Look for patterns and colour
I took this with my smart phone, a Samsung S5. So no fancy camera here, but it is a pretty smart camera.
I was walking round a swimming pool on holiday and saw lots of lovely patterns and colours in the water
so I composed the picture and clicked the shutter.
I took this on a walk in Autumn. The bark of the tree had a really rich texture, then I looked up.
I took this with my Canon 5d mark II with an EF 50mm f 1.4 USM lens. 1/30th s at f 5.6
I photographed this when I was at the Norfolk broads in the UK. Lots of water means lots of reflections.
I shot this image as a reflection, then flipped it in photoshop. I used my Canon 5d mk II - with my Canon 85 mm f/1.8 USM set at 1/800 s at f/16.
You could get the same effect with any camera including your smart phone.
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A year ago, Paul Debois and I collaborated on a project I have talked about on this blog called Wildlings. Paul photographed me painting 'Wild Thing' one of a series of my paintings then made this timelapse video: some people have loved it, some laughed at the comic timing! If it makes you smile, job done!
I painted this earlier this year. I used a photograph by Paul Debois (who I was working with at the time) to paint. I'm not altogether comfortable painting urban scenes, but I like a challenge so I set to...
Prep your canvas. I used cotton drill, a heavy weight cotton primed with gesso or acrylic primer. I decided not to stretch the canvas, but to pin the cotton onto a plywood wall, and use the rough texture as part of the painting. Finally, roughly paint a dilute mix of yellow ochre and white spirit over the canvas to knock back the white primer. Leave to dry-this doesn't take long.
Now I have called this blog easy steps and this painting looks very complicated, but by taking it slowly
and layering it over a few days the final image is revealed.
Roughly paint in the main shapes to give the correct balance to the painting. Then paint in the base colour of the two sets of bricks. The 'white bricks' were mixed with:
Vandyke Brown or Burnt sienna
Experiement with different quantities of each to add texture
The red bricks were painted with:
Again, xperiement with different quantities
I didn't worry about each individual brick I just put down rough colour.
Why is this called 'Teaching the world to sing?' Because there is a Coca Cola can in the image.
Just a few brush strokes. Cadmium red and a little grey made with Blue Black, Titanium White and
Put in the finishing touches. The final details to the poster, the Wildling growing in the wall.
The writing on the plaque. more texture to the bricks and a small part of the pavement.
And don't forget to sign it.
Because I liked the rough feel of the canvas I decided to frame these by pinning them onto matt black painted board and mounting them in a black frame.
I painted this as part of 'The Wildlings' series. At the exhibition, Alan Watson a dear friend looked at this painting for some time, and said that he found it very hard to look at rail tracks without thinking about prisoners of war. Art has a profound way of touching us, I found his comments deeply moving. He is publishing a book on Churchill next year.
'I like it when a little tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete, it's so **** heroic.' George Calin
'Wilding or Wildling….a plant sown by natural agency'
Oxford English Dictionary
Over the last year and a bit I have been working with photographer Paul Debois and Alys Fowler on a new project called 'Wildlings'. It describes in photography, painting and words, plants growing in extraordinary circumstances.
I think of Wildlings as warriors of nature. In reality nature is a warrior, one that protects us and destroys us in uneven measure. We can't tame nature, we must learn to live with it and to wonder and enjoy it's strength and beauty. These images look at the ordinary and the extraordinary persistence of nature.
How it all began...
In 2012, Paul explained the idea for this project by describing a foxglove he saw growing in a wooden post on the River Thames. Against all the odds it survived both the elements and the tides.
Paul's description captured my imagination and drew me into the project. This image has stayed with me constantly-so I painted it.
It is the only Wildling that wasn't photographed.
oil on canvas
78cm x 49cm
I've just spent a few days in St Ives meeting up with a friend and going to a painting course at the St Ives School of Painting. The course was tutored by Alice Mumford a great artist and as it turned out a great coach too. Full of energy and good advice. This is my painting in stages...
One very blank canvas with a wash of yellow ochre and white spirit. We choose our subject in this case mine was the table by the window.
Now I sketch in the scene as I want it to look with more yellow ochre. This involved a lot of rubbing out to get the right composition. I've added an extra chair.
Now for colour choice. This is tricky, I want to produce warm colours inside the room and cold outside. But how far do I go? I want lots of contrast and I want the feeling of sunshine and warmth. The table cloth starts me off, bright yellow with white stripes, and I decide to opt for tones of hot reds for the walls.
I roughly paint in the world outside the window-it's a very sunny day, almost Mediterranean in the picture. It was raining outside the window of the studio, so a little imagination and vivid memories were used here. I wanted a big contrast too. No window bars, partly because I wanted it to feel ambiguous, maybe a dream or a picture.
I decide on a black floor for really dynamic contrast and scratch floor boards in with a palette knife. I'm still very undecided about the other walls and the ceiling. At this point I decide to add a third chair, its mostly out of the composition to add mystery. A third person in the room.
I must have stopped thinking about photographing my steps here-I guess I was just focussing on the picture. They do that to you....drag you in.
The walls ended up different shades of red. Then a great debate ensued about the colour of the ceiling. I opted for yellow. But Alice wanted me to try black then red. I did this by painting a bit of paper and sticking it on. Neither worked both made the room claustrophobic. I opt for yellow. The debate continues, is it too close to the table cloth? Does it make the viewer uncomfortable? I think the answer to both these questions is yes, so I decide I have made the right decision. Alice's mum, Jan (also an artist) calls me an anarchist. I'm happy with the result. A little scraping of design on the wall, more boards on the ceiling and some shading. Working in the chairs and I'm done. I think. It creates a debate. I like that. Everyone feels differently about it. It's not my usual style but I enjoy the process. I like to experiment. I will get it framed.
As a professional photographer I spend quite a lot of my time with my face behind a lens. There's always a photo there. People often say to me, 'nothing much to photograph here'. But there always is, you just have to look.
At last this week we had a decent frost. I gathered my kit into my car, threw on a few layers of clothes (-3 not great but could be worse) and headed off to a garden I have been waiting to photograph for a few years (yes, sometimes it is a waiting game and you have to be patient).
When I arrived, the light was good but as the minutes ticked by it got better. Not bright, gentle filtered light through hazy clouds. In January, after a lousy, windy, wet, winter (and pretty similar summer to be fair) gardens have had a rough ride. As I approached this garden I wondered if the owner would have cut back the seed heads which looked so magical just a few weeks before. I suspected that he might have - but I was in for a surprise.
'They were all there, spangled with frost and sparkling in the hazy, dawn sun.'
I had worked out a lot of the shots I wanted to take from previous visits, but when you get to a location, it all depends on what's there, the light and just what works. After getting the main 'garden' shots I work on the profile shots of key plants. By now, my fingers were frozen, I was cold and unfortunately a minor problem with my tripod turned out to be a real glitch and it wouldn't hold the camera still. A must for this kind of work. Improvisation is the key here, it's happened before and it's not worth packing up and going home, because if the light is good and the subject is good you may not get this opportunity again.
In the past, I have improvised a macro lens, shot a garden with a tripod that turned into a bipod (I lost a leg somewhere, I seem to have trouble with tripods) and now the central column didn't lock. Not great, very irritating, but I wasn't giving up (even though I felt like throwing it under a truck, not for the first time).
So how do you shoot great profile shots - with well-behaving equipment?
You need the gear. A macro lens, a tripod this is important, buy a tripod that is sturdy, don't skimp because they may have to carry a heavy camera and even heavier lens which needs to be kept stock still.
Here's my equipment list:
Canon 5D MkII
Canon macro EF100 F2.8
Manfrotto tripod 055XPROB with,
a Heavy Duty Grip Ball Head (which I find easiest to use for my work)
Ok, this is why I love what I do, because things like this happen...
So how did this happen?
There were lots more seed heads behind and this made the backdrop. I love using a natural backdrop.
The sun was filtering through clouds (at about 2 o'clock to this shot). Filtering light into the lens.
These were my camera settings:
Shutter speed 1/125
ISO 400 (racked this up as it had started to get breezy)
Oh yes, and manual focus-this it the key- I focussed on about 3/4 of the way up at the papery seed head.
The whole seed head is shot at an angle-better composition than straight up and down-this is where a tripod is invaluable.
I took several shots because the seed head was moving in a light breeze- and...I needed to get the shot.
Here's the message:
-don't be afraid to shoot into the light, use the light, experiment, don't listen to all the received wisdom...experiment
-Look at something like this - fairly unspectacular - and see it through your lens, with a narrow depth of field to blur the background and watch the magic unfold.
-If you are not sure what depth of field to use (aperture) try several....I do!
-Use a faster ISO, what's better, getting a great shot or having a blurred shot? Again, ignore received wisdom. -Set you're ISO at the lowest you can afford. GET THAT BIT? The lowest you can afford. These days you can go to higher ISO's without losing clarity. Experiment. You won't regret it.
I haven't posted much in the way of blogs in the last few weeks. It's winter and the weather has not been good! Far too much rain and soggy conditions. Not ideal for a photgrapher who specialises in gardens. However, I have spent the time working away at library material and painting, another love of mine.
I paint in watercolours (very flirtatious), acrylics (feisty) and oils (sublime and yielding), in fact I think I'm falling in love with them, oils that is.
So this is a very pictorial blog so you can see that even when I am quiet I am busy on other projects. I hope you enjoy them as much as I like painting them...
Back in Spring I photographed some seeds, it was for a project that didn't really get off the ground. But I enjoyed the process and here are the results. It made me think, are seeds the beginning of something or the end. Now, in Autumn seeds have formed and lie dormant ready to burst into life next Spring. A never ending cycle of life.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.