Tuesday, February 24, 2015

And I'm not looking forward to the journey home...

I realised today that there wasn't any chance of me writing an original blog post this week, so I thought I would take a quick dip into the archives.

With this blog being something like 9½ years old, there is a whole host of stuff either unread or long forgotten by the vast majority of my current readers.

So here for your delectation is one of my favourites from the past. Originally written in September 2006 it was composed over the course of a delayed train journey. Scribbling notes into the the pages of my Sudoku book, making observations to pass the time, became a way to save my sanity.


5.34pm: I speed-stride through Glasgow Central Station – I refuse to attempt to run as it is so long since I last tried, my body has forgotten how to coordinate my torso with my legs, so I settle for walking briskly; very briskly - and leap through the door of rear carriage with literally only a few seconds to spare. Cramped, standing room only. The engine revs, a sudden jolt and we’re away.

Part of me had known that this train never leaves the station at 5.30pm, no matter what Scot Rail’s timetable might say, but this was closer than I’d expected. In fact the train had actually arrived in Glasgow on time this morning, which threw Dave out completely. He always has to wait at least 15 minutes when meeting me off the train, so was somewhat surprised to wander into the station only 10 minutes late and find me already there, halfway through a Sudoku puzzle I’d started an hour and a half earlier, just out of Dumfries.

5.36pm: “Hello? Hello? I’m on the train. The TRAIN. Hello?” I’ve only elbowed one person in the ribs while getting out my mobile phone to let Maggie know I've caught the earlier train after all.

5.42pm: I try to fill in another number in the Sudoku grid, but the combination of heat, movement and claustrophobia mean I quickly start to feel travel sick. A flicker of disappointment crosses the face of the guy opposite me who I think had been mentally filling in the gaps before I put the puzzle book away.

5.49pm: First stop and enough people depart the train for me to flop down on to the only available space, next to a smartly dressed woman who proceeds to squeeze her body up against the window, trying to put as much distance between us as is humanly possible in a double seat only 3 feet wide. I’m self consciously aware that my earlier exertion and the crowded conditions means that I’m dripping in sweat. I feel like the odorous tramp everyone worries will sit next to them.

“And then he… he… he opened a triple pack of curried chicken sandwiches!” she will wail later. Her body shaking uncontrollably as she sobs at the memory.

“There, there,” her mother will reply soothingly, “it’s all over now…”

6.02pm: Another station and there’s now enough room for me to find a double seat of my own, but the smartly dressed woman gets off the train anyway. I wonder whether it was her stop.

6.13pm: We reach Kilmarnock; only the front two carriages are carrying on from here. It transpires that I didn’t need to shove the granny out the way nor tip up the pushchair in my haste to avoid being left in the wrong section, as the train is allowing plenty of time for the transition.

6.25pm: They really are allowing a lot of time. The rear carriages have left for Ayr.

6.35pm: The driver periodically revs the engine, teasing us, but we’re still not moving anywhere.

6.38pm: The driver announces that we will be underway as soon as a technical fault is fixed.

6.56pm: I’m getting a bit worried about the number of people using the toilet. I distinctly remember seeing a sign saying it should not be used while the train is in the station. If this goes on much longer, the rear carriage will become grounded.

7.12pm: We’re told to disembark. Out on the platform the driver is talking into his phone while making a rough headcount of the passengers. Coaches are being arranged to take us the rest of the way. The lady in the wheelchair rolls her eyes, while the woman with three children under the age of four is clearly at her wit’s end.

7.35pm: A taxi arrives for the woman in the wheelchair. She offers an old woman sitting nearby a lift. I overhear someone saying the bus will be here in half an hour.

7.41pm: An irate passenger is verbally abusing the woman at the ticket office. She hands him a Scot Rail Compensation form.

7.44pm: The woman at the ticket office looks like she’s calmed down, so I go up and give her a friendly smile; it’s not her fault the train broke down. She gives me a Scot Rail Compensation form before I can open my mouth.

It says that if my journey is delayed by half an hour then I can claim half the fare back of that leg of the journey. More than one hour and I can claim the entire amount. Whoopee. Two and a half hours stuck on a cold Kilmarnock Railway Station Platform and I might just be able to claim back £5.95.

7.50pm: Word has spread and there is now a long queue of weary passengers with nothing else to do except pick up a form and borrow a pen.

7.56pm: a young woman plonks herself next to me on a bench and lights up a cigarette. It’s over 16 years since I gave up smoking and I resent people forcing me to breathe their stinking, cancerous fumes.

7.57pm: F***, I could do with a cigarette.

7.59pm: According to the woman with three kids, the flush in the station loo isn’t working properly. I don’t think there’ll be much loo roll left either judging by the long trail of it attached to a 3-year-old running about.

8.02pm: The bus has arrived. It will have an overall longer journey time, and be less comfortable, but the next train to Dumfries isn’t for another 40 minutes and it’s getting cold. The heat and sweat from the beginning of the journey is a distant memory, unable to be recalled with any clarity. I follow the crowd out of the station.

It’s one of those Luxury Coaches with curtains at the window, a downstairs loo (not to be used while parked) and a little button you can press, next to the air vents, that apparently calls for a hostess. I can’t see anyone who looks like a hostess.

8.05pm: “Hello? Hello? I’m on the bus. The BUS. Hello?”

8.06pm: Maggie reminds me I get travel sick on buses.

8.10pm: The driver periodically revs the engine, teasing us, but we’re still not moving anywhere.

8.18pm: Apparently the driver can’t engage first gear. Everyone is getting off the bus.

8.45pm: A cheer goes up. The next train to Dumfries pulls into the station. This is the train I would have caught if I’d accepted Dave’s offer to stay to dinner instead of deciding to catch the earlier one to ensure I’d be home in time to put my children to bed.

8.50pm: The train starts moving. Another cheer goes up. A deep golden, full moon is just rising over the horizon. Only an hour to Dumfries now and a further 30 minute drive to Castle Douglas. I phone Maggie.

“Hello? Hello? I’m on the train. The TRAIN. Hello?”

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Cracked Man EP Launch

12 months ago Marcus and I formed The Cracked Man

The best description I could come up with to describe our music was, "Original foot-stomping, spine-tingling, brow-twitching, cheek-spasming, tea-dunking music that will leave you breathless but deeply satisfied"

Towards the end of last year we began recording 3 tracks to make up an EP. Then Christmas and New Year got in the way. However, the artwork has now been created, the tracks have been mastered and everything has been sent off to Discwizards.com where we're getting 300 printed up.

We played around with several ideas when trying to think of a cover for the EP, and decided to go for a mix of both our heads blended into one. Originally I was going to split it straight down the middle, but after playing in Photoshop I discovered it was more interesting if it wasn't exact. So although the top half is an even split, my nose is more dominant, it's Marcus's upper lip and my beard.

That was quite fun, but then I played with aging it - sepia toning and a mold-speckled glass overlay - and then it leapt to life like some bizarre Edwardian creation. I knew we had the cover I wanted

On Friday 13th March, we're going to be officially launching the EP with an event at The Gordon House Hotel in Kirckudbright. As a wee taster of the EP, I've put together a short video of photos of us performing and about 40 second bursts of each of the 3 tracks.

On the day of the launch, if you're interested, you'll be able to buy CDs or download the tracks online. But if you're in the area, do come along to see us play live.

And if you don't live nearby, then we're open to travelling if you fancy being our manager for the country you live in.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Edge Lighting

One of the turning points in my photography was when I discovered side-lighting on faces. Lit from one side only, the landscape of the face came to life - lines, textures and depth all became exaggerated and a powerful sense of character emerged from the screen. So much more interesting than bland front-lighting.

The next great discovery for me was back-lighting. This creates a real separation from the background and makes the person or object you are photographing leap out of the photo.

A more recent discovery has been edge-lighting - a place inbetween side and back. I've been using it for years as part of the mix, but where the beauty comes is when it, and only it, is being used.

Last year I did a series of photos in collaboration with sculptor, Lucianne Lassalle, and model, Kat (Night Phoenix). It was a day spent in play and experimentation to see what might happen. Kat was progressively coated in chalks, powders, clay and even paint, by Lucianne, while I tried out different compositions, angles and lighting.

Among the 300 or so photos I took, there are a great deal of interesting, fascinating and quite beautiful images. However due to life getting in the way for all three of us, nothing has yet been done with any of the photos, although we have recently started discussing potential ways to move forward with them and ideas they have inspired.

Because of these conversations I was looking back through the images and came across a few where the lighting had "failed" - I was using two off-camera flashes and only one had fired, meaning the effect I was after didn't materialise on those shots.

But for some reason, when looking at these photos this time round I was suddenly struck by their potential. I pulled them into photoshop, converted them to black and white, then started playing with the lighting levels - gradually making the shadows and mid-tones darker and darker until they were completely black, leaving only the areas where the light had directly hit the body.

And the images that emerged made me go all goose-bumpily. I was amazed at how wonderful they looked.

I phoned Kat last night and she's delighted with them and more than happy for me to put them up online, so I knew exactly what this week's blog post was going to be. Later in the evening she sent me an email, saying:

I love the slightly abstract feel of them, the mystery to them, the capacity for the viewer to create their own story, how they are real and confront the viewer with their realness. I adore the juxtoposition of a real persons body with cellulite, sags and skin things aka "flaws" with the beautiful poses and almost serene atmosphere or otherwise energetic vibe. I like the challenging nature of that challenging society (certain mainstream media) views of what beauty or sensuality is. To think I have been a part of this :D
Deep, beautiful, emotive, challenging and abstract. We did good and you did amazing!
Definately worth an earful of clay!

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

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Photography Workshop - Light, Composition and Storytelling

Storytelling is at the heart of good photography. It's not just about documenting a scene in front of us, it's about generating thoughts in the viewer that go beyond the image.

In order to be able to create storytelling images consistently, an understanding of light and composition are crucial. The content of a photo - what's actually in it - is only one aspect of an image. How that content is arranged and lit can dramatically affect its mood and emotion.

On Sunday 15th February, assisted by Lynne Atkinson of Alice Rose Portraits, I'm running a photography workshop in Castle Douglas on Light, Composition and Storytelling. This workshop is designed to teach techniques to improve the impact of your photography.

Details below, but if you would like to book a place on the course either email or phone me, or follow this link and scroll down to Week 3 - 15th Feb:

If you know of anyone else you think might be interested, please forward these details on to them

Sunday 15th February – 10am to 5pm

Kim Ayres & Lynne Atkinson

Course Description
The content of a photo is only a part of it – how that content is arranged and lit can dramatically affect the emotional impact of the image. This course is an introduction to composition, lighting and understanding storytelling when limited to only 2 dimensions and a fraction of a second.

Course outline
– Introductions to the course and each other.
– Composition techniques and understanding dynamic tension.
– Tea/coffee.
– Introduction to lighting methods.
– Break for lunch – either bring sandwiches or pop into Castle Douglas to pick some up or visit a cafe.
– Split into small groups to create a narrative photo.
– Tea/coffee.
– Review photos and discuss experiences.
– Final round up.
– option to join a Facebook group to post images from the day for feedback after you have had a chance to edit them at home.

What to bring
– lunch or money to buy some
– camera
– a basic understanding of how to use your camera, including how to adjust shutter speed and aperture
– lead to connect your camera to a computer
– An interesting prop or 2 – could be an object or an outfit – something to include in a storytelling image
– flashes/speedlights if you have them and would like to use them (optional)
– laptops are not required, but if you want to bring one that’s OK. Wifi is not available.

St John’s Church – Located at the crossroads of Cotton Street and Abercromby Road. From the A75, enter Castle Douglas and head for the town centre. At the crossroads with the clock tower turn on to the A713 to Ayr. The church is less than 100m on the right.


To book a place on the course either email or phone me, or follow this link and scroll down to Week 3 - 15th Feb: