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Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Somme memorial at Thiepval

9 years, 2 months ago photography 0
wooden remembrance cross at the Somme memorial at Thiepval

wooden remembrance cross at the Somme memorial at Thiepval

Two days ago I had the opportunity to visit the Somme region in Northern France whilst on an assignment. I have driven past the area countless times on car shoots, but  this time I made a particular point of stopping and visiting some of the World War One cemeteries.

The most moving was at Thiepval, which is the site of the largest British war memorial in the world. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and opened in 1932 by the Prince of Wales, you can see inscribed the names of the 73,357 British and South African men who fell at the Somme and have no known grave.

It had a real sense of calm, and judging by the reactions of the people visiting, it still has great significance. Whilst walking around, reading the names, I found a wooden cross with a dedication written by a child. It said, “In remembrance of E. Singleton, the bravest man I know.” This really touched me. Even after nearly one hundred years, new generations are still identifying with the waste of life that has become indelibly linked to the Battle of the  Somme.

After several Google searches I couldn’t find an obvious identification for E. Singleton, but would be intrigued to find out more.

the Somme memorial at Thiepval

the Somme memorial at Thiepval

detail of the Somme memorial at Thiepval

detail of the Somme memorial at Thiepval

Beth Chatto

9 years, 3 months ago Garden Photography, Gardens, news 0
Beth Chatto

Beth Chatto in her gravel garden

This week I had the pleasure of photographing one of Britain’s best known and most respected gardeners, Beth Chatto. At the age 87, most people would be taking it easy, but not Mrs Chatto. She spent two hours being interviewed and photographed, before carrying out what is apparently normal routine in her garden – putting in new plants and doing general maintenance!

I photographed her once before, for my ‘Gardeners’ Hands’ project. On that occasion, I was in a queue behind a Japanese film crew, who were working with her before my appointment. Keeping busy must be her secret!

The Beth Chatto Gardens are situated in Elmstead Market, Colchester and are open to visitors. Started in 1960, on what the official website describes as an overgrown wasteland, they are now known to gardeners all over the world, particularly for the ‘gravel garden‘. It was here that Mrs Chatto innovated by matching plants to the specific growing conditions of the area, using drought tolerant plants in a part of the UK which has similar rainfall to some desert regions. For more details, see www.bethchatto.co.uk or her book, The Gravel Garden.

The full set of photographs can be seen in the July issue of Beautiful Britain Magazine.

I was very pleased to see that the copy of the photograph ‘43 Gardeners’ Hands‘ I sent to Mrs Chatto is now on display in the gardens’ restaurant.
43 Gardeners' Hands

43 Gardeners' Hands

It must have been a great day for photography!

9 years, 3 months ago cars, Garden Photography, photography 0
Paul Debois using large diffusers to soften midday sun

Paul Debois using large diffusers to soften midday sun

Whenever I speak to my mother on the phone, the conversation always drifts towards the perils of the weather, and the effects it has on photography. I think she still worries about me wearing a hat or that I remembered to take a flask of hot coffee with me! Unless it is sunny.

Then the comment is, “It must have been a great day for photography.” But no!

Whether I’m shooting gardens, flowers or cars, fierce, bright sun and a cloudless blue sky is nearly always a nightmare. Finding natural shade at the top of a mountain pass to park a sports car covered in chrome is nearly impossible. And wide landscapes with trees casting dark shadows over beautifully designed borders makes you look to the sky in desperation for help. Not for divine intervention, but for cloud. Even a little one. A few seconds would do!

Any photographer working outside will spend hours waiting for the light to change – it’s always too bright or too cloudy, much to the annoyance of whoever you are working with. On a recent  shoot for Gardeners’ World, a photograph was taken of me working under a tent created with white cloth suspended on light stands – all to capture an area about a metre square. Midday sun is very difficult to work in – especially for a journalist when lunch is imminent!

I know I’m lucky to be able to work outside of an office environment. But that perfect gin and tonic weather, when all you want to do is sit in a deck chair and listen to Test Match Special on the radio, is often not much use to a snapper. Unless the offer is a G&T!

Favourite cameras – the Baby Rolleiflex

9 years, 3 months ago photography 0

Baby Rolleiflex

Baby Rolleiflex

I have collected cameras for many years, and the display cabinets in my office have long been full of photographic detritus. Subject to many clear outs, the remaining equipment is an eclectic mix of stuff I have used over the years, or antiques I’ve taken a shying to.

My favourite  by far is the Baby Rolleiflex I bought on Ebay. Made in the early 1960’s, it is an example of great engineering. With precision wind on and a shutter that has a satisfying click, it is a world away from the clunk most SLR’s (digi or film) seem to have. A boy’s toy maybe, but it works as well now as it did when it came out of the factory! And it takes great pictures.

The biggest problem is getting film. 127 is a format which is basically obsolete, with just a few manufacturers producing small batches of colour or black and white stock. I’ve used 200 ISO colour negative made by Maco – a C41 film which did produce good results. But I did have a problem with one batch, where the backing paper was sticking to the emulsion – not through the whole length of film, but enough to lose several frames. And the spools tended to be fractionally too wide, meaning it was best to use an old metal spool in the take-up chamber to prevent jams.

You can also buy new Kodak film that has been re-cut and rolled using old 127 backing paper. I bought some at B&H in New York, and was alarmed to see it boxed up as Kodacolor X, a film last manufactured in 1974! The technician who processed the film was fairly cool with the C22 process label too – a disaster in the making for a modern processing machine had it been accurate.  So not for the faint hearted!

You need to be keen to use a Baby Rollei, but the images do have a ‘look’. Due to the erratic nature of the film supplies, it has now been retired to one of the top shelves in my camera cabinet! But I think I might consider a classic Rolleiflex at some point – 120 film looks as if it will be here for a while longer.

Empire State Building, New York

Empire State Building, New York, from the junction of Fifth Avenue and East 33rd Street, taken with Baby Rolleiflex

Brooklyn Bridge in New York

Brooklyn Bridge in New York, taken with Baby Rolleiflex

Central Park

New York Skyline form Central Park, taken with Baby Rolleiflex

View of Flatiron Building, New York, from Madison Square Park in Manhattan, taken with Baby Rolleiflex

Brooklyn Bridge in New York, taken with a Baby Rolleiflex

Empire State Building, New York

Empire State Building, New York, from the junction of Fifth Avenue and East 33rd Street, taken with Baby Rolleiflex

Some of the above images are available from Millennium Images

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