Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Busy, busy, busy...

The madness continues, it seems there's not been a breathing space for ages. I've managed to visit and comment against a few of the blogs I follow but I've not been able to be as active doing that as I'd have liked.

Product photography

I've been spending quite a bit of time learning how to do product photography in the last two weeks—I'm helping a friend with turning his blog into a way to sell his work, and getting decent product shots was the first step.

It's been an interesting journey and a steep learning curve. What I've learned is that, with my level of knowledge (low!), not having the right kit makes it a bit of a trial and error process. And even once it works, making it repeatable I found to be no mean feat.

Because of my poor control over lighting / lack of experience to get it right in-camera, I shot in RAW throughout. That meant I could change the exposure and white balance in the digital darkroom and 'rescue' what otherwise could have ended up in that bit-bucket in the sky.

All the shots are now taken and we're working on the blog template. Once it's ready, I'll put a post together with links to it.

Duchy Square Gallery

I drove to the gallery in Princetown (map) for a meeting with the lovely Philippa on Monday. Great result, she took 4 prints for immediate display and ordered a pony triptych, ready for the exhibition starting in November.

September draw update

There are 9 successful entries so far. If  you're not one of them and you want in, please see the rules. Closing date is midnight, 30th September, UK time. The successful entrants so far are:

With three prizes the odds of one of these winning are high... if you like these odds, make sure you enter. But you'd better hurry up!

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Gallery and Google news

another eventful couple of days...

Gallery news

I'm really pleased with myself today....

Exhibition confirmed

I went to a coffee morning in aid of the Macmillan Cancer Support charity at the Gallery Guest House and while I was there,  Karen confirmed they'll be hanging work from me in November (map).

And a new Gallery!

Also, after visiting a couple of places, I dropped into the Art And Soul Gallery, Stoke Village, Plymouth (map) with my just-framed Pony Triptych and Bev was pleased to agree to hang it there and then.

Google Friend Connect want my site as an example

I got an email out of the blue yesterday from the Google product manager for Friend Connect. He'd seen my main site and was impressed both by the way I've integrated their social gadgets and the level of visitor interaction with them. He asked me for permission to use my site as an example, to use my profile photo and also for a quote about Friend Connect.

So a big Thank You to all my followers / members of my site for helping make this happen!

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Making progress...

It's been a busy few days... nice busy :)

September draw update

So that's 8 successful entries—and with three prizes you folks stand a great chance of winning!

If you think your name should be here, see the rules for how to enter.

Pony Triptych

I collected the framed "Grazing by Light" triptych yesterday. It looks absolutely stunning and all credit to Graham at Armada Framing for doing such a great job. Plan for the next few days is to visit some galleries and see if they want it. If they don't, their loss!

Radio interview

The chat with Sparksy at BBC Radio Devon on Tuesday morning went really well—I've had quite a few folks saying that they caught it and how well I came across. Just got to work out how to get on the telly now :)

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Saturday, 19 September 2009

September draw update

Good to see some interest so far - it's a bit heart-stopping for an artist, waiting to see who is interested enough in your work!

If you want in, see the rules here and post a comment to them to let me know. There are three prizes of a signed, mounted print. Right now, with the number of successful entries (1!), if you follow the rules, you're guaranteed to win!

Entries so far

Here's the results of a quick check, just to make sure folks are understanding the rules.

dbg: Post is fine, no recommendation yet (a review but no recommend)

f8hasit: Recommended "Winter Seafront Stroll", no post yet.

Valerie007: Post is fine, Recommended "Hot Air Balloon Stack" -- you're in!

SilviaW: nuffink yet ;)

imac: Post is fine, no recommendation yet (a review but no recommend)

Melania: nuffink yet ;)

So far, only Valerie is up for a prize!

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Intimate Glimpses photo essay set to theremin music

My good friend and thereminist Gordon Charlton has set my latest photo essay to music.

A small-size taster

A full HD version is available if you click through the video to youtube. Thanks Gordon :) (Gordon on facebook)

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Radio interview and POTY pre-shortlist interest

An eventful last couple of days...

BBC Radio Devon interview

Martin Bush (good man!) spoke about me to one of his contacts at BBC Radio Devon yesterday and I got a call today inviting me on to the Gordon Sparks Plymouth breakfast show, next Tuesday.

The show runs 6-9am and the plan is that I go on around 7:15 for 5 minutes and then again for 10 minutes or so around 7:45am. Lets see how it goes!

Photographer Of The Year competition

Digital Computer magazine runs this world-famous competition each year. I was short-listed once before, for One Two Three, Snow! and I've just been contacted asking for a high resolution version of my entry in the Man-made category for this year's competition—Walking The Dogs.

It's not short-listed yet. Prior to that, the judging team looks for any submissions that catch their attention and then they request a high-res version, I guess so they can better assess the shot. No need for me to get carried away, though ...at this stage mine is only one amongst probably dozens.

Wish me luck with both!

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

September Freebie Prize Draw now open!

I recently said that I was changing the rules for the September draw and posted what I thought was a fair balance. You lot agreed so now the draw is open.

To save you looking at the original post, here's the rules again.

As easy as...

The freebie prize draw is open to all blog or site owners who are followers of this blog and also my friend. There will be three winners each month (assuming I get enough participants).
  • to let me know you want in, you'll need to leave a comment on this announcement post
  • make a post on your own blog announcing my draw and linking both to my main site (http://www.highton-ridley.co.uk) and also to this announcement
    (url is http://www.highton-ridley.co.uk/blog/2009/09/september-freebie-prize-draw-now-open.html)
  • visit the galleries on my main site and find which image you'd like if you win
  • click the "Recommend it" button you'll find under the image (on the image page, not the thumbnails page)
By recommending in this way you'll be helping other followers and visitors. That's because the most recommended ones then bubble up to the top of the Your Top Choices gadget (see the right hand column).

Good Luck!

Monday, 14 September 2009

My "Intimate glimpses..." exhibition opens..

...on Wednesday.

Hanging tomorrow

I've now mounted and framed the last four images of the essay and will be hanging them in the Martin Bush Studio Gallery in Royal William Yard (map) tomorrow.

I'm delighted Martin has given me some of the boards normally filled with his exuberant abstracts. It's great that such a well-established artist has given over space for Plymouth - Intimate glimpses of a hidden and changing character

BBC feature

Here is the essay as it appears on the BBC Devon web site, for those of you who want to have a look-see. When you see them "in the flesh" at the gallery, you'll see how much better they look than when you see them on the web.

Whew! I'm glad the last week is over, it's been so busy (=happiness!)—working with the BBC on captions, gallery meetings, printing, mounting, getting images framed, writing/printing wall-cards, celebrating, weekend house-guests...

I should be back to checking over your blogs now and replying to the comments I've seen coming in. Bear with me, normal service will resume shortly...

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Friday, 11 September 2009

BBC Devon lead story - Highton Ridley photo essay


Moved up to lead story today!

My photo essay "Plymouth - Intimate glimpses of a hidden and changing character" is featured as the lead story on the BBC Devon web site.

As a result (or just coincidence?) I've had enquiries from two galleries already! And I've still got to send an email to a whole bunch of them in Devon, so maybe should get some more interest.

Wish me luck!

Update: The link I gave was to the front page of the Devon site where it was the lead story but only for one day. Anyone visiting the link after that would see whatever was the next lead story

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Gordon Brown apologises on behalf of nation to Alan Turing

About time too....

A Downing Street Petition comes to fruition

Alan Turing, a genius mathematician who helped bring World War II to an earlier conclusion than would otherwise have been the case, was treated disgracefully just because he was gay and this led to his early suicide.

Gordon Brown has now offered a posthumous apology on behalf of the nation for the homophobic treatment he received. Full story...

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Trying to cut the apron strings

Another from my trip to the Miniature Pony Centre on Dartmoor

Pony petting


My god-daughter is eight and was really enjoying herself. She'd already been for a ride and was wearing her rosette with pride. We stopped for a while in the petting field, me waiting for an opportunity to arise and when I saw this scene unfolding, I could see some good possibilities. I think she was puzzled by me lying on my back for this shot, maybe thinking "why are you doing that? I've not seen photos taken that way, are you sure?" Well, something like that is written all over her face. (I must ask, next time I see her!)

Meanwhile mum was hovering close by, trying to not to hover; concerned but not worried; experimenting with loosening the apron strings a bit more.

I had a little cropping to do (ouch no pun intended!) when I got back to the digital darkroom and a little fiddling with curves. Overall, I'm pleased with the composition and the (emotional) undertones in the shot; the interplay between mum, daughter and the pony.

What do you think?

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Oops! Tweet button corrected...

Just a quickie if you noticed it.

Because of where I'd put the tweet button in my template, it was referring to the previous post and not the current one. Putting it at the bottom of the post is more logical and, more to the point, works properly!

Sorry if it confused you like it did me, doh!

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Highton Ridley photo essay used in relaunch of BBC Devon website

Here's the unveiling of the photo essay :)

Secret squirrel project...

Regular followers will know that I've had a secret squirrel project on the go for a while. I was approached by the BBC and commissioned for the relaunch of their Devon website to produce a series of images of Plymouth that would embody its character in some way.

The resulting photo essay, Plymouth—intimate glimpses of a hidden and changing character, is the lead story in their Arts and Culture section.

I'm sure you'll share with me my delight at this great publicity coup! You can help me get this story out—use the tweet or stumble-it buttons below. Your loyalty and help is greatly appreciated as always :)

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

New rules for September freebie prize draw

As I said in a recent post, I need to rethink the rules for my monthly freebie prize draw, starting for the September draw.

As easy as...

The freebie prize draw is open to all blog owners who are followers of this blog and also my friend. Their will be three winners each month (assuming I get enough participants).
  • to let me know you want in, you'll need to leave a comment on the announcement post
    (I'll post the announcement in the next few days)
  • make a post on your own blog announcing it and linking to my main site (http://www.highton-ridley.co.uk) and to these rules
  • visit the galleries on my main site and and find which image you'd like if you win
  • click the "Recommend it" button you'll find under the image (on the image page, not the thumbnails page)
By recommending in this way you'll be helping other visitors. That's because the most recommended ones bubble up to the top of the Your Top Choices gadget (see the right hand column).

What do you think? Is this a reasonable balance to help me get publicity for my blog/site while still rewarding the winners for their efforts?

comments / feedback always welcome :) ...even more so this time!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Introspective - Barbican Steps image

I've moved this introspective over from my main site where it's been for a while. A lot of my followers only read my blog and would otherwise miss it.

Barbican Steps

Ancient and worn granite steps. Plymouth Barbican, 2008

I'd never had occasion to go up these steps until I used a car park (Lambhay Hill) for the first time, one which
overlooks the Barbican. My destination was the B-bar for a catch-up with a mate, and to fill up on one of their renowned Thai Noodle Baskets.

Making the capture

Spotting the shot

As soon as I started down those narrow, almost claustrophobic steps, their character began to sink into me. I could see that although the steps were made of granite, they were still showing a definite dip from the wear of countless thousands of feet.

Another quirky thing... because of the curve, you couldn't see if anyone else was coming the other way, until you'd committed and were a few steps down yourself. I imagine that there must have been some tight squeezes as people passed each other down the centuries.

Also, the curve, in shortening your view, added to that closed-in feel—it was definitely a transitional space, a
between-places space, not one to pause in but one to pass through.

Ok, so how to capture that and make the shot?

Making the shot

So having briefly noted this little lot, I got to the bottom of the steps to check how it looked. Perfect. Apart from a pub sign that was padlock-and-chained to the handrail—but that was easily moved to the side, out of frame.

For me this sort of shot requires what is almost a side effect of the HDR  / tone-mapping process,
getting enhanced local contrast. I find that this best reproduces the texture and feel of
stone under bright light.

I also needed the enhaced dynamic range that comes from using HDR (I used 'simple' HDR where the different exposures all come from a single (RAW) shot). This was because the range betwen the bright summer sky and the deep shadow in the corners of the steps was just too much—either the shadows would lose all detail or the highlights, the sky and clouds, would be blown.

Exposure, ISO etc.

f16 1/80th 17mm HDR ISO 200

So with a basic plan in mind I whipped out the camera and checked readings etc. I needed to be at the 17mm end of the zoom to get it all in and use a deep depth of field.

So, with aperture priority set as usual, I rolled it up to f16. That meant, at my usual setting of ISO 100, the shot would have been made at 1/40s.

Much too slow, given that people were up and down the steps all the time. So I pushed the ISO up to 200, (which gave me 1/80s) and waited for a lull in the sudden foot-traffic that always happens when you're finally ready!
It didn't take too long and I made the shot. Actually, I took two or three, choosing different exposure locks from
different parts of the sky. Then I chose the best one to take forward when I got back to base.

Digital darkroom

Pre Photoshop

I pushed the shot through my usual RAW workflow to get it into Photoshop. In short, 3 exposures from RAW, followed by HDR / tone-mapping software to combine the three into one shot.


Once in Photoshop, I cloned away a a small amount of litter on a copy of the background layer and then applied TLR Capture sharpening (and erased any sharpening in the sky—it was already quite noisy). The bw conversion came next, juggling the sliders to get the tonal balance right.

Another little trick I picked up, this time for applying perfect contrast. I create a new curves layer and immediately ok it. Then I change the blend mode to overlay and reduce the layer's opacity to somewhere between 7% and the mid-twenties—whatever suits the image. This time it was 26%.

Then a little dodging and burning to enhance the difference between the mid-tones and highlights of the wall and steps not in shade.

Next I applied a soft light layer and erased away the centre to form a little vignette. I repeated this to get the balance I was after.

A final step to tweak the levels was in order. This was to make sure the darkest parts of the image equated to pure black and the extreme highlights to pure white. It didn't take much and I also shifted the mid-point grey to be a little lighter.

To prep the image for upload I did the usual sharpening, final contrast tweak and image resize. I'll give you that tip on another occasion.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed my walkthrough and maybe have found something to inspire you on your explorations.

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Saturday, 5 September 2009

My photo essay in re-launch of BBC Devon website

...for those of you who have been on tenterhooks (well, not quite, but y'know...)

Secret squirrel project revealed...

I mentioned a few posts ago that I was excited by a project that I had to keep hush-hush for a while. Well I've now been given the go ahead to talk about it.

I was approached by the BBC, a lovely lady called Jemima, and asked if I could provide them with a number of shots of Plymouth, in my inimitable style, to be used as a slide show for the soon-to-be re-launch of the BBC Devon website.

The Devon Banksy?

Of course, I was delighted to be asked. Even more so when, as an example of the layout to be used, Jemima gave me a link to the already re-launched Bristol web site and I found they had used Banksy's work for their slide show—a  compliment by association if ever there was one!

As I was given a fairly free hand in the brief, I decided to follow in the same vein as a previous photo essay of mine that they featured (Urban decay, lost spaces and industrial ugliness). I came up with the final brief, summed up by the title I chose for the photo essay—"Plymouth - intimate glimpses of a hidden and changing character".

Exhibition of photo essay

I'm timing an exhibition of the photo essay in the Martin Bush Studio Gallery, Royal William Yard (map), to coincide with the re-launch due on 10th September (I'll provide a link to the BBC Devon website then).

To the many folk I pestered in confirming my research for the captions, I offer my profound thanks :) You know who you are.

comments / feedback always welcome :)
[Edited to correct link to the map 8 Sept]

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Pony Triptych final layout

After a lot of trying different combinations I've finally settled on the one.

Vertical emphasis

Grazing With Light

I chose the vertical format for the triptych, as first suggested by Kitty (who, by coincidence, was also one of the three prize winners for August). The nature of each shot is vertical, both by orientation and composition. When the triptych is laid out vertically, it takes on a very commanding presence, as I'm sure you'll agree.

I've chosen a balanced sequence that goes for a top-to-bottom flow and a title which is both observational and describes the sculpting approach I used—a pun always helps :) 

I've managed to avoid the question of naming the individual images while I've been concentrating on the triptych and sorting out the August prize draw but I'll need to return to that next. But first I have to work out and post some new rules for the September draw, ones which mean I don't lose a whole day actually making the draw, like I did this time!

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

August freebie prize draw winners

Whew! I'm glad that's done. The rules for September are gonna have to be easier; it's taken me a full day to collate all the comments, recommends and ratings so that 3 names could be selected at random.

The winners...

Without further ado here they are:

Well done you three! I've sent you all an email telling you how to choose and claim your prize.

comments / feedback always welcome :)


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