Women Riders World Relay ride to Valle Crucis Abbey, Llangollen

Hayley Bell arranged a ride out to beautiful Llangollen in North Wales which was an absolute riot of autumnal colours.  A bit of light drizzle at the outset didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits and we headed off to the nearby ruins of the Valle Crucis Abbey.  Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to fit the bikes along the walkway into the grounds.  So after some shots with the ladies and their bikes at the entrance to the abbey we went into the ruins and I took some individual shots of the riders.  Although no one really knew each other at the start friendships soon blossomed and by the end of the shoot it looked like a group of riders who had known each other for years.

You can see a slideshow of the shoot by clicking HERE


Family portraits – the Wade family

Family Portraits

I photographed Naomi when she was very tiny and now she’s almost a toddler.  Caroline wanted some portraits for her in-laws of their grandchildren so it was off to Denzell Gardens to take some shots of Ryan and Naomi with their grandparents Vivien and Nigel.  Ryan’s mum Vicky joined us as well.

 

You can see a slide show of all the images by clicking HERE

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Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride

The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride is an international charity event for classic and vintage styled motorcycles that raises awareness and funds for the Movember Foundation’s men’s health programmes.  More than 50,000 dapper riders in over 500 cities across 90 countries united for the world’s largest motorcycling charity event upon their classic & vintage styled motorcycles.  I went along to the one in Manchester.  There were nearly 200 registered riders and they all looked amazing along with some spectacular bikes.

 

You can see a slide show of the images by clicking here

 

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Family portraits – The Doyle family

Family Portraits

I love outdoor photo shoots.  They are all different and they allow personalities to shine through.  Fred and Eunice wanted a portrait session of their four grandchildren and we went to a small woodland near their home in Pilling, Lancs.  The children were absolutely brilliant and we had a fantastic time amongst the bluebells and in the woods.

 

You can see a slide show of all the images by clicking HERE

 

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Family Portraits – Samuel in the bluebells

Family Portraits

This is one of my favourite times of the year.  Leafs are starting to fill out the trees and blossoms abound.  However it its the flowering of the bluebells which tops it all and finding the right bit of woodland is what I’m always searching for.  Last year I found a hidden bluebell wood deep in a small woodland.  When Sarah said she wanted a bluebell shoot of her son Samuel as a surprise present for her husband, Jamie, for Fathers’ Day we trekked through the woods to the carpet of bluebells.  Sarah’s Mum came along and of course I had to make sure she was involved no matter how much she tried to protest, 😄.  I bet when she sees the results she will be glad I cajoled her, lol.  Thankfully the weather was fantastic despite the fact we had had a hailstorm less than a week before hand.  The ground had dried out nicely and everyone was able to sit on the ground without getting damp.

 

You can see a slide show of all the images by clicking HERE

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Horse riding the Australian way

I have known for many years how obsessed my niece, Andy, is with horses and I asked her if I could go along to where she worked to take some shots.  I realised the Sydney Trail Riding Centre was not going to be anything like stables I had encountered in England.  For a start it was just a little bit bigger than I was used to.  In fact it was a LOT bigger than I could have imagined.  It covers 500 acres!!!  The style of riding is different too.  They practice ‘Western’ riding as opposed to ‘English’ riding which isn’t a geographical thing but a style which has evolved from ranching whereby the horse can be controlled with one hand whilst the rider would often use a lasso.  When I first started to photograph animals I always wanted the shots to be as natural as possible.  I have never wanted to photograph horses and riders whereby the rider is standing next to the horse wearing a little hard hat, holding the reins and smiling at the camera.  Looking after a horse is not like looking after a dog or a Guinea pig; it takes commitment, hard work and a love of shovelling poo!!

I was very lucky to be able to spend a couple of hours photographing Andy and the horses.  It looks an idyllic life; roaming the range on the back of a horse, having hundreds of acres to ride in and, of course, fantastic weather.  However, I know how much time and effort puts into a job she loves.  She told me that at the end of the day the horses are washed down and then taken down a road and into what looked to me like a small English county!!   The horses gallop down a road, through a wooded area and run free into a massive……..well, field doesn’t do it justice.  She took her Mum, cousin and me to a high point overlooking where she said we could see the horses break through the wooded area far below us en masse and then went back to get them.  Colette and Conor stood about 15 metres behind me as we waited to hear the beeping of the pick up truck’s horn which would herald the arrival of the horses below us at the bottom of the hill.  Eventually we heard the horn and I trained my long lens on the edge of the wood.  Suddenly Colette screamed “F**king hell, they’re here!!!” (or words to that effect, lol) and I turned to my right to see horses come thundering through the top end of the woods close to us.  Within a split second Colette and Conor were millimetres away from my back as forty horses came charging towards us.  Looking back now it was hilarious 🙂 🙂  At the time I was frantically trying to photograph the stampede and kept thinking ‘that white horse is homing in on me’, lol.  It was an unbelievable sight as the horses ran freely onto the grassland.  It was an amazing experience and yet another from my trip that will stay with me for ever.  Thanks Andy for a truly wonderful day out. xx

 

You can see a slideshow of the images by clicking HERE

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The Rise of the Lady Biker – The Foxy Fuelers Part 2

…..and off we went.  After taking some individual shots at La Perouse I wanted to try and get some images of the girls actually riding.  It was too crowded and full of cars where we were, plus I really wanted somewhere where I could take shots without helmets.  Yes, yes I know it’s dangerous (OK…illegal too!) but one of the instant images of motor bikes is freedom and hair blowing in the wind (although not quite like Kara’s, even without the bike, lol).

All the iconic images of people on bikes are shot without helmets (Easy Rider, Top Gun, Mission Impossible….) which meant we needed to find somewhere safe and traffic free.  Thankfully some of the girls knew of a private road next to Botany Bay Container Terminal so off we went.  One of the first sights we saw was of a testosterone filled young lad pulling wheelies, parading in front of eight beautiful women.  It was quite funny, and somewhat predictable, although I might have been tempted to do the same many decades ago (if I could ride a bike that is, 😄).  Pretty soon we had the road to ourselves and fortunately it was wide enough so the girls could ride eight abreast (when no one stalled that is 😄😄).  After a couple of runs I simply asked them to just chat amongst themselves whilst I took some informal shots.  Once again the shots were improved by rolling clouds giving the occasional dramatic backdrop and again I’ve included a black and white version of most of the images.

Thank you so much ladies for all your patience and co-operation in making my final biker shoot so brilliant. xx

You can view a slideshow of all the images by clicking HERE

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The Rise of the Lady Biker – The Foxy Fuelers, Sydney, Australia

After leaving the USA I headed for Australia and met up with some fabulous bikers from the Foxy Fuelers at La Perouse, Sydney.  Nicolette Skobier is the top fox and she organised some of the Foxies to meet up at Botany Bay National Park for a shoot as part of my project ‘The Rise of the Lady Biker’.  They were all young women with a passion for motor bikes and I loved the whole look of the group and decided I wanted to create black and white versions of the images as I felt it would possibly look better.  So the slideshow has most of the images fading from black and white to colour and you can make your own mind up as to which looks better.

Sydney had just had three days of torrential rain and as I drove to La Perouse the heavens opened once more but the storm clouds soon parted, sadly a little too late for Sarah who got caught right in the middle of a downpour.  The sun came out and there were some fantastic clouds that kept rolling in and black and white photographs can really bring out all the definition.  After some group shots I started taking individual ones.  I told the girls I did not want to take cheesy ‘sitting on a bike smiling at the camera’ images but rather I wanted some attitude as well as relaxed, chillin’ ones.  They played their parts to perfection.  I wanted to take some of them riding and preferably without helmets.  The place where we were was full of parked cars and did not really lend itself to more than two riders at a time.  Nicolette suggested we drive to a private road next to the Port Botany Container Terminal and you can see the results in Part 2.

You can view a slideshow of all the images by clicking HERE

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Lady Bikers of California – Malibu Riders

I left Santa Barbara on sadly my last day in the States and headed off to Malibu for another shoot I had arranged with some more of the wonderful Lady Bikers of California.  The winds were unbelievably high and I stopped off in San Buenaventura beach to photograph some of the huge waves.  They were so strong they actually washed away part of a pier at Ventura less than a mile away from where I was!

I met up with the ladies at Neptune’s Net restaurant and after a bite to eat we started the rather windswept shoot across the road with the amazing Pacific Ocean as a backdrop.  Sadly due to time restrictions some of the ladies had to leave after I photographed the individual riders so I followed Debra and Kathleen to Zuma beach to finish off the shoot.  It was the perfect location and just the sort of place I wanted as a background.  The Lifeguard’s station was pure American.  I wanted to try and take shots wherever I went that screamed where they had been taken.  The location may have been perfect but the weather wasn’t.  The winds blew an almighty sandstorm right across the beach where I was trying to work.  It got so bad when I was photographing Debra that Kathleen had to try and shield me and my camera with a coat.  Unfortunately I think some sand somehow got into my sealed camera and lens and I’ve had a slight problem with it since.  Not to worry; it can be fixed, and I got the shots I was after.  So forget expensive exfoliants and simply lie down in the road next to a very windswept beach 😄😄.

Although there were lots of colourful bikes and clothing I thought the shots would look brilliant in black and white so I did a colour version (which you can see below) and created a B&W version for the slideshow.  You can make up your own mind which works best.

I said goodbye to Debra and Kathleen, thanked them for their patience and co-operation and headed off to have a look round Santa Monica before heading off to the airport for my flight to Sydney.  It was the perfect last day of my adventure in America.  I wish I could do it all over again.  Thank you so much to all the ladies who took part.  xx

 

You can view a slideshow of all the images by clicking HERE

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Lady Bikers of California – San Francisco

I moved on from Yosemite to meet up with three more members of the Lady Bikers of California in San Francisco.  As it was during the working week only three of the ladies could make the shoot.  As it was it turned out to be a fantastic day.  It meant I could concentrate on the ladies individually and we didn’t have to spend time setting up the same sort of shots and keep swapping bikes around.

We started off at the tram terminus where Jeanne knew one of the guys who operated the trams and we were able to get right next to the turntable.  The ladies were pure ‘Bad Ass’, when they weren’t trying to suppress the giggles that is 😄😄.

Tee suggested we go to a jetty that has Alcatraz in the background as it could look awesome.  All was going well as I set up the shots I wanted to take and then there was a problem……a police car arrived with flashing lights and siren!!!  A rather stern looking lady police officer approached us and I tried to plead ignorance but Tee had already said that she know what we were doing was illegal (Doh!).  I was instructed to put my camera down and not to dare take any more shots as she went to speak to Michelle and Jeanne.  So we left but I had already got some of the shots I wanted.

We then headed off to Fort Point which is right under the Golden Gate Bridge.  The scene was amazing…….the might of the Golden Gate Bridge….the roaring surf and in my mind the slightly mad surfers.  The weather wasn’t brilliant and the light was rather dull to say the least but somehow it all added to the atmosphere.

 

You can view a slideshow of all the images by clicking HERE

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Lady Bikers of California Part 2

After leaving Bandit Town we headed to ‘Bonnie B Ranch’ which is set in the hills and has fantastic views in the background.  I thought it was the perfect place to take some individual shots of the ladies.  Some of them were not too enthusiastic about posing for the camera but I tried to assure them it wouldn’t involve any pain and they would learn to count to six 😄😄😄

I would like to say a huge thank you to all the ladies who came along.  It was a pleasure to take the shots and I had a ball working with you all and hopefully I have made some new friends.

 

You can see a slideshow of all the individual shots by clicking here

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Family Portraits – Happy Birthday Dad

Family Portraits

As men get older it becomes more difficult to decide what to get us for birthdays and Christmas.  Jayne decided to get her husband a present that will last for years; a portrait shoot of his lovely daughters, Lizzy, Alice and Madeleine.  I love autumn portrait shoots as they provide the most spectacular colours, (providing it’s not raining of course!).  As luck would have it the rain held off during the shoot and it wasn’t too cold.

I’ve always said that when you have more than one child the image you really want to see is one where they all look like they actually like each other!!  There was no acting needed with the girls.  They were brilliant and a joy to work with.  They did everything I asked of them and more 😃.  At the end of the shoot I took them onto the lawn which was full of crisp leaves and let nature take its course.  Sibling rivalry took over and scores were settled with a battle of leaves.  Thankfully the girls all said they really enjoyed the session and couldn’t wait to see the results.

You can see a slide show of all the images by clicking HERE

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Horse photography Rubes & Sarah

Horse photography

I recently had the pleasure of photographing two experienced and confident riders, Sarah and her daughter Ruby with their horse and pony, Blue and Coco.  First of all we went for a short walk along the Trans-Pennine trail with the horses.  It was a beautiful day and the setting was perfect.  We headed back to the stables and I took some shots of Ruby and her pony, Coco, galloping in one of the fields next to the stables.  We set up some fences in the arena and before long Ruby was suggesting they “Bang it up” to to get her Mum to jump higher as Sarah put Blue through its paces.  It was time for some close up shots so I decided to let the horses get used to me next to the jumps and eventually I managed to get some great shots with my fish-eye lens.  We finished off with Sarah & Ruby relaxing whilst their horses recovered from the jumping.

You can see a slide show of all the images by clicking here

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The Rise of the Lady Biker – ‘Calamity’ Jane

The Rise of the Lady Biker

Whilst I was photographing some of the Lippy Ladies MCC recently I got chatting to one of the group who was known as ‘Calamity Jane’.  She was the perfect example of the rise of the lady biker.  She had this beautiful black and white bike and a matching black and white leather jacket.  I asked her how long she had been riding bikes and was surprised when she said she only passed her test 18 months ago.  I must admit I couldn’t help but smile when I asked her why she had chosen that particular  bike and she told me went into the showroom it was on a revolving stand with spotlights highlighting it and she just said “I want that one”.  She admitted she knew nothing about it but just liked how it looked.  That will probably horrify some hardened lady bikers but it doesn’t really matter as she loves riding it and is a confident rider.  It turns out she is a real thrill junkie and has been a National Hunt jockey, goes scuba diving and is planning a sky dive soon.  I loved the whole minimalist black and white look and knew that I would love to do some graphical images of her and her bike and I had a couple of locations in mind.  As the day of the shoot drew nearer I stupidly looked at the weather forecast and it said it was going to raining all day on the Sunday but the Bank Holiday Monday was going to be clear all day.  So the day was changed and instead of her coming to me in Sale on the Sunday I went to her in Barnsley, to the site of a ruined priory, on Bank Holiday Monday.  Yes you’ve guessed it.  Typical sodding weather forecast, Sunday in Sale was perfect and it was pouring rain in Barnsley on the Monday.  We had decided to make an early start with the shoot to try and avoid as many people as possible at the priory.  So after a very early start I finally arrived at the priory just before 8:00am only to be confronted with locked gates!!!  Jane hadn’t noticed them when she went to have a look earlier in the week as they were wide open then.  She and her fellow biker, Catherine, soon turned up and I realised there was nothing we could do and no one had any suggestions for an alternative location.  So off to the local cafe for a brew and wait until 10:00am for the gates to be opened.  Thankfully when we returned the gates were open and the grounds of the priory deserted.  No wonder considering the pouring rain!!

Jane was brilliant and said a little bit of rain wasn’t going to put her off.  The only problem was that well known curse of lady bikers, ‘helmet hair’.  Again Jane wasn’t bothered and the shoot progressed with Catherine very kindly holding a large umbrella over my camera.  The location was fantastic as there will be no other medieval ruins in any of the cities I visit when I set off around the world.  Thank you so much Jane for all your co-operation.  You’re a star xx.

 

You can see more of the shots from the shoot by clicking here

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The Rise of the Lady Biker – Women in the Wind

The Rise of the Lady Biker

My project is gathering pace.  I have booked the photographic trip of several lifetimes and I’m off to New York, California, Sydney, Singapore and Dubai at the end of November.  I’ve photographed some groups of lady bikers over the last few months and enjoyed it so much I have decided to document the rise of the lady biker across the globe on my travels.  My latest shoot involved some members of Women in the Wind (Wolf Spirit UK chapter) and in the shoots so far I have tried to highlight some iconic backdrops in the images.  I decided to take the photographs for this one on and around the ‘Silver Jubilee Bridge’ which spans the River Mersey from Widnes to Runcorn in Cheshire.  An early morning roll call was called for to try and minimise the amount of other traffic.  Unfortunately some thunder storms during the night may have put some of the riders, who said they were going, off.  Nevertheless we went ahead and had a fantastic time and as it turned out the skies were totally clear and the sun beamed down.  The ladies were brilliant.  They were willing to go back and forth as often as necessary to get the right shots.  As time drew on the traffic built up and we had to call it a day but thankfully got the shots I wanted.

I would like to thank all those who turned up for their co-operation and patience and hopefully they like the shots as much as I do.  A special thank you goes out to Andrea Barlow for all her help in promoting and organising everything.

 

You can see a slide show of the images by clicking here

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The Lippy Ladies MCC at Castle Hill and Holme Moss

The Rise of the Lady Biker

I have booked the photographic trip of several lifetimes whereby I am travelling to New York, California, Sydney, Singapore and Dubai and hope to document the rise in the number of lady bikers around the world by arranging photo shoots in each of the places I am visiting with local ladies only motor cyclist clubs and groups.

The idea for the project came from a couple of shoots I did with some groups of women motorcyclists in Manchester and Ireland.  I enjoyed the shoots so much I decided to make it a worldwide project and I contacted some other Ladies’ Motor Cycle Clubs to try and arrange a few more shoots.  I found out about a group in Yorkshire called the Lippy Ladies and contacted their West Yorkshire representative, Julie Simpson, and explained what I was trying to do.  She said to count her in and very kindly contacted members via the club’s Facebook page and nine other ladies said they could make the location,date and time I was proposing.  I wanted to try and use some locations that highlighted parts of the UK and I found the Victoria Tower on Castle Hill near Huddersfield in Yorkshire and the ‘Woodhead Pass’ high on Holme Moss.  I suggested an early start on a Sunday morning to try and minimise the amount of traffic and visitors to the venues. Everyone seemed to have a great time as you can see in the images below.  The ladies who turned up were absolutely brilliant and were totally co-operative and obliging when the bikes needed to be manoeuvred onto some less than even ground.  The camaraderie I have found amongst the lady bikers I have photographed is wonderful.  Some of them have been riding for years whilst others are fairly new to it.  It doesn’t seem to matter to them, experienced or newbies, they are all there for each other.

I can’t wait to begin my trip and thankfully I have a few more groups to photograph before I leave.

 

You can view a slide show of all the images by clicking here

 

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Blake’s of the Hollow

Documentary photography

Thirty years ago my Australian brother-in-law, John O’ Connor, visited Ireland for the first time and discovered a wonderful Victorian pub in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.  He fondly remembered chatting away to an old regular called Jimmy (?) about visiting from Australia.  When his wife, Colette, was visiting for our nephew’s wedding we decided to call in for a wee drink on our way back to Belfast.  Jimmy sadly has passed away but there is a poster on the wall of what looks like a German Magazine cover featuring the long time regular.  It is an amazing pub which still retains many of the fixtures and fittings from 1887.  I couldn’t resist getting my camera out to capture some of the essence for John (and myself of course).  Colette and my sister-in-law, Siobhan sat chatting away with the landlord and a regular whilst I happily snapped away.  I love my fish-eye lens and it certainly came in useful in what I thought was just a tiny pub.  It turns out there are three storeys in the building and we had only seen a small part of it.  We were looking for somewhere to eat and thought they might have some pub grub but the barman told us to go through a door and down the stairs.  We went down two levels and found the most amazing restaurant called Cafe Merlot with fantastic vaulted ceilings and beautiful décor.  Somehow we were still expecting pub grub but one look at the menu told us we were in for a treat and some fine dining.  The food was wonderful and we had a great time.  It is only now as I write this I found out from its website that there are two other bars and a further restaurant.  Check it out on their website here

It was well worth a visit if you are ever in Northern Ireland 😀

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Documentary Photography

Documentary Photography

Whilst back in Belfast I visited St George’s market for some Saturday Brunch.  Well what can I say…. it was amazing.  The food, the cakes, the colours, the cakes, the fruit and veg, the cakes, and the fresh fish and meats were a full volume attack on the all the senses.  Did I mention the cakes? 😀😀.  The brunch I had was unbelievable.  I’ve never seen so much bacon and sausage in one helping.  I was really disappointed that I had not taken my camera with me.  To be honest I just thought it was going to be some old fashioned market stalls.  I never expected how good it was going to be.  I made a note to return with my camera and try to capture some of the atmosphere.  St George’s market proudly proclaims that it was voted the best large indoor market in the UK.  The atmosphere was brilliant with live music from some talented musicians and fresh food being prepared wherever you looked and of course the most delicious looking cakes I’ve seen (and tasted of course 😀).

It is definitely worth a visit (or two) if you’re anywhere near Belfast.

A slide show of the images I took can be seen  HERE

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The Class of 2015

The exams are over and the festivities are about to begin.  Claire asked her classmates from St Mary’s University College, Belfast to meet at her house before heading off to their ‘Formal’ dinner.  She told her Mum that there might be about 5 or 6 people coming to the house…….. Mum, Siobhan, took no notice and catered for an army!   As usual she was right as 26 turned up.  They were a truly great bunch and somehow even managed to enjoy the photographs, apparently.  They headed off for the meal and typical of students partied until 7:00am the next day.  To think that from September they will be allowed to actually teach school children ………………. 😀😀

To see all of the images from the evening click HERE

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Mum, Siobhan, just had to subtly phot-bomb

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Family portraits – The Lappin family

Family portraits

Whilst in Belfast I photographed Ciara, Sean and Ruairi, three super cool kids.  I had a great time with them and hopefully have captured their true personalities.  To say Sean was a complete poseur would be an understatement.  Ciara was a natural model who just fell into the right poses and Ruairi was hilarious with his attempts to mimic his older siblings’ poses.  It was a pleasure to work with them.  The only downside was that after I took them outside into the garden I didn’t realise until the following morning I had left a £2000 lens out in the pouring rain all night!!!!  Thankfully Canon lenses are very well weather sealed and there was no damage whatsoever 😀😀

If you would like to see all the images from the shoot just click HERE

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Landscape photography in Ireland

Full moon over Belfast
Full moon over Belfast

Landscape Photography

I travelled to Ireland recently to photograph a wedding and decided to stay on for a week to capture some of the beautiful landscape there.  I recently bought a special filter (10 stop ND) which slows the exposure down to minutes rather than fractions of a second which means any moving water appears as a silky mass.  I had already sorted out a few locations I wanted to travel to, at ungodly times of the day in some cases.  I wanted to take some shots at The Giant’s Causeway at sunset and sunrise.  I booked into a wonderful B&B for only £35 per night which was about 17 miles from the Causeway and headed off before sunset to get my shots.  The one thing I forgot to take into consideration was that when you are trying to get close to the sea the rocks are incredibly slippery!!  Not what you want when carrying several thousands of pounds of camera gear around 😀.  I managed to get to a couple of different spots but of course you don’t have a great deal of time to get to many different ones as crossing the hexagonal basalt is difficult even though the surface is somewhat flat.  I managed to get some shots that I thought would turn out well and went back to the B&B and set my alarm for 4:30am to catch the sunrise at the Causeway.  I managed to drag myself out of bed and into the car only to find I had 23 miles worth of petrol left and even if it were the middle of the day there aren’t many petrol stations around on the north coast.  So as I was up I headed for Ballycastle beach where I had taken a couple of long exposure shots the day before.  During the day cloud formations appear dragged with the ND filter in place.  Thankfully I managed to get some nice sunrise shots there.

I also went to a place called Tollymore Forest Park near Newcastle and thought it was one of the best places I have ever visited.  There was hardly anyone about and the forest area was full of bluebells, tweeting birds and the sound of babbling water nearby.  A river runs through the forest and there are some stepping stones at one point which take you across it.  You can see from the shots why Ireland is known as ‘The Emerald Isle’.  I also went to a local beauty spot famous for its waterfalls called Crumlin Glen where I could try some more long exposure shots.

I had arranged to meet up with a couple of lady bikers at ‘The Dark Hedges’, which is famous for being a location from ‘The Game of Thrones’ TV series, and well over twenty turned up!! It is a truly amazing location, perfect for photography.  You can see the images in another blog post.

All in all I had a fantastic trip and intend to go back again very soon to capture some more of the amazing landscape.

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Giant’s Causeway at sunset
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Ballycastle beach long exposure making the clouds streak
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Ballycastle beach at sunrise
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One of the magical waterfalls in Glenariff Forest
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Panorama of the golden beach at Waterfoot (click on image to see full photo)
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Driftwood on the deserted beach at Waterfoot
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Crumlin Glen Waterfall
Crumlin Glen waterfall
Crumlin Glen waterfall in wonderful sunlight
Crumlin Glen waterfall down stream
Crumlin Glen waterfall down stream
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Precariously strung over 30 meters above the waves!!
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Carrick-a-Rede view
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Is it me or is there a dragon in the woods?

Curvy Riders MCC Tea Party

Curvy Riders MCC Tea Party

Following the shoot with Debbie and Liz of the Curvy Riders Motor Cycle Club in Castlefield, Manchester, Debbie wanted to try and get some of the other girls together and have a shoot involving their favourite bit of the meets which is having tea and cakes.  She arranged for Michelle from The Teaparty Company to bring along some of her vintage tea services and cake stands and Liz provided the delicious cupcakes.  All we needed was the perfect day and of course being Manchester it rained!  All was not lost and the rain cleared before the shoot started.  Everything was perfect except no one thought of bringing any tea to drink!!! 😀😀.  To say it was not easy getting the bikes into position at the top of the Amphitheatre would be an understatement.

After they ate the cakes and pretended to delicately sip Earl Grey I tried to arrange them under an archway with very slippery cobbles on the ground.  After we got the bikes into position I issued very clear instructions; I would wave for them all to ride towards me……. together!!  However Liz on her Triumph Thruxton thought “Sod that” and went haring off leaving everyone trailing! 😀😀.  So everyone lined up, again, and Liz managed somehow to keep her enthusiasm in check and I got the shots.  I must say the girls were brilliant considering the road surface was not the best and a couple of times we had to manhandle (and womanhandle) a bike or two into position.  The morning was finished off with a ‘Full English Breakfast’ in the local Wetherspoons pub.  The girls told me they really enjoyed it and I had a fantastic time with six lovely bikers.

To see a slide show of the images click here

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Riders of The Dark Hedges – Ireland

Riders of The Dark Hedges

When I was doing a shoot of two of the Curvy Riders Motorcycle Club at Castlefield in Manchester I mentioned I was going to Ireland to photograph a wedding and planned to go back to a road known as ‘The Dark Hedges’ which was used as a location for the TV series ‘Game of Thrones’ and I asked them if they knew of anyone in Northern Ireland who would be interested in bringing a bike along for a photo shoot.  The word went out and a lady known as Mary Doll contacted me and said she would be interested in bringing her bike along.  Somehow the word of the shoot spread rapidly and before I knew it there were well over twenty ladies and their bikes meeting up with me at ‘The Dark Hedges’.

When I arrived I started to walk down the road with my camera to check out the best location and there were five guys with their bikes standing around who asked if I had come along for the shoot.  I said they didn’t look like ladies (could have been a really stupid comment to make 😀) but they said they had only been joking when I explained about the planned shoot I had arranged with the girls and their bikes and they decided to wait around (naturally) to see what 20+ lady bikers were going to do.  I asked them if I could take some shots of them riding along ‘The Dark Hedges’ whilst waiting for the girls and so began the day’s shooting.  One of the lads had a Harley and a wonderful character look and I knew straight-away I had to take a couple of just him and his bike.

When the girls started to arrive I had to think quickly how I was going to do the shoot and decided to try and have them riding in groups of three at a time.  The word cats and herding came to mind 😀 as we tried to organise who was going to ride with whom and then off they set.  The road is a normal thoroughfare and a tourist trap so we had to be careful not to annoy the hell out of others using it as well.  It all went brilliantly and the girls were fantastic.  Most of them decided to ride without helmets as they weren’t going to ride too fast and I think it worked really well as it added to the look of ‘Freedom on a bike’ that I was after.  Two of the girls had brought along their trikes and one of them had a seat on the back.  So I climbed on board and photographed the group as they rode up and down the road.  When the shoot was over the best bit began as everyone headed off in convoy to one of the girls’ house for tea and cake.  I only wished I had taken a camera into the car with me as it was an incredible site as we drove up and down the hills in a huge snaking line down the long straight roads of the Antrim Glens.  The weather was glorious and the company was great.  All in all a fantastic day and I was thrilled with the results.  I hope the girls (and the lads) are as well 😀😀

To see all the images from the shoot click here

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Curvy Riders in Castlefield Manchester

The Curvy Riders is an all female motorcycle club and I was fortunate to find out about them when I photographed one of it’s members family.  I always wanted to do some more motorbike shots after I took the ones of Gareth and his Ducati Diavel in the Castlefield area on Manchester.  We arranged to go back to Castlefield early on a Sunday morning and of course, being Manchester, it was raining just like the last time.  Liz looked at me a few times with a ‘You’re kidding’ look on her face when I suggested we try and get the bikes up onto a somewhat slippery metal footbridge and down a steep cobblestone ramp to the canal tow-path.  However ‘Up for anything’ Debbie convinced her it would be OK and we got some great shots that we were all happy with.

We have arranged to do a ‘Bikes and Buns’ shoot in a couple of weeks time when the girls from the North West region will have a tea party with vintage china and loads of wonderful cake.  Fingers crossed that the weather will be kind.  Although the shoot may take a lot longer than predicted depending on the amount of ‘Helmut Hair’ that has to be sorted out 😀

Great news…. I’ve just arranged to photograph some bikers at Dark Hedges, one of the locations for ‘Game of Thrones’ in Northern Ireland next week when I’m there photographing a wedding.  Can’t wait 😀

You can see a slideshow of the images here

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Family portraits – Sandra & Mike’s grandchildren

Family portraits

Sandra & Mike wanted a new family portrait of their six grandchildren and we arranged to meet on a cold morning at Denzell Gardens in Altrincham.  The grandchildren came from two families so the majority of the shots were of all the children and then I split them into sibling groups.  It can be difficult sometimes to capture all the personalities of grandchildren with such a wide age range but thankfully it wasn’t a hard job.  At the end we had a race and that’s when sibling rivalry rears its head.  All in all it was a great session and Sandra and Mike were very happy with the results.

 

You can see a slide show of all the images here

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Call me on 0787 9496344 to book your family portrait session

Family portraits The Johnstone sisters

Family portraits

I really enjoy photographing older children, teenagers and young adults.  Parents always dream of a photograph of their children being happy together (or at least looking as though they like each other) 🙂

I love to see families where everyone is happy to be together although invariably a slight sibling rivalry usually rears up as the shoot progresses.  When I take the action shots you can see certain ones honing in on a particular family member to get in with the first attack.  The Johnstone sisters were no different which became obvious when they had the leaf fight.  The main thing of course was that everyone was the best of friends at the end of the shoot.

 

You can see a slide-show of the images here

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pre-wedding shoot of Olivia and David

Pre-wedding shoot

This is a true long distance romance.  Olivia is from Montreal, Canada and David lives in Belfast.  Romance blossomed across the Atlantic and now they are going to get married next year in Belfast.  I did this pre-wedding shoot when I was in Belfast recently and I can’t wait to go back next year for the wedding.

We started the shoot in the grounds of Belfast Castle, as that is where the reception is to be held, and finished it in the trendy Cathedral Quarter of the city centre.

A slideshow of all the images can be seen by clicking here.

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A trip back to Belfast

A few years ago I took my children to see where I grew up in Belfast.  As usually happens when you grow up things and places from your childhood seemed to be a lot bigger when you were small.  I’m still small but the streets I took my children to now seem tiny.  So how come one of the places I visited in my formative years (which I remember as going for a bit of a stroll) has turned into Mount Fecking Everest?!!  I went to visit family and decided my new role of getting off my backside and going for a walk should not lapse so I thought what a brilliant idea to relive my childhood and walk up what is known locally as ‘The Cavehill’.  As a child I seem to remember skipping lightly along the gentle slopes to get to the top, which is called ‘Napoleon’s Nose’.  In a total reverse of childhood memories of things that appeared big turning out to be small a heart attack inducing monster stood in my way.  I eventually made it to the top to discover a lady whom I had spoken to earlier on the way up had beaten me to the top.  The fact that she was in her seventies and needed a walking stick did little for my self-esteem!!  I’m using the excuse that she didn’t keep stopping to try and get a decent photograph on a very overcast day allowed her to beat me to it.  The view from the to summit is fantastic as you can see right over Belfast Lough and the city.  I walked back along the ridge and must say I had a great time reliving my somewhat rose-tinted childhood memories.

View from the summit of the Cavehill

Top of the ridge on Cavehill

When I arrived at the airport my sister took me to a place called Ballymoney parts of which have now become famous as locations for ‘Game of Thrones’.  We went to Bregagh Rd which is now more famously known as ‘The Dark Hedges’ and then on the Ballintoy Harbour and beach.  I would love to go back to the areas I visited again when the lighting is better and more dramatic and perhaps take in a trip to ‘The Giants’ Causeway’

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This is not a narrow lane but a normal two lane road with lots of traffic whizzing up and down it.

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Ballintoy beach

Landscape photography

Landscape photography

I have always loved looking at landscape photographs and I am in awe of those photographers at the top of the tree so to speak.  My efforts so far have been ‘I was there’ shots whereby I went somewhere scenic, pointed my camera at the view and took a picture.  I haven’t quite got the dedication of getting up at 4:00am to climb to the top of a mountain (or small hill in my case) to photograph the sun rising with the early morning mist rolling across the mirror calm lake.  I simply want to get some much needed exercise and enjoy the views.  I have been studying the imagery of the great landscape photographers and am trying to use some of their techniques with the scene in front of me.  I should point out I am a very fair weather wannabe landscape photographer.  If it’s raining, windy and cold then sod that, someone else can get a great shot in the middle of a thunderstorm, hurricane or frozen tundra.  Give me warm sunny days where I don’t have to get up at some god-forsaken hour and trek for miles only to find the barbed wire is preventing me from getting the shot I would like to take.

Point number one (or moan really): who the hell puts the trail sign posts up in these scenic places?  I want to walk along a prescribed path that will eventually take me back to my car .  So far I have spent some considerable time staring at posts in the ground with three arrows pointing in different directions (ahead, left and right) allegedly taking me along the route marked on the map I picked up at the Visitors’ Centre.  Or coming to a fork in the path with no sign at all!!  At Tegg’s Nose I saw the summit from all sorts of angles.  Still think of the exercise 🙂

All in all to be honest it was a very enjoyable day.  There is something wonderful about looking out over a landscape which has been shaped by man with his dry stone walls and green fields together with the raw undulating landscape forged by nature.  You never know I might even go out in a light drizzle one day 🙂

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Pre wedding shoot at Liverpool waterfront

Pre-wedding shoot

Hannah and James are getting married in a few weeks time and decided to have their pre wedding shoot around the city that means so much to them.  The plan was simple….. early Sunday  morning around the Liverpool waterfront before people started to fill the streets.  Except……… when we arranged it we did not know about the parade of giant puppets!!!  As I drove into the city centre all the roads near the Albert Docks were closed and I had to meet up with Hannah and James so they could lead me to a car park they knew about.  There were barriers everywhere and the area was filling up rapidly with people waiting for the parade.  We started off in a place where we knew there would be no one else as Hannah had been given permission for some shots to be taken on the rooftop terrace of an hotel she had been in a couple of nights earlier.  We got a great view of the Liverpool skyline and then we headed for the waterfront.  Things could not have worked out better as once we moved behind the lines of people at the barriers there were very few people around the front of the buildings.  We started at the iconic Cunard building and eventually finished at the Albert Docks.

Hannah and James were brilliant throughout the pre wedding shoot as they were not asked to pose too much and they were having the shoot around an area they love.  The biggest advantage of a pre wedding shoot is that I get to work with the couple before the wedding so we all know how the shots are going to be taken on the day and any potential shyness or embarrassment are removed.

I can’t wait for the big day so keep a look out for a blog post of the wedding.  You can see a slideshow all of the shots from the pre wedding shoot here

Couple with Liver building

Couple outside Cunard building

Couple cuddling at Albert Docks

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Screen kiss at Albert Docks

Couple standing cuddling at Albert Docks

Tour de France 2014

A Grand Day Out

I was sitting in the pub quietly holding my pint (of water) when one of the lads started talking about the Tour de France and mentioned that it was going through a little village in the Dales called Kettlewell which he knew well.  The next thing I knew Steve, Martin, Chris and I were making plans to set off at some ungodly hour apparently to get there before they closed off all the roads in and out.  Steve likes to err on the side of caution (to say the least) and constantly kept putting the time back earlier and earlier as “we would not find anywhere to park, all the best vantage points would be taken” etc. etc.  So Saturday morning at 2:30am!!!!! we set off in the pouring rain with waterproofs, wellies, brollies and the obligatory packed lunch to feed an army.  Martin drove through the pouring summer rain and along the pitch black country roads.  We arrived just after 4:30am having seen only one other car for the last hour and pulled into one of the no doubt hundreds of empty parking spaces in the village.  Then for some reason there seemed to be a need to explore the area as the riders would be zooming through in just nine hours time!!  Being a thoroughly miserable bastard all I wanted to do was go to sleep but decided to pretend to have a desperate need like the others to scout out the perfect vantage point before the expected two hundred thousand spectators came charging over the hill to stand five deep on every square inch of ground.  Eventually 6:00am came along and we said if the organisers are closing off the road at 6:00am no one will be able to get in or out of Kettlewell as there is only one road passing through it.  That was it!  Kettlewell was sealed off to all but cyclists and anyone who felt like scaling the local mountains which hemmed us in.  The hundreds of thousands would not make it.  So we set off to explore the same roadside again just in case there were actually fifty people in each of the dozen or so two man tents in the local, nearly empty, camp sites.

Thankfully the rain eased off and the sky began to brighten.  Martin and Chris wandered towards the bottom of what is laughingly called a hillside but was more like a cliff face and the next thing I knew they started to walk further and further up it.  Like a moron, with a full camera rucksack on my back, I started to follow as the photographer in me took over and thinking “if I just went a little way I might get a better shot of the landscape”.  After realising I was more than half way up, with Martin waving to me from the top, I carried on up what must have been a sixty degree climb.  Eventually I made it and I must admit the scenery was wonderful.  I now knew what Sir Edmund Hilary felt like.  However as I sit here writing this my thighs are on fire!!!

The morning wore on, the sun came out, the village began to fill up and eventually the ‘Tour’ started to creep into to Kettlewell.  The ‘Caravane’ is a parade of sponsors’ vehicles in all sorts of weird designs and they came through with horns blaring and full of people frantically waving at everyone along the route.  I had decided to settle myself along the road leading out of the village where I could get low down if I wanted or stand on a wall.  Then about five helicopters came along the valley like something out of ‘Apocalypse Now’.  A couple of minutes later the three leading cyclists came whizzing past followed a couple of minutes later by the mass of cyclists in the Peleton.  I was positioned in what is normally a pedestrian area with a painted line along it and had decided to crouch as low as possible to get some hopefully dramatic shots with my fish eye lens.  The only problem was the cyclists decided to ignore the road markings  and charged along it.  As I was crouched down and jammed myself into the grass verge some of them could not see me until they were right next to me so they rode passed very, very close.  It made for some great shots but it was rather hairy to say the least.  It took 29 seconds from my first shot to my last for them to go whizzing by at over twenty fives miles per hour.  I had only been there for eleven hours

I met up with the rest of the lads and then we were told the road out of the village would not be open for cars for at least another two hours and I did not realise until the way home I was starting to turn a nice shade of burnt lobster!.  Hey ho!!

I must admit I really enjoyed the day.  Great mates, great scenery and the experience of a lifetime.  All in all a Grand day out 🙂

A video slideshow of the day can be viewed here

Some of the beautiful scenery around Kettlewell

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Just to show how steep the so-called ‘Hillside’ was.

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The roadside where I had positioned myself was full of beautiful blue flowers

 

Some of the amateur riders making a late dash along the route before the pros get there

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The leaders arrive in Kettlewell

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The mass cyclists in the Peleton go flying past

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I suppose I should have noticed the cyclists in green did not care about the semi-pavement and were heading my way!!
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A true close up. They were riding at about 25mph!!

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And twenty nine seconds later it was all over.  Worth it though 🙂

Pet photography – Golden Doodles

Pet photography

Sharon and her husband John do not do things by half and ended up with two dogs and not little ones either.  Freddie and George are brother and sister and are Golden Doodles which is a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Standard Poodle.  To say they are big is an understatement, and they’ve not stopped growing yet.  I was worried in case they decided to get too friendly and jump up on me.  I wouldn’t have stood a chance.  Sharon and John thought it was going to be a sedate shoot but they were in for a surprise as I had them running all over the place with the dogs.

The shoot took place in one of my favourite locations, Denzell Gardens.  It is the perfect venue for walking dogs.  Lots of lawns and woodland areas.  I’ve always believed pet photography should show the animal’s personality rather than getting them to sit and poop off a load of shots.  Freddie and George were on great form and with the odd bark from me gave me some great looks (probably thought I was totally mad).  🙂

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Johanna & Dan’s wedding photography

Wedding photography

Johanna and Dan tied the knot in Nashville, Tennessee and wanted to have as close to a conventional wedding ceremony as possible back at Johanna’s parents’ house in Hale.  The attention to detail was fantastic.  Two marquees were erected on the lawns for the ceremony and the wedding breakfast.  The bride and groom are both Doctors of English so naturally there was a strong literary theme.  When they actually got married in the States Johanna did not wear a wedding dress so it was a big surprise for Dan when he saw it for the first time.  As they were already married the photographs were a bit back to front as we were able to take a lot of the shots before the guests arrived for the ceremony.  This allowed us to take family photographs and bridal portraits without the pressure of guests waiting.  Q, a friend of Johanna and Dan, performed a ceremony that was as close as possible to an actual wedding one.  Even the rain, forecast for the day, only fell when everyone was inside the ceremony marquee.  All in all a great day particularly as I had a fantastic room with beautiful soft light from the large windows to work in, (and of course a beautiful Bride and Groom).  🙂

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Baby photography – Amelia

Baby Photography

Carol wanted a shoot with her beautiful granddaughter, Amelia.  The very cute Amelia was a dream to work with, supplying me with lots of smiles and the occasional wonderful comical expression.  Carol and Patrick just beamed with pride at their granddaughter and I just had to capture the bond with Amelia and her Mum Katie.

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Gareth and his Ducati Diavel in Castlefield

Ducati Diavel

As soon as I saw Gareth’s Ducati Diavel I wanted to photograph it.  I’m not into riding motorbikes but I did appreciate the lines and shapes of it and saw it as a beautiful photogenic machine.  I know that is probably sacrilege to bike fans but hey, I’m a photographer.  There were lots of different venues I could choose for the shoot but I wanted the juxtaposition of the very old engineering of Victorian bridges, rusty columns and aged brickwork surrounding an ultra modern marvel of 21st century engineering and Castlefield in Manchester city centre has it all in spades.

Gareth thought I just wanted to photograph the bike but I said I wanted him in a lot of the shots, as after all it was his bike (one of several he has as it turns out).  I promised there would be no cheesy shots of him posing, showing off his bike to the camera etc. and what I was after was images whereby he was almost secondary to the bike.

We arranged to do the shoot quite early on a Saturday morning when there would be few people and cars about.  It was a typical Manchester summer’s day, chucking it down, but fortunately it didn’t matter as we were sheltered by the bridges and archways but more importantly there were some great pools of light to give the right atmosphere for the shots.

I’m very pleased with the end results and thankfully so is Gareth 😃

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Ducati Diavel in Castlefield Manchester

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Smile

Smile – Baby photography

Photographing children is all about one thing, patience.  There have been times when a baby has simply decided not to play ball and cries before the shoot even begins.  My goal is to wait for the baby to quieten down and get the image the parents want.  Sometimes it can be a long wait and occasionally I have to capture that moment when the crying stops for breath.  Ned however was different.  He had the most wonderful, gumiest smile from the moment I started shooting.  I know he does cry as he burst into loud and prolonged tears at the viewing when his Mum, Grandmother and Aunt let out a loud collective Aww when they saw the first image on the screen which startled him completely.  True to form he quickly returned to a very happy baby with lots of smiles.

You can see all the images from the shoot here

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Even when he didn’t smile he looked gorgeous

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Samuel makes his entrance

Pregnancy and newborn photography

The final instalment of Sarah’s journey through pregnancy has now finished.  On 22nd January 2014 she give birth to a beautiful son, Samuel.  As Sarah and Jamie knew the baby would be a boy they were able to prepare the nursery in advance.  I have photographed Sarah throughout her pregnancy and finally put the icing on the cake with a shoot of the completed family.  I don’t think Sarah has stopped grinning from ear to ear since Samuel’s arrival.  It was privilege to be able to record her pregnancy and to be able to replace the bump with little Samuel.

I have always wanted to be able to record the progress through to the new arrival and show the stages with all the emotions and happiness that goes with it rather than take ‘trophy baby’ shots of a mother holding her ‘prize’ up to the camera.  Pregnancy is a very personal time in a woman’s life and I wanted to be able to capture the feelings and emotions that go with it and have some very different images to show the child in the future.

People often ask me “When is the best time to have a portrait taken ?” and I always say “Now”.  Children change so quickly.  Samuel will look completely different in six months or two years time.  The type of images I take will reflect the personality of the child at the age they are at.  I want to take a photograph of who the child is rather than simply what they look like.

 

You can see a video of the images from the various shoots I did with Sarah here

 

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Samuel’s new friends

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Jody – from Bump to Ralph

Pregnancy shoot

On 11th February 2014 after only 33 weeks and weighing less than six pounds Ralph Hyland came into the world.  I photographed a very excited and glowing Jody in the final weeks of her pregnancy and was delighted to follow up with a shoot of her and Ralph in his first weeks.  Photographing children is all about patience, and in particular with newborns without a nappy, dealing with them when they decide to wee all over their mother as I’m about to take a shot.  It’s always good to have somewhere to put my camera out of harm’s way when trying to help 🙂

People often ask “When is the best time to have some portraits taken?” and I always say “Now”.  Children change so quickly.  In six months Ralph will look very different and the style of images I would shoot would be different.  With newborn babies I feel the images should be about the bond and relationship rather than someone holding a baby up to the camera like a trophy.  As time goes by every child will develop his or her own personality that sets them apart from every other child and I want to capture who they are not what they look like.  There is nothing wrong with large volume supermarket photography if you want a photograph of what your child looks like in a set-up scenario but if you want images of who they are and your relationship with him or her please get in touch.

To see a video of the images from bump to new born click here

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