If you live on the coast of Hampshire or the Isle of Wight you probably look forward to the annual Round the Island yacht race. This is the largest yacht race in the world with almost 1600 boats taking part in an anti-clockwise circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight. Everything from 80 foot millionaires play things to sleek America’s Cup speed machines together with tiny folk boats and family day cruisers take part.
As a photographer I have tried in vain, for the last six years, to take a decent photograph of this huge sailing event. I have been up to the Needles park in a gale, walked to Hurst Castle multiple times and this year had a great opportunity to get on the water with a friend,Mark Redpath in his motor boat. The only down side was that the visibility was less than great. However, you play the cards you’re dealt and I managed to get a few decent shots including a rescue by the Coast Guard chopper.
The only downside was that, due to the tides, the race started at 5.30am so Mark and I were catching the tail-Enders at 7.00am. Next year let’s hope for a slightly later kick off.
In the last fortnight I’ve made three photography trips. One to a World War 2 reenactment on a steam railway, one to Portsmouth and one to Southampton. None of these,if I’m honest, were my natural choice of venue. However, I’m a firm believer that it is often the least immediately appealing venues that generate some of the most interesting images.
The first trip was to the Watercress Line, a privately owned and managed steam railway in Hampshire. It is named after the Watercress that grows around Alresford.
This weekend they were celebrating ‘WW2 on the Line’ and it was an excuse for everyone to raid their dressing up box, pull out their uniforms and 40’s clothes and have fun. Add to that the vintage car and bike collectors and a very special time was on the cards.
What I loved was the sheer joy in the faces of those taking part, from the Girl Guides being taught the Jitterbug, to the hairdresser doing 40’s hair styles,the Glenn Miller Tribute band and the ‘Yank’ doughnuts or should that be donuts.
A week later, I joined a MeetUp group called ‘Hampshire Social Snappers’ in Portsmouth. We walked in blazing heat from Southsea Pier to Portsmouth. It was the archetypal, British seaside hell complete with large tattooed women eating chips, lonely fairground rides and hundreds of hot people eating ice cream. The light was a bit harsh but there were a few images along the way. We ended the walk opposite the Spinnaker Tower and near Ben Ainslie’s BAR HQ which was looking a bit deserted after their recent America’s Cup exit.
The final trip was with Lymington Camera Club. The initial purpose was to do a Street Photography workshop with members. We had a decent turn out but while I expected the main shopping area of Southampton to be teeming with a rich and varied pageant of human life it was rather mundane. Just tired and stressed people trying to get home. However, in the distance we heard the revving of hundreds of motor bikes and our luck had changed. The Southampton Biker Night was in full swing (every Thursday in the summer 6-8)
Over 600 bikes turned up for Ladies Day in honour of Ascot and what a funny, friendly bunch they were. I grew up when bikers were synonymous with Hells Angels but times have changes. These folks might still sport the odd tattoo, goatee and earring but they were so welcoming to us. The marshals helped us get shots and the bikers themselves were delighted to be photographed with their bikes.
So what did I get from these three trips? The key lesson for me is that you should always step out of your comfort zone photographically. I’m not a environmental portrait shooter by instinct but my tip is when you see a tattooed biker with an earring stop him and take his photograph….. but remember to ask nicely first 🙂
I went up to London on June 4th to photograph London’s City architecture. Two things of note about this. It was the morning after some terrorists drove a van at people on London bridge and then attacked them with knives. I went up with the Hampshire Social Snappers, a Meet Up Group.
We agreed to to meet at Monument Station and said we’d find each other because we we’d be the people with the cameras. Sadly the world’s press were there all filming down London Bridge but we eventually met up and fought our way through the associated bloggers, vloggers and mainstream press and started our walk using a map provided by the Corporation of London.
We walked across the City to iconic buildings like the Walkie-Talkie, the Gherkin and the Lloyds Building. We were lucky with the weather with blue skies and nice white clouds.
I last worked in the City nearly forty years ago and so expected the cityscape to have changed beyond recognition. And it has. It feels more like Manhattan than London but tucked between the glass and chrome of new London were the gorgeous Wren churches I remember from my time there. However the thing that struck me most was the sheer quality of the architecture.
I’ve always felt that good corporate architecture is a mix of sheer vanity and flamboyance. Most companies who build a mega-structure are basically waving their dangly bits in the face of their rivals and saying ‘mine is bigger than yours’ in a 60 story,thrusting,glass and steel sort of a way.
The architecture is also a triumph of capitalism. You cannot imagine a government funding the Gherkin or the Willis Building. It simply requires too much money and imagination and governments aren’t very good at that sort of thing.
So this was an exciting trip that started with the aftermath or terrorism, moved through world class architecture and ended with a tango demonstration in Spitalfields.
I decided to try and find unusual angles so I asked an Italian tourist if I could photograph her and her glasses with the Gherkin in the reflection. She was a bit stunned initially but readily agreed.
Not the greatest shot but she was a good sport and I took a picture of her and her friend on their phone to say thank you.
A wonderful day out. Lunch at Wagawama and then the train home to the New Forest.
My wife had broken her foot just before we were due to head off to Bath for a few days. So with a non-cancelable hotel room in our name I decided to shoot off to Bath and then onto Clevedon for a spot of photography.
Clevedon is a funny little Victorian seaside nothing, famous for its Grade 1 pier and from what I can see very little else. It’s an hour west of Bath and in addition to the pier it has a marine lake – basically a sea water pool.
I arrived intending to shoot the pier a sunset but with a couple of hours to spare I shot the marine lake in what started as overcast conditions and moved swiftly onto rain and then torrential hail.
Just before sunset I moved onto the pier and met a strange bloke who shoots the pier every night and claims to have over 14,000 images. It’s good but let’s be honest not that good.
As the Ferry Tales project is now nearing completion I thought I’d do a personal book of the project. It gave me the freedom to publish the shots that meant something to me and the poems that I liked without the constraints of an exhibition. I was also free from the demands of sponsors and funding bodies.
So I debated long and hard and used Blurb. They have excellent downloadable Indesign templates and a reasonably simple publishing process. Their optional ebook download is rubbish so avoid that as it creates a PDF of single pages where as my book is in spreads.
I opted for the hardcover 11×13 inch version with pearl paper and the result is excellent. Almost as good as my Canon Pro100 printer.
The process was painless but the cost isn’t cheap as you might expect. The 46pp worked out at £70……ouch.
If you want to buy it or have a passion for ferries between the Hampshire Coast and the Isle of Wight you can order it here. Lots of my photographs and some great poems will be yours. Alternatively you can view the whole thing as a preview before coming to the launch event at Dimbola Museum and Galleries on the Isle of Wight from 22nd April to 1st July or in Lymington 6th-8th July at the Library.
We are now trying to get the anthology of poetry finished (£4) with 8 A5 pages of my pictures. Somewhat less impressive but far less expensive. Drop me a line if you want to buy a copy but I sense they will sell out fast.
I will do a further post about Ferry Tales once the project is finished but the good news is that the grant from the Arts Council England will just be enough to send me to The Albuquerque Balloon Festival in New Mexico in October. So stand-by for endless Monument Valley sunsets and balloon images.
I’ve had a busy few months on the photographic front after getting back from the US/Caribbean cruise in January. The first project is Ferry Tales more of which is in an earlier blog post.
As that was getting underway I went out at dawn one morning to a eel trap on the Test river near Longstock. The image above shows the scene which was pretty idyllic complete with hunting Barn Owl which,naturally, I was far too slow to catch.
Then it was off to Berlin for a few days and I’ve shared some of these images but here are a few more.
So what of the rest of the summer? Lots of Ferry Tales and Lymington Camera Club walks plus some assorted side trips no doubt. Looking good for some material for my PAGB advisory day in October/November.
A good friend and poet, Robyn Bolam asked me to join a project called Ferry Tales which is a group of poets, musicians, writers and a photographer (me) in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight who are running events, exhibitions and workshops for local people on the theme of arrivals and departures in their lives.
The plan is that I take photographs which acts as stimulus for the poets and musicians and we run a series of workshops and exhibitions from now until 2017 in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight showcasing the work.
You can follow us on Facebook at ferrytalesproject and please like/follow us. I’ll be growing the body of photographs as the year progresses but here are a few to get you started including a girl on her way to the Isle of wight Festival.