Monday, 5 December 2016

Tom Langlands - A Hot and a Cold Snap for Christmas

As it is now December I feel that it is reasonable to talk about Christmas. They say that you should never work with animals or children. I never work with the latter but as a wildlife and nature photographer I spend a lot of time around the former. However, I don't often get asked to work with animals as such but there were two occasions this year when that changed.

Back in June I was asked if I would judge the Dumfries and Galloway Canine Rescue Centre's photography competition. These were all images of much loved dogs that would form the Centre's 2017 calendar. I was also to select an image that would be used as a Christmas card. It was a great day and it was a pleasure to look at all the photographs of these well loved family pets.

I had been asked previously if I would also take a photograph that could be used in another Christmas card for the Centre. Having given the matter some thought beforehand I went prepared to photograph one of the Centre's dogs at an old style window - the type of window that I knew the centre had. To my horror, when I arrived I noticed that the centre had replaced all of its old, traditional-style windows with modern ones. Undaunted, the centre agreed to bring a dog over to my home the next day where I had an outbuilding with the type of window that I wanted to use. I went home and as I planned the shoot I suddenly remembered that a friend of mine had a Santa Claus outfit that I persuaded my wife to wear.

The following day 'Misty' duly arrived complete with handler and my wife donned her Santa outfit. It was June and the hottest day of the year! Working with animals is never easy and although Misty was a lovely dog it was difficult to get her to pose just the way I wanted. I wanted to create a sense of anticipation and excitement on the part of the dog but also with a glance to the viewer in order to draw them into the story. The sun beat down and my wife sweltered. We took a few breaks but eventually I got a shot that I was happy with.



It has now been turned into a Christmas card to raise funds for Dumfries and Galloway Canine Rescue Centre. If you want to support this very worthwhile cause then the calendars and cards are available for sale from any of the Rescue Centre's outlets across Dumfries and Galloway or by contacting the Centre direct.

This is a scan of the finished card.

Misty and Santa



In stark contrast to my Christmas card shoot in the height of the summer, the second effort at working with animals took place on a cold winter night at the end of October. Not only was it cold but it was also wet and windy. On this occasion I was asked if I would shoot a Christmas scene with 'modern' shepherds, a 'modern' angel and a flock of sheep. If that wasn't challenging enough it had to be shot in the dark. It was to be used by a local church for a Christmas leaflet outlining their services over the Christmas period.

Thanks to the local church a volunteer angel - who was appropriately called Angela - was found and thanks to the help of Annandale Young Farmers a farm with two young willing farmers was soon located. A third young farmer who was a genius with a sheepdog and a flock of sheep was also located. Conscious that I didn't want people hanging about in the cold any longer than necessary I went to the location in advance to decide where we were going to take the photograph and how we were going to light it.

The farmers were fantastic and after discussion two large tractors with floodlights were brought into the field. Bales of hay were positioned and after various test shots the sheepdog was put into action. I needed the sheep to be positioned in one specific spot in the background - between the angel and the shepherds. I also wanted them to be facing the action so that they became witnesses of the drama. It was a dream to see the shepherd and his sheepdog work their magic in the black of night. Bearing in mind that the rest of the field was in darkness the sheep had to be located, rounded up and driven into position. The whole exercise only took a few minutes. Somewhere behind these sheep in the darkness is a dog and off camera are various umbrellas and warm coats. Everyone was terrific and it really didn't take that long to get the shot I wanted.



The finished photograph was given to the Church's graphic designer who added the stars and the angel's scarf before forwarding to the printers. Below is the finished cover of the leaflet.

An Angel visits Shepherds tending their Flock.



Two entirely different Christmas shoots with different themes and each providing a unique challenge.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL

Tom Langlands
www.tomlanglandsphotography.com
www.facebook.com/TomLanglandsPhotography

Monday, 28 November 2016

Roger Lever - Shooting from the hip and long lens in Crete and Morocco.

Shooting from the Hip, the term photographers use to get candid shots of situations that might otherwise become staged or unwanted by the subjects in the shot. It gives us an everyday view of life wherever that happens to be.


A typical scene from a small town in southern Crete. The main subject here of course is the man
dressed in a traditional black shirt, trousers and flat hat. Usually members of the older generation. The walking stick and the disfigured legs are very commonly seen here.


In the right hands of course this is usually pretty harmless stuff, in the wrong hands it can be dangerous of course depending on what is being photographed.


A night shot along a dimly lit narrow lane. This time the subject is an elderly lady again with arthritic legs and a walking stick.

Hopefully you will find my examples of hip shots and street photography reasonably tasteful.


Every night when we were walking down this street these two children were glued to their phone. I had to give this one a try. If they had known that their intimate privacy would have been disturbed there would no longer have been a photo.

Most “HIP SHOTS” of course fail to produce anything worthwhile as we are unable to know exactly what the camera is seeing as we press the trigger. In many cases the camera settings are a way off too which again makes the image next to useless BUT every so often and with a little skill attached we do come up with some interesting stuff.


A very regular scene. The old guy draws up to exchange the latest gossip with these other two guys who sit in the same place every day waiting for the next bike to pull up for the next bit of news. Jungle Gossip.

I do not profess to being the best street photographer in the world but I do enjoy having a go when the situation arises.


This gentleman sitting next to us with his beer, like all of us just waiting for the sun to set The goat beard, the hat and fascinator provided an ideal subject and an opportunity to take this silhouette.

Recently on our GPC trip to Morocco and especially in Marrakech, shooting from the hip became more frequent. Most Moroccans don't want to be photographed especially by fare skinned folk like us. That’s ok of course because if the opposite occurred and we became the subject matter of a stranger with a camera we might not be too pleased either. HOWEVER there were a number of enterprising individuals who were making this situation work for them and to their own financial gain by requesting a donation if they did see you pointing a camera in their direction. We were quite happy in most instances giving them a small fee for the privilege. Good on them, I would say.


The Butchers shop Marrakech. Let it all hang out! You can see exactly what you are buying and these three ladies dressed in typical attire are placing their orders.


A well nourished hound! Was he given this hearty meal? Has he stolen it? It fell off a passing biker in a hurry?


The working donkeys and ass’ in Marrakech are a common mode of transport and delivery service. OR maybe just out for a run and a gossip.


Yodel Marrakech style!


This guy is looking really enthusiastic about getting a sale. mmm? The scales are just there for show and to look official? The grapes look great!



This image shows part of the wall of the ancient city of Marrakech. The lady with her cushion watches the day go by, maybe has a snooze, maybe waiting for a bus or a passing donkey?. How long for? Who cares?


This cool guy spotted me from the word go. Once I was exposed and in the open he was quite happy and didn’t want paid. He just wanted more photos. Obviously “Dope” had a lot to do with him?







Roger Lever
www.rogerleverphotography.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Rogaman

Monday, 21 November 2016

David Moses - On Series

"No," he said, "memory's a poor thing to have" - Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass

I work best when constrained. I want to have a criteria within which I can produce images. Working in this way means that I am free to concentrate on making images rather than wandering around thinking about what I am going to take pictures of. I know when I walk out of my door, exactly what I want to go and shoot - or rather, I know exactly how I'm going to shoot.

This lends itself to working in series. I think about what I want to achieve, I then set limitations and I can then go and create. That's a rather glib interpretation of that part of the process, but it is correct in it's essentials. In fact, this part of the process is much longer and more difficult than taking the actual pictures. These limitations take many forms - they can be aesthetic, practical, technical, thematic, motifs, symbolic, allegorical, subjects, geographic (e.g. northern), lights and much more.

The upshot of all this is that when you are done you have a bunch of images that all work together and can be presented as a whole. The themes and motifs that you decided on earlier will run like a thread throughout the series and the repetition of those things will give meaning to them.

It also bears mentioning that the symbols and motifs that you choose need not be obvious. If they are overt it can be off putting, so it's best to be subtle with the knife.









"Into this wild abyss,
The womb of nature and perhaps her grave,
Of neither sea, nor shore, nor air, nor fire,
But all these in their pregnant causes mixed
Confusedly, and which thus must ever fight,
Unless the almighty maker them ordain
His dark materials to create more worlds,
Into this wild abyss the wary fiend
Stood on the brink of hell and looked a while,
Pondering his voyage..."

John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book II

David Moses
http://davidmoses.photoshelter.com
https://www.facebook.com/davidmosesportraitphotographer

Monday, 31 October 2016

Viridian Skies - Night Photography: behind the scenes

In this blog I want to show you that there’s much more to creating a photograph than just snapping that final shot. I’m going to walk you through the creative process of one of my favourite images from conception to the final piece. Every now and again I’m in the right place at the right time with my camera, but ninety percent of the time I visualise what I want to achieve before finding the landscape and conditions to fulfil my vision. Because of this, I might visit a location several times before everything comes together in the right way, enabling me to produce a final piece.

I started by making the decision to break free from the rule of thirds; I was starting to find it very limiting and repetitive. Instead I resolved to make use of natural symmetry and contrast to lure the viewer into the centre of the frame. In my favourite images I do this by finding a ‘bow tie’ shape in the landscape, combining this with a lead line to compliment the ‘bow tie’ and pull the eye to the focal point. Having only adopted this technique recently, I decided to make use of it again. Below is an example of this technique from a previous piece.



In the above image, the tree-line creates the natural bow shape, which is complimented by the star trail revealed by a long exposure. Finally, a lead line adds extra interest to pull the viewer into the frame. This image came with its own stages of completion, but for now I’ll just use it as an example.



After searching up and down an area of river in Wigtownshire with trees on either side, I found a location looking downriver that I liked. And whilst I was pleased with the result of my first visit to this location, I decided I wanted to to make more use of the natural shapes available to me in the conifer woodland on the left and the deciduous woodland on the right. I knew the location had great potential, but I had to wait for the waterline to drop before I could get closer in for further experimentation.



After returning for some experimentation I was satisfied with this as starting point for a final piece. Here, I have my ‘bow tie’, and a subtle lead line in the river. I also love the way the conifer woodland contrasts with the deciduous woodland on opposite sides of the river. However, I wanted a more obvious lead line. To achieve this, I realised I had to wait. As my understanding of the night sky has increased, my ability to apply this to my photography has also improved. It dawned on me that the lead line I needed was the Milky Way, only it wasn’t in the right part of the sky… yet.

Our planet faces a different part of the night sky as the seasons change, resulting in the constellations rising a little earlier every night. I decided to wait for the bright part of the Milky Way to rise into position, thus creating an obvious lead line to compliment the natural shapes in the composition. I also knew that Mars and Saturn would be aligning in Scorpius later in the year, the constellation at the focal point of this image.



After waiting for the part of the night sky I desired to move into position over the space of a couple of months, I was finally rewarded with my final image. It turned out to be a close call. The summer solstice was fast approaching, bringing brighter nights and threatening my image of a detailed Milky Way. This, combined with terrible weather and lunar activity, made it hard to find the conditions necessary. Finally, one Sunday morning around 3am, I was at last blessed with clear skies over a dark, moonless landscape. As a bonus, there was some striking purple atmospheric glow (a phenomenon similar to the Aurora but less dramatic). Since yellow and purple are at opposite ends of the colour wheel, this glow complimented the warm, ancient light emitted by the red supergiants in the galactic centre perfectly.

After getting the exposures I needed, all that remained was to take them back to the edit suite and get to work. But just before packing up an Otter dove into the river right before my eyes, after watching it fish for a while I looked up into the sky to immediately see a bright green fireball scour across the heavens. The buzz you get from a double encounter like that is phenomenal, and it made standing out in the frost for three hours whilst my camera exposed all the more worthwhile!


Jesse Beaman
Viridian Skies

http://www.viridianskies.com/
https://www.facebook.com/viridianskytours

Monday, 24 October 2016

Tom Langlands - The Battlefields of WWI

I make no apology for the fact that this blog is longer than I would normally write but it marks the centenary of one of the most horrific events in human history - so please bear with me.

Earlier this year I undertook a tour of the Battlefields of WWI with local company Solway Tours. I don't normally go on organised tours but I reckoned it was the best way to see a lot of places and to get expert knowledge in a short space of time. I was right on both counts. Solway Tours was outstanding. We travelled all around Ypres in Belgium and down through France to the Somme. I have to admit that prior to this trip my knowledge of this incredulous war was scant. I now know much more and although perhaps I shouldn't have - given the ongoing wars in the world today - I found it difficult to comprehend man's inhumanity to man. The scale of industrialised slaughter - 17 million dead and 20 million wounded - beggars belief.

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Having been deeply moved by what I saw I decided to return a few weeks ago - just after the centenary of the commencement of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July - to make a more detailed photographic record of the places I visited. But it was more than just a desire to record. As a photojournalist I wanted to create a sense of mood and atmosphere. I wanted to express the emotions I felt - the death, destruction sadness and perhaps a modicum of hope for our warmongering species. I also wanted to further the act of remembrance of this appalling conflict and to attempt to ensure that we never forget all those - on all sides - who died or were affected by this war.

These are some of the images I took over both trips along with my brief notes of why I took them and why they are significant to me. With a few exceptions I felt that most of the images were more powerful in black and white or when desaturated of vivid colour.  That in itself was an interesting experiment in the psychology of perception and emotions. I hope that you don't 'enjoy' these images but rather that they stir something inside all of us that makes us reflect on war and what it means to go down the route of armed conflict.



Early morning light over Vlamertinghe Cemetery, Belgium. This is just one of dozens of cemeteries all along the western front that was located adjacent to or near field hospitals. It was calm and serene but the long shadows cast by the morning light were a stark reminder of what lay below my feet as I walked across the grass. This small cemetery holds over 1,100 soldiers.



A lone poppy at Essex Farm Cemetery, Belgium. It was the skeletal trees here that invoked the imagery of death more powerfully than trees in full leaf or flowers in bloom. The single red poppy against a white gravestone was like a shot that still rang out across the decades. This cemetery contains over 1,200 dead of which 104 have never been identified.



The grave of one of the unidentified soldiers at Essex Farm Cemetery, Belgium. There was something cold and stark about this. The rose and the beautifully kept graves somehow belied the horrific reality of what went on here. Everything felt rose-tinted but for all the wrong reasons. The long shadows spoke volumes to me.



The shattered, bullet-riddled remains of a tree that once stood tall in Sanctuary Wood, Belgium when battle raged all around it. Despite the modern crosses and all the acts of remembrance that have taken place here - it still lies dead, shattered and broken. That is the price of war.



Sanctuary Wood Cemetery, Belgium - just a few hundred metres from the battleground. A small cemetery holding 636 dead, it was serene but the dark trees around the edges and the dark clouds overshadowing the rows of white graves gave it a sense of foreboding.



This single red rose that was bending through the unmarked side of the gravestones seemed to be a marker for all the dead and not just the name on the front face of the stone beside it. For this reason I often wandered along the unmarked sides of the graves for here was the faceless, inhuman side of war.



Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium the final resting place of some 12,000 men of whom more than 8,000 are only 'known unto God'. In addition 35,000 whose remains were never found are commemorated on the walls around this cemetery. There was a brightness and hope in the light that shone through the dark clouds. It flickered across the gravestones bringing a sense of life and movement that somehow transcended the true horror of it all.



The Brooding Soldier memorial to the Canadians at Vancouver Corner, Belgium. This was the site of the first ever gas attack that claimed the lives of 2,000 men. It was the wispy nature of the clouds that seemed to speak of gas and the way it spread silently across the landscape. The light was catching the top of the memorial and it seemed to highlight the soldier's thoughts as he looked down contemplatively on another horror unleashed on the battlefield.



This is the German cemetery at Langemark, Belgium. Here are buried more than 44,000 dead. It was a strange, surreal and very different feeling from the allied commonwealth cemeteries but it was every bit as thought provoking in its mood and atmosphere. It was none the less death in all its finality.



The last post at the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium - as held on every night of the year, irrespective of the weather - since  1929 (with the exception of the 4 years when the Germans held Ypres between 1940 and 1944) On the walls around the Menin Gate Memorial are the names of another 55,000 soldiers whose remains were never found.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I believe it is important that we never forget and I urge anyone to take a trip to these hugely emotional and thought provoking sites.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”


- from 'For the Fallen' by Robert Laurence Binyon

In memory of my grandfather Alexander Nairn and his brother James Nairn
- neither of whom I met thanks to this conflict -
and to all those who gave their lives in this and all other wars.


Tom Langlands
www.tomlanglandsphotography.com
www.facebook.com/TomLanglandsPhotography

Monday, 17 October 2016

Laura Hudson Mackay - Hush of a Shadow - Photographic Exhibition

As winter approaches I seem to be moving into another busy period of exhibitions and I am stressed, particularly as my next is on another continent!

After many solo exhibitions in the UK, this will be my first international exhibition. The show takes place in the exotic ‘Red City’ of Marrakech in southern Morocco, within the heart of the ancient walled Medina (city). As those of you who know me, and my work will know, I love Morocco and have been travelling there regularly since 2010. I was first inspired to visit after reading a magical book by writer Tahir Shah called In Arabian Nights. My experiences in Morocco have not disappointed, it’s as if I’ve been living in the Arabian Nights for real!



Marrakech has an amazing internationally recognised art scene with many contemporary artists and innovative galleries combined with a rich artisanal heritage. Some highlights include: the starting of the Marrakech Biennale in 2004 by Vanessa Branson with the aim of encouraging dialogue and diversity among international and local art communities; the Jardin Majorelle in the new town offers a peaceful garden setting and gallery of works designed by former owner Yves Saint Laurent; the Maison de la Photographie, a three-storey town house is a public archive of life in Morocco with photographs that date from the 19th Century.


© izywifi

Also, the Marrakech International Film Festival recently had its 15th successful year; and work has commenced on a new building for the Marrakech Museum for Photography and Visual Arts which once complete will be the world’s largest freestanding museum dedicated to photography.


Image from Dezeen



Marrakech is famous for its main square, Jemaa el Fnaa, which has a UNESCO designation as a ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’. This is because the square has been host to an active concentration of traditional activities by storytellers, musicians and performers, for over 1000 years. My photography is often heavily influenced by storytelling and having previously created work inspired by Celtic lore, in parallel I have also sought to explore similar themes within Moroccan culture, drawing on their strong heritage of myths and tales, linking the physical and spiritual worlds.

Hush of a Shadow a collection of some of this recent work can be viewed in the gallery at Marrakech Henna Art Café from 4 November 2016 through to 30 January 2017 where visitors to the exhibition can view and purchase Limited Edition pieces.



As if that were not exciting enough, the opening week of Hush of a Shadow coincides with a photography tour of Southern Morocco, with Galloway Photographic Collective! As a regular traveller in this beautiful and magical country, I create unique photographic tours of Morocco, directly aimed at photographers of all abilities. So if photographing Morocco is on your bucket list, please get in touch with me. More details of the packages on offer will be listed here soon.





"Our morning with Laura in the Medina was a real highlight. Marrakech is such a photogenic city and to see it through Laura's eye was an utterly pleasurable experience. We explored secret markets, stunning stalls, cultural sights and met all manner of wonderfully photo-friendly subjects. This is one of the most fun ways to explore the souks and is thoroughly recommended."

Mr A Conti, Passeport Travel



Laura Hudson MacKay
www.laurahudsonmackay.co.uk
www.facebook.com/LHMphotoLRPS

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Art of Perception - An Exhibition by Galloway Photographic Collective

The Art of Perception photographic exhibition opens to the public from 15th to 30th November 2016, at Shambellie House, New Abbey, near Dumfries.



The exhibition will feature works, diverse in style and technique, by each member of Galloway Photographic Collective: Allan Wright, Holly Burns, David Moses, Tom Langlands, Roger Lever, Jesse Beaman/Helen Cockburn, Kim Ayres and Laura Hudson Mackay.



This is the second year that GPC have had the opportunity to show work at Shambellie House and just as in 2015, there will be opportunities to meet each of the photographers, chat with them about photography and anything else for that matter! They will even make you a coffee if you ask nicely.

Here are Meet the Photographer dates for your diaries:

Roger Lever - 15 November



David Moses - 16 November



Holly Burns - 16 November



Laura Hudson Mackay - 18 November



Kim Ayres - 20 November



Tom Langlands - 22 November



Allan Wright - 25 November



Jesse Beaman/Helen Cockburn (Viridian Skies) - 26 November



In addition to The Art of Perception exhibition there will also be The Royal Photographic Society, Scottish Members' Print Exhibition on display.



We look forward to seeing you there!