All rights reserved © Gavin Parsons

All rights reserved © Gavin Parsons

It’s up to every business to make their people look good. I don’t mean dress them smartly, give them clean uniforms and wash their work’s vehicles every once in a while (although that will help), I’m talking about in their promotion and publicity.

Models wearing your company logo is one thing, but people can spot a model a mile away these days. How many chiselled 6footers with manicured hair and nails do you find on a construction site or hanging off the side of a muddy wall? What’s needed is real life. Your real employees, the people who know how to do the job and how to make it look professional. And if your employees look and act professional, then you can use them to promote your business.

Photographing real people in real situations has become a specialty of mine over the last few years. Several of my clients need promotional material for press releases, social media and advertising, but sometimes budgets won’t stretch to models and sometimes they just want the people doing the job. They did though, want stunning looking shots. And this is the key to getting eye catching images as opposed to snaps. Any of my clients could have sent a foreman or manager out with a camera or even a phone and grabbed a couple of pictures, but they realised to get the job done right, they needed a professional commercial photographer to not only get a distinctive and engaging image, but also to process that image correctly and imaginatively to really make their photography pop.

The example attached to this blog is a workman repairing a stone wall on an island in the Thames. It was dirty, hard work and the people doing it were skilled at the task. Plus they were used to the river environment and the hardships that spending days on a small island completely detached from London life  brings. A model could never portray that.

So I worked with the builder as he was doing his job. I spent the best part of a morning in pretty good light working in the Thames mud. It wasn’t a job for a model photographer, or indeed a news photojournalist. It was a job though that I love. I’ve photographed the transformation of the island over the years for the same client. I’ve been attacked by Canada Geese, photographed tree surgeons measuring the trees, arbours sculpting the trees and then the guys repairing the walls. I’ve photographed in sun, rain, cold and heat and every time I bought back images that impressed the client.

That’s why getting a professional to take the pictures you use to promote your business is a key part of marketing. Viewers looking for businesses to hire, will always stop and look longer at a website with unique and characterful imagery, than they will on a website full of royalty free generic snaps.

So as every story has to end with a moral (I don’t know why. Blame the Hollywood movies I watched as a teenager), here is mine. If you want to get your business noticed. Then

look for a professional photographer who can help you achieve that goal.

If you would like some advice on images for your company’s marketing then please get in touch. You can see many more of my real life images at: www.gavinparsons.co.uk

This is a story photography nuts like myself dream about. A story that brushes aside the fripperies on modern photography and strips the art form back to its bare bones. Time acts like a flock of vultures and shows us just how powerful still photography remains, if used correctly. Photography is a time machine and a recent discovery in Antarctica demonstrates that perfectly.

A set of previously unseen cellulose Nitrate negatives was discovered in Captain Scott’s Cape Evans Hut, which is being restored by the Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project run by New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust. The damaged negatives have been painstakingly restored and reveal Antarctic images that have never been seen before.

 The photographs are from Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-1917 Ross Sea Party, which spent time living in Scott’s hut after being stranded on Ross Island when their ship blew out to sea.

I use a camera from that era and can testify how tricky it is to get a picture at all compared to digital cameras, so I can only imagine the difficulties the photographer had to overcome to produce images in the cold and snow of the Antarctic.

You can see the pictures at http://www.nzaht.org/AHT/antarctic-photos/

When I was a child, around the time the Diplodocus was just about to go extinct, my mother taught me a valuable lesson.  ‘Always be polite.’ You know the rudiments; say please and thank you, hold the door open for others, give up your seat on the bus or tube for a woman. All the elements a polite society instills in its youth. 

Something seems to have happened though and politeness has been shown the door (and no one even held it open). I’ve noticed it over the last few years and it has got worse since the recession of 2008. I realise emails are a bit impersonal and for things like job interviews a person can be deluged with applications and answering every one personally is impossible, but the decent thing to do is provide an answer. 

As a photographer, I let people know about different work all the time. I’m not touting for business directly, I am just asking people to look at new projects I’ve worked on. However, the number of replies I get is pitiful. It doesn’t take long to say “thanks I’ll take a look”, or “I loved them”, or even “the pictures were not for me”. But I get very little acknowledgment let alone feedback.

I suppose I have to expect that. Unsolicited emails can get annoying especially with all the impersonal spam around, but a quick response takes no time at all. 

For the moment it sounds like I’m moaning about people not responding to my marketing emails, but what about when I’ve been asked to give up my time and expense to attend a meeting? I get promised an answer about the work within a couple of weeks and then nothing happens. I hear nothing. 

If that happened once, I’d put it down to an error, a missing email or one person being impolite. But it happens more often than it doesn’t. If someone asks me to their workplace to talk about my ideas to better their business the least they could do is send me an email to say whether they want to work with me or not. Rejection is part of the creative business, rudeness is not.

I cannot be the only person to experience it. Anyone who has applied for a job will have seen the line which is almost standard these days. “Unsuccessful applicants will not receive a reply” Or words to that effect. Why shouldn’t they receive a reply? It is not difficult to set up a standard email thanking someone for taking the time to apply for a job, but on this occasion they were unsuccessful. A group email with everyone as a BCC is easy to send and the least an employer should do. What sort of a message is a company sending to potential customers if they treat people who want to work for them so badly?

Being polite, is a small part of this world, but a very significant one in my opinion.

The French Newspaper Libération’s 14 November issue ran without pictures. Instead of harrowing images of the typhoon ravaged landscape of the Philippines or war torn Syria or even pretty pictures of baby animals doing cute things, there were empty white boxes. The story can be seen on the BJP-online site at http://tiny.cc/jh8k6w. I think it demonstrates firstly the power pictures play in the news telling process, but more importantly, what our French cousins think about photographers. Would the British media industry do such a thing? I very much doubt it. They seem more concerned about drumming photographers out of business as they chase cheaper and cheaper rates.

The UK media has pinned content (words and pictures) to advertising revenues. When the ad revenues fall, so do the rates they pay for content. A shrewd business plan you would think, except it fails one critical point. If you pay peanuts for content you will drive the creativity and heart out of the contributors and before long you end up with bland camerphone style images which then drives away your customers.The UK media industry needs to acknowledge, the readers are the customers as well as the advertisers.

Why hold your readers in such low regard? It’s a point that has always baffled me. The BJP (British Journal of Photography) actually made a bold move a few years ago and instead of racing to the bottom as many others did, it took about three steps up and is a much better and more respected publication because of it.

With a market flooded with photography, you’d think the British magazine and newspaper sectors could command global respect, but very few do. The reason is they care little for the content and more about the Ad revenues. It’s a decision I believe will leave them behind the curve. The electronics sector which creates new technology is deciding the direction the media industry has to go on a global scale. Pro cameras these days do both still and video, many people carry tablet readers and it will not be too long before many of the world’s great cities will offer wireless access everywhere, so you can sit in the park and read your favourite newspaper or magazine online live. You’ll be able to see a stunning high definition picture on screen and be able to tap it and watch a video clip to enhance the story. This is the way technology is pushing us, whether we like it or not. Will the UK media industry be able to keep up? I have to say I doubt it in many cases. They simply do not pay enough for contributors to keep up with the latest technology. In many cases it falls to hobbyists with well paying corporate jobs and an desire to see their work published no matter what the cost.

The UK media industry will price the most creative and talented people out of the market and then wonder why no one is reading their produce.

I think this is a crying shame, but one that is inevitable I feel. I wonder how many publishers will take note of what Libération did and think about the future rather than firefight today?

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The Commonwealth Graves Commission Cemetery Canadian Cemetery No.2, which is located in the Vimy Ridge Memorial Park. The well tended lawns are the last resting place of soldiers from a number of Commonwealth countries including the UK.

 

I yelled “Stop, stop stop,” from the back seat. And then said two words, my traveling companions really wanted to hear: “Iron Harvest.” A few metres back down the country track lay three rust and mud caked munitions from a war that is almost a century old. So fierce was the fighting that even today you can stand by the edge of a newly ploughed field and pick up lumps of shrapnel, barbed wire and other spurious pieces of metal which cut hundreds of thousands of men to shreds. The mortars, shells and bombs are still pulled from the ground by farmers, construction workers, utility workers and gardeners.

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A shell, motor round and unidentified munition left as ‘iron harvest’ on the side of a farm track. Even now, almost 100 years after the guns fell silent, farmers still uncover remnants of the First World War.

One reason for the sheer amount of unexploded ordinance still surfacing is the vast tonnage fired by the protagonists of the First World War. It churned the ground of France and Belgium to a soft squidgy mess, which eventually wasn’t substantial enough to detonate one on four shells fired. That means almost a century of live munitions coming to the surface. Some are high explosive rounds, which are not nearly as dangerous any more as the mustard gas shells. But farmers and ground workers still die or are wounded each year, and the Iron Harvest keeps the army bomb disposal experts of France and Belgium busy.

The small collection of shells we found included a standard shell, a Crapouillot (Little Toad) 20kg A.L.S trench mortar round and a smaller British mortar round. We were tempted to move them to get a more pleasing picture, but suicide was not on the agenda, so we made the best of where they sat. As I lay on the ground photographing live First World War ordinance The Voice of Edmund Blackadder filled my head after Lieutenant George asked the procedure after stepping on a mine: Blackadder: “Well, normal procedure, Lieutenant, is to jump 200 feet into the air and scatter yourself over a wide area.” It was not something I wanted to test, but the excitement of finding such a tangible part of Europe’s bloodiest conflict, almost got the better of me. I had not expected to find such a real part of the war so early on the trip.

THE FALLEN
I’d come to France and Belgium to tread in the footsteps of heros and to create a photographic record of the journey. Basing ourselves in Lille (which was cheaper than the Front line towns of Ypres, Zonnebeke or Lens.) Myself and two friends set out each day to explore the surrounding area.

After the first morning, it was obvious we’d made the right choice to only stay a few days and to concentrate on the small area of the Ypres Salient and Vimy Ridge. The impact of seeing the graves of so many young men was enough to put a ball of emotion in the bottom of my stomach, which grew with each cemetery we visited. After the first day we’d all got cemetery fatigue.

We started though at Vimy Ridge, the site of a large Battlefield Park. Driving to the massive Canadian Monument it’s obvious why the area is a park. The shell pocked ground has been left untouched and ‘Danger Live munitions’ signs are everywhere. The cost of clearing it now would be astronomical.

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Canadian National Vimy Memorial the centre piece of the 100 hectare Vimy Ridge battlefield park. It was designed by Walter Seymour Allward and took eleven years to build. It was opened in 1936. Upon its walls are the names of fallen and lost Canadian Soldiers who have no known grave.

Vimy Ridge was highly prized by both sides and a fierce battle raged here for most of the war and culminated in the Canadian attack on the ridge which was part of the Battle for Arras started on 9th April 1917. Months of tunnelling, shelling and trench warfare ended in a routing of the German 6th Army in just four days and the capturing of the high ground. The battle is a defining moment for the Canada Army and Vimy Ridge was chosen to commemorate the huge sacrifice the men paid to take the ground.

A massive memorial to the missing was constructed in 1924. Designed by Toronto sculptor and designer Walter Seymour Allward. While waiting for the stone to arrive from Croatia, Allward got his construction workers to preserve lengths of trenches and the tunnels dug by allied troops. The legacy is, therefore, a park which encompasses the memorial, tunnels, trenches, cemeteries and a forest of trees growing among the pulverised ground. It is a place for the fallen to rest completely in peace.

The Memorial, like the famous Menin Gate, is covered in the names of Canadian soldiers who have never been found. It is a peaceful place, but the munition infested earth surrounding it is a stark reminder of the ferocity of the Battles that raged here for several years. The cemeteries also serve as reminder to the cost many young men, not just from Canada, paid to take this piece of ground from occupying forces.

The exposed ridge is subject to all sorts of weather and on a breezy day makes a perfect place to use a long exposure to render the sky into a blur, thus showing the steadfast resolve of the monument to tell the world forever of the terrible four years which paid Vimy Ridge a visit between 1914 and 1918.

THE PRICE PEACES PAYS TO PROGRESS
After the tranquility of Vimy Ridge we headed to two cemeteries we’d seen from the main road. Finding them proved a little confusing. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is very good at putting up sign posts, but we had to travel in the opposite direction to where we thought to get to the farm track that lead to the cemeteries. We found the Arras Road cemetery a mile down the track, but it was right next to the main N17 from Arras to Lens, which is a dual carriageway and the constant droning of cars and lorries was distracting and not very sombre. The cemetery though is, like all the Commonwealth War Grave Commission cemeteries, immaculately kept. I again chose a long exposure of around a minute to give the cemetery a sense of stoic belonging in its surroundings. It shows how the sky moves on, the trees move too, but the stones of the fallen remain and will do so forever.

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Arras Road Commonwealth War Graves Commision cemetery. It is the last resting place of over 1000 Commonwealth soldiers mainly from the UK and Canada.

The sensation of ‘forever’ was highlighted perfectly at the next cemetery we visited. The Beehive cemetery holds just 47 British and Canadian soldiers. It was a forward burial site and named after a German machine gun emplacement the British troops thought looked like a Beehive. Today the small cemetery is a kilometre into the ploughed fields of the flatlands below Vimy Ridge. It is surrounded by corn and sugar beet, and is a sacred place with a well tended lawn enclosed by a small wall. In my opinion it is a lovely place to rest in peace.

The diminutive Beehive cemetery is in contrast to the British cemetery on the outskirts of the French village of La Targette a few miles away. Not because this cemetery is by a busy road or that it is on a completely different scale as it holds around 640 soldiers. No, the reason for the contrast is the neighbours. While the Beehive soldiers are surrounded by farmland, the La Targette cemetery inhabitants are next to the French National Cemetery and the British dead are dwarfed by the sheer number of French. Many of the soldiers here died in 1915 while France fought a horrendous battle against a well defended and dug in German enemy while trying to retake the Artois Hills. Thousands and thousands died as the huge scale of the cemetery shows. The stone crosses, set in neat lines go on seemingly forever.

The Germans were far from immune to the cataclysmic casualty rates too and a couple of miles up the road is the Neuville-Saint-Vaast German Cemetery, the largest Germany cemetery on the western Front. Over 44,000 soldiers lie here. It is a place which slowly wraps a hand around your throat and grips you to choking point. It is a desperately sad piece of ground, where melancholy hangs in the air and drips from the trees. Lines of black crosses stretch off into the distance and each cross signifies the burial of two, three and even four soldiers.

Perhaps it was the culmination of seeing so many dead young men, but the German cemetery kicked my resolve to the curb and I was done. I didn’t want the reality of First World War in my life for the rest of the day.

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German WWI Cemetery at Neuville St Vaast, France. This is the largest German cemetery in France and contains over 43,000 German soldiers from the First World War. There are generally 4 soldiers per grave, although Jewish German soldiers are marked with a simple head stone rather than a metal cross.

MESSING UP MESSINES
There is very little actual evidence that evil visited this small part of Belgium from 1914 to 1918. There are a handful of crumbling bunkers and a few metres of preserved trench, but mostly the land has been turned back to agriculture, villages and towns. There are no trees older than a century, and precious few buildings either. One thing that will never disappear completely though are the mine craters. And the Allied attack on the Messines Ridge in June 1917 created a series of massive craters in a small area when the British and Australia troops attacked and took the Messines Ridge, one of the most successful battles of the First World War.

The craters are just large circular ponds these days, but they are shocking all the same. The Messines Ridge is littered with them, the most famous is the Hoodge Crater, as it lies next to the main road, although several are accessible from the small lane called Kruisstraat, which runs north west out of the town of Mesen and basically follows the German front line. If you are looking for something a lot more authentic and out of the way, then head to Railway Wood, just off the Menin Road. Here we discovered a small crater behind the memorial to eight British tunnellers and another deep in the dense undergrowth of the wood. The latter gave a sense of discovery and I got a feeling that this was a little visited parts of the First World War and like the Iron Harvest, it was something that directly connected me to the men who fought and died here.

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A hidden mine crater in Railway Wood, one of the little visited sites of the First World War.

That evening after driving along the front line of the Messines Ridge we stopped in the walled city of Ypres, one of the focal points of the Great War. Ypres today is a thriving city bursting out of its medieval walls, which makes its living from the fact it was decimated by the First World War. It’s Flanders Museum is a hub for visitors to the battlefields and one of the best commemorative museums I have ever visited.

The main reason to visit Ypres though is the Menin Gate, a foreboding emblem to the lost of the war. It is a hard place to describe. The massive white stone gateway is covered in almost 55,000 names of the soldiers who were never found. A number which is unfathomable. It is shocking and disturbing, but not the only reason to visit the Menin Gate, because at 8pm each evening the men of the Ypres Fire Brigade step in front of hundreds of visitors and represent the entire Belgium nation in saying thank you to the men who gave their lives to save Belgium’s freedom. They play a haunting rendition of The Last Post with bugles and I defy anyone to stand there after seeing so many white headstones and not have a lump in their throat. The only time since 1927, when the Menin Gate was opened, when the Last Post hasn’t been played there was during the Second World War. But it restarted as soon as that part of the Town was liberated. Proof, if any were needed, that the small country of Belgium knows how to say thank you with style and honour.

TO REALLY REST IN PEACE
As the centenary of the start of the First World War creeps nearer like an artillery barrage, more and more visitors will come to this relatively small sliver of Europe which was the Western Front. Thankfully, the sites are not here for fun. France and Belgium have worked hard to keep the remembrance as serene and sombre as possible. This is aptly demonstrated at Tyne Cot, the largest Commonwealth Cemetery in the world. The site between Zonnebeke and Passendale consists of a cemetery with near 12,000 graves and a memorial to the missing that commemorates some 35,000 soldiers who were never found.

It is a vast cemetery and like all the others tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, it is immaculately kept. A visitor centre at the top of the cemetery is the first place to stop and as I walked from the carpark to the centre I became aware of a soft female voice whispered on the wind. At first it was hard to hear, especially as there was a coach tour just leaving, but as I concentrated I could hear names. The voice is on a loop and speaks the names of each of the 34,887 commonwealth soldiers who appear on the memorial to the missing. It’s a heart wrenching addition to the visual enormity of the sacrifice The Commonwealth Soldiers made and gives Tyne Cot perspective and creates a humbling experience.

Tyne Cot is peaceful and deliberately so. There are reminder signs telling you it’s a place of remembrance and anyone insulting that sense will be asked to leave. Yet it’s one of the most visited places on Battlefield tours and so I wanted to find a cemetery where the residents can truly rest in peace. Many of the cemeteries are close to main roads, or in fields were farm machinery trundles by, but I wanted to find a setting that was truly a place for eternal rest.

The Buttes New British Cemetery is the last resting place of 378 New Zealand soldiers who died during fighting in Beligium, mostly in 1917.

The Buttes New British Cemetery is the last resting place of 378 New Zealand soldiers who died during fighting in Beligium, mostly in 1917.

In the end I found it, a place worthy of the title ‘Rest In Peace’. Set in Polygon Wood is the Buttes New British Cemetery and across a small road next to a field with chickens and a friendly donkey is Polygon Wood Cemetery.

Most of the soldiers here were bought from other cemeteries after the war ended. What these men have been given, in thanks for their lives, is a beautiful and serene last resting place. The woods screen the minimal traffic noise and the only sounds you hear is nature continuing to reuse the ground that was once smashed and devoured by war.

I came to France and Belgium to find remnants of the First World War and was initially disappointed by the lack of evidence except for some Iron Harvest and the odd dilapidated bunker. But the experience changed my view. The Great War is now, for me, not about the fighting, it is about the men who died. Ensuring they are remembered for the ultimate price they paid. Finding Polygon Wood a peaceful place gave me a renewed sense of acceptance of the First World War. I had no ancestors who fought on the Western Front and because of that I have a slightly different perspective. I want the best for all of them, Commonwealth, Allied, German, Austro-Hungarian.
The cemeteries enrich the landscape of the French and Belgium countryside and serve as a reminder to the world of what not working together can do to humanity. We must not forget that, and  overthe next century, when the gravestones will stay still and the munitions will still creep up from the ground, mankind will hopefully keep the years the world went mad at the forefront of our minds.

To see the full set of images from this story click through to my website gallery at www.gavinparsons.co.uk/pages/worldwarone.html

 Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved.s permission

Copyright Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved.

Fishing tails is a website (www.fishingtails.co.uk) run by fishing guide Sean McSeveney. Sean appeared on the first King Fishers programme that has aired on the Discovery Channel recently. He landed the largest White Sturgeon I have ever seen in the first programme.

He guides and fishes the coast around Weymouth and Portland in Dorset, UK and throughout the summer I’ve accompanied him on several trips to record his life as a fisherman.

Last week we had a cracking early morning photo session. We started with a perilous scramble down the cliffs on Portland. The weather wasn’t looking promising and heavy rain was forecast for the day ahead. The sea conditions were looking good for bass fishing, which is all a fishermen thinks about. A photographer though looks at the light and I wasn’t keen. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

As the sun came up, a break in the cloud cover produced a stunning sunrise and even as the cloud cover moved over us, the light produced gave me something different to work with.

The water was rough enough to produce a decent amount of surf, which we both used to our advantage. Sean loves fishing in these sorts of conditions and I made the most of his willingness to get soaked by the large waves.

I chose my moments carefully, I’m not a machine gunner when it comes to using the camera. I watched the waves as Sean did and took a few rapid shots as a large one beat against the rocks and exploded in a pile of Spume.

I now have a collection of images I am happy to show and while this is still a work in progress I thought I’d share the pictures which can be seen at www.gavinparsons.co.uk/pages/fishermen.html.

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

A couple of days ago I was searching through my photographic archives to find some slides I took in Australia a few years ago, before the digital age. A client wanted pictures of western Australia and I knew I had some beautiful slides.

At the bottom of the file box was a couple of long forgotten plastic sleeves with black & white negatives from a backpacking visit to Indonesia 21 years ago. I had never printed or scanned them and they have never been published. I simply processed them and put them away.

So I was excited to delve back into my past.

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

At first I couldn’t remember where the pictures were taken. The temple was as mysterious as the start of a Scooby Doo cartoon. I’d traveled extensively in South East Asia in 1992 when I was 24 and thought at first it was northern Thailand as I remembered touching a Buddha’s feet (a statue anyway) through the holes in the bell shaped domes. Thailand is a Buddhist country and so my hypothesis had some merit.

I searched the internet, but turned up a blank in northern Thailand. So I spread the search and found a picture on Google image search of the same bell shaped domes. It turned out to be the ancient temple of Borobudur on the Spice Island of Java. And then the memories rushed through time like a hand from the past slapping me across the face. The desolate ruins in the rainforest mountains appeared in my mind. It rains a lot there and the day I visited was no different. I remember the loneliness of the place. Just me, a couple of traveling companions and our driver who sat in his car in the carpark. We had the place to ourselves. The sky was a flat grey, the stones wet and mirror-like in places, it was like liquid silver had been tipped across the temple.

We wandered around the temple so old and exciting that Indiana Jones wold have felt at home. You can find out more about it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borobudur.

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

A day or so later I was on a rickety bus heading to an old harbour near the city of Jakarta with a guy from Brazil.  The harbour was a step back in time. The cargo boats were all sail driven, small and the hustle and bustle around them was infectious. It was a great place to spend a few hours watching the men carrying huge planks of wood, bags of rice, potatoes and any other pieces of cargo.

When I got home I must have processed the films and put the negatives away for later printing. I probably didn’t think it would be two decades before the pictures were seen. Although now, the pictures will be seen by more people than they perhaps would have done. After all how many pictures taken 21 years ago have you looked at lately?

You can see the full collection in the gallery on my website at www.gavinparsons.co.uk/pages/rediscovered.html

Please let me know what you think about my posts by either leaving a comment, liking it, or following me.

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

There are photo shoots that can be done at any time… almost. I’m talking outdoors, of course. Inside shoots really can be done at any time, when the photographer (that’s me) has full control of the lighting.

However, outside things do get a bit trickier. I can, for example, sit and wait for something to happen, which can be any time of day. I can also use the light I’m given and work with it as best I can, or add a touch of flash light to fulfill my brief. However,  sun set and sun rise briefs are altogether different. These I have absolutely no control over. No one does. The sun breaks the horizon at a set time for sure, but the atmospheric conditions are so random that you just have to get up and see what it’ll be like.

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

Take my most recent foray as an example. Mid September in the UK, should be a time for misty evenings and mornings. That’s what I hoped for. I started with sun set as it was easier than getting at at 5.45am. The day had been warm, sunny with just the right amount of cloud cover. Come sunset though and a massive bank of cloud sat in the western sky. The sun dipped, the light got lush and then it all fizzled out like a torch with a dead battery. It faded and died. Oh well. There was always the sunrise.

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

A misty morning was what I was after. I almost threw my iphone across the room when the alarm went at 5.45am, but I knew I needed to be up and out. Luckily my chosen location is a mere 10 minutes in the car. I got there as the light in the east was starting to glow. The sun was coming up and the clouds turned a lovely red and then puff, the sun came up and into another bank of cloud. A north west wind had also picked up and there was no mist, no magical hour. It was a magical 5 minutes. That’s all I got. My shot will have to stay in my head for the moment. I hope the conditions improve next week.

But then that’s why picking up a camera is easy, taking stunning pictures is hard.

 

 

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

Sunrise is a romantic time so they say. Poets pontificate about it, writers get all lyrical describing the subtle hues and colour changes at the start of a new day. But when your alarm goes at 4.45am, the pontification and lyrical prose are far from the mind.

At 4.45am the world is a dark, cold, silent place. It’s not a time to be up and packing camera gear in the car. But off we set in search on the sunrise some 10 miles out into the English Channel. That’s roughly how far Portland Bill sticks out into the sea from the coastal town of Weymouth in Dorset. It is one of the haunts of my photo workshops.

Portland’s lighthouse is famous and it is so well photographed I could almost see the dimple marks of a million tripods in the rocks that overhang the rippling sea. But I set up my shot and waited. The sky was lightening and turning red and pink. It was a moment of anticipation, like waiting for a blind date to arrive.

It looked promising, like sitting in a bar watching the front door to see a stunning brunette walk in. But then metaphorically, the brunette stepped aside and behind her was my date who’d fallen out the ugly tree and hit most of the branches on the way down. All of a sudden, the wonderful sunset waned and vanished as a bank of cloud obscured the rising sun. What promised to be a marvel flicked and burned out within 30 seconds. I had grabbed a shot at the start, but it was not what I’d hoped for.

The cloud though stayed on the horizon and as the sun broke free from its shade the light gently kissed the lighthouse and rock face that tumbled to the sea. So we repositioned ourselves to make the most of the light and sticking on my 10 stop neutral density filter I made the most of the early morning light.

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

 

This well shot scene was never going to be a earth changing moment for me, but I do like to turn my hand, and eye, to many disciplines and the idea of a bit of landscape photography, was reason enough for the early morning.

I’d like to thank Samantha Dunnage for the suggestion of the early morning rise and I hope she enjoyed the excursion as much as I did.

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There really is only one surefire way of making a picture look like it was taken in the 1920s. You can forget Lightroom, Aperture, Photoshop or any other sophisticated sofware. The latest offering from Canon or Nikon won’t help you either. What you need to make and authentic looking picture from the 1920s is to use a camera from the 1920s.

I used an All distance pocket Ensign circa 1920s. It was made in England, takes 120 film (Anyone who started photography this century may have to look up what film is on wikipedia).

The pictures have a certain quality about them. The focus isn’t tack sharp and the clarity is softer than you’d get with a modern camera, and, in my opinion, all the better for it.

A steam train came through the village station last week and I took the opportunity to run a roll of film through the camera. A massive 8 shots is all I had, but I like shooting like that. Each shot needs to be considered. The trouble was the tiny viewfinder is reversed and framing will take some getting used to.

For a first attempt I don’t think I did too bad. More shots will be taken soon.

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