Wow these tiny birds move fast! Beautiful jewels with wings that flap at aroud 50 times per second. Capturing humming birds on camera in a bird garden in the Cloud Forest, Mindo, Ecuador was a challenge. I used my Canon 5D MKIII with a new 70-200mm lens, handheld and many, many of the images featured nothing but the feeder such is their speed! They are fascinating to watch but a devil to photograph!
I have been neglecting my creative side. Recently though I’ve been engaging with art and artists: during my father’s exhibition, at Lewes Art Wave and the Brighton Art Fair and I’m feeling an urge to do something beyond capturing images with my camera. Not that I don’t love it … but sometimes I feel I’ve been trying too hard to improve technically; working too hard from my brain instead of my heart and losing some of my spark. I have a backlog of images made in Cuba and Galapagos and have decided I’m going to experiment more with my post processing. Some lend themselves to being a pure representation of what I experienced – traditional travel photography, which I enjoy immensely – yet others I think can be explored more deeply. It occurs to me that I can use the blog as a form of digital sketchbook and this is a trial run …
I shot a series of images in Trinidad and Havana as I was fascinated by the colourful painted walls and doorways that were in often in great disrepair, particularly in Havana. I captured people as they walked past, sometimes early in the morning as I stood casually in one place. People do have a sixth sense though and many people noticed me which I quite like.
I wanted to add movement in post production so used layers, masks and varying transparency to create a sense of time passing. Not an original idea by any means but something to start me off! The development of one of the images is below, from the original shot to the (perhaps?) finished image.
The Alex Wilson Memorial Exhibition on 19th September raised over £3,500 for Dementia UK. We sold more than thirty of Alex’s paintings ensuring his art lives on and will continue to be enjoyed – art for good! Our father would have been so happy to hear the favourable comments his work received; such a pity he’s no longer here to appreciate it. We still have some of the larger pieces available and plan another exhibition to continue raising funds for Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurses.
Alex’s gallery: www.lauramorganphotogallery.co.uk/Alex-wilson/
Photography by Steve McDonald
Our father, Alex Wilson, died earlier this year in a care home In Hailsham. He had Dementia with Lewy Bodies, a distressing form of the disease affecting mobility and muscle function as well as causing cognitive impairment and hallucinations. He was an artist but even in the early stages of his illness became unable to paint or draw. He had been prolific, creating a diverse portfolio of work and exhibiting in Sussex over the years. He leaves a large body of abstract paintings and to honour his talent and creativity we are exhibiting around fifty pieces of work and all proceeds from sales of his work, donations and a raffle will go to Dementia UK via our JustGiving page.
The exhibition is being hosted by Lindfield Arts Festival on 19th September 2015. LAF is a community arts festival celebrating music, art, crafts, drama, poetry and comedy. It’s an ideal family weekend with events for everyone. The exhibition of Alex’s work is at The Stables, All Saints Church, 122 High Street, Lindfield from 10am to 4pm.
Dementia UK provide Admiral Nurses with the vision of ensuring “People living with and affected by dementia will receive compassionate expert care and support that is right for them, to live positive and fulfilling lives”. Both Alex and his immediate family would have benefitted hugely by having this type of support and we hope to raise funds to help others in the same situation.
I am often asked about the sources of my ideas and there isn’t a simple answer. My work is primarily spontaneous and intuitive and I paint from the heart – letting the colours and texture do the talking. Of course I have been influenced (and who hasn’t!) by many of the great artists, and this rich store of imagery and ideas feeds my subconscious and inevitably contributes to my output. I use a variety of brushes and sculpture tools; some work features impasto whereas in others paint is applied very thinly to the surface. I love to experiment and this has resulted in work in many media, including pen and ink, watercolour, acrylic and oil.
The title of a piece frequently presents itself at a late stage or even after the work is complete. Abstract pieces tend to develop without any preconception on my part and much of my enjoyment comes from the different interpretations placed upon my paintings; people see a variety of shapes and designs that may be inconsistent with the “theme” or title. The finished painting is therefore only half the equation and it becomes whole only after the concept or idea communicates with the viewer.
The RPS (Royal Photographic Society) included an article I wrote in its Travel Group Travelogue Newsletter after I chatted to some members about my photography. While I haven’t made as many overseas trips to support non-profit organisations as I would like, I do have plans for more. It is an incredibly rewarding aspect of travel photography so I’ve reproduced the article here, with some different images.
Rewarding Travel Photography
When I retired early from a stressful career with an international energy company I decided to re-engage with my creative side, develop my photography and to travel in a way that allowed me to get to know other cultures. Although I enjoyed these photographic adventures I still felt a lack of purpose and I wondered: “why am I making these images” and more importantly, “why am I here at all”?
Life has a way of solving such dilemmas. When a friend contacted me in 2009 to talk about her charity Testigo Africa, a project to bring clean drinking water to a Masai village, I immediately said “If you need a photographer, just ask me”. She did and a month later I was in Arusha, Tanzania. Tracey wanted images to help her fundraising efforts; the area had suffered a terrible drought and water was scarce, livestock dying and food hard find. It was my first really close encounter with another culture and I was very inexperienced but the warm welcome and friendliness made it a pleasure. The warriors slaughtered and cooked a goat we had paid for and the women prepared vegetables. They sat apart to eat but we were treated as honorary men. We drank tea in mud huts, met Masai of all ages, enjoyed the Masai adumu (dance) and watched the women making beautiful beaded jewellery. Iwas able to capture it all.
Tracey started the charity to help the women who walked miles every day to collect water, leaving them little time to do anything else. I returned with Tracey in 2012 for the inauguration of the water supply and to photograph her wedding to Emanuel, a Masai who has become part of her team. They have since established a football academy and a perma-culture project in many villages. Women can now grow enough food to sell in addition to feeding their families.
One of the many rewarding aspects of my second visit was sharing prints from the first trip and noticing how much the women had blossomed with good nutrition and less stressful lives. My images were used in a variety of ways by Testigo: calendars, video presentations, exhibitions and greetings cards. It was a privilege to be involved.
My appetite whetted, I joined a volunteer trip in 2011 with a charity helping prevent human trafficking in the villages of Northern Thailand. We travelled with the director, essentially funding his journey, to isolated villages where he works with village heads to change ingrained attitudes and traditions. The hill tribes comprise immigrants from Myanmar, China and Laos who have for generations lived a frugal existence unacknowledged by Thai authorities. Life is hard and gangs offering loans to families are repaid by the children working in the fields, factories and brothels. The charity approaches the problem with re-education rather than disapproval as the practices have continued for generations. We stayed with families, often sleeping in their beds, ate with them and through our guide were able to get to know them a little. I found it a very difficult trip emotionally, but felt some satisfaction when the charity used many of my images on their website.
Later in 2012 I travelled to Cape Town with Momenta Workshops to work with non-profit organisation James House, which supports the township of Mandela Park. An introduction to photojournalism, I was put in touch with James House and had daily critiques of my plans and images from the Momenta expert. I had to develop my own resources, work independently and I learned a lot. Two hundred and fifty fully processed images, which were used in their annual report, had to be completed before I left. I also developed a personal project called the “Little Chair” involving clients and staff of James House.
Medellin in Colombia is next for me, to attend another Momenta Workshop. I hope to be paired with a non-profit supporting women, to improve my Spanish and further develop my skills. To enrich the experience I always include side trips; going on safari, attending festivals and finding additional opportunities for travel photography. I cannot recommend non-profit work highly enough. It’s humbling, rewarding, often challenging and a unique way to connect to the world through your camera lens.
Facebook Page: facebook.com/pages/Laura-Morgan-Photography/146565008692998
• Find a cause you feel passionate about and be clear about your motives for volunteering.
• Research non-profit organisations carefully and either contact them directly or look for a company that supports such trips (see links below).
• Understand the organisation’s expectations, most likely they will want images that reflect their success in helping people, not heart-breaking images of illness or poverty.
• Be open, genuine and positive and really connect with the people you meet!
Momenta workshops: www.momentaworkshops.com – highly recommended.
Photographers Without Borders: www.photographerswithoutborders.org – No personal experience but has been recommended to me.
Kaya Volunteer: www.kayavolunteer.com – helpful for a first time volunteer but doesn’t specialise in photography.
Project Exposure: www.projectexposure.org – I do not have personal experience of this organisation.
Photovoice: www.photovoice.org – participatory photo projects.
Tam and Giles are getting married in August and we got togther last weekend for a pre-wedding shoot. We explored the area near the church where the wedding will be held in Lindfield, Sussex. It’s a relaxing and fun way to get to know the bride and groom better and to scout for locations for the wedding photos. Late afternoon light was lovely as they wandered in the fields and through the village. Lindfield is very pretty with All Saints Church grandly dominating one end of the High Street, it’s a stunning venue for a wedding ceremony. Tam and Giles are fun to spend time with; full of love, humour and a sense of adventure. I’m looking forward to the wedding!
A short trip to the Brecon Beacons in Wales allowed me to experience every kind on weather in only two days; I enjoyed stunning scenery and climbed a hill on a steam train. The area is lush, with abundant waterfalls and resevoirs, forests and moors. It reminds me of Scotland in many ways. The Brecon Mountain Railway is run by loving enthusiasts who maintain the trains and museum with passion. The local towns are much diminished with the loss of jobs in the area but the warmth and welcome of the Welsh people remain as strong as ever.
After my photography trips and projects I print photobooks to have something more tangible than hundreds of digital images on my hard drive. It’s a pleasure to remind myself of the experiences and to see how my skills have developed over the years. I use Albelli to print the books, not a top end product but affordable and perfect for my purposes. It’s a way to share my work with friends and family as well, although the screen version of the book isn’t as quite as good as the printed version.
At the recent RPS Travel Group Spring Weekend I gave a short talk about my non-profit work and it was helpful to share books of the projects with the travel group members as my slide show was necessarily short.
Today I realised I had a prepaid photobook with an imminent expiry date and in the absence of a new project to print I went back to 2011. I hadn’t created a book of my photo adventures with Steve McDonald in Tuscany when I was the “gofer” helping him get around the region to photograph for a new Insight Guides Travel book. Here is the link to the book – you may want to try Albelli yourself!
The idea of a week relaxing in North Myrtle Beach while my partner played golf was worrying – what would I do – especially as the weather was unseasonably cool and wet?! I knew I needed more practice at approaching people in the street to ask if I might create a portrait of them, so as we wandered around Barefoot Landing I approached some visitors and vendors to do just that. It was a lot of fun and I had some really interesting conversations.
Often they were curious to know why I wanted to photograph them and everyone has a story to tell about themselves. I managed to persuade some who weren’t particularly willing and that’s very satisfying. But to be honest, I shirked the task! It takes more time and greater intimacy to find the magic, to bring out the best in a person and make them look as good in the image as they are on the inside. I also should have been more confident to move my subjects to avoid reflections and glare … more practice coming up!