Posts

PHOTO IS:RAEL PhotoMarathon

PHOTO IS:RAEL was an online photomarathon that happened over 24 hours in February 2021. I decided to take part for creative challenge and boy did I get what I asked for! There were 6 themed challenges, which had to be completed over a full 24 hours and they all related to the concept of chaos. Something that we can all currently relate to.

This post will outline each of the challenges and share my photo(s) as well as an overview of my creative process. here’s number 1 which was received at 5.00pm GMT on a gloomy evening. Challenge 2 would only be released once I had submitted the Challenge 1 photo, and so on.

  1. Embrace Uncertainty – Natural light has been the dominant tool in every photographer’s career, but like most things today, it too changes uncontrollably and at the crucial moments. In this first challenge, we ask you to find images that deal with light. Take a walk around your house or on the street, look for an interesting light direction, add the shadows usually avoided. Get out of your comfort zone, choose new and unplanned angles.

Now, that’s all well and good. Photography is all about light. However, 5.00pm on a winter’s evening in the UK does not offer much natural light! I checked the forecast for the next day and it seemed promising. It was wrong, the next day was gloomy and overcast. No sun and none expected all day. I was going to need to create a photo that was all about (natural) light and shadows without either of those things. I know, there was some natural light, but it wasn’t the sunshine that I was hoping for.

I had an idea. What if in place of the shadows I used a silhouette? Similar, but different and still caused by light. Once I had the concept I decided that the silhouette would be of me in a hoodie, gazing at the gloom. Then in a flash of inspiration (and humour) I realised that if I used multiple exposure I could create another layer with a light bulb (signifying light and a bright idea) on top of the hoodie silhouette. I used Bright mode in my Fuji X-T4’s Multiple Exposure setting. This mode favours the brighter pixels over darker, ensuring that the light bulb would appear on top of the silhouette.

To create the light bulb layer, I held the bulb against a dark background, ensuring that the brighter cloud filled background would be favoured. Here is the final multiple exposure, created in camera with no post editing.

2. Dare to Fail – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep”. We cannot move forward without failing. In this second challenge you are asked to take a representative image of darkness, natural or artificial. The core of the image should be the dark part of the frame.

Great, I thought, absence of sunlight was a positive. Although I did wish that I had known the what the challenge was the night before. However, I was comfortable about using the exposure compensation to create a darker photo. I also thought perhaps I could make use of Dark mode in the Multiple Exposure setting. I created the photo with me in it first. To do this I used reflections of myself in various windows, and in a variety of poses until I settled on the heavenward gaze, which seemed apposite.

After I had that photo in camera I looked for a darker surface that I could use as the formless background. I settled on a rough section of tarmac just outside the house, and created one photo before a final one when I used a slower shutter speed (easy on the gloomy day and with a dark subject) and zoomed the lens out during the shutter release, to create the tunnel effect. In my mind this responded to moving from darkness to light, from failure to creation.

3. Challenge the Obvious at Times of Digital Transformation – In the past year, we redefined the way employees, freelancers and self-employed actually work, with new challenges and market conditions. Video calls, remote work from just anywhere, new participants, and circumstances we never thought possible for work, became our working environment. This challenge encourages you to photograph your interpretation of “work” as redefined in this past year, or as you think it should be defined. The photograph can be staged, documentary, realistic, or abstract.

By this stage I had noticed two emerging themes in my work. One was multiple exposure in camera, the other was the tree motif. I hadn’t planned to follow these unifying features, but I was keen to ensure that all of the final photos could be seen as a coherent set. I recognised that the overarching theme of Chaos was represented by the multiple exposures and use of extreme colours. The tree motif spoke of the future flowering of Spring and new hope.

The photo for this challenge was originally a straight documentary photo. I went back to it later and re-shot it as a multi exposure image using extreme white balances and an offset composition to indicate the sometime chaos of working from home. The tree motif, my girlfriend and the dog also survived!

4. Ask questions – Covid-19 Pandemic has posed many questions and challenges for us as creators. Thinking about the past year, what you personally went through? What the world has gone through? How did it affect and change you? In this fourth challenge you are requested to upload a series of personal, emotional and abstract or rational and realistic images, that presents questions about the changes you have undergone in the past year. Take a series of 6 images that explore these questions, and ultimately tell your personal and unique story.

When I read this I cheered. Right down my street. Those of you who are familiar with my Pandemia Exhibition will recognise some of the themes in these 6 photos. Most of them take the original idea of a Covid timeline from January 2020 to the present day. But whereas I created my exhibition photos over 10 months these had to be done in an hour, and I had a limited location to work with. I should have said, all of the photos for this photomarathon were created in and around the house or in the nearby park. Each photo title reveals something of the timeline and concept.

Jan 20 – Everything here is lovely, apparently.
Feb 20 – The virus approaches
May 20 – Got to work. Don’t go to work
Dec 20 – The virus is everywhere
Jan 21 – Lockdown. Again.
Feb 21 – Storms before wisdom

5. Collaborate – Collaborations between creators characterize the new era of employment. In this fifth challenge you are requested to photograph an image or metaphor and add up to 80 words of text you find relevant. Please note – In scoring this assignment the jury will also consider your choice of the accompanying text. However, unlike the photo, it is not mandatory to use an original text written by you. If the text is not yours, please indicate the name of the author and provide the right credit.

This photo represents through the use of a simple visual metaphor the concept of bright ideas. Each light bulb and colour represents a person and their ideas. The 80 words I submitted with the photo explain everything! So here they are.

“I am collaborating online with 3 other photographers to create an online course – Developing Resilience through Photography – that will be offered on a donation basis (for a UK Mental Health charity). Their thoughts, feelings and experiences will contribute to the section ‘Conveying your feelings in a photo’. This photo (like the others) uses multiple exposure in camera and extreme white balance choices to convey the idea that many multi-coloured minds are better than one, and make the light work!”

6. Make It Happen – Only we are responsible for our lives and have the power to change them. In the last challenge, put yourself at the center. In this task a unique and intimate self-portrait must be created. Add props or artificial light, and create a personal portrait that tells something about you as creators ready for the new challenges that life provides.

By this stage I was 22 hours in and a little jaded! However, I have spent several years appearing in my own photos, so I was comfortable about creating a self portrait. All I had to do was include the same chaotic colours and multiple exposures. I do regret that one of the faces was not looking at an angle, out of frame. I was focussed on all the technical and compositional choices, tired and that final twist would have reinforced the chaos them. Hey ho, it’s too late now!

Looking through the full set I am happy that they hang together as a complete set reasonably well. They also feel pretty chaotic to me, and yet a little hopeful. What do you think?

The judges won’t be announcing their shortlist of 20 until 4th April, but I’m not too bothered about that because I loved the process and creative challenge. Who would have thought that an online international photomarathon would work so well.

PhotoBARRYthon is coming!

I am helping to organise PhotoBARRYthon, a photomarathon that takes place next month, in Barry, South Wales. The official press release about the event is below, with a web link for more information. All of our meetings to organise this, since the pandemic, have been online. So I thought I had better get myself to Barry and create some photos, just to get in the mood and possibly inspire you to join in. My favourite 12 photos from a 2 (not a 12!) hour photo walk around The Knap towards Barry Island are below. Below that is a panorama I created from 6 separate photos.

Press Release

Calling all professional and amateur photographers looking for an opportunity to capture the sights, sounds and characters of Barry.

Taking place on Saturday 10th October 2020, the inaugural PhotoBARRYthon is organised by the Barry Making Waves project and gives local people the chance to document the town on a particular day, using a variety of topics with mobile phones or digital cameras. Visitors to the town will be able to explore Barry and discover how photogenic a place it is.

Photomarathons are fun but are also competitive events. PhotoBARRYthon will be two competitive events – a 12 hour event with 12 topics, to create 12 photos, and a shorter family
friendly 6 hour event, with 6 topics, to create 6 photos. Winners will be selected in each topic category and there will be a prize for the two overall winners.

The topics will be released every three hours throughout the day, with the first 3 topics given at registration at the Memo Arts Centre. A number of cafes, shops and other locations in Barry and Barry Island will then release the topics at various times throughout the day, as well as on social media (@BarryValeofGlam).

The event is ticketed and participants will need to pre-book. It will not be possible to join on the day. Tickets will be released soon on Ticket Source – look out for further updates.

The event is being organised as part of Barry Making Waves and Mererid Velios, Place Manager at the Vale of Glamorgan Council is working with local photographers Lee Aspland and Michael Goode, in partnership with Memo Arts Centre.

For more information please visit www.barry.cymru/visit/photobarrython

12 Tips for a Photo Marathon

I am currently involved in supporting the planning, organisation and production of Barry Photo Marathon. Having competed at many of these events over the years I am very excited to be involved in this one.

PhotoBarrython, as the photo marathon is probably going to be called, is based in Barry, South East Wales. Barry is probably best known as the setting for the BBC sitcom Gavin and Stacey. It’s not far from the capital of Wales, Cardiff and is a favourite tourist spot.

There will be two events available, a 12 Topics 12 Photos 12 Hours version and a 6 Topics 6 Photos and 6 Hours version, and it will be on Saturday 10th October, based at Memo Arts Centre. Lots more information on this very soon. But in the meantime, I thought you might be interested in some tips for surviving and thriving at a photo marathon.

Survive and thrive at a Photo Marathon

  1. Read the rules and all event information. Make sure you understand the timescale, photography requirements, locations, pickups, final deadline etc.
  2. If you’re using a Digital Camera start with an empty memory card and a charged battery. Carry spares of both. Spare battery and charger will keep you in the game. Spare memory card means you can create other photos as you go (if you have the energy).
  3. If you’re using a Smartphone charge your phone overnight and bring your charger.
  4. Using your Smartphone in Airplane mode will protect your battery life and keep you focused on your photo creation.
  5. Wear the appropriate clothing. Comfortable shoes, trousers that will get dirty and pack clothes for possible weather changes
  6. Enter the event with a friend. One of you has the camera, both of you fire off ideas at each other. Two heads are definitely better than one. You also get to spend time with that person and get to know how they think.
  7. Pace yourself. Make sure you build in breaks and refreshment; it is an endurance event. Often you are more creative during the first half, but more decisive in the second half. Excitement at the beginning creates more ideas and photos. Tiredness makes you more decisive.
  8. Aim to be decisive in the first half and then you’ll be more creative in the second half.
  9. Decide on each final photo as you go. Do not leave that until the end, you’ll be tired. Do each topic in turn. Complete and choose the final topic photo and then move on. This provides creative clarity.
  10. Discuss and view topic photos together, but decide in your pair who makes final decision on choice of photo (usually the photographer).
  11. Use insider knowledge. It is helpful if one of you knows the city. If not then talk to locals. Ask for advice. However, don’t let your knowledge or information about the city limit you seeing what is right in front of you.
  12. Consider choosing a simple overarching theme to link the photos. You could use a prop to do this (e.g. a mini Lego figure who appears in every photo). You could choose a theme, like a colour or technique – red or low/high point of view.

PS The photo below was created at Bath photo marathon to illustrate the topic Missing. I did the event with Simon (in shot) which doubled the fun!

Cacophony revisited

In June 2016 I took part in the Edinburgh Photomarathon. It was a tricky competition as we were given disposable film cameras with only 12 exposures possible.

If you’ve taken part in any photomarathon you will know that you get given a number of topics, usually the same number of hours and have to produce one photo for each topic.

With a digital camera this is easier as you can practice, reframe, delete and create as many as you like before settling on one that you feel meets the brief. With a film camera you just have one shot, one attempt and limited creative control.

So when topic 4 was revealed to be
Cacophony my immediate thought was, ‘What the hell will I do with that?’ Kim (gf at time) and I headed towards Waverley Station, thinking well it’s bloomin’ noisy there, perhaps we’ll get ideas when we’re there.

As we approached the station I noticed a group of women, boisterous and all dressed similarly walking down the hill. ‘Hen do,’ I thought and imagined that they would be up for acting up and noisily for the camera!

After chatting to them to explain what was going on and establish that they were up for it, I explained that I was going to lie on the floor and that I wanted them to lean over and, on the count three, shout uproariously at me.

I had realised that I needed to fire the flash as well, as the sky was quite bright and otherwise they would have been in silhouette. I explained I only had one chance to get it right and counted down….. and they went for it!

My only disappointment was that the photo did not win the topic category as I felt not only was it cacophonous, but that it was also technically and compositionally tricky. Ah well, another opportunity to practice living with disappointment!

4 – Cacophony

Mindful Photography Walkshop – Wordy Challenge

At the end of May I held my last Spring Mindful Photography Walkshop. We were once again lucky with the weather – three walkshops in wet Wales in a row with no rain! We had an interesting challenge set, but before that I shared tips on how to stay present and create fabulous photos.

The Challenge

The Wordy Challenge was a mini photomarathon. Five topics. Five Photos. 2.5 hours. In this challenge everyone has to create only five photos, in topic order and be back at the finishing point before the ending time. I split the topics into two sections, so that we did two in the first hour and then stopped for a cup of tea (refreshment is essential!). After a cuppa and a conversation about how it was going, we embarked on the last three topics, completing an hour and a half later.

Such a photography challenge is very focussing. It provides the opportunity to become very present in your environment, and aware of the thoughts and feelings that the task is allowing to arise. These in particular are interesting and will include concerns about your photos not being good enough, whether your ideas are creative enough and how well you can manage the time. Hopefully, you can also practice being attuned to how you are: your energy, the need to stop and reflect, and remaining present in one task before the next. All great practice for life!

Before we started I provided a short overview about some of the photography techniques that could be applied to create interesting and arresting photos. These included the Seven Elements of Visual Design (Shape, Form, Texture, Pattern, Colour, Line and Shape) and the four areas of photographic composition (Simplicity, Subject & Background, Balance -including the Rule of Thirds, and Point Of View).

Finally before releasing the photographers into the wilds of Brynmill I shared five tips to complete the challenge with great photos and feeling great. Here they are.

Five Tips

  1. Make sure you understand the timescale, photography requirements, locations, pick ups, final deadline
  2. Excitement at the beginning creates more ideas and photos. Tiredness makes you more decisive. Be decisive in the first half and then you’ll be more creative in the second half.
  3. Decide on each final photo as you go. Do not leave that until the end, you’ll be tired. Do each topic in turn. Complete and choose your favourite photo and then move on. This provides creative clarity.
  4. Use insider knowledge. Talk to locals. Ask for advice. However don’t let your knowledge or information about the city limit you seeing what is right in front of you.
  5. Choose a simple overarching theme to link the photos. Some use a prop to do this (like a mini lego figure who appears in every photo). Others use in camera processing e.g Black and White. Or choose a theme, like a colour or a technique – red or low/high point of view.

The Photos

The Five Topics in order were – Your Entry Number, Busy, Look, A Change is gonna come, and Beauty in the Mundane.

Here are our photos, you can choose the winner! If this idea inspires a curiosity about photomarathons take a look at my post 10 Tips to Survive a Photomarathon

Your Entry Number

Busy

Look

A Change is gonna come

Beauty in the mundane

10 Tips to Survive a Photo Marathon

Having completed a few Photo Marathons now, I thought I would share a few tips to surviving (and thriving) at a Photo Marathon. I’ll be explaining what a Photo Marathon is, why you should try one and illustrating this post with the photos from my most recent event – the Bath Photo Marathon 2017.

What is a Photo Marathon?

A Photo Marathon is a test of creativity, endurance, photography skills and sense of humour. It is usually a competitive event, often with prizes, and takes place over a set period of time. A common format is 12 Topics, 12 Photos, 12 Hours. In that format you have to create 12 photos to illustrate the 12 topics, one photo per topic and they must be in topic order. You start with a clean memory card and complete with only the required 12 photos, unedited.

Why you should do one

A Photo Marathon is a test of your photography skills, knowledge and observation. It will test your stamina and resilience, but ultimately it is a test of your powers of creativity. It is worth noting that the 5 Creative Habits of Mind are described as: Inquisitive, Imaginative, Collaborative, Persistent and Disciplined. A Photo Marathon tests all of those habits of mind!

Taking part will fire your creativity, get you exploring a new city, introduce you to people with the same interest and challenge your photography skills. What’s not to like?

Ten Tips to Survive (and thrive) a Photo Marathon

  1. Read the rules and guidelines. Make sure you understand the timescale, photography requirements, locations, pick ups, final deadline etc
  2. Start with an empty memory card and a charged battery. Carry spares of both. Spare battery and charger will keep you in the game. Spare memory card means you can create other photos as you go (if you have the energy)
  3. Wear the appropriate clothing. Comfortable shoes, trousers that will get dirty and pack clothes for possible weather changes
  4. Enter the event with a friend. One of you has the camera, both of you fire off ideas at each other. Two heads are definitely better than one. You also get to spend time with that person and get to know how they think. Probably a good thing huh?
  5. Pace yourself. Make sure you build in breaks and refreshment; it is an endurance event. Often you are more creative during the first half, but more decisive in the second half. Excitement at the beginning creates more ideas and photos. Tiredness makes you more decisive.
  6. Aim to do a negative split. Be decisive in the first half and then you’ll be more creative in the second half. (That’s a running joke!)
  7. Decide on each final photo as you go. Do not leave that until the end, you’ll be tired. Do each topic in turn. Complete and choose the final photo and then move on. This provides creative clarity.
  8. Discuss and view topic photos together, but decide in your pair who makes final decision on choice of photo (usually the photographer)
  9. Use insider knowledge. It is helpful if one of you knows the city. If not then talk to locals. Ask for advice. However don’t let your knowledge or information about the city limit you seeing what is right in front of you.
  10. In a standard Photo Marathon with the same number topics as photos and hours choose a simple overarching theme to link the photos. Some use a prop to do this (like a mini lego figure who appears in every photo). Others use in camera processing (usually allowed) e.g Black and White. Or choose a theme, like a colour or technique – red or low/high point of view. Surely someone will soon submit a set using a drone camera, if they haven’t already!

Bath Photo Marathon 2017

I did this year’s Bath Photo Marathon with my old friend Simon. It was a great excuse for us to meet up – as Bath was kind of equidistant – and we got to catch up and have a few beers after.

Our photos are below. They are in the order given, the titles are underneath and have an over arching theme – Scarlet. Well, it was red really, but a little orange crept in! We had to create 20 photos in 10 hours. These were provided in two sets of ten, with a location to pick up the second half.

Our favourite photo after all this was the ‘Fashion’ photo. This best illustrates our collaborative process and sense of the absurd!

Your Entry Number

Contrast

Red

Looking through

Fashion

Fragment

Corner

Refreshing

Control

Crossing the line

Next Generation

Street Life

Movement

Self Portrait

Abstract

Missing

Found

Show off

Sign

The End!