Rachael on what inspires her photography.

As I mentioned in Monday’s blog, I get a lot of inspiration from other photographers. But paintings are also an influence.   I have recently acquired two original watercolours by Michael Morgan RI.  I really enjoy his use of colour and composition and my image, ‘Yellow field before the storm’ reflects my admiration for his style.

Rachael Talibart - Yellow Field before the Storm

Rachael Talibart - Yellow Field before the Storm

I am presently studying for an MA in Victorian Literature and Art and I have found, perhaps rather unexpectedly, that my studies are also influencing my photography.  John Ruskin wrote, in relation to Turner’s great seascapes:

“It is a great advantage to the picture that it need not present too much at once, and that what it does present may be so chosen and ordered as not only to be more easily seized, but to give the imagination rest, and, as it were, places to lie down and stretch its limbs in; kindly vacancies, beguiling it back into action, with pleasant and cautious sequence of incident; all jarring thoughts being excluded, all vain redundance denied, and all just and sweet transition permitted.” 

(Modern Painters, Vol III, Part IV, Ch. X).

Well, who am I to argue with Ruskin and Turner? I enjoy compositions that are pared down to the minimal, devoid of distracting elements, that create space, ‘kindly vacancies’, for the imagination to become involved.

Rachael Talibart - Cycling, Chesterman Beach

Rachael Talibart - Cycling, Chesterman Beach

I also enjoy creating images inspired by favourite poems or novels. My image, ‘Lonely walker’, was inspired by the poetry of Robert Frost, and ‘The road goes ever on’ accompanies a quotation from Tolkien:

‘The Road goes ever on and on down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, and I must follow, if I can, pursuing it with eager feet, until it joins some larger way where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say.’

Rachael Talibart - The Road Goes Ever On

Rachael Talibart - The Road Goes Ever On

I love going to the movies and the theatre.  When photographing the castles of Northumberland, I found myself wanting to create moody black and white images reminiscent of stills from epic films.  Perhaps I was also subconsciously channelling Roman Polanski’s film of Macbeth which, while not in black and white, certainly had plenty of mood and was filmed on location in Northumberland.

Rachael Talibart - Dunstanburgh Castle

Rachael Talibart - Dunstanburgh Castle

My greatest influence, however, is not found in art, literature or movies.  Nothing inspires me as much as being outside, preferably somewhere quiet and solitary.

Rachael Talibart - St. Ouen's Beach

Rachael Talibart - St. Ouen's Beach

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) wrote: “Nature is an infinite sphere of which the centre is everywhere and the circumference nowhere”. We encounter nature daily; we can hardly avoid it, even if it is only in the form of a humble fly who crawls through our open window or the scent of distant park flowers on the breeze. Taking time to notice nature enriches my day beyond measure. The more I look, the more I see. Have you ever taken the time to watch a honey bee? I mean for several minutes or more. Watch how the light glistens in its wings as it hovers before its chosen blossom, forelegs outstretched for a gentle landing.

Rachael Talibart - Reach

Rachael Talibart - Reach

Notice how the evening light catches the soft hairs on its back, and its eager tongue, already prepared as if it cannot wait to savour the sweet nectar.

Rachael Talibart - Ready

Rachael Talibart - Ready

It has become a cliche to speak of mindfulness, or living in the moment. I don’t know if our lives are busier now than they were a generation ago, or a century ago but, for me, a full life must still contain moments when all its demands are put to one side. Photography has opened my eyes to daily treasures. And the digital age has added the joy of sharing them.

Rachael Talibart - Patterns on the Shore

Rachael Talibart - Patterns on the Shore

Sometimes, however, it is also good to put the camera down and simply look, listen, smell, taste, touch. That’s all; I am going outside now.

“If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.”

Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849)

Rachael Talibart - Autumn at the Lake

Rachael Talibart - Autumn at the Lake

Rachael’s second set of picks from the Shed gallery.

I am really enjoying picking out some of my fellow creatives’ work, so I hope you can forgive the indulgence of a second ‘favourites’ post, again concentrating on images that I  have not seen featured on the blog or website recently.

I was lucky enough to view some of Chelsea‘s originals at the Albion exhibition in August.  They have so much presence – they remind me a little of Rothko’s great brooding masterpieces, except they are more delicate and textured and, I suspect, rather easier to live with!  I like the contrast of the frayed textures and the bold outlines in this piece.  I hope we will get to enjoy some more of her originals when Albion comes to London in February.

Chelsea Davine - Harvest Moon

Chelsea Davine - Harvest Moon

Graham‘s landscapes and seascapes really stand on their own merits and need no praise from me.  I couldn’t resist, however, showing this beautiful image with its serene colours and simple composition.  Beautiful.

Graham Wiffen - Porth Nanven

Graham Wiffen - Porth Nanven

I enjoy the peaceful atmosphere that Mark has captured in this shot and its timelessness. I find myself wondering whose boat this is, where they live, in a cabin just up the shore perhaps.  I like it that there seems to be a story that continues beyond the edge of the frame.

Mark Thomas - viking boat

Mark Thomas - Viking Boat

This shot just leaped out at me the first time I saw it in the gallery thumbnails. I love the layers of colour and texture, perfectly accentuated by Tricia‘s choice of letterbox format.

Tricia Scott - Oyster Beds I

Tricia Scott - Oyster Beds I

Thomas rightly won a competition with this fine image.  So simple, it demonstrates the power that lies in finding a different point of view.

Thomas Hard - Summer Comes Early

Thomas Hard - Summer Comes Early

Apologies to those whose work I didn’t get to – I could easily fill several more posts like this with equally good images. But never fear, they are all just a click away in the gallery.

Some of Rachael’s favourites from the Shed gallery…

As last week’s Artist of the Week, Lois Wakeman, said, it is very hard to single out just a few images from the creative art in the gallery.  I have tried to choose images that have not recently seen much publicity.

Paula Youens - Frost

Paula Youens - Frost

I enjoy Paula‘s shot of light rays filtered by trees for its simplicity and the way it captures a winter feel. No need for fancy editing – this shot really is all about the light.

Doug Chalk - Diagonoil

Doug Chalk - Diagonoil

Doug‘s almost abstract shot, with its clever title, looked to me like an oil painting from the gallery thumbnail.  I was surprised on clicking through to find that it is in fact a photograph.  Only a photographer with a good eye would see the potential in this oily patch of water with its rusted chain and scummy rope. Great seeing.

Robert Reeks - Iced Coke

Robert Reeks - Iced Coke

Robert‘s still life is so well framed.  It is really quite tricky to make a good bold composition out of something like this.  Less is definitely more with this kind of subject, as Robert obviously is well aware.  I think this would make an excellent image for a kitchen or a cafe/ diner.

John Marriage - Leaf/Lens

John Marriage - Leaf/Lens

Picking just one image from John‘s stylish and very creative portfolio is ridiculously difficult.  In the end, I chose this one because it combines stunning composition, interesting tones and textures and another of John’s specialities, a home-made camera.

Pamela Hollis - Portland Bill Lighthouse 2

Pamela Hollis - Portland Bill Lighthouse 2

Pamela has a couple of these images and I like them both for their beautiful colours and the way she has played with perspective and layers to create an almost dream-like vision of the lighthouse and the sea.

Five more stunning images later in the week!

In-flight entertainment

One of my photographic obsessions in the last couple of years has been capturing insects in flight, particularly bees and hover flies. I have by no means mastered this art yet, but I have bagged a few shots that I like and I have learned a few things along the way.

Final approach - Rachael Talibart

Final approach - Rachael Talibart

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I suspect that the best way to get really superb shots is to find a flower that the insects frequent, set up the tripod, lock focus on the flower and use a remote shutter release to fire off a load of shots every time a bug comes near. I can see the attraction of this laid back approach. I imagine a deck chair, comfy cushions, a cool glass of Pimms… But you would need that kind of still summer’s day that only happens in this country in Evelyn Waugh novels. Even the slightest breeze can move a flower. So, ditch the tripod.

Honey bee - Rachael Talibart

Honey bee - Rachael Talibart

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I prefer to shoot flying bugs in shutter priority, set to a minimum of 1/800, with the camera set to AI servo and continuous shooting. Any faster than 1/1250 and you risk freezing the wings. I prefer blurry wings. They’re moving, and I want my picture to show that.

Hover - Rachael Talibart

Hover - Rachael Talibart

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While blurry wings are good, blurry bodies are not, especially eyes. Depending on the situation, I either focus manually or use centre spot focus aiming to get the centre point over the eye. It is tricky at first but, as with all things, becomes easier with practice. Softness in the rest of the insect matters less if the eyes are clear.  The right metering helps too; I use spot metering. I want to expose for the bug and it is too small in the frame for the camera to expose for it in the default, evaluative metering mode.

Hoverfly - Rachael Talibart

Hoverfly - Rachael Talibart

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I won’t use flash; I don’t want to ‘bug’ the bugs. So having such a fast shutter speed reduces my depth of field somewhat, or a lot! Therefore, I always use a minimum of ISO 400 for these shots and, if your camera handles noise well, I suggest you consider going higher.  Really bright direct sunlight that would allow a lower ISO is usually fairly ugly light anyway. On the upside, a wider aperture means nicer backgrounds, smooth and un-distracting.

The Bishop and the Bumble bee - Rachael Talibart

The Bishop and the Bumble bee - Rachael Talibart

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It helps to learn a bit about the habits of your models. After a while of crouching in the bushes with ants crawling up your trousers you will start to notice that, while honey bees tend to approach flowers in a business-like straight line, bumble bees live up to their name and bumble all over the place. Certain hover flies, particularly the marmalade fly, hover beautifully, while others zoom around oblivious to the fact that they are supposed to be hover flies and are frankly not worth your trouble until they settle.

Carder Bee - Rachael Talibart

Carder Bee - Rachael Talibart

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Finally, be prepared to get very funny looks from a lot of people if attempting any of this in public. Good luck!

Rachael Talibart on her Photography.

I first started taking photos when a teenager, using a tiny cartridge camera and getting the images developed on the high street.   I bought my first SLR in the early 90s.  I travelled a lot during that decade and my friends still talk about the time I came home from a three-week trip to Zimbabwe with 51 rolls of 36-exposure film to be developed.  It was an expensive occupation in those pre-digital days!  The image below, of dead trees in Lake Kariba, is from one of those 51 rolls.

Kariba Sunrise

Kariba Sunrise

My favourite photographic memory, so far, is from last year.  I had long wanted to photograph lightning and at last I got my chance while on holiday in Nantucket, Massachusets.  It was one of the most spectacular storms I have ever witnessed and I photographed it all, for two battery-draining hours – the ultimate photographic rush!  My favourite shot from that evening is in the Shed Gallery: ‘Storm over Nantucket’.

Storm over Nantucket - Rachael Talibart

Storm over Nantucket - Rachael Talibart

Gull on Snow

Gull on Snow

I learn a great deal from other photographers and probably view at least twenty new images, often many more, every day.  I find it difficult to single out individuals but a couple that spring to mind are Jan Tove and Chris Packham, both of whom shoot images that are accurate records of our natural world but also works of art.  Chris’s shot ‘Gull on Ice’ was a winning image in the 1986 Wildlife Photographer of the Year. I admire the simplicity of the shot, and the bold use of negative space.  My image, ‘Gull on Snow’, is a tribute to Packham’s vision.

I am lucky enough to own some rather lovely photographic equipment but I do believe it is the photographer not the camera that makes the shot and some of my favourite images have been taken using my iPhone4 (the image below is one of them).  My ideal camera would be a fantasy camera with all the functionality and quality of my DSLR but with the weight and bulk of a compact.  And I would take it absolutely everywhere.

Flight of Memories - Rachael Talibart

Flight of Memories - Rachael Talibart

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Photography for me is largely an outdoor occupation.  I like nothing better than waiting for the light, and am content to sit out any sort of weather (although my family sometimes has other ideas!). I love the way time slows down.  Senses are heightened to notice the rhythmic wash of waves on the shore, the eerie cry of a solitary gull, the way the light hits the curve of wet rocks on the shore’s edge, the drift of clouds.  My landscape work tends to be achieved mainly during time begged out of family holidays; these are definite periods of concentrated photographic activity for me.

La Corbiere at sunset - Rachael Talibart

La Corbiere at sunset - Rachael Talibart

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My other favourite subject is insects and the summer is a very busy time when I can make images almost every day as my best studio for macro work is my garden.  Again, the weather is no deterrent – I once spent several hours in the pouring rain for a sequence of images depicting ants defending aphids from a marauding ladybird.

Hostilities Continue - Rachael Talibart

Hostilities Continue - Rachael Talibart

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I think that the most important elements of a successful photo are composition, composition, composition.  Really, that is nine tenths of the battle.  It is something that can be learned to a large degree but the really good photographers know instinctively how and when to break the rules.  The other important thing is for the photographer to have a special feeling for his or her subject.  Without that, the image will be lifeless.

Tulip 2 - Rachael Talibart

Tulip 2 - Rachael Talibart

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I find it difficult to pick just one favourite image; I tend to like my most recent photographs best.  One of my favourites at the moment is ‘Who, or what, are you?’  I like the soft green background and the interaction between the tiny shield bug nymph and the caterpillar under its leaf.

Who, or what, are you? - Rachael Talibart

Who, or what, are you? - Rachael Talibart

I also like ‘Into the Mist’, a shot taken this summer at Dorset’s famous Kimmeridge Bay.  The Levels, as the rocks there are known, are a ‘honeypot’ site for photographers and I am told that if there is any chance of a decent sunset, the shore bristles with tripods.   The weather was poor for my visit but I had the bay blissfully to myself, apart from the solitary figure who kindly walked into frame, making the shot.  This is part of a series I am working on of conceptual images about pathways.

Into the mist - Rachael Talibart

Into the mist - Rachael Talibart