The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

2021 in Photographs

Every January, I put up a post of my favourite photos from the past 12 months. I usually put up a small handful of behind-the-scenes videos too, but because of the way things have gone since the arrival of Covid, I didn't have any shoots this past year where I was able to create one.

Like last year, the majority of my photographic experiences have been expressed through the weekly, live video podcasts, Understanding Photography with Kim Ayres, which began shortly after Covid 19 hit our shores and Lockdown was initiated. However, I have still been pushing my boundaries and stretching both my photography and editing skills whenever I can.

There's a varied selection, so hopefully something for everyone.

I'm always interested in feedback, so if you'd care to leave a comment about which one(s) are your favourite, or any personal observations, it would be warmly appreciated.

If you're curious as to how my photography has progressed across the last dozen or so years, then you can find earlier years' selections here: 2020, Decade Review, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

Amanda Simmons - Glass Artist

Glass artist, Amanda Simmons, was one of the very first people to commission me for portraits when I set myself up as a professional phtographer a dozen years ago, so I was delighted when she contacted me at the beginning of 2021 to do some more photography for her. During this time, not only has she grown as an artist, she wanted photos that had a different sense of how she sees herself. These images were to give the viewer not just a sense of space, but also the aloneness, even isolation in her workshop.

Amanda also wanted a shot of her tattoo, which she got in the year before Lockdown. I used my favourite large softbox with a grid, which gives such beautiful almost creamy shadows, but also isolated her from a fairly busy background of shelves full of tools and materials.

Still Life

Following several suggestions to my podcast for more information about Still Life photography - something that most people could attempt while still in Lockdown or social isolation conditions - I decided to do a podcast about traditional still life painting through history, and how to reproduce it with photography. The key thing here being that if you use the lighting and compositional techniques, as well as the colour palette, of the old masters, your photograph will look remarkably painterly.

Once you've got the hang of the techniques, it's much easier to put modern twists and styling into this genre of photography too.

Although I knew the theory behind all this, by actually creating the images for the podcast audience, I learned a huge amount in the process. 

If you'd like to see the podcast where I go into detail about all this, then follow this link: 

Meg - like a painting

A month or so after the Still Life photos above, a portrait was submitted to the podcasts that several people said looked quite painterly. All the same things I'd talked about still life applies also to portraits - if you use the same tropes, lighting, etc, you can make a portrait look like a painting. So I used my daughter, Meg, to illustrate the point I wanted to make.
For a bit more about this, you can read my blog post here:

Self Portrait and May the Fourth be With You

I had an idea for a lighting set up I wanted to try out, but this was still pre-vaccines and so I was extremely limited in the amount of photography I could do involving anyone else. With a Lockdown Beard, and an unironed shirt, I thought a character shot was the way to go. Although real whiskey was tempting, it's actually week tea in the tumbler. I shot against a black backcloth and added the brickwork in once I started editing.

A month or so later, for the podcast I was talking about the use of the colour red, and the effect it has in composition. I set a "Red Challenge" for the viewers and because it tied in with "Star Wars Day" (May the fourth), I decided to create a lightsabre effect coming from the whiskey glass. 
If you'd like to see how I did it, you can view the podcast episode here:

Meg - with attitude

A couple of fairly prestigious portrait photo competitions were coming up - ones I've never done particularly well in - and I wanted to try something different. Still living in social isolation conditions, Meg once again was my only option. However, with the exception of the painterly photo you saw earlier, most of the photos I have of Meg are where she is wearing her glasses, and smiling. 

This time I wanted her in modern clothing, staring uncompromisingly into the camera. What I ended up with caught me by surprise. I saw Meg in a way I hadn't before. She was the faerie child from 20 years ago, but now grown up.

If you would like to read more about the taking of these photos, then click on this link to the blog post:

Macro Lens

At the end of 2020, I finally bought myself a macro lens - something I'd been thinking about for years, but had found it difficult to justify the expense when my photography business is built around portraiture. 

However, with Covid and Lockdowns, and finding much of my photography was limited to stuff around the house or in the garden, it suddenly felt like quite a useful lens to have and to explore with. It also meant there was more I could share with the podcast viewers.

I had to wait until Spring before I could get the close up dandelion seeds I'd been thinking about for some time.

I'd also always fancied trying to get a bee on a flower. It has to be said that even with a good macro lens it's still extraordinarily difficult because the wee buggers keep moving. After many many attempts, when I did finally get the shot I was after, I discovered this particular bee was soaking wet. I have no idea how or why, but at least it was still able to fly.

Alexis Fleming and the Animal Hospice

I got a panicked call from the commissioning editor of Dumfries and Galloway Life magazine saying the photographer she had lined up for a shoot with Alexis Fleming, had to drop out at the last minute - would I mind stepping in?

Alexis runs an animal hospice for abandoned terminally ill and neglected pets and farm animals. At this point she had over 160 goats, pigs, dogs, chickens etc with more turning up all the time. Her commitment and dedication is phenomenal.

Fortunately it was a bright, clear day, so I was able to shoot without worrying about extra lighting, and this freed me up. This particular photo was my favourite of the bunch, where the lines and composition all seemed to fall into place.

She has a book called "No Life Too Small" which you can find out more about on her website:

Sarah Stewart - Print Maker

Sarah Stewart is a printmaker with a love for creating images based on old designs - from images of typewriters to toy cars to the lids of old tins of drawing pins. She also has a wonderful old press dating back many decades. She wanted photos of her at work in different stages - from mixing paints to screen printing.

For a fun final shot of the day we bounced ideas back and forth before she put on a colourful dress, a pair of heels, and covered her arms in ink with a roller.

If you'd like to find out more about Sarah and her work, then visit her website here: 

Nith Inshore Rescue

Some of you might remember a couple of years back I did a project for the Solway Firth Partnership called "Fishing Faces" (see - One of a dozen different photo shoots was with Nith Inshore Rescue. 

Earlier in the year they contacted me to see if I could do some updated action photos for them as they had new engines and sponsorship logo they needed shown in their promotional imagery, as well as needing a few more recent images for their website. Once again the highlight for me was being taken out on the water at high speed in their RIB. 

This time, the evening light made for a more interesting sky and I was really pleased with some of the images I managed to create for them.

If you'd like to find out more about Nith Inshore Rescue, then visit their website here:

Geoff Forrest - Steel Sculptures

When I first met Geoff Forrest, he worked in willow, but over the past few years he's transitioned to creating sculptures in steel. Back in the summer, he had an exhibition of several pieces at the Caerlaverock Wetland Centre and asked me to photograph them in situation. This turned out to be much trickier than I originally anticipated, primarily because his sculptures are three-dimensional outlines so you can see the background through them. Now while people with normal vision can easily separate them out, the camera operates in 2 dimensions and it wasn't so easy to make out their forms in photographs.

A few members of the Wetlands Trust helped to move the geese sculptures up onto a ridge, so I could photograph them against a textured evening sky. Although not one of the final promotional images, I love the shot above where you can see the people silhouetted as they move the 3rd sculpture into place. It gives a real sense of the scale of them.

On a separate day, in different weather conditions, I went back to photograph some of the other sculptures, and the Dragonfly proved to be particularly difficult, as so much of the grass had grown up through it. However, once again, trusty assistants helped to move it to a place where I was able to get under the sculpture and shoot it against the sky. This was my favourite of the whole set I did for Geoff.

If you'd like to watch the podcast where I talk about this shoot, click on this link:

Maggie's Birthday

On Maggie's birthday, she said she'd quite like a photo that showed her as an artist with a bit of confidence and attitude. Using a wide-angle lens, and tilting the camera means every straight line in the photo is a diagonal - which, if you've ever watched my podcasts, you'll know adds energy and removes any calming effect. I did both colour and black and white versions of this. Maggie preferred the colour, and I preferred the black and white.

To see more of Maggie's art, check out her website here:

The Kippford Mermaid

The Kippford Mermaid was a promotional shoot for "The Arts End of Somewhere" - a group for people with profound and multiple learning difficulties, who had created a book about a local tale of a sailor who falls in love with a mermaid. One of my bigger shoots of the year, it was also the first indoor one after vaccinations and flow tests allowed for it.

As well as the main photo, I did individual shots of the members as either sailors or mermaids, and this one of Zoe, who is a wheelchair user, was my favourite. It was also the hardest one to create, and stretched my Photoshop skills to new levels.

If you'd like to find out more about the photo shoot, the group, and the book, then visit this blog post:

Odin's Chair

When the Galloway Viking Hoard came to the Kirkcudbright Galleries to be displayed, Ian Cameron-Smith was commissioned to create Odin's Chair - a giant (3 times size) Viking throne to be placed just outside the Stewartry Museum, just along the road. Ian also brought in his son (also called Ian), who researched and carved the runes, and Callum King who made giant ravens to perch on the chair (tying in with Huginn and Muninn from Norse mythology).

Dumfries & Galloway Life magazine commissioned me to take some photos of the makers with their creation, but part of the problem was it made everyone standing next to it look tiny (see photo above, where I look distinctly hobbit-like).

My solution was to get in close with a wide-angle lens, which distorted the scale somewhat, and had the effect of making it more dramatic. I was also pleased with the lighting set up I created. While it was a sunny day, the chair was in the shadow of the building next to it, so I needed to be a bit more creative.

If you'd like to know more about the shoot and see other photos from the session, then click through to my blog post here:

Re:Dress - Slow Fashion Show

The photo shoot that stretched me the most this year was, without doubt, the Dumfries Slow Fashion Movement fashion show, Re:Dress.

While full of people with amazing outfits, hair and makeup, I only had a few minutes with each of the ones I photographed as the shoot had to happen on the night of the show.

Lots of advance planning and work, combined with sleepless nights and a really stinking cold (not Covid, but it's still not much fun wearing a mask for several hours when you have a runny nose).

However, in the end I managed to create a set of images that both I and the organisers were really pleased with.

If you'd like to see more of the images and find out more about the photo shoot and the Movement, then click through to this blog post:


I hope you've enjoyed my selection - please leave a comment below with any thoughts or observations, and let me know your favourite!

Wishing each and every one of you a kinder and more compassionate 2022.


Viji said...

Happy new year Kim..I liveevery one of them.. the favourite is Kippford mermaid.

Viji said...

* love every one

Kim Ayres said...

Happy New Year, Viji!
Thanks for letting me know your favourite. The Kippford Mermaid is definitely up in the top few of my favourites too :)

daisyfae said...

As I put my digital toe back in blogwater, I am once again in awe of your work. You capture moods and moments so completely frozen in time. While they all have power, the portraits of Meg (with attitude) really grabbed me. Perhaps because I've watched her grow up through your posts over these past few years... Happy New Year, and here's to better days ahead!

Kim Ayres said...

Daisyfae - many thanks for your kind words about my photography :)
I have some ideas for a series of portraits with Meg. The difficulty is I don't have a studio set up at home, so spontaneous or quick photos aren't really an option - hence my envy of the wonderful room with the huge windows you are currently redecorating :)
Wishing you all the very best for the year ahead!

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