Sunday, 29 June 2014

World cup trees - Greece -Costa Rica

Greece - Costa Rica
Taken during Netherlands - Mexico

Processed during Greece - Costa Rica

Branches of overhanging trees reflected in the pond at Hawkwood in the rain.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

keep calm and add some RAM - the joys of computer upgrades

Shard © Caroline Fraser

I almost gave up the will to live this week.

Technology was getting the better of me.

The not very good...........

  • I tried to print some photos for an exhibition selection process, but the ink cartridge didn't recognise the printer, so the printer refused to play ball. 
  • I installed Photoshop CC in order to be able to use a new programme for working on my images for The Arcanum
  • my Mac was going so slowly as a result of this installation ( half an hour to process each photo) that I uninstalled Photoshop CS5 to try and free up some memory and left Photoshop Creative Cloud running.
  • I then bought some new ink, which my printer deigned to work with, but found that photoshop CC doesn't work with my printer, and all the images came out the wrong colour and size.
  • Needless to say I couldn't find the old version of Photoshop to reinstall it. Nor can I find my library card, Tesco card, and all the other cards that I filed safely somewhere before I left for New Zealand
  • I discovered Adobe Colour Utility which half solved the problem
  • and in a moment of foolishness that has taught me a serious lesson I decided to install the upgrade for Bridge CC, at which point I lost Bridge altogether because the new version apparently says that my 4 year old computer is "too old", and I found that many other poor souls out there had found themselves in the same predicament.

the amazingly good........

  • I copied the old BridgeCC file off my laptop ( thank you youngest child, I am indebted to you forever) and reinstalled it onto my Mac. Hey presto; we have Bridge again.
  • I used Time Machine to find Photoshop CS5 and reinstall it  (thank you youngest child, I am indebted to you forever and a day)
  • I installed 8GB of new RAM into my MAC ( thank you man in the Apple store who advised me to use Crucial Memory and also to use an antistatic wrist band so that I didn't destroy the machine forever)
So today, I have been pretending to cook dinner for 8 people, but each time OH ( other half) popped out to buy more missing ingredients I became techo-geek extraordinaire, unscrewing my computer, holding my breath, saying a small prayer, and finally whooping with delight when I solved all of the above problems.

AND NOW............ I can process an image in a matter of moments, and am a very happy bunny.

So here is a newly processed image, just to prove my point.

Lighthouse, Dungeness © Caroline Fraser

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

the art of listening.............

from the series 'Tracing Thames Chronicles' by sculptor Stephanie Rubin

Yesterday I attended the symposium "This Migration" at The School Creative Centre , Rye.

I had no idea what to expect, knowing only that the subject for the day was 'migration' and that resident artists and invited speakers would give their own interpretation of the subject.

Four speakers. Four completely different ways of presenting their work. Inspiring and fresh.

 Challenging subject matter on race, identity, migration and boundaries......and including;

  • Invisible borders created by gender or disease. 
  • The 'capsular civilisation' of gated communities and fenced cities. 
  • The 'lost' city of Ubar in Oman detected by NASA satellite images.
  • the extent of personal data collection by US border agencies.
Potentially heavy topics; unfamiliar and thought provoking.

And what struck me at the end of the day was how important it is to make time for occasions like this that stretch the mind and challenge preconceptions. That bring artists together to encourage and learn from each other. 

Time to listen.

Time to think.

Time for each other.

I had never before appreciated the challenge of sculpting a face; the need for calipers to be used on soft skin; the trust required and the intimacy that evolves during the process; the almost confessional nature of the subject opening up to the sculptor. The stories that are told, and in this case recorded for posterity in the series "Tracing Thames Chronicles".

Tracing Thames Chronicles by Stephanie Rubin 2004
I was struck by the very personal nature of Jamie Griffiths work in general and her current digital 3D video installation that references the collection of data at US borders. 

Her work at any point in time is based around asking herself this question;

'Using only one word, write down the topic or issue that most concerns you or that you are most passionate about at this time in your life'

Food for thought. 

How much of what we create is in response to our attempts to express our current answer to that question?

And how often are we aware of that when creating the work? I am not sure that this is relevant for all artists, but when I stop to consider why I felt the need to make a photo of the small broken shell and pebbles that I carried back from New Zealand, I think that I was probably attempting to answer that question in my own way.


If I  listen to myself I might work out what it is I am really trying to say. Or I might decide that it doesn't really matter. The conversation continues inside my head.

from Tracing Thames Chronicles by Stephanie Rubin

Stephanie's series of heads came together as a body of work some time after she started creating them. Not everything has to be preconceived or rationalised, and as she pointed out, she learnt a lot about her craft along the way.

So I'll  just keep taking pictures and see what turns up. It's a bit  'chicken and egg' in my view. 

the old shed is dead



She said.



Sunday, 22 June 2014

Everything you need to know about preparing to make movies on your DSLR but were afraid to ask

essential tool number 1
You may have seen how hopeless my videos were of birds in the forest in New Zealand. Out of focus, juddery and totally lacking in cinematic style.

So hopeless that I signed up for a one day course on "How to make videos with your DSLR" organised by London Independent Photography at Photofusion in Brixton, in the hope that next time I see something worthy of a mini-movie I am able to do it justice.

The course participants were all female. We wondered if the World cup had something to do with that. Probably not, decided I, as across the corridor in another studio a class of 8 males and just one female were busy  taking photos of a female model perched on a desk - perhaps a course on portrait photography or studio lighting.

The sun was shining outside. Brixton market lay below us, visible through our window.

Brixton market

I was able to capture the security guard without him noticing; he having earlier tried to stop us practising with the follow-focus rig down in the market as we 'didn't have permission'. Permission was readily granted once we knew who to ask.

the security guard doesn't like people taking photos

Obviously it is not possible to learn to make movies in a day.

What I did get an understanding of, was the large amount of supporting gear that is used to achieve a shake - free, in-focus video with good sound quality. And it seems that next time am out in the forest, I will not be able to create  the perfect video unless I carry a few essential items.

So here are the essentials.

  • a clapperboard. So that you look the part, and to aid focusing on set.

  •  a DSLR loupe   Basically a viewfinder that attaches to the LED screen so that you can see what you are doing. Approximately £80.

  • a follow focus rig. You will need another person to operate this for you............ but it is the key to accurate focussing and fun to practice. A low budget model looks like this . Starting at around £65. 

  • Prime lenses are desirable as the follow focus rig attaches to them better, and they make for better focussing and image quality. Preferred lenses include 50mm 1.4 and 85mm plus a wide angle....... £560 upwards. 

  • a torch for focussing at night . The good news is that I have one of these.

  • a set of ND filters to allow wide open apertures and variable focus in daylight (you should  always shoot at 1/50second so exposure options are restricted). Or a vari-ND rotating filter  for variable light adjustment during filming. £100+

  • Microphones to improve sound quality; use the in camera microphone and a back up external microphone. The options here are endless. 

this is NOT how it should be used

external microphone

I would rather have one of these........

As it will sit on the top of my camera and stop the wind distortion. Plus it looks funky and has a good name and only costs £25.

  • a tripod designed for video with a floating head............  I shall point you here to a blog by Vincent Laforet ( as I like his name and he summarises all the options succinctly). In fact he has written so much on all of the above that I no longer feel I should continue .........

  • plus video editing software, plus lighting ( but where is the power point in a forest?) , plus tracks to run the tripod on for smooth transitions . Or failing that a rig like this for hand held videos (£982). I can just see me in the forest with this. 

Lanparte Complete DSLR Rig  - Travel Rig

and finally, the one thing that I feel tempted to buy; 

  • an intervalmometer which only costs £26, and with which I could try making time lapse videos.

How could one resist an object with a name like that?

And then maybe I could make a video like this ............... of the beautiful El Tiede mountain in Tenerife.

I can recommend the course; I really did learn a lot, and now know how to set my camera up properly for making videos. I will not be taking out another mortgage to get kitted out with all the above, but I do have a much better understanding of the issues involved in making a quality movie.

And if I go out at night, I can use my torch.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

World cup trees - England fades out..............but the show must go on.

England is no more.......

England may be out, but the world cup goes on.

So here's another tree.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

World cup trees - Spain is dead

Spain is dead
What can I say?

Apparently this is highly significant.

This tree seemed appropriate.

It is from Joshua Tree National Park, USA.

(I don't have any dead Spanish trees; sorry).

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Brazil versus Mexico - world cup trees

processed during Brazil v Mexico..... Milford treescape

OH firmly ensconced in the other room. Nil all at present.

Here is some temperate rain forest from Milford Sound, fiord land, New Zealand. Oh to be there in the extraordinary mossy greenness.......... and not in suburbia in front of a printer that refuses to play ball.

World Cup Trees - Belgium vs Algeria

Here is one for Belgium vs Algeria, which is the next match to be played. I shall be out enjoying Matisse Cut-Outs at the Tate Modern, and will feed back later.

Friday, 13 June 2014

playing in the digital darkroom


It has been a busy week.

Home from New Zealand and back to suburbia, with a quick trip to Scotland and tea at Buckingham Palace thrown in.

Why Scotland?

Number 1 child, currently living in Canada, has recently announced her intentions to get married, and for the wedding to be in Scotland.

Wonderful news on all counts, but there are some disadvantages to the scenario for your truly as "mother of the bride" which I will not trouble you with, related to the distances involved for all parties.

Suffice it to say that I am already having wedding nightmares and there is more than a year to go.......

I will keep a nightmare diary to amuse myself.

Nightmare number 1

The first caterer, when asked how much they charge for corkage coolly replied "£35,000".

It will get worse. Of that I have absolutely no doubt.

Up on Deeside, acting as venue scout, I bumped into Prince Charles driving his Range Rover just outside Balmoral. I was in a custard yellow hire car photographing trees; the best way to keep calm that I know. I didn't get to tell him why I was photographing trees, or why I was driving a yellow car, but I am sure he would have approved of my deep communion with nature.

The forests in Deeside are lush and green. I allowed myself 10 minutes with my camera before pressing on to visit a potential wedding venue.

Forest, Deeside © Caroline Fraser

A welcome sight after a 4am start from Gatwick.

green green grass

The grass is certainly greener and lusher up north.


And the roads quieter.

"River Dee"

River Dee

Job done. Progress made. Details secret.

So here are a few more trees.

My current desire is to improve my monochrome photography, so I have had fun playing in the digital darkroom that is Nik Efex Software.

Today I have selected  one image to see what might be done with it.

unadulterated original

the trees are prickly 

vintage camera effect with 'light leak'

double exposure effect

Triste 2 effect

Triste seems the most appropriate right now, for I have just become a world cup widow. By the time it is all over I will probably have about 35,000 variations on a theme of trees.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A new road begins with The Arcanum - upping my game with Jackie Ranken


I am home in sunny suburbia. Winter has become summer and the days are long and warm.

The transition back into 'normal' life after 4 months in New Zealand has been relatively pain free.

No more travelogue. Back to photography proper.

OH ( other half) is at work, and I have time on my hands thanks to the early start that jet lag allows.

I am excited to have a new venture to help me ease back into the daily routine. To spur me on to reach new levels in my photography.

I have been accepted as a member of The Arcanum.

The Arcanum is a new way of learning using the old and traditional method of Master and apprentice. The academy is on line, and I am linked up with people all around the world. We have a library of videos to watch and get one to one Google 'hangouts' in which our work is critiqued by our master ( a bit like a skype call but one that can be observed live by other apprentices, and that is later saved to the Library for others to watch at their leisure).

I am a member of a group of 20 apprentices and have been lucky enough to be selected by the Canon Master Jackie Ranken, whose work I am in awe of. I am confident that she will help me to progress to a higher level in my work. The apprentices work together, give each other critiques and yet all can progress at their own pace.

Jackie Ranken lives in Queenstown, New Zealand, and my favourite work of hers is the series Kitchen Stories in which kitchen utensils find themselves in the landscape in beautiful monochrome images that are both clever and amusing. She is multi award winning, and I feel very privileged to be under her wing.

So far, we have introduced ourselves and said a bit about our 'genesis as a photographer' . We all have very different tales to tell and different interests and skills, which will help us all to grow and develop.

I have put forward some images for critique by my fellow apprentices. With their help I will select 5 to take in to my first critique session with Jackie.

'slippage' © caroline fraser

For this image it was suggested that I try upping the contrast, and try different crops.

Jackie has talked about the importance of borders, and I have added a white border to represent the paper. Immediately the image is lifted. I have also taken out a two week trial of Nik software Silver Efex Pro as used by Jackie to see whether I find it easier to create better monochrome images with this rather than Photoshop. I have yet to decide, but am pleased with the adjustments to the original image.

version 2

Next I had a discussion about the yellow leaf, bottom right in this image.

floating leaves © caroline fraser

The views in the group vary; some preferring to keep it, and others finding it distracting. Which just goes to show that you can't please all of the people all of the time, and in the end have to go with your own preference.

I find the square crop less satisfying, and as one fellow commented, the rectangular image is 'more about the reflections of the branches above' and the square is 'about the leaves'.

You take your pick. I'm going for the original.

square crop
All of this learning is about sharing and being willing to take the time to look at other's work. It demands more time in front of the computer screen.

But I have a feeling it is going to be time very well spent.