Category Archives: Photography

Master of Photography – Sky Arts

If you’re not familiar the show, or the format I urge you to go on catch up tv services and watch this now before reading on. I liken it to many other similar formulaic shows, not quite Big Brother, but think Next Top Model or X Factor even. Basically a group of photographers from across Europe apply to take part in a TV show where each week a person with the subjectively weakest set of shots gets eliminated from the challenge. In fact is very much like X-factor except that there are no ‘joke’ entries for the audience to laugh at. Everyone selected has good skills whether technical or creative or both. There is a variety of backgrounds to the contestants with series 2 including a young woman I think just 18 as well as a war photographer and a professional who’d previously photographed Paul McCartney.

Each week the contestants are set a different challenge and then ‘mentored’ by a professional photographer whilst editing their final shots. This series featured Martin Parr and Steve McCurry to name but a few, and of course there are ‘celebrity’ judges this year in as well as the returning sharp tongued Oliviero Toscani there was also Darcy Padilla and Guardian picture editor Caroline Hunter.

I really enjoyed the first series, whilst I know a lot of people can find these cheesy, I find seeing how a set of different people approach the same task really interesting, and often find myself thinking what would I do in that situation? (Answer: mostly, it’s a blank… hence why I wouldn’t stand a chance in one of these competitions). A lot of this is not just about skill, but about creativity and imagination under pressure. And the situations to me aren’t all that realistic, for example I can’t imagine that any publication would go to the trouble of paying a photographer to travel all the way to another country but then only give them 2-3 hours, in the middle of the day, with a limited boundary to ‘capture the city’. However other challenges such as meeting a celebrity having 20 minutes to create a rapport and shoot, isn’t that too far out there ~ and for someone like me, utterly terrifying – not the celebrity part, just meeting a stranger and being expected to build a rapport immediately – for this particular challenge I found the actor Clive Owen very down to earth, but obviously uncomfortable with some of the photographers, he was clearly great at being directed – and part of being a good portrait photographer is being a good director also. I found a lot of the challenges in this series were of this nature [short lead in time to build trust], and some of the phrases I heard over and over, ‘not close enough’  ‘too removed’ ‘too impersonal’. It definitely felt that the judges encouraged a fairly aggressive nature to ‘get the shot’ and that just doesn’t sit well with a lot of people, and I refuse to believe that’s the only way to get anything worthy.

So aside from the opportunity for some once in a life time mentoring and the kit room. Have I not mentioned the kit room yet? Basically the photographers have their pick of equipment, across the range of top brands, leicas are always popular… which whilst it seems like the things dreams are made of, wouldn’t you opt to go with the system you know best? It would be different if you were given the time to learn the equipment but given the nature of some of these challenges I personally would go with the camers I could use blindfolded. So yes, as well as these perks each challenge is set in a different European country and this series the challenges were:

Travel (Sicily)

Rush hour (Hambug)

Celebrity feature (Rome, with Clive Owen as the celeb)

Erotica (also in some country house in Europe)

Paralympic atheletes

Street Fashion (London during Fashion Week)

Home Sweet Home (home towns, inner selves aka the Self-portrait episode)

Human landscape – European people and their diverse environments – or as the tv show put it, marginalised people, including travellers in Dublin, Sami people in Finland and Macedonian farmers.

Unfortunatley the Sky Arts website isn’t forthcoming with lots of info about the series or photographers, hopefully it will give more information in future or maybe its due to the scandal* surrounding one of the finalists? I found the series equal measures inspiring (thinking about attemping my own versions of the challenges) to intimidating (I could  never do that etc. etc. self doubt ad infinitum)

.*mild drama

If you’ve seen the series I’m keen to hear your thoughts – favourite photograph/photographer? Do you love/hate the series?

 

 

Blog Challenge: Setting Yourself Up For Success

Day 5 of the challenge looks something like this: Create a daily success plan for yourself that takes only 15-20 minutes and schedule a time in the day where you can squeeze it in. Write a blog post about what you will do, when you will do it, and how it will get you closer to your dreams.

However upon reading several other entries it seems that we are supposed to deploy the pomodoro technique which I am familiar with, and involves working in 25 minute spurts,but this snippet of information passed over my head. So I’m going to try and plan Saturday to be productive – with 3 most important actions which are:

  1. Work on my website (get the pages added, and some content)
  2. Cut out the final layer stencil for my screen print
  3. Get some reading done (2-3 chapters)

I have existing appointments Saturday morning, so I usually get home around 11:15am, where I will crack on with making some brunch and my favourite coffee.

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Mondrian Cake, San Francisco MOMA

12pm work on my website – based on previous experience, I’m going to allocate 3 hours to this activity, so that’s 6 pomodoros (counting the 5 minute breaks inbetween)

3pm go for a walk/run provided its not raining

4:30pm stencil cutting – fun job but one I’ve been postponing for a few weeks

5pm make dinner

7pm reading 2-3 chapters, this one may not seem important to most, but I feel I’ve let my reading slip a lot over the last 6 weeks. Including books that are important to/inform/influence my artistic practice

I guess I’ll add a mini update Saturday night on whether this worked for me or not

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 5

 

Blog Challenge: Unlocking Your Superpowers

Day 4 (although I think I’m technically a day behind on this, the challenge is to post what your super powers are and why you think that. There was also a suggestion of straw polling friends and family to see what they thought. There were some variations, such as being highly organised and capable, technically proficient… to my husband’s response of ‘photography, crochet, blogging, all the stuff you do’ nice that he has so much faith in me, even when I don’t!

In fact I’d previously mentioned in an earlier response to this challenge, that if I could only apply the same level of organisation to my outside work activities as I do in my day job, I’d probably get a lot more done.

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Karlstejn Castle

So I’d list my superpowers as: Photography, when I put my mind as well as my soul into it, creativity, a good eye, and passion will take you far, but knowing your equipment, location, light etc and planning for the unexpected will take you so much further. Some of my favourite and most (critically) successful photos have been where I’ve scouted locations in advance, and had a good idea in my minds eye of what I want to end up with. This superpower of course goes hand in hand with my organisational skills – I am the travel planner in our house, I research everything, sometimes probably to the point of obsession. My day job involves coordinating the diaries of multiple very busy people (no mean feat), I just need the nous to apply it in all areas of my life. Also when I want to learn something technical, because it benefits me, I can handle it, sometimes I can even teach it to others!

So that was my super powers.

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 4

Oxford Instameet

A couple of weeks ago I headed out on an Oxford Instameet organised by the wonderful folk at Independent Oxford and Natasha from Candy Pop, billed as the chance to meet with other local creatives, I was curious as to how it may differ from other photo-walk type events I’d been to in the past.

We met in the café of Modern Art Oxford, somewhere I’d been meaning to visit for ages as their twitter and instagram feed is full of delicious looking food – I opted for the coffee cake and was not disappointed! The most obvious difference for me was that the ratio of female to male had swapped considerably as I’m usually one of the few women (if not the only one) on other photography based meet ups. Also most people there (if not all) were in some way, whether full time or along the day job, trying to make a living/business out of their creative endeavours – some rather successfully. The ladies were all brightly dressed and ready to jump, jump, jump for photo ops in front of many of Oxford’s colourful houses and doorways, you know you’re making a splash when the tourist groups stop to photograph you, instead of a historic landmark!

It was also really inspiring talking to everyone and finding out what they were up to, and I guess my biggest take home lesson, was that success doesn’t happen overnight and that’s ok. Now I know that may sound obvious, but in today’s super social-networking universe it seems that people go from bogging zero to dragon’s den hero in a couple of years. It can leave you (ok, me mostly) feeling a bit of a failure when a business doesn’t go anywhere for the first few years. I was quite happy to throw in the towel a few months before moving to Oxford and give it a rest for while….

But after speaking to one of the ladies who’d spent 8 years building up her online business to the point of taking it on full time, living the dream, quitting the day job, I’ve felt a renewed energy.  So almost two years after moving here I’ve started working on my website properly, and looking to get back in the print studio (something I was going to do over a year ago!), basically sorting my sh*t out.

Overall it was a really fun day, with fab people and I can’t wait for the next one – if you fancy coming on the next Oxford Instameet check out the Facebook event page

 

 

Bout of Books round up

Aka, days 5-7..

So I didn’t do all that badly, I don’t think. I definitely made good progress particularly in finishing a couple of lurkers on my currently reading list.

Saturday I finished off The Stranger by Albert Camus, made all the more easier once I realised I had a physical copy to read lurking on a dark shelf, as the e-book version was just not very e-book friendly. Next up was a photography book that had a couple of essays in it – oh and a great quote from Henri Cartier-Bresson:

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Sunday I got less reading done, as I had signed up to run the Oxford Town and Gown 10K Sunday morning (1hr 15m if you were wondering). Afterwards though in a very hot bath, i finished A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy. The last few chapters were interesting enough giving me more ideas on what to read, but the thing that really bugged me about it was that for the first 30% of so of the book, the author kept heavily suggesting you read several other texts, which to me, misses the point of this series… but anyway, done with.

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I now have the rather ominous task of writing a piece of criticism on a literary text for my evening class, that is due in about 10 days, which wouldn’t be half as ominous if I wasn’t away visiting family the entire weekend. Wish me luck!

More on That Iceland…

Shameless plug klaxon!

One of the photographs I’m exhibiting as part of Oxford Artweeks’ in May is this image of Lómagnúpur. It’s definitely one of my personal favourites as it shows the rich colours of the Icelandic landscape, draped in black, green and gold.

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An additional opportunity to exhibit at Oxford Town Hall is through a competition being run by the Poseytude Gallery entitled ‘Change The World’ which asks for works that reflects changes in the world today:

We live in a changing and ever more challenging world. Our environment and resources are being depleted and nature with the elements of air, wind, fire and water is testing us. Our countryside is being reduced due to meet rising population and seaside being eroded due to rising sea levels and changing weather patterns….What would you want to remind people of the beauty of our planet? Tell us through your art medium and briefly in your words how we can use or be inspired by it to make a change.

The top 8 artworks in each category through voting on social media will be exhibited, with judges decided the top three and there are prizes for those but honestly, just the thought of exhibiting in such an amazing venue would be prize enough. So I’m asking my lovely followers to consider voting for my photo (and you can re-vote every 24 hours!), I’m currently in 12th position, overall but no idea how I’m doing in my category, voting ends on the 24th April.

We also had to provide a blurb to go with our artwork (see below). I decided to submit one of my Icelandic landscapes partly because I’ve been following with interest the ongoing  subject of the Icelandic Highlands. If you’re a fan of Iceland or Bjork you can’t fail to have missed the events to promote awareness of the potential destruction of some of Iceland’s unspoilt nature in favour of power plants, there is now a campaign to turn the highlands into a national park.

Lómagnúpur
Iceland is famous for its outstanding natural beauty which attracts hundreds of thousands visitors each year. However this doesn’t stop the threat of destruction to nature, in particular the Icelandic highlands which have limited protection, the government has plans to build power plants and erect power lines, potentially destroying large areas of nature. Here is Lómagnúpur, part of a protected national heritage site in Iceland, an example of the nature that could be destroyed.
So if you feel like giving my photo a vote the link is here* and if you want to find out more about the Icelandic Highlands click here and sign the petition   here !**
*although the competition takes you to facebook, you don’t need facebook to enter, just a valid email address
** Google chrome recommended for translating stuff

Decision time

I’ve been busy this week trying to select between 4-6 images to get printed for Oxford Artweeks in May. I’m exhibiting with a group of 9 other photographers who know each other through the Oxford Flickr Group (anyone remember when Flickr group meets used to attract upwards of thirty photographers of a wide range of knowledge and skill?) and we’re privileged to be exhibiting in the Mathematical Institute aka the Andrew Wiles Building, part of the University of Oxford.

One of the main challenges for everyone involved is that the hanging space is fixed to a size of A0 in a portrait dimension. This means that we either have to: present portrait images in a large scale format, present multiple landscape images within the the same frame, still at a fairly large scale or become creative with our presentation methods and present multiple images of varying sizes within the frame.

 

Lómagnúpur

So far I haven’t moved much past the point of selecting images, and I need to get a move on because my regular, tried and tested printing company currently have an offer on large scale prints which means I can do some test images without breaking the bank too much.

I’ve included a couple here for perusal, in case you hadn’t guessed I’m choosing to display some images from my road trip in Iceland that I blogged about many months ago.



On the road

I’ve been asked many a time why Iceland? I’m not sure I know myself yet. What I do know is that I’ve met physically and in the realm of the internet many people who become self confessed ‘Icelandophiles’ falling instantly in love with the island, it’s culture, landscape, people and particularly the music. For me it was definitely more of a slow burner, I’ve always been much more of a city gal. Prior to visiting Iceland some of my favourite places were New York, Prague, Paris. Cities full of people, places full of bustle, sensory overload where I could find my inner calm and joy at the same time.
But then until this last visit, I’d not experienced the same ‘small fish in huge pond’ sensation that excites me being in a city, in a barren and empty landscape before. Because that’s how it is to me, I’m still the outsider, sitting there quietly observing, even is that something is not ‘doing’ very much.

Now I feel its time for bed, to sleep and think some more about this.

Adios.