Sunday 23 December 2012

56-Up... branching out into loco livery design

Back in the summer... or may have been earlier, its hard to recall, a railway mag ran a competition on behalf of a new railfreight company to design a livery for their newly-purchased class 56 locos.  Me and Amy thought we'd have a go, and so set to work...

Mine first, and relatively traditional- it played with the Union Flag motif- well, 2012 was Jubilee year, so it seemed to make sense.  It used the design of the Britannia Railways logo from the model village project, and I tried a variety of shades, settling on one quite light and colourful...

Amy went down a different route, deciding to go for the modern vinyl-type livery application, where any picture or photo could be used, and thought of having a nice eyecatching pic, in her case, going for shots from her 'Light Trails' project.

Naturally the competition ended and a far more conventional livery was chosen, but it was fun to try anyway.  I had thought about producing a model to see what the design was like in the real world, but found it far easier to have a bit of a meddle around with photoshop and mod a couple of pics I took of a Class 56 visiting the KWVR back in summer 2011.

Finally broken up from work for Christmas
In Yorkshire

Saturday 15 December 2012

Through the Wardrobe...

I like the occasions when I can combine the Day Job with the Art Job, and this was one such occasion:  I recently started working at East Riddlesden Hall, a National Trust property in Keighley.  Each year the Hall hosts a Santa's Grotto, and this year it was decorated up on a loosely Narnia theme, largely because we were very kindly loaned the remaining decorations from a Narnia-themed wedding held on site the week before. 

The team at East Rids have worked hard to transform the old kitchens into a Grotto, and wanting to make some positive contribution, and so I thought I'd offer to do some piccies for the Halls Facebook account... 

'Aslan' sat in the snow, near to a (don't worry, very effective, fake L.E.D) candle...

Just a quick commission then, but it was nice as I haven't done something like this for a while.  Anyway, now a shameless plug for the event :)


Saturday 8 December 2012


South Square Gallery

Just a quick post- two of my pics from my "Intercity" series are on display at the South Square Gallery, in Thornton, Bradford.
They're up as part of the "Dromology" show, which is a somewhat open brief, all about the logic of movement.  Quite the mix of work on display, mainly fine art installation pieces. 

Its a nice little gallery, charmingly rustic (given its conversion from an old building), and there's a couple of other decent shows on too at the moment.  Interestingly, my work has been mounted on Dibond, which is something I'd heard of but never used before- basically a sheet of aluminium.

Another image from the series.

Following the gallery opening, we went out for a curry as part of a scout leaders unofficial xmas do, and despite how nice it was seeing my work up in another gallery, probably the highlight of the evening was Amy and myself (and another leader) getting the Midnight Owl ice cream, which came in a cool moneybox/toy container ;)  We are mature photographers.  Honest.


Thursday 6 December 2012

Gallery Visits: Eastside Projects, Birmingham

We've decided to start a new, and occasional, series on the blog, documenting our visits to various galleries.  This time, a visit to: Eastside Projects, Digbeth, Birmingham, West Midlands.

We ended up combining a visit to see relatives with a bit of photography-related goings-on recently, involving a trip to Mordor (sorry, Birmingham New Street Railway Station) and a gallery visit.  Travelling to Birmingham always reminds me that much as I like photographing trains, I somewhat hate actually using them, especially if the target destination is the subterranean concrete hell which is Birmingham New Street.  A little walk across town though took us to Birmingham Eastside in Digbeth, home to a lot of the cities art and performance related effort.
   I’d last properly visited the are around the Custard Factory some years ago, and was pleased to see it still flourishing.  Lots of nice retro shops, little galleries, and cool sculpture pieces centred around these wonderful old buildings, tucked in amongst brick viaducts and old industry.  After visiting a rather nice exhibition showing drawings of dead celebrities (sounds gruesome, was actually very educational, with some brilliant drawings on display in a friendly show) we headed for the target for this little trip into Brum, Eastside Projects:

Eastside Projects is a gallery set up a few years ago, and is located in a very large ex-industrial building which has been converted into a nice space for displaying large-scale artwork.  I was rather taken with the slightly utilitarian, factory-atmosphere of the place combined with the classic white/grey colour scheme. 
   An old friend of ours, Bethan (who I’ve known since sixth-form) works for the gallery, and has been inviting us down to visit the place for nearly a year now, but the day-jobs have always prevented us putting in an appearance up until now.  Very pleased to have been able to get there finally to see this space.

   The gallery was showing an abstract-themed mix of artwork, though typically for my tastes I was rather more taken with the simply fantastic shed-like piece below, which is upcycled from an old piece of large-scale interactive sculpture.  Does rather make me wish I’d gone for something more adventurous with our own garden shed, but I digress.  I love the upcycling idea that this gallery pushes as its philosophy, using old works to create new, as its very much something we do ourselves to avoid too much wastage with our work.

   Rather than my rabbiting on about the show and the gallery, its probably better to let you read their own info about it all, so here's the link to the site:

   I have to say that as good as the art was (and I did enjoy the show), it was the space I was most interested in- as much as I like visiting the ‘big’ galleries like the Tate Modern, I do prefer these sorts of smaller galleries- as regards Birmingham itself, Eastside is slightly more improvised, perhaps a little less polished compared to places like the Ikon which tends to steal the limelight a bit.  I’ve always found places like Eastside a more comfortable viewing experience; less pretencions, more friendly and welcoming.  Personally I’d love to see more places like this, especially in West Yorkshire where there doesn’t really seem to be a middle ground between the relatively small but enthusiastic places like South Square and the giants like Impressions Gallery.  I suppose Handmade in Bradford in the centre is the nearest equivalent in our neck of the woods…  I have to say though that I really enjoyed our visit to Eastisde, and thanks to Bethan for inviting us and giving us the tour, and such an informative visit.  The gallery is a little off the beaten track for a lot of people in Brum, but the whole area around Digbeth is great for artists, and we will definitely be popping back to see other shows around there, and badgering people relentlessly to go see stuff at that gallery.

   In related news, I have dropped off some pics with South Square for an upcoming show back up here in t’North- more on this soon…  And we will be doing more of this gallery-pimping-articles soon, next probably a bit about Cupola in Sheffield who have been fantastically friendly to Amy and myself over the last 18 months.  One of the problems we found when setting out into the big wide world after Uni was that we never had any proper guidance about approaching galleries or exhibiting, so we kind of want to share our experiences a bit as regards the matter, in the hope that it might help some other people...

In the snow, in Yorkshire

Wednesday 5 December 2012


   Something a bit out of the ordinary for us recently - we usually photograph weddings in traditional church settings, but for this one we were doing something new.  My cousin was getting married, and we offered to do the photos for free as a present.  The venue was Hull KR’s ground, Craven Park.  Most of the wedding was held in the Presidents Suite which was decorated really smartly, but the outdoor pictures were really unusual for us.

 Usually we have a garden or something to shoot pics in, but in this case we were offered the use of the ground.  Unfortunately the pitch was too wet, so we ended up in the (arguably better) stands.  So lots of great photos with the guests as spectators, and the red seats helping with the red/white theme of the wedding (useful for doing a bit of spot-colouring, as above).

A final wierd shot- whilst playing with doing long-exposures, we managed to steal backlighting from another guests flash, resulting in the above effect...

All in all, great fun, and something nicely unusual for us.


Wednesday 14 November 2012

Weekend Away, and an Exhibition

 More goings-on in the lives of two Yorkshire Photographers...

Weekend just gone involved us going away with our Scout group (Amy is a leader, I'm a helper) on an expedition to North Lancashire.  Actually its a rather nice part of the world, the borders between North Lancs and South Cumbria being quite pretty- all picturesque little villages and rugged coastline sandwhiched between the semi-industrial sprawl of Heysham to the south and the percieved nuclear hell of Sellafield round the coast in Cumbria.  Whilst we were in Silverdale technically to be assisting with this Scout camp, a trip anywhere is a handy excuse to get the cameras out for a play, as its been a while since either of us did any landscape shots.

Rather forbidding, and slightly unreal sky whilst en-route at Clapham.

Silverdale itself- rather sunny indeed, but the sign could do with a bit of tarting-up.

The morning of the sunday, and the simply beautiful sunrise just outside where we were camping for the night.

"Strictly Private- Golfers Only". 
The token, arty We-Are-About-To-Leave, Final-Shot shot.

Back in the real world the week after, Amy and I have both been participating in a rather nice exhibition at the Cottingley Cornerstone centre (where the Fairies come from- Cottingley in general I mean, not the Cornerstone Centre specifically.  The Cottingley Fairies hoax was perpetuated relatively nearby, though these days the stream where these early photomanipulations were done is in the shadow of a main road and not particularly pretty, it has to be said).  The Cornerstone Centre is a very nice community project, hosting lots of very worthy concerns, and its a well-kept place with friendly staff.

The exhibition was a rather nice mix of work, mainly fine art painting with some very nice bits of art on display- if I had disposable income, I'd have liked to buy a couple of bits.  Shame most of my pay goes on life's little luxuries like food and shelter.

We only managed to visit this show on the last-but-one day, having missed the opening night due to my ripping the exhaust off the car on a particularly Alpine-proportioned speed bump, and then the day job stopping us getting across to the show the week after.  Amy showed two pics from her Light Trails series, I showed a couple from the Steampunk series I did late last year.

Nice to be able to participate in another show after a little gap over the summer.  The next big show will be some of my pics being shown at South Square Gallery in Bradford- more on that next week after I drop off the pics.

Back on the Correct Side of the Pennines, Keighley

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Low Speed High Speed Train

Amy here, just in case you'd got the impression that only Ben takes train pictures.  And unlike Ben I managed to take a picture of a train without hanging out of a tree, climbing on a wall, or being in some other odd pose to try and get an original/unusual angle
 Anyway, the occasion was the first ever visit of a High Speed Train to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.  This wasn't a commisioned shoot or anything, but it was too unusual an opportunity to pass up and probably wont be repeated for a while, as this was an unusual incursion of the modern railway into the otherwise 1950's Worth Valley.  Ben was working in his new day job, but I managed to nip out and get a couple of shots to try and send off to mags.
Some non-railway related posts coming next week.

Friday 19 October 2012

St Peters Photography Group

Last year we were asked to do a talk for a local camera club, based at St Peters Church in Shipley.  For that event we did some work based around my "Light Trails" work, which effectively meant lots of people wandering around in the dark playing with torches and glowsticks, and doing long-exposure pics with their cameras.

The room as people came in- possibly after last years talk they'd have been expecting something unusual from us, but still people were somewhat surprised by the train set...

Rather than just showing images of our work and talking in a dull monotone about our pics, we like to try and do something interactive, based around a technique or style of shooting that people might ordinarily not get a chance to do.  This year we were a bit stumped for a topic for a while, until we hit on the idea of doing photographing moving objects.

Demonstrating the technique, a shot of a Rafale taking off, at the RAF Fairford Airshow which we attended earlier in the summer.  Blurred background, fixed target.

Might sound odd, but this isn't something we were ever really taught at Uni, and we picked up the techniques in an experimental fashion photographing rally cars etc.  Basically its all about following the 'target' with your camera, and getting the target frozen and the background blurred, with room to create unusual or abstract images.

A more abstract variant, taken by Ben at Blackpool a couple of years ago. 

Having come up with this as an idea, agreed it with the organisers of the camera club, and got it written down into the program, it suddenly occurred to us that doing this sort of photography indoors might be tricky.  So we did a bit of improvisation...

For photographing moving airborne objects (anything from birds to aircraft) I came up with the idea of using paper air planes- which seemed good in theory, but in practise with the room we were in proved too unreliable... until we attached it to a stick.

Likewise, photographing moving people was fine, but vehicles was a trickier prospect, until Ben's habit of hoarding props and rubbish from model-making projects came to the fore, and we were able to use a train set.  Basically the demonstrations we used were improvised and a bit unusual, but it gave people the chance to try the ideas and techniques, and everyone seemed to have fun.  Now just to think about what we would do if asked again...


Sunday 30 September 2012


In whats becoming something of a tradition, we headed off to Blackpool to photograph the illuminations.  Amy likes to use it as an opportunity to add to her abstract "Light Trails" project, and in my case I was there to get some shots of the trams for a sort of mini-commission...

Rather nice sunset over Cleveleys, especially after the horrible weather during the week.

Down on the beach, a few experiments with long-exposure pictures.  Something to play with a bit more in the future perhaps...

Blackpool Promenade, with the Tower in the distance.

This is the sort of image Amy goes to Blackpool for- this is the Ferris Wheel on the central pier.

One of the tram shots I took.  I'd managed to revive the Cannon 350 after the tribulations of the Teddy Bears Picnic shoot on Monday, but it was still struggling to cope.  Still, with Amy doing the more important shoot, it was better for her to have the D90, and it did mean I got some rather more improvised but somewhat creative shots with my older camera.

So a nice end there to a rather busy week, photography-wise.  Pretty similar week coming up as Amy does a shoot at the City Hall, and better to be busy than sat around doing nowt.

Ben Bucki

Recce- City Hall, Bradford

Whereas Ben ended up stuck in the rain and mud on a shoot on Monday, I instead took the sensible precaution of doing a shoot indoors, in the rather nice surroundings of the City Hall, Bradford.  This was a recce for a photography shoot I shall be doing shortly, recording the presentation of awards to Beavers and Cubs from the Bradford South District.  A very nice location for photography.

Amy Bucki

Wednesday 26 September 2012

If you go down to the woods...

   Blimey!  As anticipated, real life, the Saltaire Festival, a change of day jobs, and a few other bits of commissions got in the way of artiness, hence the fact its been some weeks since an update last surfaced.  But, finally, here we go with an update:
If you go down to the woods today…

   You know, some photographers get to photograph semi-naked girls on Hawaiian beaches.  I get to photograph a still-life shoot of a teddy bears picnic in bad weather.  Though as Amy has occasionally pointed out when I make such a complaint, I’m such a naturally shy person that in such a situation as the Hawaiian beach, I wouldn’t be much good at the photos, being too nervous and far too much of a Victorian Gentleman and probably too distracted by the alluring exposed ankles of the lasses modelling to concentrate on getting the photos done.

   Annnyway, the reason I’m playing with toys again on a shoot is a slightly long-winded one, so here goes:  A woman I don’t know over on the Dark Side of the Pennines (Manchester-ish) is having a Teddy bears Picnic themed fun day at wherever it is she works (fairly safe to assume it’s an activity centre or something similar, and not a prison or very liberally run evil underground lair).  She asked her designer friend, who I also do not know, to knock up a poster for her.  He apparently couldn’t find any suitable stock images that quite met the brief she had given.  Designer then contacts a photographer friend to shoot a pic for him whilst doing a location shoot, as the designer recalled seeing some teddy bears in the photographers’ props box.  Photographer, it turned out, doesn’t actually have any teddy bears in his props box any more, and in any case was in the studio all weekend, so he passed on the commission to me instead.
   This is largely because I have done several photography shoots involving cuddly toys over the years- because (being tight) once I’ve bought a load of props and costumes I like to try and get maximum use out of them.  So having shot two teddy bears picnic themed pics in the past, I suppose I was the natural candidate for this one.

Pic from a fashion shoot from Uni days, "Happygoth".  As you can imagine, passers-by were intrigued somewhat by why an adult girl was sat in the park playing with toys whilst someone photographed her.  And being as it was shot in Cumbria, passer-by were also terrified by the camera, a modern technology classified as Witchcraft by the locals.

And the still-life shoot which got me this commission.  Irritatingly, the original high-res was lost during one of the many Super-Crazy-Laptop-Death incidents that have occurred in recent years, necessitating this reshoot...

   I agreed to do the shoot, THEN checked the weather forecast, which was a bit bloody silly of me in hindsight, given that I had a tight deadline which coincided with what turned out to be some of the heaviest rainfall on record hitting the UK.  The saving grace was that the brief called for the pics to be shot in a woodland setting, and the trees would give a bit of shelter.  After a fashion.

The shooting conditions on the day- less than pleasant...

   So it was off down to the woods one wet and miserable Monday morning, for a recce, which at least turned up a suitable location.  I’ve done loads of shoots in Hirst Wood before, though generally speaking it’s for transport shots on the adjacent railway, or landscape shoots.  Then it was back to collect my temporary assistant for the day.  Being a gentleman of leisure for the day meant there was a problem- I was off work (having quit the day job for a new job starting soonly, giving me random time off whilst retraining happens- but enough about real life, back to the photography), but Amy was actually earning a crust that day, so I had to recruit a helper.  Ruth is a mate of ours, who despite having been friends with me for 4 years and Amy for most of her life, and should therefore have had an inkling of the chaos that was to befall her on the shoot, was foolishly lured into helping with the promise of a day playing with teddy bears and the somewhat more enticing promise of a cooked meal as reward.  Admirably she didn’t cancel on me, even after seeing the weather. 

   And so with a song in our hearts and a spring in our step we returned to the woods laden with camera gear and props, pausing only to arouse the suspicions of the council workers sat in their van in the car park, who no doubt thought we were there to flytip rubbish.  I suspect explaining to them (and the inevitable Community Support Officer that would have arrived) that we were going into the woods in the rain to have a teddy bears picnic would have got us carted off to Bingley Nick in fairly short order, but luckily for us the alternative of staying sat in their van eating Greggs pastry goods won the day.

Ruth discovering that the most technical skill she required at this point was to hold the brolly.

   The shoot commenced, with Ruth quickly learning (as so many have before) that helping on any of our projects involves long walks to locations, lots of carrying stuff, embarrassing waiting around in public, getting lost, getting wet, and generally wishing that a suitable excuse could have come to mind earlier.  Within minutes of setting up, the picnic blanket we were using was drenched.  Out came the various bits of crockery cobbled together at the last minute, then the first teddy.

   Teddy bears share certain unfortunate properties with sponges, and what was already a rather ragged-looking bear (which in my defence is nearly as old as me, being from when I was little, and which had suffered a bit being squashed into a bag) started to look a bit pathetic as it soaked up the Liquid Sunshine.  So after taking enough shots to do a multiple-exposure pic using just this teddy (because the brief had specified old-fashioned looking teddies) it was time to up the ante a bit.  Some years ago I’d amassed a large number of toys for the Happygoth project, but typically I’d had a bit of a clearout last year, keeping a couple of cuddly animals, and that was about it.  So when I agreed to the shoot, my old teddy was the only actual bear I had that was suitable for the shoot (hence the multiple-exposure pic). 

Multiple-exposure pic using the 'old' bear...

   Offers of lent toys from friends were received, but once I’d seen the weather forecast I realised I’d have some pretty upset friends if I returned their beloved Mister Cuddles or whatever covered in mud, leaves, insects, and dripping wet.  Another bear was found at the last minute, and a massive teddy was purchased for the princely sum of £2 from a charity shop, which solved a few problems (and created some more afterwards, given that the massive teddy weighed about three times as much after a mere ten minutes in the rain and took 24 hours on a radiator to dry out enough to give back to a charity shop afterwards).

Final pictures- some rather dramatic tweaking of colours and hues were required, but it fits with the brief... 

   Still, the pics were shot, though I had no idea if I’d got anything suitable, being as checking the images on the camera was getting increasingly problematic as the weather got heavier.  Any illusions that Ruth might have had about one of our shoots not taking too long, and Quick being the word and Sharp the Action, allowing her to get back to her house and a cup of tea then vanished; when it turned out she hadn’t received my text about the second part of the days shoot.

Keeping with the toys theme, and to Ruth’s slight distress, out of the bag came a beach ball…

Ruth grins the happy forced grin of someone who's probably sighing on the inside...

   Inflatable toys have also featured heavily in my shoots over the years, for the same reasons as with the cuddly toys- once you have lots of props, they might as well get used repeatedly.  I actually have a large ongoing project using inflatables (more on this in a future post), so simply took one of the spares for this shoot.

   In a few weeks we’re doing a talk with a local photographic group about experimental, arty photography of moving objects.  Something that had occurred as a possible activity for the group to do was to photograph a ball being thrown through the air; a beach ball was an obvious choice because its light (travels relatively slowly through the air) and won’t damage any fittings or fixtures that it lands on.  The sharply-defined multiple colours mean it’s easy to see if there’s been motion blurring.  And of course we have a load of them in the props box.  The practical upshot of all this was that Ruth ended up standing around in a forest throwing a beach ball around in the rain, which had got so heavy at this point that at least it thankfully meant no nosy members of the general public intruding (something which I have had oh so many problems with on previous shoots…).

Initial trials a little disappointing, largely due to the camera struggling in the lighting conditions, and Ruths slightly over-enthusiastic throwing of the ball, possibly hoping that if it got stuck in a tree we could knock off early and go home.

Better results achieved with the use of the flash- a flashgun would have been better, if I thought it would survive the weather...

   These pictures were not going too badly until several things happened in relatively quick succession; The ball got caught by the breeze and blown into a stream, landing on a tangle of branches from a fallen tree which nearly popped it.  I then went to retrieve the ball, stepped off the path onto the grass (which by this time was a sheet of water pouring off the sodden ground with the intensifying rain).  The inevitable happened, and I slid down on my arse and went into the stream up to my knees, with associated noisy cursing.  At this point we kind of realised that me photographing someone throwing an easily damaged inflatable around in a rainstorm, in a forrest full of pointy objects, was getting A Bit Silly.  But we persevered as I tried to get a half-decent shot to test the experiment, mainly because I knew we were already as soaked as possible, and if we didn’t get the shot then we’d have to come back, me finding a new assistant because Ruth wasn’t going to be so daft as to volunteer again.  This led very quickly to the final Happening, the proverbial crowning turd in the water pipe, and the breaking of the camera. 

The camera breaking down, this being the best exposure it could manage before packing-in altogether...

   My old Cannon 350 has given sterling service over the years, but the torrential rainfall all got a bit too much for it, and it firstly stopped showing images on the LCD screen, then stopped focusing, then wouldn’t stop firing the flashgun which was entertaining, especially as I was staring directly at it whilst trying to fix the lens at one point.  So drenched and somewhat disheartened, we packed up, Ruth suffering the final indignity of having to stand around slowly squeezing the air out of the ball because she was opposed to my patience-expired solution which was to just find something pointy to attack the toy with.  So, looking like people who’ve had a typically British day at the seaside, we trudged back to the car.  I couldn’t even be bothered to change before going to Asda, walking around with everything below the waist covered in mud and slime, and with water still dribbling off my soaked clothes.  Sad to say, I actually wasn’t the weirdest looking person in the Shipley branch of Asda either, which says much about the place.

   Still, the pics are shot, and sent off, and I have some stuff with the ball we can use for this talk, and some cute pics of teddy bears to use on the sort of stomach-churningly twee greetings cards that the likes of Hallmark turf out by the dozen.  And Ruth has learnt an important lesson that to date 5 other friends have learnt the hard way, which is to have a stock of excuses ready if Amy and me ring up to talk photography.  As a change of pace, Amy’s photography this week involves going to do a shoot at City Hall in Bradford, not that I’m jealous or anything.

Staring at the rain, thinking of Morrissey songs.
Somewhere that’s thankfully 30ft above the normal river level of the River Worth.