West Once More.

It’s almost a year since my work took me to the West Country on what was a rare English summer’s day when I photographed Sam for my blog.  Yesterday was a bit of deja vu, as I was working just outside Bristol Airport at a hotel called Winford Manor.  With its beautiful tree-lined grounds it’s an obvious wedding venue (especially when the sun is shining) and the marquee alongside the hotel bore testimony to that.

The Manor’s history goes back to the 12th Century, although there is precious little evidence of any medieval history here, and at some point the property was owned by the family of Capt Mark Phillips, the first husband of Princess Anne, the Princess Royal.   More interesting is that the estate included “redding pits”, red ochre mines producing the raw material for chemical and cosmetic dyes.  I would have needed caving equipment to shoot these, and plenty of protective clothing.  The workers who mined the ore found their skin permanently pigmented by the red dye.

The gardens include a couple of unusual features; a box labyrinth which doubtless makes a great feature for wedding photography… if you can get enough height to take in the whole of the feature, and have some means of lift your bride and groom into the centre.  The labyrinth was rather overgrown, making walking through it a challenge, but not withstanding that, I couldn’t detect an opening leading to the central space.

I was bemused to also find a small stone circle in the grounds; an attempt by some former aristocrat to introduce a little mystery to the landscape?  Perhaps.

I didn’t have a bride to photograph yesterday so contented myself with some of the details and features of the property, including a stained glass window that whilst beautiful when suitably backlit by sunshine, looks rather different from the outside.  TLC required.

In the absence of a bride I persuaded Jo, who works for one of our client companies to be a portrait.  The light coming in from the conservatory was too good to miss in her eyes.

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Two Beautiful.

A rough count of the people who have been good enough to be photographed for this project so far revealed a degree of sexual discrimination.  Not through any policy on my part of course, but nevertheless there have been more men than women featured.

Strange really, since you would think I would favour shooting beauty rather than the beast, yet I seem to find more of the latter.  Having reflected on the reasons for this I’ve concluded that it is a consequence of attitudes to being photographed.

Unless I have a particular topic in mind for the day I never go out looking to capture images of one sex over another, and I will generally approach anyone who I think will make a good picture.  The fact that more women than men have declined my offer may well play a part, but how much of that has conditioned me to expect a masculine “yes” and a feminine “no”?  If that is the case perhaps I’m giving off some air of negativity to women that exacerbates the situation.

This week though I have been fortunate in photographing some beautiful women who can help to redress the balance, and even then there has been a spectrum of responses.  Men who I approach tend to say “go for it” or words to the equivalent and stand upright ready for the shot.  When I photographed Jo on Monday, surprised as she was that I had asked to photograph her at a bus stop, she was prepared to move and pose to suit me.  By contrast when I shot Sita on Wednesday, although she knew me well and was keen to pose as requested, her nervousness made her a far less compliant subject.

Today I experienced two different attitudes.  Hayley is a photographer’s dream.  She’s slim, attractive, wanted to be photographed and was comfortable enough in front of the camera to take direction easily.  How could I fail to capture her beauty?  (Actually with more time, and the option to try some different locations to counter the bright sunlight I might have got more, but that’s not really how this project works).

I met Hayley at the school where Gill my wife works as she was there for some practical experience and I was running a short session on photography for some of the pupils.  I don’t know her well, but I can’t wait to photograph her wedding next year based on working with her today.  She’ll be stunning and a dream client.

I was a little early arriving at the school so waited a few minutes in the school office where I photographed one of the school administrators as she was answering the phone.  She was too busy to pose, but had no fear of the camera.  Unlike Hayley her attitude was one of tolerance rather than enthusiasm.  Still got a nice picture of the old “Trouble & Strife” though.  Guess which is which?  😉

Sublime

I was reading Michael Freeman’s The Photographer’s Mind last night when I came across his section on what he calls sublime imagery.  Now sublime is a word that I’d never given a lot of thought to;  I don’t think I’ve ever had cause to look it up, and having sung Crown Him with Many Crowns any number of times in my chorister days the phrase “ineffably sublime” was taken to mean some form of superlative and I left my pursuit of a definition there.  The word actually means awe-inspiring.

Freeman talks about it in terms of photographing intensely dramatic scenes dominated by some force of nature; volcanoes, mist covered mountains, oppressive skies.  The best mist I ever encountered was on the crater of Ngorongoro, in the days before I was skilled enough to properly capture its majesty – that would have been misty mountainous volcano!

Walking at Seaburn I’m reminded of Basil Fawlty‘s rant at the customer who wants a better view from her Torquay bedroom.

Well, might I ask what you expected to see out of a Torquay hotel bedroom window? Sydney Opera House, perhaps? The hanging gardens of Babylon? Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically…

Similarly nothing dramatic to be seen here, so I’m reliant upon some clouds to underexpose by a stop or two, and the application of some curves in post processing.

Not great but another technique to have tried.

The one soul who came my way whilst at the water line declined my request, which was a shame as her blue eyes and tanned complexion worked well in the fading light.  Not to worry though for as I left the beach I spotted Jo at a bus stop.  Seems I was shooting in the wrong direction all along.