Personal blog of Derek and Margaret, now living in Dominica, W.I., founders of Ozone Zone – an Independent Canadian book publisher specializing in coffee table books of architectural treasures and lush gardens. We also promote fine artistic photography. This blog contains unofficial reports and comments from our various trips, photo sessions and jobs – an unofficial scrapbook of our travels, explorations and photo-related work. See “about” for more.

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Preparing photos for fine photography competitions /salons – juror’s tips – part 4

 

Jury at work.  Photo by Faizal / Mia Besari.

Jury at work. Photo by Faizal / Mia Besari.


Tip #3 – Try for your work to be original and unique

I previously shared with you comments about images in special themes, my experience when it comes to judging, and also my recommendations as to selecting and printing your photos. 

If you just jumped here without reading previous parts, here are direct links to them:  Part #1,   Part #2, Part #3

Selecting your work for a fine photo contest can be a hard process and you should have no sentiments when picking your works. The fact that you like an image, or even the fact that the image is objectively good – may still be not enough for it to be accepted by a jury or win.  Sitting in a jury, one can see thousands of images, see what’s popular this year, and see trends. There are amazing amounts of very good photographs. They all are good enough to sell proudly to your customer, display in a local camera club,  or share on a social site. Good enough to be printed in a magazine looking for that specific scene you have, or good enough to win a small-scale, local  photo competition.  As I say – I’ve seen thousands of impressive, quality works. Yet, a jury of international photo salon has the difficult task of selecting just a handful of winners from these fine entries. So, which images have best chance to win? Not saying again what was mentioned earlier about sticking to theme, and picking your finest quality works – I have to say this: Unique, striking images will be quickly noticed among others.

I just said that sitting in various juries I have a chance of seeing current trends. These trends can kill your chances. What was unique and brilliant two years ago will be rejected this year. Why? Because lots of photographers copy others’ ideas. A winning photo of cocks fighting in Indonesia, so strong and story-telling a few years back made numerous people photograph cock fights.  A fresh several years ago, beautiful technique of photographing sea with a long exposure (aka “milky water” in jurors’ jargon) got so many enthusiasts that at the Al-Thani, jurors saw well over hundred such smooth water images. A bit too much becomes a bit boring. Your image, being yet another one done in this style would need to be absolutely striking, or it will risk the “cliché” label and will lose instantly. Same goes for perfectly composed landscapes done as HDR,  images of a girl sitting on a railway, a macro enlargement of a wasp’s head, a glam image of a young girl in studio. The list of “cliché” images is long, touching of lovely sunsets, now badly overpopular “Tuscany style” juicy green fields, black and white portraits of old, often unshaven people,  Asian fishermen setting their nets,  Vietnamese bulls running in wet mud, etc. etc. (Newly emerging trend – penguins! More and more penguins are on submitted photos.)
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All these, when done for the first time were simply stunning. Stunning to such extent that now we have hundreds or thousands of images in their style. All were taken  countless times, and they will still make at least half – or perhaps more of all salon entries.  If you have one of these, but you really believe it has some striking qualities – very well, go ahead. But if your image falls within one of the most popular trends – try harder, and try submitting something fresh, something not copied thousand times around the world.  Even if it shows one of well covered subjects – this can be just a different angle of camera, or a different edit, unusual crop, etc.  But your photo should be something more than a typical calendar shot.  You simply should show that you have YOUR way of seeing things, YOUR OWN concept, not just creating another lovely, but already overdone, trendy pic.  By having a fresh concept for your image you won’t compete against numerous finely edited but “cliché” images which are ought to be submitted to the same salon as your photographs.  By not competing against them but showing a fresh idea or angle, you seriously increase chances of being noticed. You will have what the jury is looking for!

Thank you for reading. Part 4 is coming very soon, please Follow and Like this blog, if you find it helpful.
Thank you!
Derek Galon

Preparing photos for fine photography competitions /salons – juror’s tips – part 3

If you followed previous parts of this series, you know that today we will discuss the tip #2
– Select your best images AND make sure they have enough bang.

If you just jumped here without reading previous parts, here are direct links to them:  Part #1,   Part #2.

Picking winning images

Picking winning images.

So, you have good photos which are great choices for categories you want to enter. Please take time selecting the best ones, and try to avoid submitting very similar shots. Leave your photos for a few days and look again with fresh mind. Ask your friends, colleagues in camera club. Select ONLY the best images, and try to have a diverse selection. It is YOUR job to select your best images. I sometimes see almost identical entries – like 2 or 3 portraits with just a slight pose change – but otherwise identical to the previous entry. Not only you lose a chance to win with another image instead, but you lower the impact of your work. “We’ve just seen that, didn’t we?” – the jury will say, and will not pay much attention to this second and third image. In other words – it will be quickly rejected. Unless you are entering a portfolio of several similar images, a series intentionally selected to tell a story –avoid such repetitions. They won’t give you more chances to win. And, when selecting the best image, keep in mind one VERY important factor – pick the image which has the most “bang”. I mean by that – an image which will have a strong first impression. While some small-scale, local or unknown photo competitions may have few enough entries for judges to spend lots of time discussing all images from the day one of judging – the tendency of international photo salon is to be big. More and more people try to get more recognition, and the number of entries can be enormous.

Jurors often have  just couple of seconds per each image at the first selecting run. They have trained eyes, and can quickly decide if a shot is well done or has some noticeable flaws. Also they will decide if your image is interesting enough to go to the next round or judging or not. All that within two or three seconds.

To help your luck, pick the most impressive images you have – help your image being instantly noticed.  Once your image got noticed, the jury will examine it for more detailed flavours, artistic and technical values. But your image should shout its story, or have a fine composition, colours – it  has to stand out and be striking. And this brings us to the tip #3 – Try for your work to be original and unique.
But this will be posted tomorrow…

Ah, here is another tip – entering many salons myself, I often wondered – should I send glossy or matte prints? should I print them close to maximum allowed size?  And, sitting in this jury and seeing thousands of prints, I can say – size does not matter. Lots of smallish prints were much more appreciated than large ones. Quality matters a lot, size – not so much. And use the paper most suitable for the given picture – be it gloss, metallic, mat – whatever shows your work at its best. There is no preference as to the paper type getting more jury attention.

Thank you, cheers!

Derek
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Chairman of Al Thani Awards, Dr. Chris Hinterobermaier gives us opening briefing.

Chairman of Al Thani Awards, Dr. Chris Hinterobermaier gives us opening briefing.

Preparing photos for fine photography competitions /salons – juror’s tips – PART 2

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Judging process at Al Thani Award for Art Photography in Linz, Austria. Photo by Faizal / Mia Besari.

As promised, I will share with you all detailed thoughts and things I learned about judging process, based on example of my experience as a juror at the Al-Thani Awards for Art Photography 2013. Why this one? This salon have had the number of entries close to 10,000, very high overall quality of entries, and was judged within a very limited time – two days – which as my colleagues-jurors confirmed – is now quite a standard procedure. We like it or not, high volume salons do not allow for much time spent on each image at the first screening, and rely on jury’s ability to quickly decide on the first round. So, this salon is a good example of a large-scale, very efficiently organized competition.

There are a few points worth discussing, so let’s start with naming them here: 1) Stick to the theme of category you enter. 2) Select your best images AND make sure they have enough bang. 3) Try for your work to be original and unique. 4) Take your time to edit your images the best you can.

Above points may seem obvious, but they are vital and I saw many entries clearly  ignoring them. Even most tiny weak points could make the difference between the final “yes” or “no” for your image.

Let’s begin with talk about the “Stick to the theme” aspect. While most photo competitions or salons have  an “Open” theme – there are sometimes special or leading themes. They can offer you a higher chance of winning – IF you stick to these themes well. If you don’t – you may actually harm your chances of winning. At the Al-Thani Awards for Art Photography we had several categories, and a main, special theme. On top of Open Color Prints, Open Monochrome Prints, and Open Digital Images, the special theme was “Discovering the World”.  If you think of it quickly, you may think it calls for travel or nature photos. But such themes need to be thought of a bit deeper if you hope to win.  Keep in mind that in today’s world the number of photographs taken everyday, and number of people travelling are enormous. Therefore, to be better than other competitors you really need to show your creativity, understanding of the theme, and stick to it.

We had thousands of photos to judge, and some fantastic images had to be rejected from the main category because they did not adhere to the theme. All jurors were reminded over and over by the chairman to think of the theme when voting. “Does this image help us discover the world, or shows us someone who really grasps something new in his understanding of the world?” – we were asked. And we had to take some tough decisions to select finalists and winners. We had to pick photos showing us the most unique and unusual places and situations, or action showing convincingly that persons on a photo really do discover the world.

To give you some examples we faced  – would you decide between a fine, artistic photo of a butterfly,  a fine long exposure photo showing  the grand canal in Venice,  a small boy in a class learning geography with a globe, or perhaps a slightly less refined image of climbers on a remote, little known peak of  exotic mountains? 

While all four did show us something from our world in an attractive way – we had to ask ourselves– is the butterfly photo really  about “discovering the world”?  Chances are you’ve seen many butterflies in  gardens and on  meadows, or at least on many nature photos. Therefore it is not a real discovery to most of us to see yet another butterfly – however lovely it is, and this would be the first image to go, despite its fine artistic qualities. Perhaps it would stand better chances in the “Open” category – a perfect fit for a Nature category. The shot from Venice can be most fine, but it is a cliché in a way – thousands of people shoot from the Rialto bridge the view at the grand canal, and while the submitted photo may show us a glorious sunset  lighting and a well composed scene, it  still does not have that sense of discovery the theme is calling for. So, this one had to go either. It would do in any Travel category, though.  Now, between the studying boy and climbers – the boy’s face expressed a thrill at learning new things, one could see he tried hard to learn and remember something new about our world. The scene clearly showed the boy “discovering the world” in his small ways.

The climbers were visibly exhausted, yet determined to reach the peak, to expand their limits and succeed in their quest. Not only that, but we all – looking at the photo – had a sense of learning something new, seeing some far-away, remote mountains –seeing their harshness through eyes of these climbers.  Additionally, this shot was done from an unusual angle, giving us a different perspective than typical “calendar-style” mountain photos. So, this image both showed us people discovering something about our world, and also gave the viewer something fairly rare to discover.
Conclusion?  With first two photos rejected without even  considering their quality, the voting would proceed on the two last images. Now it would be seen which one has a better composition, technical quality, and an overall story to tell.  With not hundreds but thousands of images to select from, a jury has no choice but really stick to all rules and use these criteria to select best images without mercy.  By sticking well with themes, you help jury consider your image and make yourself a favour.

Another quick example – something we noticed a few times, and had to remove these entries. If you enter “monochrome” or “color” themes  – know their definition. While a photo done all in tones of blue is a monochrome, adding even one more color to an image disqualifies it immediately. We noticed a few photos entered as monochrome, and they had a touch of extra color. Even if it is just a bit – it breaks the rules, and will have to go.  And, believe me – it will be noticed. If not at the first selection, then when discussing  the potentially winning images.  An unfortunate reason to remove good photos.

Most  of best international photo salons have paid entries these days, and you would be surprised how many people pay to enter, only to waste their chances by not taking real care about themes. Consider this, and you are already better than them, a step closer to winning.

Thank you for reading. Part 3 is coming very soon, please Follow and Like this blog, if you find it helpful.
HERE IS DIRECT LINK TO PART 1 of this article.
Thank you!
Derek Galon

Sorting photo prints for judges.

Sorting photo prints for judges.

 

Getting Lost in Venice

Venice in November was for us as fascinating and magical as in summer months. More quiet, sometimes covered with fog, it presented a different face than during busy tourist season. We were fortunate that after finishing photographic work for a client, we still had time to explore this amazing city. Here are a few of “our discoveries” about Venice we would like to share.

View from the famous Rialto bridge

View from the famous Rialto bridge

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Although Venice is small enough to get across within a couple of hours, it is also one of the easiest cities to get lost. We were drawn into the maze of narrow streets and canals, some marked as calle, fondamenta or ruga or simply not marked at all. Getting lost in the tight lattice of  alleys in Cannareggio and Castello was a highlight of our Venice experience. The 118 islands that make up the city are small; space is very precious. Surprisingly, we encountered many private, secret gardens hidden behind ancient walls, tiny courtyards filled with exquisite plants, roof terraces shaded by pergolas and balconies full of greenery. Narrow windowsills made of stone displayed clusters of white and red cyclamens on almost every building we passed by.

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Acqua alta” – high water – occurs in Venice more often that we thought. It happened twice during the week of our stay. This temporary flooding is caused by exceptionally high tides, and it usually lasts for 3-4 hours. At that time, the most fashionable shoes are rubber boots, and you really need these to get across Piazza San Marco. City installs a network of elevated gangways for pedestrians when this tidal phenomenon happens. _DAG7512

San Marco Basilica

San Marco Basilica

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On Torcello

It is hard to believe that the island of Torcello was once a thriving centre of the whole lagoon even before Venice was built. Today, almost nothing remains of its former splendour. The major attraction is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta founded in 639 with Byzantine mosaics, the oldest in Venetian lagoon. Torcello reached its peak in the 14th century, and was finally abandoned  as a result of devastating malaria. This quiet and peaceful island offers a perfect refuge from busy streets of Venice.

A traditional wine shop - bring your own bottle, and get a fine wine at a super-low price!

A traditional wine shop – bring your own bottle, and get a fine wine at a super-low price!

We hope you enjoy this short story by Margaret Gajek and photos by Derek Galon.
If you do, please share and follow our blog for more. Until next time! Ciao!
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typical Venice gift store window

typical Venice gift store window

Last Few Weeks

hatley1bNot much happened with our travel plans since my last post. There are some technical issues delaying our next trip to Montserrat. Therefore we spent last few weeks visiting and photographing our favourite local gardens. Some of them we already presented on this blog – but at a different time of the year. Now, with wisterias and rhododendrons in full bloom, these gardens look just spectacular!

hatley-bridgeOne of our favourite gardens is the Hatley Park, a large chunk of land on grounds of Royal Roads university in Victoria. It is divided to several sections, such as Italian garden (with fine wisterias), Rose garden – which is just starting to bloom, and the oldest Japanese garden in the whole BC.

I hope these few photos from there are to your liking.

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Another garden we visited was the Finnerty Garden belonging to the UVIC. Well kept, with a massive number of rhododendrons, it is another place to enjoy in Victoria – and there is no fee for your visit.

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Smaller, but very well established Playfair park, has very large, matured rhododendrons. They are so huge that you can walk under them, and enjoy the colourful carpet of fallen flowers.

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It is remarkable how different in feel these places are. All of them have lots of rhodos, but each garden lives its own, unique life, offering a totally different experience.

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The unusual rainy weather we are having made all colours juicier, more dense, and all these places are lush and full of life. It is great to travel, but we should never forget to enjoy what we have at our door step.

To fill you with other things – last time, I reported about a second place at IGPOTY (UK) and the Gold Medal in Austria. Well, just after that I received another exciting news – London Salon of Photography – one of the most progressive international competitions/exhibitions awarded my Bacchus, Pan and Ceres with another Medal._DAG5206_7

I also had couple of studio art sessions and I am now editing my newest works. Ah, one of my newest is already done – with great help and assistance from Margaret – my newest auto-portrait! I hope you enjoy!

Bacchus, Pan, and Ceres - awarded in London.

Bacchus, Pan, and Ceres – awarded in London.

Thank you, I hope to see you soon, when I place our next post. Bye for now, and SHARE if you like these images.

My auto-portrait.

My auto-portrait.

Cheers!

Derek

All photos copyright Derek Galon, Ozone zone Books, please respect our copyright. Thank you!

All Colours of Life – in memory of Anna M. Galon, 1926 – 2013

Anna with father, colonel Zbigniew Brochwicz Lewinski.

Anna with father, colonel Zbigniew Brochwicz Lewinski.

We usually post here notes from our journeys, or photography related stories. Today however, we share with you a sad story about a last journey – the one we are all to make one day to come.
Last month we lost Anna, a fine editor working closely with us on our Ozone Zone books. She also happened to be my mother. A double loss – like a single loss is not enough. She was an internationally respected language expert, and we were lucky to have her in our team. She was an exceptional person, and we were lucky to be in her family. It is now hard to come to terms with the simple fact of her departure – forever. Perhaps we should find some comfort in knowing that she had a long, very colourful, although sometimes quite dramatic life.
Anna M. Galon (often using her maiden name Brochwicz – Lewinska) was born before the Second World War in Poland, in a very privileged family. Her father, colonel Zbigniew Brochwicz Lewinski, was one of the most trusted officers of marshal Josef Pilsudski – the legendary Polish leader behind many Polish successes of early twentieth century. In fact, marshal Pilsudski was Anna’s Godfather. Her early childhood was filled with interesting people and travels, and with lots of happiness.  But it all ended too soon.

As a young girl, she was thrown with her family by the war on a lengthy and painful path of constant escape through Rumania, Italy, and France, to eventually land on the British soil. Anna spent there many years studying arts, philosophy and literature at the University of Glasgow, and the famous Glasgow School of Art (later studying also at Oxford). Scotland became her new, or perhaps the REAL home to her. However, she fell in love with a young and attractive Polish concert pianist Lucjan Galon. When deciding to return with him back to Poland, little did she know it will totally change her entire life. Going back to a different, communist Poland was a one-way-ticket kind of trip. Once there, you had no way of going back (or anywhere else, for that matter), and coming from the “capitalist West” you were under magnified glass of communist special services for a long time.

Fifties and sixties brought for her harshness of everyday reality and proved a tough time to bring-up and educate two boys – Daniel and Derek. She never felt at home in this totally different Poland  managed by the heavy Soviet hand. Anna found a refuge in classical music, also indulging herself in teachings of the East, studying various masters from India. She found some fulfilment in teaching languages, also sharing her extensive knowledge of Tibetan and Indian philosophy – making life-long, deeply-rooted friendships with some of her students.

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University years – Anna Malwina Galon in Scotland.

To Canada she went unexpectedly in early eighties. Divorced for some time, she packed her things in a hurry at the news of her older son Daniel being gravely ill. Daniel escaped from Poland couple of years earlier, and emigrated to Ottawa. There, diagnosed with severe heart condition he did undergo a life-saving heart transplant operation. Anna stayed in Ottawa to help with Daniel’s recovery, and never returned to Poland. But she wasn’t entirely happy in Ottawa either. Fluent in several languages, she reinvented herself as an accredited court interpreter, also translating for Canadian government, various writers and also poets. Translating poetry was always a joy for her, and she did it splendidly. Perhaps because – as her brother Andrew recently said – Anna did not translate just words – she was great at translating the meaning.

At that time – it was in late eighties – we both with Margaret arrived in Canada, but not being in love with Ottawa, we soon moved to Victoria. Then, some ten years later my brother Daniel died, using up the gift of extra years of life he received from Canadian doctors. It was a devastating time for my mother, and soon after, she decided to move to Victoria and join us. And here, in Victoria, a small miracle happened. She met lots of interesting people and made lots of very good friends. Anna also found a group of people with whom she could pursue her passion for poetry – she simply found her home! Yes, last years of Anna’s life in Victoria became perhaps her most happy time. Still translating to make a living, she devoted herself to arts, creating well respected “Poetry Lovers’ Circle”. Public performances with the Circle, presentations of best Polish poems translated often by herself, and world poetry readings at the exclusive La Run theatre rewarded her for many hard years. This was the food for her soul, and her joy. Only the closest friends knew that for each performance she paid with days, and later with weeks of health problems. She never complained, and always found reasons to be happy. But while Anna’s soul was in bloom, her health sharply deteriorated – she became practically homebound.

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Anna with her husband, concert pianist Lucjan Galon

Unable to perform with the Poetry Lovers’ Circle, Anna concentrated on studying teachings of the East thought by her friend and spiritual teacher, Nadhia Sutara. Poetry and writing remained vital for her, same as working with us on our books. Her mind was always so fresh, crisp and young that people talking to Anna by phone never realized they talk to a lady over eighty years old.

Postponing and cancelling our overseas photo jobs we were able to be with her on her last days. She suffered badly, enduring strong pain. We will never forget her incredibly brave attitude and amazing detachment from unbearable pain and misery of her body. In her last hours she cracked some very sharp jokes about her passing, and her very last words were to thank all people she knew – for  interacting with her life, both in good and not so good ways.
She left behind a walking stick awaiting in vain her touch, an old computer on which she typed with her sore fingers her last poems, and a sense of emptiness – a great sadness that we could not be with her for any longer.

Anna Galon in Victoria

Anna Galon in Victoria

Her friend Nadhia at the news of Anna’s passing, wrote from her ashram in India a few words which perhaps best summarize Anna: “I shall dearly miss her, as I am sure you both will. She was a great inspiration to me all these years, especially as her health deteriorated. She always found something to be grateful for, something to rejoice in, and never ever complained. I have invariably found people get ‘deader’, not wiser, as they get older, but Anna was the greatest exception and a wonder to me. I’ve never met anyone over 50 who was so alive, so innerly vital, so willing to grow and break new ground as she. I’m a typically broken product of the ‘Great American Dream’ (Nightmare, actually, as you are finding), unable to deeply love or trust anything, and her gift for unconditional love and trust left me breathless.”

Derek Galon and Margaret Gajek

Stashing for a rainy day

Every sight and sound that charms you ––
stash it!

Stash away prudently:
sunlight sparkling on the snow
the trembling
of a raindrop on a pendant leaf
mist over meadow…  a duck among reeds…

a heron
tall and intense on its rock
by the water’s edge

the symphony of the forest…
wind whispering among leaves

plump groundhog
– little brown pillar of curiosity
on watch among the weeds…

the inconceivable vastness of ocean
hurling its might against the shore

a blade of grass
a flower

each moment of delight ––
Stash it!

Carefully put it away
into the storehouse of joy
within your heart

For future use…
for a rainy day…

To act as source of strength and endurance
through frosty winters and dark nights
through quagmires of despair…

Reminders of light!

Anna M. Galon
Ottawa, New Year’s Eve, 1989/90

Among the Ancient Gods (an art photo shoot)

Post contains some fine art nudity [partial nudity]. Be warned. 18+ only).
After all the editing work on the book “Bequia – the Feast of Colours”, I needed to unwind. The book went off to our printers, and me – as I often do in such moments – I decided for an art shoot. Such shoots where I can let my fantasy loose, help me bring back my balance and recover energy. As it happened, my friend and fantastic artists’ model, Michael Ward, had just recently suggested to shoot an image based on Greek and Roman mythology.

He had a concept for a large, festive scene, and I myself had already been thinking for a while of shooting a large group of art models. Such a shoot would bring new challenges and experience, it would expand my skills.

Pan and Psyche

Pan and Psyche

I listened to Michael’s story; a feast of Bacchus and his companions – some familiar antique gods and goddesses, perhaps Pan with his half-man, half-goat, panting presence… And definitely with Ceres – the Rubensesque, full-bodied goddess of fertility. These ideas began to roll in my head, and gradually I visualized the whole scene. Yes, it would be a festive group drinking wine, flirting and having fun (with Pan’s presence insinuating a note of erotic energy on the set). I decided to keep it in the style of old paintings such as canvases by Titian or Caravaggio, and so a Cupid seemed a nice extra touch. Light would be used scarcely, highlighting the most important parts of the composition, but letting the less important elements drown in darkness.

Margaret, being an art historian, quickly suggested some fine details for the image. Oranges and grapes, some primitive musical instruments, flowery wreaths. Now the image was fully developed in my head.

photographing Cupid

photographing Cupid

The whole shoot preparation unfolded under a lucky star – fantastic art photographer Jon Hoadley, a real master of studio light, offered his assistance, and Michael was able to get another professional arts model – Kim Brouseau, to impersonate Ceres. After booking all the other models, we went with Michael to Disguise The Limit costume rentals to find some props. Some models also helped with props – it was truly a nice team work.

Jon Hoadley contemplates Zen of Perfect Lighting

Jon Hoadley contemplates Zen of Perfect Lighting

When the day came – after setting the studio stage – we were ready to shoot.While Aleta Eliasen, my friend and fine makeup artist, prepared models, Jon presented me with his idea of lighting. It was perfect, and after some small tweaks and test shots, I was totally happy with it. The light seemed natural, toned in one part with warmth of a remote bonfire. While most important part of composition was lit rather brightly, the light softly blended down, to fade into almost complete darkness of the background.

We did some solo, duo, and trio test shots – which were so nice that I kept them as separate images for this series. Next, we had to shoot the Cupid. It was fun – if not really for the model – at least for those watching. Shooting Cupid separately from the rest of the group allowed me to freely put it in the best spot later, using Photoshop.

One of test shots...

One of test shots…

We were ready for the main scene, and it was sheer fun! The idea suggested by Margaret, to have cross-linked interaction between various persons, connecting the front group with the back, worked really well. Everyone got their particular tasks, and we went ahead photographing.

I used my Nikon D800 on a tripod, to keep the same selected crop, when capturing various poses and models’ expressions. Tethering it all using fantastic software ControlMyNikon proved to be of real advantage. Every smallest detail was controllable, the models had a way of seeing themselves perform, and I could quickly review all the shoots.

The scene we created needed two extra persons – a woman and a man. Aleta, our makeup artist, graciously decided to help, and turned herself into an attractive partner of Pan. I quickly decided to help too, and transferred myself into some drunk, rough character in the background. I bet all the models had fun seeing me running around half-naked, in a turban, back and forth between back of the scene and the camera set in front!

All in all – it was a very demanding project and a real challenge on many levels. Photoshopping it in the style of traditional paintings was another part of this fun, and I enjoyed every minute of it. And here it is – the final image “Pan, Bacchus and Ceres” having a good time with their guests. While trying to keep it in line with the old paintings, we loosened it up here and there with subtle additions of drinking glass goblets and an impressive glass bottle.

Pan, Bacchus, and Ceres.All models from Victoria, Canada. Top left: Chrisscreama, Standing Center: Walking dreamer, Bottom left: Aleta Eliasen, Daniel Corbett, Michael Ward, Derek Galon (me!), Chrisscreama again (far right), Model in front: Kim Brouseau

Pan, Bacchus, and Ceres.
All models from Victoria, Canada. Top left: Chrisscreama, Standing Center: Walking Dreamer, Bottom left: Aleta Eliasen, Daniel Corbett, Michael Ward, Derek Galon (me!), Chrisscreama again (far right), Model in front: Kim Brouseau

I hope you enjoy this image. If you do – the purpose of it all has been served!

Cheers!
Derek

If you enjoy this story, please SHARE it with friends, and FOLLOW this blog to get notifications on further posts.

All photographs copyright Derek Galon, please respect the copyright.
This image “Pan, Bacchus and Ceres” can be ordered as a limited edition signed print from Photo Art Gallery Vibrante, or as a smaller, open edition print from 1X.com

You can also see it in bigger size on 1X.
A separate story on art of Jon Hoadley was posted here.
An earlier story on working with Michael Ward (Knight of Might) was posted here.
My review of ControlMyNikon is here.

Julie Savage Lea, artist – painter from Bequia

Arriving in Bequia

Arriving in Bequia

As mentioned in our previous post, today we are posting a profile of a fine artist from Bequia, Julie Lea. She just finished work on a new book we are about to publish. Please, meet Julie:

_DSC9956Julie Savage Lea was fascinated and smitten with the island of Bequia from the first moment she saw it. She describes this experience in her book, called “”Bequia reflections”: “I first saw Bequia in 1978, from the deck of a steel-hulled, 48-foot ketch. My husband and I and our two small sons were guests of young friends, part of the self-styled “boat vagabonds”, who, in those days, plied the waters of St Vincent and the Grenadines. We arrived after a rolling, fitful, all-night sail from St Lucia. In the predawn light we anchored in the sheltering calm of Admiralty Bay, just off Port Elizabeth. As the others sputtered ashore (…), I stayed on deck, exhausted yet dazzled by the visual feast before me. My first response to Bequia was to pull out my watercolours and record the soft explosion of clouds and colour in the sky as a golden dawn erupted over green volcanic hills and poured into the awakening turquoise harbour.”

Inside Mango Cottage

Inside Mango Cottage

“I wanted to capture the charm of what I saw that first morning- the languid parade of human and animal activity along the main street, the exotic trees and flowers, the diminutive shops and cottages, as gaily painted as the small fishing boats lining the beach.”

_DSC9903Julie frequently returned to the island to paint, and finally, in 2005, decided to make Bequia her home. She found the perfect place for her studio – Mango Tree Cottage, a quaint little house that she rents from her long-term friend and also a great painter, Vivian Usborne Child.

_DSC9691Most of the year 2012 she has been working on a book about her friend Peter Carr – another Bequia-fascinated painter. The book, titled “Bequia – the Feast of Colors”, will be published by our company Ozone Zone Books in early 2013.

_DSC9840

Julie talks about her paintings

We met Julie in her studio full of colourful and vibrant paintings, various objets d’art, and everyday things chosen for their strong primary colours. She spoke enthusiastically about the painting she had just finished for the Gingerbread Restaurant in Bequia, called “Tropical Eden.” The lush exuberance of the vegetation she captured there reminds me of the famous jungle paintings by Henri Rousseau.

_DSC9724We wrote about the Mango Tree Cottage in our book Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean: “This humble, small place has transformed itself completely under Julie’s influence, reflecting her own happy, artistic personality. With the presence of her paintings, it has become a vibrant colourful place and a joyful continuation of the tropical landscape that surrounds it.”

_DSC9706While visiting Bequia, you may see Julie walking alone, scouting for subjects to paint, or sketching hurriedly some life scenes passing by. She writes: “Under a brilliant sky filled with colour and movement, the glittering sea and an exotic parade of people, events and contexts leaps at me.”

_DSC9719We hope you enjoy this story. More soon, happy New Year!

by Margaret Gajek, Photos by Derek Galon
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Visiting Chosin Pottery Gardens – Once Again

It is hard to believe that it’s already a year since we visited this place for the first time! When enjoying this garden in August 2011, we decided to return here in autumn, to see and photograph this beautiful place in its full glory of of fall colours. So a couple of weeks ago we did just that.

Chosin Pottery Studio Gardens welcomed us with rain, fog, and unmistakeably late autumn mood. We remembered it lush and green, therefore this was the Garden’s new face for us. Quiet, misty, full of colourful autumn leaves, it was inviting to take nostalgic photographs, and I obeyed.

You can see our post from the previous visit HERE, therefore I won’t be writing again about the Studio and its owners. Let’s make this post more about photographs, passing seasons and returning cycles of nature.

Some images – quite intentionally – show the same spots photographed on the previous occasion, in summer 2011. We love it when a garden gives joy, offering its ever-changing beauty all year long. And the Chosin Pottery Garden does just that…
Thanks for stopping by, until next time!
Cheers!
– Derek

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Commentary: Derek Galon
Photographs: Derek Galon (please respect copyright)

P.S.
I just noticed a nice comment  one of readers of our coffee table book Exotic Gardens of the Eastern Caribbean wrote on Amazon’s site in UK (this book is available on all Amazon sites).
Such a nice comment, it really is the best compansation for long and hard work of our team – let me share it with you:

“Exotic Gardens is more than just another coffee-table book; it is an experience.  From small gardens to grand gardens this tour through selected islands of the Eastern Caribbean is an absolute delight.
The photography is nothing short of stunning, to which the insightful commentary is the consummate foil.”

Wow, thanks for this amazing comment!
Derek

Photographing the Isle of Skye, Scotland (part 1)

There are just a few passengers on the ferry from Mallaig, a fishing port on the mainland, to Armadale on the Isle of Skye. Most travellers prefer the more convenient option of reaching Skye – by car and taking the Skye Bridge, opened in 1995. From the ferry deck, the island looks beautiful and mysterious with the Cuillins, its highest mountains, enshrouded in mist. The ferry deposits us in a village near the end of Sleat peninsula, a place of lush vegetation and dense forests nowhere else to be found on the island.

So! We’ve arrived on Skye! Wow, what a beautiful trip that was! First – the fantastic West Highland Train from Glasgow to Mallaig, then a short but beautiful ferry hop, and a local bus to Portree, the island’s capital town.

Long distance call, anyone?

Once again it turned out that our thorough research on-line ahead of the trip paid off. Our car rental exceeded our expectations and simply is the finest car rental we’ve ever experienced! We booked our car on line with a company from Portree called M2 Motors. Not only did they offer the best deal on Skye, but their car hire service made our visit easier and nicer.

Portree – harbour area

How was it so? After a long flight, train trip, ferry, and a bus ride to the town of Portree, we were really tired, ready to crash. Add to it 8 hours of time zone difference, and you can understand we were simply  cooked. I expected car rental procedures to take half an hour or more.  To our surprise, our car was delivered to the bus station where we were met by a charming gentleman. He showed us the car, gave us the keys – and presto – after just quick formalities, off we went to our rented cottage!  To even greater surprise, we were told to simply drop off the car in the same place on our way home. Simple? Yes, very much so. And, to make it even nicer – when we were already getting off to Glasgow on our way back – the company manager popped in to the bus station, just to thank us for our business, and to wish us a good journey home! Wow! At 7am! Just to say “hi”! And did I mention – the little, peppy Renault was just perfect for what we wanted?

Early morning view at the Storr

M2 Motors made us feel more welcome on Skye, same as our nice host who rented us a tiny but nice Dunyre self-catering cottage. Yes, that was another lucky thing. Perfectly fitted for two or three persons, offering a fantastic view towards the Storr, modern equipment, internet, and an excellent price, Dunyre is run by very helpful and pleasant hosts who made our stay truly enjoyable. Yes, I know – this sounds like a “plug” – but both above businesses honestly deserve very highly to be known to the public for their above-average service. And if you happen to plan to visit Skye and Portree, then this may be a useful info for you.

Ok then, let’s get back to our story. You can find an astonishing variety of scenery on Skye. The Black Cuillins is the most spectacular mountain range with dark, jagged volcanic peaks. In the Trotternish Penninsula there is another ridge called Quirang, full of dramatic pinnacles and gullies. The ridge rises to its highest point at the summit at the Storr –  where years of erosion formed a distinctive pinnacle, the rock needle visible from a long distance: The Old Man of Storr. Between the ranges, undulated hills interpenetrate in a gentle way embellished by moors and cascading brooks. All that scenery is surrounded by extraordinary picturesque coastline, a smorgasbord of bays, hidden lochs, caves, tidal islands, massive cliffs and waterfalls.

Kilt Rock waterfall

What is making Skye’s scenery even more breathtaking is the extraordinary luminous quality of light. It creates a delicate chiaroscuro, a gentle transition between dark and light. It also helps the colours to be more saturated. Skye is situated rather far north; in December, winter nights last almost 18 hours, the 4 hours long nights in June are never totally black, they remain in a kind of twilight. 

Well, I had to stop the car sometimes every 100 meters! Views along the north east shore are nothing short of amazing. Just out of Portree – you get the view over the Storr formation. Morning light made it a spectacular photographic feast. Every hundred yards the view changed, with densely saturated colours of moors, rocks, cloudy sky, glens and tiny lakes. Skye is a photographer’s paradise! No wonder quite a number of celebrated photographers actually live there!
Next we arrived at Kilt Rock with the famous waterfall pouring down from a cliff straight into the sea. While the view of the waterfall itself is restricted by tight access to the shore, it is nonetheless spectacular and worth stopping your car. (If you plan to photograph it, try to be there in the morning, because around noon you will lose the direct sun on the water, which makes for sparkly and vivid display.)

rock landmarks (inuksuit)

After passing a few villages and stopping our car for a quick photo another dozen times, we came near to Quirang – another amazing area. Past the Quirang and Flodigarry, the very northern tip of Skye welcomed us with open views of the sea, and quite unexpectedly, with a display of rock landmarks (inuksuit) created by visitors over many years. 
Next, we went to Uig, driving a single-lane, winding road looking down at this small town connecting the northern isles via local ferry. A short drive from there, and we arrived at another stunning destination. One of the best examples of the more intimate scenery – The Fairy Glen, is a magical miniature landscape (obviously made by the magic of the fairies!) made up of grassy, cone-shaped hills and pockets of bizarrely  twisted bonsai-like trees.

Trees at the Fairy Glen

This tiny oasis stands among much higher hills and mountains like a land of garden gnomes. Perhaps the combination of awe-inspiring nature (sought by the Romantic artists as an experience of the Sublime), and of pastoral, more gentle landscape, is what makes Skye so truly exceptional. What an unexpected delight!
We returned to Portree tired and happy, and with plenty of photographs. For next day, we decided to go see the Old Man of Storr and the Neist Point Lighthouse – but this is another story, for another time…

One of many old croft cottages


Please stay tuned for more from Skye – coming soon!
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Next parts linked here:  part 2
Thank you for stopping by.

Commentary: Margaret Gajek and Derek Galon
Photographs: Derek Galon (please respect copyright)

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