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.