Thursday 3 February 2022

In the news... IGPOTY Portfolio finalist, CUPOTY results and Amateur photographer article.

  Happy news today, on my second year of entering the Portfolio section of the International garden photographer of the year ( IGPOTY), I have managed to get a finalist position. I am thrilled with this, even more so as it is judged by the esteemed Royal photographic society ( RPS). Totally over the moon. What is also lovely is that it is a still life portfolio, a subject which I put a lot of time and effort into trying to improve and learn this last couple of years and hours pondering which to enter. 

 I also managed to get an image placed in the new Fungi category, which is very pleasing as its yet another subject which I have endeavoured to improve upon recently

So here is my fungi image, a strange one as I added textures to it. The mushroom shapes in the background bokeh were created by a tiny mushroom between the lens and the main mushroom. I added my own textures and edited it using Exposure 5 software for a bit of a different feel. Lovely to see fellow photographers Tony North and Barry Webb ( Barry produces the most fascinating macro shots of slime moulds) doing so well in this category too, check them out here -Fungi results

So I can now finally share my still life portfolio with you all. It was a project I embarked on partially in a bid to focus on learning how to light still life images better and also on bringing the beauty of wild flowers indoors - quite a personal one for me as I find it too exhausting photographing outdoors due to having M.E., so adapted to creating something indoors where I can take my time and sit down as much as I need. This is another example for all those who say  that they cannot get out to take floral photos, all the flowers were obtained very near our home ( literally in our garden and our street for some)

I wanted to showcase the beauty of wildflowers in still life settings. These days it is more common to see vases full of flowers bought at florists, but I prefer to enjoy wildflowers in a style similar to the Old Masters’ paintings, with light cascading across them. So, I set out to produce a collection of still life floral photographs, using my own interpretation of the classic still life style.

All plants used were local to me, mostly growing in my garden, a nearby garden, or wasteland. They include; rosebay willowherb, purple loosestrife, salsify, chamomile, dill, and buttercups.


This first one is Rosebay willow herb which has fabulous shapes, like tentacles reaching out.

Purple Loosestrife from a wild garden at the end of our street provided a bright splash of purple spikes to contrast against the greens of the vegetables from our local farm shop in this image.

These incredible Salsify seed heads from our garden were screaming out to be photographed, I felt they complimented the wildness of a mini faux birds nest and look quite special adorning  this decorative pewter vase. With subtle colours and creative lighting they pop nicely.

This lovely bunch of Chamomile is a sight I will not see in the same spot again as it is now been used to build houses upon, so it is quite fitting that they have a special place in my local wild flower project.

Wild Carrot or Dill? I am still not sure -  reply with your answers :) Nice vibrant flowers with intricate shapes.

The much over looked humble Buttercups with more Salsify feature with a kind of farmhouse table look.

 I hope you all enjoy my still life portfolio as much as I enjoyed creating it. The lighting was quite tricky in a small room and mostly featured 3 or 4 lights, with reflectors and home made Gobos. Quite time consuming to get it all just how I wanted it as even a slight shift of an inch or two made massive differences to how the light fell.

Do check out the other truly jaw droppingly beautiful portfolios that were placed and the other wonderful images from so many talented photographers in the rest of the categories. I absolutely adore the 1st place image. IGPOTY winning portfolios

In more good news, this week saw the publication of an excellent article ( in Amateur Photographer magazine ) written by the very innovative photographer, Tracy Calder, about mindfulness and photography, an approach I whole heartedly believe can help many people. Tracy kindly put my name forward for inclusion in the subsequent article which was superbly written by the lovely Geoff Harris. Geoff rang me for a little chat about the part photography has taken in my life, my struggles to actually manage photography with the symptoms of M.E. and benefits of using photography as a coping strategy. Its a great read with eye opening interviews from others who have employed photography as a tool to help themselves, its a sensitive subject and handled so well with Geoff's thoughtful and compassionate writing. Worth a read.

Today also saw the results of Close up photographer of the year's Two of a kind challenge. I was lucky enough to have two images make the stunning shortlist. Very chuffed to say that my image of the two Cyclamen made it to the gorgeous finalist selection. CUPOTY TWO OF A KIND WINNERS

This is one of my favourite images taken last year, sadly I can no longer reach this spot on my mobility scooter as it has been devastated by two storms within 2 months, with trees uprooted and hanging precariously. The paths are blocked for the second time in 2 months and I am told that the park is in a much worse state now. So this image is even more special to me, capturing a treasured spot where I practiced mindfulness for the last 2 years during the pandemic. Its a happy image, but tinged with loss of a much cherished woodland habitat.

Above "The Kiss" exquisite, delicate form and shape mixed with romantic pink ethereal haze in this portrait of winter Cyclamen.

A selection of images and tips from winners is to be published in Amateur photographer magazine next week, which could be interesting for those who enjoy a bit of close up imagery. ( I think I should get a commission for plugging a certain magazine this week! :D )

Now I have a question to ask you all, what would you like me to blog about on here?

Tuesday 1 February 2022

My first pagan celebration photo shoot this year

 After a tonne of planning I actually managed my first photo shoot in over 6 months, I only managed 2 last year and really hope to manage a handful of short shoots this year based on my plans here. The main thing that has held me back and slowed my progress is my health, but I am trying extra hard to plan in advance and have short photo shoots where I can rest and take my time.

I have wanted to produce a set of images based around the pagan wheel of year celebrations and associated characters, such as the well known Green man, as a personal project as I have an interest in paganism. There are 8 seasonal celebrations over the course of the year, starting with Imbolc - hailing the beginning of spring. Each of these celebrations have a lot of stories and elements connected to them, usually with several characters, often symbolising the progression of the seasons in various ways. I hope to incorporate as many key elements as I can into each photo shoot, so telling the story through images as best I can with props and locations if I can. For some I will adorn headwear or other accessories with items  that are connected.

 Imbolc heralds the beginnings of spring, occurring on the 1st -2nd of February. It is a time to let go of the past and welcome new beginnings. The original word Imbolg means "belly" which makes sense, as the earth is expectant with new life, in creatures and plants, with more light and warmth.

Model is Northern Redheadz on Instagram with make up by Faces by Lulu

I made the headwear specially for this photoshoot. Creating the central piece from clay, then painting it with snowdrops, a hare ( there are other stories involving a hare), a tree of life and a symbol of the triple Goddess. It is adorned with flowers - some which I pressed last year, white feathers,  (as swans are connected to Imbolc also) Leaves, a Celtic pendant, dragon flies, an owl and tree, all of which I made out of clay, other bird feathers and moss etc.

Part of celebrating Imbolc involves creating an alter compromising of various associated items such as Snowdrops or other early spring flowers. For me I will have my headwear to go with my snowdrops - not that I practice any ritual, I simply celebrate nature and the changing seasons. There are several lovely stories/folklore/legends involving Snowdrops and Imbolc ( or whatever different cultures call their own beginning of spring celebrations).

In Romania there is a festival known to be celebrated over 8000 years apparently where men tie red and white entwined threads around snowdrops and give them to women in their lives, celebrating male and female stren
gths. There are many lovely tales in lots of cultures where drops of blood result in snowdrops emerging too.

These images contain my interpretation of the Goddess Brigid, the Goddess of healing, poetry, crafts, metal smithing , fire and the sun, the triple Goddess in her maiden aspect who is one of the main characters involved with Imbolc, as well as the Green man in his Oak guise.  
 Colours that are usually linked to this event are white and green, so I chose a green outfit, Brigid is known for her green mantle ( cloak). In this first image we have the Goddess Brigid with Snowdrops - I did not pick these, they were kindly given to us by a gardener who was around during our shoot after we explained what we were doing.

In the background you can see a "Clootie" which is tied to a tree, these were often left as offerings on trees, near a well where possible - however I could not find a well nearby. We were hoping to shoot near water instead but that will need to be completed in a part two at a different location some time.

These next photos is Brigid with the eternal fire, as she is the Goddess of fire, often celebrated by the hearth fire too. ( the fire went out in some and I have not had time to add fire in just yet)

I wanted to add more magic, so added one of my old photos of Castlerigg stone circle in the background of one version.

These ones below also feature Brigids cross which can be made of grasses/ rushes etc but we had to improvise here. The crosses are thought to be connected to a pagan symbol but have also been used in Ireland, connected to stories of St Brigid. They are said to symbolise protection and are often hung over doorways, windows and hearths.

We also used white/green candles on her stone "alter" as candles are used by many in this tradition/ritual/celebration to celebrate both light and fire. Again our flames were blown out so I still need to get around to adding flames properly to the candles but didn't manage a good job in time to post these for Imbolc.

As Brigid is the Goddess of  healing, fertility, creativity, arts, crafts, metal smithing, poetry and much more, I want to also create more images in the future with her healing, in a forge, with baby lambs or other associated animals. I did manage an image of her reading poetry as a start, but ran out of energy, time and opportunities for creatures etc. So I will plan a part two of Imbolc, hopefully amongst spring flowers, with lambs and near water. I also plan to photograph the Green man in his Oak guise chasing away Jack Frost as part of the celebrations and have my headwear made, but still to sort costumes, plus I need to recover from this shoot first as its wiped me out even 5 days later. I must do a shorter shoot next.

Offerings are traditionally made in various ways, such as oats or porridge and milk, which are often poured into the earth or into water.

 The Green man (spring) in his Oak guise chases Jack Frost (winter) off. I will hopefully get around to shooting this element, but for now I took advantage of my lovely  models partner being present . Luckily he was happy enough to wear the outfit and pose too. 

The green man headwear is actually two pieces, both made by me, mostly out of clay and faux leaves plus moss. The horns are on a headband with acorns, pine cones and moss. The mask is tied on separately.

Models Northern Redheadz and A Rose imagery on Instagram
Make up by Faces by Lulu

I look forward to completing this set for Imbolc, maybe this year, or maybe next year as I find it takes a long to to recover from a photo shoot.

 Below is my favourite edit from this set so far, not quite the welcoming spring image I initially had in mind but I see it as the Goddess Brigid under the moon, ushering more light and warmth forth for the brighter dawn to come.

Blessed Ostara and submerged flowers

 I am still tinkering away creating submerged floral images and thoroughly enjoying myself. Lots of people have been in touch asking questio...