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 - - 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.