Tag Archives: tv

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?



Wales Comic Con 2012

Bright and early on a Sunday morning I headed to Runcorn to pick up my con buddy,Kirsty to attend Wales Comic Con. After a small hiccup of forgetting her wallet and having to double back with the much needed McDonalds breakfast we eventually got on the road to Wrexham.
Wrexham isn’t all that far, less than 40 minutes on a quiet Sunday morning, and we were soon arriving at Glyndwr University where the convention was held. We quickly spotted which building to head towards due to the enormous queue of people snaking across the campus at 10:20am, at this point we were glad we’d shelled out the extra two quid for an early bird ticket which gave us entry one hour earlier – from 10 until 11am (regular entry tickets being measly £5).

I will admit that my original reason for wanting to go to Wales Comic Con was to see the Impala from Supernatural ( yes my favourite guest would’ve been a car) but it wasn’t ready and withdrew from the con at the 11th hour, However there was still an impressive line up including no less than 8 Game of Thrones cast members, Billy West, Warwick Davies, and a raft of comic book artists to name a few, plus Robert Llewellyn and Chris Barrie from Red Dwarf who provided great and funny photo ops. I will mention here that WCC stand out from other conventions I’ve been to as firstly they took 3 shots and let you choose which one gets printed, which was awesome! Secondly they also gave you the opportunity for poses which again I’ve not experienced before,  only had the joys of being barked at with ‘no touching, no poses next!’ in the space of 10 seconds – to be greeted by the guest with a handshake and smile was refreshing and ended up with photos that make me chuckle every time I see them.

Photo with Robert Llewellyn

Another advantage to the early bird ticket was just having that quieter time to work out where everything was, being able to move around easier and more time to chat to the guests at the autograph tables, my compadre doing some of that with Finn Jones and Gethin Anthony from Game of Thrones who were sharing a table and both very lovely.
We kick started the day with the Q&A for Billy West, he of Futurama fame for what was easily the highlight of my day. We got an amazing whistle stop tour of his voices from Ren & Stimpy through to Dr Zoidberg, Fry and Professor Farnsworth along with insights on the inspiration for various characters “the voice of Fry was me when I was about 23, I had this whiny voice”. When asked about Seth McFarlane “I remember when he came to town, this geeky kid from Rhode Island, now he looks like he should be in them [TV shows]”.

Billy West being Dr Zoidberg at Wales Comic Con 2012 © Karen Morecroft

We managed to get all the photo ops we wanted between us done and dusted by 1pm so headed to the pub for lunch, good job really as the onsite burger van had a queue to rival the one for entry. The Plas Coch pub is literally 2 minutes around the corner, and does 2 for 1 on all main meals, we both had fish & chips variations but the Sunday roasts looked good too.

Then it was back for more madness in the main hall where I managed to pick up something from the comic book guys for my brother as a surprise, they were selling comics from free comic book day for £3 – with that going to the make a wish foundation and all three guys signed them too, can’t say fairer than that! there were also just loads of great art work from various Star Wars and Transformers as well as the opportunity to have a custom drawing done. And lest not forget the Swansea Comics Collective who started a Wallcomic where anyone can come and draw a page of a giant comic story, I drew a rather fetching man running away from a meteor, Kirsty drew a shark, she’s obsessed with them or something.

We then decided to go get in line for the Red Dwarf Q&A, because as seasoned con goers we do love a good queue, almost as much as I love a brew. But we were too late, the hall being used that I estimated held over 200 people was full to burst, so we joined the already formed queue for the Game of Thrones panel being held an hour later (you can read more about that here) before one final burst around the stalls, amazingly picking up our photo ops before the end of the event. Now to many this maybe standard, but I’ve recently received convention photo ops from May!, yes 3 months later, so to have some apologise for the delay when it really wasn’t, was yet another  pleasant surprise!

Kirsty hugging a dragon at Plas Coch © Karen Morecroft

All in all an amazing day that well exceeded expectations, even the traffic jam on the M56 that turned our 40 minutes journey into 2 plus hours couldn’t dampen my spirits, looking forward to next years event already.

Nothing to declare

Ok so tonights blog post has been the most difficult so far, in that I’ve struggled all evening to come up with anything to write about, but I guess the fact that I am posting means that the post-a-day challenge is working in so far as getting me writing. That and the fact that the TiVo box decided to reset itself half way through an episode of Law & Order LA.
So tonight being Friday (well it’s now technically Saturday) means a new episode of my favourite tv show Supernatural – which as it’s shown at around 2am GMT means waking to loads of spoilers via the various social networks. This also means trying to catch up myself before Asylum 7 (a Supernatural convention) in 2 weeks, as there will inevitably be lots of chatter and questions between attendees and towards the guests.

If I wasn’t so tired I could probably write about this a lot more, but I’m knackered , so some other time perhaps