Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Coast to Home

A little over a year ago, I was involved in creating some publicity photos for the Castle Douglas High School Enterprise Group (see A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party). Each year, the final year pupils have the chance to design and create products, which they then have to market and sell to raise money for charity.

A year on and I was asked back to help with the next group. This time they were creating pieces of art made from pebbles, shells, bits of driftwood and anything else they could find on the tideline, and they called their group, Coast to Home.

Ideas were discussed and they decided it would be fun to have a home-like setting, but on the beach, with a handful of them sitting on a sofa with a coffee table. One of the team said he could get hold of an old sofa and it wouldn’t matter if it got a bit mucky. In the end he also brought a coffee table and a standard lamp.

With the permission of the owners, we did the shoot down at Cardoness Beach, on a cold, damp, grey day. At one point it started raining and I was fearful as to whether we’d be able to complete it. However, amazingly the rain stopped again and held off long enough for us to do the shoot.

We started off several metres up the beach. As the light was really dull, I had another one of the team holding an off camera flash to one side, so I could get a bit of shadow and definition into the photo. I also placed another flash inside the standard lamp, which made it look like it was plugged in, and gave an extra glow of light on those underneath it.

Once I was happy we had a shot we could use, I then asked if it was really OK if the sofa could risk being trashed. It was confirmed it was not a problem, so we moved the whole set right down to the water’s edge. As the tide was coming in, it then washed around the sofa and the people on it.

Initially there were plenty of screams as the cold sea hit the feet of the teenagers, but kudos to them all, they managed to do several shots with smiley faces as the freezing water lapped around them.



Here are a few behind-the-scenes shots:







And rather wonderfully, Dumfries and Galloway Life magazine chose to use our photo for the front cover of their March issue


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Meg turns 19 and donates her hair to charity

If my daughter turning 18 last year was a shock to the system, Meg turning 19 today feels no less surprising.

In one way, her Down’s Syndrome contributes to a sense of her being younger and more naive in the world, but then I suspect it’s probably more to do with me being a Dad. Perhaps on some level it’s difficult for any father to truly grasp his daughter is not the wee lass he used to bounce on his knee.

But then in some ways Meg is light years ahead of the rest of us. Her compassion and desire to help others knows few limits. And this was exemplified at the weekend when she had her hair cut short so the lengths could be donated to charity.

A few months ago, Meg had discovered an organisation called Little Princess Trust that provides real-hair wigs free of charge, to boys and girls throughout the UK & Ireland who have lost their own hair through cancer treatment. Since then she’s been determined to donate her own hair once it had grown long enough.

To talk of parental pride would be an understatement. This idea came purely from her – no suggestions, nudging or cajoling coming from anyone else. Meg just thought this would be a wonderful thing to do.

And it really is.

Sadly, her parents weren’t as organised and it only occurred to us on the day that perhaps this was a fundraising opportunity for the charity, so I quickly fired off a couple of before-and-after pics.





However, better late than never, so we’ve set up a JustGiving page where you can donate a few quid in support if you wish:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/megayreshaircut

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Stealing My Soul...

"Are you in Dumfries for the wet-plate photography?"

"What? Where?"

"Up at the old Baker’s Oven, by WH Smiths. It’s part of the D-LUX festival."

*Insert image of cup and saucer hovering in mid air as photographer has shot out of the café and raced up the road in a whirlwind of excitement...*


Taking over an empty shop for the week, Concursum – a group of of three alternative photography practitioners and artists – had set up lights, old cameras and portable darkrooms and were creating portraits of the general public using the Collodion process – one of the earliest forms of photography.

It requires coating a piece of glass with the right solution, adding silver nitrate, placing it into the camera, exposing the shot for around 4 seconds and then developing it straight away.

Everything has to happen within about 10 minutes from start to finish, before the coatings dry and render the process useless.

Here’s a short video I found online which gives a flavour of how it’s done


Wet Plate for fstoppers from LeClair Photo + Video on Vimeo.


I got chatting with Laura Peters, a portrait and wedding photographer who has a complete fascination with it, and was one of the three practitioners. We instantly clicked as we started talking about our love of portraiture, and if wasn’t for the fact there were other people waiting, and I had a limited amount of time before I had to get home, I think we would have blethered non-stop for hours, if not days.

Initially I hadn’t intended to get my photo taken as I didn’t really have the time, but as I started to find out about it, I couldn’t resist. The rest of the afternoon would just have to be delayed.

Laura wonderfully talked me through the process, took my photo and then – the best part of all – allowed me to watch the "fixing" process, where the portrait emerges on the glass plate.

It was really quite magical.

I am completely a photographer of the digital age. I can take up to 11 photos a second if I want, using a hand-held camera designed for speed, accuracy and portability, and Photoshop is my darkroom.

This, on the other hand, is a process from more than 150 years ago. It is slow, cumbersome and completely unforgiving. One tiny error and you have to start the whole thing all over again.

I wouldn’t have the patience to do it myself, but then this allowed me to just be a punter for the first time since I became a photographer. Because I’m a professional photographer, if someone else takes my photo, I’m always analysing and comparing and thinking what I might do differently.

But with this, the process was so alien, all I could do was sit back, follow instructions and trust the photographer.

Here’s a copy of the final image.



My first thought was how much I looked like my Dad.

I think because the image immediately looks very old - even though as I write this it’s only 2 weeks since it was taken - it creates a kind of dissociation. It surely can’t really be me – so I cast around in my mind for who else it might be, and my father’s face is the next most similar to my own.

If you ever get the chance to have a go, you really must. It is a magical process and thoroughly worth that little bit of your soul it captures...

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Exhibition at The Whitehouse Gallery

About 18 months ago, I had the opportunity to do a series of photos with Alexandra – a retired professional ballet dancer.

At 66 years old she still had the toning and suppleness of someone decades her junior. Here was a chance to capture the beauty and elegance of the human form, which was not about youth, but maturity and experience.

Setting up a black background, I placed a single light behind and to one side of Alexandra as she glided through a series of poses and movements. As the burst of the flash was too fast for the human eye to register what was being caught, I tethered the camera to a laptop computer so I could see the results of each click.

After the session I converted the images to black and white, and darkened down the shadows until just the highlights remained, creating images where the light, line and form were all now minimised and accentuated. The lines flow, the graceful body is partially visible and the mind fills in the missing details.

I ended up with a series of amazing images that took my breath away, but I’ve never quite known what to do with them. They don’t fit into any of the usual categories for marketing and promoting my business, so they’ve pretty much just sat on my computer apart from occasionally putting one into an online photo competition.



However, recently the Galloway Photographic Collective – a group of professional photographers I belong to – were asked to put together an exhibition for The Whitehouse Gallery in Kirkcudbright.

Photography is not usually something they sell, but from Feb 4th to March 4th, they have turned over the entire ground floor to displaying images from the Collective.

We were asked to produce photos that ideally hadn’t been seen before and had more of an art feel to them.

I realised I finally had the opportunity to show off these images of Alexandra.

I have printed 5 of them up at A1 size – about 60cm x 84cm – and on block mounts. Modesty thrown out the window, I have to say they look stunning, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them all together on the walls of the gallery.



If you can make it along to Kirkcudbright this Saturday at 11am, there will be drinks and nibbles and various members of the Collective, including me, on hand to chat about our work.

It would be lovely to see you if you can.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Manfrotto Something...

“It’s here!”

“What is?”

“My prize!”

“What prize?”

“The one for the butler pic I put into the Photocrowd competition!”

“What is it?”

“A Manfrotto something...”

“What ‘something’? Don’t you know what you’ve won?”

“I can’t quite remember… it was a couple of months ago I entered. The box says Manfrotto on it.”

“Well what do Manfrotto make?”

“They’re mostly known for their camera tripods, but I don’t think that was the prize…”

“There’s an easy way to find out.”

“How?”

“Why don’t you just open the box?”

And so it was that I discovered I’d won a pretty nifty Manfrotto RedBee-210 backpack designed specifically for travelling with your camera gear, with plenty of room for camera, lenses, batteries and even a small laptop and tablet.


Images courtesy of Amazon.co.uk

A couple of months ago, I saw a photo competition at Photocrowd.com, in association with PhotoPlus Magazine, called “Time for Tea.” I decided one of the images from the Craufurdland Castle shoot would be my best shot, and duly entered it.



Just before Christmas I was delighted to discover I’d actually won!

https://www.photocrowd.com/contests/710-time-tea/overview/

And the prize arrived this morning.

It’s the perfect size for cabin luggage when you’re flying, which would have ideal when I went to Morocco back in November.

However, the timing is still isn’t bad as my current camera bag is feeling its age and the stitching is coming loose on one of the shoulder straps.

Thank you Photocrowd, PhotoPlus, and Manfrotto!


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

2016 in Photographs (and videos)

Since 2009, at the beginning of January I've always posted my favourite photos of the previous year. Since we're well into January now, I thought it time to do it again.

You can find previous ones here: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

There's a varied selection, so hopefully something for everyone. I'm always interested in feedback, so if you'd care to leave a comment about which one(s) are your favourite, or any personal observations, it would be warmly appreciated.

As always, you can click on the images to see larger versions.

Squirrel

Wildlife photography is not my strong point - most of my attempted images are of the backs of the animals as they disappear into the undergrowth or are flying away. Squirrels in particular are notoriously difficult to catch in the wild, so I was delighted to capture this shot.
For more about this shot, click through to this blog post:
http://kimayres.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/looking-up.html

Roots Cahoot

It's always fun to create a shot where you don't take it all in at first glance, but need to explore the photo to build the layers of story.
For more about this shoot, click through to this blog post:
http://kimayres.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/roots-cahoot-photo-shoot.html

Iona Barker

Iona runs workshops on sewing, textiles and design in Glasgow, Edinbugh, Dundee and Aberdeen. She even spent some time as head of wardrobe at the Hydro Arena in Glasgow, where she worked with the likes of Beyoncé, Prince and Dolly Parton. I was asked to photograph her for Dumfries and Gallwoay Life magazine.
For more about this shoot, click through to this blog post:
http://kimayres.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/iona-barker-say-it-aint-sew.html

Beech

Early spring, just before the leaves are thinking about coming out, I was wandering through the woods looking for shapes and lines and loved the way the sun was hitting the web from behind.

Rural Mural

So much fun doing this fashion shoot for textile artist, Morag Macpherson. A full team of models, hairdressers and makeup artist was required for it. I also had friends along to video it



For more about this shoot, click through to this blog post:
http://kimayres.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/photo-shoot-at-rural-mural.html

Craufurdland Castle

Simeon Rosset is a genuine freelance butler and can be hired to add class to any occasion. For this shoot we were in the library of a genuine Scottish Castle.
For more about this shoot, click through to this blog post:
http://kimayres.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/castles-butlers-and-tea-on-lawn.html

Eden Festival

Without doubt, Eden is one of the best music festivals in Scotland, and one of the things that makes it a photographer's dream is at least half the people (probably more) who attend enjoy dressing up.
For more about this shoot, click through to this blog post:
http://kimayres.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/festivals-photography-and-cracked-man.html

Moniave Manga

Another full team shoot, with even more models and hairdressers, this time at Moniaive Comic Festival and inspired by Manga styling. Again, the video will give you a fuller sense of the experience.



For more about this shoot, click through to this blog post:
http://kimayres.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/moniaive-manga.html

Judging the Competition

I was asked to judge a photo competition at The Stove in Dumfries. I took this shot of fellow judges, Elisabeth and Martin, enjoying the back light coming through the windows

Robyn Stapleton at Comlongon Castle

Another team shoot to get this image, involving hairdresser, makeup artist, singer/model, and an owl. Huge fun. Once again, I managed to drag a friend along to video it:



For more about this shoot, click through to this blog post:
http://kimayres.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/comlongon-castle-robyn-stapleton-and-owl.html

Alex Kapranos at the Firefly Festival

Back in "Scotland's Coolest Village", Moniaive, to photograph the Firefly Festival. Alex Kapranos, who heads Franz Ferdinand, made a guest appearance on the set of The Amphetaminies.

Earth's Crust Bakery

Earth's Crust Bakery creates the most wonderful artisan bread in 500 miles or more. After their original garden-shed based business burned down, they set up in town and have grown from strength to strength. I did this shoot for them in exchange for a year's supply of bread...
For more about this shoot, click through to this blog post:
http://kimayres.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/earths-crust-bakery.html

Primal Scream at Electric Fields

Another festival - this time Electric Fields, headlined by Primal Scream. Was quite pleased with this one of lead singer, Bobby Gillespie.

Meg's Hair

Regular readers of my blog just wouldn't feel any collection of my photos would be complete without at least one of my daughter, Meg.
For more about this shot, click through to this blog post:
http://kimayres.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/do-you-really-want-your-child-to-be.html

Desert Sunrise

At the beginning of November I had an brilliant trip out to Morocco, which  included staying overnight in the desert. Watching the sunrise over the dunes was unforgettable (although I had to take photos so I wouldn't forget...)
For more about this experience, click through to this blog post:
http://kimayres.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/camels-in-sahara.html

Selfie on a Camel

After that sunrise, we rode back on camels. Very sore on the rear, but one of the most amazing experiences. Although I'm not usually a great fan of selfies, this one does put a smile on my face.


I hope you've enjoyed my selection - please leave a comment below with any thoughts or observations, and let me know your favourite!

Wishing each and every one of you all the very best for 2017.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

The Immortal Australopithecus

I'm in the process of revamping my study/studio and sorting through piles of paper that have been sitting around for years.

At a time when so many people have been reflecting on the number of famous deaths this past year, and an ensuing sense of mortality, it was interesting to come across a short story I wrote several years ago about the notion of immortality, and whether it might not be all it's cracked up to be...

Happy New Year!

---

Four million years ago, the devil offered him immortality, which he gladly took.

For a hundred thousand years he ruled his tribe. For five hundred thousand more he was responsible for many great empires.

He survived ice ages, the rise and fall of the oceans, the spreading of deserts and immense floods.

Eventually none of his species survived: he outlived them all.

Then he outlived other, younger species, although their evolved abilities began to make things more difficult.

Even the Neanderthals were beyond him. Unable to understand their more complex syntax and grammar, he struggled to keep up with their conversations.

All he had to fall back on was instincts and experience, neither of which could prevent him feeling a deep loneliness.

The final insult was the development of touch-screen phones, which were never designed for thumbs as large as his...

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Festive Wishes

On Thursday I drove up to Edinburgh to pick up my son, Rogan, and bring him home from university for Christmas.

Yesterday he helped me construct a new computer desk because sometime before new year he's going to be building me a new computer! A couple of months ago he built his own, inspired by a few of his friends who'd done it, and realised he could save a few hundred pounds if he bought the components and stuck them together himself. Such was his success that he offered to build one for me if I bought the parts, and that would be his Christmas present for me.

It certainly beats a pair of slippers...

Maggie's busy creating enough food to feed a small army, despite there being only half a dozen of us here for dinner tomorrow, but that's always been her way.

Meg has bought and paid for all the gifts she's giving everyone else. It took a little bit of managing as she has no sense of money at all. You might say you like hot chocolate, or you might say you like Ferraris - she would buy you either if she had the money and not distinguish the difference - it's just something you like so she'd want to get it for you. Her generosity is legendary, but her ability to understand cost is non existent.

So, Christmas is here once again and I feel truly blessed to have a roof over my head, food in the cupboard and be surrounded by a loving family. I know that so many people are lacking in one or more of these things, and that's heartbreaking.

No sign of snow this year, so a Christmassy photo wasn't easy to find, but a couple of weeks ago there was a bit of frost and I managed to catch the last of it sugar coating the tips of some holly leaves, so I thought that would do.



Whatever your cultural, religious or spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof), I hope this festive season is good to you and your loved ones.

Wishing you all the very best!

Kim x