My Year in Pictures 2013

So we’re fast approaching the end of yet another year and once again it has reached that time when it seems that every photographer with access to some sort of social media bombards the unwary viewer with a load of pictures that they’ve shot throughout the year……..and alas dear reader……I’m no different!

Now just to warn you – I’ve included quite a few pictures here – but then again it’s my blog so I can 😉 So grab a brew or a glass of your favourite Rioja, sit back and scroll through some of the pictures I’ve shot over this last year. Some were taken when out on assignment for Getty Images or London News Pictures others where shot for the regional papers. Some where taken as part of projects I’ve been working on and even from the occasional wedding whilst others were shot while I was out and about and I just thought it made a nice picture!

But each in their own way remind me of something throughout the year and of what a busy, at times stressful but ultimately of what a rewarding photographic year it’s been…..let’s hope next year brings more of the the same!

All the best.

Saltburn public meeting against proposed parking charges.Saltburn residents attend a public meeting against proposed parking charges

Freezing fog at South Gare, TeessideSouth Gare fishermen’s Huts, Teesside

Freezing fog at South Gare, TeessideRunners and windfarm, Teesside

IF1_4647.jpgSurfer Gabe Davies takes off on a huge wave, Teesside

Heavy snowfall on the North Yorkshire moorsA tractor clears snow from a road, North Yorkshire

Snow fun in North YorkshireSnowboarder, Roseberry Topping, Yorkshire

Heavy flooding in ClevelandSam Davis carries his dog, Meg, across a flooded road, Saltburn

0125Scots Guards homecoming, Catterick

Malton_Livestock_Auction_0043.jpgSheep farmer, Malton, North Yorkshire

Brass_Band_Champioships_0079.jpgBattle of the Bands competition, Bradford, West Yorkshire

0128A man walks through heavy snow, Loftus, East Cleveland

L1004886.jpgGuitar player on Saltburn pier

0130Cavendish’s Horses, Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire

IF1_7722.jpg A motorcyclist takes a break as the A66 road is closed by snow

IF1_7795-2.jpgHeading to the surf

0133A woman feeds seagulls, South Gare, Teesside

Huge waves crash against the lighthouse in the area known as South Gare on Teesside.

Waves crash over the lighthouse, South Gare, Teesside

0135

Farmer Stuart Buckle tends to his sheep during heavy snow, Bleathgill Farm, Cumbria

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Demonstrators attend a parade against local council officials, Saltburn, Cleveland

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Steam Train, Cleveland

0138

Moto-X, Teesside

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Three kids keep warm on the beach, Saltburn, Cleveland

Easington colliery on the 20th anniversary of the closure of the pit in the town.

Pigeon owner, Easington, County Durham

Easington colliery on the 20th anniversary of the closure of the pit in the town.The day of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, Easington, County Durham

Easington colliery on the 20th anniversary of the closure of the pit in the town.A banner is unfurled on the day of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, Easington, County Durham

0143An owl and her keeper, RSPB Saltholme, Teesside

0144Cricket match, Middlesbrough

Saltburn band 'Just Void' playing at the Victoria pub in Saltburn.Local band ‘Just Void’ play in the Victoria Pub, Saltburn, Cleveland

0146Actor Martin Shaw on set on Saltburn seafront

March for the AlternativeA demonstrator takes part in a march against government cuts, Middlesbrough, Cleveland

March for the AlternativeMembers of the public protest against government cuts, Middlesbrough, Cleveland

L1006354.jpgBand ‘Alpha Place’ perform, Middlesbrough

0150Sand racing, Majuba Beach, Redcar, Cleveland

The Leeds Conference and Hospitality Show 2013Penguin, Leeds

South Shields byelectionSouth Shields by-election

L1007396.jpgWoman with tuna, Madeira

L1007988.jpgView from the window, Runswick Bay, North Yorkshire

L1008094-2.jpgHomecoming parade, York, Yorkshire

Mysterious knitting returns to Saltburn pierA young girl reaches up for knitted figures, Saltburn Pier, Cleveland

National Railway Museum in YorkThe Mallard, National Railway Museum, York

Foggy SaltburnFoggy streets, Saltburn, Cleveland

Coast People, Robin Hood's BayA young boy plays on the beach, Robin Hood’s Bay, Yorkshire

Alison Carr, WriterNewcastle based writer Alison Carr – photographed as part of the Writer Fifty project for the Traverse Theatre

Appleby Horse FairAppleby Horse Fair, Cumbria

World War VeteranWorld War Two veteran, Eddie Straight

0163Summer Solstice, Kielder Observatory, Northumberland

Arriva bus incident on Saltburn BankA bus grounded on Saltburn Bank, Cleveland

Foghorn RequiemOrlando Gough, composer of ‘The Foghorn Requiem’ poses in front of Souter Lighthouse, South Shields

Preston Park Fire Engine and Vintage Vehicle ShowKids enjoy a ride at an agricultural show, Yorkshire

RAF TyphoonA typhoon flies overhead during an exercise, Saltburn, Cleveland

L1009223.jpgCatch of the day, Saltburn, Cleveland

0169MP William Hague, Richmond, Yorkshire

Duncombe Park Steam RallyA man sits outside his caravan at the start of Duncombe Park Steam Fair, Helmsley, Yorkshire

Duncombe Park Steam RallyA young boy poses in front of his families steam engine during Duncombe Park Steam Fair, Helmsley, Yorkshire

Duncombe Park Steam RallyThree brothers pose for the camera at a farming show in Yorkshire

0173The Funtime Express, Yorkshire

The Great Yorkshire showThe Great Yorkshire Show, Harrogate, Yorkshire

The Great Yorkshire showThe Great Yorkshire Show, Harrogate, Yorkshire

Durham Miners GalaDurham Miners Gala

Durham Miners GalaA man with a ‘pit head and miner ‘tattoo on his back sits with his family during the Durham Miners Gala

The Great Yorkshire ShowSunset over Northumberland

WhitbyA family sit surrounded by seagulls on the beach at Whitby, North Yorkshire

Pickering Traction Engine RallyMerry-go-round

L1010236.jpgStorm clouds form over Teesside

L1010279.jpgA young boy stands next to a sea wall, Redcar, Cleveland

Christine Rogers rides Ted on Saltburn beach on TeessideChristine Rogers rides down the beach at Saltburn, Cleveland

L1010336.jpgHuntcliff, Saltburn, Cleveland

L1010345.jpgA man poses for the camera during Saltburn Folk Weekend

0186Ursa Major – also known as The Great Bear – is visible above clouds that are lit from below by industrial sites on Teesside

The Perseid Meteor ShowerThe perseid meteor shower

0188Graduation day at the Army Foundation College, Harrogate, Yorkshire

Sheet lightning behind clouds over TeessideDark clouds over Teesside

The wedding of Nick and Diana Varley at Walworth Castle on Sunday 25th August 2013The wedding of Nick and Diana

0191Runners avoid a flooded road, Saltburn, Teesside

Surfing in Saltburn, Cleveland.Surfer Karl Frampton leaps from Saltburn pier into the water as he goes for a surf

L1010873.jpg‘Captain Cook’, Whitby, North Yorkshire

L1010889.jpgNo dogs allowed

LGBT Community Pride paradeMiss Tess Tickle and her dog ‘Beau’ at the LGBT parade, Middlesbrough, Cleveland

L1011440.jpgA man sits and reflects at the National Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire

Firefighter strike in MiddlesbroughA young boy holds a fire brigade union flag during a 4-hour walk out by firefighters over a pension dispute, Grangetown, Middlesbrough

L1011490.jpgRich and Laura get married

Ryedale Vineyard near Westow, York at the start of the first harvest of the season.Ryedale Vineyards first grape harvest of the year, Yorkshire

Hay Bale fire on Saltburn RoadFirefighters attend a hay bail fire, Teesside

Saltburn Pier, ClevelandUmbrellas on Saltburn pier

Coast People - ScarboroughTeddy Boy, Scarborough, North Yorkshire

Coast People - LindisfarneFishing cobbles, Lindisfarne, Northumberland

Pickering 1940's War WeekendPickering War Weekend, North Yorkshire

Pickering 1940's War WeekendPickering War Weekend, North Yorkshire

0206Surfer Stuart Campbell performs during the UK Pro Surf Tour, Saltburn, Cleveland

0207Halloween event at Saltholme Nature Reserve, Billingham, Teesside

Whitby Gothic WeekendWhitby Gothic Weekend

World record attempt for largest gathering of elvesWorld Record breaking attempt for the largest gathering of elves, York

Middlesbrough Remembrance ServiceRemembrance Sunday, Middlesbrough

Lumiere lights up DurhamThe Lumiere event, Durham City

Lucie & Tom's weddingLucie and Tom get married

Personnel Recovery Centre in CatterickSerjeant George Norton, 31 waits for a lecture to begin at the Personnel Recovery Centre, Catterick.

George suffered a severe brain injury after being shot in the head whilst deployed to Afghanistan two years ago

Prince Charles visits PD Ports in MiddlesbroughPrince Charles meets local school children as he visits PD Ports in Middlesbrough, Cleveland

Storm surge hits SaltburnThe worst storm surge in 30 years hits the coast of the UK including Saltburn which sustained heavy damage to many of the seafront buildings including the pier arcade

Sunrise over Huntcliff, SaltburnClouds over Huntcliff in Saltburn are illuminated by an early morning sunrise

Anti-racism march in MiddlesbroughAn anti-racism march held by the Middlesbrough FC supporters group Red Faction pose with a banner outside the Riverside stadium

IF1_5371The Sankta Lucia Festival of Light at York Minster

IF1_5536Families and relatives gather in Lockerbie for the 25th anniversary of the air disaster

Saltburn and Redcar Boxing Day DipThe Boxing Day dip at Saltburn

www.ianforsythphotography.co.uk

Iraq – Pictures from a troubled country

My previous blog post which can be seen here looks back at some of my thoughts and experiences from my time in Iraq in 2003 as one of the soldiers fighting into Basrah. This post shows a selection of images I shot on my second tour there in 2006 as an army photographer. I deployed with 19 Light Brigade and spent seven months photographing various aspects of Brigade life during their deployment.

 

Images remain crown copyright

Leica – so what’s it all about then?

So I’ve been asked by a number of people recently, friends and colleagues, what my thoughts are on the Leica M9 after I bought one about 6 or 7 months ago. So I thought it was a good opportunity to put some of my thoughts down here for what it’s worth so that others who might be wondering what all the fuss is about can have a read and form their opinions before taking the plunge and maybe buying one.

Firstly though I have to say that I’m not a technical camera reviewer. So I’m not going to be doing that. If you want to see graphs, charts and tables and images zoomed into 100% crops to talk about resolution and the like then Google search it because I will be writing about some of the good and bad points, in my opinion, that I’ve found since I bought the camera and started using it and how I’ve found it during day to day photo work. Also, I don’t work for Leica so I’m not spinning their products…but if they read this and want to send my the new Leica Monochrome or the ‘M’ to have a look at then……well……ok……go on then!

 

The Leica M9 with 35mm f2 Summicron

So what did I buy initially?

Well I got the M9, a spare battery, 2 x Sandisk 16Gb SDHC memory cards (although I now have 3), a 35mm f2 ASPH Summicron lens and a 50mm f2 Summicron  lens. The 50mm was ordered about 2 months after the initial buy. I’m not going to go into the lenses here as the links above have more detailed reviews but suffice to say that the glass is amazing quality and whilst there are faster lenses available (Summilux etc) these come at a cost that I couldn’t meet at the time I got the camera so I went for the Leica Summicron f2 lenses which are incredible to be honest. I also bought a skylight filter for each lens to protect them. Better to scratch those than the Leica glass!

I also got one of these – A ‘Thumbs up’ grip   This I’ve found has been exceptionally useful with gripping the camera and keeping it steady. The M9 body is a little slippy in the hands at times and this gives the extra reassurance of knowing that it isn’t going to slide from the hand and fall to the floor. After a couple of close runs early on while I was waiting for the grip to arrive I came close to dropping it and I’m sure my heart stopped for a moment as I thought about the money spent on this camera as it bounced along the pavement! Buy a thumb’s up grip and save the heart attack!

I bought all the gear from Red Dot cameras who were very helpful in getting my order sorted. I did have to wait for the 35mm to come through for a couple of weeks as there was a back order but at the suggestion of Ivan from Red Dot I bought an earlier non-ASPH 35mm lens from them and when my lens came in they bought it back from me at the price I paid which I thought was great as I could start shooting straight away instead of waiting for a lens.

Now I’m not a rich bloke! I take the decision to buy one of these cameras and the associated ‘stuff’ pretty seriously and I also had to sell off a Nikon D3 and couple of lenses to go towards the funds for this although that didn’t make a massive dent in what I needed to pay to be honest but I got there in the end. So I had to consider how usable this camera was going to be for me and for what I shoot.

Now there is a lot of pretentious commentary surrounding Leica’s. You’ve heard it all before I’m sure….they’re a rich enthusiasts toy, they are no good in ‘real world’ news type photography, they’re only used by those ‘arty’ lot who have visions of themselves being some glamorous ‘photojournalist’ travelling the world to exotic locations, you can get better performing compact cameras these days, they are too expensive…etc etc. You get the point.

And to be honest….much of this is probably right! This camera is limited in what it will offer and what it can be used for. There are better cameras out there that perform with better ISO or with faster computers in the camera to process and write the images to memory cards, cameras with better weather seals, cameras with auto focus, cameras with more accurate white balancing and cameras with a setting for every occasion. Cameras that decide what kind of picture you want before you know yourself! Now all of that is fine but this is the point to get your head around I think – A camera is simply a tool to get a picture with. At least that’s how I see it. Any camera, whether you use the term amateur or professional to describe your involvement with photography it shouldn’t make any difference. A camera is a means to an end. The end being, hopefully, a good picture and this should only be influenced by why you’re shooting – and for whom.

The three most important things in photography, in my opinion, are light, subject and composition. The camera is the tool used to make a record of this but what I like about the Leica is the fact that I make all the decisions in that process.  I have to look at the light, the subject and the composition and I am deciding what I think is going to work best for what I want. I decide what exposure to use. I focus the lens myself, I take time and construct my picture. Now all of this you can do with a mid-level or pro DSLR of course and there are far better photographers than me doing this as we speak covering may different subjects and simply owning a Leica will not make a better photographer and to be honest if all of this manual control is new to you it may well make you a worse photographer initially until you get used to it. I still own a Nikon D3s and I use that for much of my professional work when it is suitable but I have always shot it fully manual. For the majority of my work I still manually focus using old Nikon AIS lenses – although I do also use a 70-200 AF for some news and press work – I expose in manual mode and I take control of my pictures and so the shift to the fully manual Leica wasn’t a huge shift in the way I work.

But I learned about photography by shooting film. By making sure my technical shooting skills were as good as they could be and then I developed and processed my own film before printing my pictures in the darkroom so I needed and required that technical understanding and discipline of controlling what I wanted for the best results. I understand exposure and can use it for what I want to achieve I have never relied simply on a ‘mode’ setting to achieve results and this is simply an extension of that. It is a tool for making pictures. Like a carpenter uses a hammer or a plumber uses a wrench or a painter uses a brush it is a necessary tool to allow them to do their job and so also is the camera for a photographer. But like the artist, who uses that brush to make great paintings so the photographer uses the camera to shoot great pictures.

But this is where things change a little, at least for me. This is where the road divides and we leave the common sense and practical route and head down a road that doesn’t really make any practical sense at all and that is simply that this camera is really great to use. It is a tool yes and it is a very expensive tool but there is something that is very enjoyable and satisfying about using a finely crafted tool with a heritage such as the one enjoyed by Leica and which through its use makes you feel as if you are using the best equipment there is for true, no frills photography. Buying a Leica is not a practical decision based on sound financial and business choices. It is a decision based on the heart and a passion for photography. Rather like the classic car owner who drives his E Class Jag, it might not be the fastest or the best daily-use car but it is the experience of driving it that is the appeal.

Now since trading in my other Nikon I have had to use the Leica for some of the press and news jobs that I’ve done. I’ve used it in fast moving demonstrations and busy public events. I’ve used it to shoot portraits and features and I also use it on the documentary projects that I’m currently working on so it is still in full daily use as a working camera and runs right along side my D3s when I’m out on a job. My 2-camera set up is still achievable and using the 35mm on the Leica and the 85mm AIS or the 70-200 AF on the Nikon I can cover most eventualities and requirements without changing lenses. However I can’t use it when the weather is really bad though. If it’s really raining hard I don’t trust the weather seals, such as they are, so I have to work around that but I have the Nikon that can step up for those times so I can get by.

It all depends on your needs. If all of my work was fast paced news events then I would struggle with using the Leica for some of the reasons I’ve mentioned but for the majority of the work I do, including much of the news and press work, it fits nicely into my workflow. When it comes to my own ‘documentary’ and project work then I love using it. The fast write speeds are not an issue as I’m not shooting off loads of pictures at once so the buffer doesn’t strain too much, being relatively slow is a little frustrating maybe, but not a show stopper. Shooting wide open at f2 in bright light needs use of an ND filter to let me achieve f2 because the fastest speed is 1/4000th and so I have a 3-stop ND filter for each of my lenses to allow me to do this – the images really pop at f2 though, especially with the 50mm!

It is a little more discreet and as such people tend not to take much notice when I’m using it on its’ own which can help at times depending on what I’m doing although I have had to explain a few times to some who ask if it’s a film camera or who ask if it is ‘one of those really old ones‘? Yeah, a really old one whose file size and image quality blows the D3s out of the water!

The ISO isn’t as good as I’ve become used to with digital, especially with the D3 or the D3s and images can have more ‘noise’ when I crank the ISO up beyond 800 or 1600 but that’s fine. I can help reduce this with accurate focus and exposure and to be honest I’m changing my mindset about this. Thinking once again back to shooting film and the grain that was visible at higher film speeds and which often lent itself more to the subjects of those images and I loved the look of grain. So maybe we are that used to the ‘clean’ noise-free digital images of today that can almost look plastic in appearance that maybe having that grainy, film-like appearance isn’t a bad thing? With so many pictures whizzing over the desk of editors or picture desks is it such a bad thing to at least try and be different?

Below are a few examples of pictures taken with the M9 and the 35mm Summicron…

Street scene, Saltburn

Fishing from Saltburn Pier. Part of my ‘Coast People’ project

Rainbow and sun on Huntcliff

Night fishing event

So….Will this camera make you a better photographer? No, at least not straight away, but I think it does improve your photography abilities and understanding. It makes you think.

Will this camera be suitable for every job you may be shooting if like me you’re a working photographer? No, but you’d be surprised at just what it can do.

Will the limitations of the ISO range and slower computer on the camera have to be considered? Yes, definitely but it can be worked around in many cases with a bit of thought.

The biggest issue I have is the weather protection. Great pictures can often come in the worst of weather conditions and I do feel restricted as a result. Mine is scratched on the rear screen, some of the paint is rubbing off through use and it looks about ten years older than it is already but I’m not bothered about that but I do wish that I could use it in any conditions – especially the wet – and not have to worry about water getting into it. Maybe I could and just see what happens…but I’ve bottled it because I can’t replace it if it does die on me!

Getting a handle on this camera takes time. It takes time to get a grip on the rangefinder focus method – especially when shooting wide open. But eventually it becomes faster and more intuitive. After 15 years plus with Nikon cameras a rangefinder was a different beast entirely but one that soon becomes familiar and as the confidence grows so too the pictures start to improve. With focus needing to be spot on to ensure the best performance from the amazing quality lenses and with real accuracy of exposure needed to ensure the best quality results it is not a very forgiving camera but this forces you to up your game.

It forces you to challenge yourself and in photography I think that is something we should all be trying to do. All the time. If nothing else it brings about, for me anyway, a self-satisfaction that my photography knowledge, skills and abilities are good and are always being pushed and improved upon. It is down to me to constantly improve my skills and to get the most out if this camera. To be able to think about what you want and how to achieve it and then when the results come…when a quality image results from the creative decisions that have been made it brings a greater sense of satisfaction knowing that you made all those decisions. Maybe a little bit like – and I hope this doesn’t sound too much like pretentious, arty-farty, Leica crap – a master craftsman who enjoys the process and not just the results?

The choice is yours.

 

I now pack a lot lighter for many of my own jobs when the Nikon is not required.

Shooting a Gurkha Patrol

The following photographs were taken during a joint Gurkha and Afghan National Army patrol in the Nahr-e Saraj region of Helmand Province in Afghanistan. The Gurkha’s, from C Company 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, left their main base at first light to visit a number of ‘check points’ that had been established in the area around the small village of Paind Kalay to provide security and reassurance for the afghan population who live there.
A Gurkha soldier helps a colleague across a water filled ditch during the patrol.
To minimise the possible risks from Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) the troops choose many different routes, some easier than others, but crossing ditches and climbing walls are some of the many ways used to reduce the risk. With the kit and equipment the troops carry and the intense heat this is not an easy endeavour.
The patrol make their way from their main base on patrol.
Photographing patrols such as this brings with it specific problems to the photographer. Along with the usual patrol equipment that needs to be carried – Osprey body armour, helmet, weapon (Remember I am still a serving soldier, so I have to, although given the choice I would prefer not to carry a rifle- it hinders my taking pictures), ammunition, day-sack containing extra water and emergency rations – I also carried 2 Nikon DSLR cameras, one with an 85mm and the other with a 24mm.
Troops cross a recently harvested and water logged field.
Whilst this is heavy, it doesn’t really compare to the weight the other members of the patrol carry when you look at the extra ammunition, radios, water and extra electronic equipment they have but it does affect the way the patrol can be photographed and needs to be taken into account.
A Gurkha soldier ‘takes a knee’ during the patrol and speaks to other patrol members on his personal radio.
Also, due to the threat of IED’s, the photographer is not able to wander freely amongst the patrol looking for the better pictures and angles and you have to fit into the patrol’s ‘order of march’. This restricts the images that can be taken and where possible it is best to fit in between members of the patrol so you have them in front of and behind you so you have the option of turning and shooting in at least 2 directions.
The patrol crosses open ground as it leaves the village of Paind Kalay.
A lot of the patrolling is done in a single column and again this restricts getting some depth to some of the pictures but when the column follows natural bends in the environment then better shots can be had when the whole column can be seen. Obviously when the troops stop in a compound or other more secure location then the freedom to move amongst the patrol is restored and once again the hunt for other pictures can begin.
The patrol moves through the village.
By shooting on a wide lens you can try and incorporate the wider scene that the troops are patrolling in – to show them in situation and give some context to the pictures by showing the environment that they are operating in, but be careful – sometimes it is more about what you leave out of the picture rather than what you include. I was shooting on prime lenses and you don’t have the luxury to zoom in and out from where you are and this adds to the difficulty but it is the way I prefer to work – you might choose a different option.

Crossing a deep, water filled ditch using a small ladder.
Your own ‘comfort’ (I use the term in a broad sense) in these situations needs to take a back seat, because when it is uncomfortable or dangerous or there are obstacles to be crossed not only do you have to deal with that but you also have to photograph the troops as they deal with it. So when they work, you are working, when they rest, you are still working. This is the photographer’s lot. The reward? Hopefully, will be great pictures that tell the story.

The patrol climbs over a compound wall using the small ladders the patrol carry for this reason.
By thinking about your techniques, choice of lenses and cameras and the more important aspects, in my opinion, of photography – composition, light and subject – there are still good pictures to be had even from difficult and restrictive operating conditions such as these. Shoot with both eyes open and keep an awareness of what is going on around you and what the rest of the patrol is doing. As photographers we become ‘blinkered’ very easily and when we have our photography head on (…does it ever come off!?) it is easy to become almost removed from the patrol. This can be dangerous – as far as I know photographer’s are not yet immune to IED’s! So keep your head on the game and the risks are minimised, at least as much as they can be.

Moving across a recently harvested field, part of which still burns from the harvesting process.
Finally, you have to try and enjoy and make the most of the opportunity. You will be in the unique and privileged position of being able to photograph in one of the most demanding situations there is with some of the most professional soldiers there are – you have to try and do it justice, for you and for them.