Category Archives: family

Share Your Photographs – or They Might as Well Not Exist

DSC_5902We just relived our summer holiday. It was a nice holiday so that’s a good thing! We watched a display of photographs from the trip on our TV, they looked sharp, bright and colourful, it’s was a good way to share. I was reminded of childhood slideshows when Dad was cajoled into setting up the screen, the projector and then loading the slides. Usually it was Christmas or when Gran and Granddad came for a birthday tea. We loved it.

RGranny and Granddad at Christmasubbing shoulders is really social

Photographs of family and friends have to be shared, by which I mean looked at together, not just posted to some online ‘social network’. Huddled round the picture you can remember together, remind one another of the people, the time, the place, what happened next, what happened since. Looking at art is a solitary affair because art speaks to the soul and other people are a distraction. But snaps of family and friends speak to our emotions, sharing the looking at them can be as much of an event as the taking of them.
I post pictures in social media, sometimes people comment, which draws another comment and a conversation develops. But it’s a lop-sided, time-shifted conversation. Mostly all you get is the painfully banal ‘nice shot’ or achingly awful ‘awesome’. Neither do I like ceding part of my copyright to the platform’s owner, or that the viewer has to sign-up and log-in.

Shelf-bending dust trapsfamily photography father and son

Let’s give a nod to the traditional photo album. Peeping into an album bulging with photographs is almost irresistible, but fiddling with self-adhesive photo corners is enough to turn anyone into a digital die-hard. As soon as you turn a page of the album the picture would likely pop out of the mounts. Far fewer photographs get printed now because people are much more selective and often they want to do more with the print than leave it in a drawer. There is something about the feel of the paper in your hand, its sheen and smell.
I watched a group of tourists recently photograph themselves with one of the new generation of instant print cameras, either a Polaroid or a Fuji. They made several prints of the same picture so they could all have a copy. That’s what photography should be for – sharing!

Scrapbook – or journal?

I stumbled on this blog that shows a fantastic way to use photographs for a gift: http://www.abeautifulmess.com/2014/08/gift-idea-sister-photo-book.html

Making a scrapbook-come-album will take quite a lot of time and trouble, but wouldn’t you be touched if someone went to all that effort for you? (Well unless it’s a stalker)family photography boys playing rugby
Photo books are great, I’ve made several for clients and for gifts; they always go down well. Last Christmas I made one from scans of my Dad’s slides for him and my sisters. It was a few months after my mum had died so of course I included all the pictures of her I could find. But as mum always said ‘your Dad only ever takes views’. She was nearly right, but there were enough pictures from holidays, days out and walks in the countryside to remind us of 40, even 50 years ago when our Mum and Dad were younger than I am now.

Better on the box

The photo book is special, and a great alternative to the traditional album but it demands a bit of time and effort to make it. There’s a real chance that photographs will be left to languish unseen on hard-drives or worse still on the memory card. Since the TV is at the centre of most homes and displays pictures easily and beautifully I think it’s a great way to show off and share you pictures.
Nothing on TV worth watching? No problem, press a few buttons on the remote and you can be back on holiday.family photography on the beach at Brighton

“Every picture tells a story, make sure it’s the right one!”
Trevor Aston Photography and Video is based in Teddington, Richmond upon Thames in southwest London close Kingston, Twickenham and Surrey.

The Mad Hatter’s Wedding? Photography for a Very Special Day

wedding, photographer, photography

A Mad-Hatters themed wedding? Not sure what to expect here! Well, it turned out to be a very individual celebration, at Hartsfield Manor, in Surrey. Louise and Leigh had help from friends and family in decorating the Victorian stately home for their wedding. Dozens of bits and bobs, eclectic and even eccentric, but a great stage for the wedding ceremony in a beautiful, light room, drinks in the 16 acre garden and grounds, then meal and a party. The bridal suite had a large dressing room where the bride and her maids were attended by hairdressing make-up and Prosecco. It was fun to photograph, and slightly embarrassing when I noticed there was a bra swinging from the Velcro fastener on my camera flash!

 

Come to a Party – Dressed as Tube Station!

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Any ideas what you’d do if you were invited to a tube station themed party? I was completely without inspiration, but luckily I was taking photographs so I had an excuse…. Celebrating a significant birthday in Richmond, Surrey was actress Julie Peasgood. There was plenty of theatricality on display in the guests, and some terrific creative thinking that quite put me to shame. It was a really fun evening and it was lovely to see and hear from Julie’s friends about her past times and their love for her. She is lovely!
So see how many tube stations you can identify. I got about two, but I’m useless at puzzles…

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We heard some great stories, some were a bit rude….

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Patrick Pearson, Julie’s husband. I first met Patrick years ago at the BBC, not knowing his connection with Julie until she phoned him!

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Julie, or ‘High Barnet’ speaking at her birthday party

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Clive Harvey play Ukelelle and sang while guests ended a welcoming drink….

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One of The Starlettes, the singing duet who entertained beautifully in the later while everyone else ate….

 

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Trevor Aston Photography is based in Teddington, Richmond upon Thames in southwest London with easy access to and from central London and Surrey.

Home is where the dust is

commercial business photography Richmond upon Thames London-7989commercial business photography Richmond upon Thames London-7945A home is more than a pile of bricks and mortar, at least it is once it’s been lived in for while; absorbing something of us, our breath and our dust. So what happens when we go?  How long does it take for that bit ‘us’ to fade away?

The question came to mind as I was making my way around a flat in Epsom, photographing it’s empty rooms for the developer just before the renovation begins. The rooms were empty, but I wasn’t photographing an empty space, it was the lounge where they’d sat on the sofa and watched TV, the bedroom where they’d slept, the bathroom sink where they’d brushed their teeth, the kitchen cupboard where they kept their teabags and tins of soup. commercial business photography Richmond upon Thames London-7951 I didn’t know why they were no longer living there, but I had a strong feeling.

In the lounge I spotted a small note stuck to a wall.

 

 

 

Then I felt knew at least one thing; that this had been Alice’s daddy’s home.

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Trevor Aston works in Richmond, Southwest London and Surrey as a portrait, event and editorial photographer.

Up the Hill Backwards – or how I nearly stranded my family

family in the snow Teddington southwest LondonThe idea of the white Christmas is so charming, if only we could arrange for the snow to start late on Christmas eve once everyone’s got home, lie there through the big day while we open our presents before thawing on Christmas evening. Then Boxing Day would be clear for the exodus when it seems like one half of the population visit the other half for lunch or dinner. Which we did this year, driving from London to Cheadle in Staffordshire. If you’re not a child then at any other time of the year snow is just a nuisance, an unpredictable hazard to safe progress on our roads.

We were very nearly caught out by the Boxing Day snow that swept down into the Midlands. We’d driven up from London for dinner with my sister and our dad. As we ate the snow started to fall and we pulled back the curtains to get a better look. “Is it sticking?” “Oh Yes!” “Look at the dog…” The big black Labrador strolled in sporting an icy white saddle and coat, she paused by the dining table to it shake off, a momentary blizzard showering those nearby with snots of slushy snow.

snowy pond Teddington southwest LondonWe moved to the lounge for cups of tea and watched meaty flakes falling from the empty black sky through the light shed by the streetlamp to settle in an ever-thickening blanket on the road and the cars.

So we’re staying in a hotel a few miles away. A bit of a drive but not a worry, after all we’d seen the gritting lorries out on the motorway. No doubt once they’d finished the M6 they’d head straight to Tennyson Avenue in Cheadle. Wouldn’t they?

The four of us got into our coats and walked through the virgin white to our little car. I brushed off about 8cms of snow from the windows and got in. I’d driven in snow lots of times and had learned the hard way that once you’re sliding you have little choice about where you go and when you stop. It’s called being ‘out of control’. Caution and anticipation come much easier now I’m a grown up.

icy water in Teddington southwest LondonWe weren’t the first vehicle to drive down Tennyson Avenue. I followed the existing tyre tracks and took the busiest route out of the town in the hope that traffic would have kept it clear. We still had to ascend a long, winding and occasionally steep hill so I picked up as much speed as I dared. Driving is usually such a mindless, automatic activity but now we were on a snow covered road I’d no idea how fast we could safely corner or if we stopped on the uphill whether we’d have enough traction to get moving again. It was all going very well until we rounded a corner and discovered a line of stationary cars. At their head one was doing a 3-point turn so we were forced to stop. Here then was the answer to one of those questions; no we didn’t have enough traction on the snow to get moving. I tried several times to coax the car to get a grip but either the wheels spun or the engine stalled. We weren’t alone; apart from a 4-wheel drive no one else could get moving either. Is it possible to drive in a smug manner? On a snowy hill in a 4-wheel drive it must be hard not too.

snow in the high street Teddington southwest London“So family, what’s it to be? Back down the hill to your auntie’s and sleep on the floor, or you all get out and push.” They got out and lined up behind the car. Once again I lifted the clutch with the engine barely more than ticking over and yes…. it stalled again. More wellie then, lift the clutch pedal and yes…. the wheels are spinning again. It started to look like we’d have to go back down the hill and spend a night on the floor, but then like the Angel of Mons a man stepped out of the dark and into the road to assist in our moment of need. With the extra shove we were away. Or rather I was away and with a family dilemma. Stop to retrieve my nearest and dearest and probably get stuck again, or carry on up the hill? I decided to carry on until reached a section where the hill almost levelled out and then stopped. To my surprise there were no repercussions when they piled back in to the car, it was all taking on the character of an ‘adventure’.

family photograph

Beginning with a little rocking to and fro we got the car to creep forward and to the summit.   Once more we found a car blocking the road, this time it was the smug 4×4. They’d taken it upon themselves to stop the traffic coming in the other direction from proceeding down the hill and crashing into the cars doing u-turns. Very public spirited, but I looked at the half dozen cars they’d force to stop before getting to the top of the other side of the hill. Would they now need a push or perhaps a tow? On the snowy roads a different hierarchy was applying itself. It put the 4×4 driver on top, their unimpaired mobility apparently imbuing a form of authority in this wintery chaos. We had to look up to them because we’d struggled, but our little front-wheel drive car had made it, so in turn we could look down on the rear-wheel drive executive cars that were having to turn back.

Our spirits were high as we drove along, we’d taken on the elements and so far we’d come through as a family. But we’d not yet reached our hotel so there was no room for complacency. The road dipped into another hill down to the next village. I slipped the car into a lower gear to slow down without using the brakes and risking a skid. And none to soon, we rounded a bend to find a car with wheels spinning madly and moving slowly sideways across the road and into our path. I risked a light touch on brakes. We stopped safely but there was no room to pass so we just sat and looked at the car in our way. They were probably looking us. Another car stopped behind us and we all just looked at each other. Finally the car blocking our lane started to move backwards. It looked good, if they could just reverse to their side of the road to let us get past we’d be out of out their way. So slowly, slowly they went backwards down the road, but still staying on our side. Slowly, slowly we and the other cars followed them do the hill.

So the hierarchy goes; 4×4’s, little front wheel drives then big executive cars and finally, at the bottom, cars going backwards down snow-covered hills.angel_monument_in_snow Petersham southwest London

Trevor Aston works in Richmond, Southwest London and Surrey as a portrait event and editorial photographer.

Do better family photography on holiday

family in Central Park, New YorkOf the pictures I took in New York on our family holiday, the one I like the best is taken on the rocks in Central Park. It was still quite early on our first morning, we can’t quite believe we really are there and not just dreaming ourselves to be in some film or sitcom.  The camera’s sitting on the ground using the self-timer.

New York Street cornerI brought back several hundred pics of skylines, towering buildings, venders, fire trucks, cabs, cops, this street and that avenue.  Now when I look at them I think, so what?  They’re just pictures of New York, like everyone else’s, they’re not knew, they don’t capture our experience of New York. (We loved it by the way)  So this year I’m determined to get more pictures of my family; it’s probably the last time we’ll be four. Our kids are already too old to be coming on holiday with their parents but we’re paying so enough said.

family on the Spanish Steps

Not just the Spanish Steps in Rome, us enjoying ice cream on the Spanish Steps.

Views are to be looked at and experienced, not photographed by me.  Well, unless there’s a family member in the frame – all you tourists standing on Westminster Bridge getting a picture of yourself with Big Ben? Now I understand!  My family is no keener on being photographed than any other, so I’ll have to negotiate. I’ll agree when I can take close-ups so they can be prepared.   I will ignore the shot of the Taj Mahal over the water, but I shall make my son pretend to push up the leaning tower of Pisa.  These are not going to be award-wining portraits, but they will be portraits of our family at a particular point in our lives together – they will be portraits with meaning.

 


 

mum on beach with parasol copyI was surprised how few pictures I had taken of my mum, only finding out when it was too late!  I’m so happy that I found this unique picture of my mum from the mid 1930s.

 

 

 

 

messing around in Moma New York We all enjoyed our visit to MOMA, we had fun and this picture reflects it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York_0250 What to do when you’ve already seen the film? Photograph your family!

 

 

 

 

Frensham Pond_DSC7307_1709 We love every bit of our kids, so not every picture needs a face in it.

 

 

 

 

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They won’t thank you for taking pictures that make them look like an idiot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brighton-23No one looks good with their tongue out!

 

 

 

 

Trevor Aston works in Richmond, Southwest London and Surrey as a portrait, event and editorial photographer.

Using Flash for Better Outdoor Photographs

I always thought flash was for indoor photography. The only time I remember seeing my Dad use it was at Christmas photographing three generations of the family sitting down to Christmas dinner. We look so miserable staring back at the camera, probably the prospect of playing Monopoly. It wasn’t something he was used to using so every year he had to learn how to open the fan-like reflector, push a flash bulb into the housing, plug in the sync lead and calculate exposure.  I doubt there was ever very much spontaneity to capture but it would certainly have drained away by the time my Dad lifted the camera to his eye.

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this needs a little complimentary light to bring up the eyes

What’s a flash bulb?

Oh yes, you might not be as old as me.  Before electronic flash guns were invented photographers had a little glass bulb containing magnesium wire in oxygen.  The glass was coated in blue plastic in case it shattered, they could only be used once.  They had a cost so my Dad wouldn’t dream of using a flash outside in the sun.  Sunshine has always been free!

 

Push the ISO and turn off the flash

Modern digital cameras are getting better and better in low light.  In-doors I’d much rather turn on the lights, turn up the ISO and turn off the flash.  Camera-mounted flash is so harsh – it produces flat pictures with no subtlety or nuance of character.  It’s often adopted as a style for fashion or music photography.  I think it’s horrid.

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too dark – turn on the flash!

Sun out – flash on

On the other hand, outdoors I almost always use flash.  It improves so many pictures by lifting the shadows, especially those thrown across a face by the sunshine.  It’s often called fill-in flash, but it shouldn’t fill the shadows completely, they’re vital to give a picture tonal depth.  Blasting a shot with flash out doors produces the same harshness as it does in doors.

family child photography Teddington southwest London park flash

the flash adds enough light to stop it being a silhouette

Complimentary Light

The right amount of additional light to throw on an outdoor subject is an amount that is just enough to make it look right.  That’s maybe not the most profound thing you’ve read in a photography blog!  The thing is, while I’m advocating lifting the shadows by using flash in outdoor photography, there are often times when you want a nice deep shadow.  Well that’s a good aesthetic choice for you to make, but you only have a choice about how dark to make the shadows if you capture some shadow detail in the first place.  At the risk of stating the obvious, a well-exposed picture has nothing too bright and nothing too dark so you can then choose to burn out the bright parts or turn shadows into pools of darkness.

wedding photography southwest london flashIt demanded a lot of skill in the days of film to apply flash outdoors with any subtlety.  Digital cameras make it possible and practice will make it quicker. When you’re out in the sun, turn on the flash, take the picture, find some shade and have a look at what you’ve got.  Look at the shadows; you should be able to see some detail but it shouldn’t be anywhere near as bright as the sunlit areas.  If it is, lower the power of the flashgun and take it again.  If you can’t manually control the power of the flash then try putting pieces of opaque tape over the flashgun.  Professional level flashguns can be set to balance the flash output with the ambient light, in my experience of the Nikon’s they work really well.

Throwing light into darkness doesn’t necessarily demand a flashgun.  A reflector is just as effective for portraiture, it’s much cheaper than a flashgun but does need either an adjustable mount and stand or someone to hold it.  Reflectors can be white, silver or gold.  The white versions give a softer light than the silver and the gold produces a ‘sunset’ colour cast.  I’ve asked someone in a white shirt to stand-in for a reflector or propped up pieces of white card.  Mirrors can also work, but they give a very hard light, are often heavy and present a real danger if they’re dropped!

 

Sunshine means sun-glasses

What are eyes if not windows on the soul?  So make people take off their cool shades, and remember to allow time for the little red marks either side of the nose to fade.  That should also allow enough time for their eyes to adjust to the brighter light, you don’t want your subject to be squinting in the sun!

Trevor Aston works in Richmond, Southwest London and Surrey as a portrait, event and editorial photographer.

Don’t Forget to Photograph Family and Friends this Christmas, it’s the Best Time to Catch Them!

A present from me to all my friends and family over the holiday period is to always have my camera to hand.

David with skateboard at xmas

When they get what they want, they’re happy!

I’m going to make more effort to photograph family and friends this Christmas.  Whether or not they want me too!

Looking back at Christmases past there are plenty of photographs showing our children when they were small.  Toddlers only have to be tearing wrapping from presents to look sweet. Still more cute when they’re wearing the jumper knit by Granny. Unsurprisingly there are fewer pictures in our family collection of the children as teenagers.  “Dad! Stop taking pictures!”  It’s not just the awkwardness of adolescents that stopped me snapping pics of Christmas celebrations, it’s a bit of laziness.  Well lethargy at least. Often it’s such a relief to get to the 25th December with work finished and presents bought, wrapped, hidden and delivered (to Santa obviously) that it’s easy to forget about the camera.

Emma opening a present fom Gran at Christmas

Is the dress made out of Christmas wrapping?

It seems to me that concealed inside the Christmas routine are some great photo opportunities. Especially for anyone who likes photographing people. The good humour that pervades most souls makes them a little more patient with the persistent photographer.  Playing with a new toy, or exploring a new gadget is very distracting anyway – so there’s a good chance to capture pictures of people while they concentrate on the operating system or lose themselves in their new book.  There are better pictures to be taken if you can encourage people to sit by a window in natural light.  Generally, don’t bother with the camera’s built-in flash.  Sometimes by chance the light from a standard or table lamp will light a face nicely, if the camera’s ready you needn’t miss it.

If you’re getting together with family or friends it’s a real shame not to get a picture of everyone, especially if you don’t often see each other. Open the door to visitors with a camera in your hands. There’s a lovely picture of smiles, kisses and handshakes as guests arrive. It also establishes from the start that you intend to take pictures, and of course gives the visitors permission to do the same. When you’re the visitor you have to make a judgment about the appropriateness of taking the camera.  Usually I find people are pleased when they see my Nikon round my neck.  Perhaps because they know they’re looking good and the house is tidy!

Granny and Granddad at Christmas

Memories to treasure

The secret is knowing when to stop taking pictures, I don’t like photographs of people eating. In between courses, while one person is holding everyone’s attention with a good story, you can quietly turn the lens towards the listeners. But then it’s time to put the camera down.  Except for getting everyone to pose for a group picture, that’s always fun. Prop the camera on some books and use the self-timer. In years to come the pictures will develop all the more poignance.

Christmas walk

Grandma and mum, daughter and mum, granddaughter and daughter

Along with millions of others we go for a walk after lunch on Christmas day.  New bikes and scooters usually abound, but best not to take pictures of children falling off. Have the camera at the ready for the unexpected encounter with a neighbour in their Christmas jumper.  No one will mind you taking pictures. They can’t, it’s Christmas!

A Perfect Family Portrait

You Don’t Need A Perfect Family For A Perfect Family Portrait

Any idea how many pictures you have on your computer? How about on your phone? How often do you look at them? Most of us have hundreds of photographs of our family, but not that many can qualify as a proper portrait.
It’s great to snap away while your kids are small; once mine got bigger they stopped being quite so co-operative. Now I tell myself that one day I’ll sort through the folders and folders of photos lurking in every corner and crevice of my computer’s hard-drives. If not during the long winter nights then I’ll do it when I retire. Of course going through old pictures of your family is a sheer delight, a luxuriant bathe in nostalgia. “Oh look at this picture.” I’ll say to my daughter. “That’s a picture of you when you were nice.” And she’ll reply; “You should remember who’ll be choosing your nursing home in a few years!” If we take enough, we’re bound to get some good pictures. But just occasionally it’s worth investing a little more time to get a really special portrait of your family. It can be a lovely present for grandparents. For Mother’s Day or Father’s day a portrait of the children with your in-laws can make great presents for your partner. They’ll all love it, they have to!
So how to get that special picture? Firstly, get everyone’s co-operation. Bribery, blackmail and coercion are the most useful tools. Plan it for some time ahead so no one has to change a plan they’ve made to go to the skate-park or out with a boyfriend. Remind everyone of how much the picture will be appreciated by the receiver. Think carefully about where and when to stage the portrait. It should be done in the day to take advantage of natural light; it’s free, convenient and very bright. Although direct sunlight will look horrible with strong contrast and shadows, positioning people in or near a north or east facing window will give a wonderfully soft light that still shows the shapes and textures. Do include things like photographs of late relatives, souvenirs from holidays, tools of a trade, odd bits of sports or hobby equipment or anything that
represents your lives. These are the touches that will make the picture much more meaningful and poignant as the years pass.
You’ll need a camera with a shutter time delay or a remote control. A tripod is useful but you can balance the camera on a chair, table or even a stepladder. You could set up the shot and then get your daughter’s boyfriend to press the button; it’ll give him something to do!
This is a contrived image, but the more candid the shot looks the better. Keep everyone in position for as long as possible; as they get bored they’ll stop posing for the camera, then as conversations start and niggles begin to reveal themselves you’ll get shots that look much more natural. The portrait will show everyone interacting with each other and being a family. Of course small children won’t keep still for very long, so best to just let them move around, they’ll add some spontaneity and help distract from the camera. You can overcome some of the awkwardness by getting everyone to play the family’s favourite board game. The important thing is to keep shooting so you’ve got lots of shots to choose from, and save the bad shots for blackmail next time!

Trevor Aston works in Southwest London and Surrey photographing portraits, PR, events, food and products, editorial, architectural and interiors