Andy Brown (mrbuk1)'s photostream Pro User
As an island nation, we in the UK are blessed with an incredibly diverse and unique coastline. It's in fact impossible to live here and not be affected by the sea - even if just as a means of commerce - but for most of us there is a huge, irresistible pull purely by the sheer delight of being beside it. In writing this narrative I did a little research, and although figures vary greatly dependent on the source it would seem (at least according to some of the most trusted), that we are surrounded by 19,491 miles of undulating shoreline. This includes that encompassing principle islands, although there's some dispute over what actually constitutes one of these. I've come across accounts of there being anywhere between 803 to 7,747 landmasses off the mainland that could technically be classed as islands! Apparently, you'll only ever be just 70 miles from the coast - and if you happen to be so then you must be in the vicinity of Church Flatts Farm, which is just outside the village of Coton in the Elms (how English does that sound?!) in Derbyshire.
For a landscape photographer this abundant strip of water creates near limitless possibilities, although the vast majority of us will only ever visit a fraction of it. We may believe we know the stretches about us, but often this isn't truly the case. This was highlighted recently to me by Trevor Cotton, who visited south Devon - my home - and took a number of excellent shots. I recognised each of the locations, until this one cropped up, which then had me scratching my head as I had no idea where it was. Trevor, I'm sure, would have been kind enough to tell me for the asking, and had in fact already revealed to me that he'd stumbled upon this wonderful scene. I'm yet to comment on Trevor's shot however - and wanted to see if I could work out exactly where it was first - which I managed with the help of co-conspirator Keith Aggett. The beautiful image Trevor captured so well (despite very trying conditions I know), is just 10 miles from me, yet I'd never explored the stretch of path he took to it. Inspiration being what it is, I have to confess Keith and I visited the spot early this morning and, I must also admit, attempted to shoot our own interpretations of the scene. Whether they will see the light of day or not I don't yet know - but if they do it will be thanks to Trevor.
Of course, there are also vistas that are so well recognised they've become almost iconic landmarks about the nation. The image above is my version of what I would consider to be one such - yet I'd guess there will be least one or two of you who won't be familiar with it. Should that be the case, then this link will reveal all - along with the associated video for those with access to 4oD. I'd recommend watching it, as it provides a fascinating insight to the lengths some people will go to achieve that which I mentioned initially - the sheer delight of being beside the ocean.
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Uploaded on May 11, 2013
Do something for long enough, and in theory you'll become adept at it and well accomplished. As the idiom suggests, practice makes perfect. I imagine this to be indicative of just about any field of endeavour one could care to mention, and there are of course a great deal of choices open to us to explore - not least those associated with art and creativity.
I suspect for most photographers, there are several stages involved in eventually realising a level of skill they're content with. Certainly these will vary, and admittedly I'm generalising massively, but I wonder how many of the following may be attributable to you - or perhaps trigger a wry smile of recognition? The first stage is an appreciation of the printed image as shot by others, and a desire to equal, or better those efforts. This is followed by much floundering as technical jargon, myriad camera controls and lack of vision conspire to thwart and discourage. The realisation that hundreds (thousands?) of pounds spent on that shiny new camera gear does not instantly equate to the stunning shots running amok inside one's head is an early stumbling block, and for many their aspirations end here. Those with enough determination strive doggedly on, driven by either a modicum of genuine talent, or an untrained eye and subsequent misplaced self-congratulation, or the hope that perseverance will reap rewards. Eventually, through perhaps trial and error, tuition, research or happy accident made good, comes the stage where the camera is no longer a forbidding and sullen rectangular mass but a familiar and trusted confidante. Buttons and switches perform tasks that are grasped, and there is no longer the irrational but very real fear of 'messing up the settings'. Images start to come together not purely through chance, but because conscious decisions have been made at point of capture and during processing that govern the results. Pictures taken weeks, months, or possibly even years earlier now evoke vague feelings of derision, perhaps even regret at not having waited for that harsh light to fade, that passer by to move on, that tide to rise or that season to arrive. These could be pictures that caused feelings of joy at first, and many will evoke happy memories still, yet inexorably their flaws are now evident as if suddenly unveiled - but at least not repeated in more recent work. Each and every opportunity to shoot fresh material is seized with a thrill, and friends and family (despite being far from an unbiased panel) greet latest efforts with 'how did you..?' and 'where was that..?' exclamations of encouragement and wonder.
The road to photographic excellence has been embarked upon, and now there is no desire to stop or turn back.
Practice, as they say, makes perfect. The implication is that in order to expound upon proficiency, it's prerequisite that a degree of regularity is adhered to. Dedication given over to a craft will indeed pay dividends, yet that dedication will be beset by periods of inactivity, apathy and self-disillusion that threaten the knowledge compounded by previous hard work. This, I feel, is the stage I'm currently beset by. There are occasions to shoot I've snubbed, and chances to better my repertoire I've rejected out of hand. My creativity seems to have the peculiar foible of being cyclical, and I recognise when it's just not happening for me as a bitter struggle seems to ensue to realise an image, as opposed to the good times when everything just, well, flows... I'm sure had I attempted to produce this particular image on a different occasion it would have been much easier, yet I didn't and it wasn't. Am I content with it? I'm not entirely sure just yet. Maybe I'll know if I'm successful in reaching the next stage, whatever that may be.
On a different note, I'm really happy to have been published by What Digital Camera again in the current May issue, with two of my images appearing across two pages along with a small write up on my ND110 filter. I'm equally delighted to simultaneously have seven pictures published across six pages in the Spring issue of Photo Technique, accompanied by my article on long exposure monochrome.
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Uploaded on Apr 24, 2013
Typically, winter is my favourite season to shoot in. The low sun results in the most enriching shadow detail and is a huge boon to the photographer wishing to imbue his or her work with depth and three dimensional appearance. Contrasts are far more manageable than any other period, and the window of opportunity for well-balanced exposure often extends right throughout the day. I enjoy too, the solitude and desertion the associated weather conditions bring to areas that will eventually be filled with jostling tourists, holiday-makers and day-trippers. It has been commented there's a certain proclivity for... loneliness(?) in much of my imagery. I both accept and indeed frequently strive to include that sense as, for reasons perhaps I'll delve deeper in to on a different occasion, on a base level I personally find that visual characteristic very appealing. It occurs to me perhaps I'm too self indulgent in such expression - yet it is, after all, my expression.
But what of the effects such an inclement season inflicts upon the hardy maker of images? Rain, wind and cold can all be defended against to a degree, by means of weather-proof clothing, sealed lenses and camera bodies plus not to mention the improvised techniques of those of us who venture out. The emotional responses triggered by such elements are less easy to counteract, and although I personally welcome the attributing inspiration I can't deny returning home from shore or moor after an extended shoot comes as something of a relief. Ironically it strikes me that images I take in the summer months often exude a similar feeling, that dark essence that causes me to claim ownership - yet the likelihood is I'll exacerbate that impression through creative visualisation/realisation. Here, in actual winter, those qualities are present for all to see (were they to go outside), and are bitingly real. It may be that the sun's reluctant and brief appearances throughout the darker months lead to a reduction in the brain's natural serotonin levels, thereby attuning me psychologically to create darker images. It may be that suitable subject matter is just easier to find at this time of year. Or, as I suspect, it may simply be down to a combination of the two.
I do know I don't envy anyone with a reverse persona - anyone wishing to capture happy-go-lucky photographs in the throes of the winter we're even now still experiencing here in the UK...
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Uploaded on Mar 30, 2013
Well, it's been quite some time since I uploaded new work... In actual fact this is an image from last year I've only now got around to processing. Of course, it's wonderful when photographs realise themselves immediately having been taken, but quite often (for me at least), it doesn't happen that way. Frequently my photographs lay dormant before being rediscovered, and often it's during this secretive, unseen period within the shadowy recesses of my hard drive they're seemingly imbued with a life of their own. It certainly feels that way, although perhaps it's simply the fact a part of my creativity demands consideration and diligence - things I often find some type of gestation period helps to nurture.
I have, however, been busy in the meantime, and do have some explanation for my temporary absence. Having put it off for some time, I'd like to announce I've finally my own website www.andrewrobertbrown.com up and running. I had originally pledged this a year or two ago, so perhaps it's just an extension of the sometimes elongated process I described above. This is my first attempt at a personal website, and even though I've taken the comparatively easy route and opted for a modified template design, the end result has taken me at least as many hours deciding what NOT to do! I trialled two hosting services - the first of which I found too unwieldy in terms of maintenance and upkeep, before opting for the second, and current, platform. I'd love the skills to be able to create my own high quality site from scratch, and maybe at some stage I'll achieve just that, but for now I'm happy to have a simple, uncluttered corner of the web I can call my own. Please do considering visiting if you've a moment or two - anyone's thoughts, comments or suggestions would be very appreciated, be they good or bad. Thank you so much to those of you who have already done so, and thank you also to those who have very kindly linked to me on social media sites. I wondered where the views were coming from! I should advise, you won't find original picture content as yet - I considered this of course but eventually came to the conclusion the images I've shown on flickr are the ones I want to be seen. That said, I shall be introducing new work to my site prior to it being seen elsewhere as time goes on, including much more in the way of exclusive content. Rome wasn't built in a day, and despite not being able to claim such grandiose design I do seem to be establishing a pattern here!
The biggest challenge for a man named Andy Brown building a photography website? Deciding on a name! A quick Google search will reveal 98,100,000 results, and it's just possible one or two of them aren't anything to do with me... Evidently I could be a jazz guitarist from Chicago, a bespoke kitchen designer from Cardiff, a driving instructor from Melton Mowbray, a Canadian ice hockey goalkeeper and a female Hungarian porn star (I kid you not), among many - oh so many - more. Attempting to register a domain name I was thwarted at every turn, and couldn't help thinking had I been born Quentin Sprogbucket things would have turned out much differently. Eventually, it dawned on me the only sensible thing to do was to go with my proper, full name. So I did.
On a different note, I'm really pleased to have had three of my images published across two pages in the February issue of What Digital Camera, and equally thrilled that I'll be appearing again hopefully in the May issue.
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Uploaded on Feb 22, 2013
This is my final upload for 2012, and I'd like to extend a genuinely heartfelt thank you to everyone who has dropped by my photostream or contributed in any way over the past twelve months. Your kindness of spirit is a primary motivator in forcing me out of bed at indecent hours of the morning to shoot scenes like the one above, and were it not for you I seriously doubt I'd have shot half the images I've displayed this past year. It's been a pleasure and a privilege to view the work of my contacts, and even though I find it impossible to comment on each and every single one I try to view them all. Social networking demands a commitment which can be difficult to balance with day to day life, yet how enriching it's presence is for artists working within a visual medium!
So, what for 2013? I'm not one for resolutions and unlikely promises, I find most invariably fail - yet by the same count it helps our progression to have at least some vague goal or goals in mind. Mine this year is simple, I wish to be a better image maker than I am now. I'm not entirely sure (in truth I suppose I'm not at all sure) what that means, so I may or may not be setting myself up for a fall. I'm not actively planning to shoot colour, or deviate from my favoured square frame, or diversify into high octane sports capture or celebrity reportage. Sorry about that. As much as I value your continued support I shall be shooting just what I feel like, which is the only way I know how to make photographs. I have a great deal of self-doubt about my own imagery and the direction it takes, along with the blessed times when I look back and think, 'you know, some of it's actually not bad'... I can see gradual shifts and trends in my own work as I'm sure you can in yours, and right now I'm just going to let those continue organically and see where they go of their own accord. This means if my closing upload next year is a timelapse video of butterflies wheeling around a breezy summer meadow it will be just as much a suprise to me as you...
Happy New Year for 2013 - I wish all of you good health and good luck in all of your endeavours whatever they may be.
In closing, it was great to bump into contacts Paul Wheeler, Scott Howse and Brian Crompton while shooting an outrageously high spring tide at Weston-super-Mare recently with pal Keith Aggett. Pleasure chatting to all of you guys, and hopefully we'll get together again before too long!
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Uploaded on Dec 29, 2012