History

Is it a bird, is it a drone...?

Commando Memorial two views Gary Eason

Two views of the memorial © Gary Eason

Colchester, 29 August 2017

A very well known statue, this: the Commando Memorial just outside Spean Bridge in the Highlands of Scotland. 

Three giant commando soldiers look out over the landscape that was their training ground in WWII.

The statue, created by the Scottish sculptor Scott Sutherland (1910 - 1984) using actual former commandos as the models, was unveiled in 1951.

An earlier photograph of mine created in 2010 is one of my best selling pictures. But the location is one I pass regularly on my forays into the far north and in sunnier weather four years later I made a few more photographs there. 

Striking though the location is, the sheer monumentality of the bronze on its plinth, at 17ft (5.2m) high and on an elevated paving platform, means that unless you stand a long way off then the view of it is very much looking upwards. 

I also wanted to try to get a more eye-to-eye depiction, which resulted in the second of the photographs at the top of this page. 

There are very many photographs of this statue but mine is the only one I have come across that offers this perspective on it. Here's how it was done.

I was on this trip to make landscape photographs so I had not taken along my monopod, but I did have my lovely Giotto GTMTL9271B tripod (which was stolen a couple of weeks later when my car window was smashed).

Onto that went the D700 with 24-70mm zoom set at 24mm, on its side, and the whole package was hoisted at arm's length into the air to get the shot, framed using live view on the rear LCD screen.

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Easier said than done. The camera, lens and tripod combination came to well over 5kg in itself. But this is a very exposed location at the best of times, and what you cannot tell from the sunny aspect is that it was blowing a hooley at this particular time. So hoisting the rig was one thing but holding it steady up there was quite impossible.

Incidentally, if you are thinking a drone would have made easy work of this job, there are two problems with that: I doubt it could have been launched that day because of the wind strength; secondly - I don't have one! 

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So it was a grab: I set the self-timer for 5 seconds, made ready, and hoisted just as it was about to fire. ISO 100, f8, 1/350. I got everything nicely framed and exposed, as the sun dodged in and out behind the clouds, on the fourth attempt, which felt like good going in the circumstances.

Finally however, if you compare the shot and published versions shown here, you can see that I tweaked the lens distortion, warmed up the colour balance - and removed the distracting vehicles from the background. 

For this portrait-shaped view I kept in the remembrance wreaths at the base of the plinth. There is also a wide version where the statue itself dominates the scene. 

I hope you like them. 

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 TO BUY PRINTS  of any of my landscape works please visit the Places galleries on my website.

To get in touch visit the Contact page. Find Gary Eason Photography on Facebook, and on Instagram @gary.eason.


Deja vu for the campervan cameraman, with a weird twist

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Storr in cloud

We have been here before. What a huge difference the weather can make to the landscape photographer's lot.

On my last visit to Skye there was such a storm that I could scarcely stand. I was in real fear of losing my camera - if not my life - photographing the Mealt Waterfall plunging over its 60m (197ft) basalt cliff.

The River Sligachan was thundering along with such force I could imagine the old stone road bridges being swept away. The Cuillin beyond were scarcely visible in the murk.

Wet, SKYE _GE04938_39_41_tm

Fast forward to this last trip - and the bridges were basking quietly in the morning sunshine, as you can see from the comparison shots, while the mountains strutted their dramatic stuff in the background.

I had however just spent more than an hour looking at clouds. Don't get me wrong: I like clouds, and with another hat on they are splendid grist to my mill.

On this day, pouring over the top of a rocky escarpment in a fluid arc they were majestic. It is when they don't quite clear the object of your desire beyond that frustration begins to set in.

Sligachan Gary Eason _DSC4177

As I made another cup of tea on the campervan stove I had plenty of time to reflect on the fact that, as an adult with a camera, I have never seen the Old Man of Storr. I have to reach back more than four decades in my memory to my first glimpse of them. They loomed frighteningly out of the descending dark above the little boy in the back seat of the car.

Now, sipping my campervan tea, re-checking the camera settings, I watched the tourist minibuses disgorge their selfie-stick packs onto the path up the hillside.

Good luck to them. Sadly I was nursing - in a very real sense - an ankle agonisingly wrenched on the first day of my trip. It was fortunate that my transport had an automatic gearbox and that it was my left ankle I had damaged, otherwise I would have had to abandon the tour before it had really started and summon roadside assistance to get me home.

But there was no question of walking 50 yards let alone going up a hill. So I was essentially stuck with this vantage point. After more than an hour it was obvious that the weather was, if anything, getting worse.

Depth of field

I packed up and headed south to the Skye Bridge. As I drove, the sun burst through the overcast and I enjoyed one of the finest days of my trip, stopping to make some pictures along the way - including some featuring the quiet trickle of water beneath the stone bridges at Sligachan.

Rock shapes Gary EasonMy overall objective on this tour of the North West was a little grassy outcrop topped with rocks much further up the coast.

My mission: to reprise some pictures I had made there before - in a storm force wind - when I did not quite nail the depth of field I needed.

What I had seen and photographed then, as I paused at a natural vantage point, was that the rocks in the foreground, ice-scoured by the look of them, echoed the shapes of the mountains beyond. Not uncannily so, but sufficiently well to make an interesting sinuous harmony of a composition.

Unfortunately through tiredness and the difficulty of doing anything in the Force 10 - and frankly, with hindsight,  incompetence - I did not select sufficient aperture to have both foreground and background in sharp focus. To an extent this was not a bad thing, but the background was just too far out for my liking.

In practice, with the 200mm lens I had been using to get enough compression to make the composition work, the required depth of field might not have been attainable. But I theorised that I could in that case bracket the focussing and come away with the goods.

All that way ...

There was virtually no wind on this occasion. Unfortunately however, the long road there was taking me steadily back into the bank of clouds hanging narrowly along the coastal fringe. (See: Duvet weather)

Rocks on the River Coupall below Stob Dearg Gary Eason _DSC4044-EditBy the time I arrived, the pretty pink little geological feature that was the object of my desire and the foreground subject of my picture was just a pile of dull grey stones not worth a second glance: which is interesting in itself, because it had been the sunlight splashing on them first time around that had given me the whole idea.

I remember reading in Colin Prior's Introduction to his book of stunning mountainscapes, High Light, A Vision of Wild Scotland (Constable, London, 2010), that he plans his pictures with military thoroughness. But he says that in spite of all the preparations, "I frequently return without having taken a single shot", and might have to revisit over two or three years to get the image he had envisaged.

And that is how it was for me, after flying from Essex to Glasgow then hiring the means to drive for hundreds more miles.

A wasted trip? Of course not. Along the way I saw and photographed Rannoch Moor looking more tranquil than I have ever seen it; Stob Dearg and its streams in brilliant sunshine; parts of Skye that had previously been under a tumult of foul weather; Bealach na Ba in glorious shafts of late afternoon sun; Skye again, still in cloud but, from a distant vista, its peaks like islands in the sky.

I met some lovely people: the good folk at the curious, community-owned little Glenelg-Skye Ferry that seemed unchanged since I had last used it some 40 years earlier, a thrilling ride through the swirling, 8-knot tide; the woman who stopped to admire a view with me and wished me well on my travels; the former actor now selling his award-winning ice creams from a retro-look silver caravan in Applecross; the hitchhiking artist who had been to see one of her paintings exhibited in public for the first time.

How weird is that?

I had the freedom of travelling by mobile home, essentially unconcerned at where I might wind up and thus  able to make the very most of the shortening autumn days.

So to end where I began: I'll be back.

A footnote: I had the most eerie of experiences driving south again. On my way I passed Glen Affric. I contemplated a detour to visit, as it is one of the most beautiful places I know. But the light was going, I had been driving all day, and I was anxious to get to the camping ground I had earmarked on Loch Tay before nightfall.

So I drove past. I parked up in my allotted space alongside Loch Tay, got the dinner on, poured a glass of wine and sat down to check e-mails on my phone. Quite bizarrely, as I had been passing Glen Affric a man in Germany had been ordering a print of one of my views of it on my website.

When I got into conversation with him on e-mail, it turned out that he knew it because relatives of his had lived there, in one of those cottages, before they were modernised. Now, if you know Glen Affric, you will appreciate just how random this is. And if you don't know it, suffice to say there is only a handful of habitations there.

This coincidence is so spooky I have been telling the story ever since. As you can see!

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 TO BUY PRINTS  of any of my landscape works please visit the Places galleries on my website.

To get in touch visit the Contact page. Find Gary Eason Photography on Facebook, and on Instagram @gary.eason.


Licensing Flight Artworks aviation pictures

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Left to right: Recently licensed Flight Artworks scenes from the Phoney War and the Battle of Britain © Gary Eason

You will know already that you can buy aviation prints through the Flight Artworks website at www.flightartworks.com but I also welcome enquiries from publishers who are interested in using my work.

My photorealistic aviation pictures are regularly licensed either from me directly or, increasingly, through my gallery on the Alamy agency. You can see the latest purchases - for a book - at the top of this column. 

And it is not only publishers. I am also happy to talk to people interested in making ranges of aviation-related consumer goods. 

For the most part these are rights managed licences of the Flight Artworks, so prices vary widely depending on the particular use - but also licensing my 'straight' aviation photographs from airshows and elsewhere

On the subject of printing though, a reminder that all my pictures are made to order. They come to you fresh from the printers, and have not been sat in a storage box after being run off in batches. This applies equally to the photographic prints of aviation pictures and to the fine art prints, in a range of sizes. 

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 TO BUY PRINTS  of any of my works please visit www.flightartworks.com.

I do private commissions, for individual aircraft or bigger scenes.  To get in touch visit the Contact page on my website. Find Flight Artworks on Facebook, and on Twitter @flightartworks.


First Flight Artworks book published

 

 

 

Flight Artworks Volume 1 by Gary Eason
I am delighted to present my first book drawn from my growing collection of Flight Artworks​: 32 pages, available now in printed and e-book versions.

It contains captions, commentary and points of note – but the focus is on the images and they occupy most of the space. You can see some sample pages above and below. 

To preview or purchase the books please visit the Blurb bookshop.

I built it using their self-publishing software BookWright in 'standard landscape' size (25x20cm / 10x8in), in three formats from £19.99.

The production was straightforward if time-consuming. I lost count of how many times I thought it was done, then spotted something that was not quite right - which I suspect could become an endless process if you are not careful.

In fact it turned out that their existing software cannot properly reproduce it as an ebook without divine intervention by the Blurb support staff, so that is an ongoing project. 

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 00.27.55Am I pleased with the book though? Yes very. It was launched this morning, and when I went to look in my account for something a few hours later, I had already sold two. 

I'm afraid I can't do anything about the price: the fixed costs imposed by Blurb, including shipping, mean I barely get the price of a pint from each copy and I would have to sell a very large number indeed to cover the time invested in its creation. 

My son works in the book selling business and he will tell you (if only when he sees his pay slip) that for the vast majority of us, publishing and selling books is rarely ever going to be a get rich quick scheme.

The pictures I have used are not new, apart from a few I have adapted to fit the book design. In fact many people have prints of them hanging on their walls. And as regular followers of this blog will know, a number of others have appeared in print already in magazines and elsewhere. 

Also, as an aside, I am increasingly licensing them through my Alamy account – although I do not usually know where they will end up, because sales are reported to us contributors simply in terms of "Editorial magazine" or the like, and maybe not in a country or language I am likely to see. 

So what's the point of producing the book? Is it all vanity? 

Oh, come on – can anything beat sitting down with a cup of coffee on your most comfortable sofa, savouring turning the pages in a book of your favourite things? 

So when I say "first" Flight Artworks book published, will there be more? Oh yes.  

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 TO BUY PRINTS  of any of my works please visit www.flightartworks.com.

I do private commissions, for individual aircraft or bigger scenes. Publishers' enquiries are also welcome: many images are available already to license through the Alamy agency.

To get in touch visit the Contact page on my website. Find Flight Artworks on Facebook, and on Twitter @flightartworks.


Head in the clouds

 Ah, the magic of flight

One of the most important keywords in my catalogue of working pictures is "cloudscape". Searching on that term produces hundreds of images. 

Most - though not all (as we shall see) - are taken from on board aircraft. Yes fellow passengers, I am that sad soul who craves a window seat, preferably in front of the blurring hot exhaust from the engines, and spends much of the journey clicking the shutter button, pathetically trying to shade the lens against the reflections from the double windows. 

You might think I was mildly deranged; you probably would not think that I was working. But for me each flight is a photo opportunity and really there is no such thing as a bad view - in fact ironically, good weather can be the least rewarding.

I am talking about the backdrops for my aviation artworks. The air is the element in which I operate. The more altitudes and angles I have available, the better. Anywhere that passes for southern England, France or Germany is at a premium.

On the rare occasions that an airliner tilts to the side to any appreciable degree, revealing the landscape tableau below, I am in a frenzy. That said, it can mean a long stint in Photoshop getting rid of polytunnels, bright yellow rape fields, motorways and white vans in farmyards - I think I have complained about this before. 

It's all about the light

When I first began making the pictures I was severely constrained by the available canvases and had to confine myself to subjects that fitted what I had in store. Increasingly though it is the other way round.

If I need (say) largely clear air at 20,000ft over the Franco-German border, chances are I have it. I have a growing range of cloudforms and weather moods and it is not too much of a twist to layer these where necessary - combining and blending to build up the sky.

As always the light is the key. If it is supposed to be midday then long shadows are out; flatly lit white clouds at day's end just look wrong. While some tweaking is possible, it is a very uphill struggle to repaint an entire sky so it has to be more-or-less right to begin with. 

Situations now arise where I come back with a haul of skies and cannot wait to get stuck in. A recent trip to Edinburgh (for the Fringe) was a classic example - see video above. Such riches, there and back! I can become almost paralysed for fear I might waste a splendid slab of upper air on an inferior composition. 

Happily, it often works the other way round and an available cloudscape prompts a picture. And it does not have to have been taken up above. My latest creation uses a sky that I shot when squally rain was about to stop play at a 'bagels and baseball' knockabout in the park with some American friends. 

I have used it in a day-for-night way. I'll leave you with ... Bomber's Moon: 

Lancasters-at-night-FB

From elsewhere: Discussion of rules regarding photos on commercial flights