Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Woodland and Bubbles

A walk in the woods with the grandchildren, who are staying over for a couple of nights.

The low sun is cutting through the trees and partial mist. The light is beautiful.

(click on the images for larger versions)

The youngest grandson has insisted on bringing his bubble mixture.

It's too good an opportunity to miss

Once again Chrsitmas has been an enjoyably relaxed affair. Over the years it has been honed to include all the bits we love while ridding ourselves of the things no one was really bothered about.

As well as being extraordinarily fortunate in having a roof over our heads, clothes on our back and food in our freezer, we also don't have to endure nightmarish scenarios of being forced into close proximity with people we're less than keen on keeping company with.

I hope your festive season has been as enjoyable, or if not, it has at least given you plenty of blog-fodder to write about

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Festive Wishes

Sometimes I have to hunt for a suitably festive, seasonal image. On occasion I've even had to create one from scratch. This time, however, it was much easier.

A couple of weeks ago I glanced out the window to see the sun glinting through a very damp, slightly misty morning air. I grabbed the camera and headed down to Dalbeattie Woods.

The light had the most amazing quality to it, being refracted through billions of tiny droplets of water, and cobwebs looked like tinsel on the trees.

As soon as I took this photo, I knew I had the image I needed for Christmas.

Whatever your cultural, religious or spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof), I hope this festive season is good for you and your loved ones.

Wishing you all the very best!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pursuit of the Line

Back in April I wrote about my experiences of life drawing (see Life Drawing, Panic and Exploration).

After 2 excruciating terms of trying to coordinate my eye with my hand via a pencil and pad of paper, I suddenly hit upon distilling the line - rather than seek ever more detail, I decided to strip it back. It was quite an exciting discovery, marred only by the fact it was in the last session and it would be nearly 6 months before I'd get the chance to pursue the idea further.

A couple of weeks ago I completed the autumn run of sessions, where I took the opportunity to explore the flow of line. With each pose of the model, I would begin with a more formal, rough sketch, then start to try and work out where I could sweep the line in a satisfying curve. I would then keep running over the line with my pencil until the flow felt right. If there was time I would then see if I could repeat the pattern on a new sheet of paper.

Often it ended in frustration, and at least once every session I wanted to run screaming from the room and never pick up a pencil again.

But every now and again something clicked and it felt wonderful, like I was tapping into some primeval delight our ancestors must have felt creating animal representations with sticks of charcoal on cave walls.

I have no desire to abandon my photography in pursuit of the drawn line. But as another creative outlet that forces me to view the world in yet another way, I am content to continue with it.

Below are a few of my favourites from the last 10 weeks.

Feel free to click on the images for larger versions.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

London, Andrzej Dragan, and meeting old friends for the first time

What on earth is an Oyster Card and how am I supposed to use it? On the Underground I recognise all these places from the Monopoly Board. On the bank of the River Thames I see all sorts of buildings from TV and films.

The last time I was in London, I was 15 years old and on a school trip to watch a play. This time I'm there for a seminar by polish photographer Andrjez Dragan, and to meet up with some old friends I'd not actually met in the flesh before.

Andrjez Dragan changed my approach to photography when I came across his work 6 years ago. Although I had been experimenting with portraiture, my general understanding was I needed to make my subjects look good, ideally in a flattering kind of way. Dragan made me realise I could move in the opposite direction towards engaging, characterful and edgy images.

My first big success was the creation of a photo of my friend, the poet David Mark Williams, which generated a great deal of feedback, was used on the front of issue 3 of Prole Magazine and was my first accepted image on the curated photo website, 1x.com

The Poet

At 1x I met many superb photographers who were generous with their time and knowledge and over the next couple of years my understanding of photography leapt forward.

It's fair to say without the initial trigger of Andrjez Dragan and the help and support of members of the 1x community my photography would be of neither the standard nor style it has become.

So when I discovered Andrjez Dragan was holding a seminar in London I had to go. But I also realised there was an opportunity to meet up with some of the photographers I had met online at 1x. A few emails and Facebook messages later and Andre Du Plessis, Gerry Sexton and Chris Dixon started arranging a get together (click on their names to see their superb photography).

Andre went even further and helped arrange accommodation for me, collected me from the station and ferried me about a few times. The warmth and generosity of these guys was amazing, and we spent most of Sunday out with the cameras along the South Bank of The Thames.

Here are a selection of the photos I took. You can find more on my Facebook album here:

It might look like Mediterranean sun, but it was only about 3C

Andre with vapouriser

Gerry behind a wall


"It's the real thing"

Hoping we can do it again some time

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Macmath: The Silent Page

As Claire picked up her crying baby from the travel cot, the rest of the assembled gathering of some of Dumfries and Galloway's finest, internationally renowned, traditional musicians started singing lullabies to help Caitlin drift off.

It worked and we were able to resume the photo shoot.

There's a project underway called Macmath: The Silent Page, where the aim is to bring to life a series of songs, many of which will not have been heard for over a hundred years.

It all stems from the Macmath collection of songs, held in the archives at Broughton House in Kirkcudbright. To swipe from the blog where Ali Burns is writing about this project:

William Macmath, 1848 – 1922, grew up in Galloway before moving to Edinburgh as a young man and his huge and largely unacknowledged legacy was in helping the great American ballad collector and academic Francis Child with his definitive publication: English and Scottish Popular Ballads 1882 – 1898. Although working entirely in his spare time, Macmath worked tirelessly and meticulously over a period of almost thirty years, to track down and verify details relating to the Scottish ballads included in Child’s collection. Broughton House holds many of the letters between Macmath and Child written over their long association. More pertinently to our project there are also two books of unpublished songs and song fragments written down by Macmath. It is these two volumes that we’re looking at in this project.

I had been called in to create a photo that could be used for publicity and the CD cover, once the songs have been recorded.

Broughton House itself seemed the ideal location to shoot the photo and on an earlier trip there, Ali and I had explored the house and gardens to find the best spot. Fortunately we decided on an indoor scene as it was chucking it down with rain on the day of the shoot.

Arranging 7 people in a way that flows is not an easy task. This wasn't to be some all-in-a-line press shot, but an engaging photograph where the eye needs to be led into, round and through the ensemble and their surrounds. Given the historic nature of the project, I wanted the final image to have a feel of a classic painting with finely tuned arrangements of people, objects and setting

Wee pin-man sketches done beforehand will only get you so far. It's not until you put everyone together can you start to get a sense of who needs to go where. Not just due to height, but also where the splashes of colour of clothes, instruments and hair might compliment or clash.

Take a photo - rearrange the group. Take another - swap two people about. Take another - swap them back but move someone else. Take another - ask this person to lower their head and that one ro raise their left arm...

And so it goes on. Each time refining and finessing until you reach a point where you feel you're as close as you're going to get before mutiny sets in.

But that's just the first half of creating a photo such as this. There's still the editing.

Inevitably there is not a single photo that has all the elements just perfect. In one someone will be blinking; in another the fiddle is at an angle that throws the compositional lines out; in another someone's arm is casting a shadow over someone else's face. So the ideal combination has to be created from several photos. In this way it is much more akin to the processes used by the old master painters.

And then there are subtle tweaks of hue and saturation, brightness and contrast, levels and curves, while unwanted reflections are painted out from the glass panels on the bookcase.

Finally, to enhance the narrative I decided to overlay some of the handwritten text and music from photos I had taken directly of some of the pages of the Macmath volumes.

Click on the image for a larger version.

Left to right: back row: Emily Smith, Aaron Jones, Jamie McClennan
front row: Wendy Stewart, Ali Burns, Claire Mann, Robyn Stapleton

For more about this fascinating project, head over to Ali's website about it and read her blog posts:
Macmath: The Silent Page

Saturday, November 29, 2014


The internet connection is appallingly sporadic. Mostly it isn't there, then it appears for a few seconds - enough for an email to pop through - but then it disappears again before you can open it.

I've set aside the day to respond to a backlog of emails, but after unplugging and plugging back in the router several times and attempting to contact my broadband provider (which prefers me to email, or use online chat rather than call - pretty useless when my internet connection isn't working), I give up and decide to work on something else instead.

I've been meaning to update the front page of my website, perhaps I could...


I know, I could learn how to use that video editing software I downloaded.

Crap! The instruction manual is online.

Never mind, I'll use tutorials on YouTube...


Right. I'll get round to making that book of photos I've been meaning to do for about a year, using the Blurb software. Hmm... why can't I find it on my computer? It seems last time I created a book it was using my old laptop.

I'll have to go to blurb.com and download the latest...

[insert long line of expletives...]

Sod it - I'll go and watch a movie. There should be something on Netflix I've been meaning to catch up on...


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Gift Vouchers for Photo Sessions

Would you like a photo shoot gift voucher with 50% added on for free?

After various requests this year, I've decided to offer gift vouchers as an option to put towards photo sessions - from headshots to families to full on epic fantasy shoots.

Because this is new and I need to test the system, for a limited time I'm going to add 50% extra to the value of any vouchers bought through my website:

For example, buy a £100 voucher I will increase the value to £150 towards a photo session. All you need to do is email or call me to let me know how easy it was or any problems you might have run into.

Get a little extra for your Christmas spend this year

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/seasons


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 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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Trading Journeys

Hi kim, how about thursday morn at breakfst? somewhere near creetown or newton, i can tell u wher exactly the night before. Then u get a bit of fireside and also horsedrawn as I leave.

Although my heart sank a bit at the thought of getting up early, the text was from one of my favourite people to photograph, Alice Francis (See I'm Humphrey Bogart and So's My Wife and Photographing a Fish out of Water). She was on a trek with a horsedrawn cart from Auchencairn to Wigtown as part of an art event called "Trading Journeys",which was tying in with the start of the Wigtown Book Festival. The event organiser, The Stove, had asked me to get some photos of her on her journey, so texts were under way for working out where and when I would catch up with her.

Wednesday evening:

Kim, if you go out of creetown as if for skyreburn on the old military road, i am on the right after the woods I will tie a black and green scarf on the gate as i am quite hidden.

Ok. I'll try and be with you for about 7.30-ish to get some breakfasting and getting-ready shots

And praps some shots getting kicked off by the farmer!! Haha! Bring a cup!!! Not much power, must turn off x

Despite the unusually lovely weather we've been having throughout most of September, this particular Thursday morning turned out to be a bit dreich and smirry. I'd checked Google Maps before setting off but struggled to find where Alice might be camped: no sign of a green and black scarf and her phone had run out of battery.

I drove up the road to a point way beyond the woods and it was clear I must have missed it, turned round and went back down to Creetown, turned round again and drove very slowly back up the road, stopping at every gate and peering over. Eventually I met Alice on the road with a bunch of sticks in her hand. She said she'd heard a car go by and had thought it was probably me, so came out to catch me next time past and pick up a bit of firewood at the same time.

After a cup of tea (I had brought my own mug with a teabag in it) and a blether I then set about getting the photos. As always, feel free to click on them for slightly larger versions, or head through to the album on my Facebook page for the full set: