Monday, 9 August 2010

Yorkshire shoot itinerary

If you would like to join me on the lonely, winding road that is the travel photographer's lot, here is my itinerary. I can't promise I'll stick to it, but this is the starting point.

TUES 10th August
Conisbrough Castle
Yorkshire wildlife park

Wed 11th August
The Deep in Hull
Carved figures of musicians in St. Mary’s Church, Beverley
Beverley market
Beverley Minster

Thur 12th August
Bridlington harbour, funfair, donkeys and beaches
Bird watchers at Bempton Cliffs near Flamborough Head
Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough

Fri 13th August
Husky trekking
Heritage coast
Robin Hood’s Bay

Sat 14th August
Whitby Abbey

Sun 15th August
North York Moors

Mon 16th August
James Herriot’s house in Thirsk
Laurence Sterne’s house, church and gravestone in Coxwold
Gliding from the Yorkshire Gliding Club, Sutton Bank

Tues 17th August
Castle Howard

Wed 18th August
National Railway Museum, York
Walking the city walls in York
Jorvik Centre
York Minster
The Shambles

Thur 19th August
Betty’s Tea Rooms in Harrogate
Ripon Cathedral
Fountains Abbey & Studley Water Garden

Fri 20th August
Brewery Visitor Centre, Masham
Via Ferrata at Stean
Richmond Castle

Sat 21st August–Sun 22nd August
Aysgarth Falls
Forbidden Corner, Middleton
Wensleydale cheese
Hardraw Force
Malham Cove rock climbing
White Scar Cave

Mon 23rd August
Salt’s Mill, Saltaire, Bradford
Haworth Parsonage
Sylvia Plath’s grave, Mytholmroyd churchyard, Hebden Bridge
Hebden Bridgee

Tues 24th August
Mountain boarding
Bradford Curry House (eg Mumtaz)

Wed 25th August
Leeds: Arcades, city shops showing atmosphere
Leeds Corn Exchange – Piazza by Anthony

Thur 25th August
Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield
National Coal Mining Museum, Wakefield

Fri 26th August
Peace Gardens, Sheffield
Magna in Rotherham

Bank Holiday weekend
Avoid holiday making hoards, traffic jams and head back to The Smoke

Friday, 6 August 2010

Fourty-eight hours till I head off on shoot so I figure it's about time I resurrected the on-the-road blog.

This summer I'm off to the land of my birth; Yorkshire, and very excited I am too.

Although I grew up elsewhere, I moved back to Yorkshire to do the university thing and I have many happy memories from my time there; daytrips to the dales, weekends in the North York Moors and jaunts to the region's most captivating museums.

My favourite haunts were Otley Chevin Country Park, the National Museum of Film and TV (now the National Media Museum) in Bradford, Whitby Abbey plus I still have a rather vivid memory of a moonlit sky over the craggy wavecut platform rocks at Robin Hood's Bay after the biggest mixed grill any pub has ever provided.

Sadly, none of those places are on my list. One question I get asked a lot is whether it's up to me to decide what to photograph or if it's prescribed. Oh yes, it's very much not up to me and a lot of people have input into the list. First of all, the author comes up with a suggested shot list. The text editor then revises it a little and passes it on to the picture editor whose job it is to turn the picture list into a shot list based on what other sources we have available and what might've been shot before. My picture editor went to great lengths to ensure the list was diverse and useful and I think, despite her Australian roots, she has learned a great deal about Yorkshire in the last few weeks! The list then goes back to the editor who might check a few more things with the author and eventually the list makes its way, via the picture editor to me.

My list consists of sixty shots, most of which are in different locations.I have three weeks so that is roughly three shots a day. That means quite a lot of driving! As anyone who knows me is already more than aware, the current love of my life is my 22-year-old Ford Transit campervan Betsy who will be my rock (and wheels) during this trip. I've already managed to put 2000 miles on her clock since April so I do hope she's got enough in her for another 1500+ in the next few weeks!

Shots I am most looking forward to are Sylvia Plath's grave at Mytholmroyd (if only a good excuse to investigate wallowing in some Plath poetry for a day or so), the Yorkshire Sculpture Park following my new-found appreciation for Henry Moore post-Tate Britain exhibition, a Bradford curry house (especially if I can persuade them to make me some free food!) and Rievaulx abbey (because the foot and mouth crisis of 2001 thwarted my attempts to visit and the gothic anticipation is still with me). There are no shots I am not looking forward to – and I am very glad my picture editor decided to opt for a stock shot of snooker at The Crucible in Sheffield – but I am certainly less keen on the prospect of spending Sunday emailing and/or calling every single place to persuade them to let me in for free and that I am not stealing their souls/livelihoods/children's innocence (as perhaps the Daily Mail might have you believe anyone with a large camera might be up to).

Wish me luck! (But I AM taking you with me......)

Monday, 22 February 2010

Secret London

You've all witnessed the recent phenomena that is 'secret London', right? In fact, you were probably part of it; every day the week before last "...[another handful of my friends] have joined the group 'secret london'" was the the update Facebook posted to my news feed. I was intrigued because, like everyone, I want to know all the secrets, so I took a look. I wasn't particularly moved by anything posted to the group and the recommendations were so hit and miss I felt certain it was conceived by young, naive and impressionable types, so, needless to say, I didn't join.

What did capture my imagination, however, was the huuuuge photo album that accompanied the group; a mammoth reel that ranges from badly composed phone camera shots of famous landmarks (ssssshhhhhhh, don't tell anyone about the red telephone boxes by the Houses of's a seeeecreeeet!) to abstract and colourful appetite whetters to a London I'm not (yet!) fully acquainted with.

So this got me thinking about what really is 'secret' about this much-written-about and over-photographed metropolis I live in; is there anything left that hasn't already been blogged, photographed, contextualised and uncovered? There's nothing more frustrating than 'discovering' a winding path, an intricately carved statue, a comically defaced street sign or a café with uncharacteristically friendly staff only to find that Time Out did a feature in issue 10538, there's a Wikipedia entry or a whole Flickr group dedicated to it. Is it the discovery of experiencing the place itself that attracts the populace in their droves or is it the discovery of the possibility of the place? Can places, experiences and events really maintain their anonymity and elusive aura in the digital age? Will these uncovered places be flattened in the stampede or will they merely be bandied about in endless similar conversations in pubs all over The Smoke as talking points, turned over for a brief moment only to be returned to whence they came a moment later and never actually 'experienced'.

I'm sure the people at Secret London are enjoying their moment in the spotlight and good luck to them, say I. It remains to be seen, however, whether including 'secret' in their name will entice new readers into their fold or whether in time it will become a misleading misnomer, easily replaced with 'helpful', 'expensive', 'student's' or any other possibilities.

Well, in the absence of any answers to those ponderances, I thought I'd share with you my own little fragments of secrets London has shown me. It's not so much the transience of a new fabulously cosy restaurant 5mins from your house, bespoke advice on African Drumming classes near Finsbury Park or tips on vintage dress purchasing around Shoreditch but rather it's the way the light illuminates familiar buildings on certain days, squinting at the Golden Jubilee Bridge to reveal shapes and patterns, seeing double decker buses over Waterloo Bridge against a grey sky pregnant with rain, watching tourists photograph their families in front of St. Paul's....that kinda thing....

One set here
And another set here
Plus my Black and White at Night set here

These are my favourite London discoveries and they're the secrets I want to share with you. Wink wink.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Camp Bestival crowd

Is it just me or does this reeeeeally not make sense?

As part of my summer shoot, I had to take pics at Camp Bestival at Lulworth Castle in Dorset. Haaad to, I mean; what an absolute CHORE. Not. It was the last shot on the list and I'd been in touch with the PR people (much to the distaste or the book's authors, but that's another story) way in advance in order to get press access.
Although I knew full well the shots I would supply my picture editor with would most likely be ones of the crowd, the vibe, the quirkiness of the festival goers, the scenery etc., I couldn't let the opportunity to take live band shots pass.

There's just something about the raw energy, exhibitionism and the unpredictability of live performances that I can't resist. You get three songs and usually have to wrestle with the other photographers for the best position but the pace is always electrifying. Camp Bestival was quite pop-oriented so that meant roughly 10-15mins shooting each band before the burly, earplugged bouncers move you on your way. My first experience of festival photography, however, was at the Dirty Three-curated ATP last year and, owing to the bouncers not quite understanding the concept of the segue, (or 15-minute post rock pieces for that matter) quite often got the whole set to shoot through.

You can usually rely on festival stages being well illuminated thereby rendering flash unnecessary. This is great for my fucky-ISOed D2Xs however this time around I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a D700 which made things a whole lot easier. I alternate between a 50mm f/1.4 and 24-70mm f/2.8 but, must confess, prefer the flexibility of the zoom to the fixed focus. It depends how much the performer moves around a too; the 50mm is great for the slow build of post rock performances but I prefer the challenge of photographing pogoing teenage indiepop bands.

I digress. Camp Bestival was a family-friendly festival which meant kids EVERYWHERE. I jest not; we were the odd ones out for NOT having designer babies or hippie, flower-haired children. It seemed, somehow, to mean that music choice wasn't high on the agenda and that every other performance was Beardyman.Interesting to begin with but a leeetle dull after a while. I was pleased to note Wild Beasts on the bill and, here's where we get to the point of today's post....

I got to the stage just before they were about to start. I needn't have worried about not getting through the crowd to the front; Will Young was performing on the main stage so no one wanted to see Wild Beasts. Fools. Barely even any other photographers. Double fools. Lucky me, thought I. I'd photographed Wild Beasts before so I knew what sorts of shots to expect; a screwed up face of the bassist, pained expressions, that kinda thing. I took my shots, tried to get a little inventive by utilising the funny shrubbery around the stage to see if that made it more interesting. It didn't. The bouncer politely asked me to leave the pit area after three songs. I did as I was told and rejoined the crowd. It just so happened that my friend was right at the front and there was virtually no one in the tent owing to the aforementioned Will Young so I was still in pole position for great shots of the band. I saw no reason to stop shooting so I kept my camera out in case a photogenic moment occurred. And it's at this point a bouncer – a different one to the one who'd seen me snapping the band I must point out – decided to tell me I wasn't allowed to use my professional camera to take any more shots. If I had a small camera - a point and shoot - I would be allowed to take pictures. If I had been using a cameraphone, I would be allowed to take pictures but because my camera is large and professional-looking, I am no longer allowed to take pictures. I said "But I have a press pass", he said no. "So....anyone else can take pictures and do what they want with them...but I can't?" Right....

Does this sound reasonable? Or am I being completely unrealistic here?

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Tweeting Hell!

Love it or hate it, Twitter has entered our vernacular with a Twallop and it's sure to be the greatest addition to online social networking till, least the end of the next cup of tea. I must confess, I've grown rather fond of it in the eight months or so I've been glued to it but, let's be perfectly honest, when you've run out of internet links to share or cool things to retweet, it's just another platform to wallow in a little bit of self indulgent narcissism, isn't it?

And we all like a little bit of self indulgence, don't we?

Yes we do.

Humour me.

Please. Just a bit.


So I've come up with a new Twitter identity with which to revel in a spot of that aforementioned self indulgent narcissism but with one very specific aim; regaining a little creativity.

My summer shoot was amazingly good fun, I learned a lot about being a professional travel photographer (well, I WAS a professional travel photographer for two months), and I took some guidebook-worthy shots but, towards the end, however, I realised my approach was becoming formulaic and even I was a bit bored of the way I framed subjects, levelled horizons and combined elements.

One of the great things about Twitter is that you can access your Twitter stream on an iPhone and upload images directly to your profile. 'Hark!' I hear you cry, 'Why would you want to use a few-mega-pixel, grainy camera to share shots with the world when you have several thousand pounds worth of top-notch Nikon machinery?' Well, that's exactly my remit, innit. I'm readdressing the balance before I get way too hung up on coveting a bag full of primes and insist on colour managing every image on a huuuge screen in a room of D50 lighting. Oh too late.

Yep, the new challenge is to upload one shot a day taken on the iPhone. The shot won't be an editorial or descriptive account of my day but it will be something that is visually interesting in one way or another. For a photographer with, in all, a focal range of 18-300mm and apertures from f/1.4 to f/22, it's extremely limiting to be reduced to a mere point and shoot with inbuilt focussing and metering but at least it will make me think about what makes and image appealing and stimulating from the ground level rather than relying on camera trickery and photoshoppery to enhance it.

Anyway, if you want to have a look at what I've done so far; Do let me know what you think. After all, it's not up to me to decide whether my shots are interesting or not. That's your job. Or Twob.

Friday, 10 July 2009