Tag Archives: Photography

Battling Art and Planes

Short blog today to recount this weeks mini-adventure. Lady Hughes and myself ventured into Manchester to see the Royal Air Force display outside the Town Hall.

We parked at our usual spot and were surprised to discover an event in full swing just behind Piccadilly Station. This was a graffiti art battle with various artists creating beautiful designs in competition with each other.

We didn’t want to miss the RAF but we could allow ourselves a quick diversion, so we headed in. The atmosphere was intoxicating, mainly due to the heavy smell of aerosol paint cans hanging in the air. Watching the artists at work you could see the level of skill involved. These weren’t like the rubbish you see on the side of bus shelters, these were really good.

I also took the opportunity to try out the camera on my Huawei smartphone. I’ve recently moved over to Adobe to edit my photos and the package came with Lightroom CC which works on my phone, so I thought I’d give it a test drive – all these photos were shot on my phone and edited on Lightroom CC.

Once at the Town Hall, we were surprised to see a collection of RAF planes from every era, including a Sopwith biplane, a Spitfire, Lancaster Bomber (cockpit), a Harrier Jump Jet and a Typhoon.

There was plenty to do, lot of other things to look at, and lots of people there to talk to. Also another good opportunity to try out my camera phone – what do you think?

I think they’ve come out quite well, but I don’t think I’ll be ditching my DSLR just yet.

Chris.

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Hobbiting in Ullswater

It’s now officially Autumn but Lady Hughes an myself were not deterred as we set off to the Lake District last Monday, We had booked a couple of days ‘glamping‘ in a Hobbit Hole at the beautiful ‘Quiet Site‘ looking down on Ullswater, in the north-eastern fells.

A Hobbit Hole is camping, but instead of a tent you have a heated room with en-suite toilet, lights, patio, wi-fi and even usb charging points. You still sleep in sleeping bags, button a padded platform – probably the most comfortable camping I’ve ever done.

The day we arrived, the weather was overcast, grey and drizzly, but we were comfortable, especially when we found the camp pub.

Evening meals were courtesy of our little BBQ, but the charcoal I had was of a very special non-flammable variety which meant it took an hour to get it going. Once it had sparked into life however, sat in deckchairs, watching the sun set over the lake while we tucked into our food,was beautiful.

Day two and three were stunning with great weather. We woke to see the low cloud burning off into blue skies.

We took our inflatable canoe to Derwentwater but we’d lent it to someone and when we pumped it up we found it had a puncture so that was a bit a disappointment but we were not downhearted. Instead we drove back to our Hobbit Hole and set off on hike to Gowbarrow.

At the summit we carried on to Aira Falls and around by the lake back to the site.

We’ve been to the Lakes many times over the years, but it’s always (usually) stunning, especially when you get the right conditions.

On a technical note, I’ve finally moved from Aperture for editing my photos to Adobe Lightroom and these are the first efforts – I’m really impressed with the software, I hope you like the pictures.

Chris

Manchester Parade

Last minute dash to Manchester to watch the annual Manchester Parade.

Weather was good and we thought it would be a good opportunity to catch some colour and a bit of party atmosphere not long after the one-year anniversary of the Manchester bomb.

Running late after a few technical issues with the car, we hurried across town to Deansgate, where we squeezed into a spot to watch the parade which had just reached us.

The atmosphere was great, the crowds not too pressing and the parade was beautiful with lots of local communities, groups and charities represented. Though my view was a bit obscured I still managed to catch a few good shots, here’s a selection.

Chris

 

Whitworth Park Photography with Elliott

I’ve not posted anything for a while as I’m working on some bigger projects, but this weekend I got the chance to do a bit of photography with my son Elliott.

Elliott is already a talented photographer but he’s keen to develop his skills, and I have more kit than he does, so we thought it would be good to go somewhere interesting but not too challenging and try a few things out.

Whitworth Park is next to Whitworth Art Gallery and it has a few contemporary sculptures, so I thought it would be an interesting spot. It’s also close to home and we even got the chance to pop into the gallery afterwards for a quick look around, so it was a great couple of hours.

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One interesting fact about the park, a meteorite landed/hit there in 2015 – but they never found it.

We tried various lenses and techniques and then reviewed them back at mine, to practise  Elliott’s editing skills.

He’s taken his shots away to work on them separately, but here are mine to give you a taste of what we were up to.

Elliott has moved away while he completes his college course so it was great to spend some time together, doing something we both love.

I hope you like the photographs.

Chris

Berlin 2017

I went to Berlin in 2014, and had a great time, but Lady Hughes had never been and we were looking for an opportunity to go. So when my brother invited us to join him and his partner Ger, on his birthday trip, we jumped at the chance.

Berlin is a very cool city, it’s relaxed, modern, relatively cheap and there’s lots to see and do. If you’re a bit of a history buff, like me, then there’s a wealth of museums and sights.

We went a day earlier than Peter and Ger and stayed an extra day so we could cram as much in as possible. We stayed at the Sofitel Hotel (very nice hotel), just off Kurfurstendamm (Berlin’s main shopping district), in the west of the city. Just a few U-bahn stops from the centre.

After our (very) early flight, we dropped our bags off at the hotel and walked to the Wilhelm Memorial Church. This was bombed heavily during the war but it was decided to keep the ruins as a memorial and build a new church alongside it. Inside the old part you get a glimpse of how beautiful it was as well as how brutal the conflict had been to the people and city.

In the new part, you are surrounded by blue stained glass walls, giving it a very mystical, calming, feel.

Going out of the city, we visited the palace at Charlottenburg.

This was the official residence of Queen Sophie Charlotte. We strolled through the ornate rooms listening to the audio headsets, explaining everything. The effects of the war were not far away though, as a lot of the rooms had been destroyed and rebuilt afterwards.

We finished the day at a local restaurant – Dicke Wirtin (not as painful as it sounds). Where we had our fill of german food, beer and hazelnut brandies.

Day two. We walked though to the Tiergarten park to the Victoria Tower. We climbed up to the first gallery and Clare wanted to hike up to the top. I took one look up the staircase with its 200 hundred steps, and suddenly realised I couldn’t be arsed, so I stayed down and waited for her. Normally I would have seized the chance to get to the top, but the weather was wet and overcast and the view was pretty good from the balcony anyway, so I struggled to summon up the required motivation. When she came down again, she said I was probably right to do so.

We caught a pedal taxi to Brandenburg Gate, where we met up with Peter and Ger.

After a quick look at the Reichstag, and a coffee, we decided to walk to the Holocaust Memorial. It was about then that the rain started. The Holocaust Memorial is very haunting and serene, but when you’re dripping wet and starting to get cold, it’s very hard to feel the atmosphere, so we cut our losses and headed to the cover of Potsdamer Platz.

I won’t itemise every minute of the trip, but over the next couple of days, in no particular order, we visited the Topographie of Terrors (museum on the rise of the nazis), we did the bus tour (mainly to get out of the rain), admired Helmut Newton’s naked ladies at the Photography Museum (well I did anyway), ate Schwinebrauten, Brauwerschnitzel and Bratwurst, queued in the rain for the excellent Jewish Museum and struggled to lift steins of beer at the beer hall.

We visited Checkpoint Charlie and fell into the nearby Irish Pub.

Had a joke-telling competition with a couple from Chicago in beautiful Italian restaurant, where we celebrated Peter’s 40th.

Wandered around the University.

Did my knee in perusing the art at the East Side Gallery – I don’t know what happened, but it seems to be okay now.

Strolled through Friedrichshain.

Had our photos taken with Karl Marx and Frederick Engels near Alexanderplatz.

Decided not to queue for two hours to get into Pergamonmuseum (even though it is excellent).

If you’ve never been to Berlin, I would heartily recommend it and I hope we can return soon. It’s a great city and it was wonderful to spend time with Peter and Ger, especially on his 40th birthday – thanks bro.

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Chris

 

Portrait: Mark Jephcott

As you may be aware, I do like to do a bit of photography, and one of the areas I’d really like to develop is portraiture.

I’ve done a bit in the past, for friends and family but it seems the biggest struggle is finding willing victims subjects for me to practise on. That’s why I’m very grateful to my good friend Mark Jephcott, for allowing me to come over and flash lights in his face for an hour – he even gave us a few beers, so this was a real treat for me.

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Now summer’s finally arrived and the evenings are warmer, we relaxed in his beautiful garden and took these shots as the sun went down.

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I’d not used my lights for a while and it took me a good few shots to get my head around how to balance the exposure again, but it gradually came back to me. Luckily Mark has some nice lights hanging from a tree so these made a good backlight.

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Normally I’d use a telephoto for a portrait but I wanted to get the surroundings in so I used my wide angle lens (10-20mm). I only used one flash in the end, with a soft box to soften the light and a large golden reflector to bounce a bit of fill light into the shadows – apologies to all the non-photographers out there, for all the jargon, I’ll shut up now.

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Overall, I’m quite pleased with these, big thank you to Mark, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. I just need more subjects – time to start pestering again.

Chris

Full Bloom at Dunham Massey

It’s the weekend, spring is here and the sun is out. Lady Hughes and myself had taken a few days off over Easter with no great plans, so we decided to take it easy and go for a stroll around Dunham Massey.

Knowing the flowers would be out I figured this would be a good chance to practice my macro (close-up) photography on subjects that weren’t going to run away while I worked out what I was doing – though they do have a tendency to waft about in the breeze just as you’re about to take a shot, no matter how much I shouted at them.

Dunham Massey is stately home (and deer park) in Cheshire, not far from Altrincham, and only 15 minutes drive from our house so we know it well. As it was a sunny weekend, it was very busy with lines of people queuing up for ice creams and every inch of manicured lawn full of families playing football, throwing frisbees and trying to fly kites. We decided to head for the relative calm of the gardens.

Now my knowledge of horticulture if virtually non-existent, so apologies for the lack of information, but there were lots of flowers and they were very beautiful – if you want to know more, get a book.

Without getting too technical, macro photography can be a bit tricky. As your subject is usually on the small scale, your margin of error is pretty small too. I’ve found picking the appropriate depth of field particularly challenging, but I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of it now and I’m much happier with these shots – what do you think?

As I started to get more comfortable with the technicalities, I thought I’d try and move on from flowers and get some shots of the insects. You need to be quicker with these so they were a bit more of a test – I’ve found it’s very hard to get a bee to pose for you.

 

Chris

More Artistic Endeavours

I’ve been working on some more digital art.

As I said in my previous post on digital art, these pictures are ‘painted’ on a computer, using a variety of tools including drawing, painting, airbrushing, etc. They aren’t created by the computer, they’re created by me. Nowadays people assume digital means it was done by an app or a filter.

So, you may say, why don’t you just use paint like normal artists? Well I used to and I may go back, but the fact is this is just so much easier. I don’t have to buy lots of paints and brushes, I don’t have to put on overalls and I don’t have to clean up afterwards. I can just switch on the computer and get started. If you think of digital photography compared to film photography and you get the idea. It’s just cheaper and hell of a lot more convenient. I quite like the polished, airbrushed look you can achieve as well.

One drawback however, is the reduced value. If I used oil paints on canvas, it would be unique, and though I could make prints of it, there would only ever be one original. With digital art you simply need to copy and paste and you have another exact copy. If you can make unlimited perfect copies of something at no expense it’s difficult for people to see them as having any value. Luckily I don’t have to consider that too much as I just do these for my own pleasure – but if you’d like to buy a signed copy please get in touch!

By the way, these are reduced resolution copies so they load on the page easier – it also stops any unscrupulous readers trying to make bigger prints for themselves.

Anyway, that’s enough whingeing, here are the pictures. I hope you like them.

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Roy Keane

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Lawrence of Arabia (portrait)

I’ve actually had this one printed as a large acrylic, and now hangs in my office.

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Mako Shark

I thought I’d try something other than a portrait.

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Layna Fergus

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Clare Hughes

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George Best

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Eric Cantona

If you’re going to paint great Manchester United players you can’t leave out King Eric.

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Clint Eastwood

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I painted this as a matching piece for the portrait, but changed my mind about printing it.

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James Bond

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Willem Dafoe

 

Manchester Macro

I’ve not posted anything for a while, don’t worry, I’m not dead – just getting a few things sorted, unfortunately not the kind of things that make great blog posts

So, to get the ball rolling again, I’ve done a little photography project.

My lovely wife, Lady Hughes, gave me a new macro (close-up) lens for Christmas and I haven’t had chance to try it out properly – until today.

I’ve always wanted to have a go at macro photography so I dropped various hints in the run-up to Christmas and Clare didn’t let me down. Many lenses have a ‘macro’ setting, allowing you to get a bit closer, but they’re not strictly proper macro lenses like this one – Canon EF 50mm macro, for the photographers out there. It’s not a microscope, but it allows you to get very close and still be able to focus.

The challenge I set myself was to go to the Northern Quarter of Manchester, a place I’ve photographed several times before, and try to get a new perspective with the new lens.

What I found was you start looking at the details, the textures, patterns and the abstract. It’s quite interesting walking round a place you already know and just focussing on the small. You also get a few strange looks from passers by, wondering why you’re taking pictures of a bollard from only six inches away.

Going through the photos afterwards, I realised that the wide open aperture I used gave me a very narrow depth of field, which was a bit tight on several shots – but hey, that’s a learning point for next time.

Here’s the rest of the pictures, see if you recognise any of the places, and feel free to give me any (constructive) feedback.

Thanks,

Chris

Artistic Endeavours

As you can see from my previous posts, I do like a bit of photography, however, I’ve recently been trying my hand at painting.

Now when I say ‘painting’, I don’t mean actual ‘paint’ – let me explain.

I’ve been using Sketchbook Pro, along with a drawing tablet, to create these pictures on my computer. This software allows me to use a variety of materials, including pencils, brushes, charcoal, pastels and airbrush as well as a wealth of options including layers, variable opacity, locked transparencies, etc. This isn’t one of those things where you just take a photo, hit a button and hey presto, you’ve got a painting. These pictures have each taken hours to achieve.

I have done some drawing before, but I am very much a beginner at this, but I hope you can see some improvement through them all.

 

I did this, Self-Portrait, a couple of years ago, just playing really, it’s a bit abstract but I quite like it – my wife hates it.

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I used the same technique, and more than a pinch of satire, for this portrait of Donald Trump. I like the way it shows the cracks in the façade – I’m definitely not a fan.

Continuing the theme of dangerous despots, I turned to our very own Nigel Farage.

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I used the layers option to add the crumbling union jack background – not happy with Brexit, but quite happy with this.

To complete the triptych I moved onto Vladimir Putin.

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I used various effects to create the bloodstained Russian flag behind him.

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Self-Portrait. I tried to do a happier, brighter me – my wife prefers this one.

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My son, Elliott. I’m quite pleased with the stylised look but it could be more polished. Instead of a neutral colour behind the blocks (cracks), I tried to match them to the actual shades of the picture.

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Desperate Man. I did a rough version of this one and then worked out how to refine the drawing with smoother lines. I kept the rough version though, just visible under the surface, to try and illustrate the torment inside him.

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Robert Mitchum.

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My wife, Clare. I struggled with this for a while as the ‘blocky’ look I use didn’t seem to work well for a woman’s face, not very flattering.

In the end, I worked at removing the gaps between the colours and adding some polish with the airbrush.

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Winona Ryder. Thought it would be interesting to try a monochrome image and see if the style still worked. Developed the airbrushing a bit more.

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Monica Belucci. Still developing my style, more polished this time as I’m getting more confident with the techniques.

Well, that’s my progress so far, I’ve learnt a lot along the way but I’m sure there’s still more to get my head around yet. My aim is to try and improve to the point where I can produce a portrait I’d be happy to put on the wall – one day, one day.

I hope you like them and if you’d like to be a subject, please let me know.

Chris