Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Start of winter on Dartmoor

We've been having a bit of an Indian summer here recently, meaning the weather has been sunnier and warmer than usual for this time of year.

On the day the clocks go back

Start Of Winter On Dartmoor

The clocks went back for winter at the end of the 25th / start of the 26th October and this day was quite typical of the recent good weather. I was passing through Dartmoor on a visit to the Duchy Square gallery and saw this. I just had to stop off and capture the wonderful sky that was blanketing the view, looking west towards Tavistock and Gunnislake.

Oh, and the trip to the gallery went well, delivering the pony triptych (print) and Fencing In The Dunes (40x26inch canvas). I met a really interesting lady working there called Sarah, who did her fine art degree in London. I'm hoping to be able to have a chat about her experiences and thoughts about what makes art fine etc.

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Monday, 26 October 2009

Answer to the bit of fun

Here's the answer to the bit of fun I posted yesterday

Title explained

The object was a bench (obvious now!) and the title, "Poocher Assere", was an instruction:

Put Yer Ass Here

Thanks to everyone who had a larf taking part :) I know I did in putting it together for you!

Out of interest, the version I'll take forward into my site's gallery will be this one:

...and I think I'll continue with the title I've already chosen, "Poocher Assere"

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Respect Festival - only shot so far...

I just couldn't get inspired enough to fight for space amongst the other photographers at the Respect Festival earlier today (well, yesterday now)—but I did get this shot.

An abstract name?

...for a semi-abstract shot.

Poocher Assere

No prizes for guessing what it is (did it take you long or was it instant for you?) but do you fancy explaining the title? Just for fun, leave a comment if you think you know—and leave a comment admitting defeat if you don't! Now, you will be honest, won't you... ;)

Whatever you think about the title, how does the image grab you? Or doesn't it?

(@ Martin Bush - what do you think? Note the cunning way I put your name there so you'd get this as a Google Alert!!)

comments / critique / feedback always welcome and actively encouraged :)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Curve Of The Neck published by the BBC

Part of my ongoing publicity push...

Getting published by the BBC

I regularly submit to the BBC News, In Pictures site—Your Pictures section.

This time I submitted a selection of my shots to the "minimal" category and they published Curve Of The Neck, one of the favourites amongst the followers here.

Curve Of The Neck

I guess it's limited to UK folks, but anyway, you can see the upcoming set themes and details of how to submit on their Viewfinder Blog. The themes over the next four weeks are:
  • Autumn
  • Seven
  • Sparkle
  • Grey
If you enter, good luck!

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Seeking New Horizons

Another from the "promising" pile in the digital darkroom that I finally found the time to process.

"Devon Expressway" approaching Plymouth

Seeking New Horizons

Driving westwards down the A38... as an aside, calling it the "Devon Expressway" was far cheaper than turning it from an "A" road to a motorway—that's the way the powers that be think down this way sometimes! ..so, as I was saying, I was driving along, watching the sky "improve" as the weather worsened and threatened to get real bad.

It got good enough to deserve a stop and a capture, and I was lucky enough for a lay-by to turn up at the right time. I really liked the overpowering dark clouds in the middle distance, with beautiful skies beyond on the promising horizon. The progression of low, scudding clouds that seem to be sharing the same journey, adds to the overall feel of an exodus to the hope of new beginnings.

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Monday, 19 October 2009

Plymouth Respect Festival 2009

Celebrating cultural diversity and bringing communities together

A local event

Once again my good friends Dan and Katie Thompson have organised the Plymouth Respect Festival, starting this coming weekend, Sat 24th October, 11:00am at the Civic Centre Piazza and finishing on Sunday around 4:30pm

As luck would have it their normal website is down so you can find all the details of what's happening, where and when on their myspace page: Respect Festival [Update: 20th October] The proper Respect Festival site is up and running again.

I'll be there on and off with my camera, if you see me, say "hi"!

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Char needs...

two more followers...

Back to two hundred...

Char over at Ramblins was delighted to reach 200 followers—but then a couple left. She's a lovely lady with a great eye for composition and a gorgeous and appealing style to the photos she takes.. ...and her writing is from the heart.

So get on over there and follow her! Let's see if we can get her up to 225 followers, as she deserves a boost :D

..and I'm back from Rambunctious

...where Lee loved the projected vid (see my last post) and has asked if he can use it over the next few weeks. (Yes, of course the answer was "yes"!)

Unfortunately there weren't that many folk there—actually anywhere—I don't know why but everywhere I passed tonight was dead. Plymouth is much more of a university city than it ever was but you wouldn't have thought it!

So anyone from Plymouth—let's meet up at Rambunctious next Sunday evening (around 10:00pm).

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Off to rambunctious...

Lee, who helps / organises this night of poetry, comedy, video art and general frivolity, has been after showing something of mine for a while now.

Showing The New Consonance / Urban Ugly

I burnt a dvd of the vid of my photo essay that Gordon Charlton (Beat Frequency) put together (leaving out the menu, you'll be glad to hear, Gordon, Valerie, Imac and Melania!) and Lee will be showing it tonight at rambunctious social club.

So I'm just posting this before setting off with some give-away dvds and flyers. Wish me luck for a great reception down there :)

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Friday, 16 October 2009

A reminder about my October freebie prize draw

...just a prod, as I know some of you have said you want in but haven't yet said you've done it..

Entering the draw / letting me know...

Rather than repeat things here and risk confusing everyone (me especially!) you can see the rules—and also let me know you're taking part—by looking at the post October freebie prize draw now open! and leaving me a comment. Don't worry, it's all explained there.

I've placed a link to it over there in the right hand column to make it easy for you to find in future.

There are six entrants so far and with three prizes, heck, you're almost bound to win!

These aren't cheap and cheerful prizes, they're all quality fine art prints on fantastic paper and professional, archival mounts—as other prize winners have already said—deep blacks, rich tones and bright, whites.

If you previous winners want to leave a comment here to confirm the quality of the prints you've received, that would be real helpful :)

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Getting ready for display at Gallery Guest House

an evening of...

Printing, signing and mounting

Over at the Gallery Guest House, Karen has been putting together a list of my pictures she wants for display there. I got her email a couple of days ago and its now got to the top of the "attention" pile ;)

So it's been an evening of printing, spraying, cutting & sticking, preparing the first batch—five down, fifteen to go! Actually, twenty may end up being too big for the space, so I intend to take the first batch along, before framing, just to check it all out.

[Note to self: Must get on the phone first thing and order up some more 16x12in mounts!]

A question for my regulars: I've always used glass in my frames and now I'm wondering about the plastic / acrylic glass I see used as standard on some of the online framing sites. They say it's 100% uv-protective. What do folks think about it?

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Thursday, 15 October 2009

If things go wrong in threes...

..then why were there four on Tueday? Uh-oh... does that mean there's two more to come? Ulp!

Duchy Square Centre & Gallery

I took the triptych and a huge canvas of Fencing In The Dunes as the owner had said she wanted to see it. Before going in, I gave the pony triptych a quick flick down and noticed a small fleck next to one of the pony muzzles. Darn, it was under the glass not on top. So I stressed briefly about it (I'm a virgoan, so it's always a bit of a battle trying not to be a perfectionist!) before ignoring it and taking it in.

I pointed it out to Philippa and we were about to decide to go with it, when we spotted a small piece of bluetac under the glass. Ok, that was the decider—and in a way I was relieved.

So, on with the canvas. Philippa loved it right away and we filled out the paperwork for it on the spot. Embarrassment number two (and a lesson for us all - check everything before taking to the gallery for hanging!): she called me back and pointed out some dark markings on the white canvas border.

It was pristine when I hung it at Park Art and it's been in bubble-wrap ever since. How those marks got there, I can't figure. One of the other artists in the centre (thanks Amanda, lovely lady!) dug out some putty-eraser and we tried that but to no avail.

Later, when I got it back to base, I found that a damp white cloth gently applied, cleaned off whatever it was on the canvas border. There's a tip I'll never forget!

So, that's two of the four things that went wrong.

I won my own prize

..or that's the way it seemed! A prize from my September draw that I posted to Melania a few days ago was delivered back to me.

I'm a canny Scotsman (we have a reputation for being "careful" with money) and this combines well with being green... so I re-use packing material when I can. On the back of the parcel was my delivery address, all printed and barcoded - with a big cross through the lot before I posted it. On the front was the right address, postage stamp, customs declaration etc.

I guess a post-office scanning machine was still able to read the barcode on my crossed out address, so promptly had it delivered to me! So, lesson two learned: obliterate any barcodes from previous address labels still showing on the parcel). Anyway, it's re-posted now (sorry Melania!)

And number four

I've sorted out burning DVDs with the youtube video that my friend Gordon put together. I've even worked out how to avoid creating the dreadful DVD menu that I put on the first few DVDs.

So I spent ages designing some graphics for a label for the DVD and then getting it to align with the cutouts on the DVD labels for my inkjet.

So I burnt the first couple of DVDs, checked they were ok and then cracked on with the rest (18), printing and sticking the labels onto the DVDs. OK, so I'm new to the DVD burning s/w and didn't realise I'd changed a setting after the first two. When the last one was done, I popped it back in to check, just for belt and braces. I'm glad I did!

The last 18 were all weird files and not actual DVD videos. Aaaaaargh! and I'd used up all the labels—double aaaaargh!!

Still, looking at the positive, at least two were ok!

On a brighter note

...I went to an evening event in aid of breast cancer at Martin Bush's Studio Gallery in Royal William Yard. I was really pleased to again meet Eliot Siegel, a well-known photographer, who had donated his time to taking portraits of anyone willing to hand over some readies for the charity. I seem to remember offering to be his gofer in return for some tips on lighting! Two glasses of pink (sorry, rosé) wine and I'm anyone's!

A delightful young lady (doing a degree at Plymouth College of Art) and her boyfriend were helping Eliot and she said she loved my work and did I need any assistance? I was flattered and gave her my card. Let's see if that turns into something concrete.

There was a fair amount of interest in my work amongst the guests and I answered questions and had some interesting discussions with a number of them. "Thank you, ladies (and gents!) for stopping by and chatting."

One lady had her first posting as a new WPC at the Court House when it was a police station and she gave me an idea of where things like the scenes of crime room etc were, also how they used a very early version of video conferencing for their area updates, before the term was coined. See, we're ground-breakers in using new technology here in relaxed Devon.

And for my part, I donated Caught By The Surf for the raffle and one delighted winner and husband went home over the moon.

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Sunday, 11 October 2009

A lakeside scene - in colour!

Unusually for me, this one seemed best in colour.

Lakeside Rest

I took this at the same time as my recent pony shots at the Miniature Pony Centre on Dartmoor.

Lakeside Rest

A simple scene, a bench overlooking a small lake complete with duck-house on stilts. It looked so restful, I was determined to give it a try but my god-daughter wanted to get back to petting the ponies instead. I'm glad she did because it was then that I took the pony shots that turned out so successfully—the ones I turned into a triptych.

So, does this pass muster for a colour shot? Are the colours lifelike? Are their any 'colour' rules of thumb I don't know about that I've heinously broken?

Regular readers will know I don't really do colour so I really am after some feedback :) Thanks!

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Friday, 9 October 2009

Mugs, Magnets, Note cards and coasters

I've just started a shop over at CafePress especially for various wares with my photo art work printed on it.

Free version of shop

I've set up a free version of my shop, which allows for one of each type of product. So for Walking The Dogs I've set up a mug, a fridge magnet, a pack (20) of note cards and a coaster.

Walking The Dogs

If all goes well and I make a few sales, I'll upgrade to a premium, unlimited-product shop.

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Get your pony mug here!

I thought I'd try something a little different... here are my triptych pony shots on a mug.

Pony Mug

If you like my work and want to own a piece but mounted / framed prints aren't your style or are too expensive for your budget, you might like to get a pony mug via my CafePress shop, Mayflowersteps instead.

What do you think? Will people like them enough to buy one?

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Using your blog as an online shop

Hand-holding a blog virgin

Regular readers will know I've been spending a good chunk of time recently helping a just-computer-literate friend with his blog.

He wanted to test the waters out at selling his stuff on line. As we were pretty much starting with a clean sheet, we've been able to bend the blog to make it serve as the online shop (using paypal as the payment processor), as well as being a normal blog.

(Once he makes a few more ordinary postings - i.e. ones not selling a pot - we'll use the label "journal" on them to separate them out. Oh, and provide a link for that label in the navigation area at the top.)

As well as helping him with the blog, I've done all his product shots for it. You can see all those uploaded so far over on Mans' blog under the for sale label.

Advantages of a blog as an online shop

The main advantages of having your blog as your online shop are
  • No listing / placement fees!
  • You don't have to worry about being lost amongst the listings from your competitors
  • You only pay (in this case Paypal's) transaction fees
  • You have full control over
    • any ads placed (and of course you get the revenue from them, too!)
    • all links where you're making your pitch (and you can make sure external links open in a new tab so folks don't leave your site completely)
    • Easier to establish your brand
  • A much more personal interaction with buyers
  • Not at the mercy of changing shop rules like you get with ebay and others
  • Black-hat competitors can't ruin your seller-rating - again like can happen at most dedicated shopping sites
  • If you want to socialise your site even more, you can (Friend Connect / JS-Kit and others)


The main disadvantages of using your blog as an online shop are few but still need to be considered
  • It's not completely automatic; if someone buys a pot, Mans has to update the labels against the posting for that item, to show it is now sold. He can also change the text and the button to allow someone to place a special order for one similar to the one shown.
  • People go to dedicated shopping sites in a buying frame of mind, but not really with a blog
  • You have to have a way of taking on-line payments, dedicated online shops will do that for you
  • No dedicated rating system of you as a seller or others as buyers - being a blog, people can leave comments, so it's the second one that might be of more concern
  • A much more personal interaction with buyers
Did I miss anything major out do you think? Let me know in the comments if I did, or if you want to add anything else...

Requirements-driven shop design

So how did we set about it? Well, my trade is helping people focus on what they need before worrying about how to achieve it. Also, KISS—keep it simple, stupid!

So we sat down and brainstormed for a while, teasing out stuff to come up with a list of main requirements. Examples: be able to take online payment, be able to see only products for sale, only those sold, same for all the major categories. Another: Easy to maintain and add new items for sale & be able to withdraw items from sale.

..and so on.

Designing a solution to the requirements

We acknowledged that various dedicated online shops could be used but their disadvantages were too great for what Mans wanted. Then we considered how / if Blogger could be used, noting any requirements that couldn't be met and hoping we wouldn't bump into any show-stoppers—we didn't :)

The key to being able to list items in different ways is to use labels carefully and in a sort of structured way. We spent ages deciding how to categorise and name each major type of ceramic / glaze / treatment, and being totally consistent in our approach. We finally settled on a scheme that worked and this also gave us a way of naming each pot and giving it a stock code.

And having a name for each, naturally gave us the title for each post (i.e. each new item for sale). Also, because we've been as descriptive as possible in our choice of titles / names / categories / labels, the blog will score highly with the search engines for those keywords (a good SEO tip).

Another tip here; before we uploaded each product shot, we named the jpg file using the same naming convention as above, reinforcing the tastiness to the search engine spiders. As an aside, note that the first time you publish a particular post, the post page will use a filename consisting of a good part of the post heading you used. So, for SEO purposes, make sure your title is both meaningful and helpful to your readers AND keyword-rich for the spiders, before you first post it.

Anyway, on with the solution design...

For simplicity, we decided to put a unique number on the end of each item, so no matter what type of ceramic was being posted as a new item for sale, the last number used would have one added to it and that would be the new number. Nice and simple :) And you can't forget, if you do, you just need to look at the blog!

One requirement that couldn't be met by Blogger (at least not with my skills!) was that Mans wanted visitors to be able to put together a wish list—like on Amazon and others. He told me that this wasn't a show stopper—-anyway, there might be a solution out there (but where do we look?). It would also have been nice to be able to automatically change the label on an item from "for sale" to "sold" when a transaction completes but Mans is ok about doing that by hand.

Everything else he needed his shop to do has now been set up on his blog. If you want proof, go browse for something you like and buy it! Maybe a Copper Matt Raku thrown pot—my personal favourites, although the Lustre Raku stretch pots are fabulous too!

Putting it into practice

To make it easy to add new items for sale, we cobbled together the first posting for an item for sale, including the code for the paypal button, with me doing any tricky html stuff (tricky for me, anyway!). Once we'd got that right, we copied the html and pasted it into his blog settings - the place where you can put a mini template / boiler-plate text to be used on subsequent posts.

The only thing Mans now needs to get his hands dirty with is changing the part of the button html code where it needs a unique item code, a price and a description. I sat with him the first few times he did this to make sure he knew what to do—and more importantly what not to do—and even more importantly, how to back out any changes if he did!!

Well, that's about it, it wasn't supposed to turn into such a long and detailed posting, but you know how it goes when the ideas just flow!

So I gotta ask, are you thinking now about using your blog as an online shop?

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Monday, 5 October 2009

Resist the Machine

I was going through the "promising" pile in the digital darkroom and ended up playing around with this.
[Image updated: 7th Oct; v. slight crop to remove distractions at lh frame edge]

Resist The Machine

...while being constrained by convention

Resist The Machine

I was at a friend's house and paid attention to the walls for the first time. A Devon bricklaying style—and probably used in other places, too. Come to think of it, I've seen fireplaces with stonework like this as well.

Anyway, I think my subconscious must have noticed them on my regular visits and has probably been screaming silently about them for ages.

I love the shapes and the strong horizontal flow. The overall feel is almost "Mondrian", with lovely textures in the natural stone. I chose this framing as it 'felt' right—a good selection of larger bricks, nicely lit by the mid-afternoon sun. At this time, the sun is still quite high and the resulting harsher shadows emphasised the horizontals.

In some sense I chose it because I can equate to what it's saying. We're all being forced into uniformity in many aspects of our lives but even so, we can still retain much of our individuality while still fitting in together. It's when the verticals all start to line up as well that we've got to watch out for, because then we all become little boxes.

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Some blogs of interest to photographers and...

Well, not just photographers :)

Useful / interesting...

The Galloping Gardener
...visits English gardens and those further afield. As a place to go just to enjoy and relax, you can't beat an English garden. But if you take your camera, you can practice close-ups, macros, pretty scenes and more. One good thing, the flowers and plants tend to be very well kept and the photo opportunities aren't so often spoiled by things past their best.

Quite often they are pretty good at labeling the plants so you know what it is you're photographing. If you see them on your visit, snap the name after you've finished your shots - it's a handy way of making sure you don't forget what they're called.

The History and Language of Flowers
Have you ever wondered what you're saying when you buy a bunch of flowers from the garage for your loved one? This handy site tells you the almost-lost meanings of each flower. Now when you hear the phrase "say it with flowers" it actually means what it says!

So next time you buy flowers, you'll be able to compose you're own message. Never mind tweets, txts or emails, do it the old-fashioned romantic way :)

The Royal Photographic Society
If you're serious about photography you'll want seriously to consider joining. There are hurdles to jump to get entry but that keeps the quality high (I haven't applied yet, but it's on the list!). Open to UK and overseas membership.

Converting colour to black and white
A really good article to give you a grounding in converting black and white to colour. It has hover-over effects so you can see how, for example, red, green and blue filters affect a colour image. It also discusses the basics of using Photoshop in different ways to carry out your conversions.

How to Create a Product Box in Photoshop
A cool little tutorial.

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Another shortlisted for Photographer of the Year 2009

Haystack And Tracks

I posted earlier about Walking The Dogs being shortlisted for possible selection by the Editors in this year's Photographer of the Year competition. Well they've now chosen Haystack And Tracks too! Which is nice :)

Let's hope that the editors like them enough to shortlist them into the final :)

Haystack And Tracks

Here is the entry on the competition web site.

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Friday, 2 October 2009

October freebie prize draw now open!

Make sure you read these—they're slightly different to September's (only slightly, though).

Three signed, mounted prints up for grabs

Previous winners will tell you just how high quality these mounted prints are. I use heavy photo rag paper, specialised black and white inks and a professional printer, profiled specifically to black and white printing.

And that all shows in the final print, with deep, rich blacks and gorgeous tonal representation, on a textured surface that subtly enriches the contrast. (The archival-standard materials I use ensure a lifetime of 150years plus). Finally, I write the name and sign the margin of each print in pencil, same on the mount... all this taken together lets you know it's a work of art when you stand in front of it.

Winning is 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 another three winners this month (assuming I get at least three 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 encouraging your visitors to enter. Your post is to link 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/2009/10/october-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). If you've already done that previously, you won't be able to do it to the same image again. So instead, fill in the review gadget on the same page. And if you've done that before (thanks!), instead choose another to recommend. Don't worry, if you win, you'll get the chance to confirm which one you want then.
  • finally—and this you don't have to do—spread the word about my work; share, digg, tweet, stumbleit!
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 for October!

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Winners of my September freebie prize draw

Did you win? Read on...

Hat of Wonder and Hope

So, who won the three prizes? You'll have to click the image and see!

The first two, Melania and Valerie007 have now been in touch. And imac , the other winner, is now back from his hols and has been in touch. Well done to the winners! Commiserations to the rest!

If your name was one of the three out of the hat and you haven't yet been in touch, now's the time to claim your prize. Just email me highton.ridley [@] gmail.com and confirm which piccy you'd like to get as a signed mounted print. Don't forget to include the full postal address where you'd like it delivered.

To the unlucky folk—better luck next time!

Watch out for the announcement of the October freebie prize draw. Probably tomorrow or Saturday.

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Product Shots - pottery blog

As I said in my last post, I'd post details about what I've been working on and let you see the results of the product shots.

Mansour Eskandary

Mansour—Mans for short—is a well known potter, based just outside of Plymouth. He's had a blog for a while but was waiting until he could offer his work for sale there before developing it.

I've been helping him with that, working out a scheme to use the blog for that purpose, as well as the more normal uses. I've also been doing the product shots, as I spoke about in my last post.

Have a look at his blog, there's only two products for sale so far. But now that we've broken the back of the approach, it shouldn't take long to upload the product shots and do the blurb for the rest of this batch of 24.

By the way, the "scheme" I'm on about is the way we've decided to use labels very carefully so that we could use a simple list of links at the top to allow visitors to quickly see, for example, all the sold work, or all the raku, etc. We also spent a lot of time coming up with a convention to name each product.

I think we need one more column of links to cover
  • normal posts (all will be labelled "journal" or something like it)
  • terms and conditions
  • the privacy policy
Did I leave any out? Anyway, what did you think of the product shots?

comments / feedback always welcome :)


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