Barter Books, Alnwich

I love Barter Books. My first visit to this fabulous second-hand bookshop was quite by accident, back in 2011. We were visiting Alnwick, primarily to go to the castle and gardens, and discovered Barter Books whilst wandering around the town one day. This time, when we decided to go back to Alnwick, the bookshop was on my list of must see attractions.

I decided to make a short film about our visit to the bookshop, and wanted record a short introduction. Talking to the camera in public is something I’ve found difficult, too difficult to even attempt, but I decided that I had to at least have a go and record a short introduction to camera. I was a tourist and it didn’t really matter how daft I looked.

All in all I enjoyed making this short film, and of course the shop was everything I’d remembered and more. I’m not 100% happy with the video, but it is progress in my photographic journey, and as my first vlog style recording marks a little milestone.

Anyway, enough words, here are some moving pictures ….

 

 

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Facelift

I’ve given my blog a bit of a makeover. When I first started to write down my mutterings, I paid little attention to the layout of the site. I chose one of the first themes that the blog hosting company throws at you, and left it at that.

Well now it is much improves. There is a slider with some of my favourite featured posts, a portfolio of the type of images I like to create, and of course the standard blog posts. The site is now responsive for those viewing on small sized screens in this modern, mobile age.

Hope you like the changes, and if there is anything you’d like to see please let me know.

Danny.

Vegan rice pudding

I’m not a vegan, nor am I claiming to be one. I’m your classic omnivore, although I do seem to have developed a number of sympathies to the vegan way of thinking of late. Recently, my work has taken me away from home a lot, and this has included a lot of motorway driving. Passing the trucks on the way to the slaughterhouse, scared snouts and noses poking through the gaps in the crates makes me feel sad; seeing the trucks empty even more so. I toyed with vegetarianism for just over half a year in the 1990s, but once I fell off that wagon I never tried to get back on it.

The more I’ve been thinking about these issues, the more I’ve been wanting to make a change. I decided in October that I would do something about it. When I’ve been working away, which has been a lot during the latter part of 2016, I stopped buying and cooking meat. I would not claim to be a vegetarian for those three or four days per week, there was no announcement or change of lifestyle, I just stopped buying meat when I went shopping, and would experiment with solely meat free ingredients whist preparing dinner. No big deal.

When I’m away and cooking, I’m generally looking for something I can take a photo of. I’ve spoken before about my yearning to improve my skills with food photography and I need to practice. Also, I don’t like to post too many pictures of meat dishes on social media. I understand it can be quite a divisive subject, with many strong opinions on all sides. So, one November evening I decided to cook something for dinner, without meat, specifically so I could take a photo or two to share. I was looking for something with a mixture of bright colours, plenty texture, and steam, just as an exercise in backlighting the steam for maximum effect. The resulting dish was a stir fry, as seen here.

Tonight's dinner.

As I was writing the copy for the photo I realised that had I not used butter when creating the sauce, as well as being suitable for vegetarians, this dish would have also been vegan friendly. Had I made a little more effort or put a tiny bit more thought into it, this dish would have been suitable for a much wider audience. Oh well, it wasn’t my intention to create a vegan dish, just to take a nice photo and enjoy my dinner. This did however get me thinking about trying to cook some vegan food that would look good for a photo. I decided to give rice pudding a go because, well, because it’s rice pudding and I bloody love that stuff.

After some careful research into the ingredients – who knew that some sugars are filtered through bone charcoal – I was all set. I cobbled together a recipe from a few other, non vegan ones I found on line, had a practice, did a bit of fine tuning, and ended up with this.

  • 1 x measure of pudding or risotto rice. I used a shallow ramekin for my measure, but anything will do. It all depends on how much you want to make.
  • 3 x measure of vegan milk. I chose Alpro hazelnut milk, the unsweetened variety, but there are plenty of soy milk and nut milk options to pick.
  • 1 x measure of water.
  • 1 x measure of sugar. I used Tate & Lyle Demerara sugar, because it is vegan friendly and I usually have Demerara sugar handy if I fancy sweetening my coffee a little.
  • It is as this point you will wish you had added the sugar before the milk and water as your ramekin is all wet and lots of the sugar is stuck to the bottom of it.

Pop all of the ingredients into a pan, and get it on the heat. Once this is going you will need a very low heat. Cook it for about 45 to 60 minutes, until the rice is soft and scrumptious. Don’t leave this simmering alone for long periods of time or it will stick to the bottom of the pan.

If the mixture is a little too thick for your liking then loosen it with a little more milk or water.

I chose to top my rice pudding with some of the Co-Operative’s “Extra fruity strawberry conserve” from their “Irresistible” range, and also grated some freshly ground nutmeg on top. Next time I may try some Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup instead. You could of course choose to simply enjoy it as it is.

“Where’s the photo” I hear you ask. Ta dah!

5t5a6746

Please feel free to comment in the comments section below if you have any questions, if you tried this and liked it.

If you have any vegan recipes you would like to share then I’m sure you will find some like minded people in the Promoting veganism group on Facebook.

Danny.

“You’re too good to work with me”

I recently came across a social media status update by one of the more accomplished fashion and beauty models within the photography community, somebody I’ve worked with and have another shoot planned for next month. The nature of the model’s update was about conversations she’s had with photographers, the type of photographer I would class myself as: hobbyists, keen amateurs, professional hopefuls, or possibly even the complete beginners. These gist of this conversation, and I’ve found that this particular model is by no means alone in this, was the photographer not wanting to make a booking because, in their own words “oh you’re too good for me”.

The feeling being that booking one of the top models would be a waste of everybody’s time because the skills of the photographer don’t match the model’s ability.

This is of course complete nonsense. Utter balderdash.

Of course I understand the sentiment; I’ve been through similar feelings myself, but they are easy to get over when you work with these models. So if there are any photographers reading who think that they can’t book a particular model because she’s too good, or you’re not good enough, and are perhaps thinking some of the things I’ve thought in the past, let me try to help you.

Don’t worry that you can’t produce images as good as those in the model’s portfolio. You’re not meant to. It doesn’t matter, and nobody is expecting you to any way. Shoot for yourself. If you want to improve then an experienced model can help. They have experience and if that’s what you’re lacking then you should definitely book them.

Take Artemis Fauna for instance.

Artemis Fauna
Artemis Fauna from out first photo shoot

Artemis is, aside from being a very experienced and incredibly beautiful model, is also an accomplished photographer. Whilst we were discussing shoot ideas we also spoke about lens choice and suggested aperture value combinations. This was incredibly helpful.

Sinopa Rin is another example of the “modelographer”.

Sinopa Rin
Sinopa teaches me something new on each photoshoot

I was lucky enough to have Sinopa along on my first shoot. She was supposed to be there as a model, but ended up being a teacher, educator, motivator, and possibly therapist too. I gain more and more knowledge from each photoshoot with Sinopa. If there is ever a moment of doubt or uncertainty she will always add a creative suggestion when asked.

Continuing the trend of models who know life on both sides of the lens is Arabella.

Arabella
Arabella helped me get started in the right way

I only found out how good Arabella was with a camera after our photoshoot had finished and she showed me some of her published works. Arabella was one of the experienced models who took a chance on me in the early days just when I got started and didn’t have a stack of positive references to my name.  Her experience and creative eye were invaluable in helping my get started and most importantly to get better.

Stephanie Dubois is another I’ve been lucky enough to shoot with.

Stephanie Dubois
“Too good to work with me”

I will admit that immediately before making the booking to work with Stephanie I felt a lot of the feelings that some of the photographers mentioned at the start of this post had been going through. Why would Stephanie work with me? The answer is because she’s a professional model and I’m a photographer. That’s how these images are created. Stephanie didn’t care that the images would end up on my blog and not the from cover of Vogue. She understands that there are amateurs out there looking to create photographs and was happy to help me. I’m very much looking forward to working with her again.

There is a longer list of top models that I’ve worked with, but this was starting to look like me showing off rather trying to help a photographer make a booking with one of the top models. Believe me when I tell you that your starting skill levels is irrelevant, and will improve if you work with these model. Don’t be scared, don’t worry you are not good enough, just commit to the booking. You will not regret it.

Danny.

What a difference a day makes

I was feeling more than a little down about my photography. I wasn’t booking any models to work with, and had turned down a couple of offers of work from models who wanted my style images in their portfolio. Not really sure what had caused this negativity on my part, but I did realise that this slump had got hold of me, and I was bereft of idea on how to fix it. My portfolio wasn’t up to date and seemed to be going nowhere. What to do? Upload some images to social media and take some time away.

On Thursday I uploaded this image to a photography group on Facebook.

Classical beauty
Classical beauty

And then on Friday I uploaded this image to my Flickr account

Urban chic
Urban chic

Yesterday I had a look at the statistics on how these images had performed on social media. I was floored. The first image was incredibly popular on Facebook and had out performed any other image I have ever uploaded there, with more likes, loves, and reactions than anything else I’d posted.

The second image had been Explored on Flickr. For those that don’t know, Explore is Flickr’s way of showcasing the best and most interesting photographs each day. There are usually over 8 million photographs uploaded to Flickr each day, and only 500 of those are chosen for Explore. To be chosen for Explore your an image really must catch the attention of those that choose them.

Well I was delighted. Truly thrilled to receive so much love and attention. My notifications on both sites went crazy, and my statistics on Flickr are booming like never before.

Needless to say any negative feelings I was having towards model photography were banished instantly, and I have already started the process of arranging another photoshoot.

Regular readers of this blog will recognise the model in both of these images. It is Sinopa Rin who has been a great ally and constant source of inspiration throughout my photographic journey. For those wanted to get started in model photography she comes with the highest possible recommendation from me. You can view Sinopa’s portfolio here.

I know this story takes place over the course of three days but I just wanted to use the Dinah Washington inspired title. You’ll allow me a little poetic licence won’t you?

No update

One of my biggest concerns when I started this blog was about me not updating it. I have a reputation, deservedly so, as somebody who is good at getting projects started, but not so great when it comes to finishing them. I didn’t want this to happen with my blog, but with no update for two months it would appear that I’m dangerously close to having another unfinished project left by the wayside.

I don’t want this to happen. My photography has come on leaps and bounds over the past 12 to 18 months, and I have created some wonderful images I’m really proud of.

A little bit of real life has cropped up n my personal circumstances recently which means I do not have a huge amount of time to keep updating this blog continually, but I am determined to keep it going and for it to be a record of my photographic journey. With that I shall upload a few recent images, just to get me back into the swing of things.

Paul
Paul

 

Artemis Fauna
Artemis Fauna
Cinnamon Gaze
Cinnamon Gaze
Harley Monster
Harley Monster
Fat lad inna hat
Fat lad inna hat

5 steps to getting the best from your model

One of the models I’ve worked with, Sinopa Rin, recently created a blog post titled “5 steps to getting the best from your model“. What can a photographer learn from a model? Well quite a lot actually. Her post struck such a chord with me that I decided to write this post as a direct response, but from the photographer’s point of view.

Admittedly I have little experience, time wise, working with models. My first photoshoot, yes with Ms Rin, was a little under a year ago. However, in that time I have managed to squeeze in 35 photoshoots, working with 27 different models along the way, and feel that I have picked up a few hints and tips for a mutually beneficial working relationship that I will share with you now.

1. Treat the model with dignity and respect at all times

This is incredibly important, hence the position at number one in my list. Something you shouldn’t need telling, but alas it would appear that some people need to have this spelled out to them.

Of course you should offer this basic human right to everybody that you meet, but if you will be working with this person, during the shoot and hopefully again in the future, then you should make a special effort.

First off, never touch the model. This is a cardinal rule that cannot be said enough. Some models will tell you they don’t mind you adjusting their clothing, hair, or removing a stray twig stuck to their backside. This is irrelevant. You tell the model about the clothing, the hair, and the twig. You do not touch another person you’re working with unless it is to save them from danger.

“Please” and “Thank you” go a long way. There are photographers who can get away with calling their models “rat bag”, but these are exceptional people with tons of idiosyncratic credit and talent; very few and far between. This does not apply to the likes of you and I so courtesy is always the order of the day.

Be kind, be nice, be polite.

If your model feels safe and protected, if they feel respected, if they’re comfortable, then it will show in the confidence of their poses.

Bottom line: Be nice. Be courteous. Always.

Sinopa Rin
Sinopa Rin

2. Communicate

Communication, both before and during the shoot, between the photographer and the rest of the creative team (model, make-up artist, stylist, etc.) is vital for an effective photoshoot. This post is aimed at the model, so I’ll focus on them (no pun intended).

Before the shoot you should be in regular contact with the model about the shoot. Let them know any ideas you have for the shoot. If you have no ideas at all, then let them know this too. I do this a lot.

It is my firm belief that effective pre-shoot communication reduces the risk of cancellations and no-shows. I’m not saying you should pester you model each and every day, but draw up a shoot plan together. Decide upon the location together. Check in with them a few days before to ensure that they’re ready for the shoot. Any last minute issues that may have arisen can be dealt with at this stage. It pays to keep in touch.

Bottom line: A well planned and confirmed shoot is much more likely to happen than one where you have hardly been in touch with each other.

Beau Divine
Beau Divine

3. Ask, Listen, and Involve

Take the time to involve your model in the creative process. If you are lucky enough to have a model who can help you from a technical side then grab that chance with both hands (don’t touch the model), but if not at the very least you will have somebody who is interested in creating some great photos. Models I’ve worked with have been dancers, artists, creatives, poets, fire breathers, singers, actors and photographers as well and modelling. They have life experiences to draw on, and they also have a good understanding of what looks good in a photograph. An appreciation of art is not limited to those that own cameras.

I’ve had models create mood board on Pinterest that acted as a reference for us both, before and during the shoot. I worked with a model recently who upon hearing my request for suggestions of some images to create came up with three awesome sets that we put together during the shoot. I asked, I listened to the suggestions, and we created art together; a great collaboration.

Bottom line: Every photoshoot is a collaboration. Work together for better results.

Amy Stout
Amy Stout

4. Home comforts

Take the time to ask your model is there are any snack or refreshments you could bring along to the shoot. You bringing lunch or a snack, especially if they’ll be working in an unfamiliar environment may be a great relief to them. If you’re shooting in an indoor location or studio consider bringing some music along. Ask the model what kind of music they like. I’m currently compiling a playlist of “80’s rock and pop” for a studio shoot tomorrow. The model has a fairly long journey to make tomorrow and I’m keen for he to be comfortable when she arrives. Her favourite music will help here. Very much worth the effort.

The models you work with will have varying degrees of experience. I’m sure the ones who’ve been doing this for many years will have a set routine, or be able to organise themselves, but if you’re working with a model who’s only done a handful of shoot, or possibly this is their first, then there will be things they forget. Whilst an inexperienced model is worrying about bringing the appropriate outfits, or spent all night practicing their poses in front of the mirror, they may have forgotten to bring a drink, some lunch, or even some straws to drink through – essential for not smudging lipstick. If you can bring these things along to the shoot you’ll be a hero, and you will have a grateful model. If they don’t want anything then you can eat all snacks on the way home. It’s a win-win situation.

Bottom line: A happy model is better to work with, and will work better than an unhappy one.

Lydia and Lillith
Lydia and Lillith

5. Be nice

If you are our on location, check with your model if they’re warm enough. Are you traversing a rocky outpost to reach the next location? Offer an arm for them to hold on to if they need it (never touch the model, but they can hold on to you for support if required).

I have been witness to an episode where a photographer was pressurising a model to rush her lunch.  She had a few salad leaves and radish left on her plate when his allotted time for the shoot started. He was worried about missing out on five minutes of his two hours time with her if she didn’t stop eating immediately, or at least rush the remnants of her meal. People need to eat, even models. If you allow a little leeway, show the model that their needs are important, they will work so much harder for you, and this will show in the results.

At this same photoshoot the model I was working with actually encouraged me to continue shooting even though our booked time had expired and we were technically into her lunch break. “Let’s just do five more shots … Ok, they’re really good we’ll do another five … I like these, just a few more and they’re the last ones”. I had to say to the model that we should stop and she should go and eat. I’m wondering if Mr You-Must-Finish-Eating-Now got this extra effort from his model.

I’m not suggesting that a professional model won’t work hard if you even if you are a stickler for exact timekeeping, but I am saying that if you give them some leeway, treat them well, then they’ll go that extra mile for you.

Bottom line: If the model is happy they’ll work so much harder, and you will get much better images.

A happy model
A happy model

October Photo Challenge

When it comes to new projects I am a very enthusiastic starter. I always throw myself into the task with vim and vigour, learning as much as I can about the subject matter, getting started, finding out what I’ll need to do to get on with things. However, those that know me, and know me well, will already be aware that when it comes to finishing said projects, I am less than successful. My life is littered with examples of new hobbies, skills, computer programs, and a while host of new ideas that have been started well, but once I’ve figured out how it all works, understood the concept, or made a good start, I’ve lost interest and gone on to find the next new thing.

So, when super amazing and talented muse, model, photographer, and all round good egg Sinopa Rin suggested I should take part in the October Photo Challenge I was a little hesitant. The idea is that there is a set theme for each day, and you upload an image related to that theme. I was keen, but then I always am with new tasks, but a little reluctant because of my track record of never finishing things. Then I got a grip of myself: it’s only a few photos and it’s only for one month. I can do this yes? Easy.

It was decided that the best place to share the images with the world would be Instagram. I downloaded the app, set up an account, and got started.

Well here we are on the final day of October, and therefore the challenge. How have I done? Well I’m delighted to report that I have uploaded an image each and every day for the challenge – today excepted, but due to the theme for today, Trick or Treat the best photo is to be taken later when the little ones come knocking on the door looking to scare me and procure some sweeties.

The fact that I have applied myself to the challenge thrills me. I’ve thought about each theme, sometimes on the day, others planning my image in advance. It’s been great for me to work through something and not only start, but to get right through to the end. That was the challenge for me and I’m delighted to get there. I would like to say thank you to Ms Rin who also took part in the challenge for the nudge to get started, to my truelove for helping out with suggestions, ideas, and the occasional work as photo assistant, and to all of my Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook friends and followers for the encouragement along the way. It’s have been a delight.

In no particular order, here is a selection of some of my favourite images from the challenge.

Image of me holding a wine glass. In the background a clock is showing the time of eight o'clock
Day 23: Eight o’clock
A model, Amy, is shown in the photographic studio from a great hight, making her look smaller than her five foot one and three quarters of an inch height.
Day 25: Small
A dinner plate is shown, two pieces of toast with scrambled egg on, and some mushrooms on the side.
Day 29: Full
My collection of Lego mini figures, all neatly presented standing on a chessboard
Day 17: Collection
A tiny snail makes it's him underneath the petals and on the stem of a plant. I think it's an elderberry but may be mistaken.
Day 4: Up
Four images of plants and moss growing out of cracks in concrete
Day 21: Growing
A close up image of a crisp leaf, fallen from the tree, lying on the grass.
Day 10: Crisp
Image of me juggling apples, keeping them up in the air
Day 4: Up
A tin of Lyle's golden syrup
Day 8: Golden

Keeping you waiting

Apologies for being so quiet of late. I have been very busy with model shoots. Three you have seen, and another seven in the bag, with four more planned for the future.
I promise to share the results with you soon. Bear with me … It’s worth the wait believe me.