Autumn and transition

Autumn is a season of transition and, this year, that has held true for me both professionally and personally. In August, my youngest child came back from a 5-week summer school at Berklee College of Music in Boston transformed into an independent young lady.  I see an empty nest yawning, especially as she wants to study in Boston when she’s 18.  It will be a challenge for me; we’re very close and she hasn’t given me any of the teenage trouble that might make one welcome a respite. Thank goodness there’s an opportunity here too and I’ve seized the extra time now available to further my photography business. I do feel very lucky at this stage of my life (not exactly Autumn yet, but certainly late Summer), when friends are starting to talk about retirement plans, to feel as though I am embarking on something new.

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Storm Brian, in October, showed me that my Sirens portfolio was not finished.

Autumn and Spring are my ‘workshops seasons’ and, this Autumn, I’ve run more workshops than ever, including two new ones. I’m just back from my inaugural Creative Abstracts and Details workshops. Two very enthusiastic groups enjoyed breaking photographic ‘rules’ as they explored their creativity at the coast. Driving home last night, and musing on the transitional nature of things generally, I felt energised by the willingness of both groups to embrace experimentation and risk-taking in their photography. In fact, it’s a trend I’ve noticed across all my workshops this Autumn. There’s been a lot of talk this year about repetition and sameness in landscape photography but among my clients I’d say, if anything, the opposite is true. Reviewing the morning’s images over lunch on both days, I was struck by how very individual each photographer’s interpretations were. I hope this trend, if it is a trend, continues. It’s so refreshing.

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A painterly wave top captured at one of the locations of my Creative Abstracts and Details workshop, but not while leading!

There are three more workshops next week and then a break until the new year but that time will fill up fast as print orders are increasing in the run up to the festive season. It doesn’t hurt print sales that one of my photographs, Perigee, was printed in the Sunday Times Magazine again last month in connection with the Landscape Photographer of the Year competition. Perigee is the titular image in a series of abstract rust details. It’s certainly a change from my Sirens, and a much warmer palette, as you’d expect with rust! I’m enjoying printing Perigee on Platinum Etching paper, a lovely matte, textured paper with a warm base manufactured by Fotospeed.

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Hot off the printer, Perigee triptych.

Another big development this Autumn was the announcement that I am starting to lead residential photography workshops for Ocean Capture. I want my existing business, f11 Workshops, to stay true to its successful day-workshops format so it makes sense to run the residential workshops under the banner of Ocean Capture. It’s a very successful international business run by well-known, fine art, ocean photographer, Jonathan Chritchley and an obvious fit with my photography. I’ve never been very good at having a ‘boss’, so it’s important to be working with someone I can trust to let me run my workshops my way. I’ve known Jonathan for several years and when he invited me to join Ocean Capture, it wasn’t a difficult decision. My first Ocean Capture workshops, called ‘Tides and Tempests’, will run in March and November 2018, in Sussex, and availability is already down to last places. Plans are afoot for more far-flung locations, but it’s too soon to say anything more about those, for now…

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Fingers crossed for weather like this on my Tides and Tempests workshops.

As I write this, I’m looking forward to the opening night of the Landscape Photographer of the Year exhibition at Waterloo, on Monday 20th November. I’m lucky enough to be receiving an award again this year and I’m really pleased that several of my friends will be there celebrating their own successes too. The exhibition will run into early February on the mezzanine level inside the station. It’s free and well worth visiting. It seems fitting to me that my photograph, Fire Within, winner of the Classic View category, the Lee Filters Prize and two judges’ commendations, was taken at one of my closest and favourite beaches, Birling Gap. The rapidly eroding chalk-cliff coast of East Sussex is about as transitional as you can get and access to the beach at Birling Gap has been closed for the last 6 weeks while the steps are moved back.  The beach reopens next month, just when I am on a break from workshops, so I know where I’m going to be hanging out with my camera in December. If you’re down there and see a rather wind-blown ‘tog’ in a funny hat, do come over and say hello.

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Fire Within, drama at Birling Gap.

 

“But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”
― Stephen King, ‘Salem’s Lot

 

Not a retrospective

It has become customary for photographers to do a year-end retrospective of their images and plaudits but I thought I might try something different. I’d like, instead, to introduce other photographers and artists whose work I have enjoyed this year and who have inspired me. I am a voracious consumer of visual art as I think it profoundly influences and improves my own work as well as being a very nice way to spend time. In no particular order, here are a few of my favourites from 2016.

Brian Kosoff

I was first introduced to this photographer’s portfolio at the end of last year and I’ve been back many times since. I am a fan of the cinematic crop and I think his beautifully composed black and white images are powerfully resonant.

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Valda Bailey

I bought a copy of Valda’s book, Fragile, earlier this year and it’s fast become one of my favourites. Her style couldn’t be more different from my own but I really enjoy the gentle, ethereal nature of the images she has collected in this book.

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Kozu Books

I have a bit of a photo book habit. I don’t try to control it. This year I’ve been indulging in a collection of small-but-beautifully-formed books from Kozu Books called Landscape Editions. It began with a beautiful book featuring the work of long-time-favourite, David Baker and, since then, I’ve bought every one. Last week, the latest three dropped onto my doormat, two lovely collections of forest imagery by Lee Acaster and Damian Ward and an arrestingly fine collection of black and white images by Matt Botwood. I like it that each book comes with a print that I can add to the inspiration wall in my studio.

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Susan Burnstine

More black and white, but it’s so good! Burnstine’s moody, grungy, square photographs of New York almost seem to vibrate with quiet power. Just me, perhaps, but do have a look – worth it.

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Jonathan Chritchley

I have benefitted enormously from Jonathan’s advice this year. He’s probably best known in the UK for his photography holidays, which are some of the most well-organised around. An inveterate globe-trotter and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Jonathan is an accomplished fine art photographer. If you like well-crafted, black and white, mostly-square photographs, click through to his website – you won’t be sorry.

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Maggi Hambling

I was introduced to Hambling’s sea-paintings this Autumn during a trip to Suffolk and bought a copy of her book, The Sea (there’s that book habit again). Abstract and strangely unsettling at times, her paintings have inspired me to continue developing my wave photography. I’m not going to say any more about that, for now…

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Outdoor Photography magazine

My favourite photography magazine and the only one to which I subscribe. It’s a nice mix of imagery, news, technical and artistic information and thought-provoking opinions.

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That’s it. There are lots more I could mention but then this blog would be too long and no-one would read it! In the meantime, if you wanted to add in the comments below a photographer, publication or something else that has inspired you this year, I’d be delighted.

Yachts from the Air

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Earlier this month, the annual Round the Island yacht race took place. 1,533 boats set off from Cowes to circumnavigate the Isle of Wight.
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It’s a spectacular sight, literally a sea of sails. Rather excitingly, I had the opportunity to shoot the race from the air, from a helicopter owned by  Phoenix Helicopters, Goodwood.
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It wasn’t my first time shooting from a helicopter without doors so I wasn’t phased when we took off and headed out over the Solent. I love flying in helicopters!
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Phoenix had obtained a low fly permit for me so we were able to fly fairly close to the yachts, although there are of course limits and I was glad to have my 70-200mm zoom with me.
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Using two cameras, the other one with my 24-70mm lens, enabled me to capture wider views as well.
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I had particularly wanted to photograph the yachts rounding The Needles, arguably the Island’s most iconic landmark and certainly one that looms large in my memories from a childhood spent sailing the Solent.

In addition to the big ‘race’ shots, I hoped to capture some closer pictures that would work in black and white for a more timeless feel.

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In addition to all the many yachts on the sea, the RNLI lifeboats were kept busy attending to boats struggling in the challenging conditions on the day.

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It was an exhilarating experience, and one I hope to repeat. Many thanks to Max from Phoenix for his excellent piloting.

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Open Studio event

It’s been a while since my last blog post, but I haven’t been idle. Among the many projects on the go, this coming week sees me participating in Surrey Artists’ Open Studios for the first time. Together with my friend, Jenifer Bunnett, I am opening my studio to the public. The Open Studios project offers the public access to artists and makers by visiting studios, meeting artists and makers, browsing completed works and learning about their method and work in progress.  Our first open day is tomorrow, Sunday 5th June, and our studio is ready and waiting.  In addition to sharing our printed work, there’s a slideshow of other photographs, a demonstration of the on-camera filter system we both use, and drinks and homemade cake served in my courtyard garden (weather permitting!).  If you are able to make it, you will be very welcome. Dates and opening times in the flyer below.

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Wave monsters

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Curly

This winter, I have managed to make it down to the coast at least once almost every week. We’ve had some big seas and interesting light, but not at the same time. Until this Tuesday, that is…

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Horned monster

High tide and winds whipped up the surf, creating wave monsters backlit by rays bursting through low clouds.

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No hands!

What a thrill! One of the best photoshoots I’ve had for a while.

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White horses

Like most Brits, I am half-obsessed with the sea; if I could only photograph one thing for the rest of my life, it would be the sea.

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Frills

I live in a landlocked county but, happily, the coast is an easy day trip away.  Back again next Tuesday!

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Giant

For the curious, these images were all taken in Newhaven, East Sussex with a shutter speed of 1/800 to freeze the waves.

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Phantom

I hope you enjoy meeting my wave creatures.

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Whip

“My soul is full of longing
for the secret of the sea,
and the heart of the great ocean
sends a thrilling pulse through me.”

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

Chalk and sea

One of the clients on my most recent workshop pointed out to me that it has been a long time since the last post on this blog! Shame on me!  So here’s a little summary of what I have been up to in the last few weeks, and some of my latest images.

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Priory Bay, Isle of Wight

In my last post, I shared some pictures from Birling Gap, and I have been back there, as well as other locations nearby, a few times since.  My eye seems to be particularly drawn to chalk cliffs at the moment. Having been brought up on the south coast, they are very much the landscape of my youth and I now enjoy rediscovering them with my camera.

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Seven sisters at dusk

While beguilingly beautiful, the South coast can also be dangerous, as I was reminded on one of my recent trips to Birling Gap.  I was, fortunately, standing out on the sand at low tide, when a huge chunk of the cliff came crashing down. No-one was hurt although there was a group of very shocked foreign students on the beach at the time. It was a sobering sight and, from now on, I will be more careful about heeding warnings not to stray too close to the cliffs.

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Seven Sisters

Last week, I spent a few days in another chalky place, the Isle of Wight. Although the weather was trying, to say the least, there were some moments of good light and, let’s face it, it’s hard not to get a picture when at the coast.  It will take me a while to get through all the images I took, but here are a few ‘tasters’.

In other news, I was delighted to find out that one of my pictures has been selected for inclusion in the Outdoor Photographer of the Year book.  It is a year since I first submitted work to Outdoor Photography Magazine, easily my favourite photography publication. Since then, the magazine has published several of my images and commissioned a short article.  I have been bowled over by the enthusiasm and support I have received from them.

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Fistral beach – selected for Outdoor Photographer of the Year book

Regular readers will already be familiar with the work of my friend Jenifer Bunnett, who continues to be a great pal and enthusiastic companion on our photographic expeditions.  If you haven’t seen her work before, you can access her website by clicking on her name above.  I have also recently enjoyed outings with two other photographers, Sarah Medway and Lorraine Heaysmon, both committed landscape shooters with impressive portfolios. Photography can be a solitary activity and, while I really enjoy that solitude, it is also nice sometimes to share the adventure.

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A capture of Jen capturing a seascape on the Isle of Wight

My spare time (what spare time?) continues to be filled with judging at Surrey camera clubs and giving talks.  I recently presented a new talk,  ‘From Canal to Coast’ to Guildford Photographic Society which was well-received.  As a judge I am obliged also to compete in camera club competitions, which is fair enough when you think about it.  So, last month, I was pleased to win the Best Image trophy at Surrey Photographic Association’s 2015 Open Print competition.  I have shared the picture here before but I think a second airing is justified.

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Of course, this is also the main season for f11 Workshops and we have had some great days out with our clients.  Our last workshop of the year was in West Sussex and, although the weather seemed determined to be gloomy, our persistence was eventually rewarded with some really special light.  My business partner, Tony Antoniou, and I will not make our own images when leading workshops, so I have no picture to share, but I have seen a few of our clients’ shots and am glad to say they did it justice.

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The location of our workshop, but taken on another occasion.

Finally, Jen and I have had a couple of productive meetings about our pro bono project with the Basingstoke Canal and there will hopefully be some big developments on that front in the near future.

Phew! What a busy few weeks it has been!  What has been your best photographic adventure so far this winter?  Feel free to share in the comments below. 🙂

Focused Moments, the exhibition

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It is a year and 5 exhibitions since I decided to shift the focus of my photography towards the fine art side of things.  This time last year I was exhibiting a series of Surrey landscapes in a joint exhibition with my shooting buddy, Jenifer Bunnett, at The Lightbox in Woking. Then, in March, we showed some of the images from that exhibition alongside new local landscapes in ‘A Certain Slant of Light’ at the Guildford Institute. In August, I hung a panel in ‘Light on the Land’ at the Mall Galleries, and in September, five black and white pictures in ‘Mistresses of Light’ at the Oxo Tower.  It was a lot of work, and the learning curve was steep, but it was also great fun.  However, the climax of all this has to be my first solo exhibition, ‘Focused Moments’, currently showing at Arté Gallery in Weybridge.

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I needed a lot of images for this exhibition and I wanted to make sure I could offer something for all budgets and also remain true to my own style.  I must have spent a small fortune (I daren’t add it up!) trying different papers and framing options.  In the end, I went with three fine art papers in simple black frames and a few prints on aluminium.  I also decided to have two special books made for visitors to browse.  On the advice of the gallery owners, I have made these available as limited editions, and they seem to be going down well.

arte exhibition space

There is something really rewarding about filling a gallery. I have hung 60 images of which most are new pictures, taken in the last year, but there are some going back as far as 2009.  When planning the hanging in this intriguing space with several different surfaces, it helped to create groups of images that worked together and then it was relatively easy to decide the order of the groups so that the exhibition flowed.  I say easy – it still took us two full days to finish hanging the show!

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Of course, there had to be a party.  Many thanks to local lettings agents, Martin & Wheatley for sponsoring the opening.  In a bout of last-minute nerves, I worried that no-one would come, but I needn’t have fretted. In the end, the event was buzzing, and we sold seven prints and two of my limited edition books during the course of the evening. Phew!

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I think it’s important to be present at an exhibition as much as possible; people like to be able to talk to the exhibitor.  I have had many interesting conversations at the gallery this week, some with old friends and some with new. And today I got to show my Dad around, which was really special.

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If you have ever thought of trying something like this, I heartily recommend it.  The experience has been amazing – exhausting, but amazing.  It’s nice to sell, but even if I had sold nothing, it would still have been worth it.  Many thanks to Mike and Sally at Arté Gallery for allowing me to bring my work into their lovely space, to my friend, Sam, for all the fetching, carrying and coffee and to my daughter, Maggie, for her excellent work as server and photographer at the private view.  I couldn’t have done it without you!