Monday, 31 March 2014

So, what was the point in that?

Here we are then, I've done it. I posted something every day in March. What was the point in doing that?
I didn't plan to do it. I was just writing a post and wanted to see if I could keep going all through March. So there was no agenda, no purpose really and that, for many people is what is wrong with blogs. Many have no point, nothing to say, boring content. But yet, writing a journal is seen as a great way of exploring ideas, a way of staying focused and motivated. So why not the same with a blog? 
Well, a journal is private. A blog is for sharing. That fact alone alters the content in a blog from the more personal, reflective entries in a journal. In essence though, they both involve writing. 
If you Google 'what's the point in blogging?', most answers refer to getting business or getting customers to your website to sell stuff. Other answers refer to sharing ideas, about communicating. 
I started my blog to talk about photography - to explore photography and photographers. I soon realised that, like other creative people, I had 'flat' periods when I had no inspiration, no ideas, my mojo had gone. It was difficult to write enthusiastically about what I was doing in photography when I had essentially lost my confidence to produce anything remotely worthy of sharing.
I started to write about this lack of creativity which led on to inspiration and how to overcome a creative blockage. I soon realised I was not alone in feeling 'stuck', in feeling useless. The blog was good for getting that feedback.
At times the blog just became another place to share my photography. 
Rarely did I teach anything. Rarely did I solve other people's problems (mainly because I don't have a big enough audience nor do readers see me as an expert at anything!). 
I tried to start conversations by asking if what I'd written resonated with anybody or irritated anybody. Nine times out of ten, those requests for feedback were met with stony silence. What did I expect? I read blogs but seldom comment because, well, you know, we're all REALLY busy and time is precious. 
So far, for the month of March I've had 2,401 views. I have a wee audience but they're a silent audience in the main. Perhaps that lack of comments, that lack of a conversation is why so many people give up blogging and turn to Twitter, for example, where conversations are regular and is, to my mind, Twitter's strength and purpose.
For me, blogging every day in March has made me realise that it is good to sit at the end of the day and jot done some thoughts about the day past, thoughts and maybe the odd idea or two. I'm going to try to do this and some of these journal entries may end up as a blog post. As I said in last night's post, I'm going to do a sketch every day in April. That sketch may just be a doodle but that doesn't matter. What matters is I sit down for a period of time and create something.
So, to conclude, why don't you try doing something (or stop doing something) every day for a month? Blog about it. Share.
And on the subject of sharing - they say you should leave your audience laughing:

It's good night from him, and it's good night from me!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Why do we stop doing it?

I went to a Catholic primary school, not because we were Catholics, but because it was close to where we lived. It was a great primary school.

When the Catholic pupils did their Catechism, the non Catholics did either reading, sums or drawing. I remember doing a LOT of drawing alongside Billy Milton who I thought was superb at art.

Anyway, I tried to keep sketching when I went the secondary school but with all the other distraction that teenage life brings, as well as trying to get some qualifications, I didn't draw as much.

However, I recently found some sketches from when I was about 14-16. I knew I had a couple of my mother and since this is Mother's Day I thought I'd share them with the world.

This was her looking at her washing to see if they were dry (yes, I even remember that):

It looks like her a wee bit but it's not a great likeness. This one is more like her back then:

This is actually just a tiny wee drawing and I've scanned of just her. The whole drawing had my cousin David in it, who is now a successful businessman:

One more, this time of two men working on a boat in Buckie harbour:

Some of you may remember I did a drawing every day for a month and put them on Facebook. As I come to the end of doing a blog post every day in March, I was thinking about what I would like to do every day in April and I think I've decided in doing a drawing a day again in April. 

I really don't understand why many of us stop drawing when we become 'adults'. I want to get back into the habit of just doing a wee sketch more often. I haven't decided if I'll share them daily or leave it until the end of the month/week. 

I like the idea Austin Kleon has of having one half of his desk digital and the other half for drawing/making/crafting stuff. Another job for the holidays!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Russ and his ball and chain.

Driving to work one morning, about a year and a half ago,  I saw what I initially thought was the best scarecrow I'd ever seen. But there was also a sign in the field saying 'It's coming closer Russ' with a ball and chain attached to the sign.

As the days went past, the figure got closer and closer to the sign. Russ was obviously about to get married and friends/family were having a great laugh at his expense.

I wonder how Russ is getting on?

Friday, 28 March 2014

Blyde Lasses

Just back from another great night of entertainment at the Cromar Folk Club in Tarland so just a wee quick post on this Friday night.

As well as some great floor spots, the guests tonight were the charming and talented Blyde Lasses. That Shetland accent I could listen to all night. Great tunes and explanations of the story behind them. I bought the CD so looking forward to playing it this weekend.

Here they are giving it laldie:

It was also great to hear Shona Donaldson's gorgeous voice.

A fine start to the weekend.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Changing career and self help, c.1989.

During my twenties I worked as an electronic technician for Schlumberger in Aberdeen during the oil boom (and bust). I was based onshore but had many repair and maintenance trips to oil rigs. I didn't enjoy the job and i wasn't particularly good at it either. I needed a change of career.

As part of an Open University course to help me choose the right career path, I ended up reading some self help books. In a recent clear out of stuff, I found a note which, if I remember correctly was my attempt at summing up self help books. Here's what I wrote c.1989:

  • What's important to you? Define it clearly. Change.
  • Your goals? Clarify and attack them (!). Expect failures and disappointments but learn from them.
  • Be active. Work hard at everything BUT always towards your goals.
  • Be passionate, Desire something.
  • Role models - find them, study them.
  • Be good to yourself. Daily, do something you enjoy.
  • Everything in balance.
  • De-junk. Keep on of top things.
  • Break down tasks.
  • Increase skills.
  • Nurture relationships.
  • Be yourself - don't compare yourself to others.
  • Live in the present. Worrying will solve nothing and damage your health.
  • Listen to messages that fate can bring. (?)
  • Care more and be more affectionate. Empathise.
  • Write things down - keep a journal.
  • Keep the faith - remain hopeful.
  • Meditate
  • Exercise
  • Eat well.
  • Drink plenty water.
I eventually boiled down all self help books to the Nike slogan - 'Just do it!'

Those who know me can now have a laugh at the bullet points I have utterly failed to do!


Anyway, what's a blog post without a picture?

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Try not to 'should' yourself.

This morning I was shocked to hear the sad news of the death of a lovely guy and great guitar player, Norman Conboy. He lived locally and played with local musicians at various sessions. I met him a few times at the Cromar Folk Club and also on the rare occasion I made it down to the regular Tuesday night sessions in the Aberdeen Arms in Tarland. He recently played on the CDs of Paul Anderson  and David Anderson.

When I watched Norman, and watch other guitarists play accompaniment to trad folk music, I am puzzled as to what exactly they are playing. I learnt the guitar playing some blues, rock and the odd bit of bluegrass and jazz. None of what I could play seemed to fit with what trad folk guitarists did. So one night I asked Norman what was he doing? He never really answered my question. He just said come along to the Tuesday night sessions and watch. He also hinted that you kind of had to know the music and know what was coming in the tune - which is where I struggled a bit as our house was filled with jazz music more than folk music.

I knew he was right and I should try to get to the Tuesday night sessions and watch him.

But sadly, I found excuses - during the week I rise at 6am, commute 64 miles every day, work as a Principal Teacher at a secondary school and on average, see 190-200 pupils come through my door every week. When 9pm comes along on a Tuesday night, I really struggle to find the energy to go to a pub session which may end at 11-11.30pm.

Of course, deciding every Tuesday to not go to the sessions and sit beside Norman and learn from him for the fairly pathetic reasons given above, I regret now. Isn't it always a shame that some lessons in life seem only to be learned this way.

You should never 'should' yourself! I have to try harder to stop saying 'I should try to get to ...' and instead say, 'I will get to...', 'I am going to...' more often.

Norman will be sadly missed by many musicians, friends and of course his family. The few times I spoke with Norman, he was a gent. He was a handsome, funny and talented guy.

Rest in Peace Norman.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Give up.

Technical problems are plaguing me tonight. The post I typed up has disappeared as well as the images.

I'm tired.

I give up on a post tonight.

Basically it was a post about the length of time I've been taking images of abandoned places (1996) but have yet to do much with the body of work. Why?

It could be that that is not my motivation.

Or it could be that the full time job I do is leaving me just plain tired and lethargic.

Anybody in the same boat?

Monday, 24 March 2014

Why I am slowly using Flickr less and less, sadly.

CaixaForum - foyer by James_at_Slack
CaixaForum - foyer, a photo by James_at_Slack on Flickr.
I am sharing this image direct from my Flickr photostream. It appears on the very first page (p.37) and I took it when on a holiday in Barcelona, April 2006. This is where I saw the Diane Arbus exhibition which made me decide to go straight back into photography and to never neglect being creative ever again.

But back to Flickr. I, like many other people, set up my Flickr page for the simple purpose of allowing friends and family to see holiday snaps. The idea of e-mailing a link to friends who could then look at my snaps seemed a great idea to me.

I now have 3,555 pictures on there and often consider deleting most of them. But then I stop and remember that those images tell a story and some people still enjoy looking at them.

Since Yahoo took over Flickr, images from other photographers now take so long to appear on my PC that I barely use it anymore. A real shame which no amount of complaining to Yahoo is going to change. (They have also killed Tumblr for me for the exact same reason.)

Tomorrow, I will no longer be able to share my images direct from Flickr to Blogger as Flickr/Yahoo have decided it's not in their interest to allow that function. So no doubt I will use Flickr even less now, so time to find some alternative.

Anybody feeling the same way? Maybe you have better broadband than me.

I know many get disappointed by the lack of constructive and helpful critique of their work on Flickr but that was something I never expected anyway. I met some fine people on Flickr but twitter and Facebook do that now.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Some days are just plain awesome.

Do you ever have a day when you can think of a few good reasons/excuses to get out of something that will take a fair bit of effort on your part but you ignore that lazy voice in your head, go do it and then have a truly memorable day? Well, today was such a day for me.

Yvonne and I met up with Michael Marten and Mike Colechin again today to continue walking in the Cairngorms. It had snowed already that day and the wind was getting up. Yvonne and I wondered if heading up onto Carn Liath (2,828 ft) was wise on such a cold and windy day, especially after Mike and Michael had spent the night camping. Everybody was keen, so after a quick cuppa and some of Yvonne's freshly baked cheese scones, we headed off.

The first stage of the walk is just a fairly boring landrover track up the south side of the hill. 

As we got further up, there were a few snow showers and the wind started to pick up. When we crested the shoulder and headed for the top, we were now heading north and getting the full force of the chilly wind and the spindrift on our faces.

When we got to the top, any plans we had about having lunch were forgotten about and after a photo or two, it was decided to head across the top of the hill and eventually drop down into the shelter of a forest.

It was a great day which challenged us all in different ways. 

In this blog I have written about overcoming doubts and fear in relation to art  before and it occurred to me today that some of the greatest rewards will come to you if you push yourself, force yourself out of your comfort zone and try it. It may not work out but you can learn from the experience and congratulate yourself for making the effort. 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The ingredients to make a day go well?

Yes, it's been said many times and we all know it.

The best of times come from being with friends and family, eating good food, conversations that flow effortlessly and doing something everyone enjoys.

Well, my day today had all those ingredients. Mike Colechin, Michael Marten and Lucy Telford arrived at Slack Cottage this morning and after some coffee and excellent home bakes from Yvonne, (during which time my sister Sheila also arrived), we set off for the hills.

The dark clouds and snow flurries we left at Slack, soon passed by and when we arrived at Glen Girnoc there were hopeful patches of blue sky.

We walked up the glen, passing Camlet and the lime kiln and stopped at Bovaglie. The high hills still had plenty snow, especially Lochnagar. To be outside, walking in beautiful countryside with good banter and chat all the way there is hard to beat. Yvonne did manage to make the day even better with thermal cups full of hot drinks and even more home bakes. Perfect.

Funnily enough, despite three photographer there, few photographs were taken. Mike didn't even have a camera with him. I thought I would come home with some snaps of the day, with plenty of people in the pictures. But no. I wandered off to have a look round abandoned Bovaglie and did my usual stuff. Reassuring I suppose.

Anyway, here's a few images:

I did snap one with the wee P&S Canon of the posse:

There you have it. A fine day indeed. It seemed only right to write a wee blog post about it. 

Friday, 21 March 2014

Neglected, Tillydrine House - For Sale.

© James Dyas Davidson

Being at Tillydrine House saddened me a bit. All these people/companies with so much money buy up these places and leave to the elements and vandals. Appalling, especially at a time of homelessness.

Read this sorry tale about Tillydrine House:

Late 19th century 2-storey, 3-bay irregular-plan house with entrance tower. Italianate and domestic gothic details. Grey-pink Aberdeen bond granite ashlar. Overhanging eaves.

The original Tillydrine House was reputedly dismantled and re-erected in Aboyne at the turn of the century. (Historic Scotland)

May 1990: External inspection reveals the house to be vacant, leaking and suffering disrepair, though it remains structurally sound. SCT understands that its owner lives in Abu Dhabi and does not wish to sell. The house previously operated as a hotel. 29 October 1993: The Deeside Piper reports that the house has lain vacant for 16 years and has been stripped of its interior fittings. It was last leased to oil company Occidental. September 1995: SCT understands that the house has been made secure. Negotiations are currently underway with a developer keen to lease the property. 21 February 1997: The Deeside Piper reports that a Building Preservation Notice is to be served on the house. March 1997: The house is C(S)-listed. February 1998: Local planners report that they are considering serving a Repairs Notice. August 2001: No change reported. October 2006: The agents report that the owner of the property has no further update on the information held. Any contact should be made through the agents. September 2007: SCT is advised of a change of agent for the owner. All contact should be directed through the agents.
December 2007: External inspection finds the building vacant, unsecured and in very poor condition. The rainwater goods are dilapidated and all the window glazings are broken. There are signs of vandalism and a risk of arson.

March 2008: SCT is contacted by a member of the public to advise that the property has changed ownership.

August 2010: External inspection finds no significant change since the last site visit. The building continues to deteriorate and is a cause for concern.
(From 'Buildings at Risk' website)


Well, here's some of mine:

Sad isn't it?

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Kurt Vonnegut's letter to a school.

You're probably familiar with this story about the letter Kurt Vonnegut wrote to a high school, but if not, here's the background.

In 2006, a group of high school students at Xavier High School in New York wrote to their favourite authors as part of an assignment, asking if they would visit their school. Vonnegut was the only one to respond, and while he said he would not be able to make a visit, his inspiring letter made up for it with with wit and charm.

Here's a transcript of the letter:

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:
I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don't make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.
What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practise any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow.
Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you're Count Dracula.
Here's an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don't do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don't tell anybody what you're doing. Don't show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?
Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals [sic]. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what's inside you, and you have made your soul grow.
God bless you all!
Kurt Vonnegut

This is the first day of Spring - a time of fertility supposedly. Time to make a fertile imagination into a fertile creative period. As cabin fever bites after the long dark winter nights, time to get some release from containment. Time to 'experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow'. 

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Don't waste your time reading this.

It's becoming very clear to me this week that the Easter holidays can't come quick enough.

Skye, I need you.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

I am nothing but a transient soul in a white Opel Manta

(For those not familiar with the North East of Scotland, stick with it.)

This morning I went on a course in Banchory. Then I had to go to work in Huntly. The most direct route I felt was to go over the Sluie Hill (or is it Suie Hill?) to Clatt and onwards.

There is car park and a great view at the top of Sluie Hill, so I stopped to eat my lunch. As I sat there I remembered a photograph I took at the the same car park, around about 1982, which showed my late father Jimmy, my mother Catherine and my future wife Yvonne admiring the same view I was enjoying eating my lunch. We were on route from Buckie to Banchory to meet up with my sister for some get together - maybe for Chris Barber jazz band concert? Or maybe it was Christmas time, I can't remember now.

The memory of that picture brought a smile to my face, not only because the frame of the picture was filled with my new white Opel Manta and everybody else squeezed to the left! No, more than that, it was because my father was to die of cancer only a couple of years later and it was one of those simple decisions to just stop and admire the view. We did, and I captured a wee moment in time which I now cherish. 

My father has gone. My mum remarried and found happiness again. My sister lives in Aberdeen and we see her as much as we can. I have been happily married to Yvonne since 1986. That is part of my story. It is just a puff of wind on a heather branch.

When I had a look at the photo tonight, I thought you could remove the car and the people and the view would look almost exactly the same. The land endures and has the biggest and best stories. We are just transient souls on this amazing planet who need to take more time out for ourselves, for our loved ones and for our planet. ( I know, all that from a wee photo!)

Here's the photograph:

Where the Manta went to I've no idea. :-)

(Oh, by the way, to the left was parked my dad's green Hillman Avenger. You'll understand why that was not included in the picture!)

Monday, 17 March 2014

Do you have f1.8 days, or maybe pinhole days?

I know I do.

Some days I just want to go out and shoot anything at f1.8 - like this taken yesterday:

I found this plastic bag  in bondage on a barbed wire fence intriguing.

Some days of late, I just want to see stuff through a cheap pinhole lens, just to see what it looks like - that's all. Like this gable wall of the steading at Ardoch:

Better still, leave it in colour. Most pinhole images - that is REAL pinhole images (which mine are not really) - are always in black and white.

As well as the cheap pinhole, I have a cheap plastic Holga lens and my mood of late is to take 'pretty' pictures with a messy, plastic lens. Most end up in the delete bin but some just about get saved due to happy accidents, like this one of Lochnagar:

None of this on their own means much but if I can add them all together in the right way for the right image, something may happen.

Hassles and issues at work this year has seen me in a real mood or mixture of feelings - mostly negative. I think there is a connection with my frustrated, negative mood and this desire to just get out with my camera and do stuff, like some form of anger release.

Anybody else experience this?

Does productive, creative work only happen when your mind is in a 'good' place?

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Buckie - Captain Scott Schooner Launch

The internet can be great sometimes.

The picture in the previous post of the three girls, I took on a day I was wondering down the harbour area of Buckie.

I also found this picture of the schooner Captain Scott in Buckie Harbour:

I wondered what happened to it, so I turned to Google and the first thing that was on the results was this video:

I'd never seen this before and it made me sad to think how a town like Buckie no longer BUILDS stuff like the Captain Scott.

It is now called the RNOV Shabab Oman!

Saturday, 15 March 2014

3 Girls, late 1970s

3 Girls, late 1970s by James_at_Slack
3 Girls, late 1970s, a photo by James_at_Slack on Flickr.
A recently found old picture I took way back in the mid to late 1970s when I was just a lad.
I was walking around the town of Buckie taking pictures of stuff down beside the harbour. Somewhere near the Star Brae, these three girls wanted to know what I was taking photos of and demanded I take their picture. It was a hot summer's day which makes me wonder if it was 1976?

This is a poor scan of the print.

If anybody recognises these Buckie girls, I'd love to let them see this.

© James Dyas Davidson

Friday, 14 March 2014

Where can I find 'ordinary street make up'?

Some more useful hints from my old Photography Diary 1977, this time regarding taking portraits.

Statistics show that 90% of all amateur photographs are of people. Very often these photographs become treasured records of the past, a factor which is rarely appreciated at the time to judge by their quality. The inexperienced photographer who wishes to achieve something better than the average snapshot portrait should keep in mind the following points.

  1. Try to have their subjects looking their best and don't force them into being photographed when they are not ready.
  2. For colour portraits of women ordinary street make-up, carefully and moderately applied, is quite suitable.
  3. It is usually better to avoid or discourage women from wearing dresses of very vivid colours as this can adversely affect the colour of the complexion. Touches of a vivid colour can be added by way of scarf or hat.
I'll spare you the other 9 points, good though they are. I fear the dreaded lurgy is lurking in me and I'm off to bed.

The design of the diary cover was by Iain Love but there is no mention of who wrote the text inside.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Photography with a Purpose: 1977 advice

I found my 'Photography Diary' from 1977!

There is a section in it called 'Photography with a Purpose' and it starts:

The novelty of owning a first camera is usually enough in itself to keep it in frequent use with subjects ranging from family portraits to scenic beauty or anything else that strikes the owner's fancy. The results may not be all that is expected, particularly if the camera is an expensive model, and it is at this stage that interest in photography can rapidly diminish. This can happen even to the photographer who has reached a high standard, but who arrives at a stage where the search for and recording of photogenic subjects can begin to pall, or, worse still, no longer seem worth the time, effort, and expense. It is all too easy to accumulate a large and miscellaneous collection of transparencies or prints of excellent pictorial merit and finish up putting them away in a drawer. Experience shows that this can happen to the most enthusiastic.

In this situation you should start thinking seriously about applying your camera skill to some purpose. Given a definite project, it is surprising how quickly enthusiasm can revive. Projects can offer both interest and a challenge to one's skill and imagination. There is the double reward that the results may well prove of interest to others whether as a slide documentary or as an album of prints complete with text and captions. If the results take the form of an illustrated article, it may even prove saleable.

If only I had read that and acted upon it in 1977 instead of 2007 .... who knows? :-)

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Weddings, portraits, pets and babies.

DSC_4625 v1 by James_at_Slack
DSC_4625 v1, a photo by James_at_Slack on Flickr.

With the recent announcement that Getty is giving away thousands of photographers images for free use, another income stream ( let's call it a trickle) dries up.

They say the best way to make photography a living is to shoot wedding, pets, portraits and babies.

How long is that still going to be the case? What will wedding photography look like in 5 years time I wonder?

Some of the better pet and baby images seen on social media are taken by owners on their phones.

I'm not making any point here tonight (too late for that and I'm too tired), I was just thinking about what direction photography will take as the iPhone generation move in. Will they want better equipment or will they stick to an instant form of photography where wedding photos are tweeted as it happens? No more of the above palaver?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

They shoot portraits don't they?

Photoshelter recently published their 'educational resource' The Photographer's Outlook on 2014. 

It is clear from their study that portrait photography remains the primary speciality of both professionals and enthusiasts.

The photographers that I get the most pleasure from and study the most are mainly portrait photographers. Weird then that I don't take many portraits.

Most white seamless studio stuff bores me.

Diane Arbus, Bill Brandt and August Sander to name but a few don't bore me.

So there is something I need to work on as a wee secondary interest - portraits.

Anyway, I have a mountain of marking to do so I'll leave you with some portraits I have taken:

Monday, 10 March 2014

Portrait of a cow, Friggie-Fraggan

' large part, migration from the land before the 1940s has to be explained in terms of the changing attitudes of the farm labour force itself. Here it should first be recognised that Scottish farm servants had a developed culture of mobility long before the rural exodus accelerated.[...]'Flitting' (or moving) to another farm, usually in the same parish or county at the end of the six-month or annual term was part of the way of life.[...]Almost all this habitual movement was localised and over short distances but it accustomed farm servant families to levels of mobility that could in certain circumstances encourage them to leave the land altogether.'

From 'The Scottish Nation, 1700-2007' by Tom Devine, pages 464-465.

In the North East of Scotland, you have to realise that many families left voluntarily. This can alter how I feel within an abandoned place but it may also alter the relationship a viewer may have to my images - if they know their history. Should I add history to my images or made up stories?

My thought for tonight after a day at work that not only sapped my energy but also my spirit. Tomorrow is another day. Maybe time for a job flitting?

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Loch Ainort, Skye

Loch Ainort, Skye by James_at_Slack
Loch Ainort, Skye, a photo by James_at_Slack on Flickr.
When I first heard about Flickr I thought it was a great way to allow friends and family to see some holiday snaps. So I joined - in Novemebr 2005! How time flies.

Then, I just saw it as a place to store photos as I slowly worked my way back into taking photos. There was a long gap in my life when photography played no part. Let me explain.

I got interested in taking photos during Wednesday leisure afternoons in secondary school. So I reckon I was about 14 or 15. I remember one art teacher in particular who was so surprised and pleased when he saw my abstract images that he called all the other art teachers into the room to see them.

That one moment when I felt I had done something that others had liked, others that I had respect for, has stayed with me. I wanted to learn more about photography and get better at it.

But sadly, finding work, starting a career, gaining qualifications, buying property, getting married and generally finding my way in the world, saw photography take a back seat.

It was after seeing a Diane Arbus exhibition in Barcelona and the increasing availability of digital photography that got me back into taking pictures. Flickr was just a perfect place to put my pictures but also to get in touch with other photographers.

Sadly, since Flickr was bought over by Yahoo recently it has become almost unusable if your broadband connection isn't top notch. I still use it though and have a wee look at any activity on my photostream.

Today, for reasons that are never clear, the above image of Loch Ainort, Skye, taken back in 2009, is getting a bit of traffic.

I doubt I would take an image like that today. There is nothing majorly wrong with it (technically flawed and harsh light) but some other images in my photostream are very bad. I have given some thought to clearing out the duds from my 'stream but decided not to because there is a history there, a story of me and aspects of my life. Some truly awful images can somehow bring pleasure to some people like this one, so to hell with it I say. This was what my photography was like and if that disappoints some or think I'm foolish to leave bad images up on line, too bad.

I'd be interested to hear of anybody who has actually decided to clear out their photostream and why.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

His love of Magritte was too much for her.

I went to Inverness today with Lucy Telford to meet up with other photographers, all members of the Scottish Photographers Group.

I always look forward to these meet-ups. I come away motivated and excited by the range and quality of the work on show.

Yvonne went to a felting class today. She learned a new skill, met new people and created something.

When we came home, we went out for a meal with friends. Great food, great banter and a wee musical session at the end.

It's late now.

I'm squeezing in a blog post before the day is done to say -

Make stuff
Share stuff
Study stuff
Talk about stuff
Listen to stuff
Watch stuff
Try new stuff
Learn new stuff

Surround yourself with people and stuff that inspire you.

Oh, and every now and then, attach a chair to the top of a living room wall and see how long it takes for nosey people to notice it.

Friday, 7 March 2014

And if you feel that you can't go on. And your will's sinkin low. Just believe and you can't go wrong. In the light you will find the road.

When I decided to learn how to play the guitar, way back when I was a teenager, I did what many budding guitarist did and learned to play by copying my 'heroes'.

As a matter of fact, I still do. Recently, Yvonne wanted me to learn the Civil Wars' 'From this Valley' so she could sing along. Few hours later I was playing the song and she was singing along. Great fun and a sense of achievement.

During my drive to work this week I was wondering why I never approached photography that way? Why had I never studied a photographer who I admired and then tried to copy the image? Perhaps then, try to emulate the photographer's style? That could lead on to trying to work out what was the thinking/purpose behind the photographer's images? If I could grasp that then maybe I could move closer to my own thinking?

I just took photographs. It never occured to me when I was a teenager taking photographs to copy other photographer's work the same way I was copying guitarist's work when I was playing the guitar.

Odd that.

I do sometimes combine songs I used to play or can play on the guitar with one of my images, like the image above.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

"...the neat uniform and genteel work of the police constable or railway porter..."

"... there is much drudgery and very little excitement about the farm servant's duties, and I believe the young men dislike the former and long for the latter. By the labourers themselves slight importance is attached to the healthy character of country life in comparison with various branches of town labour. That phase of the question sinks into insignificance in their estimation, and only the shorter hours, numerous holidays and ever present busy bustle and excitement of town life or the neat uniform and genteel work of the police constable or railway porter, are present to the mind of our young farm servant."
Royal Commission on Labour, 1893. (Quoted in Tom Devine's The Scottish Nation 1700-2007, pp 466-467.)

To have quotes and extracts similar to the above with me when I visit an abandoned farm cottage help to create stories in my mind about the last occupants. Maybe there was no sadness about leaving. Maybe there was excitement and relief. Maybe they skipped down those stairs on their last day there.

Researching the history of a place and the possible reasons for abandoning it can change the mood of the image I'm seeking. The light coming through the downstairs door and the windows in the above image - do they bring light into a sad, abandoned home or do they suggest some brighter future beyond the hard, isolated life of the farm labourer?

At the time I felt the last occupants were anxious and nervous about moving away.

Having read the above quote, does it change the mood you may have felt looking at the image?

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

12 layers of the past. Finding 'me' under there.

12 layers of the past. by James_at_Slack
12 layers of the past., a photo by James_at_Slack on Flickr.

This is the back wall of a box bed in an abandoned cottage called Allalogie. See this post for the story of my first visit there.  

I stood at this colourful view into the 'past' layers of wallpaper for a while. It was like peeling back the stories of the place - why would you put layer upon layer of wallpaper on the wall? what can it tell us about the people who lived here? who might have lived here? what would it have been like to live here?

Later, back home processing the image, I started daydreaming about being able to strip away layers of my own history to see the changes, to see the good choices, to see the not so good choices with the benefit of hindsight. What would the 'original wall' look like, stripped of all the coverings? Would it be the real me or is the real me the accumulation of all these changes, all these choices, all these shifts of direction?

Last Easter holidays I began reading Steve Simon's book The Passionate Photographer, determined to really 'do it', i.e. work through his tasks and exercises, as the book had been highly recommended to me. 

Well, did I not get stuck at Step One - finding your inspiration, finding your passion! 

A huge part of getting that right is knowing who you are and it seems each time I try to find 'me' it becomes a bit more elusive than I expected. Am I alone is this? Is it just me or is trying to know 'who you are' really quite difficult? 

Maybe I'm a bit more Anaglypta than Flock - repeated patterns?

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Past, present and what future? Balhennie, Groddie.

There are times when so much seems to be happening beyond your control that you just decide to take each day as it comes.

Today was one of those days.

In an attempt to do something 'under my control', I decided late in the afternoon, to grab the old D50 with a plastic Holga lens on it and go to a ruin called Balhennie, not far from my house. 

When I got there, the sun had just dipped behind Morven casting a shadow on the abandoned farmhouse of Balhennie. Missed my shot. Undaunted, I headed for inside the cottage with camera gear that would struggle to capture anything in the darkness.

A walker then appeared, just down from Morven. He was from Crieff but was staying in Craigendarroch. He also intended to take a picture of Balhennie in the evening sunlight. We both made comment on how quickly the sun dipped away. 

He was still going to take a picture anyway and would I go inside and stand by the window? Why not, I thought. Might as well keep flowing with the flow. Two snaps later, and he was gone.

My efforts at getting anything decent inside wasn't happening. The light was too low and I had no tripod. 

I went back to stand at the window and took the image above. I stared at the path leading to the open gate but you'd have to make sure you avoided the puddles. The sunshine and hills are beyond but a fence blocks the way so just follow the path and hope it leads to an opening? That's when I realised I was standing in someone's past in the present wondering about the future. 

It was also then that I realised I'd never used the on camera flash with the Holga lens. Back to taking pictures and back in control, having fun and not thinking about anything. 

Here's two images using the flash: 

And some more window images for good measure.