Monday 31 January 2011

Sunshine - coohoo!

Today my fear of contracting rickets has been allayed with the welcome appearance of the sun. January has been the most dreary month weather-wise and I'm not sorry to be seeing the back of it.

On the back of this wood pigeon the sun has cast the shadow of his chosen delicacy, ivy berries, whilst lithely taking the last pickings from this winter larder.

Sunday 30 January 2011

Birdwatch Weekend

This weekend is the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, so naturally I thought I should enter into the spirit of things with some garden bird images.

I would love it if someone could explain to me why it is, after years of having to fill the nut feeder on a daily basis, the very same nut feeder now hangs full for months on end? This is an observation made over the last couple of years. Either there just aren't the birds around any more or there is an outside factor (feline perchance?) that declares this particular avian cafe as a no-go area.

Thankfully, due to my thoughtfulness (or rather, laziness) in not stripping out all the expired flowers in the Autumn, one bird species does return to our cafe on a regular basis. Goldfinches choose the slightly damp days to flock to the teasle and evening primrose seed heads, when extraction is clearly much easier. On occasions, there have been over a dozen at any one time and it makes for a spectacular display, with flashes of red and gold at this moving feast. Hence my choice of images. Not the usual portraits, which have a merit of their own, but instead, an abstract interpretation that highlights the busy habit with the grace and beauty of these colourful little garden visitors.

Saturday 29 January 2011

Did the Earth Move for You?

Today I got down and dirty - with these little fellas. Judging by what is visible here, the earth really has been moving for them.

Unlike on a quiet Sunday evening couple of weeks ago when we in our local town all thought the earth was moving for us. What was first thought to be an earthquake has since been reported to be a couple of RAF planes hitting mach 1.


Now is the appropriate time for me to explain what yesterday's photograph was all about.
Holocaust Memorial Day is about remembering the victims and those whose lives have been changed beyond recognition as a result of genocides worldwide. From the Holocaust and Nazi persecution to present day atrocities in Darfur.

A number of years ago, I made a visit to Anne Franks attic in Amsterdam. It was a place with an indescribable atmosphere, where visitors passed through in reflective silence. Lower down in the building, a room had been set aside for an exhibition about the Holocaust and the other terrible events that had, and are incredulously, still taking place. This exhibition naturally used many images that had been taken during those years, and although I had seen some of the images before in books and on TV, seeing them right before me in a place so intrinsically involved, made them all the more powerful. Two of those images had such a profound effect on me that they remain forever in my mental album.

A simple internet search for 'piles of Holocaust shoes/glasses' will pull up those and countless similar images. You must have seen them before? Each time I see them I think about whose mother, father, brother or sister they had once belonged to - they were all real people. So it was with these images in mind that I staged a shoot as my rememberance tribute to all of those people. Representing the very personal items lost or abandoned by anyone moving through the opressive and manacing landscape, whilst caught up in this persecution.

I dedicate this posting to the lost brother of a man I will call Ahio, whom we met whilst in Tanzania. He has not seen or heard anything of his brother since he fled Rwanda.

Thursday 27 January 2011


Candle image courtesy Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, Image Library
Main image Copyright 2011 Ailec Photography

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Big Cats

Guess what? It has been yet another miserable day and no point of interest has emerged, so you will have to forgive me for indulging in a spot of archive delving. Following yesterdays encounter in the thicket, it got me to thinking about what else I could have encountered. The inevitable rabbit or hare; other deer such as Muntjak; the Fen Tiger. Wait a minute, Fen Tiger?

Oh yes, it is quite probable. For a number of years, there have been occasional sightings of un-identified large black cats wandering in the region. Our neighbour says he saw one close enough that he could even hear it breathing. That is pretty amazing. Reports appear in the press, but of course, there are seldom any images to accompany the report and even then, they are so poor it could be anyones guess what it might be. (Maybe this is my chance to capture a stunning image of this questionable beast or beasts?) It is believed there must be several on the prowl, as they have been spotted over such a large area it couldn't possibly be a sole feline. Mind you, it would be interesting to see what the mutt would make of it when faced with it in a thicket!

So, what of the splendid cat above? Well, I have included Binti as she is a leopard and it is thought that our big cats are the black versions of leopards that have escaped from captivity. These animals were fashionably kept as pets until it became illegal to do so following the dangerous animals act of 1976. It is said that many were released into the wild and they and their off-spring live on. The thought of these splendid animals being domestically caged for selfish gratification disturbs me. There is really only one place to see these magnificent beasts and that is in their natural surroundings. I was fortunate enough to enjoy a trip to the Masai Mara where on one day, for nearly an hour, we watched Binti behaving as leopards do. She is the granddaughter of Bella, made famous from the BBC Big Cat Diaries series. For us as photographers, it was just perfect and this shot of her in the African thicket, is just one from the stunning set I captured that day.

(If you want to see more of this set, just tell me and I will make a special posting)

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Oh Deer, I've Been Seen.

Walks out in the country invariably have to involve my canine companion, for exercise (as she will always remind me) is a daily requirement. However, it is a luxury to be able to go out 'sans chien' and I make the most of the ability of stealth on those occasions.They are the days when I purposely go out looking for photographs.

Today was not one of those luxury days but I always try to carry a camera with me anyway, so that I don't have one of those 'If only' moments. Having chosen a slightly different venue for todays ramble, I let mutt have just a little bit of 'let your hair down' freedom before calling her back to my side. Big mistake. Before I knew it I saw a couple of flashes of medium-sized, black and white rumps, closely followed by one smaller black rump disappearing into a thicket. Knowing that the recall whistle would probably scare anything else away, it was my only hope of voicing my displeasure at her actions.

Thankfully, the hours and hours of dog training classes proved worthwhile and she returned breathless, if looking slightly pleased with herself. Lead clipped back on, we then stood quietly for a while, and surprisingly, she made no attempt to bind me. (I think she might have got the message) Suddenly to my right, I was aware of movement. I quickly lifted up my camera and clicked two shots before the animal and myself both realised we were staring into each others eyes. Seconds later, four Fallow deer blew their cover and shot out across the winter field, allowing me the chance for a couple more 'that's all you are getting' shots.

Stealth is not mutts' strongest trait. But don't worry, I am planning to go back... on my own.

Monday 24 January 2011

Boys in Wooly Coats

Whilst still on things bovine, I thought you might like to see a lovely young fella. He was one from a herd of Galloways I photographed last August. They are farmed organically by a friend of ours in Ireland and I understand that they are much more trouble-free than some of the other traditionally farmed breeds. Being hardy, they can easily tolerate the harshness of the weather that we, and unusually, the Irish have experienced this winter. Able to live off poor ground, the mothers calve easily, have abundant milk and the breed produces wonderful beef. Sounds perfect. I have to say, I was particularly taken by their lovely wooly coats and curly hair-dos though.

So, why so much interest in cattle? Well, I began a documentary project last year, focusing on the changes in dairy/cattle farming in a particular corner of Ireland. These changes have happend in less than a generation and will have implications for many generations to come. I am keen to capture some of this remaining lifestyle before it disappears completely as well as photographing the moves forward, such as that, our friend has made.

Having a number of photographic forays already in the bag, I still have several trips planned to continue with this project. I will endeavour to keep you up-dated with progress although I guess this project will be on-going, with the end difficult to define. However, I hope to be able to share the results with you when I bring the Galloways together with the other bovine encounters, later this summer, in a documentary photographic show.

Sunday 23 January 2011

Pretty Girls

They are so pretty but they are cows.
I will excuse you for thinking that this might have been a comment overheard at a beauty pageant or fashion show, but infact, it is what I think every time I see a Jersey cow. You can't but fail to be attracted to those gorgeous eyes and the shapely mouth. Their skin tones may vary but those wonderful toffee colours just add to the overall attractiveness of their dainty frames.
I am fortunate enough to be able to see a herd of these beauties locally. I suspect, though that the pureness of breed has been adjusted slightly over the years, judging by the man they currently have about the house. This dark, handsome beast must be having the time of his life with all these pretty girls! Anyway, although some girls sport his darker hair colour, there is no disputing those original female genes.

I expect someone out there in-the-know will point out my lack of knowledge with all things bovine, and so I apologise in advance. However, anyone observing this row of breakfasting girls today, would have to agree with me that they are front-page models, compared to any of the plain-Janes that graze our fields regionally. Unlike a highly-strung super-model, these girls have a placid nature. They certainly aren't skitzy and calmly continue chomping whilst the adoring audience pass by. Their inquisitive nature does finally get the better of them though, causing each of them to turn their heads as a Mexican wave, and saying,
"Aren't I gorgeous, look at me!"

Saturday 22 January 2011

Photographic Surveillance

It is obviously the season of yo-yo weather. After cold and sunny yesterday, today we had misty and drizzly. However, this doesn't stop me being detective, looking for clues that the season moving on. Today, I happily spied on my first snowdrop and first aconite, giving me the feeling that we are making progress in the case of the changing season.
I wait for these and other signs, and each year I promise myself that I will try to document this in a photographic record. I have a superb undercover excuse to do this, whilst on my daily dog walk, and so this year I really will try to gain the required evidence.

Each day I pass a front door that has more twilight comings and goings than a house in any dodgy neighbourhood. Forget the twitching curtains, I am talking twitching noses here. I am (thankfully) too late in a morning for my canine friend to clock these long-eared residents, otherwise my cover would be blown but I am hoping at some stage, to return and take up lone surveillance, observing the movements of this estate family who unusually seem to eat their five a day. This might prove to be an interesting stake out.

The case continues...

Friday 21 January 2011

Unexciting to Interesting

Today I was working on a commission to photograph a recently completed industrial building. How exciting is that?
Well, it is all part of the job description and the brief is to deliver. So, on a bright crisp       1 deg c. day (yep, changed like the weather again) I stood outside to photograph (I have to admit) a very smart looking new building. First, my fingers were close to freezing onto the tripod and camera body and then the cold drained the last bit of juice from my remote shutter release. Did I have a spare battery? What do you think? (Note to self, anticipate batteries failing when least expecting it)
After a circumnavigation of the building a number of usable outside shots were in the bag. My attention then moved to inside. I'm not sure why but I couldn't resist the strong compulsion to remove my heavy weight boots to walk on the most amazing floor I had seen in ages. Numbed to the cold creeping up through my socks I spent the next half hour marvelling at the light and trying to capture this atmosphere in what was 'just an industrial unit'. In a few days time, it would take on a completely different persona when the new inhabitants move in. It probably wouldn't appear this interesting again.
Oh, I think I did manage to bag the interior shots the client needed as well.

Thursday 20 January 2011

Another wet day - Oh Joy!

Only yesterday I had hoped there was a seasonal improvement but I should know by now that British weather can change like, well, like the weather. Rain can mean that any chance of photography is short-lived and the camera stays safely in the kit bag.
Not so, wet days can also present some unusual opportunities if you just take time to look.
Having bagged the front seat of a nearly empty double-decker I thought it an excellent opportunity to play with my little point and shoot. Clicking away in a pretty random manner had the effect of keeping new passengers away from my superb vantage point. (No-one chooses to sit next to a nutter on the bus now do they? See if I care!)
The raindrop spattered window gave the throw of focus I desired, making a quite ordinary city street scene into one altogether more interesting. It also produced the added effect of the raindrops acting almost like prisms on the hard edges of the subject. (Click on the image and take a closer look in the larger window)
You have seen a similar effect before? Sure, check out the Plastic Wrap filter in Photoshop, but his time it was done without a little help from our friend Adobe. Oh Joy!

Wednesday 19 January 2011

From Despair to Hope

We are now a couple of days past what they call 'Low Monday' and this year it certainly did live up to its name, weather-wise at least. Frankly it was dark, dreary and wet, enough to drive even the most cheerful soul to despair. Hibernating and emigration are two options that often come to mind as a cure for this desperation although the latter is infinitely more realistic of course.
So, dreaming of tropical beaches whilst on my daily dog walk today, I suddenly became aware that we might at last be starting to turn the seasonal corner. Birds were tuning up their song, small green shoots were pushing up through the leaf litter and earth worms were slithering out of shot faster than a camera-shy teenager.

Given the early stage in the day, I can forgive the sun for only being there in body, if not in spirit and whilst it might have back-lit the spectacular show of spring catkins, the fact is there - the season is changing. (I hope!)

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Three legs with two legs + four legs?

If there are two things that don't go together they are wildlife photography and dog walking.
Today I was (foolishly) trying to do both out of necessity, as I am in sole charge of our four-legged friend for the next couple of days. As the sun had happily graced us with its presence today I thought I would grab a few evening shots on our walk out at the woods. To ensure that I stood a vain chance of spotting anything exciting I kept mutt on the lead, but as expected, that white stag and his girls were just too wise to show even their noses to this wrestling duo.
Why wrestling? Well, each time I tried to put the camera to my eye, I would have to clamp the end of the lead between my knees, as, with the ground beneath my feet resembling a mud bath I had already (sensibly) dismissed the option of standing on it. This enforced restraint was just too much for her with those enticing wafts of beckoning scents and after a minute of patiently sitting next to me, she started the binding process. Feeling trussed up like a spiders next dinner, I swung the camera back on my shoulder and unwound myself from the mess, mindful of the fact that me, dog and camera could all end up in a heap in the mud.
It was at this point I suddenly wished my camera was securely on top of a tripod, fulfilling two roles. One of keeping the kit out of this wrestling action and the other of allowing some stability for those tricky evening exposure times. Actually, it was a stupid wish on this occasion, as it would only have been another awkward walking companion. Apart from which, that particular piece of kit is currently on (pain of death!) loan to my dearest who is away for the next couple of days.
So, in the absence of any wildlife and with no three legged assistant, I resorted to a fence post as an impromptu monopod and took a shot at the one thing that stayed still for long enough - the lovely (almost) full moon, before two legs + four legs rambled back for tea.

Monday 17 January 2011

Taming the Beast

Have just been to collect a beast of a display graphic for KB Buildings to use at this weeks LAMMA show, and indeed, future shows. It is always a heart stopping moment when you see your photos blown up to display size - will I have missed a dust spot somewhere? On first inspections all appeared fine as I was more concerned with learning how the vinyl beast curls up back into the transport cases. Should be interesting to see if this beast will be tamed by the show guys!
Voila, the result of a successful collaboration from Ailec Photography and Ailec Designs

Sunday 16 January 2011

Car(e) Free Area

Firstly, welcome to the first posting on my new blog in this new year!
I will call this my care free area as it is going to be less formal than my website and will keep those who are interested, up to date with the rovings with my camera (and anything else that might be vaguely relevant)
The image was captured last Tuesday on a wintery Inch beach, County Kerry where clearly the locals are care free.