The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Steel Hares and Swarms of Midges

"I had someone turn up early at the preview evening wanting to buy one of the hares before anyone else could, based purely on your photo in the brochure!"

Geoff Forrest is a willow weaver in transition. Over the past year or two he's been doing less with willow and more with steel.

To someone like me it seems like a massive leap from one medium to another, but according to Geoff, many of the principles are exactly the same, even if the implementation of the techniques are different.

I've been doing bits and pieces of product photography for Geoff on and off over the past few years – initially in a studio environment, and then in galleries where he was exhibiting. A couple of years back we even had a go at doing outdoor shots down on the beach (see Baskets on the Beach).

I visited Geoff at last year's regional open studios event, Spring Fling, and saw these amazing hares he had constructed out of steel rods, sitting a little over a metre in height. Almost immediately I told him they needed to be photographed on a hill or in a field with the sun setting behind them. However, given the unpredictability of the Scottish weather, it seemed highly unlikely we'd ever manage to achieve it.

But towards the end of June we were having an unprecedented length of warm, dry, sunny days, with long, glorious evenings, and the weather forecast was predicting it would stay this way for a while to come.

I phoned Geoff and asked if he would like to have a go at the sunset shots we had talked about, up where he lived at Loch Doon – about an hour's drive from where I live, deep into the Galloway Hills.

So a few days later, one beautiful summer evening, I drove out to see him with my camera gear in the back of the car, the windows down and music blasting, thoroughly enjoying driving along the empty winding roads, over hills and through valleys.

As soon as I arrived I realised we couldn't do the shoot at his house as it was already under the shadow of the hill behind him, so after a cup of tea and a chat, we drove a couple of miles up the side of the loch to a place where the sun was still above the hills.

He could only fit the hares into his small van one at a time, so I photographed one while he collected a second. This all took longer than planned and I only managed to get the shots with the sun literally on the horizon, with only a few minutes to spare before it disappeared completely.

At this point, we were about 150m from an area of land which jutted out into the loch, and I realised if we could get down to the water's edge, then from that angle we ought to get the afterglow of the sunset reflecting in the loch itself.

We took one of the sculptures down and sure enough the setting was incredible.

However, mother nature has a cruel, twisted sense of humour, as the dense swarms of midges were horrific.

I had already coated myself in citronella, which did seem to stop them biting, but it didn't prevent them coating me the moment I stopped moving. Each time I crouched down to line up a shot, I was covered in the creatures, crawling all over me, including in my ears and up my nose.

I would love to have spent more time, and brought the second hare down to the water's edge as well, but neither Geoff nor I could take another moment of it and we had to leg it back to the vehicles.

Geoff used the first of the photos in this year's Spring Fling brochure and told me he had quite a few visitors who had seen the image and made sure he was on their list of artists to visit because of it. Which I have to say felt rather satisfying.

However, next time I want to do a sunset shot at the side of a loch in Scotland, I'll be sure to do it in the middle of winter...


neena maiya (guyana gyal) said...

Brilliant work, Kim. As usual!

When I worked in tv, there were a couple of camera-men who would try anything to get the shots just right. You remind me of them the way you persevere. Even with the midges. They sound perfectly horrid.

Next time, try covering up like the bee-people :-D

Kim Ayres said...

Neena - I would love to have had a complete mosquito-net covering, but it honestly never occurred to me until it was too late!

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