Image-led web design (sorry, no puns this week!)

When it comes to finding the starting point for the look of a brand new website, it’s often the photography that will set the tone and direction for the visual design. That’s how it went with the new Cornerstones website, and I have to say I’m extremely pleased to see how the website turned out. All too often, images which have been taken to help tell the story end up squashed, cropped and overlaid with graphics to the point of oblivion. Not so with this project.

Cornerstones home page featuring a photo of one of the main classrooms

The home page features a slideshow to give visitors an idea what to expect

Cornerstones runs a school in Cheshire for young people with Autism and learning difficulties, spanning a wide range of learning and communication requirements. They also have four homes in which boarders live, having their own en-suite bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens as well as gardens, and my task was to reflect the facilities and the likely experience of anyone going there. So far so good, except that while I needed to communicate the friendly, nurturing ethos of the school and homes, I couldn’t let any of the pupils be identified in the shots.

Cornerstones web page showing a montage of photos

A variety of techniques allowed me to show activity without giving away IDs

What I wanted to produce was a series of images which allowed some evidence of pupil activity, but avoiding identification, while also showcasing the bright, friendly atmosphere of the locations. I’ve included some screen-grabs here, but take a look at the site to see how the images and the site graphics work well together.

Exterior of one of Cornerstones buildings

This building was derelict when Cornerstones took it over, but it’s a beautiful home for boarders now

I would like to add that working with the staff and pupils of the organisation was an absolute pleasure and I really enjoyed my couple of days there. I’d also like to include the fact that working with Ghost Limited, the digital design agency who project-managed and built the site (and with whom I happen to share office space) was a pleasure from start to finish.

Yes, you herd…

Sometimes my job can be quite mucky, and one recent commission was especially so.

I was booked to shoot portraits of a couple of Somerset farmers who were nominated for a national dairy award. The forecast for the next day was dull but dry. The thing is, when I woke up it was dull alright, but it was lashing with rain. The weather and the roads were so filthy that on my way to the first farm my windscreen wipers were shifting muddy spray as well as the rain, but I was on a deadline so couldn’t reschedule.

The brief was to get a selection of shots of each farmer, perhaps at the gate, but certainly with some evidence of their herd behind them. In both cases, because of the time of year and especially because of the weather, this meant the herds would be in sheds. Probably not the best of photographic situations because of the low light inside, made worse by the low light generally.

However, despite the weather, my subjects getting rained on and the animals all being fairly dark colours in dim lighting, I was pleased with the results. It wasn’t easy, but it was helped by the good nature of the farmers and I’d like to thank Alan Creed of Withial Farm near Shepton Mallet and Philip Cotterrell of Warren Farm near Wells for their help and patience when they probably had better things to do. It’s fair to say though, I had some laundry to do when I got home.

Dairy farmer Alan Creed poses in his cow shed with cows visible behind

Alan Creed was very patient with me as I had to wait for a cow to pop her head into just the right spot for the shot to work

Somerset dairy farmer Philip Cotterrell smiles as he is sniffed by one of his cows

Philip Cotterrell is clearly liked by his animals

Dairy farmer Philip Cotterrell smiles at the farm gate as he's surrounded by cows

Despite being soaked with rain, Philip is still smiling in what turned out to be my favourite shot of the day

A Right Royal Installation

Last week I covered the installation of the new Chancellor of University of Bath, HRH Prince Edward. The event started at Bath Guildhall, where the VIPs got robed and ready to process to Bath Abbey for the official ceremony.

I was second photographer to the university’s staff man, Nic Delves-Broughton, and my task largely consisted of helping to record the day and capture some “flavour of the day” images.

Rather than write a long description of how I spent my time running around trying to get the shots I needed without annoying close protection officers, I thought you’d like to see a smattering of the images from the ceremony…

HRH Prince Edward installed as the new Chancellor of University of Bath.

Ceremonial garb meets new technology

HRH Prince Edward installed as the new Chancellor of University of Bath.

Guests and VIPs gather in the Guildhall Ball Room to get robed up

HRH Prince Edward installed as the new Chancellor of University of Bath.

Michael Eavis of Glastonbury Festival fame is happy and relaxed in the procession to Bath Abbey

HRH Prince Edward installed as the new Chancellor of University of Bath.

Arriving at Bath Abbey to receive Honorary Degrees are Rev Peter Price, Bishop of Bath and Wells and Paralympic Medallist Ellie Simmonds

HRH Prince Edward installed as the new Chancellor of University of Bath.

Vice Chancellor of University of Bath, Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell shares a joke with HRH Prince Edward just before entering Bath Abbey

HRH Prince Edward installed as the new Chancellor of University of Bath.

HRH Prince Edward processes through Bath Abbey having been robed as Chancellor of University of Bath

HRH Prince Edward installed as the new Chancellor of University of Bath.

The new chancellor listens as the VC gives her welcome address

HRH Prince Edward installed as the new Chancellor of University of Bath.

The official ceremony over, it’s a quick dash back up the aisle for University of Bath photographer Nic Delves-Broughton

HRH Prince Edward installed as the new Chancellor of University of Bath.

Back outside the Abbey, and this time as Chancellor of University of Bath, HRH Prince Edward gives a smile to the waiting crowds

Fool On The Hill

In July this year I undertook a review of a tripod and part of the exercise required me to take photos of myself using it. I decided the best location for this would be Cley Hill near Frome (very close to Longleat) which would allow me to get dramatic skies in the background.

As anyone local knows, Cley Hill isn’t a huge mountain; it’s not even a huge hill, but it’s big enough and a very steep climb. Which is fine on an ordinary walk, but to get photos of myself using the tripod I had to take two cameras and an extra tripod so I could have a camera on the test tripod and one mounted and aimed at myself to get the self-portraits.

The plan was then to trigger the remote camera using my radio triggers. Which I forgot to take with me. This meant resorting to the self-timer function of the camera, which only gave me 10 seconds to get from the “taking” camera to the one on the test tripod. That’s not easy when you’re trying to line up a shot at the top of a very steep hill, the wind is blowing, and cows are starting to take a close interest in what you’re doing.

I wanted to use evening light to get the best drama from the sky, but what with having to get to the top of the hill and set up, time was ticking by and things weren’t helped by the fact that I had to keep changing my location due to one factor or another.

Once I’d finally found the spot that would work best I was able to get cracking, but 10 seconds isn’t that long when you have to dash up a last steep section to get to the location before the shutter clicked and as you can see from the photos below, I slightly mis-judged the timer…

Cley Hill cows on a path

Originally I’d wanted to use this hill crest, but the curious cows wouldn’t shift

View of Tim Gander's back as he fails to get into position before the camera fires

I didn’t quite get myself in place in time for this one

Photographer Tim Gander sits with his camera on a tripod on the side of a hill

Just made it, but if I look like I’m panting for breath, that’s because I am

Back view of Time Gander scrabbling into position for a photo on Cley Hill

The light worked better on this set up, but I missed the timer again!

silhouette of photographer Tim Gander atop Cley Hill in Somerset with his camera on a tripod.

Finally! I look like a heroic, adventurous travel photographer. Truth is, I can almost see my house from here