Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Photographing Drew Forsyth

Continuing my involvement with the Urr Historic Landscape Project, I was asked to photograph Drew Forsyth. Born and raised in the village of Haugh of Urr, he left the area to pursue a career as a joiner and cabinet maker. Eventually he returned to the village when he retired.

Behind his house is an old stone building. Not only did it contain all the usual garage and shed kind of things - lawnmowers, old bikes and bits of plastic tubing etc - it also had a workshop area. Every other available bit of space, it seemed, was piled up with various chunks of wood.

It was quite dark, so I set up the off-camera flashes, much like I had with Adam Booth (see Photographing a Blacksmith), but try as I might, I wasn't happy with the results I was getting.

However, there was a window in the south wall and the sun was making a rare appearance, so I decided to see what I could do with just the available light. The downside was I had to greatly increase the ISO - which for those less familiar with the technical sides of photography, means the images tend to be noisier, or grainier.

Despite this, the results were considerably better, and once I converted them into black and white on the computer, I was quite pleased with the results. Below are the best of the bunch.

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

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Photographing John Manson

As part of the Urr Historic Landscape Project, I've been asked to photograph various people who live along the Urr valley. A few weeks ago it was artist blacksmith, Adam Booth (see Photographing a Blacksmith), then the following week I was invited to photograph John Manson.

Now in his 80s, John has spent a chunk of his life documenting and writing about arguabley Scotland's most famous and controversial 20th century poet, Hugh MacDiarmid. In 2011 John published "Dear Grieve" which required, among other things, wading through over 15,000 letters.

John's study is full of books and folders, some of which had to moved to other places in order for me to find a seat while we had a cup of tea. Despite the fact the sun was periodically peeking out from behind the clouds, it was just too dark to photograph in natural light alone, so I had to use an off-camera flash with Davie (one of the project organisers) holding a reflector off to one side.

Below are a couple of the images I took. For those of you who like to look for extra details, the photo in the background of the 2nd image is of Hugh MacDiarmid (right) with the famous Russian poet, Yevtushenko (left).

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

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Musical Chairs

I recently left Scruffy Buzzards, the band I helped create and has been a significant part of my life for the past couple of years. "Creative differences" is a fairly standard reason given for anyone leaving a band, although "unresolvable personality differences" would be a more accurate description in many cases.

It was an extremely difficult decision to make and the process of reaching that point was accompanied by many restless nights. Like the ending of any relationship, it is not something that happens casually. Similarly, once the final decision has been made and carried out, it often becomes clearer that it had been on the cards for some time but denial and indecision had dragged it out longer than it should have.

However, this has not meant the end of my musical creativity. At the end of August last year, I collaborated with a local musician, Marcus Wright to do a couple of tracks for the launch of the Lost Wasp record label (blog post about that can be found here: Playing The Blues, Bouzouki Style...).

Marcus and Kim in full flow

And as The Mill Sessions season begins again in a few weeks, the 2 of us will be supporting the amazing singer and guitarist, Sean Taylor.

When Sean first played at the Mill 3 years ago, I took a photo of him for the Mill Sessions Hall of Fame. He was so delighted with the image he used it for the cover his his following album, Love Against Death.

Sean Taylor, Love Against Death

The support act lined up dropped out and the Mill Sessions were in need of a replacement. Because Marcus and I had enjoyed our wee musical foray together, we put ourselves forward for the slot and are now working on a few more tunes. And I have to say I'm loving it. The music we're creating is bluesier and edgier than the stuff I did with the Buzzards, which suits me down to the ground.

We haven't yet decided on a name, but I did have an idea for photo...

Having fun with a camera, Photoshop and a willing participant

If you're anywhere near SW Scotland on 1st March, then do come along. However, I'm aware several of the regular readers of this blog are several thousand miles away, and that makes it a bit trickier for them. Hopefully I'll find someone in the audience I can hand my camera to and ask them to film some of it.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Photographing a Blacksmith

A few days ago I was photographing Adam Booth as part of a project about the River Urr, which runs not too far from here. I was recruited by Davie who, along with a couple of others, is looking at the history and the people of the land surrounding the river.

Adam is an artist blacksmith with a forge in nearby Kirkpatrick Durham, where he heats, hammers and shapes metal into decorative, organic shapes. Some of his gates have become listed as soon as they have been installed. A warm and friendly guy, he talks with great enthusiasm about his passion for his work, and the alchemy of how the properties of metal change from completely solid to a clay-like malleability when exposed to the right level of heat.

I have to admit, there's something quite primal watching metal being thrust into blazing coals, glowing red and golden and hearing the sounds of it being hammered on an anvil. Trying to figure out how to photograph it, however, was not easy.

The fluorescent strip lights were designed for him to be able to see his tools, not to cast interesting shadows or create an atmospheric environment. But introducing more light would have its own problems - too much and the glow of the metal would be lost; not enough and the shutter speed would be too slow and everything would blur.

The solution was to have a slow shutter speed (about half a second) to allow the ambient glow to be felt, but also to use an off-camera flash to capture the action. The resulting effect was to freeze part of the image, but ghostly echoes sometimes followed any movement.

Below are a selection of images - feel free to click on any of them for slightly larger versions.