Being a Wedding Guest

Posted on May 27, 2016 by Admin under Photography, Wedding
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Camera battery charging

So here I am with the regular wedding weekend routine of charging batteries, formatting memory cards and checking cameras. However this time it isn’t for a wedding or even a portrait shoot. This weekend I am celebrating 100 years of Cub Scouting. West Yorkshire Scouts are having a weekend camp to celebrate this milestone. Several hundred Cub Scouts from West Yorkshire will be camping and doing all kinds of fun and exciting activities. They will also be sharing their weekend with other counties across the north east of England. So this weekend instead of trying to organise tipsy bridesmaids, and panicky brides, I will hopefully be photographing loads of happy smiling Cubs.


But a couple of weeks ago I actually went to a wedding. Now that you might think is not all thatWedding, Bride & Groom in confetti storm unusual, but I went to this one as a guest, and that is unusual. It appears that once you get past a certain age wedding invites start to disappear, everyone you know who might get married already has done, and many family members are just too young to have got to the wedding stage yet. So hopefully I might start getting invited to a few more in about 20 years time.

Now this one was held in a lovely barn in Northumberland, and so also involved a family weekend away. Now I really enjoyed the wedding, but it was strange, actually being there without a couple of large bags of gear, and also not really having anything to do. It was also an opportunity to watch another photographer at work. So I came back with lots of ideas for doing things differently.

What more could you want, good company, good food, a lovely location, great weather, and this amazing view from the hotel window on Sunday morning. All this, and no urgency because there a not several hundred photos waiting to be edited.


My First Camera

Posted on March 15, 2016 by Admin under Photography
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I spent last night with my local Explorer Scout unit, as they were doing an evening about photography, and I was there to talk about the technical stuff, cameras, composition and the like, whilst one of their leaders did light painting and the “fun” bits. Among the questions I was asked was, when did you first get a camera, and that set me thinking. I suppose the honest answer is I am not sure, I was probably around eight or nine, and it was a christmas present. In fact it may have been my main Christmas present. The one ting that I do know however is that it was a Kodak Instamatic. This was a simple point and shoot camera that took “126” film cartridges, open the back, drop in the cartridge, close the back and away you went.


Kodak Instamatic 33

This was a camera with controls though, you could set it for “Sunny” or “Cloudy / Flash”, and this camera lasted a number of years, shooting day trips, holidays and family events.

But my first “proper” camera was a Zenit E, a slab of russian metal, that by todays standards would require the user to attend a manual handling and lifting course before being allowed to use, rumour had it that they were built in a tank factory, and were probably about as solid. This camera and several lenses went all over with me, I developed a passion for photographing churches, and stained glass, and trips out always had to include a church. If only I knew what happened to all of the photos.

Russian Camera

Zenit E Camera and 42mm lens

By this time I was also shooting quite a lot of black and white film, as I was also doing photography at school, my woodwork teacher thought that was safer than letting me use a chisel. And then finally for my 18th Birthday I got all modern and had a single lens reflex camera with electronic control, a reasonable light meter, and one that didn’t need a weightlifter to move, a Ricoh KR-10.

Ricoh KR-10 Camera

Ricoh KR-10 Camera

And this I explained to the Explorers was the start of my decent into poverty, as it seems that buying cameras is the slippery slope to destitution.

Lister Lion, or Photographing Statues

Posted on March 7, 2016 by Admin under Photography
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Having visited Shibden Hall in Halifax recently, I photographed one of the Lister Lions, this one guards the driveway to the hall and holds the family coat of arms in its paws. The other forms a finial at the bottom of the main staircase in the house.


Stone lion taken straight from the camera

The Lion carving as shot










Straight from the camera the photo is a little disappointing,  possibly in part due to the flat light, but also as can be seen above the amount of moss on the lion makes it look rather unappealing. But it’s appearance can be improved in Lightroom simply by desaturating the image, and taking out some of the green, making the image not quite a straight black and white photograph, but leaving just a hint of colour, does help.


The Lion carving desaturated










Taking this further, and making them image black and white, whilst boosting the contrast slightly gives us an improved, but still less than thrilling image.









So our final image goes back a step to the desaturated image, which is then cropped to concentrate on one feature of the lion, it’s head. Adding  grain to our image gives us a more pleasing interpretation of the lion than just a straight record shot. Then a final sharpen and boost to the contrast and clarity leaves us with our final image.









This basic technique should work with most photos of older statues, and also may be useful with images of graves and similar carvings.

To HDR or not to HDR

Posted on February 28, 2016 by Admin under Photography
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For anyone who is wondering HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, a camera can only record a limited range of tones, unlike the eye which records a much wider range of tones, colours and can cope with a wider range of brightness. In order to try and represent a similar range of colour tones it is possible to employ a technique called high dynamic range. Several photos are taken so that each is exposed for a certain range of brightness, and these are then combined using special software so as to give an image which shows a wider range of tones.


normal photo of undercroft at Fountains Abbey

exposed as camera meter


HDR image of the undercroft at Fountains Abbey

HDR Image


The HDR image is made up from three separate exposures from the camera, along with a further three virtual exposures created in the software. These are then combined to give an image which shows more detail in the shadow areas, and shows an image which is nearer to how the viewer would actually see it, if they were there.

The drawback however with HDR is that it is often overdone, making the final image look very artificial, although on occasions it can be used artistically.


B&W image of the undercroft at Fountains Abbey

Black & White HDR Image

This black and white version of the HDR image is much more dramatic, and is a more interpretive image of the scene.

So to come back to the original question, to HDR or not to HDR, I guess the answer is yes, but in moderation, there are some scenes which benefit from the technique, but it’s tricky with people, as it requires several photos, at different settings, and unfortunately people have a bad habit of moving, which makes merging the images really tricky.

Snapchat & Selfie “duck” faces

Posted on February 21, 2016 by Admin under Photography

For those of you in the know the 22nd of February is “Thinking Day” for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts throughout the world. This day celebrates the founders birthday, and is a day on which they think about their fellow Guides in other countries. Around the world individual units, and larger regional groups will gather to celebrate the joint birthday of Robert and Olave Baden Powell, and to remember all those who continue the Guiding family.

So yesterday I found myself with Bradford South Guides, at their Thinking Day event. Over a hundred girls and their leaders having fun, learning new skills, and generally having a great time.As part of the day in the afternoon I ran a mini photo booth for them. Doing photos for the girls both on their own and in groups, that is when we could stop the elders from posing. We managed to prove conclusively however that it really isn’t necessary to pout like a duck when having your photo taken. Out of all the girls photographed I think that only one tried it. The quote of the day however must be when I told her that “you don’t need to pull a face like that, you’re not on Snapchat now” her response was “How do you know about Snapchat, my parents don’t even know it exists!”

Obviously I’IMG_0027m not as ancient and out of touch as I thought.

Happy Thinking Day to all my Guiding friends and Family

If you are interested in getting involved with Girlguiding UK, why not visit their website for more information, or, if Scouting might be more of your thing.

Monochrome……but WHY?

Posted on January 30, 2016 by Admin under Photography
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Back in the dim and distant past, when I could still claim to be young, I spent many of my school woodwork lessons shut up in a dark, smelly and rather damp room. Not as you may suspect because of my appallingly bad behaviour, but mainly due to my lack of skill at woodwork, and my teachers attempts to preserve his sanity by letting me do photography instead.
My efforts were never particularly brilliant, but the fascination of seeing an image appear as if by magic on a sheet of apparently blank paper never waned. In those days black and white or monochrome to give it it’s Sunday name was still where most amateur photographers concentrated their efforts, colour was possible but expensive and complex, so camera clubs, competitions and magazines concentrated their efforts mainly on the monochrome photographer, colour was alright for holiday snaps, but Boots sorted those out for you,”proper” photography was done not in 50, but in thousands of shades of grey. Then at upper school I discovered the delights of colour printing, or rather from my point of view the agony of getting the tones completely wrong, simply because there was so much more that could go wrong with colour printing. Now we live in a world where colour photography is the norm, where even the most basic phone does acceptable colour photos, where printing images and sharing on line is simple, what is the fascination of monochrome, what keeps bringing photographers back to those original shades of grey? It can’t simply be down to to it being arty and a bit exclusive now, because Instagram has black and white settings, as does virtually every other phone app. Professional and serious amateur photographers spend thousands of pounds on equipment, shoot their images in RAW formats so that the camera doesn’t apply any processing to the images, the photographer has the ability to make all he decisions about the image is processed and it’s final appearance,and the photographer has every tiny bit of colour and luminance information from their cameras sensor, and then instead of making use of all this information to produce flawless accurate colour images, dump most of it and produce a monochrome image.

Photography of necessity started out with monochrome images, and for many years this was seen as the norm, even when colour became normal, monochrome was still seen as more truthful for news and reportage photography. Now it holds a timeless quality, that outlives fashions and trends, at a time when Instagram type effects are becoming more prolific and even being used in wedding albums, the timeless appeal of monochrome stands out even more, in twenty years time will your wedding album be a source of pride or embarrassment, and not just embarrassment for the fashion and hair styles. Monochrome slows the photographer to work one the simplest of ways with just pure light and shade, or by filtering different colour channels highlight specific parts of an image without the colour information distracting from their artistic intent.

Workshops and Other Fun Things

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As wedding season quietens off towards the winter, the time comes to reflect on the past year and look at honing some of those skills, whilst hopefully also giving the old creativity a bit of an outing. As I am sure you will appreciate, most couples are not looking for off the wall images for their wedding album, generally they are looking for a record of the days events, a reminder of those they loved in years to come, basically something classy that won’t scare grandma, well not too much anyway!







Image 1


So it doesn’t allow the photographer much time to be wildly creative, and certainly not much time to take risks, the newly married couple will generally not be overly impressed if all their wedding photos have been shot using a jam jar bottom as a lens with that new purple filter that you wanted to try out, unless of course that is what they requested in the first place. So we are back to giving the old creative juices an outing, so over the last month or so I have had the opportunity to hone some skills, with some great teachers, share ideas with all sorts of other photographers, and work with some amazing models, all of which just goes to show that being a photographer isn’t a bad life, as long as you don’t weaken.

Event 1 was an Olympus Big Shoot Experience, with Damien McGillicuddy. The venue was the Victoria Baths in Manchester, an old swimming pool, which some of you may have seen some years ago on the BBC series Restoration, these are a 1930’s time capsule with most of the original tiling and stained glass windows still in situ. Add two beautiful models, and one handsome chap, some 1930’s style fashions and props and away we went. An insight into the preparation and planning involved in a commercial shoot, multiple light set ups and smoke machines, it was a bit of a gear freaks idea of heaven, the only problem being that I came home with a long wish list.









Image 2


And so a couple of weeks later and onto Event 2, so at very silly o’clock on a Sunday morning I was in the car on the motorway heading to a very cold, wet and windy Morecambe, for an event organised by model turned blogger and artistic genius Jen Brook, I will have shared some of Jen’s blog posts with some of you in the past, particularly her post “Dear Bride-to-be, Kindest Regards, Model. xxx” a brilliant guide for brides to getting the best from your wedding photos. Anyway back to the story, Jen had booked the Winter Gardens Theatre, four beautiful models, two amazing make-up artists, and graciously allowed small groups of photographers the run of the place to be as creative as they desired, well all I can say is what a day, and I am still looking through my images from that day, and still finding something new and exciting in them. Thanks Jen..and when is the next one?







Image 3










Image 4


And finally event number three was a Brett Harkness training course at the Lowry in Manchester. Another undisputed master of his art passing on wisdom to we mere mortals, the use of off camera flash at weddings, and how it can be used to create stunning images, another beautiful model, and another handsome chap, freezing to death to allow us to take photos around Salford Quays in December. All I need now is loads of practice so it looks as though my daughter the mini fashionista is going to be acting as my model for the next few weeks.







Image 5


I’m not sure why it is but photographers as a breed seem to be among the most generous and sharing of people, who are always willing to pass on their knowledge to others. So to all of the great photographers who spend their time training we lesser mortals, to all of the planners who prepare events for us, to all of the brilliant make up artists, who spend hours making sure our models look perfect, and to all of the amazing models, who stand around in uncomfortable clothes, in the cold and the wet, while some numpty with a camera seeks inspiration or fiddles with a camera to get the settings right, a very BIG THANK YOU.


1 Models – Lauren & Jace

2 Models – Portia Victoria & Mary

3 Model: Raphaella Withlove x, MUA: Make-up & Hair Artistry By Abigail Pulleyn, designer: Mishi May, styled event by Walter’s Wardrobe

4 Model: Ella McNeil, MUA: Olivia Morewood – Mobile Makeup Artist, designer: Mishi May, styled event by Walter’s Wardrobe

5 Brett Harkness Photography Training, Make up & Hair by Grainne Fawley, Dresses from Novaks Exclusive Bridal Lounge, Models Harriet & Joshua – J’Adore Models.

How Many Photos?

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I have been going over some older photos recently, and was quite surprised that I have around 15,000 images stored in the personal folder on my server. Now these include ones I have taken at workshops, but doesn’t include any of the ones I have taken for commissions or for Scouts, Guides or my daughters dance school. The question is what on earth do I do with them?

They date from my first foray into digital in 2002, but most of them will probably never be printed, never be in a family album, and should a disaster happen they could all vanish instantly! Yes I do have a back-up, we’ll 2 backups, how sad is that. But, and this is the thing, how many of us have all our family photos on one computer, one hard drive, or even in these days of the smart phone, just on our phones….yes, you know who you are!

In the good old days even if the family album was lost, there was a chance that other family members would have prints, or the negatives would still be around. For younger refers ask an older family member what negatives were, while you are at it ask about film, and waiting a week to get your holiday snaps from Boots. How many of us now would be reliant on Facebook if we needed to get our photographic family history back.

I’m off to do another back up!

Photographing Life Events

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Having had two family funerals recently, and also been at a couple of weddings, a thought has struck me. These are the types of event that bring families together, in the case of one of the funerals it was the first time in around 8 years that most of the families 12 grandchildren had been together, and the first time that some of the 11great grandchildren had been seen by most members of the family. And yet the idea of taking a camera to a funeral is almost unthinkable, this is in contrast to a wedding where the official photographer struggles to get a clear shot past a sea of phones. Whilst I can appreciate the difference in tone between these two events, the thought persists that both should be commemorated.

I would not suggest that the two events should be photographed in the same way, both are celebrations but of a radically different nature, and therefore need to be recorded differently. There are a small but growing number of photographers who are recording funerals in a sensitive way using candid photography to record the story of the day, one of the frequent comments from the bereaved after a funeral is that they cannot recall who was there, or what the flowers were like, and this could be a way of helping alleviate this issue.

Having said that I am not sure it is something I could do, I just hope it never results in the sea of camera phones that usually hinder the wedding photographer.

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Lifestyle Photographer Bradford, West Yorkshire, GB