photgraphy

Bless the Weather

Bless the Weather

Back in the summer I approached the West Harris Trust about the possibility of hosting an exhibition of my Harris work at their community and arts centre Talla Na Mara and I was very pleased when they offered me the October to January slot.

It’s a brilliant building, enjoying the most incredible location perched above Niseaboist beach looking across to Clach Macleod and Taransay beyond. The centre sits amongst 6 new homes, also designed by Rural Design Architects, a firm whose work I really admire for their bold, contemporary approach to architecture in challenging and sensitive locations. Also on site are new Campervan pitches, artists studios, a great restaurant, the offices of the West Harris Trust and it is also a wedding venue!

Talla na Mara from the hill above Niseabost

Talla na Mara from the hill above Niseabost

Love the yellow entrance

Love the yellow entrance

Look at that view!

Look at that view!

Selecting the work for the exhibition was a really hard task. Originally the plan was to only exhibit my winter images, however it soon became apparent to me that there were some images from other seasons which I had to put in. So the exhibition became ‘Bless the Weather’ rather than Harris in the Winter. The original Bless the Weather is a John Martyn track from 1979 and, like most of his music, is absolutely beautiful. If you haven’t heard of him before then I urge you to listen to the album Solid Air. His music has been a constant companion to me on many photography trips, and the phrase ‘Bless the Weather’ just seemed to fit with my choice of images.

In order to pick images I first worked out the size of the space and scoped out the number which would be required. I knew I’d be having them printed by Lumejet as I love the quality and detail of their prints. Their L’Type prints are only available up to 12x12inch, however this size works out well in a 20x20inch frame allowing for a generous mount giving the images space to breathe.

The next choice was the type of framing I would use. I prefer a simple black frame. In fact, if they weren’t put together so cheaply, with poor acrylic glass, the IKEA Ribba frames would be my perfect choice. However, having used these before and talking to other photographers online I decided it was best to get bespoke frames made. I eventually went for black box frames from The Ready Made Picture Frame Company which worked out really well. The mounts were ordered from Cotswold Mounts, as always a great service. Ideally I would’ve had the images mounted and framed at a local framer, however it was just too expensive for me.

I decided to focus on the west coast of Harris and whittled down my image shortlist from 200 to 50. Then with much appreciated advice from my partner Jo and my brother and dad we got it down to the final 16. It was so difficult though. There’s a fine line between choosing images which I think would be commercially appealing and those which I think are the most interesting photographically and show off the light and landscape of Harris. I think I got the balance right, with a variety of conditions, places and landscapes showing the west coast in all seasons.

I mounted the prints at home and then took them to my brothers studio to frame them up. I was dreading the framing, I always manage to break glass or finish taping up the back without noticing a bit of dust behind the glass! Fortunately it went without a hitch. Almost anyway! I had just finished the last print, and was examining it in detail for any dust when I noticed a dust spot. Not just a speck of dust under the glass, but an actual sensor dust spot on the print. This was a major pain in the arse as it meant getting new prints done and then reframing! Luckily I had enough time and got it all sorted.

My brothers studio in Glasgow

My brothers studio in Glasgow

The wee prints

The wee prints

Packed car!

Packed car!

So that was all the framed prints done! Now I just had to mount up some wee 6x6inch prints (these were my top 50 shortlist) and another set of 12x12 mounted prints for display at Talla Na Mara. It was all finally coming together and all that remained to do was produce captions, an information board and load the whole lot into our wee car!

It just fit!

Hanging the show went without a hitch and I was so pleased how it looked in the space. It really is such a thrill to see a collection of your work exhibited and I have been very touched to receive such amazing feedback from people who have seen the show.

Last one

Last one

Don’t drop it…

Don’t drop it…

Sorted!

Sorted!

A massive thanks to The West Harris Trust for inviting me to exhibit, my partner Joanne for her constant help and support, my dad and my brother for helping me condense my shortlist and to everyone on twitter who helped with my questions and shared information about the exhibition.

Chris X

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Why Do I Make Images?

So… I didn’t get shortlisted for Landscape Photographer of the Year. I started off being quite disappointed by this but on reflection I’m not really upset or surprised. I’m sure there were many much more talented photographers who didn’t get shortlisted. After all, it’s not as if I’ve been doing this seriously for that long, I’m still learning and experimenting and making mistakes. Nearly every image I make I feel I could improve the next time. Which I suppose is a good thing. I find that when I’m not learning or improving at something (the guitar springs to mind) I get bored of it.

However this recent “rejection” did make me question a few things, and made me reflect on what it is actually important to me in terms of my photography. Mainly -why do I choose to make images? Why do I choose to get up at silly o’clock chasing a sunrise when I could be lazing in bed? It could be the instant gratification I get from seeing the image come together as I’d envisioned or it could be an unplanned moment which arises. I think this uncertainty appeals to me. The luck of being in the right place at the right time.

Is it for a new challenge and the urge to create? Definitely. I know it’s a cliché to say you are a “creative person”, I mean who doesn’t think they are creative? But I do love to be creating things. I like having wee plans and schemes and projects on the go and I like the satisfaction of achieving the goals I set for myself.

It could also be that it just gives me the reason to get out of the city and into the highlands. But then I could equally just do that without my camera, so there is definitely something in the actually act of creating an image which makes that experience more enjoyable for me.  
I think it’s probably a combination of all these factors. Whatever it is I know that I enjoy it. Enough to get up early and get bitten by midges. So it must be enjoyable. But it’s definitely a question I’ll return to again. Or maybe it’s just a question which can’t be answered like why people bother spending days arguing on DPReview articles about lens sharpness and sensor size, or which is better; Canon or Nikon. 

Or…. could it be that I do it for recognition and to make money? 
I don’t think it is; I’m not famous (and don’t want to be!) and I don’t make much money from photography- although getting paid to travel the world taking photos in amazing places is kind of appealing.  Recognition from fellow photographers is nice, but that isn’t why I make images.

But obviously recognition for my work is important to me, otherwise I wouldn’t bother to share it on the internet. I think sites like Flickr and 500px are a useful way of displaying work to a wider audience and they can provide inspiration and feedback from other photographers. But is that feedback necessarily a good thing? Do the likes and favourites and thumbs ups help your development? How much attention should you pay to these reviews? Can a popular image on Flickr go to your head and make you think your images are better than they are?!

I’m not going to lie, when I get an image in Flickr Explore (even in the knowledge that it’s full of awful pictures of cats, lurid HDR sunsets and Japanese girls on subway trains) I am pleased. It’s only natural. But I think the satisfaction has to be tempered with the understanding that popularity doesn’t necessarily make an image good. It also shouldn’t change your own perception of an image; if other people don’t like an image you’ve made, then it shouldn’t change how you feel about it. 

So what is important to me at the moment in terms of photography is that I make images which I’m pleased with and that I consistently improve.  If other people like them, then that’s great! If I win a competition it’s a bonus and therefore if I don’t win a competition it’s no big deal. By putting myself under pressure to either make money or win competitions from photography I could end up spoiling something which I really enjoy. 
Saying that though… I did win the WexMondays photo competition the other day and was well pleased… 

 

WexMondays Winner!!