Wednesday 29 February 2012

Regional Alphabet Quest

As I mentioned last month in 'Just Isn't Cricket' I have been on a 'Regional Alphabet Quest' with my now, eighty-year-old mum. In 26 months we have visited 26 places alphabetically, all within a certain radius of her adopted home.

Today was a landmark day. Not just because it is a Leap Day but because we completed our challenge. Often it was a mystery tour for her, having not being able to guess the chosen destination. Sometimes though, it was quite obvious where we would end up, as it was with Q. Wherever we went, it was an enjoyable and fun foray. Even her friends were excited for her, wanting to know where she might be going to next. During this time I revisited some places I had been to before, and also ventured to new villages, often chosen because of their interesting sounding names. As you can imagine though, we have had to resort to a bit of artistic licence at times but I'm sure you will forgive us. However, you have to agree, we have done pretty well to find something to fit the bill every time.

Audley End
Good Easter
High Easter
Jaspers Green
Steeple Bumpstead
Hanchett Village
Linton Zoo

So, what did we achieve from this?
A bit of mother and daughter interaction. An introduction and getting to know her adoptive home area. Fun.
Again though, it involved looking and seeing. As well as seeing the places, we saw so much on the way there and back too. It has been a lovely journey together. Something I will cherish.

I will be turning this series of photographs into a piece of Book Art which I will show at my Open Studios in July, where this years theme will be Local. So, if you are intrigued and want to take a peek, keep looking for the mentions about how and when you can come and see the work (and me!) over the coming weeks.

Oh, and just for the record, I did take mum home today. I didn't leave her in the zoo!

Tuesday 28 February 2012

“You really have to look”

Looking, Hockney-style
'Flat' from the camera
"You really have to look" was what came over clearly in the BBC Culture Show Special on Hockney, 'The Art of Seeing'

Hockney has an ethos which I subscribe to whole-heartedly - looking. Over the past year, one of the main driving forces behind my posts, has been to bring things... anything, little things, important things to general attention, rather than being overlooked. I can spend hours 'out in the field', looking, observing, watching. It might be people, places, happenings, wildlife, or my favourite thing, light. The latter can add a magic to all of the other elements and without it, many things would either not be seen at all or just be seemingly mundane. It is when things appear mundane, they become overlooked - but they shouldn't be.
Remember recently,
The pile of apples (post)
The sun dog (post)
The red feet (post)
They were all things that were posted because I had been looking. Not everyone might find these posts thrilling or exciting but if just one person spent a little time looking as a result, then it has all been worth it.

I can't admit that I had been seeing colour quite the way Hockney does though, but I will certainly be looking harder from now on. As a photographer, I do seek to portray realism in my images rather than being illustrative, so my interpretation of 'the tunnel' above is in praise of, what can only be described as his colourful work. A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to acquire tickets to his landmark exhibition at the RA. Unfortunately it was unbearably busy which did detract from the enjoyment somewhat but don't be deterred. If you need some colour to cheer you at the end of these Winter months, I can't recommend 'A Bigger Picture' enough.

Saturday 25 February 2012

A Unique West Cork Music Venue

There is only one way to experience the music in De Barras of Clonakilty, (I posted about the music previously) and that is to be there. However, for those of you who haven't yet ventured over the Irish Sea to West Cork, I'm posting this set of images so that you might just get a flavour of this unique music venue.

It was once said by Christy Moore
"There’s Carnegie Hall, The Royal Albert, Sydney Opera House and then there’s De Barra's,"

Many famous names have ventured through the doors along with Christy Moore, including (in the past) Noel Redding and (more recently) my favourites, Bell X1.

So I'm inviting you to soak up a little of the atmosphere here, just enough to whet your appetite, and then for you to make the journey there for yourself.


This follows on from the previous post

Friday 24 February 2012

Irish Trad Session Photoshoot

Firstly, may I say a very big thank you to De Barras of Clonakilty, Denis Noonan and all his fellow trad musicians, for allowing me loose with my camera at the Monday night trad session this week. As always, it was an evening where the craic was abundant and the atmosphere was soaked up by all. This included my American friend, who I had encouraged to join me on this particular flying visit to West Cork.

Whilst it may seem that my Irish documentary work was rounded off last summer with the aspects of life in rural West Cork exhibition, this is infact still an on-going documentary project.
This photoshoot had been arranged to take in an aspect that I so far had not recorded. The traditional music scene still thrives, with DeBarras Folk Club in Clonakilty being a mecca for music of all kinds.

Monday night is 'traditionally the traditional night', with a table being reserved for the group of musicians in the corner of the bar next to the roaring fire. Sometime around 10pm, the whole evening kicks off, and for around two and a half hours, chat, ballads and lively instrumental music entertain the visitors to this cosy and uniquely decorated bar (images). Space is at a premium, and it is not unusual to be four-deep from the bar which places the crowd right on top of the players, who have carefully ensured they have just enough room for the fiddlers elbow movement.

The core of four musicians can swell to nine or more as participation is encouraged. This creates a large circle which inevitably means some players have their back to the audience. This was a condition I had anticipated when I knew I was to photograph in DeBarras. Along with a lack of space and the very very low light levels all would add to make this a challenging photoshoot. I was to shoot completely hand-held, at very high ISO (which admittedly would give atmospheric grain to the images) and using F stops of 5.6 and less. All this whilst respecting the personal space of the musicians and regarding the rest of the audience. Below are just a selection, and to those musicians not included this time, my sincere apologies.

Denis Noonan -
Tommy Madden - Guitar

Cathal Hickey - Banjo

Jerry Lombard (Irl) - Fiddle
Paddy Keenan - Uilleann pipes

Matty Gordon (US) - Fiddle

(Please note all images are copyright Ailec Photography. Copies of these images are available to order. Unauthorised use is not permitted)

Click on images to enlarge
Table coverage - beginning of session

Denis Noonan on Bodhrán

Tommy Madden on Guitar

Matty Gordon (US) on fiddle

Paddy Keenan on Uilleann pipes

Cathal Hickey - Banjo

Table coverage - end of session

Thursday 16 February 2012

With Fair Weather Comes...

The fair weather has returned, although I understand it may only be temporary. However, with the temperature a good 20 degrees higher than it was at the weekend, lots of things are starting to happen.

As I have already written, the hares are busy boxing but with the snow gone, they are now once again camouflaged against the field. The birds are heartily singing and the woodpeckers are drumming loudly. It was so lovely out on the walk with mutt in the countryside today, I actually returned home happily weary but peacefully refreshed.

Lunchtime however, was signalled by a crescendo of crackling babble outside, and it came from no creature you will find in a wildlife book. The broken peace actually heralded the arrival home of my better half. The fair weather had given him the excuse he had been hoping for – he just couldn't wait any longer. He had hopped onto his newly restored Italian two-wheeled machine to 'just go off for lunch' His reasoning-
"To try it out before the Bristol Italian Auto Moto Festival in April"

It wouldn't be right for me for me to class him as a fair weather rider as he doesn't seem to mind getting cold and wet, but with this little spell of fair weather there certainly came a fair weather bike. (He chooses not to ride it in bad weather as he does mind having to clean the bike afterwards!)
Look out for those fair weather bikes- they're starting to wake up.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Countdown to Cambridge Open Studios 2012

Once again I joined with my fellow Open Studio artists during the weekend, at the gathering that heralds the start of the run-up for our annual event. Over 200 multi-disciplined artists from in and around Cambridge, will be opening up their studios for anyone to visit during four weekends in July, as Cambridge Open Studios.

I'm pleased to announce that I will again, be opening the doors of my studio during the second and third weekends of July. Following on from 'Images of Africa' in 2010 and 'Aspects of West Cork' in 2011, I will be coming right in close to home with:


We all pass the local familiar places but often we don't truly see those places or the happenings and life going on right under our noses
. Over the last few years, I have been documenting such happenings and now wish to present my photographic and creative record to you. From people and events to places and wildlife, they will all put in an appearance - come and see how much you recognise, or not!

To those who have visited my Open Studios over the past couple of years, thank you and I hope you might choose to visit me again this year. To those who know nothing of Open Studios, click on the yellow Open Studios image above to find out more.

Meantime, there is much to do but I will be posting updates over the coming weeks.

Saturday 11 February 2012

'Tit Bonhomme Search Concludes

'Tit Bonhomme 15.01.12

In memory of the five men who lost their lives, caught in the nets of the sea,
may they all now rest in peace.

To the one who survived the grips of the sea,
may he find comfort.

For all those, family, friends, rescuers and the community of Union Hall,
may they find light now this dark shadow has been lifted.

Thursday 9 February 2012

Hares, Pigeons & Deer

Brown Hare Lepus Europaeus

It was late morning when I bundled mutt and my camera into the car, to go out for the daily walk. Off to see what the snowy conditions might reveal, and although I didn't know it then, it was going to turn out to be a gamey sort of day.

Taking a slightly different route to our favourite woods, it took me past an area that can often be full of hares. However, it is usually quite difficult to spot these leggy ground-dwellers as they hunch themselves up, appearing like clods of earth, from a distance. Today, their cover was blown by the blanket of snow still lying over the fields and very quickly
I was able to spot around fifteen of them as I went by. I watched as they gracefully moved around each other, occasionally taking a practice punch from a startled buddy. (Yes, that season is approaching)

Suddenly, a huge flock of wood pigeon swarmed out of the nearby wood like a black cloud, smothering the white field as they landed to feed on the new crop shoots. This undesired grazing by hundreds of birds was clearly of great concern to the farmer as shortly after, the in-situ gas scarer let off three intense bangs. And did the pigeons move? No. Not a flinch! Only in their own good time did they flock up to move to the next field quarter.

It was time for me to move on too. Mutt was being patient but would rather be off on her way. With a heightened snowy contrast amongst the trees I was hopeful of catching sight of a deer or two during our walk and I wasn't disappointed. A group of five fallow deer pronked through the trees, stopping just long enough for me to catch a couple of shots before vanishing again. Any hope of sneaking up on them was thwarted by our crispy footstep alarm, but for once, I wasn't too worried as what I really wanted was to return to the hares.

Suitably exercised, mutt was left in the car as I set off alone, creeping along a drainage ditch down the side of the field (This is where for once, I was thankful for the dry Autumn/Winter) I wasn't the first to leave footprints in the snow here either. Mr fox had been along sometime before, probably with a similar hope of getting close to a hare or two. Thankfully for me, the air was completely still and so there was little risk of the hares picking up my sound or even, my scent. Conveniently, a stately tree gave me the cover I needed to climb out of the ditch, and I sat amongst its branches hoping that the hares, who were now in much better camera range, might continue their gambol around the field in front of me. Whilst it may have been -1, the lack of any breeze made the long, quiet wait quite bareable. Thanks to my substantial clothing I was snug. The only thing not provided by my coat was camouflage. My normally inconspicuous colour was woefully inadequate in the current conditions, but the hares didn't seem to mind. Instead they just sat, and sat.

Patience finally had to give way to conscience and I returned to the car where mutt had fallen asleep.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Sculptural Delight

With the combination of the lingering snow and a clear blue sky, this snow sculpture, beit by chance or design, was there to be enjoyed.

Monday 6 February 2012

Snow = Birds

The snow may not be my favourite weather condition but the one benefit it does have is to bring the birds into the garden. (Pity they didn't turn up for the RSPB Big Garden Watch the other weekend!)

It is always a delight when the goldfinches come to visit. Have had twelve descend on the seedheads on one occasion but only four today, and unfortunately had to catch them this time, through the undesirable 'double glazing filter'.

Sunday 5 February 2012

Don't Fear the Snowmen

Snowfall at the weekend meant that whole families were able to enjoy the the fun of the stuff. From sledging to snowball fights, snowboarding to snowmen. I counted around forty potential heaps or completed icy-beings on our Common today. These days, to take pictures of the families enjoying themselves sledging in the snow would incur serious looks from certain quarters. So, to avoid confrontation I indulged in some portrait shots of those who had
no worries regards my documenting.

Lighting was less than perfect but I snapped away regardless, as these characters could well haved moved on by the time the ethereal spotlight does come on. They all looked pretty happy to be infront of the camera though, all giving me lovely big smiles.

Doesn't it make a change to enjoy street photography without the fear of comeback?