Saturday, 25 January 2014

Taking inspiration from other artists - Norman Ackroyd

I have always enjoyed looking at the works of other artists. I dare say it goes back to my childhood years. My father was a very keen amateur water colourist and whilst he loved painting, he also took great pleasure from visiting art galleries and buying a few paintings for our family home. In fact he was of the opinion that a house was never a home until a few pictures had been hung on the walls and I agree!

Given my more recent interest in photography, I too now find myself going to photographic exhibitions or art galleries to see what I can learn from other artists work. To me it does not matter whether they are photographs, paintings, a piece of sculpture or some form of mixed media. They are all an expression of an individual's art form, their interpretation of a scene or an object, using a wide variety of different techniques, materials, colours and composition to produce a piece of art. Which brings me nicely on to the artist I want to write about in this entry - namely Norman Ackroyd CBE, RA.

It was relatively recently that I discovered his work when I watched a programme about him in a BBC series called 'What do artists do all day'. Born in Leeds in 1938, he is one of Britain's foremost landscape artists, primarily known for his work in aquatint, a form of etching and also known as intaglio printing. The process uses acid to make marks in a metal plate, usually copper or zinc, and is combined with powered rosin to create a tonal effect. It is well worth watching the two parts of the programme to see how Norman Ackroyd produces his prints.

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Click on the screen grabs above to see the programme 'What do artists do all day' featuring 
Norman Ackroyd or Click here to see part 1 and click here for Part 2 - both on You Tube.

I was inspired by his work, his skill and artistry as well as his chosen subject matter - the far flung coastal regions of the British Isles. Places where the land meets the sea in wild and dramatic parts of the country. I wanted to know more about him, the techniques he employed and to see more of his work. I visited the Summer Exhibition at The Royal Academy in London last year, only to discover that he was one of the co-ordinators. A few of his prints were on display and although I might have been tempted to buy one of them, I resisted but I did purchase a wonderful book entitled 'A Line in the Water' a collaborative work with the poet Douglas Dunn. There are some 80 very well produced plates in the book, a few of which I have photographed for the purposes of this blog entry. The book is published by the Royal Academy and is on sale here.

A Line in the Water.

Stiffkey Freshes
North Norfolk Coast

Atlantic Sunlight

Summer Isles
Wester Ross

Tretnish Isles

Given my love of black and white photography and the remote landscapes of the UK, it is hardly surprising that his work appeals to me so much. They are inspirational and the idea of taking my own photographs in some of these truly beautiful and atmospheric locations is hugely enticing. One day perhaps……………. but for the time being I shall just enjoy turning the pages of this very special publication.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

A dog named Marley


A few weeks ago I was approached by a couple who wanted me to take a photographic portrait of their pet dog. Never one to say to no to something new, I made arrangements to visit their home and take a few shots. I had never met the dog before, I simply had been told he was a black labrador cross. 

On arrival I was greeted by the owners of Marley who turned out to be a very well trained and handsome dog. Having decided to use the natural light in their conservatory Marley was told to sit. As he looked up to his owner, who was clutching a biscuit to draw his attention, I pressed the shutter. Fortunately I had taken a large sheet of grey card with me to make sure I had a plain background. This worked a treat and the finished portrait after a little processing in Lightroom and Photoshop is shown above.

Having always been told never to work with children or animals, on this occasion taking photographs of Marley was a joy. He did all he was told and seemed to know how to pose for the camera - he had obviously done it before or was it just that he would do anything for another biscuit?!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Always grab the opportunity

Across Loch Eil
Across Loch Eil

There are occasions when a quickly taken shot can make for a pleasing image even if there is virtually no time taken to adjust the camera settings and compose the picture.

This photograph of Loch Eil in Scotland is a case in point. Back in 2011, I was travelling by train from Glasgow to Mallaig on the west coast. Having left the town of Fort William the train continues it's journey taking in some spectacular countryside along the way. In fact this route is considered to be one of the finest railway journeys in the world. As the track passed alongside the Loch, the cloudscape and light across the water just had to be captured. I really only had time to turn the camera on, swiftly compose the shot through the window of my carriage and press the shutter. Although the train was not moving that fast, if I had taken the time to check or alter any of the settings on the camera, the opportunity to take press the shutter would have been lost several hundred yards back down the track, as this view soon disappeared behind a line of trees along the shoreline.

The image straight out of the camera was pretty poor. In particular the horizon was far from level and the exposure was definitely out. Fortunately I was able to straighten and crop the image and improve the overall tone in Lightroom. I think the final image is very pleasing. It may not be prefect and I know that had I been standing by the loch, with a tripod and time to move around, I would have composed and exposed the photograph differently. Nevertheless as a quick opportunistic shot taken through the window of a moving train, it still works for me, and I would rather have the image in my collection than  nothing at all.