The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

The Wickerman Festival 2013

This year’s Wickerman Festival was slightly more eventful for me. It began with my band, Scruffy Buzzards, playing in the Main Acoustic Tent early on the Friday afternoon.

Actually, strictly speaking, it began when I dropped Rogan off late on Thursday afternoon (it's only 12 miles from here). As a performer, I was allowed a full weekend ticket for a guest. Camping equipment at the ready, a bunch of friends already there waiting for him, and his Mohawk fully primed (now 7 inches high), my son wasn’t about to let me hand it over to anyone else.

Rogan: Mohawk at the ready

I met up with him twice. The first was at the Scruffy Buzzards performance - he brought a few of his mates along and took some photos with my camera. The second was in front of the "hog roast" stall, which he visited so many times (he thinks it might be double figures), it reached a point where they greeted him with the phrase, "the usual, sir?"

Scruffy Buzzards playing in the Acoustic Tent; photo by Rogan

Apart from seeing a few other bands and musicians, I spent most of my time wandering through the crowds with my camera, attempting to improve my "street photography".

Photographing people as an observer, rather than directly interacting with them, as I do with portraiture, is an entirely different skill. It’s easy enough to shoot off a few snaps, but creating really captivating images is far harder. The "so what?" or "who cares?" factor is extraordinarily difficult to overcome. However, when done well, the photos can be outstanding.

Two of my favourite current photographers who have this skill honed to a fine art are Tatsuo Suzuki and Ricky Siegers (click on their names for examples of their work). They are light-years ahead of anything I can produce, but we can only improve if we practice, so most of my Wickerman Festival was spent practicing. I feel a bit like a kid learning the scale of C-major after having listened to Rachmaninov...

No matter which way you point your camera, there's probably something more interesting going on behind you...

Have a cigar

On Saturday evening, I bumped into Trevor Leat, one of the builders of the Wickerman (see previous posts), and he invited me to be up with him on the mound, as it was lit at midnight (the highlight of the festival). The 20,000 visitors to the festival are not allowed within about 60m of the willow sculpture, while the press and media photographers have an area only 5m further forward than the rest of the crowd. But I was right up there next to it. I’ve done this with him twice before and it is... awesome – I really can’t think of a different word.

This year, headlining act, Amy MacDonald, joined Trevor and Alex to set fire to their 40 foot high Minotaur. The design included using a different colour willow to give him a white stripe around the middle in honour of the local breed of cows, known as Galloway Belties, which have that distinct pattern.

Galloway Beltie Minotaur Wickerman

Amy MacDonald and Trevor setting it alight

We then retired to a distance of about 20 meters to enjoy the spectacle and the accompanying firework display.

Best seat in the house.

Burning Wickerman with firework display

Sunday morning I headed back out to pick up a rather dishevelled and sunburned Rogan

Dishevelled and very sunburned - you can see where he was wearing his sunglasses...

For a complete set of my Wickerman photos, please visit the albums on my Facebook page. You don’t have to be a member of Facebook to view them.




Anonymous said...

I like the spontaneity of the "street photography" here. I guess it's like my cafe' drawings.
I'm curious about something. Now that I'm a seasoned observer (from very afar) of the Wickerman Festival, is there a reason for the choice of design from one year to another?
Love Rogan's before and after photo's!

Kateri Von Steal said...

That was a very LARGE minotaur....

I love this!

hope said...

Even if I live it vicariously through you two, I always enjoy this!

Attila the Mom said...

Even with the hair, he's a mighty handsome guy! LOL

Guyana-Gyal said...

Haha, I too like the before and after of Rogan's hair.

Oooh, I know this feeling, 'I feel a bit like a kid learning the scale of C-major after having listened to Rachmaninov...'

I think black & white photos do tend to look more dramatic, but yes, you're right, those two are good.

treebeard said...


Kim Ayres said...

Allen - I think sometimes the festival organisers say they want a particular theme - last year, for example, the figure as holding an olympic torch - but I think the creators come up with most of the ideas themselves.

Kateri - something like 40 feet high. It's very impressive up close :)

Hope - perhaps one day you'll make it over here to Scotland. If so, time it for the end of July and you can come to the Wickerman festival :)

Attila - I blame the parents ;)

Guyana-Gyal - Tatsuo and Ricky are really outstanding. Gives me something to aim for :)

Treebeard - thank you :)

Pat said...

That Wicker man gives me the shivers. I must be quite a weird ceremony.

Kim Ayres said...

Pat - there's nothing too weird about the festival - a giant willow sculpture is made and then at midnight on the Saturday, it's set fire to. It's quite spectacular, but there are no dodgy rituals or ceremonies involved :)

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