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June 2012

Busy, varied week

Polphail: for sale

Everything this week from school prom ball gowns through beach huts, a poetry reading and the dropping of tens of thousands of poppies over central London, to a ghost village.

The ghost village - Polphail, in Argyll and Bute - you might remember from a previous post last November. I stumbled across this extraordinary place by chance while on a Scottish tour, and naturally made some photos of it.

These caught the eye of the SWNS news agency, who'd heard that the place was about to be put on the market. As a result my pictures ran alongside their news story in The Sun, the Mail online and odd blogs etc.

I made the photos because it interested me pictorially but I'm pleased that they kicked off the week by earning their keep too.


Being in Essex was a pleasant interlude as always. I spent some time mooching around on Mersea Island; buying scallops, admiring Dawn's new paint job and making compositions around beach huts.

And Wivenhoe Poetry Society hosted a very enjoyable double reading by Jane Routh and Mike Barlow. Enjoyed chatting with them about boats, and navigation, and Shetland.

Moving target

The overflight of Green Park involved the only Lancaster bomber still flying in this side of the Atlantic, PA-464 of the (misnamed) Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

_GE01554_blogIts role on Thursday was to mark the unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial. This was a rather convoluted way to get many sackloads of symbolic red paper onto the sunlit green grass of the park, in which the memorial stands.

Photographically a tricky subject. A longish lens would be the obvious choice - except that the red ribbon of falling poppies predictably made quite a trail across the sky. So in fact I used the 24-70mm and ranged its zoom lengths to encompass the airborne scene, shooting on manual to manage the brightness.

In fact the hardest decision was where to shoot from. I knew the route would be in from the east, over the Houses of Parliament. I had no press pass for the ceremony itself - though in any case that did not seem the obvious choice, being directly underneath.

I checked with the excellent The Photographer's Ephemeris just to be sure and, at 1230 on June 28th, knew I did not want to be shooting southwards into the sun - although I did consider that, in fact, as so often, this might make the best shot - but in the end erred on the side of caution in my planning.

Once there, it was all too easy to confirm just how many trees there are in and around, um, Green Park. So I lined up alongside Buckingham Palace with a clear line of sight up over the foliage  canopy. I was happy enough with the shots I made, although with hindsight I reckon the best came from those who'd positioned themselves to the west, further down the track, catching the aircraft head on. Those who weren't lucky enough to be in a helicopter, that is!

Anyway all very moving. But not half as moving as seeing your daughter in a fabulous ball gown heading out to her final school prom.




Setting up

I am taking part in my first Open Studios, in Buckinghamshire. This is an annual event in many areas, in our case with two weeks in June during which artists of all kinds throw open their studios (or similar) to the public to come in and browse and, maybe, buy.

In my case, the 'studio' is an exhibition space created in the long conservatory at my friends Isobel and Andrew's lovely house: they volunteered the room and have been unflaggingly generous in helping set things up.

Mounting an exhibition is a significant undertaking in terms of the cost and time of printing and framing a number of pictures. In practice I've borrowed some of my prints from their owners' collections for the occasion. 

It is also an emotional investment, setting out your wares in such a bald fashion and being around to witness people possibly peer, frown, wince and leave quickly - always assuming anybody comes in the first place.  

Happily my first visitors have been interested, intrigued, chatty and apparently pleased with what they've seen. No-one has gone off with a big frame under their arm but I didn't particularly expect that: I think of it as chiefly a marketing exercise, and what people do go away with is leaflets explaining my techniques and referencing my website. 

St Paul's Thames panorama1-Edit_blog

Coincidentally, just as I was getting going, I sold online a 60in x 10in print of a River Thames panorama (above). I know it's a great image because I've seen its detail - but a significant shortcoming of websites is that they struggle to convey this with images that are such an awkward shape for screen display. 

So that's rather a leap of faith by somebody. I hope they are pleased with what they get.