I like this philosophy in photography: Keep it Simple, Simon. Or for that matter, Sylwia. Talking of which, this is a portrait of Sylwia. Actually, it was a test photo for another picture, with Sylwia standing in to test the light. It doesn't matter why it was taken, I like it for its simplicity and honesty, the lack of manipulation, the strands of hair that have gone astray, and of course a pretty girl - my wife!  



Taking pictures just for myself, getting up in the morning, and The Wreck of the Hesperus

Sylwia might have the right to feel a little insulted by the wreck bit, but I mean the ship, not her. This morning we did something that we haven't done for a long time - got up horribly early, and set out on a train ride to a particular place to take a particular photo. I had seen this place some time ago, and had meant to visit it for ages. Without actually being there I couldn't be sure it would be interesting, and it seemed a long way to go on the off chance, and it never seemed convenient. Last night I decided I had made enough excuses, and since we had to go to Glasgow to meet a client anyway, we could get up earlier (a word not usually in my vocabularly) and take my picture first. It's so refreshing to set off to take a picture, just for myself, with no ulterior motive (eg. money) in view! Sylwia not only served as the core (maybe I should say: corr!) of the picture, but also brought me the vital first cup of tea in the wee hours of the morning that got me out of bed. I almost never take any portraits of Sylwia - I don't know why, I certainly should. Sometimes it's hardest of all to take pictures of the people who are closest to you. This was as good an occasion as any to make up for lost time. So as soon as I had taken the picture without her that I wanted, this was time to take a portrait or two. Or three or four.

There's something about being a photographer that makes you blind, and of course it was much more important and fun to take pictures of Sylwia than some mouldy old ship. But both pictures needed to be taken.

I still have to develop the films from the Mamiya, it'll be interesting to see how they compare, but here is a preview of some of the pictures taken on the Nikon. We were there for an hour, before we had to dash for a lunch meeting with clients in Glasgow.


Photography and skiing - Survival Tip No. 104

One of the perks of having children is sometimes you end up doing things that in the normal course of sanity one simply couldn't be fagged doing. Not that unoften, it even turns out to be fun. Take this morning for example. For a start, "morning" isn't usually a word that enters my vocabulary, beyond being that part of the day devoted to cups of coffee and bacon sandwiches. It was pouring with rain. Miserable. In the normal course I would be cowering on the settee listening to the rain hitting the gutter wondering whether it might not be better simply to get back into bed.

But instead, here I was skiing with Liska up at Hillend, getting soaked to the skin. Brilliant fun, probably quite good for my health (pneumonia aside), and not as untasty as eating a salad.

Anyway, the thing that I discovered was this: if you decide to take photos while skiing, it's probably best not to look through the viewfinder and close the other eye. And if you decide to ignore that advice and do it anyway, remember that, if you're using a wide angle lens, when you stop looking through the viewfinder and open both eyes again, you will discover that everything is much closer and that you are going much faster than the wide angle lens led you to believe.

Also, bear in mind that, if you're using ISO 100 film, the vibrations are going to mean that your pictures will be blurry anyway. Especially that last frame you took as you hit the wall covered in mattresses at the bottom of the slope.

Just a thought.

Being film, and seeing as I have some frames left, I don't yet know how blurry they are, and whether they're interesting-blurry, or just blurry-blurry. In the unlikely event it's the former, I'll post one on here. In the meantime, here is a picture I took in a train hurtling down a dark tunnel, which for some reason wasn't blurry in the right bits.

Speed London

Back in Bratislava

I will always associate November in Bratislava with romance. Sylwia and I originally met at Bratislava Photo Month some 8 or 9 years ago. So of course it was time to go and revisit old haunts, and what better way than to go to the portfolio review event at Photo Month! So that's what we did. This time, we kept bumping into one of our heroes, Martin Parr, first of all in a cafe, then in the street, then in our hotel (of course, it turned out he was staying there). Of course, he doesn't know us from Adam, but he must have thought that we were stalking him.

And I had the most extraordinary morale boost, when I was awarded third prize in the portfolio review event!

Suitably encouraged, we went for a stroll over the Novy Most and into Petrzalka district, which I saw on the horizon years ago and have always wanted to visit. It is a monstruous monument to socialist architecture. Vaclav Havel, who became the Czech President after the end of communism, said of Petrzalka:

"I saw the industrial complex of the Slovnaft chemical factory and the giant Petrzalka housing estate right behind it. The view was enough to make me realize that for decades our statesmen and political leaders did not look or did not want to look out of the windows of their airplanes."

So of course I took some pictures. Which I haven't had a chance to prepare, but here are some rough contact scans from my flatbed.