Staithes Lifeboat Weekend

The annual Staithes and Runswick Bay Lifeboat weekend took place this weekend here on the North Yorkshire coast. The event aims to raise the profile of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the work carried out by the volunteer crews by holding various events throughout the weekend.

The small streets weaving through the Yorkshire village are festooned with red, white and blue bunting which is strung between the houses.

Members of the public could watch from the harbour wall as the lifeboat launched and made it’s way over the North Sea on a routine training exercise.

Fortunately, this weekends’ event passed without major incident and the Search and Rescue team from Cowbar, an area of Staithes, was not called out!

Support the Lifeboats – Train one save many

Look at Pictures and Do Stuff !!

Where do you get your photographic ideas? Where do you draw your inspiration from? Does it come to you naturally without any sort of process that you are aware of? Or is it a real slog to arrive at an idea and then carry that idea out?

I remember when I was in school, a good few years ago now (!) I used to get very frustrated during maths when others around me seemed to carry out their various tasks with apparent ease, revision and the subsequent exams seemed to be effortless whereas for me it was a bit of a nightmare – I just didn’t ‘get it’, (although if any younger readers are going through a similar situation then don’t worry too much, I can say that about 90% of the weird and wonderful equations and formulae I tried to learn at school have never been used again since that time!!)
Photography is a bit like that – you either ‘get it’ or you sometimes struggle a bit.

Although I think that there is some leeway here. To understand exposure, flash techniques, lenses, cameras, Depth of Field, focus, lighting etc etc then hit the books and it is explained in excruciatingly boring detail. Read and study it enough and you will ‘get it’, but the difficulty then comes in the application of this in the real world.

Don’t get me wrong, a firm grasp of all of these things and more won’t hurt you photographic process at all, it will help, but don’t follow it to the letter at the expense of your creativity. So where do you learn about photography? How do you pour fuel on your creative photographic fire? There are two answers in my opinion and both are relatively simple – LOOK AT PICTURES and DO STUFF!

Depending on what ‘genre’ of photography your passionate about, be it photojournalism, documentary, sport, portrait, still life, wildlife, macro, whatever, then look at pictures others have taken (I must point out at this point that you shouldn’t try and copy the pictures you see pixel for pixel – so to speak, unless, I guess it’s for your own viewing pleasure or education, that would be boring). But look at them, hundreds of them, thousands even, the internet is a big place and don’t forget newspapers also, after a while all these pictures will sit in a sort of ‘mental hardrive’ that you can draw upon for ideas – for me, my passion is photojournalism, when I look at these pictures I ask myself questions about these pictures things like how was it composed? How is it lit? How did they get the perspective they did? Where did they stand? And then I ask further questions if it’s a photo-essay..Is it done simply? (often the best way to get a point across), does it flow, showing contrast and variety? Does it work better in colour or black and white? And on it goes (NOTE: I won’t go into photo-essay projects too much here I’m working on another entry to look at this subject).

But the more you look at and then ask questions of these pictures the more you will develop and improve as a photographer – Please note that none of these questions really ask about the kit used – what camera was that taken on etc – who cares! The only time kit issues make an appearance I think should be if you try and work out the lens used to obtain the perspective that the photographer achieved, or if you try and reverse engineer a lit photo.

My second way to keep your creative juices flowing is to ‘DO STUFF’ -push yourself, learn the basics, develop them, practice them, improve on them but at the same time keep thinking of personal projects you can do. For me, I have at the time of writing this SIX projects that I am working on – some are still very much in the early planning stages others are a little further along and with some I’m taking pictures already. It doesn’t matter if you have a specific end use for them at this stage, great if you do but don’t stress if you don’t, as it develops you might make a contact through the course of doing the project which opens other doors. The planning and thought process involved are a big attraction for me with these documentary projects and that’s before I get to the picture taking stage.

Remember: Be flexible, remain motivated, keep inspired, look at pictures, look at some more pictures and then get out there and take some!

Below are 4 pictures I have taken as part of a project I’m currently doing on ‘Allotments’ – I decided from the start to shoot in black and white, I also decided to shoot it all on prime lenses – 14mm, 20mm, 24mm, 50mm and 85mm depending on subject. I wanted to try and shoot in a different style – quite harsh and contrasty, I still don’t have a confirmed end use but I could try and go for an exhibition, maybe get it published as a photobook, maybe a gardening magazine I don’t know yet – but it doesn’t matter at this stage it’s just good to be putting an idea into practice and taking some pictures.

Evening Surf at Saltburn

Evening surf at Saltburn, even though it was small, good light and a nice sunset afforded the opportunity to take some silhouette shots of a couple of friends down on the beach in Saltburn.

No photoshop trickery here apart from normal darkroom techniques – dodging and burning and slight contrast and levels alterations.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with Black and White, even though the light was good.

The key to a successful silhouette is to keep the composition fairly simple yet have a strong subject matter.

Morning Glass

There are a few things that go towards making a half decent surf photograph – Decent surfers, good waves, equipment that will allow you to capture the shots with good enough quality, composition, timing, a willingness to stand with wet feet for a few hours(!), a knowledge of the subject, patience, persistence, the list could go on..

But one thing that will make or break any picture, not just surf pictures is LIGHT. Even with all the above in place, if you don’t have good light you might as well leave the camera in the bag and go for a surf yourself.

I was photographing yesterday at a spot close to where I live, which will of course remain nameless, an early start had us there for about 7.15 as the early morning light was working its magic on the surf. But even with good light, the location of the surfers in relation to the sun and myself on the reef always proves tricky with the camera exposure shifting all over the place.

Most of the action shots were taken pretty much straight into the sun, ‘contrejour‘ as the books call it, which comes from the French ‘against daylight’.

Its always a buzz going through the edit from a shoot where you think you might have taken a few good shots, its even more of a buzz when you see a couple of winners.

Surf Injury

So there I was surfing at Saltburn yesterday, took off on a cracking left-hander, couple of turns later off I came only to feel a big blow on my chin, as I paddled back out into the line up the first sign of something wrong, apart from the stars in front of my eyes was the big piece missing from the nose of my board – probably not a good sign!

Then, noticing the blood flowing heavily onto the board below me as I paddled I reached up and felt a hole in my chin, again, probably not a good sign!!

Three hours, a trip to A and E, two pieces of broken surfboard and four stitches later this is the end result. Nice. Although I ask everyone not to concern themselves too much, you will be relieved to hear that I have been informed that the board should not be too difficult to repair. At least I have an excuse not to shave for a bit. Surf on.

Saltburn Folk Festival

This weekend saw the 11th Festival of Folk Music, Dance and Song come to the Cleveland town of Saltburn by the Sea. The event, which sees folk musicians and fans of the music from all over the country descend on the Victorian seaside town has always been well supported by people and businesses from the local community and this year was no exception.

The weekend gives the opportunity for artists to perform in many of the pubs and venues in the town and with a full programme of entertainment throughout the weekend everyone attending had plenty to keep them busy.

I took some pictures during an impromptu musicians session in one of the local pubs.

The festival returns to Saltburn in August next year and will once again pull in fans of this music scene from all over the country.

Some travel guidelines…

As someone who does not get into the Capital often it always amazes me when I do go there. I was down there this weekend on a job and had to travel from Kings Cross to Waterloo. This involved a couple of changes on the Underground to get me to where I needed to go, my timings dictated that it would be at the start of the rush hour that I would make my journey.
Maybe its because I do not go there often that I don’t get numbed to the requirements of tube travel in London.
For those planning a trip there here are some guidelines to make you travel like a local:
1: Show no expression at any time.
2: Keep your gaze constantly averted to the floor.
3: Never hold any eye contact for more than 2 seconds.
4: Never attempt to engage in conversation with anyone.
5: Expect either an abrupt, dismissive answer or a flustered “I don’t know!” answer if you do.
6: Make sure that as you approach an esculator anyone infringing on your chosen route is pushed out of the way.
7: Dont think about stopping to allow someone to go in front of you out of politness, someone else will barge through taking the opportunity.
8: Always wear headphones for your ipod or mp3 to ensure everyone can see you do not want to be engaged with in any way.
9: Display no manners or common courtesy to the elderley, women, homeless people, foreign travellers or pretty much anyone else really.
Follow these few simple rules and you to will be travelling on the London Underground like a true local.
Welcome to our Nations capital – Enjoy your visit!

A Question of Priority?

I read an article recently in Time magazine about Afghanistan and the ongoing issues affecting the country. Many subjects were looked at – security, education, public services, transport and industrial development, farming and agriculture etc etc, the list went on.
One of the key points from this report was that with more money invested into the country to develop all these different areas then the overall (security) situation would improve dramatically as the infrastructure improved and that it was not just a question of sending more troops into the country.
More investment and funding would provide the groundwork for the country to start to improve and get back on its feet, but that also, it was difficult to get the money to make these much needed changes.

I then read in another piece about how, as part of the preparation work for the Beijing Olympics, China has spent some $42 Billion Dollars (US) on infrastructure improvements, such as roads and subways.

Anyone else see the irony?

Flash Gels

I have just taken delivery of some flash gels from http://www.flashgels.co.uk/ . The gels, as you can see from the photo come pre-cut and with the velcro you can order are pretty much ready to go as soon as you get them.
For those not in the know, flash gels are used to ‘counter’ the effects of certain light sources and as a result reduce the effects that it has on the final image. An example would be Fluorescent lights. These tend to leave a horrible green cast over an image, by placing a ‘window green gel’ over the flash head and turning the white balance setting on your digital camera to Fluorescent this colour cast can be removed. A similiar result can be achieved by placing a Colour Temperature Orange (CTO) gel over the flash, turning the white balance on the camera to Tungsten or Incandescent, this will reduce the effects of this ‘colour’ of light coming from Fluorescent lights.
Further information and examples can be found on http://www.strobist.blogspot.com/ and explains this in further detail and opens up many more possibilities when using your flashes off camera.