Creative Field

Assuming for a moment that Mark Twain actually said “golf is a good walk spoiled,” I wonder if he would have been happier taking a good walk with a camera?

Last weekend I went for a walk in the countryside just outside Frome and as I returned across a familiar field, the way the evening sunlight glinted off the grass struck me as especially interesting. So I took a photo. Nothing special there of course, but having taken that photo I decided it wasn’t enough just to show the field as I saw it from my (approx 6’1″) stance. I wanted to explore other ways to convey what I was seeing and feeling as I stood there. I was getting dangerously artsy.

And so I used the same technique I employ when working for a client; I stood quietly for a few moments, considering options, looking at the light, the field, the grass and thinking about what other possibilities might present themselves.

I tried a very low angle which emphasised the narrow footpath through the grass as well as the sunlight glinting off the blades and then I tried for one more shot. Far more abstract this time, but still making use of the sunlit highlights, I lowered the shutter speed and rotated the camera as I took the shot. I might have looked a little daft, but no one was around and I wouldn’t have cared if they were. I was having fun! To be honest, I could have spent hours there interpreting that field in different ways, but for this post I just wanted to illustrate what’s possible with something seemingly lacking in options.

It’s all too easy to see what’s in front of you and assume there is either no photo to be had, or that there is only one way to photograph it. Taking time, engaging the brain and having a think about what, if anything, you’re trying to capture or say in a photo is not only an excellent way to explore ideas, it also saves you taking up golf.

Anyone for Tea?

In February this year I received an enquiry from a completely new venture. So new, in fact, that it hadn’t actually launched yet, which is always interesting because it often means I have even more opportunity than usual to add some of my creative input into the project.

The client, Tea for Three marketing and communications, consists of three directors, Helen Rimmer, Debbie Clifford and Michelle Gordon-Coles, and together they make a very dynamic team with backgrounds in journalism, public relations, charities, corporate communications and education.

It also has to be said, I’ve rarely worked with a team so completely on the same wavelength as each other. It’s obvious their personalities just mesh perfectly and I think this will feed their undoubted future success.

I gleaned all this from the pre-shoot planning meeting I had with Helen and the few hours I spent taking photos with the trio.

We started in a beautiful stone-walled meeting room at Glove Factory Studios where, having arranged Debbie, Helen and Michelle around a table in such a way as to keep the composition tight, I just left them to chat, smile, laugh and drink tea while I captured a series of moments from different angles until there was a good selection of images to draw on.

They had also arranged a trip up the road to Merkin’s Farm cafe for more tea (clearly their fuel of choice) so I could take more individual shots as well as a couple of more posed groups with a less “officey” look, aka outside with some nice countryside in the background.

During both sessions I was keen to not only fulfil the brief, but also to look out for angles and details that would give them those extra shots which are so necessary on a website; you know, those photos nobody knows they need until it comes to actually building it and realising they don’t have quite enough!

The end result is a set of photos which really show the coherence of this vibrant team as well as their very relaxed, friendly (while still utterly professional) approach to marketing. And judging from the testimonial Helen sent through (shamelessly requested by myself), I think Tea for Three were either very happy with the results or had got slightly tipsy on Darjeeling.

We had a very specific brief for Tim to follow, we didn’t want to come across as too corporate or stuffy and wanted our photos for our website to show us as friendly and down to earth. We were a little bit nervous but Tim soon put us at ease. He was great fun to work with and very patient when we laughed too much!

“Tim has a great eye for detail and came up with lots of ideas we hadn’t thought of. We were really pleased with the end results and would definitely recommend Tim.”

Helen Rimmer, Tea for Three Ltd.

Victoria, London

Street photography isn’t something I get to indulge in often, but on Saturday I was in Southwark, London, with barely an hour to spare before going to see a concert in the cathedral. To make use of my limited time I had a wander round Borough Market with my Fuji X20, bags of really interesting late afternoon sunlight filtering through the structures of the market and little scenes of traders winding down from a busy day.

With all the shoppers gone, or congregated at nearby bars, I was able to move about and frame scenes without too much clutter, and as I rounded one corner I was struck by this vision of a waitress with red hair, concentrating on her mobile phone and smoking a cigarette while the evening sunlight lit her up brilliantly against the shaded backdrop of a closed stall.

Now I’m not a natural street photographer and on the whole I don’t like to snap pictures of people without their knowledge, especially if I intend publishing the photos in some form, so I approached and asked permission to shoot.

Victoria (for ’twas her name) agreed, but at first she wasn’t sure if I wanted her to pose, so I explained that if she went back to what she’d been doing, that would be just the ticket. Within seconds it was as if I wasn’t there. I took 10 frames, three of which worked well and two I’m posting here.

Once I’d done taking pictures I went back over for a chat, to take her name and some details and to give Victoria my email address so she can have a copy if she wants. Then her cigarette was done, her break over and she dashed back off to the wine bar to continue her shift. Click photos to enlarge

I’m not saying these are prize-winning photos, but the big step for me is that unless I’m under pressure of a brief, I find it incredibly difficult to approach strangers and ask them to pose for me. I generally need to know the pictures have more of a purpose than just my own joy of taking a photo, which is silly. As a photographer of almost 30 years’ experience I really should know by now that I have absolutely every right to record what is around me.

And as long as I do this with dignity and technical ability, I really should get over myself and just get on with it.