Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Photographing for Dumfries and Galloway Life

"Gorgeous girls to photo" was the subject line of a message I received from Andrea Thompson, commissioning editor for Dumfries and Galloway Life magazine. With an invite like that, how could I refuse?

And so it was on a wild, stormy Sunday afternoon in October I found myself in a house with hairdresser, Nicola McMinn, makeup artist, Hannah Mason, and their models, Aline and Kayleigh, doing a photo shoot for the Christmas edition of the magazine.


Hannah and Nicola

Sometimes it's a tough life being a photographer.

A range of photos were needed. Nicola was being featured in the "Inspiring Entrepreneur" section with her business "Curl up and Dye," while Hannah had been asked to provide 3 different make-up looks for the festive season. Additionally, Andrea was hoping we might get a cover shot.

At this point, thanks need to go to Lindsey Mason, Hannah's mother, for putting up with us filling her house and moving her furniture.

A few days later, Andrea came round to my studio and we went through all the photos together, and it was a fascinating experience. I'm in little doubt that had I been choosing the photos to edit and send to her on my own, I would have picked a different selection - some overlap, but not all.

While there were various photos I was pleased with from a photographer's viewpoint, Andrea was, of course, looking at them with an editors eye. This meant there were images we both liked, but they just weren't D&G Life photos so were dropped from the selection.

However, in the end about a dozen of my images were used, including the front cover, featuring Nicola.


Nicola makes the front cover


Nicola with Kayleigh in the Inspiring Entrepreneurs section


Group shot of all 4 for the start of the Christmas section of the magazine







And I think this might just be their first cover girl with tattoos and piercings...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Jacquies Beauty

Jacquies Beauty is a salon in Dumfries offering a wide range of beauty treatments including facials, hair removal, nail care, toning treatments and many more girly things that, being a man, I didn't know existed.

Although having said that, apparently male grooming and treatments are a growing sector.

With an attention to detail and customer service, Jacquies Beauty has become a multi-award winning salon. And it was for the winning of the Guinot Crown Award for Excellence - for the 4th year in a row - I was asked to come and take a photo.



Jacquie had shown me a couple of basic press photos - everyone standing in a line with her holding the award - and felt they were uninspired. But with a press release deadline of only a few days away, there wasn't time for us to set up something like a trek out to a waterfall to photograph Jacquie washing her hair in it while her treatment therapists were dipping their feet in a pool of water.

Instead we set up inside the salon with Jacquie herself on one of the beds with the rest of the team around her.


Left to right: Jacquie, Karen, Iona, Hayley and Kerry

It's not uncommon in a situation such as this - where the boss is wanting a group shot - the team members all look distinctly uncomfortable and trying to get them to relax can be difficult. They are there because they feel they have little choice, and it shows.

However, to my delight and relief, on this occasion everyone was up for it. Banter was easy, smiles were unforced and the general atmosphere was one of playful fun rather than dutiful chore.

Rightly proud of her achievements, Jacquie also wanted an image of her holding the award aloft, and for this an outside shot was called for. Although the sun had disappeared by now, we went up onto the old Devorgilla Bridge, which crosses the River Nith, and photographed her with the lights of Dumfries behind her.


Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Seasons of Galloway

Every now and again I post photos on this blog that are not of people.

Although portraiture, performances and events are how I make my living, it's not unknown for me to point my camera at a leaf hanging off a twig, or sunlight hitting a mossy branch.

Over the past couple of years I've built a collection of images I really like, but have had no idea what to do with them. Whenever I have posted such images here I've always received comments or messages from people asking if they are available as prints, but the practicalities of printing, packaging and posting has been something of an obstacle.

However, last month I created a site on Zenfolio to allow owners who stable their horses at James Ewart Racing to purchase prints of the photos I take there. The advantage of setting this up via Zenfolio is there are fulfilment options - meaning people can order various size prints and they are printed, packaged and posted out directly from their suppliers and to a high standard.

With the site already there it seemed an ideal opportunity to put up my collection of non-people photographs too.

Below are a couple of examples from the collection, but to view the full set, head over to http://kimayres.zenfolio.com/p521253307







http://kimayres.zenfolio.com/p521253307




Saturday, November 01, 2014

Remembering Mike Charlton

I first met Mike Charlton 22 years ago at The Coffee House - an open mic session at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. I was on that side of the Atlantic as an exchange student exchange from Dundee University in Scotland, where I was studying philosophy.

The vast majority of the open mic sessions were taken up with a succession of students playing the guitar singing something mellow and probably about lost love if you were listening to the lyrics.

Then Mike appeared - this big bear of a man who, with the exception of his bottle-bottom glasses, looked to me like I'd always imagined a Canadian lumberjack/wild woodsman to look like. He had a guitar, and boomed out a handful of folk songs. He wasn't shouting - his performance was tuneful and nuanced - but his presence filled the room. He just completely dominated the space.

I'd taken my mandolin across to Canada with me and a friend I was with insisted on taking me over to Mike to introduce me to him. I felt a bit reluctant, not least because he appeared quite intimidating.

And yet, as soon as he said hello and offered a huge paw to shake hands, I liked him. Instantly I saw past this larger-than-life exterior to a warm and friendly guy. We became good friends and over the rest of my year in Canada we played together many, many times.

At that time he was more popularly known as "Morg" - I think it was a nickname he'd had for several years and, if memory serves me right, it had come about when he'd used to wear a cap with "Morgan" on it and the last 2 letters had come off.

Despite the difference in size, we were both round of face and bearded so sometimes he would joke I was his long lost half-twin separated at birth. Up on stage at pretty much every gig he would usually boom at some point, "There are 3 kinds of people in this world - Friends of Morg, Enemies of Morg, and Morg!" After a while, he started adding, "and Kim is the only other person I've met who appears to fall into the last category..."

Truth be told, I think his big gruff exterior led to him being misunderstood by many people who couldn't see past the surface. When he was upset about something he could shout and curse in a number of languages - and with a voice that would reverberate through your chest, the instincts honed by our evolutionary ancestors would want to run for cover. And yet he would just be expressing his frustration at the universe in general - he wouldn't have harmed a soul and would have been surprised if anyone had felt intimidated.

I always saw him as a sensitive, vulnerable and kind soul. The fact he ended up as an elementary school teacher surprised many, but made me smile.

He wasn't a great communicator via email, so I was glad when he joined Facebook and I was able to follow his occasional postings.

I'd picked up hints of something not right with his health over the summer, but not enough to think anything was too serious. Then suddenly today, in my Facebook newsfeed, a mutual friend posted about his passing.

To say I was shocked would be an understatement.

I find it almost impossible to believe it's over 21 years since I left Canada and I've not been back. I always knew I would return, and that would mean meeting up with Mike again and playing music together. We both knew this would happen - it was just a matter of when.

And that when should have been next year. Our mutual friend is getting married and I'm doing my best to try and get over there for the wedding.

We would meet, make silly comments about each other's appearances, he would squeeze me in a bear hug and we would fall into a conversation we left off two decades ago.

But now it's not going to happen.

I'm grieving and it hurts.


Me and Mike playing in Canada


Here he is just singing to camera unaccompanied. Gives a sense of his voice, but it was much better live...






Saturday, October 25, 2014

48

48 has a nice round feel to it. Divisible by 2, 3, 4, 6, 12, 16 and 24, it feels inclusive and encompassing - a big, friendly number.

47 hasn't been particularly bad to me, but somehow I feel glad to have past it.

But whatever colour, aura, vibration or superstition any number might induce, I've had a good birthday today, surrounded by people I love and taken for a wonderful hot chocolate by my daughter at In House Chocolates (which does the tastiest hot chocolate for at least 100 miles in any direction), and fed with the most richly indulgent chocolate torte made by wife who is one of the worlds most amazing creators of such things.

As my birthday draws to a close, I feel warm, contented and stuffed.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

James Ewart Racing

The November issue of Dumfries and Galloway Life magazine hit the shelves today. It has a special business supplement magazine, which is running a feature on James Ewart Racing - and it includes one of my images on the front cover.



James Ewart Racing is a racehorse training facility set in the beautiful hills near the Scottish Borders town of Langholm.

I met James Ewart himself at a networking event back in early summer and he invited me out to Craig Farm to see the place, which I did a few weeks later when running my son back from Edinburgh after his exams. Suddenly a whole new parallel universe opened up to me.

My equine experience up to this point had been pretty limited, but now I became aware of a entire world where people live, breathe and dream horses - more specifically, racehorses. The attention and detail going into their care and training is nothing short of mesmerising. He has an impressive set up with around 50 horses in the stables, and facilities that include a 5½ furlong (about a kilometer) long racetrack a meter deep in sand for resistance training.

Needless to say it wasn't long before we started discussing photography. The vast majority of racehorse photos tend to be at the races with jockeys in full colours and crowds of excited viewers, but for those whose lives are enriched by them, there is precious little in the way of "behind the scenes" images.

I was invited back with my camera where I took a selection of images of 4 specific horses, including horse portraits, training on the track and washing down afterwards. These photos have now been put into a website where prints can be bought in various sizes and formats - http://kimayres.zenfolio.com - a selection of which I've included below.

If all goes to plan, more photos out at Craig Farm should be forthcoming.














This one is my personal favourite

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fred & Ginger

When I contacted Lynn to let her know she had won the draw I held over the Spring Fling weekend for a photo session, her initial reaction was it must be a set up by her husband, Chris. I had to spend a few minutes convincing her that had I known bribery was an option I would certainly have taken it, but no she had definitely won fair and square.

It took a while to decide what kind of photo she would like, and we had regular meetings over hot chocolate to discuss ideas. At one point being a trapeze artist was mentioned. Eventually Lynn said they were going to Edinbugh in the Autumn to see a production of "Top Hat" and thought it would be fun to do a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers theme.

Initially I thought it wouldn't be too difficult to find an old Art Deco building to stage the shoot. Unfortunately the small handful of period buildings in this region of Scotland were only styled this way on the outside. In the intervening 80 years since they were built, all had been refurbished at least twice, meaning 1930s interiors were nowhere to be found.

However, another solution was presented when it transpired Lynn had a connection with Titan Props in Glasgow. In addition to props for every kind of set you could imagine, it also has an infinity wall - something every portrait and product photographer craves - and this would allow us to go for one of those stylised studio shots.

So last month we all headed up to Glasgow to do the shoot. Lynn and her friend Margaret found the items they wanted for the set, and I finally got to see the outfits Lynn and Chris had created. It's when the people I photograph go to such lengths to really make it work that I feel I have the best job in the world.

Here's a selection of my favourites taken from the session.






Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Up In The Air With Mrs Green's Tea Lounge

Mrs Green's Tea Lounge has a wonderfully retro feel to it - from the menus tucked inside vintage children's books, to the 50s style clothing Mrs Green herself is usually wearing. It's not theme specific, or nailed to one particular decade - items of décor range from pre-war to the 70s and beyond - but a general sense of nostalgia hits you at every turn, triggering memories from childhood or even visits to grandma.

The atmosphere and staff are warm and friendly so once discovered you keep going back. For a place that's not been open that long, it has an intensely loyal customer base. A quick check on Trip Advisor shows it ranked number 1 of all the eateries in Dumfries, and it doesn't surprise me at all.

With her love of dressing up and attention to detail, it felt like an ideal match when we started discussing doing a photo shoot.

Chatting with Mrs Green it became clear her tea lounge wasn't so much a place as a state of mind. This opened up all sorts of possibilities - we didn't need to be restricted to the café itself.

Across the summer ideas were bounced back and forth, dates were pencilled in and then rubbed out again, and for a wee while I was beginning to fear it might never happen.

However, I needn't have worried. Not only did it all come together, the time and effort put in by Mrs Green and her staff to make it work, blew me away.

The photo shoot took place at the Dumfries Aviation Museum and involved not just Mrs Green but 6 of her staff who had also gone to great lengths to find retro outfits. The fact they were not only all dressed up, but had given up their Sunday afternoon for the shoot was testament to the passion they all have for the concept.

Editing the photos was a bit of a challenge. I decided I wanted to give the photos a retro feel, which involved playing around with colour overlays, hue and saturation adjustments as well as fading the contrasts to a degree. Additionally, the original seat covers in the plane were bright red, and this meant the wonderful dresses of Mrs Green and Tracy were swamped rather than standing out. It took me a while to find a colour that worked and then even longer to selectively change them all.

And of course, when it came to the cockpit shot, I couldn't exactly leave in place the view through the windows of the car park on a dull day.







Fellow Galloway Photographic Collective member, Tom Langlands, also came along and shot some footage for me so I could make up a wee video of the photo shoot.

I added similar layers of colour and contrast shifts to the video to give it the same feel:



Many thanks to all involved - from Mrs Green and her staff to the Dumfries Aviation Museum and Tom Langlands.

It's projects like this that keep me truly excited about photography.