Calling in the professionals

Summit of Tryfan, Easter 1948

Summit of Tryfan, Easter 1948

As I’ve said in the past, I’ve always enjoyed taking photographs ….an interest (like hill walking) that I got from my father.  Back before I was ever thought of, my dad used to supplement his wage (he worked in one of the big printers in London) by taking wedding photographs.  His real love though was photographing the places he visited, the gentle rural scenes he found in the post war Essex and Sussex countryside …and of course the mountains of North Wales which he visited with several of his mates in the late 40’s and early 50’s.  Of course it was all black and white then and many are the tales of his being in trouble with my gran for staining the sink and bath with photographic chemicals …the family bathroom was his dark room at that time.  He certainly came up with some really nice images and after his death a couple of years ago I found a large box in his house, full to the brim with the photos he’d taken at this time.  To be honest I just haven’t had time to look through them all, but amongst the pictures I have found is a wonderful shot he took on the Llanberis Pass in 1948.  At the time he and his mates used to ride large motorbikes and on the occasion of this photo …one of them had broken down.  The picture shows the AA man along with several of his friends, standing by the machine …and the AA man with his own bike and side car too.  Quite incredible.

Carmarthen Fa

Carmarthen Fan

But I digress …he of course encouraged me to take photos and after a couple of small ‘snapper’ cameras I bought my first SLR …the trusty old Zenith that I’ve mentioned before and the great little Weston light meter.  For a long time this all worked well and although I was never a great photographer I did on occasions take some nice pictures.  This though all started to go array when my sight got worse.  Film and developing / printing was not so cheap and when many of the photos started to contain odd fingers and thumbs then it was time to think again.  Thankfully this coincided with the appearance of the digital camera and so I moved back to a fairly simple ‘snapper’ …but this times a digital one. This has worked well for me and it is what I use when we’re out on the hill.

Recording my work though has proved slightly more problematic.  I’ve never really known what I’m doing when it comes to photographing paintings indoors and although the images have been adequate, the quality in many of them (I sure some of you have noticed) has not been all that it should have been.  This was bought home to me last year when you may remember I was asked to write an article for ‘The Nature of Scotland’  …the magazine produced by Scottish Natural Heritage.  I wrote the article and was asked to provide some images of work to go with it.  I selected about half a dozen and sent everything off…..and it was all fine.  Then the editor contacted me to say that they wanted to use one of my paintings for the wrap around cover ….wow …what an opportunity.  Around that time I’d completed a large piece (200 x 100 cm) and this seemed the ideal painting for the purpose.  I sent off the image and sat back and waited to see the resultant magazine with my painting covering it.  But the bad news came.  When the printers had enlarged the image I’d sent, they found that it wasn’t sharp!  It looked ok on a small scale but not when increased to A3.  With that I lost the opportunity of having my painting on the front of all those magazines.  Of course the article went ahead inside but I’d lost the cover …there wasn’t time to get another photo taken and they used a rather spectacular landscape photo instead.

'Overlooking Glen Coe'

'Overlooking Glen Coe'

'Breaking mists, the Pap of Glen Coe'

'Breaking mists, the Pap of Glen Coe'

So then ….it’s taken me a bit of time to learn from this ….but at last I’ve taken the plunge and called in the assistance of a professional photographer to record my work.  It was a good experience watching him work and seeing all the effort he went to, to get it right …well it’s no surprise that I couldn’t do it myself!  He photographed most of the work I had available …much of it work that will go into my exhibition at The Strathearn Gallery in Crieff.  I’m pleased with the results and it means that if I ever have another chance to have work published, or if I decide to have prints made, or sometime in the future want to produce a small book about my paintings …well, I’ll have the best quality images available…..no more disappointments!

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