Uluwatu Fire Dance

Uluwata Temple on the south coast of Bali hosts daily performances of the Kekac (Fire) Dance. Mainly for tourists, the dance is a story-telling performance based on traditional tales and involves melodrama, humour and fantastic costumes. The Monkey King was particularly athletic and exciting to watch as he leapt around madly. We were extremely privileged to have “back-stage” access to watch the performers preparing and resting between scenes. I had expected them to be in a room to get ready, instead they were camped out in the concrete areas underneath the stands, sitting on the ground and balancing mirrors anywhere they could. It was fascinating to have that kind of access although it did mean I missed most of the performance – including unfortunately the pyrotecnics! Shooting at extremely high ISO settings was a challenge as the images are very noisy but not using flash captures a completely different side to the night and is considerably less intrusive for the very patient performers.

Despite the performances being a daily event, the actors attacked their roles with such energy, humour and spectacle that it seemed really fresh. Next time I’m in Bali I’m planning to attend and watch the entire show.

For the complete photostory please follow this link: Kekac Dance

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Out on the fringe ….

The Brighton Photo Fringe that is!  Concurrently with the Brighton Photo Biennial (the largest photography exhibition in the UK), the Fringe runs from 4th October – 3rd November 2014. I am very excited to share the gallery with five other local photographers, Colin Miller ARPS, Audrey Marshall ARPS, Steve Boyle ARPS, Nicola Miles and Sylwia Liszak. We will be exhibiting in the brand new Artista Gallery and Studio, right in the heart of the city.

Each of us has a different style and approach but we share commitment, a personal vision and fierce independence in what we make and show. Working as a team with gallery owner Alex, we have agreed how to share the quirky exhibition space to showcase everyone’s work to its best advantage and are working on our marketing strategy together. We will be having an open Preview Evening on October 3rd, but if you can’t come then, do pop in anytime during the month for a coffee, drink or food and see “Six Photographers Under One Roof”.

I’ll bring you more news as we fine tune our plans, suffice to say it will be worth visiting!

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Charity begins at home!

Although I’ve experienced some really exciting opportunities to photograph for non-profit organisations overseas, I also help out here in the UK (which some of my friends have noted, I should do more of as charity begins at home!)  Recent work has been in support of friends who are fundraising or have charities dear to their hearts. So I’m sharing a selection from some of these events.

Climb Kili for Cornerstone involves four close friends who are bravely (madly!?) climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania for Cornerstone. It’s a charity that supports vulnerable children and adults throughout Scotland – broadening their opportunities and helping them live rewarding and meaningful lives. Fundraising for the trip has included tea parties, cocktails and gourmet dining, silent auctions, supper dances, pop-up shops and a myriad of other fun events. Ann and Antonia Chapman and Lisa and Steve Duthie have all committed to raise more than the minimum required to fund their trips and it’s hard work! Plus the training and preparation – phew, I really admire them. Helping with the fundraising is my contribution; I’m far too worried about freezing my toes off on a mountaintop to join in … but I wish them all the best of luck!

Ladies Tea Party at the Fourmile, Kingswells, Aberdeen

Ladies Tea Party at the Fourmile, Kingswells, Aberdeen

"Bag a Mountain" Supper Party at the Aberdeen Douglas (featuring the Scottish Cup!)

“Bag a Mountain” Supper Party at the Aberdeen Douglas (featuring the Scottish Cup!)

Motor Neurone Disease is a devastating diagnosis and the Motor Neurone Disease Association is the only national charity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland focused on MND care, research and campaigning. MNDA is a powerful national and local network that provides information and support alongside fighting for improved services. Volunteer Carol Reiley, working with fitness instructor Becky Stevens held an open “FitSteps” class in the Dolphin Leisure Centre in Haywards Heath to raise money for the charity. FitSteps is a dance orientated fitness class created by Ian Waite and Natalie Lowe of “Strictly Come Dancing” fame and Carol was fortunate to lure Ian to Mid-Sussex to co-lead the class. People of all shapes, sizes and ages Rumba’d, Salsa’d and generally had a marvellous time while raising money for this superb organisation.

Ian Waite and Becky Stevens lead the FitStep class.

Ian Waite and Becky Stevens lead the FitStep class.

Ian and Becky showing their slick moves!

Ian and Becky showing their slick moves!

Home-Start is a leading family support charity and Gette Cobban the Scheme Manager in Aberdeen asked if I would provide images the charity could use locally on their publicity material and to launch a new campaign. The photo session was carried out at the George Street charity shop which is so professional, well stocked and dressed that it belies the image that many people have of charity outlets. The Aberdeen branch was a finalist on the Grampian Award for Business Excellence this year and from what I saw, it is well deserved. Representatives from Aberdeen Football Club, volunteers, staff and trustees all played their part in a fun morning (as we dodged the sun and wind!)

The Home-Start shop in George Street, Aberdeen

The Home-Start shop in George Street, Aberdeen

The Home-Start shop in George Street, Aberdeen

The Home-Start shop in George Street, Aberdeen

Bathing at Pura Tirta Empul – Bali

Pura Tirta Empul water temple, is near the village of Tampak Siring in Bali; its sacred spring attracting worshippers who bathe there for healing and spiritual merit. It is believed that the god Indra created the spring after his forces had been poisoned and created a “fountain of immortality” to bring them back to life. The Balinese have been bathing here for more than a thousand years.

The main rectangular pool is made from carved stone with spring water cascading from twelve fountains. It’s filled with koi and the remains of offerings float on the surface. After making the offering at the temple, the bathers immerse themselves and pray. Some collect holy water to take home to their own temples. It’s a beautiful to watch and to listen to the cries of shock and laughter from children as young as 18 months.

Visitors are required to wear sarongs and may hire them at the entrance, we had our own sarongs and of course our cameras. The bathers were open and relaxed about being photographed, some of the families also had cameras. We could have (and should have, in the interests of really good images) have gone into the water. I realise that truly immersing myself in a scene, whatever it takes, is the way to really connect with the people you are photographing. Next time!!

More images from my Bali trip are being loaded to my galleries each week.

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Source of information: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/indonesia/bali-pura-tirta-empul

Time flies even if I don’t …

We’re more than halfway through the year, time flies so fast! Not as much travel for me recently, although hopping up and down to Scotland (still the same country thank goodness) by plane does count …!

I was musing on my good fortune at having freedom to choose what I do with my time, where I spend it and with whom. I posted on Facebook the importance of making the most of every minute we have and my post struck a chord with many of my friends; after all who knows how many more moments there are?

The recent air tragedies, the war and hatred we’re witnessing (as it ever was, but seemingly more and more vicious) reveal a dangerous world for everyone and for most of us the only response is to fully immerse ourselves in our own opportunities. To value ourselves, our time with friends and families and to strive to overcome personal challenges.

We can offer help to others through donations of time or money, if we have either or both, especially when a cause touches our hearts. But often we feel impotent in the face of overwhelming need and sorrow. As I grow older, my belief in the importance of making every day a day to remember for all the right reasons grows daily. This is not selfish, it’s about celebrating life and what it offers. It’s harder some days than others, but rewarding and nourishing for the soul.

I try find opportunities to use my photography for good (as implied in my blog name!) and below are images of three inspiring people I’ve met in my day to day life and had the privilege of photographing. I’ll tell you more about them in the next few posts …

Emily Wright has her head shaved in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support

Emily Wright has her head shaved by Paula of Hair Essentials in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support

Barry "Bazza" West, mouth painter, exhibiting at Uckfield Art Trail

Barry “Bazza” West, mouth painter, exhibiting at Uckfield Art Trail

Ann Chapman, my best friend climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for Cornerstone

Ann Chapman, my best friend, is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for Cornerstone

 

Uckfield Art Trail 2014

The Art Trail is in its ninth year …. from a tiny acorn planted in 2005 has grown a very well attended exhibition, filled with art of all types, glasswork, photography, crafts and workshops at the Civic Centre in Uckfield. After five years of being involved in the organisation, I took a break and returned last year as an exhibitor. So much less stressful but still a fair amount of work selecting and preparing your work. What to share?! Last year I exhibited images from my non-profit work in South Africa, Tanzania and Thailand. Visitors were fascinated to hear about the organisations I’d worked with and why I’d decided to get involved. This year I just wasn’t sure.

Eventually I chose a selection from trips to Nepal, Bali and Cambodia, landscapes from the US, work from Brighton Pride and a macro shot of a tulip, photographed at home … I’m not always away you know! I was aiming to show variety in my work as I’m interested in so many aspects of life and photography.

It was a lovely experience. The pleasure in meeting old friends and seeing how their work has developed is immense, as is encountering new artists and new ideas. It was so busy I felt sometimes visitors couldn’t see our work properly but some returned when it was quieter and there was more time to enjoy the experience.  Below is one of my personal favourites, followed by a selection of images from the weekend – I was the “official” photographer as well!

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My image of a Cambodian girl near Tonle Sap Lake was one of the most popular and I love it!

Uckfield Art Trail 2014

Uckfield Art Trail 2014

Uckfield Art Trail 2014

English seaside jaunt …

We do try to explore this country as well as foreign parts and I was taken to Kent for a belated birthday trip … Sandwich, Deal, Folkstone, Dover, Hastings and Rye. Sounds a bit twee (I thought) but it was charming. Beautiful weather helped and of course we had cameras …

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Jemma and Amy party on ….

Amy and Jemma’s wedding party moved on to Beechwood Hall in Cooksbridge where the theme continued to be vintage with a rustic feel. Tables of old fashioned sweeties, a market stall, hay bales and handwritten signs made a lovely setting for the evening guests and wedding party. The bar was opened and music and dancing began. I left before the party really got started …. from what I hear it was a lot of fun!  Evening-2

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Jemma and Amy get married …

Jemma and Amy’s wedding at Anne of Cleaves house in Lewes was a magical day. They are a lovely couple and it was a pleasure to share their day and try to capture the love, fun and excitement that was in the air. The girls had chosen a stunning venue for their ceremony and the weather was reasonably kind to them. Each small detail had been carefully thought through and the finishing touches were mostly hand-made by friends and family. From the vintage tea settings to the beautiful gifts and decorations, everything was gorgeous with small touches of humour. I had a busy day, starting with Jemma and her bridesmaids, then a mad dash to find Amy and her bridesmaids (who were secreted in a room upstairs at Anne of Cleaves to ensure the couple were kept apart until the right moment!)

There was a real sense of joy in the room as their commitment was made; despite the gales of laughter when passing tourists peered into the room to see what was happening. Time flew by as we tried to gather all the right people in the right place at the right time … herding cats is such a terrible expression!! I managed to have some time with the couple away from their guests with the VW Camper Van as the star of the show!   Getting Ready 1-1 Getting Ready 1-2 Getting Ready 2-1 Getting Ready 2-2 Getting Ready 3-1 Getting Ready 3-2 Arriving-2Arriving-1Getting Ready 4-1 Getting Ready 4-2Ceremony-1 Ceremony-2 Couple-1 Couple-2 Speeches-1 Speeches-2 Table

Beautiful Bali …

It seems such a long time ago since I was in Bali … not just three weeks ago. I am itching to delve into my images so am sharing some from an early morning trip to Jimbaran fishmarket.

Hopefully I’m whetting your appetite for more!

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