Making retro images at a vintage steam fairground

Making vintage style images at a steam powered fairground

Today we took a family trip to Hollycombe Steam –  a gem of a place showcasing all things steam powered.  My boys have been before with the in-laws and raved about it but I wanted to give it a go too – not least because I fancied some shots of a more candid and documentary style.

The place is fab from start to finish, it’s small and there were no massive crowds nor queues for the rides despite it being a Saturday in August.  Most visitors were families and/or steam enthusiasts and the atmosphere was totally relaxed.  The volunteers manning the rides were friendly and chatty and clearly loved their machines.  There is everything from steam powdered gallopers to a railway engine.

I’ma bit obsessed with older fairground rides and so I spent some time both with the rides and with the people working with them.  I took only a 24mm pancake lens in order to keep the kit light and also to challenge myself a bit. It’s nice to have a multitude of lenses to play  with but when it really doesn’t matter if I get a particular shot or not (no clients, just me!) I like to choose just one and see what I can do with it.

I’m really pleased with the shots, they aren’t super sharp and they are pretty grainy – and I like that – I think they’ve got a good feel.


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Next time I might bring a tripod to see if I can do more with the shots capturing the motion of the rides.  Hand-holding at such long shutter speeds means the bits that aren’t moving aren’t sharp either and I think they’ll look better with a pin-sharp reference point and everything else moving around it.

I’d like to say a huge thanks to the folks at Hollycombe – the fact that these amazing machines are not only being preserved but are working and still so much fun to ride is just brilliant.  I’ll be back next summer for another go around!



Documentary photography – preparing for the L’Oreal Colour Trophy 2017

Documentary film on One Three Seven salon’s entry in the 2017 L’Oreal Colour Trophy

You may recall that in 2016 I was lucky enough to work with One Three Seven salon in Cranleigh to document their journey to the regional finals of the prestigious L’Oreal Colour Trophy.  The Colour Trophy is a massive deal in hairdressing circles with colourists and stylists alike fighting it out to find the next big trend in hair styling.  In 2016 the One Three Seven team make it to regionals and were both thrilled with great placing and disappointed not to make it through to the grand finals.  You can read all about it in my Spark Story from last year.

For me, the project was the perfect mix of documentary and fashion photography and the shoot to create the final looks was what really set me off on my path towards portraits and fashion.  It was definitely a turning point and a very steep learning curve about working under pressure, with very basic equipment and with limited time to get the shot.

This year I was thrilled to be invited back, and while the final ‘looks’ are under wraps until the competition entry is made (don’t want anyone stealing their ideas!) I’ve put together a little video of the preparations and antics during the creation of these stunning styles.

Enjoy this little prelude and stay tuned for the final images – you’ll be blown away!

Documentary of family life – Monkey See, Monkey Do

Some of my favourite images are more documentary in style. These are quieter, more intimate images of the family as it is naturally, when there is no photographer watching.

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When I was little, it was de rigeur for Mum to drag us all down to the local photography studio (anyone else remember Olan Mills?) for an annual photo session. These images are hilarious now, the funky mottled backgrounds, everyone in their best clothes, the cheesy smiles and retro hair do’s – I love them but they are certainly of a time.  Mum would consider any image that didn’t have us all looking at the camera and smiling as a failure and woe betide you if you were the one not playing ball that day (my siblings will be laughing out loud at this point – sorry Mum!).

Now I have my own kid, I still love the smiling images, and when I work for clients I’ll do my best to get that shot – preferably with genuine smiles all round.  But some of my favourite images are more documentary in style.  These are quieter, more intimate images of the family as it is naturally, when there is no photographer watching.

In this personal project, I wanted to look at the relationship between my young son Isaac and his dad.  I wanted to capture this strange space they’ve built (complete with rather odd signs) and look at how they work there together.  I confess I don’t entirely understand their relationship.  It is often fractious, always intense and so full of a strange love that I think is something quite different to my own relationship with either of them.  It is beautiful, although many don’t agree that these images are very beautiful. However, I think in the long run they are a more true representation of family life.