Wednesday 4 December 2013

Christmas at East Riddlesden

Well, Christmas is right around the corner, and with it another opportunity to combine the Day Job (Ben's, Tearoom at East Riddlesden Hall National Trust, plug-plug) and artwork.  In this case, the need to decorate a National Trust Tearoom tastefully and on a very limited budget, for the winter season.  We also were very firm: no tinsel.  Anywhere.

Colourful decorative touches were done with ribbon- a nice selection picked up cheaply on the high street.  Suitably tied up into bows, they were added to bannisters, specials boards, etc.

Next were snowflakes.  These were cut to geometric patterns from either ordinary printing paper, and also photocopied sheets of traditional Christmas music, and strung up with either red ribbon or twine.

Obviously, with a listed, wooden-beamed/floored tearoom with lots of families in, we couldn't have naked flames, so we improvised with these very effective, bargain-priced flickering LED Tealights from Wilkos.  They were put into recycled jam jars, with a bit of twine and some red electrical tape, then the jars placed on windowsills.

Also worth noting is the greenery; a good source of abundant, free, decorative material, in this case from a garden.

We needed something to sit on the beams up in the tearoom, so we came up with a design for a reindeer.  A template was made from mount board, then four reindeers were constructed from card leftover from delivery boxes, mount board antlers, and strips of wood from two broken picture frames.  The whole of each was then sprayed with red gloss paint, and they were secured to two of the beams.

The tearoom has a large fireplace, with a decommissioned gas fire in it (health and safety concerns means it is no longer used).  Previously it had a stack of rather unconvincing fake coals (covered in dust and dead spiders), so the opportunity was taken to replace them with some logs.  It still looked a little dull, so we thought we could make a fire-effect for the setup.

Starting with a string of red LED christmas tree lights (battery operated rather than mains), we cut up some plastic from some old inflatable toys leftover from a shoot in the summer.  Yellow one side, and transparent red the other.

Suitably glued together and arranged around the logs, in this slightly darker corner of the tearoom it looks rather effective; certainly better than the fake coals.

Finally the tree- this is a very nice artificial tree from a supermarket, with two strings of white LED lights (battery operated, again, to cut down on trailing wires and cables).  It was decorated with more 'traditional' items, such as dried-out orange slices, pine cones, and more paper stars.  Around the tree are a few boxes wrapped in either brown paper or more of the sheet music, just enough to hide the metal stand under the tree. 

So there we are; having helped out a bit with the main grotto in the house last year (whilst the tearoom was closed for refurbishment-, we've had the opportunity to do a tasteful, subtle job on the tearoom instead this time.  Its already received positive comments from the customers, so we consider it a success.

Sunday 24 November 2013

"Splash Bang Wallop" at Cupola Gallery, Sheffield

As mentioned in the last post, we have been given the chance to participate in another Open-Call Exhibition (making three in a month), this time with the Cupola Gallery in Sheffield.  Cupola is somewhere we've shown at a few times in recent years; in fact, we can't underestimate the importance of this place in our artists CV's, as they have regularly given us the chance to have our work in a 'proper' public art gallery.  And of course, Cupola are letting us basically take over the place with our "Home is…" show in 2014.

Appropriately enough for the weekend with the 50th Anniversary of Dr Who, the Tardis-like building of Cupola.  Once inside, the place goes on forever, with a sculpture-filled courtyard at the back, stairs up to rooms which extend out over other shops, all manner of spaces for showing artwork.

This call, titled "Splash Bang Wallop", is their big Christmas exhibition, and apparently there are about 60 of us exhibiting.  We turned up unfashionably early, which at least meant that we were able to get a few shots before the crowds arrived for the opening night...

We got the chance to exhibit some pictures from our respective Underwater projects (as featured in earlier blog posts this summer, whilst we were shooting them).  It was a nice opportunity to show these works, the original open call they were made for having chosen not to pursue these series for the time being.  Slightly odd to be showing work on summer seaside and featuring inflatable beach toys on a night where temperatures hit minus two, but hey-ho.

So thats that; probably no more exhibitions this side of Christmas, if for no other reason than the fact that we've run out of work to show, which is a pleasant state of affairs.  We have a few more shoots and projects underway this month though; more in an upcoming blog post.

October into November; exhibitions galore, and also Daleks.

Right, as promised, a catch-up on the last month.  A day-trip to York saw us visiting both the National Railway Museum (to catch the "Great Gathering", showcasing all six of the A4 Pacific locomotives together in the same place- with the two temporarily repatriated locos from America and Canada due to be sent back soon, this seemed about the only opportunity to get to see them).  Photography conditions were not great, with so many people there, and the lighting inside mucking up the sensor on the camera a bit, but we managed a few nice shots.

This was followed by a visit to Treasurers House (National Trust) near the Minster; chance for a few more experimental pics, including the one of the chandalier, below.

We got the opportunity to exhibit some work at Cottingley Cornerstone, for the second time following our participation last year.

It was a nice show, with a good mix of work on display, and a good friendly atmosphere on the opening night.  I was exhibiting an unused pic from the "Inflate-Deflate" series, as well as one from my Dromology/Intercity project from last winter (one of the images not chosen by South Square Gallery at the time).  Amy showed one from her "Light Trails" project, and the sculpture piece below, from her wildlife boxes series, made from found materials.

One which really interested me, this very nice bar, done in miniature, with working lighting.

We're also exhibiting some work with Cupola in Sheffield (more in a separate post), as well as our ongoing contribution to the Bradford Open at Cartwright Hall; that means we've participated in three open-call exhibitions within a month, which is a pleasant if somewhat stressful experience, from an organisation point of view.

Something else which will be featuring in a separate post, is that we're decorating the National Trust Tearoom where I work in one of the Day Jobs.  Being done tastefully, subtly, and on a budget, with lots of arty creations…  The Reindeer above, made from recycled delivery boxes and scrap card, should give some indication of what sort of work we're going for.

We've also ended up doing some Dr Who themed making; coming up with cardboard/recycled Daleks for the Scouts and Beavers we are leaders with.  The example ones we made are shown below, during a suitably spookily-lit shoot done after the activity had been completed…. 

…along with one using proper toy Daleks, just for the sake of doing a miniatures shoot.  Anyway, to save boring people with the details here, there's more on this blog:

So that was the last month; mainly spent doing exhibitions.  Next posts on our showing at Cupola Gallery, and then on the Tearoom Christmas Decorations.

Saturday 23 November 2013

Railway Photography- Worth Valley and Ffestiniog

Been a little while since the last blog post, which is mainly down to a temperamental internet connection.  Some more updates coming soon, but for the time being, something I meant to post a few weeks ago, some railway photography at both the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Steam Gala, then the Ffestiniog Railway "1863 and All That" Gala, back in mid October.

Keighley was a bit of a let-down in terms of weather- the lighting was poor, which made for some blurry photographs initially.  I therefore gave up trying to do straightforward shots, and just went for more experimental panning shots and zooms.

I thought I'd try artificially ageing one shot with digital filters afterwards, with this loco which the railway had cosmetically weathered to make it look more authentically 1960's.

Then it was literally straight up to Wales for a few days, combining some railway shots with some miniatures pics (more in a separate post) and the "Home is…" photos at the lake, from the last post.  The Ffestiniog gala was a celebration of the introduction of steam power in 1863, meaning lots of vintage trains and other stuff worth shooting pics of.

One of the weirdest trains I've ever photographed, the gravity-powered inspection vehicle, seen in the woods at TanYBwlch.

This is something I'm trying to do again in miniature- first chance I've had to do a tracking shot from a vehicle running parallel.

Poor lighting in the woods led me to doing more experimental shots, trying to create something abstract.

The Sunday featured an impressive line-up of all the vintage locomotives at Harbour Station, with all four surviving 'Englands', so we joined the crowds at early-o'clock to get some shots.

I know I have a reputation amongst some of my fellow railway photographers for taking extremely low-angle shots, but this wasn't the most low-down pic from the day by any means...

And finally, it wasn't all about trains- migrating swans flying over the estuary, and a vaguely arty shot of a Heron in flight from the Britannia Bridge.

Coming tomorrow, a catch-up of the other photography/art/exhibitions done over the last month, whilst we have access to a decent internet connection...

Thursday 31 October 2013

"Home is..." Yorkshire, and back in Wales briefly

So a little update on the "Home is..." project.  Its sort of on a little break at the moment, mainly because of the weather, and also work commitments.  Before the weather became too rough, we did a location recce on a spot back here in Yorkshire, and an abandoned railway viaduct which now carries a cycle path near Cullingworth.  Looking at Google earth (and driving past it most mornings) it seemed to have potential...

However, it was a bit uninspiring actually on the viaduct (the one we wanted to do, in Wales, has rather more dramatic scenery, low railings instead of walls, and also annoyingly a lot of anti-tresspass notices and CCTV cameras monitoring it).  We've decided not to bother with the viaduct here then.

Early October saw us back, briefly, in Wales, where we returned to a location we'd tried twice before in the summer.  Once scrubbed due to bad weather, and once due to a camper van full of people sleeping in the parking bit next to the lake.  Out of season though, and no such distractions, so we set up and shot the pictures.

Just as we were packing up we met a group of people who'd been camping up on the hills, and were a tad curious about what we'd been doing.  Being as they were about to go wild swimming in the lake, with the temperature pretty cold by all accounts, we reckoned they were the ones acting strangely, but hey-ho.

That shoot has marked the end of the "Home is..." shots for the time being, mainly because the rather full-on nature of the shoot over the summer has damaged the chair, which needs mending.  In fairness it is quite old, and its manufacturer probably didnt anticipate it being carried around the landscape quite so much.

Updates on some other shoots coming soon...

Monday 14 October 2013

October Update

Bit of a general update on our recent happenings…

First off, we were once again involved with doing the official photography for the Bradford (South) Scout Assoc. Bronze and Silver Award Ceremony.  As with last year this was done in the main chamber at the City Hall in Bradford (a rather marvellous building) and involved Amy being right down the front photographing all the youngsters getting their certificates presented by the Mayor.  Now for the mass of editing, printing, and mounting of images associated with this kind of shoot…

I also got in some quick shoots at work on behalf of the shop- another opportunity to combine the day job with the photography job.

This was followed by an arty visit to Liverpool for Amy with the Day Job, and a visit to the always-entertaining Tate Liverpool at the Albert Dock.  The usual mix of weird sculpture and art work, but whenever we’ve been there’s always something to look at.

The big news this month is that we’re exhibiting work at Cartwright Hall Gallery in Bradford.  The Bradford Open is a massive open-call exhibition which runs every two years, and is open to all artists in the area (assuming your work gets passed the judging panel).  Amy got two out of three pics entered into it (one each from her “Light Trails” and “Cumbrian Coast” projects) and I got one of the “Century Survey” (Saltaire Steampunk) pics in. 

Overall though the show was rather heavy on printmaking this year, not a lot of photography or sculpture, and it seemed to have less work on display too compared to last time.  Not a bad thing as such, but perhaps reflects the tastes of the judging panel.

(Incidentally we have another exhibition in the pipeline, at Cottingley Cornerstone, more on which next month).

Below is our work, nicely grouped together- again, all older projects, but ones which have been well received in the past.

So what else?  The “Home is…” project is, after a brief hiatus, about to kick off again; we’re in Wales, where we intend to pick up a couple of locations we missed whilst doing the shoots earlier this year (weather dependant).  Of course we have the mixed blessing of it getting light later in the day now, which means more people about to worry about getting in the shots, but less getting up at 5am too which is pleasant.  We’re also at the stage of contacting a few potential locations to see if we can shoot pics on their sites whilst they’re closed for winter.

There’s been plenty of opportunity for some transport photography as well recently; both the Keighley and Worth Valley and the Ffestiniog Railway have held gala weekends, so we've been able to get some pics in whilst we’re nearby each area.

I’ve been experimenting with some concept shoots for some long-exposure projects using miniatures; there’ll be more on these projects in a future post when the main block of concept shots are done.

Right, that’s about it for the time being, hopefully some more posts coming up soon relating to some of the above planned shoots, should all go to plan.