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.   

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Origami Bird

Just a mini-update this week- I've been playing with some animation software, which I'll be using with my scout group in a few weeks.  Bit of a practise with origami- may be some more of this coming along shortly, using more complex arrangements.