Beyond the Obvious

Tricia Scott and Lois Wakeman’s new show has now opened in the Town Mill’s Malthouse Gallery. “Beyond the Obvious” runs until Wednesday 16th September.

Tricia and Lois first met a few years ago, and soon discovered an eerily similar interest in subjects and techniques. Born several years and an eastern county apart, they have both washed up in Devon, and found their photographic twin!

The title of the exhibition comes from their fascination in seeing not just a pretty scene, but finding inspiration in intricacy, pattern, texture, shadow, reflection, symmetry, geometry, ripples, spots and dapples. Maths (chaos theory, turbulent flow, fractals and the Fibonacci sequence) can explain a lot of it for us, but dedication is necessary to find beauty in places that others might just pass by unseeing, eyes fixed firmly on the grand view.

Both Tricia and Lois live near the sea, so the coast – whether natural rocks, sand, seaweed, shells and waves or man-made rusty iron, hulls, sheds, ropes, and fishing paraphernalia – is a major source of material. Tricia is both a sailor and an avid traveller, so finds more far-flung locations to inspire her, but Lois spends nearly all her time near home and is constantly looking for new angles on familiar subjects, whether by the sea or in the beautiful hinterland of the Jurassic Coast.
Expect peeling paint, rust, lobster pots, corrugated iron, as well as more conventional subjects like shorelines, shadows, waves and reflections. Both figurative and abstract images will be featured. The exhibition is hung in sets of related images by both photographers, together with a small selection of earthenware pottery by Lois.

Photography Desert Island DSCs!

Some personal picks from the Shed Gallery by Lois Wakeman

There is such a wide range of subject matter and style displayed in the gallery, it was hard to pick a few favourites of mine.  These are just a few from a long list.

I have always liked Maisie Hill‘s bright and breezy seaside images, and ‘Jellies‘ perfectly encapsulates Lyme in high summer (or perhaps how summer used to be!).

Maisie Hill - Jellies

Maisie Hill - Jellies

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It has a strong composition with the horizontals of the rails and the horizon, contrasted with the verticals of the jellies hanging up like a bunch of luscious fruit or perhaps exotic undersea creatures! People are often afraid to use high-key lighting but here the dazzling background evokes the mood of squinting into the sun, and shows off the glorious colours and translucency of the main subject.

Another local photographer I have long admired is Andy White, and as an avid photographer of fields myself, I can’t resist mentioning his ‘Potato Field

Potato field - Andy White

Potato field - Andy White

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The linear geometry of the furrows is beautifully observed, and the swooping lines outline the topography of the hilly ground. The curved lines disappearing from the frame at the left add a certain degree of tension and asymmetry to the composition.

Paula Youens shares my love of overlooked small corners and intimate landscapes, so I had to include something from her! ‘Shadows on the wall‘ is perhaps the one I like best.

Shadows on the wall - Paula Youens

Shadows on the wall - Paula Youens

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The horizontals of the textured weatherboarding are crossed by the verticals of the cow parsley shadows, which are alternately crisp and fuzzy and, as Paula says, “shattered” by the different planes in the photo. Lots of people would pass by this humble scene unnoticing, but Paula has captured it for us in all its delicacy.

I admire people who have the patience to photograph wildlife, and there are so many fine examples to choose from in the Shed!

Fire Fox - Timothy Foxx Neal

Fire Fox - Timothy Foxx Neal

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I had to pick ‘Fire Fox‘ by Timothy Foxx Neal as the quality of the light is exquisite and the timing to catch the fox’s cat-like leap was perfect. This brought to mind JMW Turner’s painting ‘Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway’, with the hare fleeing the locomotive in a haze of golden light.

Finally, I can’t miss out some of my fellow artists at TMAG (the Town Mill Arts Guild) – but who to choose? I know from stewarding that lots of people admire Jeanne Goodridge’s ‘Blue Wave, Lulworth’ which again exhibits perfect timing to catch the sun shining through the water.

Blue Wave, Lulworth, Dorset - Jeanne Goodridge

Blue Wave, Lulworth, Dorset - Jeanne Goodridge

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Tricia Scott also shares my love of the coast. I especially like her boat abstracts, and her ‘Dorset Gold, Silver, Bronze’ series that she exhibited during the Olympics back in the summer. The web doesn’t do justice to the scale and detail of these subtly-coloured images, but here’s one anyway:

Dorset Bronze 1 - Tricia Scott

Dorset Bronze 1 - Tricia Scott

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I could go on – but I have to get back to work now, so my apologies to all the other fine artists and photographers whose work I haven’t had time to write about…

Photographer Lois Wakeman on ICM photography.

In this post, Lois Wakeman shares her love of ICM: Intentional Camera Movement, as a technique for abstracting landscapes and other mostly natural subjects. Conventional wisdom has it that the shutter speed should be short enough to avoid any blurring of the main subject, but by using a slow shutter speed and moving the camera while the shutter is open, you can get some interesting results, as Lois hopes to show you.

She says: “I didn’t realise my early and not always successful experiments in moving the camera during a long exposure already had precedents amongst some highly regarded photographers, for example, William Neill in the USA and Leeming+Paterson this side of the pond. But having seen their work and that of many others online, I decided that it was an avenue I wanted to explore further, in addition to my straight landscapes and seascapes.

Just like when I had my first digital camera, this technique has opened up a whole lot of new creative possibilities for me, and has rekindled my love of getting outside with the camera.

Lois Wakeman - Furzehill Plantation III

Lois Wakeman - Furzehill Plantation III

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Many readers may be familiar with the ‘trunks in a forest’ theme from photo sharing web sites – probably because the upright shapes lend themselves to smooth camera movements and help to simplify the chaos of a woodland that can often overpower a tree-filled composition.

By choosing interesting light, you can overcome the lack of striking trees or extreme fall colour in England – we generally have no aspen groves or red maples to use as subjects! The above image and the two below were both taken in a local pine plantation at different times of day and year. By varying the amount of camera movement, I can choose how much detail to preserve, to give a more painterly look. I have found that it’s important to make sure the scene is correctly focused, even though the result is blurred, otherwise you tend to get a foggy mush.

Lois Wakeman - Furzehill Plantation I

Lois Wakeman - Furzehill Plantation I

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Lois Wakeman - Furzehill Plantation II

Lois Wakeman - Furzehill Plantation II

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ICM has unpredictable effects (part of its charm for me), although the more you practise, the easier it is to control. You still need to take lots of shots to get the best results, which is why a digital camera is ideal. (For straight shots, I am a big believer in pre-visualisation rather than blasting away in the hope of getting a good shot, but with ICM, you do have to be prepared to discard quite a high proportion of the results!)

Smooth movements give a silky look to the image, whilst more random ones can give a more jittery, edgy finish. I use exposures anywhere from about 1/10th to 1 second, to get different results, and try out horizontal (panning), vertical or circular and wavy movements – the thing is to try lots of different things and see what you like! An ND (neutral density) filter might be necessary during bright daylight to lengthen the exposure, but the beauty of ICM is that it’s something you can do at twilight without needing to lug a tripod! In fact, it works better in the gloom, as small patches of bright sky in the frame tend to spoil the delicacy of the results.

You will probably be surprised at the richness of colour that can sometimes result – somehow, the movement intensifies and brings out colours that are hardly perceptible to the naked eye – like the indigo blue of the twilight leaves below.

Lois Wakeman - Forest floor

Lois Wakeman - Forest floor

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All the above images were taken a few minutes’ walk from my house in Uplyme – but I like to explore other locations too. Dartmoor is a special place, and the dwarf oaks at Wistman’s Wood, with their foundation of mossy boulders, worked quite well, I think. Bluebell woods make a good subject too: the intense blue is especially photogenic.

Lois Wakeman - Wistman's Wood, spring

Lois Wakeman - Wistman's Wood, spring

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Lois Wakeman - Bluebells in Spittles Wood

Lois Wakeman - Bluebells in Spittles Wood

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You don’t need to spend your time in the woods of course: I have seen very successful seascapes, distant landscapes, urban buildings, light trails from cars, and crowd scenes – and even your garden can provide some interesting colours and textures: I have been making the most of this year’s autumn colours with a recent series of close-ups, one of which you can see here:

Lois Wakeman - Cotoneaster

Lois Wakeman - Cotoneaster

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Post processing is generally fairly minimal. I always clean up any dust spots or hot pixels first, as they will be very evident if you forget. Then I usually adjust the contrast a little, either using the curves, or by stacking a couple of layers. I may alter the colour balance if it’s really off, but the abstract results aren’t intended to be realistic, so it isn’t often necessary.

I hope I have given you enough information to have a go yourself if you are interested, and am happy to answer questions if you want to email me on lois@lois.co.uk.”

Lois’s top tips for ICM:

  • Focus carefully
  • Practise different types of movement
  • Try different exposures
  • Use an ND or polarising filter in brighter conditions
  • Avoid bright sky in the frame unless you are out in the open
  • Clean up any dust spots
  • Last and most important – have fun!

You can check out more portfolios and examples of Lois’ work on her Shed profile.

Photographer Lois Wakeman, our Artist of the Week.

What first drew you to photography?

That’s a difficult one to answer. My Dad was a keen family snapper who did his own developing and printing, and I still have some of his 120 black and white contact prints from the 50s. My husband taught me the technical essentials of aperture and shutter speed, depth of field etc. after we first met. But I think what first alerted me to the possibilities of film was seeing copies of the National Geographic about at home when I was 13 or 14 – I was always eager to get my hands on it and see the glorious colour images, as well as to read the text. Funnily enough, it never drove me to travel though – 90% of my images are taken within a mile or two of home, and there is so much to see in Devon, let alone England or Britain, that I wouldn’t miss my passport!

Lois Wakeman - Surf's Up

Lois Wakeman - Surf's Up

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What is your favourite photographic memory, and why?

Probably seeing the latent image develop in the darkroom for the first time: the slow discovery of what had dimly been seen in the negative. Although I shoot exclusively in digital now, nothing can match the magic of seeing if what was pre-visualised had worked!

Who is your favourite photographer, and why?

If I had to choose just one, I think it would be Leeming Paterson – I cheated as that’s really two people. Ted Leeming and Morag Paterson not only live in Scotland – which has numerous photographic opportunities for the landscape fanatic – but they have also done a lot to bring the impressionistic possibilities of intentional camera movement (ICM) to the notice of the public. As a keen exponent of ICM myself, I have to thank them for that, and would love one day to attend one of their workshops. Their impressionistic work is all about capturing the feeling of being there, rather than a documentary record of the place.

Lois Wakeman - Walking the Dog

Lois Wakeman - Walking the Dog

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What would be your ideal camera, and where would you take it?

Something small enough to carry comfortably up hill and down dale, but with sufficient optical and sensor quality to allow reasonable sized prints, and probably interchangeable lenses. One of the new breed of micro four-thirds cameras now available would probably fit the bill perfectly. In the mean time, I still get great pleasure from my aging Nikon D80, which has the big advantage that I can still use all the lenses that were bought with Nikon film cameras all those years ago.

Where to take it? Everywhere I go in case I miss a good shot – like the time I parked in Lyme a few weeks ago to go to the bank and saw a fabulous rainbow in front of Stonebarrow one afternoon, and wished I had a camera to catch the moment!

Lois Wakeman - It's not easy,being green

Lois Wakeman - It's not easy,being green

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Tell us what you enjoy most about your own work, and what has inspired you recently.

Being outside and enjoying the natural world is a big part of the enjoyment, and the other is the moment when I open an image on screen and say “Ah – that was what I meant to capture”. I know it’s not very original, but the fine show of Autumn colour this year has given me a lot of inspiration to try more ICM photos in Furzehill Woods, just down the road from where I live.

Do you have bursts of creativity – and when/where are you most creative?

Yes – like most people, I have up and down days, often linked to the weather and seasons. A sudden turn in the weather, or the opportunity to spend a day out with the camera, can often be the spur to try something different, or to revisit old haunts for a new take on a familiar subject. I’m hoping to do some photo days out with friends next year, as having someone else to spark ideas off is always a spur to trying new things, in whatever medium.

Lois Wakeman - Yellow Peril

Lois Wakeman - Yellow Peril

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What are the most important elements of a successful photo?

The standard answer is technical excellence combined with a strong composition – but that’s really only part of it. The best photos make the viewer go “Wow!” – and that can be for any number of reasons – because it strikes an emotional chord, reminds them of a special moment in their own lives, or is just breathtakingly beautiful. With a really great subject, we can overlook faults in technique or composition, as the impact transcends such mundane considerations.

Tell us about your favourite photograph, either your own or someone else’s, and please send us a copy if you have one!

Lois Wakeman - Glancing Light

Lois Wakeman - Glancing Light

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Having to choose is like deciding which 8 tracks to take to the desert island – very difficult. I shall be big-headed and choose one of my own as it isn’t fair to pick one other person above all those who have inspired me. My favourite changes from time to time as more current images go to the front of the queue, but one that I think stands the test of time as far as I am concerned is this shot of beach huts on Monmouth beach has always been one of my favourites, although it has never sold well. I like the strong geometric composition, the slight ambiguity of the angles that mean you really have to look to see what’s going on, and the fact that this one really is all about the light. There are a few weeks in early spring when the sunset light strikes the front of the huts at the right angle, and for the rest of the year, you really don’t get the same effect.