Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Creations

It felt a bit odd carving a pumpkin this year without my son, Rogan, across the table doing one of his own. When I drove him back up to Edinburgh after his visit over my birthday weekend, in with the usual box of food any struggling student appreciates, we included a pumpkin in case he felt creative.

I think the one I've done is OK, but it doesn't quite match my masterpiece from 2 years ago. If I'm honest I think not feeling him trying to out do me meant perhaps I wasn't quite so ambitious.

However, I wasn't completely on my own as Meg decided this year she'd like a go. Feeling a certain parental sense of trepidation at the idea of her wielding a sharp knife, we agreed and I supervised her.

I lost count of the number of times I said, "gently now, gently with that knife, easy there, slowly, gently now..." while desperately trying to remove images of severed fingers from my mind.

Of course I gave her a wee bit of help here and there, but she did do most of it herself, and once I was past the relief at there being no accidents, I felt quite proud of her.

Here are our creations...

Meg's creation with the light on

Meg's creation with the light off

My creation with the light on

My creation with the light off

Back in the realms of photography rather than knives and vegetables, when I was doing the photo shoot with The Yahs a few weeks ago (see Photographing The Yahs), we tried a few shots of the 4 of them gathered together and one of them holding a flash unit, triggered remotely by my camera. It was tried at various angles and then abandoned as not working the way I wanted it to.

Looking back through the images afterwards, however, I was struck by one where the light had been held from below, giving that spooky look you get when you hold a torch under your face. So with a little bit of Photoshop editing, I was able to create a Yahs Halloween Special...

Perhaps next year I should try carving them on a pumpkin...

Friday, October 25, 2013

47th Birthday

This morning my daughter, Meg, took me down to In House Chocolates to treat me to one of their superb hot chocolates (melted chocolate is poured into a mug and topped up with hot milk - it's then up to you as to how much you stir it in, or spoon it out from the bottom of the mug).

And my son, Rogan, has come home for the weekend from university for the first time since we took him up there 7 weeks ago.

And Maggie has made a rather scrummy chocolate cheesecake for dessert.

Today is a good day.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

3 nights away

Maggie and I managed to have three nights away on our own last week.


In the past 18 years or so - basically since before Rogan was born - we've only managed that once before, about 2½ years ago.

This time we stayed in a lovely B&B on the shores of Loch Awe, in Argyll. With the bracken turning brown and the trees all the shades of autumn, this beautiful corner of Scotland was even more stunning.

OK, so it was chucking it down with rain most of the time, or heavily overcast when it wasn't, but that didn't really matter - it was just the 2 of us.

And no phone signal either.

Yes, I took the camera, but there will be no landscape photos appearing on this blog. Apart from the rain, I've discovered one of the drawbacks about being a professional photographer is I can't take snaps anymore. Each time I take a photo, I'm aware of its shortcomings. And as I'm primarily a people, not a landscape photographer, my landscapes are never going to be up to the standard I desire.

However, the sun did come out briefly when we visited Tarbert, so I went for a wander along the harbour and was quite pleased how these turned out.

As always, feel free to click on the images for larger versions.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Photographing The Yahs

OK, Ali and Dave, you swap places; Fergus you come in a bit closer; and Grant lean into the camera a bit more.


Hmmm... the balance isn't working. Dave, you move back to where you were, Ali move to where Fergus is and Fergus you move to where Ali orginally was.


Dave, bring the coffee pot in a bit closer to Grant; Fergus, angle the comb so it's flat on to the light; Ali raise your arm a bit; and Grant angle the cigar towards Ali's face... down a bit... a touch more... yes - perfect.


Damn, the rear flash didn't go off. Hold your positions guys while I shift my angle slightly...

Last month I mentioned a meeting with The Yahs (see earlier post) to discuss a photo shoot with them.

On Sunday we met up at Comlongon Castle to make it happen.

Various ideas had been discussed, although they all seemed to revolve around lead singer, Grant, being served, supported or waited on by the other members of the band.

Everyone was up for it, committed and patient while I kept making adjustments to lighting, positions and subtle movements, but eventually it all came together.

And I have to say, at the risk of sounding a little self-congratulatory, I'm delighted with how it turned out.

A typical scene of The Yahs just before they go on stage for a gig...

Feel free to click on the image for a slightly larger version

Monday, October 07, 2013

Not photographing...

I met a few well-known people this past week (as in people I've heard of), and several more well-known in particular circles (as in people I haven't heard of but other people have). But I didn't photograph any of them.

Despite the fact my official Wigtown Book Festival pass said:

Kim Ayres

which gave me access to them, I didn't actually get round to taking my camera out of the bag slung over my shoulder, at any time.

My purpose at this year's event was to chat to authors to see who might be up for being photographed as a literary character for the Wigtown Book Festival 2015 calendar (see last post about the 2014 calendar, now available). I exchanged contact details with those who expressed an interest and the plan is to arrange the various photo shoots over the coming months.

I've never been awestruck by people I recognise off the TV. When I see them in the flesh they are just a familiar face - rather like seeing someone who works in the post office or supermarket - I recognise them, but I'm aware they would have no idea who I am. I don't think I've ever understood why anyone would want to go up to them and ask for their autograph.

I can, however, understand the curiosity. Are these people real? Are they anything like us? Or are they a weird alien breed the rest of us mere mortals have no hope of relating to?

By my (admittedly limited) experience, they appear to be just like any other random group of people you or I could meet - some we will relate to, others will feel a bit awkward around unless we discover a common ground, and the rest we will stand there not having a clue what to say and be wondering how we can release ourselves from their presence without causing embarrassment.

Part of this comes from our own ability (or lack thereof) to mix with a wide variety of people, and part comes from theirs. But there is one who has the most amazing people skills I've ever experienced.

Whenever I've seen Joanna Lumley in a documentary I've always been amazed at the way people are utterly charmed by her - not just reacting to someone who is pleasant, but going all gooey. And after her talk at the Festival, the queue at her book signing was huge - by far the longest of any of the authors over the entire 10 days. And not only did everyone want their book signed, they all wanted their photo taken with her - each person handing their phone to the person behind them asking if they would be so kind.

When I met her in the Writer's Retreat - a sort of "green room" for the authors and VIPs - she was every bit as pleasant as you would expect, but it was when she got up to leave that I was hit by the full force of her spell weaving ability.

She touched me lightly on the arm, said something... - and unfortunately I have no idea what, because I was completely caught up in her gaze. She looked at me as though I had 100% of her attention and I was important.

And I started to go all gooey.

It took a few moments for me to compose myself but by then she was heading off and I was left with reality slowly seeping back in, desperately hoping I hadn't said anything stupid.

Not that my daughter cared about any of this. For her the really important person I got to meet was James Morton, runner up in the 2012 Great British Bake Off. Meg was gutted when he didn't win in the final, but beside herself with glee at the idea I might get to photograph him for next year's calendar.

Although it would have completely ruined any air of professional pride and integrity, I think she would have preferred it if I'd handed my camera to the person behind me to get a photo of me and James together...