Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Meg, with attitude

As I've mentioned before, half the fun of photography for me is taking the photos and the other half is playing with them on the computer.

I recently bought a new laptop to help me with the photography business. The one I had been using was not only 4 years old, but had been bought back in the days when I intended to become a writer. Consequently, I made my choice based on things like battery time, rather than graphics cards, and so manipulating images was becoming a slow and cumbersome process

This new one is much better - I don't have to wait 30 seconds between each action in Photoshop, and finally I feel I have a tool to help me achieve what I want with much greater ease.

Wanting to have something fresh to play with, last week I decided to take some photos of Meg, so I plonked her in front of one of Maggie's large blank canvases and got her to move her head about and pull different expressions.

This was one I ended up with, which I felt had potential. I liked the sense of "attitude" in Meg's expression

The first thing I needed to do was rotate it a bit so Meg didn't look like she was leaning forward, and then I needed to crop it to give it a better balance.

The photos were taken in the front room in natural daylight, but it was dull and wet outside, so the next thing I needed to do was enrich the colours, which took a few different combined techniques. Eventually I was pleased to reach a point where I felt the denim and the eyes complimented each other, as did the pink collar and her cheeks.

I knew the colours were slightly overdone, but that was OK, as I planned on pulling them back later

From the start I envisioned a textured background, so used a close up image of part of one of Maggie's artworks. If you revisit my post, Half the Fun, you'll see I used the same image on that one too. This time, however, I tweaked the tones so there was a subtle pink and blue shift to match the jacket and the face.

Finally I added a sepia overlay, which pulled the colours back from being over saturated and gave it an extra layer of depth.

I also did a black & white version (with a very slight sepia tint) which has quite a different feel to it, but I like it too.

You can click on any of the images for larger versions

Thursday, July 23, 2009

500 Posts

I’ve reached one of those funny kind of blogging anniversaries. Give or take an entry or 2, I seemed to have created 500 posts. Added to this, in a couple of weeks I’ll have been blogging for 4 years, so I thought I’d share some of my blogging observations.

1. First up, some statistics:
I average about 10 posts per month
I’ve had around 73,400 visits
I’ve written more posts tagged “Family Man” than any other
I’ve started 2 community blogs, which both fizzled out after promising starts
Pat, from Past Imperfect is my most prolific commenter

2. No one remembers what you’ve written
I’m just one blog in 10, 50, 100 or more read by any given visitor. The chances of anyone remembering what I wrote about 2 years ago, or even last week, for that matter, are very slim.

Each time I mention I play the mandolin or bouzouki for example, even regular readers express surprise, even though they commented on the last post I wrote about it.

And almost every time I write about my CFS, someone will give me well-meaning advice I’ve been given many times before and probably blogged about in depth in earlier posts.

One thing’s for certain – it stops you believing your own publicity – we’re nothing like as important as we think we are.

3. Pity will only get us so far before visitors stop coming back

4. Constantly moaning about the world may get us lots of comments agreeing with us, but it steadily destroys our souls.

5. Bloggers Block becomes more frequent when we stop writing for ourselves, and start trying to appeal to some abstract idea of “the viewers”

6. All of us live in fear that someone is going to find out who we really are, and then we will be laughed at, derided and humiliated. And yet, the more I reveal about myself, the more real I am, the less anyone points the finger and the more respect I seem to gain for being honest, and admitting what everyone else feels but were too fearful to say.

7. If we want comments, we have to give comments, and answer comments
Some people will come and write no matter what, but most operate reciprocally. Comment on their post and they’ll come and comment on ours in return. There's a limit to how long anyone will keep visiting someone who never replies to them.

8. The days of expecting to make any kind of real money by blogging, or expecting to become some kind of blogging superstar are long gone.

Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Twitter and various other social networking sites have all eaten into people’s blogging time.

RSS feeds, Google Reader and even the links on the sidebar that tell us when a blog was last updated, have all impacted on the number of visits to blogs – we only tend to visit when we know a site has been updated. Before we knew in advance we would go along to check, and if it hadn’t been, we might still view the comments or explore one of the links on the sidebar

All this means there very few opportunities to really build a huge following.

Four years ago I was going to conquer the blogosphere with my insights, wit and force of personality. However, from a high of only 100 visits a day a few years ago, I now get an average of 35, and most of that is people looking for Naked Bearded Men, or me looking to see if I’ve had any more visitors.

9. I’ve met some truly wonderful people.
Some of the people I’ve blogged with over the years I’ve come to know away from the blog, via email, chat and in some cases even meeting in the flesh. These people have become very special to me and I love being able to count them as real friends.

10. Only other bloggers will think of blogging for 4 years and reaching 500 blog posts is any kind of achievement.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Maggie's birthday

It's Maggie's birthday today and she is mumble mumble... years old.

The day is a virtual re-run of last year (see Kites, Cakes and Birthdays), other than we couldn't find anyone to keep an eye on the kids so I could take her for a coffee & scone, the picnic at Carrick beach was eaten in the car due to the lashing rain, she's watching Woody Allan instead of Bette Davis, and we'll be watching "Burn After Reading" on DVD tonight.

2 years running so it must now be a tradition.

Well, if you find a formula that works, flog it to death!

She seems happy anyway.

Time for coffee soon, with a nice piece of shortbread

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Still anaemic

Nearly a year ago, it was discovered I have mutant genes (see Genotype Compound Heterozygote) and therefore haemochromatosis, which is a condition whereby over time you accumulate too much iron in your system.

Despite initial optimism at the idea I might finally have found a reason for my CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), it turned out to be coincidental rather than causal.

There is no cure for haemochromatosis, only management by periodic blood letting. Several centuries of medical advances and it's still one of the few condidions where leeches would probably help. These days, however, they just stick a needle the size of a scaffolding pipe in your arm and drain off a pint at a time.

Due to assumptions and lack of appropriate communication, back in March, after 6 months of fortnightly visits to a vampire, it was discovered I'd had too much blood taken and was now anaemic (see Iron Levels).

As my body naturally absorbs iron at a faster rate than the rest of you mere mortals, it was considered giving me iron supplements would be counter-productive, but I should return in 4 months to have my levels checked again.

4 months have now passed. I was in last Monday to have blood taken to test, and this morning I received a letter telling me I'm still anaemic and to have return for another test in 3 or 4 months from now.

Although I now have no idea how much of my tiredness is due to being anaemic and how much is still the underlying CFS, which will still be there even when my iron levels are normal again, I must admit a certain relief and not needing any more drainpipe sized needles thrust into my veins for a wee while longer.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Maggie's Exhibition in Cumbria

On Wednesday, we borrowed a van from our willow sculpting friend Trevor, and took Maggie's latest artworks down to Farfield Mill near Sedbergh, in Cumbria.

The exhibition is running until the end of August. Early evening on Friday 7th, there will be a "Meet the artist" thing and over the weekend of the 8th & 9th Maggie will be running a 2 day workshop - more details on her website: http://www.maggieayres.co.uk/exhibitions.htm

Since Spring Fling, the Open Studio event back at the end of May, Maggie's been up to her elbows in plaster, scrim, threads, fibres and paint as she's been exploring the idea of creating more three-dimensional sculptures. The pieces are still very much Maggie, but can now be viewed from many angles, each of which gives you something else to become absorbed in. It's the first time she's done anything like this so we have no idea how well it will be received, but she's had so much fun I think it's likely to now form a permanent part of her repertoire.

If you know anyone who lives in or near north-west England, or is planning on visiting over the summer, do point them in the direction of Maggie's exhibition.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Charlie says...

In the last post, my blogging pal, Charlie, left a comment saying, “...I'm thinking that your mid-life crisis is just about over.

Now there was a comment that got me thinking.

Mid-life crisis over? Surely not? I’ve been in some kind of existential crisis virtually my entire life; I just happen to be at the right age for it to be called mid-life. The only way it was going to pass was when it became an old-age crisis.

And yet… and yet…

There’s no doubt I’m feeling considerably better about myself these days. Of course the CFS is still a pain in the butt and shit still happens, but it’s just a part of life, rather than the defining part of life.

What caused the shift from posts like this or this, was never going to be one thing, but a combination.

To begin with, there’s no doubt sunshine helps: I’ve waited 3 years for summer and damn, it’s good.

The anti-depressants have helped somewhat too. The sudden and horrific mood drops I was getting a couple of years back were more crippling than the CFS. I’m now weaned down to only 1/3 of what I was on, but these were never a cure, only a way of giving me enough space to find ways to survive.

One of the major strands has been the sudden understanding, and gradual acceptance of a way of viewing the world that makes sense of it, as briefly mentioned here, here and here. In essence, the world we experience depends on the way we are filtering it: change our filter and we change our experience. First of all, however, we have to realise we are always filtering the world and never see it “as it is”, and secondly, virtually all our filters are created either knowingly or unknowingly by other people – but we don’t realise.

Understanding this has allowed me to begin to create my own filter. It’s not an overnight thing and requires constant building and maintenance, but the result is I am freer to truly become the person I want to be.

A combination of this kind of thinking with having little enough energy just to live my life, means I’ve managed to let go of the messiah complex that’s been there since childhood. Part of me always felt I was supposed to be out there saving mankind, while not having a clue where to begin, but just felt really guilty and bad for not doing it. The weight of responsibility of the world was on my shoulders. Now I am able to accept it’s not actually up to me. Barack Obama is here instead (and boy, do I feel sorry for the poor bastard).

The final strand, which has been drawn from all these others, is setting up in business as a photographer.

By building it around the patterns of my Fatigue, allowing myself to be creative (both with the camera and the computer) and indulging my love of interacting with people, I have managed to retake control of my life and shape it in a direction I can really enjoy.

Previous businesses I’ve built have primarily been about making money in order to enjoy life. Of course if you’re not making money, you can’t then enjoy anything. And if you are making money, you don’t know how long it’s going to last so you still don’t enjoy anything.

This way, however, they enjoyment is in what I do and any money is a side effect.

So is Charlie right? Is my mid-life crisis just about over?

Maybe it is.

At least until the sun stops shining anyway...

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

William Neal

William Neal is an artist based out in Wigtown, SW Scotland. For many years he’s painted landscapes of Galloway, but more recently he’s moved into creating large abstract artworks, full of light, texture and colour, but completely flat and smooth.

He was after some updated portraits and new images of his studio, so I was out there last week clicking away.

Part of his fascinating and varied background includes his association with prog-rock giants, Emerson Lake and Palmer, for whom he created the album covers for 'Tarkus' and 'Pictures at an Exhibition'

As we were coming towards the end of the session he mentioned an idea he’d had for a while about having a photo of him sitting outside at his easel, looking like a typical landscape artist, yet having one of his abstract works in front of him. That sounded like too much fun to miss, so we loaded bits and pieces into his car and went down to the harbour. We may have run well over time, but he did make me some rather nice sandwiches for lunch.

I have lot of fun taking photos, and I have just as much fun editing and playing with them in Photoshop. But the best aspect of this job is meeting people and finding out more about their lives, their passions and their world views.

Once again I've put up a gallery of some of the images from the session on my photography website. If you're interested, click here:
Kim Ayres photographs William Neal

The artist at work

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Amanda Simmons, Glass Artist

Now Kim Ayres Photography has properly launched, I should probably start blogging a bit about some of the jobs I've been doing. This blog has nearly always been a reflection of whatever was on my mind at the time, and the photography business takes up a fair amount of that space these days.

Last week I was out taking photos of Amanda Simmons of Corsock Glass. A wonderful artist who creates the most beautiful pieces of glasswork, she is exhibiting this October at Origin in London. She needed some images of her at work for publicity, including a couple of tall, narrow images for banners.

Much fun was had, and even her dog, Snowy, seemed a natural in front of the camera.

Amanda was round for coffee this morning as we went through the various images and edits I'd done and she seems to have gone away a happy client.

I've put up a gallery of some of the images on my photography website. If you're interested, click here:
Kim Ayres photographs Amanda Simmons

Amanda's written a rather splendid blog post about the photo session too :)