Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Earth's Crust Bakery

Tom and Pavlina started Earth's Crust Bakery out of their garage at the back of the garden. Their bread was quite simply amazing - much more like homemade, only tastier, and an entirely different beast to the pappy, aerated bread you get from the supermarkets. With a passion for natural ingredients, organic flour and baking as a lifestyle rather than a job, they were soon supplying local health food stores and delicatessens.

Then disaster struck - there was a fire in the garage and everything was lost.

Not ones to give up in the face of adversity, a Kickstarter project was set up to raise money for new equipment, and money could be donated in exchange for loaves for bread once they were up and running again.

A sign of their popularity in the local community was they hit their target in less than a week, and went on to raise a fair bit more besides. This allowed them to expand their options and earlier this year, they relocated to Castle Douglas, with space many times larger than the shed they had been operating out of.

Breads, pastries, focaccias, tarts, quiches, cheesecakes - soon their counter was heaving with a wide range of mouth-watering delights as they had the space to spread out and try new things.

During their fundraising period, I offered up my photography to help with profile raising, once they felt ready, and a few weeks ago we finally got round to arranging a date.

A Saturday afternoon was decided on, as there tended to be fewer customers about, and they wouldn't be busy preparing for the following day either. However, we did run the risk there might not be a lot of food left.

Careful arrangement of the remaining produce, plus a couple of friends called in to act as customers, and we were ready to go.

The natural lighting wasn't particularly good for the style of photo I had in mind, so I set up 2 lights at the front of the shop and one at the back. I wanted an impression of depth to the picture, to give an idea of the space. I also wanted the composition to have a slightly painterly feel, with that sense that you might be looking at a natural scene, but at the same time it's still been clearly arranged.

Ben was tasked with coming in through the back door with a bag of flour over his shoulder, while I wanted Jacqui to be doing something where a cloud of flour might appear. Different options were tried, from banging tins of flour on the table, to tossing handfuls into the air, but eventually pouring it seemed to work the best. Additionally, we discovered it worked much better with the back door open so the flour stood out against the black background - when the door was shut, there wasn't enough contrast against the grey door.

It was a fun afternoon, but one of the highlights was carrying away armfuls of leftovers once we'd finished and packed up. Muffled approval came from family members through mouthfuls of baked delights.

Feel free to click on the image for a larger version

Friday, August 19, 2016

Moniaive Manga

"Moniaive Comics Festival is coming up - it would be an ideal time to try out the Manga photo shoot," said Ralph, hairdresser and owner of Dumfries salon, Basement 20. It was an idea we'd discussed a while back - creating hairstyles and characters based on Japanese Manga - a very recognisable comic-book style of drawing and animation.

In a break with tradition, rather than keeping the behind-the-scenes video until the end of the post, I'll put it here near the top. Have a look, then scroll down for rest of the story.

Although this post is following the one about the Comlongon Castle photo shoot, the event took place about a a few weeks earlier, so this was the 2nd time I'd worked with Ralph, and the first time I'd worked with makeup artist, Jade Jamieson.

Our wonderful models with amazing hair and makeup

While there were no owls at this shoot, there were a lot more people involved.

Tim from the Craigendarroch Hotel provided us with a venue, and a steady supply of coffee and nibbles. Our 4 models were Katarina (who you might remember from the Photo Shoot at the Rural Mural), Jacob, Amy and Hayley, and each was given a different persona and style. Jody (also from the Rural Mural shoot) and James were also brought in to style hair, while Olly was on hand to assist as required.


The entire operation was open to the public who would stumble across us while wandering between other festival events. Although I tried to remain completely focused on my camera settings, the models and the lighting, every now and again I would become aware of small crowds building up, watching what was going on.


Moniaive Comic Festival organiser, Sue, also roped in 3 internationally renowned cartoonists - Jim Stewart, Robert Thomson and Stref (2 of whom also sketched the backdrops onto the reverse of a couple of rolls of wallpaper), who started sketching the models while I was photographing them.

Hayley interpreted by 3 different cartoonists

Samuel from Maklab in Dumfries was also invited along to scan the heads of the models and turn them into small busts using a 3D printer, adding an entirely different interpretation to them.

Amy - printed in 3D

Once the day was over and I was back at my computer going through all the photos, I had to decide how to process the images. The point you click the shutter on the camera is only one stage on the journey to the final image. The raw file is the equivalent to a first draft - now comes the editing, refining and honing it to fit the vision you have.


In the end I opted for 2 very different styles of post-processing. For the close up headshots I decided to emphasise the colours, making the most of the coloured gels I had used in the original lighting set up. But for the body shots I went instead for blue-sepia tones, which gave them a much more illustrated feel.


Photo shoots like this are not that common, and I wanted some kind of record of the event. So I dragged my friend, fellow photographer Allan Wright along to film the whole thing. But I was also rewarded with the lovely bonus that Katarina brought her camera along and set up some time lapse sequences, which I was then able to incorporate into the video.

I wanted a rocking soundtrack to go along with the video, and initially I thought I would use another track from my band, The Cracked Man. However, when I talked to Marcus, he'd just been doing a recording session with a talented young lass who performs under the name KLEO, and played me her track, "Anger Within Me". It seemed to work perfectly. I spoke to KLEO and in exchange for a photo shoot she was more than happy for me to use her music on the video.


Looking at the photos, the cartoons and the 3D busts, Ralph and I felt it would be a shame for it to just end there, so the idea came up to have an exhibition. We went out to see Matt Baker at The Stove in Dumfries to discuss the idea, and he loved the whole collaboration aspect of the project and was happy for us to exhibit there.


Last night we had the preview evening, and the exhibition runs for the next two weeks, until 1st September - do pop along if you can and let me know what you think.

I am aware that many readers of this blog live just a bit too far away to make it along - several have an ocean or two in the way - so if you'd like to see the complete collection of photos, please click through to this album on my Facebook page:

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Comlongon Castle, Robyn Stapleton, and an Owl...

Comlongon Castle is an original 15th Century Scottish Keep, with a Baronial hotel attached to it.

Primarily used as a wedding venue (it's the nearest Castle wedding venue to Gretna), the owner, Phill Ptolomy, was telling me he wanted to promote the romantic getaway side of it too, so we started bouncing ideas about.

It should probably be in the Great Hall, which has a huge stone fireplace. Perhaps if we had a woman in a red dress - Scottish looking - red hair, pale skin etc - standing in front. Oh, and candles - there are these large candle stands available. We could probably have a sword in the background too - the place is full of suits of armour. What about an owl? An owl? Yes, the Cumberland Bird of Prey Centre have a trained owl that can swoop down the aisle and deliver the rings to the best man. Wow, OK, let's get an owl then. Who can we find to be our model? I know the perfect person - I've photographed her before...

And so last month I found myself in a castle photographing singer Robyn Stapleton wearing a red satin dress with an owl on her arm in front of a large stone fireplace.

When I did the shoot for Morag Macpherson Textiles a couple of months back (see Photo Shoot at the Rural Mural) I worked with Ralph from Basement 20 Hair Salon in Dumfries. He and his team did an amazing job, and we got on really well, so he was my first port of call for this shoot. We also managed to secure the services of the wonderful Jade Jamieson as our make up artist.

With such a great combination of location and people I wanted it recorded, so I dragged out my friend, the poet David Mark Williams with me, thrust my other camera in his hand, and asked him if he could video it for me.

I was delighted with some of the footage he managed to capture, and then it occurred to me it would look pretty cool if I had an aerial drone shot of the outside of the castle as an intro and a possibly title sequence to bookend the video. I knew just the man to ask - Andy Jardine of Digital Services Pro, who I knew had created exactly that kind of shot before. When I asked him he said he'd recently bought a new drone which was a much better, and he insisted on shooting some fresh footage for me to use.

All I needed was a soundtrack, and Robyn was happy for me to use "The Lads That Were Reared Amang Heather" - the last song on her debut album, Fickle Fortune.

I hope you enjoy this wee behind-the-scenes video - I think it gives a good flavour of what it was like at the photo shoot.