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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A day out at Tatton Park

I love taking photos, but recently I’ve been trying to branch out into making short video clips. The scope for storytelling is much greater with video, and don’t we all just love a good story – children and adults.

Way back in the late 1980s/early 1990s, I did spend a few long summers as a wedding videographer. I started off assisting one of the local wedding videographers, learning the craft, before he sub-contracted me out to film under his brand.

There can be a fairly fixed pattern to a wedding, the story you tell is already meticulously planned out through the day. I want to tell my own stories. So, in order to get back into the swing of planning, filming, looking for shots, telling a story, sound design, and post-production editing, I’ve been making short films of days out.

Here is a short couple of minutes clip of a day out at Tatton Park in Cheshire, all shot on an iPhone, a little different than the shoulder mounted VHS camcorder I got started with.

Thank you for watching.

Danny.

P.S. Here’s a photo a guest took of me filming a wedding. You can tell it was the 1980s by the double breasted suit with shoulder pads. You can also tell it was a long time ago by the fact I have a head full of hair, long since departed.

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Dark Food Photography

“Is that dark photographs of food, or photos of dark food?”, I hear you ask. Well in this case it just so happens to be both.

Food photography is a genre I love, but often struggle with. Just as I’ve figured out how to light food photos to really show off the tasty treats at their best, a new fashion for darker, low-key images has emerged. I’m no follower of fashion, those who have seen how I dress bear witness to this, but I do love these darker, moody images, and have tried and failed to replicate them myself. I needed some help, so just like everybody else, off to YouTube I went.

Over on YouTube I discovered this rather excellent tutorial, entitled “Dark food photography – SHOOTING and EDITING”, presented by channel host Joanie Simon, on The Bite Shot channel. I already subscribe to this channel on YouTube, due in part to Joanie’s very relaxed and fun presentation style, but mainly because of her excellent food photography. Joanie is a most talented photographer, and her presentation style is both charming and natural, yet she doesn’t appear to take herself too seriously. The whole channel is just a joy to watch.

Here’s a link to the video in question.

After studying the video, and gathering as much information from it as possible, I made a trip to my local Hobbycraft store to pick up some supplies, mostly black foam board, popped the camera on a tripod, and started building a setting for something dark yet sweet to take a picture of.

Here’s what I came up with.

Salted caramel and dark chocolate cupcake
Salted caramel and chocolate cupcake

No doubt you will see a certain similarity between Joanie’s composition and my own – hey, great artists steal, right? – although not quite so good, but I did choose to ignore Joanie’s editing methods and use my own. I’ve been slowly improving my editing workflow over the past couple of years, and am happy with my post processing workflow, but if you follow the advice in the video you won’t go far wrong.

I’d just like to say a quick thank you to Joanie and the rest of the team behind The Bite Shot channel for continuing to push out such entertaining and informative content. Thanks guy, and keep up the good work.

If you want more content from Joanie and the gang, as well as a subscribing to the channel on YouTube you can also find them on Instagram and Facebook. Just click the links. ūüôā

Danny.

I made a video

Video is of course the future of social media. It’s a great medium, and not that most of us have access to faster internet speeds than we did 10 years ago, it’s usage will only continue to grow.

Way back in the later 1980s/early 1990s, I used to video weddings at weekends. Super VHS had just arrived as a format, and I used to run around in a double breasted suit with a camcorder on my shoulder, recording the couple’s happy day.

These days video is a lot different, and most of us will have the ability to record HD 1080p video in our pockets or bags. My biggest issue is that I don’t try. So, in an effort to get back into the medium, and get up to speed on modern methods of editing, I decided to record a short behind the scenes film of me preparing for a portrait session at home.

I do hope you like it, and thanks for watching.

Danny.

A white wall, some gels, and a pretty girl.

Looks like it has been a while since I last updated this blog. For regular readers I apologise for having left you in the dark for so many weeks. Please allow me to make up for this with a post about a photoshoot where I attempted to transform the front room into a photography studio. I already had some speedlites and a couple of softboxes. All as I needed now was a model.

 

If truth be told there was only one choice for this photo assignment. I’d worked with Katarina before, knew that we got on well, and that she wouldn’t mind me experimenting without any real clue of what I was doing. Katarina is also a very talented photographer and a really creative artist, so was the perfect person to have around for a few hours of lighting experimentation.

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There isn’t a great deal of space in the room I was shooting in, it does however have white walls. If you don’t add any light to your backgrounds, they tend to go dark. A white wall will turn into grey. Plain, uncoloured paint may not be a particularly thrilling background, but if you fire coloured lights at it, the results can be good.

Luckily I’d got hold of some gels for my flashes, and decided to have a go at turning the white walls different colours. I mean who doesn’t want some colour in their life eh?

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Hey, now we’re getting somewhere.

For those that don’t know, when shooting with coloured gels, the more you increase the power, the lighter, more washed out, the effect appears to be. I’m using minimal power through a blue gel here, which is why the colour is so deep and vibrant. For a more subtle effect, turn the power of your strobe up, and less colour is thrown. This seem counter-intuitive at first, but is easy to understand after a bit of practice.

For the next shot, we decided that a nice pink colour would be best. Too much red would take away the impact of the red strawberry, so I washed the colour of the red gel out a little by increasing the flash power. This gave us pink rather than bright red.

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Next off we went for a green background.

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Finishing off with yellow.

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I very much enjoyed this photoshoot with Katarina, and was pleasantly surprised what can be achieved with minimal lighting equipment and a blank wall. Hope you have enjoyed the pictures of Katarina, and that fellow photographers may be inspired to get out their flashguns and try firing some coloured lights at your walls.

Danny.

Learning Landscapes

I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. – Pablo Picasso

I love landscape photography, I’m just no good at it. Perhaps saying I’m not good is a little harsh. I know what the problem is: I just don’t try hard enough. Good landscape photography requires effort. There are only so many views of my garden I can create.

With all of this in mind, I decided to get outside and try to capture some landscape and architecture images. Something that will get me out an about, looking at different vistas, and hopefully a little exercise whilst walking from place to place. I’m not quite at the point where I’ll be popping over to Iceland to capture the glaciers under the aurora borealis, or following in the footsteps of Ansel Adams, treking through Yosemite National Park, but anything that gets me off the sofa and practicing my landscape imagery will be a good start.

I’m very fortunate in that I live fairly close to the Peak District, so one evening recently I popped out and tried to capture a scene from the landscape.

Crowden

This was taken just as the sun was setting. I was hoping that the sky would catch ablaze with the late evening colours as the sun set, but alas this was not to be. Hoping that I’d capture the most brilliant sunset on my first attempt was perhaps a little optimistic.

Next on the agenda was a long exposure featuring water. I’ve seen lots of these images where the long exposure makes the surface of the water appear flat and smooth. I knew in my mind what I wanted, and that was some clouds in the sky that would streak, a flat, still water surface, and a high contrast black and white finish. Blakemere Moss in Delamere Forest, Cheshire provided just the scene I was looking for.

Blakemere Moss, Delamere Forest, Cheshire.

At home we’re members of the National Trust. We like to visit places on holidays in the UK, and to go for days out. I’ve already written about visiting , where I concentrated on the autumn colours. This time I wanted to take a picture of the house, but also captured a little of the wildlife whilst I was there.

The house at Dunham Massey Damselfly

I know the damsel fly image doesn’t count as a landscape, but I like it and this is my blog so it’s going in. ūüôā

And now that elusive sunset. I’m very fortunate in that I get to visit Scotland quite regularly. If you want a beautiful landscape, stunning scenery, or inspirational view, then there are few places around the world that can match it. Of course Scotland obliged me with the colourful sky I was looking for.

Scottish Sunset

So far I’ve enjoyed my time learning how to take better landscape images. There is still much to learn, but the journey is going to be a very interesting one, and something I am very much looking forward to.

As always, thank you for reading.

Early evening photoshoot with Katarina Marie

Shooting with experienced models always fills me with confidence. If they’re also photographers then I know the results will be good. Katarina Marie is one such “modelographer”, talented on both sides of the lens; a true artist.

For our first photoshoot together we decided that we should head up to Largs on the west coast of Scotland. We wanted to capture some of the late afternoon sun, and if the weather wasn’t with us at least there would be ice cream at the world famous Nardini’s. Fortunately we did get some sun, and so here are the photos we created together.

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First look was in the bag, so Katarina did a quick costume change and we walked along the coast a little and found a shelter which we thought would look good.

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There is no point going to the coast if you’re not going to visit the beach, so after getting bogged down in some deep sand we eventually found a nice section of the beach we could shoot at.

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We’ve now got some great images stored, but the sun was starting to set and we were losing the light fast. A quick costume change and a chance to capture the last throws¬†of daylight.

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As the sun set we started to notice some beautiful colour in the sky so tried to record that too.

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I think we managed to fulfil our brief of capturing the late afternoon and early evening sun. This time of day, golden hour and beyond, is a great time to create photographs. There is almost magic in the light, and something I should do more of.¬†Sadly we didn’t get to visit Nardini’s for ice cream, but I am very happy with the images we created together. This would not be the last time I shot with Katarina, but that’s a story for another day.

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!

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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.

Review of 2016

What with the planet once again at some arbitrary point of it’s trajectory around the sun we’ve picked as significant, I thought I’d share some of the results of photoshoots I’ve done this year. I was not going to be shooting any more than twice a month in 2016 so there aren’t too many to go through.

Some images you may have seen, but I’ll try to pick ones I’ve not shared before. I will be sharing some of these photoshoots in a bit more detail so won’t use up all of the images here.

January

2016 started as it ended, with a photoshoot with Lillith. This time we were in a studio, and we brought Lydia along too. ¬†I knew these two would get along. I was a little daunted initially, not worked with two models before, but with everybody’s creative input into the shoot all went well.

Later in January I have my second photoshoot with one of models who helped me get started, namely Arabella. Arabella is a load of fun to be around, charming and chatty, and has a great line in what she calls “facial erotica”. I’ve been very lax when it comes to editing these images. They seemed to have been in the queue for ages. Hopefully I’ll be able to edit a few more in the coming months.

February

February brought with it a shoot with Scarlett Fox. When you work with Scarlett three things are guaranteed. 1) A lot of chat 2) plenty tea, and 3) and incredibly productive photoshoot due to her strong work ethic. Scarlett obviously puts a lot into her modelling and this is shown in the results.

March

When I first joined PurplePort, and started my journey taking photos of models, there was one name that kept on cropping up, over and over again, mainly to do with the quality of her work, which was always of a very high standard. That name was Artemis Fauna. I knew that I wanted to work with Artemis, but arranging something wasn’t easy due to her busy workload, and my ability to shoot only at weekends. Still, I persevered, a dialogue was opened, and sure enough a chance to work together appeared when Artemis was at Sandon Studio in March.

I have to admit that I was a little nervous about meeting Artemis. I say nervous, it was more awe I guess. Her body of work and reputation in the industry speak for themselves. Why would she want to work with somebody like me?

Well I needn’t have worried. Artemis was a pure delight. Five minutes after meeting we were chatting about focal lengths, aperture values, and shooting modes. I do love it when a model talks nerdy to me.

Later in the month I got some studio time with Purple Princess who had decided that we needed to shoot together. She travelled a long way for the shoot so we made the most of it.

April

April gave me the chance wot work with Sinopa Rin again. I say work, but it never feels like work. It’s always so much fun. No doubt I’ll write a separate post about this shoot at some point, and you’ve already seen one before, so won’t spoil the surprise right now with multiple images, just this one.

Also in April I got to shoot with Harley Monster for the third time. Harley has been a good friend to me, and so she shall remain in my good books for an awfully long time. Harley brought Nina, a whiz stylist and makeup artists along to the shoot. We shall meet Nina’s work again later.

May

May brought with it the spring, and a shoot with Stephanie Dubois. We decided to split out time, half in the studio and half out on location.

This is what we did in the studio.

This is what we did on location.

Second shoot for May was with KRG, back up in Scotland once more. Again, I’ve been a bit rubbish when it comes to getting these images ready. They will come, just not right now.

June

Had my third shoot with Lydia in June. Lydia likes to give the impression that she’s the mean and moody type, but when the camera is not clicking she’s all smiles, laughs, and giggles. A real joy to work with.

Earlier in the year Becky Kvittems and I were discussing the possibility of a second photoshoot after the first went so well. Alas it had to be postponed, and was rearranged for June. It was the middle of the summer so we planned an outdoor shoot, summer dress, sunshine, that kind of thing.

July

I’d been admiring the work of a photographer on PurplePort, so we got chatting about photographic styles. It turns out that this photographer is also a model I knew of, by the name of Marianne Di Vine. We arranged a photoshoot, and Marianne allowed me to use on of her lenses that I’ve been lusting after. How nice was that?

August

After my trepidation about shooting with Artemis Fauna earlier in the year, and it going so well, I jumped at the chance to take even more photos of super amazing Artemis Fauna, this time at Hallam Mill, where we created many different looks in just a few hours. Again, more to come later so just a teaser for now.

At this point I stepped back without looking and sat on a bedpost of one of the studio props. Good job I was wearing thick trousers. Artemis was clearly concerned for my well-being.

September

In September I got to work with make up artist and stylist Nina again. this time she brought Kira Dawn with her, and we created some amazing shots.

Hiring out a studio can be a bit expensive. The facilities are (usually) great, but you’re stuck to working at the times you have booked.

I decided to have a go at creating a home studio in September. I had a white wall, some flashes, light modifiers, and coloured gels. All as I needed now was a pretty girls and some props. I send a message to Katarina and she kindly agreed to model for me.

October

Guess who came back to Manchester in October. If you guessed “Sinopa Rin” then you’d be right. I jumped at the chance to create some more photos with her.

I also got the chance to shoot with KRG again, which was nice.

We started off out on location trying to capture some of the autumn colours.

Next was a trip to the studio for some beauty portraits, which with a model as beautiful as KRG is an easy job.

November

For my second shoot with Stephanie Dubois we were planning a couple of different locations. Unfortunately the British weather was against us so out came the lights again and we just went with the flow, creating as many different looks and lighting styles as the time would allow.

Unfortunately none of these images are finished yet. All as I have are a few back of camera screen grabs that Stephanie took as the shoot went on. I love the photos we created so they will be edited and shared just as soon as they’re ready.

December

Alas there were no photoshoots in December. I’m on a short break from shooting models and my photoshoot with Stephanie was the last for the time being. Hopefully it’ll give me time to catch up on the editing and sharing backlog. I’ve also been practicing indoor studio shots, but with more of a slant to still life than models.

If you got down this far, then thank you so much for reading. Hope you liked the pictures.

Wishing you and those you love a very happy New Year. May all your dreams come true in 2017, especially those you work hard to make happen.

Danny.