions and changes have been made recently to the original idea i had back in January. First of all the project is to be set in York, and not London or Newcastle as originally planned. Cost and time are two factors that came into play there. The York idea is one I've had for a couple of years and a photobook will be perfect for presenting it. Shooting starts next week so keep an eye on my twitter page for updates as i shoot.

Podcast news. The project hasn't been dumped, but the idea has been developed and a podcast will be released later this month. The first one will follow me on a shoot and will finish with the finished photograph posted on the blog. I want to get this right and to the highest possible quality. There is nothing worse than a badly made podcast... believe me I've heard a few mind numbingly awful ones during my research into the podcasting media. Late May is the new and finalized launch date for the podcast. I also have plans for using a another audio social media application this year - more news on that later this summer.

Keep an eye on the blog and twitter feed this month!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Scaring the crows

On his web - the Spiderman scarecrow

A bit of madness descends on the North Yorkshire village of Slingsby each year during the May bank holiday period. The locals make and display their own scarecrow creations that range from the instantly recognisable to very abstract representations of cultural icons.

The best ones for me this year were the comic book hero based scarecrows - one of Batman and the other was the excellent Spiderman seen in the above image.
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