So, what I said before…

Only the post before last I posed the question of whether or not I ever stop. Thinking about photography, that is, and the answer surely is confirmed as a resounding NO.

At the end of that post I mentioned the rolls of film I was waiting to process from my holiday in South West Brittany, France, and just writing that line gave me the uncontrollable urge to get those rolls processed. So I processed them and here are the results.

Looking at these photos you might assume I had a rather peculiar holiday, but I actually really enjoyed it. But when I take pictures in my down time, I’m still working on approaches and processes. It’s a constant exercise in “how about” and “what if I”. I’m also developing a new method of digitising film, which will be useful when it comes to putting the Saxonvale book together, so a definite research angle too.

On this occasion I was working with basic kit, with a single stock of film, and exploiting the properties of the film to get a very graphic look from what I shot. This in turn influenced what I photographed and here’s a gallery of some of the results.

For those with the technical interest, these were all taken on a Canon EOS 1N camera with a 40mm lens, using Kodak Tri-X 400 rated at 800iso and push processed in Rodinol. A classic combination of film and developer which yields beautiful results.

Holiday over, back to work.

Don’t I Ever Stop?!

Even when I’m not taking business photos for clients or shooting a personal project, when I go away on a break I take yet more photos. Which would be fine except that I obsess about not taking the kind of holiday photos I ought really to be taking.

If I tell someone I’m going for a break in wherever, the common reaction is for them to suggest things I should take pictures of while I’m there. It might be the pretty houses, the beautiful landscapes, the amazing night lights by the river or whatever. The problem is, most of these photos can already be seen on Google, so why would I just repeat what someone else has already done?

I’m not entirely sure it’s a healthy state of affairs, but whenever I go away I end up treating it like some kind of mini assignment. A good recent example is when my wife Helen and I went to Kent for a music festival she was performing in. We decided to make it a weekend as the weather was glorious and we were very close to Dymchurch Beach.

So instead of a snap of a sunny beach and blue skies, I zeroed in on the detectorist who was kind enough to chat and be photographed.

And during the festival, instead of photographing the beautiful little church where the music was being performed, I honed in on the side details of the event. Which would be fine if that just meant drinking the tea and eating the biscuits, but I came over all Martin Parr and took wry, dry observational shots of tea cups, trays of mugs and helpers in the cake tent.

Just to make it even more of an inconvenience for myself, I took all my photos on expired film (yes, I still have some from my Saxonvale project).

Now you may ask what the heck’s wrong with me, but the thing is a break is about enjoying yourself and having freedom to do what you want. It just happens I enjoy shooting film (expired or not) but with the freedom to explore a subject however I want.

It might not be everyone’s idea of a break, but I fid it liberating even though there’s still a background static of wishing not to fail to get good shots.

Am I weird? Probably. Perhaps I need a break. Which reminds me, I’ve got four rolls of black and white film from my holiday in France to process.

Welcome Break

Welcome back after my holiday hiatus.

One of the wonderful things about doing what I do is that whenever I go on holiday, I always have a professional photographer with me. Not everyone is so fortunate and there is even a growing trend to hire a photographer to take your holiday snaps for you.

Don’t worry though, I’m only going to talk briefly about my Summer* holiday and show you just a couple of the photos I took during my week off. The point being, as much as this blog is for showcasing what I do for my clients (and hopefully for you if you become one of them), it’s sometimes good to share what I do outside of my paid work so you get to see how I think when I’m not tied to a photographic brief.

My trip this year involved a week’s camping in South Devon; Slapton, to be precise, and to be even more pedantic, during a week-long weather warning from the Met Office. Yes, it rained quite a lot and got so windy that my windbreak broke.

In spite of all that, I had a wonderful time relaxing with my lovely partner. Long walks (we clocked up in the region of 25 miles in the first 3 days) and some of the most incredible seafood I’ve ever eaten.

And when I’m on holiday, yet still carrying a camera, what do I look for in a photograph? Well I do occasionally find myself taking some of the same clichéd photos that any tourist takes, but mostly I look for something unusual to sum up an experience in a less obvious way than simply lifting my camera and recording what’s in front of me.

It’s always a balance between enjoying the holiday and its moments and using the camera to record them. I certainly resist taking photos until I see something I really want to capture, and rarely trouble myself with anything that thousands of people will already have captured ad-nauseam.

Hence the two images here. Both are simple and both lack any real context. Looking at them, you wouldn’t necessarily know where they were taken, but for me they form the kernel of much bigger memories. I hope though that in spite of that, you can see some beauty in them that doesn’t rely on you knowing the context in which they were taken, so they stand on their own as pictures worth looking at.

Enough artyfarty nonsense, here they are.

*I heard a lovely quote the other day, I’m only sorry I don’t know who originally came up with it, but it goes “I love the English Summer. It’s my favourite day of the year.”

My 2014 In Pictures

This, dear reader, is the last post of 2014 and as such it’s become something of a tradition for me to do an annual roundup of images, choosing one for each month of the year as it comes to a juddering halt.

The middle of this year was rather dominated with work for University of Bath as I stepped in while their staff photographer recovered from a cycling accident, and while I could have filled more months with student profiles and university events I’ve tried to keep it more varied than that.

I hope you enjoy this year’s selection. It just remains for me to thank all my clients for their custom and support over the year and to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.


Rotating milking parlour on a dairy in Wiltshire

January – Rotating milking parlour in Wiltshire for an article on the benefits of mechanised dairies

Jolly's of Bath store assistant Josh Gottschling in Revolutions Bar in Bath

February – Portrait of Jolly’s of Bath staff member Josh Gottschling in his favourite bar for an in-house magazine article

Nigel Lawson talking to an audience at University of Bath

March – Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson addresses an audience at University of Bath on issues surrounding renewable energy – he’s not a fan of it

Two silhouetted faces in profile talking with Future Everything Festival signage displayed between them

April – The Future Everything Festival in Manchester for client Digital Connected Economy Catapult


Mechanical Engineering student Robert Ford of University of Bath works on his design for a vertical climbing robot

May – Mechanical Engineering student Robert Ford of University of Bath works on his design for a vertical climbing robot

Student  Noel Kwan poses for the Humanities and Social Sciences prospectus for University of Bath

June – Student Noel Kwan poses for the Humanities and Social Sciences prospectus for University of Bath

Hundreds of new University of Bath graduates spill from Bath Abbey to be greeted by friends and family members

July – Hundreds of new University of Bath graduates spill from Bath Abbey to be greeted by friends and family members

A street at dusk in the historic part of Hall in Tirol

August – Finally, a holiday in Austria and I get to take pretty pictures of picturesque streets

Business portrait of Andy Harriss

September – Andy Harris of Rookery Software Ltd is a man every bit as interesting as his hair

Eight-year-old Scout Adam Henderson concentrates on packing customer bags for charity at Tesco's store in Salisbury

October – Eight-year-old Scout Adam Henderson concentrates on packing customer bags for charity at Tesco’s store in Salisbury

Chef John Melican stands at a farm gate with the sign PLEASE SHUT GATE nailed to it

November – A fresh portrait for chef John Melican’s new Melican’s Events website

Yarn-bombed tree in Melksham, Wiltshire

December – On the way back to the car from a job in Melksham I couldn’t resist a shot of this yarn-bombed tree in the December sunshine




Holiday Schnapps

Even though I’m on holiday with my son Joe this week, I thought I’d drop you all a line and share some photographic impressions of my time in the Tyrol, Austria. I’ve banged on before about how I enjoy taking photos for myself and how even though photography is my job, I enjoy the freedom of taking photos just to please myself.

The funny thing is though, when I’m in such a pretty part of the world as this, I’m not so keen on the “chocolate box” images which can be so hard to avoid. I want to take photos you wouldn’t find on Google Images – during a trip to Paris earlier this year, it struck me how many people walk up to The Eiffel Tower, take some snaps, then walk away. Shooting as if all they wanted was a frame or two to prove they were there, when they could always see much better photos on the internet any time they wanted.

Of course I have taken some of the bog-standard kitsch photos, which will have been taken by countless others and many probably better than my efforts, but I salve my conscience by not spending too much time on those, but looking for the unusual too. Images which while not literal, will also remind me of moments in my holiday without entirely overwriting my inner memories of it. I’m sure some people spend so much time peering at a camera screen and have so many stills and videos of their excursions, they must struggle to remember anything fun about where they went and what they did. My photos are meant to be those impressions which sit at the edge of the experience. I’m not photographing the main experience, but the little moments around it, leaving me to relax and enjoy the bulk of my trip without a camera glued to my face.

And so here, half-way through my trip, are a few of those peripheral moments. Don’t worry, I promise not to post every last photo I take. Some might pop up in future blogs and others will remain private. A couple have already surfaced on my personal Facebook page, but I wanted these to illustrate this weeks point. I hope you enjoy them.

fotograf in Deutschland

This week’s post will be a little self-indulgent as I’m going to share some photos taken during my weekend trip to Hamburg, Germany. To make up for this self-indulgence I’m going to keep the words brief and let you skip through the photos and get a taste of my experience there. Besides which, I’m still a little jaded from the journey.

My only observation is this; even when I’m having a break, I still can’t help looking out for photos that don’t exactly fit the “holiday snap” genre. I always feel some responsibility to take photos which aren’t just for myself. Enjoy the weird mix!


Here Comes the Rain Again

Naze Holiday Park in Essex

You need sunshine for an outside pool shot

Do you remember summers? I do, though I have to think back a bit.

I was thinking about this year’s weather and how it affects my work. My conclusion was that it doesn’t affect it as much as it used to, especially when I was shooting holiday park brochures for the likes of Hoseasons and Great British Holiday Parks.

It was always a bit of a struggle to time the shoots on lodge and caravan parks because I would have to organise the dates with the parks I was visiting, then spend a few days at a stretch traveling from one park to another, allowing about a day at each one, taking pictures for each park’s brochure page.

The brief tended to include getting a hero shot of the pool, a selection of caravan interiors and exteriors, the entertainments (daytime and evening), general views of the park and surrounding areas. Mostly these shots required people/models that I would have to find on the park and persuade to be in the shots.

Apart from the interior shots, everything else required a certain amount of sunshine, and I wasn’t always lucky.

One particularly memorable year I found myself in Whitley Bay, rained and fogged in for two days. Having shot all the interiors I possibly could, I waited and waited, but the weather was showing no signs of improving to the point that I gave up and drove home.

The work itself wasn’t entirely without its joys, meeting lovely people and having a bit of a laugh along the way, but it was undeniably long, hard days and when the weather broke down, it could be dispiriting. Often the shoots were timed around May before the holiday season started, so if it wasn’t decent weather it could be quite chilly and not many people around to model for the shots.

Foggy beach

After waiting several hours for the fog to lift at one beach, I gave up and got this stock shot instead

If I’d had to shoot parks the last couple of years I think I would have gone slowly insane. Apart from the wasted effort of organising and traveling to parks, once you’ve committed the best part of a week to shooting on location you can’t book in other work. If the weather then wipes out the park work, you’re left with not much more than a couple of wet-weather payments, which don’t add up to a hill of beans.

In addition to all that, there’s the deadline to contend with. A designer would need the images by about the end of June at the latest in order to get the brochure designed and to the printers ready to go out just before Christmas. Some parks would just get skipped altogether if the weather meant that time ran out.

No, I don’t miss shooting parks too much. It was nice work, and it got me out and about. I’ve covered parks from the Isle of Wight to Wales, Dorset to Kent and Essex and both East and West coasts of Scotland, but I’ve since replaced the work with other things, and if the last few years are anything to go by, I’m probably better off for it.

Busman’s Holiday

I’m going to start by apologising that this week’s posting is late, and that it’s a bit lightweight, but I only got back from a trip away (see below) late last night and have been playing catch-up with work all day.

There’s a certain inevitability that a photographer on holiday still takes pictures, but for me it’s a struggle to take landscapes and holiday snaps that really please me, so when I went up country to visit my brother in County Durham last week, what was the photo I got the biggest kick out of? A bowl of fruit of course. Obvious, innit?

The only camera I took for myself was a Canon G11, and a Yashica T3 Super film camera for my son. We don’t have the photos from that yet, but I wouldn’t mind betting they’ll be pretty good. That camera always had a brilliant lens on it, and my son can spot a decent photo sometimes.

In addition to the G11 I took an ancient Vivitar 283 flash with the thyristor connecting cable, which allowed me to use off-camera flash with the G11. I know I’m getting more technical than usual here, but some of you will be intrigued I’m sure. And it’s with this simple set-up I shot the bowl of fruit one rainy afternoon when there was nothing better to do.

You might think that being a photographer I’d have taken some big flashy camera with me, but we were flying and I didn’t want to lug it about. The G11 is a good camera for what it is (a compact), but I’m convinced it’ll do some kinds of pictures brilliantly, while others are a lot more work. For example, landscapes. It might well be me, but I can’t seem to get a decent landscape out of it. I’ll freely admit I’m not much cop at doing the kind of landscape shot that makes you gasp, but there’s something about the detail in nature which seems to baffle the G11. It’s the grass and the leaves on the trees that just seem to turn into a big greenish blotch.

As for pictures of my son as he runs about, the G11 suffers from the shutter lag that still hobbles a lot of compact cameras.

So here it is, a still-life that reminds me of the holiday without being a typical holiday snap. I hope you enjoy it.

bowl of fruit

Still life of a Durham fruit bowl.