Saturday, 10 December 2016

2016, part 1

I'm procrastinating - nothing new there - writing my Christmas cards by looking back at my Lightroom photo library for 2016 and thinking about some of this year's best times behind the lens. And some frustrating times too. Here are the first six months - there are links throughout in case one photograph is just not enough for you and you'd like to read the relevant blogpost...

January began well, photographically, with a visit to my parents in Cambridgeshire, home to the best cathedral and the best vintage shop in England, as well as many flat but lovely landscapes.

And I celebrated a big personal milestone when one of my prints did well in its round of the Northern Ireland Photographic Association competition. This image was from a shoot which had required some careful planning to co-ordinate the props, the model (well, he kind of had to do it if he wanted to keep dating me) and the beautiful Florida coastal location, so it meant a lot when the judges liked it.

February started in the rain in Belfast City Cemetery, followed by a visit to another Belfast favourite, Botanic Gardens, for some fine architecture and slight signs of spring. This was also the month of my most regretted missed photo opportunity - I was driving down Cranmore Gardens and spotted a squirrel sitting up on the pavement, eating a Cadbury's Creme Egg out of the wrapper. There was too much traffic to stop. I was devastated.

Armagh Public Library was a fabulous place to photograph....

...and although I'm not a very confident landscape photographer, I enjoyed a cold and beautiful afternoon on Minerstown Beach.

I put together my first audio visual presentation, Letter from Kilcloud - many thanks to Jack Thompson and Mark Allen for inspiration and practical help - and composed the music for it myself. The main tune accidentally sounds quite like Vincent, by Don McLean, but fortunately that didn't disqualify me from February's NIPA competition and I picked up a couple of little awards. Seeing your work on a cinema screen is a fantastic experience, and I'm currently working on a new AV for this year's competition. Letter from Kilcloud, which feels like a real place to me now, is on Youtube at this link. Watching it again tonight, I'm aware of how much I have to learn about this genre, but I'm also reminded of how enjoyable the process of creating a story from images and music is.

While I'm never quite sure what to do with my camera in front of some mountains and the sea, I'm all go in the presence of anything old, weird or downright scary. The old nursery at Mount Stewart in March had plenty to offer in that regard.

And I fed my family history habit at the Ulster American Folk Park, having found the tale of my ancestor John McCrea in some old papers.

J visited for a couple of weeks and, once again, he fitted in a bit of modelling. This shoot was part of next year's AV project - all will be revealed in a few weeks....

We coastlined around Northern Ireland, as one does with visiting dignitaries, and I got plenty of boats on my memory card.

Meanwhile, I had my first go at putting together a small panel for my club competition and was pleased when my old cars were awarded a novice prize. Ross McKelvey's kind comments on these shots were really encouraging and made me think that an IPF distinction would be something worthwhile to aim for.

April brought a trip to Castle Coole. The National Trust don't allow photography in the main house, and I walked round it biting my hands in frustration as a result. The stables were pretty in the cold spring light, but the house would have been so beautiful...

May heralded a literary mood, and I wandered up and down the Lisburn Road, capturing street signs and dreaming up a little story to tie them together.

We also enjoyed our first family wedding in many years and I loved some of the moments I caught, while kicking myself that I hadn't had time to set my ISO properly for the one of the children, making it much grainier than I would have ideally liked.

June? More boats, another little story, and a Belfast southside angel.

Sunday, 4 December 2016


It's my year of improving my portrait skills, and I learned a lot, particularly about lighting, at a camera club workshop day - many thanks to Darren Brown. I was pleased with these portraits of Conor - I thought the moody lighting and editing worked quite well with his retro/modern look. 

Sunday, 27 November 2016

November dusk: three gifts

I escaped as quickly as possible from the hectic city centre streets and drove past Comber to chill - which was very much the literal case - in more peaceful surroundings.

I was granted three November gifts. Out on the lough, in front of rolling pink clouds, a single swan fluttered down onto the reeds. Facing east, the colours were cool and dimming.

Facing west, hundreds of smaller birds congregated on the golden water, as the mountains behind reached up to darker streaks of cloud.

And within minutes, as I walked across the drumlins, the sun was blazing like garnets in its final bow behind the horizon.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Colours calling through the fog

Buttercup, silver, chartreuse, plum, brick, teal, amethyst, sky. As the boat approached the island, the colours called through the fog to the fishermen. Each could see his own house, bright and distinct from a distance.

This is Burano, one of the northern islands of the Venetian lagoon, where the houses have been painted in these colours for centuries.

Visiting last week, I loved photographing the gorgeous weathered houses and boats. But I felt ambivalent about being a tourist here. The island is so small and densely packed that when we all got off the boat and started wandering round, we were clearly invading the home spaces of the inhabitants. I don't know if my own front windows and laundry would stand up well to a 100mm lens. Yet tourism is hugely important to the island's economy. I had a fabulous lunch of local seafood and a good chat with a couple of people working there who tried hard not to wince at my attempts at the subjunctive and were really welcoming.

I'll return, and maybe stay for a few days. Spend more money, talk to more people, eat more fish. You should go too - you'll love it....