Thursday 31 December 2009

End of year review 2009

The wooden/metal textures of a boat's hull undergoing renovation - Morston Quay, Norfolk, UK

And so we come to the end of another year. How the time has flown. This year has been an unusual one in many ways. Creatively it has been a year of 'treading water', neither a good year or a bad year. I will admit that it has been a frustrating one at times. Sadly i came across my first non paying client this year. It was bound to happen eventually, especially in the current economic climate, but for eight years i'd managed to avoid it. What's even sadder is it's not a small firm but a large one that is holding out on payment. No reply to e-mails or letters and no mention of any problems with the work - quite the opposite. The business of photography is certainly not made an easy one. Am i mad to continue? Most probably. :o)

At the start of the year, i posted a blog entry called 'shooting for 2009?'. In it,  i mentioned how i'd like my photography to develop over the coming year and i included more creative studio work. Yet again i haven't started any personal studio projects. I have no good excuses. I will really will have to get on top of this and sort it out. I did try a few new things this year, one of which included the Solo Photo Book Month. The online project involved shooting, editing and creating a photobook in around a month. It was a challenge to say the least, especially designing and outputting the PDF electronic book. The resulting book was well worth it and i learned a LOT about the book making process. I will take part again in mid 2010, this time shooting the project on film. The timing will have to be spot on for this film based 2010 SoFoBoMo project. I also want to create another photobook in late March containing a selection of images from my Winter Landscape project. New ways of displaying photographic projects is a small research job for me in the New Year.

2009 will go down as the year that the camera phone started to yield good results. Up until this year, i'd regarded the cameras on mobile phones as just gimmicks - great to photograph friends on a night out but not up to making quality images. That's all changed, and with websites like Twitter, i can update the websites on a regular basis from wherever i am. I intend to carry on with this process in 2010, continuing to intergrate elements into the blog and website like Twitter and Audioboo. I've also tested out a great new video upload site called TweetReel which enables users to upload video footage shot on their iPhone. I'll use that more in 2010 too, along with Twitter and AudioBoo. Finally i couldn't finish this section without mentioning the 'second blog' Darker Skies which went live online in August. Like this blog, the more unorthodox Darker Skies will be improved over the coming year with more images and  ideas implimented. The internet has played a massive role in finding new ways of distributing work and finding new photographers/photography. It is the future and a tool that will radically alter the nature of media in the coming years. 2009 saw the start of the shift from paper to screen with multimedia being one of the more creative ways of photographers showing their work. I'm going to try creating my own multimedia presentaion in the coming months incorporating video, photography and audio.

So it's finally come to choosing six images that represent my favourite/best photographs taken in 2009. It's an odd mix with two photographs taken using my phone. The quality was that good that i even made my first official calendar out of camera phone images. For street photography i've found it invaluble. The camera is small, light and provides good image quality. In Norfolk i used it a lot, mostly as an experiment, but also as a smaller photo project using twitter as a display area. I like the immediacy of shooting and uploading to the web, and the feedback from fellow twitterers was super. The best phone photographs were of the sea fog on Cromer pier and the still-life of a boat undergoing renovation. Both images show the range and diversity of how you can use a modern phone camera.

Using more conventional cameras, two photographs are memorable; both due to their location and the enjoyment had taking the photographs. The first is an image of a Barley Field in Norfolk. To me it represents summer in Great Britain, the golden summers of the past. I was waiting for a Tiger Moth biplane to return but it never appeared. The barley photograph was the consolation photo. I love it regardless. The second photograph was taken in Whitby as a publicity still for a film due to start production in the town in 2010. Not only was it a great photography session, it was GREAT fun, challenging with it's night light and a new area of photography for me - vampire photography :o) I'll be working on the film (director of photography) in the new year so expect to see some more photography from the set. I'm looking forward to doing some more character study portrait work with the cast including the lovely Heather featured in the above photograph.Wow...It's an all digital selection this year, hopefully a few images shot on film will get into the end of review next year.

All that is left for me to say is thank you for following the blog. The numbers of readers has grown nicely over the year which makes me very happy. Thanks to those people who have e-mailed me or commented on the work, including a number of photographers whose work i respect immensely. I really enjoy working on the blog and hope you enjoy viewing my little snapshot on the world of photography. As always there are some upcoming items for the blog in 2010. The start of the New Year will see the start of the photographer profile series again, but if you'd like to see some great photography now then my vote for this year would go to the Noir series mentioned back in November. Brittany and Mitch will be shooting some more Noir images in 2010, so keep a lookout for that. Until next time my friends, i'll just say, Have a very Happy and prosperous New Year.  ;o)  Rich..

Wednesday 30 December 2009


A self portrait taken today with my iPhone. I used an iPhone app called Quadcamera to get the four image format. It is a sequence of images like that you would take on a conventional camera rather than a series of copies. Another slightly tweaked version of this photograph can be found at .

I'll be doing some more self portraits over the next few weeks. Now it's back to writing the final '2009 review' post for the blog...

Saturday 19 December 2009


Tracks in the snow

Down came the snow. Nearly three inches of the stuff during the night, so i awoke to a bright white carpet covering the ground. Who knows, we may even get a white Christmas here in the UK. The bookies seem to think so but it's anyones guess at the moment.

This photo was taken on my iPhone, but i was out and about taking some more images for my winter landscape project. You can view a short video that i took while i was out working HERE. The sense of being alone in the snowscape was overwhelming. It was wonderfully peaceful. I just love those moments of traquility when out shooting.

Thursday 17 December 2009

Taking Liberties

Photography by Nick Turpin

I've gone from being slightly irritated to being angry. It's taken most of this year for the anger to grow but  i'm finally getting to the point where i think ' What the hell is going on'?!?! What am i talking about? Photography in the UK and the ability for a person to be able to take photographs in a public place. Part of what many social observers, journalists and politicians call a free society. Something that may be under threat.

In the last few weeks, a number of photographers, film makers and journalists have run into police officers who have used terrorism legislation in a very sloppy fashion to stop, search and even arrest people. What makes things worse is the situation seems to be getting worse rather than better. Even after police officers are told by their top brass that photography in a public place is not a crime, photographers are being stopped on the grounds of national security. Whatever happened to the friendly copper just inquiring nicely:-

"Excuse me sir, can you tell me what you are doing'?
"Yes officer,  i'm taking some photographs for a project/portfolio/work/myself. "
"Oh very good sir. Thank you for your time."

Ask nicely and  you'll usually get a nice reply. Maybe that reads a bit too much like a script from Dixon of Dock Green, but it is based on my own dealings with police officers as a photographer. A post by Phil Coomes on the BBC Viewfinder website works along this very point too using a 1938 news article. There is no need to use anti terrorism stop and search powers to find out what's going on! I passionately believe that good policing is all about maintaining a good relationship with the public. Their help is often vital for helping solve crime. During the 7/7 bomb attacks in London, the police actually asked the public for any possible images/video of the bombers that may have been taken on mobile phones or video cameras. Now certain individuals in the police seem to believe that photography is only a tool for terrorism. The police should be working with photographers, using them constructively as an extra pair of eyes. Photographers are observers on life and if anyone can spot unusual behavior, or something that doesn't quite look right,  it's the humble photographer. Times that by about a factor of three if you are talking about a veteran street photographer.Those types of snappers miss nothing!

The Magnum photographer Martin Parr recently commented that he thought street photography could be banned in the U.K within the next five years. I personally think that a ban would be unworkable, especially in an age where virtually every mobile phone has a camera built into it. The British public would not tolerate a ban either. Nevertheless, the right to take photographs in public places needs to be fought for vigourously especially when the authorities start taking liberties with our liberty.

Monday 14 December 2009

Ones to Watch

Over the past year, i've come to admire more and more, the multimedia photography and video work that resides on many U.S news websites. I just wish that the British news organisations would take more of an interest in the format because i truly believe that this will be the way many news stories will be told in future.

Two videos have really caught my eye recently. Both are both superb examples of documentary film making 21st century style. Short, but powerful, these video presentations use the short runtimes to the max and tell their stories quickly but with style. The video above is called 'From Himalayas to Helmand,' a video by Anup Kaphle that looks at the Gurkha soldiers fighting for the British in Afghanistan. It's a brilliant piece of work, telling a fascinating story that are often largely ignored by mainstream media organisations.

The second multimedia website was developed by the Los Angeles Times for a story about  former L.A gang members trying to help young people trapped in a life of drugs, violence, poverty and crime in Alabama. The 13 minute video is superb, as is the photography section. It's the future of modern photojournalism folks.

Saturday 12 December 2009

First Frost

Ice on a car window

Mother nature is such a great artist. As i was walking past the car yesterday, i noticed the wonderful ice patterns left on the windscreen (windshield to any U.S readers) by the first heavy frost. Frozen water left on a window doesn't sound that great does it, but i think you'll agree that the textures, patterns and lines contained in this photograph are just so beautiful, intricate and amazing.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

AudioBoo Number One

As if posting photographs and a bit of text wasn't enough, I've just started AudioBooing. Yes the iPhone finally arrived and i did my first AudioBoo recording today. Apart from the fact i need to get used to hearing my own voice, it went OK... i think.

The are lots of ways of subscribing or hearing my podcasts. A series of links to subscribe to the podcasts, download the mp3 or listen to a streamed version can be found on the AudioBoo section of the website located HERE.

Friday 4 December 2009

A Quiet Moment

Making a phonecall - Fakenham Market, Norfolk, UK

The bad weather did produce a good outcome this week. I finally got around to processing part of the backlog of film. By coincidence, a post on a photoblog i read this week commented about how some photographers use the gap between shooting the images and processing the film, to lose all emotional attachment to the photographs they've taken. It's an interesting theory, but it doesn't really ring true for me. Photography is emotion, surely?

Photographers invest their time and money into producing what they hope will be great photographs. It's an investment that you hope will prove beneficial visually. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. Regardless of the time delay between shooting and processing, i find the moment of a newly developed film emerging from the developing tank an exciting one. I vividly remember developing my first roll of film twenty years ago. Pure magic.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Back Home

Of all the photographs i've seen connected to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this one REALLY hits a nerve. Heartbreaking is all you can really say. The photograph shows Victoria Chant crying as the coffin of her father, soldier Darren Chant, is carried from a chapel after his funeral in London. Mr. Chant was killed in Afghanistan on November 3rd.

I don't think i could have taken this, it would seem too intrusive for me, but these types of photos should be taken. The photograph is by Toby Melville of Reuters and reinforces my believe that the most powerful photographs from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are not taken on the dusty battlefields, but back where the impact of the loss is felt most. Home.

Saturday 28 November 2009

Winter Trekker II

The old railway line - near Fryton, North Yorkshire, UK

Here is the first image from the first test roll of film shot for the winter landscape project mentioned in the winter trekker post a week or so ago. I'm rather pleased with the results. The whole look of the photograph is what i'm after, to see the countryside outside of the usual images of a green and pleasant landscape.

Currently, i'm looking for more shoot locations. The area where i live features a lot of old railway tracks and public walkways that make accessing the fields and hedgerows so much easier.  Another photo display idea i'm thinking about uses an interactive map display with the photographs located in the area where they were shot, like the panoramio system used on Google Earth.

More winter landscape photographs coming soon.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Red Piano Man

Street entertainer plays ABBA near Bettys Café Tea Rooms in York, UK

Street photography has always been a passion of mine. As i mentioned earlier this year, i've started using my mobile phone camera more and more to capture scenes on the street. The size of the phone camera offers certain advantages to using a proper digital or film camera. You don't attract attention for a start, and you attain the look of just another tourist photographing the colourful life of York. People just walk on by.

This photograph has given me another idea for a photography project in 2010. It's going to focus on the varied street entertainers of the city who work throughout the year. York, with it's old walls and history, never really stops being a tourist destination, so the buskers, musicians and performers just carry on working whatever the weather. I'll be posting more 'street' photographs of York, the performers, markets and streets during the run up to Christmas.

Saturday 21 November 2009

Inspiration and Influence

The end of another week and it's been a frustrating one. I put in an order for my iPhone which you would have thought would be a simple process these days. Nope. It's ended with me having to wait a potential ten days for the money to be refunded. Ten workings days!!!! I am NOT a happy camper. Still, never mind eh!

I've been reading a rather fascinating series of posts which ask the reader to think about where they got their early influences from and how they developed. The answers can be very revealing. The photoblog author, Gordon McGregor, gets a lot of his early influences from paintings, a common area of influence for many photographers including greats like Henri Cartier-Bresson. Painting has never really influenced my work that much though. Photography and the cinema are where the vast majority of my visual influences stem from. My landscape work is influenced heavily by the stylish 1940's black and white films, a good example of which would be David Lean's classic Oliver Twist made in 1948.

This great series of posts really does make you think about your influences and inspirations. Is it paintings or something else that inspire and influence your photography?

The blog posts can be found here 1, 2, 3, 4

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Winter Trekker

Out in the late Autumn sunshine

Yesterday, i went out to shoot the first initial test rolls of b&w film for the winter landscape project. Technically it isn't quite winter yet in Britain, but nevertheless i decided to start on the project that will continue through until late February/early March 2010.

The afternoon light was just about perfect by the time i'd arrived at my first location. It didn't last long though, barely thirty minutes, before the fragile warm sunlight slipped quickly away and the night came rushing in. The land is saturated with water after huge amounts of autumn rain. The massive deep puddles on the paths and tracks look fabulous adding a bit of foreground detail. They do make moving around potentially a very muddy experience though.

I'm keeping the gear simple; just a BenboTrekker tripod, a Bronica ETRS camera and a lightmeter. Now it's just a matter of waiting for cold December to arrive so that i can move onto the next stage of shooting.

Sunday 15 November 2009

The Dark Lens

 The Dark Lens- Photograph by Cedric Delsaux

The Dark Lens is a photographic project that really caught my attention this week. Photographer Cedric Delsaux has taken the characters and the cool spaceships from Star Wars, and placed them into a modern urban environment. What is really fascinating is how easily the two blend together to create a new Star Wars world.

The idea is quite clever. After all, as children we were all able to create exciting places from our everyday surroundings. A tree house could become a secret base and a simple stick could be a laser gun. All that Cedric Delsaux has done is to take that creative imagination a step futher, and create that world through the use of a camera. What a fabulous looking Star Wars world it is too.

The collection of images does not have a direct weblink address, but you can find the gallery by going to the photographer's website at and clicking on the work menu link where The Dark Lens is listed. It's well worth a look.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Recruit, Soldier, Son and Friend

June 23, 2007: Ian checks his stance and the position of his hand as the platoon learns how to salute properly. Photograph by Craig F Walker

Craig F Walker's photographs of American soldier Ian Fisher reminded me of the old LIFE magazine photo stories of years ago. The images certainly have that feel about them. The time, effort and detail that has been invested into the multimedia story by the Denver Post is outstanding, and something that the rather slow British media should take on board. I would certainly count this detailed photo essay by Craig F Walker as one of the best done so far in this current conflict.

Craig F Walker follows every detail of Fisher's new army life, making an intimate portrait of the young man undergoing the process of becoming a soldier. We get to see Ian Fisher leaving high school, joining up, going through basic training, deployment to Iraq and continuing right through to his return from his first tour. The journey is not an easy one. Opening up your life to a photographer like that, while undergoing stressful life changing events, makes this young soldier even more remarkable. How many people would allow themselves to be put through that?

The superb collection of photographs, video, stories and other extras about this photo story can be found HERE.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Black Film

Vanishing Point II, 2009

At first glance, this photograph would seem to date from around the 1940's period but it was, in fact, taken this year as part of a excellent project called Noir.

Noir was the idea of Brittany Jones and Mitchell Rouse who have taken the stylish and atmospheric cinematic style Film Noir and shot a series of images along a similar theme. The resulting photographs are fantastic. A website gallery of the photos can be found HERE.

Selected images from the Noir Series work are on exhibition at the 400 South Main Gallery in Los Angeles and will be open for the Downtown Art Walk on November 12th.

Noir was found via a post on the excellent photoblog Lenscratch. If you like keeping up to date with exciting new photography, then i'd recommend taking a look at the blog.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

High Standard

The 50mm standard lens - loved and loathed in equal measure

The poor old 50mm standard lens. It's never really got the sort of praise that it deserves. For many photographers, it's just the lens that comes with the camera, although these days it's more likely that a camera will ship with a zoom. That's a shame because i think the 50mm lens is one of the best lenses that a photographer can own. I'd even go as far as saying that it's an essential piece of kit. The first lens i purchased ,when changing from the Pentax to Nikon camera system ten years ago, was the Nikon 50mm. The superb Pentax 50mm lenses i used throughout my college/university years were invaluable on a number of occasions when the light was low.

Last week, as you may know, i was in Whitby shooting some promo photos for a film. As the film is a vampire movie, it couldn't be shot in daylight for obvious reasons. Daylight and vampires are a bit of a no-no. Street lighting and some rather well placed statue illumination lights were all we could work with, but the shutter speeds naturally came crashing down. Early on i realised that my zooms weren't going to be fast enough aperture wise to let enough light in. Even at f2.8, the shutter speeds still remained too low. In the end, i delved deep into the bag and came out with my trusty 50mm. It was the perfect choice for getting the shots; fast, light and sharp.

Ah Richard, you may be saying, surely with significant improvements to modern digital sensor technology, a fast 50mm is no longer needed. Well, true, but I'd still want to use the fastest lens i had to get the shot. If you can go from 1/25th to 1/50th just by using a one f/stop faster lens, you'd use it ...wouldn't you? Plus, the standard lens, regardless of make, is one of the cheapest to buy. The Nikon f1.4D can be found for an affordable price and that's what I'm after next to go alongside the f1.8D. Zooms are great, i love em, but sometimes you need that extra bit of help when the light starts to get low... a small, compact and fast 50mm type of help.

Saturday 31 October 2009

Vampire Night

Photographing a Vampire in Whitby

I love a challenge and you can't get any more challenging than a night photo shoot. Not that being a film maker is an easy life. The most obvious fact that you can't fail to miss when involved in a movie as closely i have been this week, is that the project development work for a film is far more complicated than in the photography business. So many external factors can come into play to make movie making a rough experience. It's amazing that so many films get made at all.

The light was virtually non existent for this shot. All we had to work with were street lights and illumination lights around a statue. We used the latter to shoot the photograph above. I lay down on the ground while Heather knelt with her face near the light. The shutter speed was a surprising 1/50th sec enabling me to shoot a fast sequence capturing Heather's vampire movements.

There is still a whole lot of work to do on 'Christian'. Financing, casting and promotion are just some of the issues that will need to be dealt with in the coming months. The filming is due to commence in Whitby in the spring of 2010. For more news and to see a rather good promo video of the film go over to

Saturday 24 October 2009

Wonderful Whitby

Boy fishing at Whitby, Yorkshire, UK - 1992

It's been one of those weeks. Still there is plenty to look forward to in the coming weeks starting with a rather interesting project in Whitby. I'll be working as the photographer on a film set. It's just the early stages of production with the film not due for release until the summer 2010, but it's still very exciting to be part of it nonetheless.

Whitby is probably the most photogenic town in Britain. The place has an amazing atmosphere helped by it's fascinating whaling and fishing history combined with links to Bram Stoker's Dracula story. It's no coincidence then that the film I'll be shooting photographs for is a vampire movie.

Whitby has become a very popular tourist destination due to it's charm, however, it does have a distinct Gothic darkness to it added by the windswept churchyard and ruined abbey; something that no doubt inspired Bram Stoker when he visited Whitby in 1890.

I'll be posting my thoughts, and a few Whitby photographs, on twitter starting on Monday.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Taking a View

Sunrise over the Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye, Scotland - Photograph by Emmanuel Coupe

Landscape photography is a popular subject matter for photographers, but taking a truly beautiful photograph of a landscape is a specialist art that only a few truly possess. It takes time, patience and a lot of endurance to find the right photographs, in the right location, at the right time.

The beautiful photograph above by Emmanuel Coupe won the 2009 Take a view, the Landscape Photographer of the Year Award, a competition started by Charlie Waite, one of today’s most respected landscape photographers. It has to be said that the quality of the photographic entries for this year really is superb.

A collection of the 2009 competition photographs can be found HERE

Saturday 17 October 2009

Shadow People

The stunning photograph above is by Finnish photographer Juha Arvid Helminen, just one of a number of photographs along a similar theme. The style and visual construction of these photographs is just superb. There is something that makes the photographs deeply uncomfortable to view, and not just in a claustrophobic way because the models are completely covered.

The great thing about Juha's photographs is we can't be quite sure what's going on. Is it an execution or just a goodbye before heading off to war? Quite possibly it could be either, it's down to the viewer to interpret what they will from the photographs. A selection of Juha's wonderful photographs can be viewed HERE.

Monday 12 October 2009

Private Investigations

Fish and chips dinner in Norwich - late June 2009

While walking through Norwich market this summer, i spotted this gentleman tucking into his fish and chips dinner. What struck me first were his clothes. Take away the walking stick and shopping bag, he could easily be a undercover detective out on a case. He definitely has a rather stylish Mickey Spillane detective look about him. I wonder if he was 'packing heat'. I imagine the only heat he'd be packing would be a nice hot flask of tea.

Saturday 10 October 2009

Scotswood Road

Pine Street 1960 - Photograph by Jimmy Forsyth

During the 1950's and 1960's, amateur photographer Jimmy Forsyth captured on film the working class community located in the Scotswood Road area of Newcastle Upon Tyne. In all, over 3000 negatives exist within the archive for the Scotswood Road area, taken in the years prior to a major change in UK housing policy that would go on to destroy much of the long established community life throughout Britain's towns and cities.

Injured in an wartime industrial accident, Jimmy took up photography to record the changes taking place in that community. After 1945, post war housing in the UK was finally recognised as being in a poor state, and vast areas of housing throughout the country were designated for demolition. New modern housing estates would be designed and implemented by town planners to create a modern living environment fit for 20th century living. Later Jimmy Forsyth would recall the grand housing plans:-

"The planners actually believed that they could build communities, but instead the community was scattered to the four winds, people were sent to far-flung estates, and a community was lost forever."

Jimmy continued to photograph the people of the Scotswood Road until his house was demolished during the late 1950's. During the 1970's, Jimmy Forsyth's work became a focus of interest and in 1979 a major exhibition of his work was shown at the Side Gallery in Newcastle. Jimmy continued to take his photographs, including one of my sister who lived near him for a number of years, until poor health forced him to stop. He died in July 2009 at the age of 95 leaving behind a visual legacy of around 40,000 images.

A fabulous collection of Jimmy Forsyth photos can be found HERE

Monday 5 October 2009

Mad Mutterings

A feather amongst the barley - July 2009

Coughs, sneezes and muttering fill the air around me at the moment. I've caught a bad dose of flu which has put an end to a few ideas this weekend. Whoever 'infected' me will definitely be off my Christmas card list this year! I shouldn't complain really as i don't often suffer from colds, flu etc, and it does give me a break from running for a week or so. Even so....

The photograph featured above was taken while waiting for a Tiger Moth plane to turn up. I'm still waiting for the plane to arrive, but the barley field and the golden light were just magical that evening so not all was lost. I've always had the philosophical attitude that images that are created successfully were meant to be, those photographs that don't make it.... were not. Accidents, incidents and mistakes are part of the learning process, so you must take from them what you can, rather than becoming too angry and regretful about images that will never be.

The most memorable mistake i ever made was adding too much washing up liquid while washing some newly developed film, way back in the late 1980's when i was rookie film processor. Washing up liquid works well as a washing agent, which helps remove the risk of water drying marks as the film dries. You only need one drop in 600ml of water to do the business - i added a great splodge and saw my lovely new pristine b&w negatives start to crazy pave in front of my eyes. Within seconds they were all cracked up and unusable. I muttered like a mad Muttley for about an hour or so, and then chalked it down to experience.

Thursday 1 October 2009

Faded Photo

Soldiers from Hull on parade, taken just before the First World War

Of all the jobs i have to do as a pro photographer, the one that continues to fascinate me are the old photograph collections that I'm often given to repair or copy. Over the last few years, more and more people have started to look into their family tree, no doubt encouraged by easy access to records on the Internet and popular TV programmes like the BBC's 'Who do you think you are'.

Last week, an especially lovely collection of old Victorian and Edwardian photographs, including the photograph above, came in from a client searching his family tree. The image quality of these old photographs was remarkable. Many were nearing or over 100 years old, and yet the faces still looked fresh and full of character. Several of the photographs were designed to be sent as postcards. A final message home before they encountered the horrors of the trenches.

One of the saddest photographs i dealt with featured a nervous looking young sailor, obviously not keen on having his photograph taken in the studio, who lasted just a matter of weeks at the front before being killed. Written on the postcard back was a message to his sister saying that he was fine and everything was OK. Handling a photograph like that is a privilege. It's great to think that with a little work in Photoshop, photographs, like that of the doomed sailor, will survive well into the 21st century.

Thursday 24 September 2009

LIFE Online

LIFE magazine has always had a special place in the history of photojournalism. During it's long history, the magazine employed some of the best photographers in the world, and as such, the photography was always one of the magazine's big strengths. Until now, finding issues of this classic magazine was difficult, but fortunately Google have recently scanned over 1800 issues of the magazine, dating from 1936 to 1972, and placed them all online to view.

Even seventy three years on from the very first issues, LIFE offers a superb reading experience. I have to admit that the 1930's and 1940's are my favourite eras of history, so that's where i started my viewing. The magazines from this period manage to pack in a good mix of human interest stories, fashion, world news, movie news and celebrity gossip. The adverts are also hugely entertaining. Keep an eye out for the surprisingly suggestive Chesterfield cigarette ads that feature regularly during the World War II years.

Google have done a great job here. The quality of the scans are excellent, capturing all the page detail of the originals. Flicking through the pages really does feel like travelling back in time, so much so that you can get quite caught up in the period. The superb LIFE magazine archive is well worth a visit if you're a photographer, budding historian or just crazy about old magazines.

The website can be found HERE

Sunday 20 September 2009

Autumn Light

Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk, UK - Summer 2008

The nights are getting much cooler and the large tree opposite my house has started to change colour, fiery reds and golden browns taking over from the luscious greens. The summer is coming to an end: Autumn is well on it's way.

The summer has been a bit of a washout for me. The seemingly constant overcast often stopped the wonderful rich golden summer light from shining through. This, combined with a few other factors, has resulted in a rather low level of personal project work this summer. Plans to shoot projects, add podcasting, add AudioBoo, etc, etc have all run into delays or problems.

I am, however, hoping to redeem myself with a few good projects over the final months of 2009. I've also got some exciting plans for 2010, but that's looking rather too far ahead. One project will involve doing a series of winter black and white landscapes - something I've never really tried doing before. I'm also have a winter seaside resort project idea. Both will be released as a free downloadable PDF book, the first of which will be near Christmas.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

The Great North Road

Ferrybridge Power Station, North Yorkshire, UK - Photograph by Phil Coomes

Nearly thirty years, photographer Paul Graham set out on a two year project to document the effects of the recession hitting early eighties Britain. Graham travelled along the A1 North Road, from London to Edinburgh, photographing the people and places along the way. His images created a lasting visual record of the economic and social state of Britain in the early 1980's.

Over the last few days, the BBC's Phil Coomes, who runs the beeb's Viewfinder photoblog, has been following a similar route to that taken by Paul Graham. The idea is to see how this current financial crisis is affecting people throughout the country. The photographs and stories that have been posted so far give a fascinating insight into how the credit crunch is hitting the average Brit.

The Viewfinder blog, complete with photographs and stories from the A1 - The Great North road trip, can be found HERE.

Paul Graham's original 1981-82 A1, the Great North Road project can be found HERE

Friday 11 September 2009

Lottery Leica

The Leica M9 Rangefinder Camera

The launch of the rather gorgeous Leica M9 this week has reminded me that i seriously need to start the process of purchasing a new digital camera within the next 18 months. With so much on offer, I'm definitely going to take my time picking and choosing. One thing i do know is that it won't be a Leica M9 which at a wallet shredding £4850, is a touch expensive unless i win the lottery at some point over the coming days and weeks.

I have a pretty good idea about the make and model that I'd like. Nikon, of course, but then things start to get rather more complicated. I have the choice of few cameras from the Nikon D3 through to a D300S, with a number of potential contenders in between. The bookies favourite is the D700 which has much of the functionality of the higher priced models at a cheaper price. I'd love to buy a Nikon D3 and D3X but the £8000+ price tag for both is making me quite dizzy just thinking about it. Yep, the D700 is definitely the front runner, but that isn't exactly cheap either.

I'll have to have a good think over the coming months and make a decision in 2010. By the time i make a decision, I'll probably be able to buy a Nikon D800X.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

The Regulars

Portrait of Robert Fleeger by Sarah Stolfa

This image is part of a series of photographs taken of regulars at McGlinchey's bar in Philadelphia. It's an inspired piece of work. I just love the simplicity of the setup that Sarah has utilized for shooting the photographs. The lighting (probably just a flashgun) is simple and straightforward, but most important of all, the portraits don't seem set up, contrived or false. What you see is what you get.

To see more of Sarah Stolfa's brilliant portraiture work click HERE

Found via Lenscratch

Sunday 6 September 2009

Tilt Shift

Traffic outside York Railway Station - May 2009

A few months ago, i heard of a website that helped you create the distinctive tilt shift miniature effect on ordinary images. Tilt shift can be achieved using lenses or large format cameras like monorail 5x4, and is often used in architectural photography for correcting perspectives. The lenses/large format technique can also have a lot of creative photography uses too.

The website is easy to use and lots of fun. Just make sure the photographs you upload aren't too big - image sizes of around 1024 x 768 are a good size to start with. A bit of time experimenting is often required and, as the tilt shift maker website comments, the choice of image needs to be right to get the best results:-

As you move to the top of the photo, the distance of objects in the photo should gradually become further away. For this reason, photos taken looking down at an angle to a scene often make good tilt-shift miniatures, because they have a good mix of objects at different distances. We want to give the illusion of focusing the camera at a very specific distance, so having good depth in the photo is important.

The Tilt Shift Maker website can be found at:-

Saturday 5 September 2009

Website Gremlins

Running your own website is full of great moments. There are also some terrifying moments when you realise that all the hard work you've put in over several months has been lost. I nearly had one of those moments on Thursday afternoon.

It started well enough. A number of small website changes had been done and i was trying to output the webpages so they could be uploaded to the server. A problem suddenly appeared. The pages weren't displaying properly because, according to the software, the style sheet file that controlled the websites text and layout was missing. After a good few hours messing tweaking here there and everywhere, i finally managed to solve the problem. Phew!

A ticked box. Just the simple ticking of a box in the software, which i thought would benefit my webpages, had caused ALL my problems. Like many problems in life, I thought my technical gremlins were far more complicated than they actually were.

Monday 31 August 2009

WW - Stone Wall Sunset

Welsh stone wall at sunset - Summer 2003

We finish the Wales Week series of posts with the stonewall. Here is one of the colour shots taken of the stone wall featured at the start of August.The textures and colours, i think you will agree, really are wonderful and rich. Anyway I hope that you enjoyed the selection of photographs posted over the last few days. The blog will now return to it's usual posting pace... phew!

Sunday 30 August 2009

WW - Beaumaris Fishing Trip

Preparing to leave on a sea fishing trip

Another Kodachrome 25 transparency image. This merry band of men were off on a fishing trip going out to sea from Beaumaris on Anglesey. I've always found photographing people interesting. I think it's something to do with the expressive nature of body language and how groups of people physically interact towards one another.

Beaumaris is located on a beautiful part of the Anglesey coast. From there you can see the Snowdonia mountains and along the Menai Straits. Sadly, a thick sea haze, low cloud or rain can often hide this wonderful vista from view. The town also features the splendid, if not rather creepy, Beaumaris Gaol - a Victorian prison opened in 1826. Well worth a visit.

This should be, in theory, the last in the Wales week set of posts, however because it has been such fun to do, there will be one more photograph posted as a bonus tomorrow.

Saturday 29 August 2009

WW - White Water

Water flowing through rocks on the River Llugwy at Betws-y-Coed

I used to shoot a lot of 35mm transparency film many years ago. Although i never owned a slide projector, i found that the colour, sharpness and contrast inherent in transparency film always appealed to me much more than prints. The downside to shooting slides, especially in tricky lighting conditions, was always exposure - you had to be spot on with very little room for error.

The first roll of slide film i ever used was East German. Orwo film was cheap (in 1991 around £3.50 a roll - process paid) and came with it's own processing bag that you sent off. I only ever used the film once, in North Wales as it happens, but I've always retained a soft spot for it. The results were pretty good -not exactly Kodachrome 25 quality like the photograph above - but adequate for a young nineteen year old photographer just starting out. Fun times.

A couple of days ago, the main domain name for the new Darker Skies photoblog was altered to If you subscribed to the original wordpress feed, i would recommend changing to the new feedburner feed that can be found at:-

If you haven't subscribed to the Darker Skies Blog yet, then feel free to check out the website. The style of photography may be darker, but the tone and outlook certainly isn't. Moody, stylish photography is what the site is all about. Pop by and let me know what you think.

Friday 28 August 2009

WW - Sailing Away

Yachts anchored off Llandudno, North Wales

Freedom. That's what's this photograph represents to me. Just being able to sail off into the sunset has always been appealing, especially as the pace of life seems to get faster and faster. Imagine getting your own boat and sailing it anywhere you wanted to. My reasons for wanting the Lady Catherine are probably becoming much clearer now.

Sailing around the UK would make a brilliant photographic project. Documenting the voyage, the places, the people you meet, would be fascinating. If i ever win the lottery I'll probably do that, but I'd need some crew. Applications on a postcard can be sent to....

Thursday 27 August 2009

WW - Menai Straits

The Menai Suspension Bridge

Getting onto the island of Anglesey is a doddle. Just drive over the Menai Straits using the Menai Suspension Bridge designed by Thomas Telford. Prior to the completition of the bridge in 1826 there was no fixed connection to the mainland.

Nearby is Bangor, one of the smallest cities in Britain. It was there, at a yacht brokers called Dickies, that i spotted my perfect yacht - the Lady Catherine. I liked the boat and i liked the name, but sadly the rather large asking price for the Lady C was slightly out of my range. Never mind eh!

Wednesday 26 August 2009

WW - Betws-y-Coed

The Pont-y-Pair Bridge and River Llugwy at Betws-y-Coed, North Wales

If there is one place in North Wales to visit it's Betws-y-Coed pronounced Bets e coed. The name mean Prayer house in the wood, which describes the village's location to poetic perfection.

Betws-y-Coed features an assortment of shops, including several well equipped outdoor sports stores that any certified mountain biking, fell running, canoe paddling, rock climbing nut would adore. I've actually seen people dive of this bridge into the pools of water below as part of outdoor pursuits courses. Not something i'd recommend.

Tuesday 25 August 2009

WW - Welsh Hills

Welsh Hills near Bangor, North Wales

Remember the photographs of the stone wall that i posted at the start of this month? Well this was the scenery on the other side of that wall. The diversity of the U.K landscape is something that tends to be ignored by Brits. You can go from completely flat to mountainous in the space of a few hours drive.

The reason why Wales seems to be such a popular tourist destination for many people is due to the diversity of the landscape. You can leave the sea and sandy beaches behind you, drive for twenty minutes and then be alone in a mountainous landscape. Absolute bliss!

Top Blog

blog promotion

I received this rather nice E-mail yesterday:-

Congratulations! Your blog has been named a Top Blog at YouSayToo. As a Top Blog, you are included in our Top Blogger section.

Well what can i say. Thank you very much. It's always nice to get a little recognition for all the hard work put in. Well i say hard work... i love it really ;o)

Monday 24 August 2009

Wales Week

A fiery sunset over the mountains near Llangollen - 2003

This week, the blog will be hosting the Wales week series of posts. A colour photograph, from my trip to Wales in 2003, will be posted everyday this week starting with the 'sunset near Llangollen' image above. The V shaped collection of white objects in the foreground is a caravan site. I especially like the silvery glow of a large puddle near to the site entrance and the shadows of the trees on the fields.

Like all good sunset photos, you have to wait for the right moment. I spent a rather spiritual and magical 25 minutes on the mountain side, just watching the sun slowly set, waiting for that decisive moment to take the photograph. Moments like that stay with you forever.

Sunday 23 August 2009

Darker Skies

Those of you familar with my black and white landscape work might have already guessed how i got the title for my new photoblog. Yes, i've launched a second photoblog called Darker Skies, that will enable me to write about certain photography issues that aren't really suited to this photoblog's topic list. A couple of articles have already been posted and more will follow soon, including one about the faults with the photographic eduction system. Let me know what you think.

Darker Skies can be found at

Friday 21 August 2009

Things to Come

A Norfolk barley field in late evening summer sunlight - early July, 2009

I finally got around to looking through this year's crop of photographs from Norfolk. I'm rather pleased with a number of them including this gorgeously lit picture taken in a Norfolk field. I think it has a wonderful old English summer feel to it, although it certainly doesn't reflect the majority of the disappointing weather we've had so far this summer in the U.K. Hopefully September will bring some warm sunny days that are perfect for a bit of photography.

A few new bits and pieces are on the way regarding the websites. Along with the regular twitter feed, two new additions will be arriving soon. I've already talked about AudioBoo in a previous post but a new exciting addition to this 'podcasting' service will be TweetReel. TweetReel is video, shot on an iPhone, uploaded to a website to form a video blog. I'm rather excited about adding both AudioBoo and TweetReel to the blogging output. I hope to release the first short (a maximum of two minutes per episode) TweetReel videoblog around the middle of next month, filmed in a great location up in the north of England. It should be lots of fun and will, most probably, be filmed in a slightly experimental way to see what works and what doesn't.

Other online developments include adding more material to my ImageKind and Redbubble pages. This is a pretty slow process as much of the material has to be scanned, and edited before uploading. ImageKind has recently updated it's business terms so that an unlimited number of images can now be placed on the website for free. The third photograph sales area that requires more work is located on the main website, and this will also be expanded to include far more images over the coming months. I will have lots of work to do this winter.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Tough at the Top

Annie Leibovitz

A freelance photographer's life is not an easy one. Uncertainty is a constant factor that has to be dealt with. You need nerves of steel at times, but the rewards of the job can be immense including meeting a lot of very nice people. You also meet some not so nice ones too. However, at the end of it all, we are in photography to make a living - you can't live on air alone.

The financial concerns of a photographer can be complex, and most of us would LOVE to become the next big name, earning obscene truckloads of cash. We all would like to be recognised as a photographic master, but the following article on Annie Leibovitz might make you stop and think for a moment. I will let you, dear reader, judge the story and you can draw your own conclusions.

Saturday 15 August 2009

Photojournalism vs Future

Are online multimedia presentations the future outlets for photojournalism?

Photojournalism has reached a crossroads. For years, the state of the industry has been in decline, but it's only recently that photojournalists have REALLY started to get concerned. The reasons for the decline in photojournalism have been ongoing for over 40 years. Although conflicts like Vietnam created the modern persona of what we now regard as the photojournalist, the fall in interest for photo stories goes back to the late 1950's, when demand for human interest stories fell and celebrity orientated stories started to replace them.

Many of the newspapers that used to cover news stories in their weekend magazines, now cover lifestyle and celebrity stories instead. The main reason why Don McCullin ended up leaving The Sunday Times was purely because of a that change in the U.K newspaper industry during the early 1980's. Wars were out and lifestyle was in. Some would later claim that it was a much needed modernising of the newspaper industry. It is therefore ironic that less that 30 years later, many of the very same newspapers are fighting for their very survival. Some may go. In the United States newspapers, like The Rocky Mountain News, have already gone. Others like the Los Angeles Times remain in a precarious financial situation. To a large extent, the future of photojournalism is entwined with the future of the 'newspaper' industry and both need to change drastically to adapt to this new media world. For photojournalism, the choices are simple - photojournalists need to change the stories they shoot. Far too many of the same types of images and stories are being shot. Maybe we need fewer photojournalists. Yes, we need images of war and famine, but there are plenty of stories to be covered outside of those areas. We need variety in our images. We need photography that covers a huge swathe of stories, and i think we are starting to see the beginning of that change. Just look at the vast range of superb images that The Big Picture and Wall Street Journal photoblogs regularly post.

As for the newspapers, the choices are less clear. Many are finding the current business landscape a tough one to work in. The newspapers have been hit hard by the Internet. Only last week, Rupert Murdoch announced that the websites for The Times, The Sun and News of the World newspapers would charge for access to new stories. In a world where most online news content is free, it is hard to see how Murdoch's pay-per-view websites will work. Other newspapers, however, seem to be embracing the Internet and all it can offer. The best by far is The New York Times which has one of the best photoblogs on the web. The multimedia audio/visual presentations are very, very impressive, both visually and as story telling tools. Several pro cameras now come with video capabilities so that photographers can capture moving images alongside stills. A growing number of photographers now shoot both. Maybe multimedia is the future for photojournalism. Maybe photojournalism's future lies online rather than on the printed page. Who really knows? What is certain is that 21st century photojournalism faces it's toughest challenge, and it really needs to change and adapt fast to this new multimedia world.