Writings / category / general

About a year ago, as a form of therapy really, that I launched my Facebook page as a complement to my website. I've long been a photographer but I'd never really pushed it at people so I decided to be a bit more "in people's faces" with it. As they say in the movies... it's been emotional!

I really have to thank the band of faithful followers and friends who have encouraged me to push my work out there. Without that encouragement I wouldn't be writing this today.
I also need to thank the people who have allowed me to take their picture, either of them or their families! That said I'm reasonably sure they're all happy with the pictures they got in return!

It's hard to believe that in such a relatively short period of time the page has over 70 "likes". That means at least 40 odd people I don't know have looked at and liked my images! The truly amazing thing is that I've not really pushed myself so the growth is all "organic". I am trying to change that this year

I'm still slightly surprised when I think that people have paid me money for my work and paid me to take their picture! I find it truly humbling to be honest but yes, it's also very cool.

I hope that people continue to enjoy my work and that new people find and enjoy it. There's quite a big moment looming on the horizon and I make no apologies for mentioning (yet again) that I will be showing work over the second May bank holiday at the Mentmore Art Show. Looking at photographic images on the web is all very well but if you really want to enjoy an image then you need to see a print. If that print is mounted and framed all the better.  

There's a tendency for some people to be slightly dismissive of photography these days , people don't always appreciate the artistry that goes into conceiving and executing a photographic project. Photographers don't produce these pictures by accident, we see what we want, we figure out how to achieve it and we shoot it and we often put as much thought into how we present it as we do shooting it. 

I'm going to finish this blog with a big "Thank you" to the people who had enough faith to entrust me with their likeness... First up is "Simon's Gang" you could consider this my first ever "commercial shoot"

Old Skool!Of course the smiles do spoil the mean and moody look

Next up we've got the simply gorgeous "Pippa" who along with her mum became the first shoot for someone I didn't actually know beforehand!

Dolly 1Dolly is her favourite toy but I'm afraid to say she really didn't get a look in!

I can't say thank you to anyone without saying thank you to "Leigh". Approached by a complete stranger, totally out of the blue who handed her his card and said "Let me take your picture", she was apparently unfazed because she emailed me a few days later and we arranged her first shoot! I've "shot" her a number of times now in various guises and styles. I'm not sure if she realises just what a big help she's been to me in allowing me to practice technique, try out ideas and generally just get out and about with my camera. It's an image from her very first shoot (not just with me either!) that adorns my "hire me" page. 

Oh really?!?She's in her element now, relaxed and confident.

These people should all take a bow.
Next stop for me (and Danbo!) will be New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia! It's a hard life eh?

Thanks for reading (and supporting me)

Mark
17th April 2017
 

Actually, that's not true of all cameras. Some are rugged and waterproofed. Some have an underwater casing available and then you can swim with them using them as though you were above the water. My mobile phone is waterproof but my Canon isn't although it certainly has some weatherproofing.

I guess by now you're thinking what is this buffoon talking about? I'll tell you and those of you with a delicate constitution should probably stop reading now.

Last week, my work took me to Bradford, some 3.5 hours up the M1 along and tedious drive. I finished around 2.00pm and rather than drive home straight away. I had decided to visit the Bingley 5 lock lift on the Liverpool and Leeds canal. It's a quite impressive 18 meter lift about a mile downstream is another smaller 3 lock rise. 

I had a great time, shooting in and around the 3 lock rise and the 5 lock rise. I took a bunch of long exposures. It was such a lovely afternoon, sunshine, warm but not too bright, quiet too, not many people around at all. 

At one point in the shoot, I found myself laying on a slope... my camera close to edge of the empty lock, I was shooting towards the bottom of the upper gate, a nice plume of water cascading over the exposed lock gate cill.

Now what I'm about to write will take longer to read than it took to happen.  The camera is on its neck strap around my neck held securely in both hands... and then my foot slipped on the wet muddy slope... I let go with one hand, the elbow of the other hand got knocked and the camera flew from my grasp... it hit the very edge of the lock and activated the quick release mechanism of the shoulder strap... the weight of the camera dragged the strap away from me... I grabbed at it and I caught it! Yes! Is tarted to breathe.. sadly, the camera swung down and smashed against the side of the lock and the strap anchor point on the other side of the camera parted company with the rest of the body and the camera was launched into the air... and landed with a thud on the cill some 4 meters below, bounced and with a final splash and gurgle disappeared into the murky 4 or 5 foot of water at the bottom of the lock... to be followed moments later by the bigger splash of my tripod. I did what any grown man would do at this point. I had a full on stampy sweary fit and then sat on the edge of  the lock, head in my hands and cried.  

The only saving grace was that no one was there to see it.

I lost my camera, my favourite lense, my gps tagger, my remote trigger, my best and fastest SD card and of course my tripod. Approximate value? In round numbers, 1500 quids worth. 

As I write my replacements are ordered and on their way, the camera is a bit of an upgrade, its a Canon 80D so I guess that's a bonus. I lost the days pictures and that's a bummer because I'm not sure I'll be able to face going back.I've been in touch with the canal trust to see of there was anyway they could help me retrieve it but they said "Nope!" which if I'm honest surprised me somewhat. 

So normal service will be resumed shortly and in the meantime I've continued with the prep for the arts festival and getting excited about my trip to the states.

Thanks for reading
Mark 
15th March 2017

2016 has come to an end; What a strange year it was too! The world lost so much talent from the music industry and the film world, a couple were favourites of mine and in truth 2016 came to an end determine to see off as much talent as it could. A very strange year and sometimes sad year indeed.

Enough of all that though because its a new year and I've got plans for this year! Until now I've been fairly relaxed about how things grow , just letting things bimble along organically and I'm really happy (not to mention grateful!) for all the people who have liked , shared and bought my work. In a way, it's humbling but I'd be lying if I didn't admit it feels good too! This year I'm intending to be slightly more proactive about putting myself out there. As part of that plan I've booked space at a local Arts Fair that takes place each year in the village of Mentmore, Buckinghamshire. It takes place over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May

It's quite a small affair as these things go but I have 16 sq feet of exhibition space to fill! and while the pictures will be for sale ( a part of any sale goes towards the fair's charity, last year it was Air Ambulance) my main reason for doing the fair is to get out there and face the public, its quite a daunting prospect. All that said, it'll be cool to sell a few as well! 

For reasons I won't trouble you all with, I didn't get away anywhere last year but I've put that right this year, I'm off to New York in the spring. I'm going to see friends and I'm going to take pictures. While I've never had a major desire to visit New York, it does look like an exciting and vibrant place to take pictures of, so I am in fact really excited about the trip.

That takes me to the end of May.... Hopefully I'm in for a busy year.

Thanks for reading

Mark
8th January 2017 



I really can't believe how quickly this year seems to have passed. It's incredible to think we're halfway through November and inevitably thoughts have turned towards Christmas. For a photographer like me, who mainly uses natural light for photography this is a pretty dull time of year. The gorgeous autumn colours that covered the ground have been turned to a soggy mush by the wind and rain. Rather than take pictures I'm doing housekeeping and making plans. Naturally I still have a large stock of images and I'll share some of those but new shoots may be a thin on the ground.

Through The Arches WindowThe light was transitioning from golden to bluey grey and the arch offered forground shadow while the tree is still lit by sunlight, I liked the contrast, not to mention the ready made frame.

You may be wondering why this blog is called open for business so I'll tell you. At long last I've published a list of the services I can offer and a basic price list. I've effectively "shut" my Etsy shop because I don't think it was the right place for me or my work. To replace it I've been working on a shop page for my own website. Mostly cutting out the middle man is a better deal for everyone. They will be more on this in future blogs and I imagine some kind of "grand opening"!

Monkeying aroundthree... er ... "wise".. monkeys?

I've also published what I think of as my mission statement , I never want to take the same pictures as everyone else and this statement puts that philosophy out there in black and white. I want to be quirky! A bit random, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I do take pictures at events but they're not always the shots you expect.... you'll rarely hear me shout "say cheese!"

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my plans and of course I'm always happy to hear from people about my work or blogs.

Mark
19th November 2016

Recently, I was at the Tate Britain. I'd gone to visit an exhibition called "Painting with Light - Art and Photography from the pre-Raphaelites to the modern age". quite a mouthful!

I think it's fair to say the line between traditional art and photography has never been more blurred than it is today. Everyone plus their uncle has some kind of digital camera with them pretty much all the time and the sheer number of pictures taken on a daily basis is mind boggling. It wasn't always the case and this exhibition really hammered it home. From the earliest images that were taken in moments of the same views that a painter had taken months or years to complete, the resentment of the "Artist" must have been palpable. Slowly over years though it changed... photographers and artists began to collaborate and influence each other.  They began to explore the same subjects, classical images drawn from  literature were considered suitable subjects for both painters and photographers. Painters started to use photographs as the basis of a piece of work for the first, fundamentally changing the ethos of the Pre-Raphaetlites who no longer considered it of paramount importance to "be in the moment" or "be at the source" of their artwork. Photography changed the way they painted their subjects... they moved from sharp foregrounds and "fuzzy, misty backgrounds" to having more depth (yes that's right, depth of field). They began to use the photographs to capture the way the light changed over a matter of minutes rather than a matter of hours.

In our digital age people snap the most mundane of images and then apply software to it, often change entirely the look and feel of the snap. Think Instagram (no filter). Of course, I don't think that everyone who takes a snap and applies a filter to it has produced a piece of art; any more than I think every shot I take is "artworthy" by dint of it having been taken on a "proper" DSLR. 

By the way, for those of you that believe the digital age invented photo manipulation, think again. Photographers have been applying dark room effects, combining multiple images and generally messing with the viewer's eye since the very early days of photography. Amusingly, it was as divisive then as it is today.  

The exhibition got me thinking about my roots in photography. I actually started shooting pictures in my very early teens, I generally used a cheap box camera but at school I did learn to develop my own black and white pictures in the school "darkroom" ( A grand name for a converted cupboard!) I didn't get my first SLR until I was about 19... say 1983 and here it is!

Chinon CG-5My very first SLR

My Chinon CG-5 , I dug it out of the cupboard it's been tucked away in all these years. Incredibly, it sprung to life when I turned it on.... those are the original batteries! I have absolutely no images from way back then (probably not a bad thing!) BUT I did find a couple of exposed but undeveloped rolls of film in the bag.... I'm going to see about getting them developed. That may or may not work out so I'll have to wait and see.  I've bought a roll of black and white film and will be out and about with my Chinon over the next week or so!

I have another analogue camera, my father gave it to me when I visited New Zealand last year and the batteries it needs to spring into life are on order. 

Canon EOS 500

The cool thing is that it's a Canon EOS camera and that means that most of my current lenses will fit this body so I'll be out and about with it as well.

I had been considering getting myself what's called a "toy camera", these are generally cheaply made, light leaky cameras with plastic lenses often made in the old soviet union. (such as these lomo cameras although these are modern knock offs)They sometimes shoot 35 mm film, more often 110 cartridges but I'm interested in what's called "Medium Format" so I'm probably going to invest in a "Lubitel 166b" cheap and cheerful but I expect to have lots of fun with it.

Yep! I'm going "Old Skool", I feel competent enough that having a very limited number of shots available to me won't inhibit me! I've never belonged to the "shotgun" school of photography anyway but this will only hone my skills and I'm excited to see the results but I won't be hanging up my 70D just yet.

Thanks for reading.

Mark
21 September 2016

August comes to an end. All things considered I don't think we can complain too much about the weather, certainly not compared to the washout that was July. Photographically speaking, it's been a very interesting month and as summer slides into autumn I can't help but look forward to the golds and browns that it signifies.

Oh really?!?She's in her element now, relaxed and confident.

I took pictures of Leigh and partner Gideon, a set of pictures I'm very pleased with. They were very well received and that's quite gratifying to be honest. Thinking about it now, I can't believe how I ended up taking her picture. I think I touched on it briefly but to add more flesh to the bones (as it were) I was at a recent event where I was promised "Comic Book Heroes and Villains" but the reality was somewhat lacking. I was sitting on a wall eating an ice cream trying to figure out what I could do for the rest of the day when Leigh and a group of friends walked past. I caught a snatch of conversation..."blah blah.. shoot on Friday.... blah blah" and my plan was formed, I'd ask this girl if she'd like to have her picture taken. With far more confidence than I felt I walked up to her, introduced myself, gave her my card and asked her to have a think about it. She dropped me a line a couple of weeks later and well the rest as they say, is history. Both Leigh and I want to do more pictures so stay tuned.

Time to go...I was using a wide angled lens for this shot, I love the slightly distorted perspective to the image, the flash has given a really nice washed out feel to the foreground and the setting sun in the background adds a splash of colour.

I also took a run out to Rutland Waters. I'd never been before but I'd heard about this church that was half submerged and wanted to go and take pictures of it. To be fair I think me and a million other 'togs have all taken pictures of it but so what? It's a great subject!

View from the southShot from the end of the "Rutland Belle" pier.. fairly sure that I was breaking all kinds of rules; no life vest!

This weekend I found myself at the Imperial War Museum Duxford. I've been many times and I never get tired of the place there's always something going on.

Monkeying aroundthree... er ... "wise".. monkeys?

We went this time because it offered the chance to get "up close and personal" with a Lancaster bomber, I got some great pictures from angles that you wouldn't normally be able to see and excitingly, I was able to go aboard the aircraft and take shots inside. They'll be in a forthcoming update. As a bit of a bonus, we were treated to the sight of the B-17 "Sally B" coming home from Bournemouth, we watched her land and then taxi past us no more than 25 yards away. Fabulous!

Thanks for reading.

Mark

22 August 2016

Here we are and the year is nearly two thirds over. It's been an eventful year so far and I'm not sure the adventures are over yet. Since I last blogged I've been out and about with my camera mainly because the weather has improved thus making a random day out much more like a good idea. I found myself on the east coast in a aprt of the world I had never visited, living and growing up in west london we always headed south westwards... Sussex, Dorset or Devon. So visiting that part of the world was quite an eye opener for me. Of course simply being by the sea is often enough for me. I was a bit self indulgent with my choice of subjects but I'm pleased to say that "Huts" was very well received. Although my rather more abstract work was also appreciated.

StepsVery nice of the locals to provide a comfortable spot to watch the sea from.

The weekend just gone was the annual "Linslade Canal Festival" (It's really Leighton Buzzard AND Linslade Canal Festival but Linslade has always wanted to be treated as a separate entity!) For the third year running I took my camera but this year I actually took some pictures!

Towpath Shopping mallIt was quite bewildering the range of goods for sale.

As the name implies, there were a myriad of barges along the banks selling all manner of weird and wonderful things... ice cream, cheese, "spanish delicacies" and lest we forget a clothes stall selling very "Rosie and Jim" type clothes.

There was of course lots of stuff going on away from the towpath, a food "court", lots of crafts were represented ( more on craft fairs later!) and an arena where various groups performed. Of course, no day like this would be complete without Morris dancers... here they are having lunch.

LunchEven Goths have to have a lunch break!

You can find more images of "Hemlock Morris" on my facebook page. I really enjoyed them. I think keeping these kinds of traditions alive is very important.

Finally, I think it would be remiss of me not to mention the beer tent!

There may have been beer!Beer anyone?

I promised more on "Craft Fairs"; I have booked display space at a local Craft Fair that takes place next spring although I find the prospect quite scary I'm also very excited at the prospect. I'll make more noise about it closer to the time but it's a big step for me and I wanted to share it .

Thanks for reading!

Mark
3rd August 2016

In my last blog I talked about how I was intending to create a portfolio site, well I have. Like all portfolios it will always be a work in progress but the basic site will rarely change. For me the protfolio is an important step. It's hosted by Adobe, as part of their "creatives" initiative. This is a professional hosting solution and exposes my work to a wider audience and importantly an audience of people looking for "creatives" to work on various projects. Its more of a "shop window" than my main site.
I know some people question the need for a seperate site but portfolios are more than a collection of images and a blog. They're supposed to highlight your style, your vision and your technical skill.
I've pondered long and hard over the content.. I found it very difficult to choose just a few images. They need to be technically good, the need to show off the subject. It's so difficult to shoot a sunset in such a way that "your" vision is different from mine while still essentially showing the same scene. I doubt everyone will agree with my choices but the pictures I've chosen so far fill the criteria. I hope that you all mostly agree with me because then I've done my job correctly.


It's never been my stated aim to make money as a photographer except on my own terms. I want to take the pictures I want to take and I'd like to think that people will like them enough to buy them but the truth is taking pictures for other people,when the subject is interesting, is actually also quite rewarding. I'm going to try and expand that side of things.

Just perfect...I know what you're thinking but you're wrong. I was shooting for this very shot!

On the subject of selling, many of you will be aware that I "opened" an online shop using Etsy. I find the overhead of, pricing, stocking and the general management of it way beyond my needs and I've been considering alternatives. For want of a better expression I'm bringing it all in house. The Images that I'm happy to sell will be available straight from my website and you'll be able to receive a digital download right there and then. I'll also offer prints, framed or otherwise but of course you can't download those! This means that all my management is in one place and I can price to cut out the middle man. I think its the way forward. I will keep my Etsy shop for the time being but in the long term I expect to let it fall by the way side. Of course, I'm left with the much harder task of driving people to my website!

Dolly 2Sorry Dolly, you're out!

Finally, that brings me to pictures, I have another shoot planned for this coming weekend, I'm looking forward to it and will hopefully produce some great pictures. If this weather could hang on until sunday that would be super! I've just started talking to another lady with a view to taking her picture and we're just sorting out the dates. I've got a location in mind and I think if it all works out I'll have some great snaps to add to my portfolio. Stay tuned!

You'll find my portfolio here.

Mark
19th July 2016

Welcome! This is the new look to my site and I really hope that you all like it. Of course I'm happy to hear opinions as always.

So June is nearly over... I'm not sure we've had much of a summer so far but I suppose there's still time for a change. June has been a strange month. A month of highs and lows. As an example its taken me 10 years but I finally managed to have a glass of wine on my patio enjoying the evening sun while waiting for my steak to cook (albeit a chicken "steak"!). Not something I've achieved since!

yes, its a little robot man!He's cool!

I also spent a really pleasant afternoon in a drizzly Bury St Edmunds takig pictures of Simon's gang, I'm pretty pleased with the results if i'm honest. What I didn't expect was the reaction the shoot would provoke! It proved to be a very popular with everyone that looked at it and on the back of it I have another shoot planned for this coming weekend with a more local lady and her 10 month old... That'll be a new experience for me so watch this space!

Misty WoodsA rare autumn sunny morning and an early morning walk, the sun shinging through the trees and the mist.

On the "low" side of the scales, my website broke and this is more of a problem than it seems at first. It left me with a quandary. Most dedicated photographic software solutions are "paid for"  solutions and can I really justify spending upwards of £20 per month to support an already expensive hobby? Not really.... I know what you're thinking, "Hang on! you write software for a living! write your own solution!" Well, I suppose I could but I'd have to learn a whole bunch of new technologies (not such a bad thing) , I'd then have to reinvent the wheel (not such a good thing) and any time I spend creating and maintaining my software is time I'm not out and about with my camera (that's a bad thing). I looked at several different solutions but kept coming back to the same conclusion... I chose Koken as my solution in the first place because it was the best free solution available. As a software engineer I know that software does occasionally break and the issue is that I didn't have a suitable strategy in place to cope with a disaster, I wouldn't do it in my professional life so I only have myself to blame for not doing it with something I rely on for personal reasons. This time around I will have a strategy in place. Lesson learned.

I hope you all like the new look and feel. I think its brighter and cleaner. It's less cluttered. I have plans for an even less cluttered version that showcases just the images I consider to be my very best. More on this next time!

Mark
June 2016