Excellence and its Benefits

It’s been a miserable year, with all the stresses of a pandemic, and the worries that ensue. I think I coped pretty well till the second major lockdown, but during that, I’ve got pretty fed up with the restrictions. Life has to go on, and I know that the restrictions are needed. Hopefully by next spring, we will start to see light and Christmas 2021 should be verging on ‘normal’ whatever that turns out to be – the ‘new normal’…. anyway…..

We are plugged into a news cycle all the time – between the internet, TV, radio and podcasts – all the newspapers, magazines, we are somewhat bombarded by all the bad news of the world.

I’m finding that all the news stifles my creative juices, and it’s been hard sometimes to make myself go out and make images… When I’m feeling all tense, sad, argumentative (nothing new there I suppose on the argumentative front!), and generally under the weather – I feel angry at something I have absolutely no control over – and that makes me scared.

What’s the solution?

For me, it’s friends, family and a good support group….. after that, it’s music, books, and good quality television.

I find that if I can get out for a walk with the dogs, alone, or with a friend, I come home feeling much better. A walk with a friend and my camera, some images to process, and play with on a wet day cheers me up immensely.

I was listening to a podcast on photography a few months ago, and a book was mentioned that had nothing to do with image making – it was about a detective called Harry Bosch – my ears pricked up because the detectives’ real name was Hieronymus Bosch – named after the great Dutch Painter who lived in the year 1500. I’d heard of him because of a different podcast where there had been discussion about one of his major works called ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ – now, if you’ve not heard of this, then I suggest you give it a look – especially if you like things that are a little off the wall….. anyway, I digress……

I searched online to find the book that had been mentioned, and enjoyed it very much – later I found that there was a TV series too – called ‘Bosch’ which I started to watch, and can’t get enough of……

Harry Bosch enjoys Jazz – (bear with me here), and I spent some time trying to find out what he was listening to in his home. I found a website that had a list of the music, and someone made up a playlist.

With the benefit of Amazon Prime, I was able to get a list of jazz personalities that I’d never heard of, and now have a great list of superb music that I’ve not listened to before.

The upshot is that if I listen to excellent music, read excellent books, and watch excellent programming – talk to excellent friends, and get out for walks and some exercise generally, I WILL feel better – and the more I do it, the better I feel.

So now I’m listening to the Red Garland Trio, Miles Davis, Ry Cooder, Lucinda Williams, Artie Shaw, and Boz Scaggs…. to name but a few……

Listening to things like this (or whatever your predilection for music), reading or watching can lift the spirits, and suddenly today I felt like doing something creative.

When we surround ourselves with excellence, it can promote the same in ourselves.

We are in ‘Lockdown’

We are in lockdown…….

I’ve not done a blog post this month since March 1st – and this is mostly due to the fact that the pandemic that started in China in December and which has overtaken most of the world sent me into a state of panic, that is only now starting to abate – as I realise that there is absolutely nothing I can do about it, only weather the storm as best I can.  

The media hasn’t helped – with a constant bombardment of bad news, and 24 hour coverage.

So, what to do ? Restrict the amount of news coverage, release myself from the bombardment of social media, and listen to a lot more music – classical piano, is what’s playing in the background even as I type.  I’m also trying to hone my photoshop skills some more.  I’ve books, and magazines that I bought ages ago with the intention of working through some things, but never got around to.  Well, now I have no excuse…..

Back to the music, and I’ve just listened to a piece that has been beautifully played.  I’ve rewound it, and sat with my eyes shut, and just absorbed the flow – this has put me in mind of how we can relearn to look at photographs.

We can have them in the background, and see them, but not ‘notice’ them, or we can absorb them – much like we can a piece of music.

I used to play in an orchestra, (I played clarinet), and sitting ‘inside’ the music was magical.  To hear the different sections rehearse individually was fascinating – sometimes it didn’t sound like the final piece at all, but the conductor bringing it all together made the final sound.  The study of the score showed how it all worked.

I find that photography is very much like this – we produce the first image, and then in conjunction with software, we hone it to a final version – which other folks can then either quickly look at, or hopefully, absorb.

There are photographs in my home that hang on the walls that I will enjoy looking at – and will spend time with, and there are others that are there for decoration only.  Seeing some images is not the same as spending time really looking at them.

Minor White said that you should spend at least 30 minutes looking at a photograph – not saying anything, just looking and absorbing – and that’s the same with a piece of music.  Having it running in the background is not the same as really listening to it.  Minor died in 1976, leaving many images for us to absorb.  Mostly black and white closeups, arranged in sequence so the viewer had to look carefully, and slowly.  Go look at his work, the lighting is beautiful, and a lot of the images are very simple, but need to be looked at carefully.

Especially good are the images of his friend Tom Murphy, taken in 1948 – beautifully lit, Tom is muscular and naked – and though White struggled throughout his life with his homosexuality, he was able to still to produce images like these.

MINOR WHITE IMAGES

In these strange times of lockdown, maybe we should take more time to really look at our photography, and really listen to the music.  Listen to the sounds of nature too, and allow ourselves the unaccustomed luxury of being able to ‘look’.

So, what’s next – and what do the next weeks have on offer for the photographer?  Restrictions yes, but maybe opportunities too.  

I might just break out the macro lens I bought and hardly used….. and get to grips with photoshop !

Then again, there’s always the music……… 

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Lytham Proms 2012

Over the last weekend, I was able to shoot the Lytham Proms, held each year on Lytham Green, just outside Blackpool.  It was a fantastic experience to be able to shoot such giants as Alfie Boe, Olly Murs and Diana Vickers, as well as the Lytham Community Choir.

The weather on Saturday night was mixed, but even as the rain hurled down, the voice of Alfie Boe made you forget the water running down the back of your neck.

You can just about make out the rain to the bottom left of the shot.  Despite all that, the sun shone, and though I’ve not got a photo of it, there was a wonderful rainbow, that arced from the sea, over the Lytham Windmill, and onwards.  Alfie remarked that it was a great light show, that had been set up..

Next night was Olly Murs, and the whole demographic of the evening changed.  Lots of  young people, all screaming their heads off for Olly.  He was a true professional, with so much energy – and lots of time for his young fans.

The full set of images can be found by clicking HERE

Key 103 Live 2012

Last night saw the Key 103 Live event at the MEN Arena in Manchester – it was great that I could be part of this event, and gain access to the pit area of the arena to get images of the artists on stage.  Much hard work, very hot, and VERY loud.  Me armed with ear defenders that I used to use when going clay pigeon shooting – made me look pretty silly, but I came away with my hearing intact.  It’s exhausting work, but more than worthwhile – many thanks to the MEN Arena Staff, and the guys and girls from Key 103, for making this such a great event.  It was run with military precision – well done.

Images here of Alexandra Burke, Will Young, Alyssia Reid, One Direction, Talo Cruz, and Tulisa – the rest of the images can be found by clicking HERE

Musical Theatre at its best !

I was asked the other day what sort of pictures I liked taking best – and though I enjoy all genres of photography, I have to say I’m a sucker for the theatre.  Inside, I reckon I’m a frustrated thespian, with all those artistic frustrations just itching to get out…..

So when I was asked if I wanted to shoot the PR Press release for the upcoming opening of The LION KING in Manchester, I had to be held back in my eagerness to be there.

The presentation was made by Thomas Schumacher – Producer and President, Disney Theatrical Group at the Comedy Store in Manchester – members of the cast – in full costume – sang, and acted their way through a number of songs from the show, with full explanations as to how the costumes, sets and props were created to create Africa on stage.

The costumes were amazing, with so much detail, some of which I’m sure will be lost from the back of a huge auditorium.

I’m booking my tickets later this week……..

To view the rest of the images – CLICK HERE