This series is an exploration of the pre Christian rituals and the cyclical life patterns, marked by the passing of the seasons, that have governed our lives since pagan times. These rituals have been played out in varying forms, evolving and maturing over the years, until they have become an intrinsic part of our culture.

Their original meanings have often become lost or distorted over time, we participate in celebrations throughout the year without realising that our traditional pastimes, such as dancing around the maypole in spring, carving lanterns from pumpkins at Halloween, or even men going on a stag night, are traditions that date back as far as pagan times and have deep symbolic meanings.

The word ‘pagan’ comes from the Latin ‘paganus’ and means nothing more than ‘country dweller’. It is a way of life that involves working with and celebrating the individuality of the seasons.

Pagans refer to the year as being a wheel and within that wheel there are eight turning points, events in the year to be celebrated. Festivals are held to honour the Gods and Goddesses associated with it. I have concentrated on four of these festivals, each one has it’s own character and meaning. I have attempted to capture in each image not only the importance of the festival but also the character of the season, how each one is different from all of the others. I have specifically concentrated on the quality of the light and how it changes as the wheel of the year rolls on.

Final pics – winter

Original image

This images was a fairly simple one to edit.

It was meant to be low key but even so it needed a tweak. I selected the areas that I considered needed lifting( face, arms and flowers) and used a layer mask and screen mode to get the correct effect. Only selected parts of the image were brightened so that the gloomy, forest like look wouldn’t be diminished. The skin softening technique mentioned in an earlier post was used on her face and arms.

Her eyes were brightened a bit and her lips enhanced. There were a couple of stray threads on the floor that were distracting so I got rid of those. I was worried that this image would have a bit of movement on it because I used a really slow shutter speed to bring up the light of the candles but it seems to be fine. I applied sharpening via the high pass filter, and that’s all. ( Won’t mention that I did it about 20 times before I was happy with the result).

Final pics – autumn

Original image

This image was my final choice for the autumn shoot because of the model’s (Carla) reflective expression and the wonderful colours that epitomise autumn.

Once again photoshop came into it’s own, and once again I applied the skin softening techniques that I showed you in a previous blog to soften the skin on her face and arms. The arms also need to be toned down a bit as they were white enough to make a milk bottle jealous. I enhanced her lips and put a bit of a shine on them, brightened her eyes and made them slightly more green, got rid of the irritating earring, and removed a stick that was to the right of her. Next the image was sharpened slightly and the saturation increased and finally cropped to size.

Final prints – spring


This image is from the second spring shoot. I absolutely loved the softness of this picture, I deliberately chose to shoot directly into the sun to give me the glare whcih would give me the low contrast, dreamy look I wanted. I fretted for a while about the flare on this image and went through a panicky stage of wanting to reshoot it. Luckily, I could get the model or the weather but I could never get both at the same time. Much stress. As it turned out though – when I stopped panicking and REALLY looked at the picture – it was exactly what I wanted.

As I mentioned in a previous post I was influenced for this shoot by David Hamilton. His soft and dreamlike images hit exactly the mood I wanted to create for this.

I took this quote from his website:

David pioneered the “soft-focus” style which has been imitated so often and is even known as “the Hamilton look”. The technique gives many of his works more the appearance of an impressionist oil painting than a true-to-life crisp photographic image. In a career spanning over 40 years, he has released an average of about one book a year, selling millions of copies. There have been further millions of posters, postcards, calendars, greeting cards and similar items sold.”

David Hamilton

Image taken from:

Incidentally, although the links are being posted now, it doesn’t mean I am researching retrospectively, I have been doing it the old fashioned way and looking at (whisper it) …books.

Panic over then I decided to enhance the flare rather than try to reduce it, after all, this image is about the rebirth of the sun god, it would be silly to not include it!

I selcted the large sun spot at the bottom of the picture and put it onto a separate layer, then I added a warm up filter to it and increase the saturation. Next, working on some advice from Bob ( see, I do listen) I selected the edge of the circle and added an orange filter to it. I repeated the process to the flare that goes over the model’s face. Then I added a bit more flare using the lens flare filter in CS3.

After the shoot I realised that the model worn a short underskirt that had prevented the light shining through the skirt fabric. I used the dodge tool to lighten this area and the healing tool to soften the hard edge of the underskirt.

The barbed wire fences were removed via layer masking. The model had a bit of sunburn on her arms so I took the redness out if it. I altered the curve to brighten the image, added a tiny amount of grain,increased the brightness and saturation and finally cropped it.

This has ended up being the picture I consider to be the most successful, after all that trauma!

final prints – summer


Having got the final go ahead from Richard this morning I am now in the process of producing my final prints. The first one I did was the summer one, which has been photoshopped (and not without it’s issues) to within an inch of it’s life!
Obviously, I was playing around with the light when I shot these images ( I now have no retina’s). I took the meter reading and focused on the model’s face before she caught the light and fired it into my camera. The technique for shooting was: when I went blind I pressed the shutter.

I found that while the model was well exposed the grass was a bit darker than I wanted it to be so I selected the areas that needed adjustment and put them onto a separate layer and used screen mode, altering the opacity of the layer until I got the effect I wanted. I really like the detail in the sky so I left that alone.

This image is supposed to look a bit ‘other wordly’ and I liked the end result of the slightly over bright colours. When I stated the project I stated in the proposal that some of the inspiration came from, among others, David la Chappelle and I think this image more than any of the others has the over bright, lighly surreal look that characterises his work.

David la Chapelle

Image taken from:


Looking at this image of his, I really could have pushed things far more (still might) mine is positively bland compared to this.

The candle refused to stay lit so I shot a few pictures of a burning candle at home and took the flame off one of those to add to this picture, obviously it was the wrong size so a little tweak with the transform tool sorted that out.

Becky is a beautiful girl with a lovely figure but there was a lot of fabric around and that was making her look a bit chunky so I slimmed her down a bit by pushing the picure in at the sides, still using the transform tool. I reduced the width to 95%.

I used layer masks to get rid of the bit of wayward fabric at the bottom of the dress and a pouffy bit at the side that was irritating me. This was the tricky bit and I had to repeat the process about 8 times before I was happy with it.

I removed some houses from the background then I used a sharpening technique that I found in the CS for Photographers book that doesn’t create halo’s. I didn’t want to over sharpen it as I really like the softness of the figure, it adds to the ethereal feel of the image, slightly biblical feel to the image.

After taking advice from a couple of other students, I decided to burn in the dress slightly. Geoff didn’t like the shininess of it while Jane did. Hhmm. I decided to just take it down just a bit – and I think it looks better. Someone also thought that the model was leaning forward in the frame, I think it is an optical illusion caused by the sloping hill behind. I did play around with it for a while to see if it looked any better cropped but decided it didn’t.

Finally I moved the flowers a bit closer to the model.

Finished image

( as long as I don’t start messing again)

Have you missed me?

Been a busy week this week, most of it I have spent with the CS3 for photographers book on my lap while I worked.

I have learned tons from it, including some great stuff which I have been applying to my pics ready for the FIP deadline.
Have a look at this.

Good eh? It doesn’t show up that clearly on here but you get the idea. 
I have been wanting to reshoot EVERYTHING of course, right up to the deadline I am going to fret about it all. I was hoping that the weather would be nice to me but naturally it has been miserable for the last week and I need it to be sunny in order to reshoot.  Ah well, can’t do it – don’t worry about it. Ha, as if.

Cheese racers in steep challenge

Another tradition with its roots lost in history, I think one day I might research these old traditions and trace them back to their roots, that would be fascinating. One day.


This is a story that was in the news today about the famous cheese rolling race on Coopers Hill in Gloucestershire.

Apparently the race dates back to Roman times, I have had a quick scout round the web but I haven’t found much information about it other than it is a VERY steep hill and lots of people get injured every year. The winner wins the cheese, runners up win £10 or £5.

Jonathan Meads Magnetic North

Richard told me about this programme which had been shown on BBC4, I watched on iplayer the other day.
Joanathan Meads takes a comparative look at the art of the north compare to that of the south and concludes, to take a quote out from the programme:

” To be northern is to be for ever ill at ease with oneself.”

Brilliant programme, I will be looking out for others in the series.

Flowers and Fashion- Sandy Knapp and Nick Knight

I was looking for a link between fashion photography and nature and came across this:


It is a lecture with Nick Knight and Sandy Knapp about how Nick Knight took 9 months out of the fashion industry to photograph literally millions of archived plants in the natural history museum. He states in the lecture how he used 8.5 x11 in negs to photographs the backlit plants which have now been published in a book. There is also a short discussion about the ethics of fashion photography.

Fascinating lecture, well worth a look even if you aren’t into fashion or plants.

Flowers and Fashion
Sandy Knapp and Nick Knight, 06/03/2005

“Flowers are perhaps nature’s most flamboyant display; but it’s not only bees they attract. Humans have long been drawn to their colours, forms, and scents, and used them for our own decorations and advertisements. Join botanist Sandy Knapp and fashion photographer Nick Knight to find out about cross-pollination between the worlds of fashion and nature.”

To watch the video, you’ll need to have Windows Media Player or QuickTime installed on your computer.

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