Shooting Cows for Editorial

I nearly grew up on a farm, so I was delighted to be commissioned to get some editorial photographs of a couple of farmers with their cattle. It was only ‘nearly’ because I lived next to, not on a farm. They had three boys of my age, so that’s where I was for every moment I could manage. Marching across the fields to bring the cows in for milking, feeding the pigs, collecting the eggs from the chickens, digging up potatoes, riding on a trailer behind a tractor, trying to fish with baler twine and a bent nail, then nearly drowning in the pond after co-opting a tin bath as a boat. The appropriately named Bullock boys lived on the best playground you could imagine, and I had no doubt that at some point in the future I would be a farmer. I was wrong about that!

The editorial photographs I was to take were destined for a brochure promoting the high quality provenance of Campbell’s Prime Meat.

It’s my second editorial job for Campbell’s, and an early start from their Linlithgow base. I’m spending the day with Seonaid, the client and Brian from Stoddarts, one of Campbell’s suppliers and a customer of the two farms we’re visiting. The first destination is the wonderfully named ‘Wolfstar Farm’ in Ormiston, to the east of Edinburgh. The Kings are a father and son team who raise Angus cattle. It’s Ross, the younger one I’m to photograph, and the first animal is a big, handsome bull. As I wander around it’s pen taking pictures, it occurs to me that I’m possibly being a little over confident around the beasts. Because I grew up near them doesn’t mean I know anything about them.

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Ross reassures me that this bull is as docile as it seems, but should never to be trusted. They’re so heavy they could easily crush you against a fence or a wall.

Farmers are famously unsentimental about their animals, after all, they’re growing them for slaughter and the plate. 

But I’ve never met a farmer who didn’t care deeply about the welfare of the animals in their care, and not just for economic reasons. Ross knows which of the animals enjoy a tickle under the chin.

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From the damp murk, and soft countryside of Tranent we drove west, almost right across Scotland. Through the spectacularly beautiful Borders, with a coffee stop at Moffat and then into the sunshine that was blessing Dumphries and Galloway, in the south east of Scotland. We met Alex and Scott Henderson, another father and son team, for lunch in the restaurant of a near-by visitor centre. Because I was a disinterested party, it was fascinating to hear the interplay of different perspectives in the conversation between these three links of the Scottish food supply chain. It ranged through market prices, breeds of cattle and the forthcoming EU referendum.

The Henderson’s farm, ‘Carswadda’ is in the truly beautiful, rural landscape of Lochanhead Dumphries and Galloway.

Alex and Scott produce Charolais cattle, sending to market a dozen head each day. Not surprisingly, Carswadda was a clean and tidy operation.

The farms I remembered from my youth were more chaotic, where you had to wear wellies and mind the barbed wire. We played with the hay bales in the barn and on the Fordson tractor abandoned in a corner of the yard for our benefit. I suspect efficiency has put pay to any such romance now.

 

 

 

 

 

“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.

What to do with a Camera in Winter

Get more creative, that’s what!

tall trees under a blue winter sky

explore the structure of trees

What to do with a camera in winter is the question many photographers seem to ask themselves.  With the passing of the rutting season in the Royal parks of London, the herds of stag-shooting photographers have retired to the warmth of their computers. Which is a pity because photography in winter offers some great opportunities for creativity.
ice on a pond

The patterns in ice and the reflections of the trees can make some fantastic patterns

For instance, with each gust of wind and flurry of leaves the trees are getting ever more naked. Look up at the shapes of their bare limbs, who knows what inspiration you may get! Nature’s putting on her drab winter coat, but there’s so much texture and pattern in the bark, or in the fallen foliage in ponds and streams. The mist and fog is a cloak of mystery that can utterly change a landscape.
I love the frost, especially when the sun comes and everything sparkles. In a proper freeze ice throws incredible designs across standing water and creates amazing sculptures around running and tumbling water. For those who care to look, it’s all there in the parks.
Winter is also a great time to photograph the built environment. The sun never gets high in the sky so when it does come out it casts huge, dramatic shadows. The sun creeps into the nooks and crannies of our townscape that never see it in the summer, illuminating surface textures and the rich colours of stone and brickwork. After sunset man-made lightshows fill the streets with twinkling jewels, particularly around the shops at Christmas. The open-air markets make vibrant subjects with their steaming food stalls, colourful products and characterful faces. Even the traffic going home has a romantic appeal as the stoplights of braking vehicles string rubies along the road.

freezing water in a woodland brook

it’s been freezing for days and the ice has grown like glassy fruits

I got very excited last year when it snowed and spent several days sliding around hoping not to fall on my camera. When it snows everywhere is quieter, softer, somehow transformed. The smiles and rosy cheeks of people enjoying the snow make marvelous pictures. Young children’s sheer wonderment, noses tipped with a dew-drop, laughing office workers snowballing in their suits. Photograph the brief lives of snowmen before they melt away, sledge pilots before they tumble into a drift and leaping dogs as they catch a snowball. But watch out for snowball fights lest you become a target!

Here’s a blog I found with some winter photography ideas, and some tips on photographing ice.

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

New Hotel in Kingston and a Nice Place for a Networking Event

I love a nice hotel. There’s a charming, boutique establishment on a back-street in the Marias, Paris we’re very fond off. But there’s something about a big, grand hotel that’s rather wonderful. Kingston-upon-Thames is about to get one of those. The Doubletree by Hilton is opening soon, and Kingston Chamber of Commerce held a networking breakfast in the new hotel’s Sopwith Suite. Kingston’s aviation heritage has given a theme to the hotel, they’ve used the names and photographs of old Hawker aeroplanes. The purpose-built structure went up seven years ago, but was mothballed by the then owners. Under new owners, it’s been  finished it to a very high standard, king size beds, giant TVs and a carpet with a design based on an aerial view of Kingston. It’ll be a great place for a meeting over a coffee or a bite to eat. And I’m not just saying that because I got a free breakfast! And a chocolate muffin. And a pain au raisin. 

“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.

Customer Facing Staff Need Good Portrait Photos

Motive8 Ltd understand the importance of presenting customer-facing staff in the best possible way, so they value good portrait photos. They’re a global organization, and established market leaders in the design & installation of residential and corporate health and fitness facilities. M8 have management contracts for many of the facilities they install, and every few months I get a call to photograph the latest set of recruits. I can always look forward to M8 shoots, the people are always lively and bright. As they’re also young fitness fanatics, that they’re usually beautiful as well, but of course that has no bearing on my enthusiasm!

Business Networking in St. Mary’s University – photography

Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House, artistic licence moving the River Thames onto the back lawn!

St.Mary’s University is just up the road from where I live. It specialises to sport science and many of their students are themselves athletes. Part of their campus is in Strawberry Hill House, Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic Revival architecture, Strawberry Hill House was designed and created as a Gothic fantasy between 1747 and 1792 by Horace Walpole, historian, writer, collector and son of Britain’s first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole.

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The University leased most of the dilapidated old mansion to a trust for renovation some years ago. After £9,000,000 of work the beautiful building was opened to the public in 2010. But the university kept a few beautiful rooms for their own use, known as the Waldegrave Suite. When the Head of the School of Sport Health and Applied Science, Prof. John Brewer spoke to a Chamber of Commerce, he used the hall and it’s features to illustrate just how far, high and fast ‘elite’ athletes hop, skip and jump. St.Mary’s students did incredibly well in the Rio Olympics. Prof Brewer explained very proudly that, had the University been a country, it would have been 25th on the medal table, with 3 golds, a silver and a bronze.

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Police Chief Superintendent Parm Sandhu, Borough Commander of Richmond, spoke at the meeting. Parm is currently one of the highest-ranking Asian women in policing in the UK. She is also the first in the history of the Met Police to hold the position of a Borough Commander.

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Prof. John Brewer, Head of the School of Sport Health and Applied Science

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Members of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce

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

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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!

 

Less a Plane than a Jackson Pollock – Editorial Photography for Pilot Magazine

In my career as a editorial photographer, this has so far been my most ‘Boys Own’ job – spending the day at White Waltham airfield surrounded by aircraft, and in the company of walking-Wikipedia. Philip and Colin, who know about cars and aeroplanes, and two expert ‘detailers’. Sadly, the photography was not to involve taking to the air or driving cars. We were here to watch the ‘detailers’ cleaning a plane, so more ‘Widow Twanky’ than ‘Biggles’.

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Richard, Colin and Dean with dirty Dumbo

Pilot magazine editor, Philip Whiteman had got me there with writer Colin Goodwin. Colin was writing an article how to get your aeroplane clean. The grubby flying machine in need of a good scrub belonged to Colin. ‘Detailing’ was a new concept to me; very thorough, but careful cleaning, usually of classic or performance cars. My car gets a clean once a year if it’s lucky, usually because it’s so dirty I’m having trouble spotting it against the earth, or because there are toadstools growing in the filthy carpet. So Richard Tipper’s business, ‘Perfection Detailers’ operates on an entirely elevated plane. Sorry, plain. It’s not just a quick hose-down, and a rub with a good chamois leather. Because ‘perfection’ is what Richard aims for. A vehicle isn’t done until it’s ready to enter a concours d’elegance, in fact it isn’t done until it’s ready to win it.

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The propeller alone cost nearly £6000, so Colin says he looks after it very carefully!

I’d imagine that to most owners, their light-aircraft is quite precious. The fact that their life is dependent on it is also going to make them quite attentive to its well-being. Well, consider that Colin also built his plane himself, in his garden shed. He must care more than most!

Colin told me the aircraft, which he’s called ‘Dumbo’ is an ‘RV7’, imported in kit form from the US. He declines to tell me how much the whole thing cost, and won’t even estimate the number of hours it took him. “I’m anal, I spend hours cleaning the thing.” He says. “I joke with passers-by that it’s cheaper than actually flying it.”

Richmond editorial photographer-0872 The first thing Richard Tipper, and his assistant Dean do is clean off the oil stains along the plane’s belly, using a volatile oil a lot like WD40. Then the whole thing gets a shampoo, not any old shampoo of course, it’s pH-neutral with no added chemicals. He dries it straight away to avoid watermarks, using a man-made fabric which he knows from experience to be more absorbent than a chamois.

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The real challenge is the build-up of splattered insects on the leading edges of the wings and propeller. “It only takes a few minutes in the summer for the wings to look like a Jackson Pollock.” Is how Colin describes it.

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Colin was pleased to discover the paint was thin, helping keep down the weight

Elbow grease alone isn’t going to shift them, but before Richard sets about it with his powered polisher he test the thickness of the paint. Only 30-40 microns thick, about a third that of a modern car. He also tests the polish to make sure it doesn’t lift any colour.

I learned a lot during my day White Waltham airfield, photography takes you to interesting places, and lets you glance inside other worlds. You can be sure that my car is now…. still waiting to be cleaned.

 

Colin’s article took up 3 double-page spreads in Pilot magazine.

Love the Autumn – do photography!

Summer has holidays, winter has Christmas. Autumn, sandwiched in between has nothing but colour.

But, oh what colour!

two lines of tall trees in autumn colours

a spectacular ride of trees in every season

 

Autumn’s the best. Yes, photography in spring is beautiful when everything bursting into life. Winter is wonderful in it’s sharpness and starkness. And of course long, sultry, summer days are magnificent. But Autumn? Autumn is golden, it’s crunchy under foot and smells of sweet wood smoke and musty damp leaves, it’s the sensual season. We should love the autumn.

 

Autumn should be walked in, listened to, breathed and touched. Autumn is definitely a time for photography. In fact, producing half a dozen good pictures of rich, autumn colours should be compulsory for anyone with a camera. A sort of licence fee-in-kind. There’d be a website where you’d upload your pictures, and anyone who didn’t would get a late night visit from mellow fruitful bailiffs; “show us your autumnally themed photographs or we’ll confiscate all your cameras, including your mobile.”

fungus, fir cones and blackberries

fungus is an exotic woodland pant, in the sense that it grows so quickly and might be deadly!

We’d have dedicated channels on Freeview and Sky showing an endless slideshow of trees dressed in reds, oranges and yellows. Giant spiders sitting in enormous webs strung with diamonds of water droplets. Drive-time sunsets. Trees hiding in mists. Squirrels snatching the last conkers and acorns.

 

 

And of course the Lords of Richmond’s parks, the growling grouches, noses in the air, nostrils twitching, sniffing for rivals, strutting stags watching over their herd. The camera is a tool for saving splendours to enjoy later.

a deer stag

a stag bellowing its presence

 

Trevor Aston works in Southwest London and Surrey photographing portraits, PR, events,

How About Us? Staff Pictures on the Company Website

Getting a job is a little like being adopted. You enter someone else’s family with it’s different ways of doing things, different look and sounds, different smells. As time passes the strangeness fades until one day, almost without noticing you become one the gang, an insider, part of this no-longer-new family.

That’s why it’s so interesting to go into a company to shoot profile portraits of the staff. You’re never anything other than an outsider, but an outsider with a mandate to stare at each person and disrupt the routine. As a pebble tossed into an otherwise still pond, it’s fascinating to watch the ripples pass through the private world of the office.

While many quite enjoy the break in routine and an excuse to get away their desk, others just hate having their picture taken. I move each person on quickly after capturing a quick impression of them. It’s not really a portrait, but something to show to clients and customers to enable the process of engagement to begin, even before they’ve spoken to or met anyone. It reassures them them see that none one in the company has two heads.

My commission to photograph the staff at Receipt Bank on Fleet Street was a tribute to the power of networking. The call from Nelson came some four years after we’d attended the same group for about six months. I’m pleased to report that the staff of Receipt Bank have only one head each.

Corporate and profile portraits

Editorial Photography in a Royal Palace

My second editorial photography job for Hong Kong based business magazine A Plus, was photograping Jessica Fries, Executive Chairman of ‘Accounting for Sustainability’, a charity established by Prince Charles to ‘inspire action to drive a fundamental shift towards resilient business models and a sustainable economy’. The office is in Clarence House, London, a Royal Palace. Understandably, there was considerable security rigmarole to get through, a long non-disclosure agreement to sign and a strict condition that I couldn’t photograph any pictures of the Royal family, or show the garden in any of the pictures. I had a look at the garden, but obviously can’t disclose what I saw….

Jessica was a delight to photograph, a lovely person and very amenable to walking around looking for good locations, and it’s still a thrill to my work in a magazine….

 

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