News of Frome Views

Earlier this year I left the Alamy stock image library in order to preserve my professional integrity (I won’t bore you with details here), since which time I’ve been giving some thought about my future relationship with stock photography in general.

I’ve never been a great fan of stock photography partly because I always prefer to work on commission, where a client knows what they want and therefore I know I’m taking pictures which have a definite purpose. Stock photos mostly exist for no reason at all and will never be published; the idea of taking photos which just languish on a server somewhere seems sad to me.

Additionally, because stock photography is a numbers game, a photographer has to dedicate themselves pretty much full time to taking stock photos in order to make a living from it. The lack of motivation I have for doing nothing but stock shots all day combined with the exclusion of all commissioned work would kill the joy I have for my job.

Having said all that, I have decided there is room in my professional life to spend time taking pictures which interest me and which might also have a stock image value. I don’t have to offer them through an agency and I can set my own prices, but there is an additional benefit which you don’t get with a stock library, namely that by hosting the photos on my own gallery, I create content which is indexed by Google. It creates another small piece in the search engine optimisation jigsaw.

Even if I never sell a photo, the photos I host will have the benefit of helping to attract search result enquiries. I can adjust, chop and change what I offer, which will also signal to Google that I’m an active, creative photographer based in Somerset. They also show potential clients another side to what I do and might offer inspiration for their next project. All of this can only happen by keeping the images closely tied to my own website. When they’re held remotely by a stock library, the link between the image and the creator is weakened.

The images here are just a small taster, and though the collection itself is very small at the moment it will grow and you can see the full set here.

 

On The Mount

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A bit of a change of direction this week; I recently started something which I hope will become a coherent series of photos journaling the real Frome town. I want to include the people and the places that get less of a look-in, which are often ignored for not being pretty enough, retro enough or chic enough for our attention. Like Standerwick, I want this series to inform the viewer without pushing an agenda. You see the pictures, you decide what they mean to you.

I don’t want this to be just another series of “petty observations” the like of which you see on Instagram or twitter every day. Certainly Frome gets its share of those with many snaps of Catherine Hill and Cheap Street, or the Independent Market. I’m looking for the slightly grittier side of Frome.

The image below is just the first instalment, a bit of a scene-setter if you like, and it shows The Mount, Keyford, Frome, which is just one of the areas I’ll be chronicling. This series will eventually get its own gallery on my website and perhaps become an exhibition somewhere in the town. Well, that would be super, but we’ll have to see about that.

In the meantime, here goes nothing, as they say…

Feltham Drive looking towards Austin Close, The Mount, Frome, Somerset

Feltham Drive looking towards Austin Close, The Mount, Frome, Somerset

The News Itch

Sometimes I hanker after the good old days when I was rushing about covering news events. Of course most of it was pretty mundane stuff (community group cheque presentations, councillors on self-promoting visits to local Scout clubs and so on), but covering Magistrates or Crown Court, while often time-consuming was an interesting challenge. Or a stakeout waiting for some local scallywag to emerge from their last known address, house fires, road traffic accidents… these were not enjoyable, but you felt you were doing a useful job bringing the news to your readers.

Yes, I miss the rush of covering hard news and sometimes I ponder how difficult it would be to start covering local news without the backup of a recognised publication. The problem is, I often spot newsworthy things around my home town of Frome, but there isn’t a local newspaper that would pay for the photos and I’m not prepared to give them away for free to a commercial entity. Instead I occasionally post pictures on my photography Facebook page, and it’s interesting to see how many hits these posts get. It often results in a little spike in visits to the page, which makes me wonder if I shouldn’t be doing more.

Police cordon off an area outside The Cornerhouse pub in Frome, Somerset, after a fight.

It’s not art, but local incidents get little coverage in the papers

Naturally it always comes back to questions of whether I can afford to peel off from whatever task I’m on to go and take pictures of an incident just to share them on my Facebook page, as well as the question of whether, as an individual without the remit of a picture editor, I can really justify approaching police and fire officers to get the necessary details for the caption and gain the access required to get pictures which fully tell the story.

At least when I was a card-carrying press man I had something which said “within the constraints of the law and my professional codes of conduct, I have a right to be here taking photos.” I find it harder to do now that I’m just another bloke with a camera.

With the local publications increasingly ignoring the difficult-to-get or the stories breaking out of hours, I suspect I’ll find myself taking more pictures of the things which happen around my town. I’ll rely on experience and training to know what I can cover and how far I can push my access, because lord knows I have no interest in getting arrested or punched, but if you want to see how I get on and keep up with what I do, you can always Like my Facebook page or keep an eye on this blog.

If you’re like-minded and local, why not get in touch? It might come to nothing, but you never know, we might be the start of a new publishing empire!

Entering The Press Photography Dark Ages

Bizarrely, having written in my last blog post about the Pine Range fire which I covered for The Bath Chronicle in 1991, I was heading back to my flat from a family gathering on Sunday evening to discover the sheltered housing complex on the opposite side of my building from where Pine Range once stood was surrounded by fire crews, engines and hoses. A fire had broken out in one of the flats and 11 residents had to be evacuated, with one resident being taken to hospital suffering smoke inhalation.

Aside from the obvious concern that everyone had been evacuated safely I couldn’t help feeling I should take a few photos, in spite of the fact I had a fair number of other commitments that evening, limited time and no obvious client for any photos I would take.

But the news photographer blood which still courses through me was buzzing and telling me to get on with it and at least take a few frames to offer up to the local paper. More in hope than expectation; time was a paper would have torn my arm off at the elbow for a set of pictures from an event they couldn’t get to and would happily have paid for them. Times have changed so very much though.

Fire crews attend a fire at Gorehedge residential home for the elderly in Keyford, Frome.

A general view gives some idea of the scale of the operation

I don’t often find myself covering this kind of story any more. Most of what I do for publications is press release work, which of course doesn’t include things like un-planned fires. I had to pause and ask myself if it was still valid for me to take pictures at an incident if I don’t have an immediate client for the shots. I don’t even carry a National Union of Journalists card any more, having let my membership lapse some years ago.

I honestly don’t think any of that matters though. Whether or not a newspaper wants to use my photos is entirely their call. As a trained, experienced news photographer I still feel I have a duty to record events if I am able. I can’t know at the time of taking a photo whether I will have captured something banal, tragic or incredibly newsworthy. All I can do is call on all my training and experience and get on with taking pictures.

Now that local newspapers no longer cover local stories and events with anything approaching enthusiasm perhaps it’s more important than ever that photographers with the right training and skills create quality visual records of what they witness.

Firefighters work through the building to ensure there are no pockets of fire left

Firefighters work through the building to ensure there are no pockets of fire left

Looking at the paltry photographic coverage the Bath Chronicle gave the Tour of Britain last week, and The Frome Standard’s belated attempt at photographing a major news event on their own doorstep (their photos were taken over three hours after the event), it’s possible that historians of the future will look back on the stories of our time and wonder why the photos from the early 2000s are worse than the ones taken a century before on far more primitive equipment.

Crews start to wind-down as the incident de-escalates

Crews start to wind-down as the incident de-escalates

 

 

Blast from the Past – Frome Pine Range Fire

Sometimes I like to pull something from my archive and share it with you, so here’s a photo from February 1991 showing the Pine Range furniture factory in Frome being attended by fire crews as it’s gutted by fire. I apologise for the quality of the reproduction here, it’s an old newspaper cutting and I no longer have access to the original negative – a common occurrence of my very early work which is held by The Bath Chronicle (more likely the negatives no longer exist).

Fire crews attend the fire at Pine Range, Frome, February 1991

Fire crews attend the fire at Pine Range, Frome, February 1991

I vaguely recall the circumstances surrounding this call-out. I was a freelance at “The Chron” at the time and I was probably working late, printing the day’s shoots ready for the next day’s paper, when a reporter came into the photography department to see if a photographer might be around to attend a breaking story. Luckily for them, I was.

The story had come through of a big fire in Frome, so we headed out in my car (to be pedantic, probably my then-girlfriend’s car) to see what was up. I know it was late at night, might even have been around midnight, when we got there to find a few fire crews in attendance at the building which was billowing smoke.

It was such a bitterly cold night that the run-off water from the fire hoses was freezing to the road, and I recall struggling to walk up the incline to the scene because of all the ice under foot.

There wasn’t a huge amount to photograph, I just had to make sure I got the building and fire engines to fill the frame. After taking a few different angles, I was pretty much finished. There wasn’t much light about, and I recall using my large hammerhead Metz flashgun to illuminate the entire scene.

It was hardly a moment for great art, but I would have headed back to the Chronicle offices straight after to process my film and make some prints so the picture desk could choose one for the paper the next morning. I probably rolled into bed in the early hours and would have been back on duty about half eight the next day.

One small coincidence of this job is that from where I currently live my living room window overlooks the site of the Pine Range building, which was subsequently demolished and is now a block of flats. Hardly Circle of Life stuff, but curious all the same.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

This week’s blog is going to be mercifully short because today I’m working feverishly behind the scenes to get my newly designed blog and website up and ready (exciting and scary!)

However, I hate to disappoint all the beautiful people out there who like to swing by every Tuesday in search of some nugget of information, entertainment or um… can’t remember what the third thing might be, so I’m taking this opportunity to give you an early alert to one of the changes you’ll see on the site.

Angled detail view in black and white of cobbled street, Frome

Now available to buy as an enlargement

It’s all a bit work-in-progress at the moment, but if you look at the Personal Project Photography gallery you’ll see that the images there are available to buy as prints or enlargements. New options will be added and updated, as will images from my archive and (in time) new images which I’ll add as and when they’re ready.

You’re welcome to have a look, and if you see something you like you’ll be welcome to order it! If you see a photo you like which isn’t available in a size or finish you’d want, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

For technical reasons, not all photos will be available in all sizes because I want to ensure that whatever you buy looks fantastic on your wall.

This is just one feature of the new site which will have a different look and will incorporate this blog far more seamlessly, making it easier for everyone to see and access the bits they need.

So exciting times all round! I’m hoping that by the time you read my next article, the new site will be finished and live. Wish me luck, and thank you for your patience during this construction work.

It’s good to talk

After last week’s article (rant) about the Johnston Press photographic staff redundancies, I feel the need to chill and talk about something a little warmer and fluffier. I could have another rant, this time about the new powers UK police might soon have to seize press photographers’ images, but since there won’t be any press photographers left soon I suspect the law will be redundant by the time it hits the statute books.

I could have a rant about the latest European Union copyright review, which could very well be another attempt by big business to grab photographers’ rights, since these reviews never seem to centre on ways of strengthening copyright law. And on this matter, I urge all creatives to make submissions to the review, the deadline of which has been extended in to March 5th.

Yes, I could rant about all of that, but while rants get hits to my blog, it also gets boring. In any case it’s likely I’ll have to have another go at these subjects later, so rant lovers needn’t despair entirely.

Instead I’m going to tell you about a rather fun Friday evening last week when I addressed members of the Frome Wessex Camera Club and spent a couple of hours talking about the work I do now, and the experiences I had working for the News of the World from around 1998 to 2001 when I left abruptly due to unpaid expenses.

A milkman delivers a crate of milk to 10 Downing Street, London

Sitting overnight in Downing Street in case Cheri Blair went into labour, I captured a shot of the milkman delivering and broke the story that this delivery is a national secret

I’d not previously addressed a room full of people on this subject before, and it was kind of cathartic for me. I’d prepared a presentation with lots of photos from the period, each with its own back-story, and while I was nervous in the build up to the evening, once the house lights went down and I got started it was like I was flying. I’d made presenter notes, but barely referred to them for the entire talk. Everything just seemed to flow naturally.

Queen Elizabeth II rides out in a horse-drawn carriage at the start of the Trooping the Colour ceremony and parade in London in 2001, protected by a transparent umbrella to protect her from the rain

Some stories I covered were more conventional, such as Trooping the Colour, 2001

The audience of club members (plus my son who I’d dragged along under mild protest) did a very strange thing too; they laughed at my tales of celebrity chases, brushes with bodyguards and sitting in the backs of vans waiting so long for a particular scallywag to appear I’d have to pee in a bottle or risk blowing my cover.

A group of black ladies laugh heartily at the end of a march in honour of murdered teenager Damilola taylor

Marking the anniversary of the death of Damilola Taylor not with sadness, but unity and joy

And when the house lights went up at the end of the presentation, the image which will stay with me forever is the look on my son’s face because this was the first time he’d heard many of these stories. I’d assumed he would have been bored to tears, but his expression was a mixture of happiness and pride. Of everyone in the audience, he was my most important critic and it seems I passed the test.

Supporters of the National Front are escorted through the streets of Bermondsey by police officers.

A National Front march in Bermondsey, London. A lot less laughing and joy than the Damilola Taylor march which happened on the same day.

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

What no post?

Indeed, I must apologise to my regular readers that I was unable to post last week and already it’s Wednesday of this week and again I’ve not posted anything . Until now.

The reason for this interruption in service has been the sheer volume of work I’ve had on. This is indeed to be welcomed, but has left my fans somewhat neglected. Some possibly bewildered and upset. I suppose Justin Bieber fans must experience similar disappointment when the wunderkind of muzak stops tweeting for longer than 30 seconds, but since this has never happened I guess we’ll never know.

Which brings me not very neatly to the subject of this week’s post, which is the fulfilment of a promise I made to give the Frome Wessex Camera Club National Salon of Photography 2013 a plug as well as the camera fair on November 3rd. I reported on the April fair this year and I’m sure the November event will be another good chance to grab a bargain, drool over old Leicas and people watch.

Last year's Frome National Salon of Photography brought in a great variety of entries

Last year’s Frome National Salon of Photography brought in a great variety of entries

I must confess I’m less up to speed with the photo salon, but looking at last year’s entries there are some impressive results there from sports action, to portraiture and wildlife. I’m not a fan of the more processed images, but have a look around the various categories and judge for yourself. Maybe you’d like to enter this year? Best get your skates on because the closing date is October 31st 2013.

On that closing note, I hope I shall be back and publishing on time next Tuesday. You have to admit the uncertainty is pretty gripping.

Taking the weekend easy

I can’t really write about business this week, not after the weekend I’ve just had. If google wants feeding with keywords such as commercial photographer, press photographer in Somerset covering Bath and Bristol, it’ll have to look elsewhere (see what I did there?)

No, this week I have to tell you about my weekend bike ride with colleagues from The Old Church School (TOCS) in Frome, where my office is based. Ryan, recently qualified TOCS apprentice and resident cycling nut, decided to organise a little Saturday jaunt which anyone within the building could sign up to. It just happened to coincide with a free weekend for me, so I signed up.

7 cyclists in a row, ready for a 70-mile ride to South Devon.

Set to go (left to right) Rich, Ryan, Jennie, Paul, Gavin, Zuz and me

Originally I was told it was a 60 mile ride down to Branscombe on the South Devon coast, camping overnight and returning on Sunday by train or bike if preferred. I was tempted by the thought of cycling back on the Sunday, but the train prevailed in the event.

The longest ride I’ve ever done previously was a 46 mile circuit which meant I got to sleep in my own bed the same night. This trip would be a whole new experience for me and turned out to be over 70 miles door-to-tent-flap, including some hills that were put there to prove God hates cyclists.

I won’t bore you with a mile-by-mile account, but there were seven of us that set off from Frome on what would transpire to be the best part of 11 hours on the road including stops.

Some in our group were clearly seasoned cyclists, with Ryan heading the way as navigator going strong all the way and who cycled all the way home the next day. Did I mention he’s a nut?

I wanted to take some photos of the journey, but it’s funny how when I need to take snaps I struggle. I was enjoying the cycling and of course every time we stopped I was having to drink and take in food like everyone else. Not too much time for getting the camera out, but a few iPhone photos and the occasional shot on my Fuji X20 meant the event didn’t go completely unrecorded.

Cyclists at a village shop taking a refreshment break

Village shops were invaded by Lycra-clad, sweaty cyclists in need of sugar, carbs and water

We all rode pretty strongly until the very last few hills to our campsite just beyond Branscombe when Jennie, Gavin and myself started to find our legs had nothing left. Ryan, unbelievably, took turns with Jennie and I, riding up behind us and giving us a push up the penultimate hill. It was like having a jet pack strapped to your back. He must have been exhausted too, but he also knew we had to get to the campsite or sleep in a ditch.

Having beaten that hill there was a brief respite from the slog, but when we got to the foot of the very final climb to the campsite to see the warning sign which indicated a 20% ascent, three of us had to resign and walk it, which was pretty hard too. I must confess I was swearing a bit by this stage. Ryan, being nuttier than squirrel poo, cycled on up that hill like it wasn’t there. He showed God.

Cyclists on the road into Seaton

We’re still smiling at this stage. We had no idea the hills still to come

Anyway, we all managed to get there, had a fantastic meal (a drink or four) at the local pub and not much sleep under canvas.

The journey home the next day required a few more miles in the saddle (Ryan The Nut cycled all the way home), but I was chuffed to manage the first big ascent out of Branscombe, but once we got to Seaton it was clear we were going to struggle to make our train home, which was a few more miles away and we simply didn’t have the legs for it. Luckily I managed to track down one taxi driver who could help us and I’d like to say a big thank you to Floyds of Charmouth who came to our aid with a seven-seater which took the three of us and our bikes to Axminster station where we caught the train home.

Cyclists resting on the beach

Resting on Branscombe beach on Sunday morning (honourable mention to Jen, second from right, our support car team)

I wasn’t firing on all cylinders on Monday, but it was an excellent break for me and I’m so glad I did it. Given the opportunity, I’d do it again. Ryan’s nuttiness is clearly contagious.

Four people, backs to camera, walking up a grassy meadow

Walking back to the tent to pack and start our journeys home