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Experimental IV – photos

In the last post I mentioned that I worked as a Community Artist in the 1980s. This involved teachings skills in photography as well as creative writing. It must be said that my photographic skills were pretty basic. This was in the days of rolls of film, black and white moody photos and dark rooms with chemicals for developing each photo.

The world of photography has changed so much. These days millions of photos are taken from our smart phones and shared online every day. The technology that supports are photo taking has improved so much that many of the technical skills of the photographer are now done by the phone rather than the operator. But there is still so much that is in the hands of the person who points and shoots.

How we frame the photo and what we take as the subject is key. Then the editing of the photos that we take can lift the images to a whole new level.

Recently I took a batch of photos whilst walking with friends in the Wirral. One of the photos was an unremarkable photo of birds in the sky. I took the photo, cropped it and then added various filters.

Here is the original photograph before it was cropped:

Nothing remarkable in this photo. But once a crop is applied to focus on the four photos on the left of the image – and then some filters and effects are added…

The result is four images that could be a series of paintings. Experimenting with an image, a glass of wine (it helps apparently) and a simple app (snapseed) produces something which I really like.

Bird in Sky I
Birds in Sky II
Birds in Sky III
Birds in Sky IV



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Learning to Look: photography

img_2582A couple of months ago I took part in a Street Wisdom session in Manchester. We spent the afternoon with David Pearl, the creator of the concept. It was a fabulous afternoon where I met new people who I have continued to have coffee conversations with, and also learnt to look at the city around me in a new way. I took a couple of photos that afternoon with my phone, but generally resisted the temptation as I didn’t want to be distracted by the camera.

img_2474More recently, the team I work with in the NHS in England did a workshop with a professional photographer (Ginny Koppenhol) to improve our photo taking skills, especially with the smart phones in our pockets. Unfortunately I missed the workshop because I was double-booked that day. The team learnt a lot of new skills, particularly emphasising the importance of telling a story with our photos. They also learnt how to use apps such as Snapseed to apply filters, text and effects. I acquired these skills secondhand the next day!

img_2424One member of the team (thanks Jo!) suggested that we do a 365 day challenge to post a photo every day to a Google Plus page which we have set up. We are just under a month into the challenge and so far it has been really inspiring. Each day, looking for photos, the world around me turns into stories to tell or things that I want to highlight. It’s a great way to sharpen the senses. And it is also a brilliant way to pull together a catalogue of stories about a year in our lives.

img_2583I began my career way back in the early 1980s as a Community Artist teaching skills in photography and creative writing when cameras were a closed box with film in them and I had to learn how to develop film to get a result. Often what we produced was a poor version of what I had seen at the time. Having a smart phone in my pocket and a few skills in manipulating images means that I can create the most amazing documentary of what I see. But more important than this, I also have the challenge to look for stories, to see things that would otherwise pass me by.

Together with the exercises in Street Wisdom I feel that I have had my senses sharpened, my imagination enhanced and been given a daily piece of fun to enhance my day.

(November Challenge 10/31)

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Travelling through

In the last few months we have been travelling. Back in March we visited Hungary and spent 5 days in Budapest. It was an impressive experience. The day after we arrived a late dose of snow fell on the city. It created a magical feel for a city that was already filled with stunning Gothic architecture. Budapest really was an amazing city. Despite the snow, we walked as much as we could which gave us a better grasp of the layout of the city.

Then in May we visited Canada and the USA. It was a hectic trip by coach which included Niagara Falls, Harrisburg, Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York.

In August we travelled around Tuscany in Italy taking in Pisa, Lucca, Vinci, Florence, Siena and San Gimignano. Everywhere we looked there were frescoes painted on church walls, art hung in galleries and views that resembled many of the paintings. There is something about the light in Tuscany that makes the landscape look so stunning.

All of this travelling has been a great opportunity to sample so much, to meet people, to absorb. I have taken huge numbers of photos along the way, but it is the memories dropped into my brain that count. The best of, the worst of – all of the experiences that will flick back thanks to a piece of music, an image or a conversation with someone.

We can attempt to capture more by using the camera lens, but sometimes it is important to just be there in the moment actually experiencing it rather than just recording it to look at later.

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Beauty in the Moment


We need to look closely in the present moment. It’s so easy to just walk past, head full of cloudy thoughts of past and future.

But… stop for a moment and really look. Then we can see the beauty in front of us. Walking with a camera helps with this. If we have a hammer in our hand everything looks like a nail. We want to hit it! With a camera in our hand we can open up our eyes to seeing. Go out into the world when you next get the opportunity. Take a camera with you, and look for pictures – try to find an unusual take on things.


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Writer’s Block

A picture for those times when it’s a struggle to write anything at all:

A walk in the Wirral, near Parkgate, on one of those days when the sky is as beautiful as the landscape.

And a captured memory, because those are the ones that open up the block and create a safe haven to unlock the ideas.

Cloud formations like moments in the head, like the sense of an imagined landscape, long before it all.

Butterflies in the long grass, and a scent of buttercups and daisies. Remember childhood, and the days that stretched like timeless and endless moments imprinted now like something we thought we had forgotten long ago…