Moonlight (after Turner)

July 11, 2012

We watched and greatly enjoyed this programme recently on BBC 4 about Turner’s Thames. It left me with two distinct impressions: that I had to read a biography of Turner and that I really wanted a copy of Moonlight on my wall.

I am doubly lucky in this instance in having a dad that paints very beautifully in oils and loves Turner with a passion. I am trebly lucky even, as he’s expressed interest recently in wanting to copy more paintings as an enjoyable exercise (he copied The Fighting Temeraire recently). So, I made my request.

I had never seen this painting before, (which surprises me as it was introduced as his very first known oil) and my dad has never seen it in the flesh, so in selecting a suitable reference image we had to apply a bit of judgement in sorting out the available material. We didn’t have a good copy of it in a book, so we had to rely on what we could find on the internet. The painting is in the collection of The Tate, so this was a good place to start, but the darks in their image are hopelessly lost (the first image below) so we looked elsewhere. Here’s an example of the diversity of colours, contrast values and aspect ratios that a Google Image search brings up.

Needless to say we chose as carefully as we could, but as we didn’t have a picture of the painting as it truly is in our minds, our choice came down to as much our own value judgements as the image’s perfect fidelity.

I won’t post the actual reference image we chose, mostly because I don’t now know which one it was, but also because there were one or two changes made for the copy. The main one was that we chose a standard size canvas, because that was what we had and also because swept frames only come in standard sizes. Therefore the aspect ratio was similar to the lower left image, although the actual painting is more like the lower-central one; this one also represents the colours we chose too. Another problem were the stars: close examination of these images reveals sometimes a very starry sky, sometimes a wholly cloud-covered one. There are also often white specks in the lower half of the image so many of these can be thought of as damage or some photographic artefact(?). We decided to ignore all star-like objects except the central one, which I am sure appears on the original and must be a planet (not Venus we realised, it being so close to a full moon, so we refer to it as Jupiter).

And so work commenced. The canvas already had the outline of a picture on it that my sister had started and abandoned, but don’t let that put you off.




The painting took only a few hours to complete (my dad is very experienced) and I was able to take it home with me a week later. Here are the main stages as they appeared in the evenings when I got back from work:

After this picture was taken he added a sort of vignette and touched a few things up. It seems a little too bluey to me, so I will give it a few washes of yellowy varnish until I feel completely satisfied. It has had one coat of varnish, but I forgot to take the tub home with me so have to wait until I get it back before I can add any more. It is however, already up on my wall and I really enjoy looking at it, especially in the evening when the yellowy lights really dull the blues to perfection. Perhaps it’s just appropriate that it should look at its best in the evening, perhaps I’ll end up leaving it just as it is :-)


2011 in pictures!

March 9, 2012

I’ve been getting excited recently about my shiny new(ish) fisheye lens, which has done nothing short of revolutionise my roundography, as I say here. However, that’s not the only new lens I’ve thought necessary to acquire. My new status of Mother has demanded of me that I begin my Crafthole family album as quickly as possible, since our boy changes almost daily.

For the first four months of his life I have been snapping away at him, as you would expect, but I have felt the results singularly uninspiring. This picture of me in the early eighties, taken by my Dad on his splendid and much loved Pentax, was my standard:

What I love about this is the wonderfully shallow depth of field that really gives such a sense of softness and intimacy. Beautiful. I am so glad that my Dad amassed this collection of family snaps that can be thought of as true portraits.

I know a bad craftsman always blames his tools but this sort of image really is impossible without a lens with sufficiently low F number. My Dad had his portrait lens, and I wanted mine. And I got it (with a bit of financial shifting, squeezing and moving). It’s a 50mm, F1.4 Nikkor thing of joy. I couldn’t be more happy with it.

Here is my first attempt, taken the day the lens arrived (yesterday):

I can’t wait to see the pictures as they come in the next few years. I hope to give my son a documentation of his childhood as thoughtful and intimate as the one my Dad gave us.

I’m quite shocked to find I haven’t uploaded my picture-a-day since February. This year is speeding by very alarmingly.

The beginning of March saw me starting my maternity leave, and the year has taken a predictable but nonetheless life-changing, strange, fantastic, emotional and blissful course. The pictures will just have to speak for themselves :-)

Joyous new arrival!

April 29, 2011

I posted this .gif shortly after I made it in my post about zoetropes. I wanted a good record of my eight-and-a-half month pregnant body before the long-anticipated Event, which could have happened any time.

That was 27th March, and one week later, on 3rd April, a few days before his official due date, George Frederick, or Freddy as he is known by his family, was born. He changes everything, and not just for us. I am now a mother, Crafthole is now a father, my mum and dad are now grandparents and my siblings are uncle and aunt for the first time. It seemed to us in our delirium of newness and happiness that he changed the whole world: he appeared in the precise week that the buds on the trees became leaves and the blossom bloomed for the start of spring. The trees outside my hospital window were bare when we went in, and green when we came out, blinking. They really were. Freddy was the Bringer of Spring.

On 20th April we returned to exactly the same spot as above and took another series of photographs (and just look at the difference).

The .gifs below were taken largely because I cannot help myself… He is shown being weighed on his fifth day of life as a citizen of the world,

and being bathed against his will about a week later.

First Zoetrope Strip!

March 29, 2011

I’ve recently developed a new obsession, which I think I can trace back to the wonderful Muybridgizer iPhone app. This was made to accompany Tate Britain’s recent Muybridge exhibition, which unfortunately I never actually saw. It’s a lovely fun app that allows you to make little movies, Victorian style, covering movement lasting around a second. Here’s a lovely post demonstrating the app better than I could.

This got me thinking: what a lovely way to make my family album come to life. I’m due to give birth in a week or two and have been thinking a lot about how to document the new arrival in a way that feels permanent and interesting.

This was an attempt of mine last weekend when Crafthole & I walked out in the beautiful springtime sun and took a little sequence to show off my 8 1/2 month pregnant belly:

However, the lack of any way of exporting the moving image or individual frames really limits the usefulness of the app in making a real record. I decided therefore I would be better, and happier, doing it myself. So, I cast around for a zoetrope of my own and settled on this little one from Ancient Magic Toys:

After taking my little Muybridgizer sequence, we switched to the proper camera and took a sequence of twelve, which I treated in photoshop:

…and made into a strip:

I now have only to wait for the zoetrope to arrive to see how it actually works out, but in the meantime I’ve made myself a little sneak preview. I think it will work out fine! (if the animation below doesn’t automatically start, click on the image)

This should be the first of many little movies this year, I think it will be the start of a lovely family album.

February in Pictures

March 29, 2011

January in Pictures

February 8, 2011

My main achievement this month was to grow more bulbous, which I think was my most important job. As for work, it was an almost complete waste of a month, which  is inconvenient given the very small amount of time I have left before I go on maternity leave at the beginning of March (I am extremely impatient for this).

Having come to the end of 2010, and my first six months of my Photo a Day project, I suddenly couldn’t rest until I’d made a mock-up of what I’ve always intended as its final product. I would like, every year, to make myself a retrospective calendar, a little reference showing me what I was doing on this day in 2010.

Why? Well, mainly for no reason at all, but partly because I’m tired of never being able to remember anything: I have a terrible memory and always have. My diary is not something I am likely ever to read fully again, and I think this will be enough at least to trigger vague memories. In most cases, seeing one of these pictures brings the whole day back to me, which is a thing of great value in my mind.

So far my 2011 calendar is going alright, but I think I will have to try very hard to keep it up. I hope it doesn’t become too much of a weight around my shoulders, like my diary always does after the first few months (which is consequently full of large gaps). I am also hoping desperately that it won’t turn into a baby album after April, as I fall under the Spell of the new Lord Crafthole and lose interest in all other subjects…

December in Pictures

January 24, 2011

December seems so long ago already! I can only just remember all that beautiful snow. The month split into two halves for me: the first half was all Liverpool, carrying on with my placement at the National Conservation Centre. During the time I was there, the museum directors announced, only one week in advance, the closure of its public galleries. Very sad and shocking. It was a cost-saving measure of course following the recent government cuts, but the actual museum was only a sort of secondary casualty: it was closing not directly to save money, but to be converted into offices to allow one of the museum’s admin buildings to be sold. And so, on the morning of the 18th December 2010 Liverpool woke up to find itself one museum poorer.

I was away by then, at home in Watlington for my christmas holiday. This was my longest stint at home with Crafthole since we got the house (I took a fortnight off to be with him there for our honeymoon in August, and apart from that it’s all been snatched days here and there). It was lovely.

This was our first christmas on our own in our own home as we have always previously spent the season with family in Yorkshire and the Wirral, but I having been a permanent house-guest this year was very eager to be in Crafthole Cottage. It was all placed in jeopardy on 22nd however when we woke up to be greeted with a torrent of water spurting from a burst pipe, flooding the downstairs. Crafthole knew what to do to stop the torrent and, after I had bailed out as much water as I could through the front door, our landlords knew how to save the carpets and in the end, by the time christmas came, you wouldn’t know anything had happened. I saved the section of burst pipe and used it as a tree decoration, as a reminder. It was packed away with the other decorations and will come out again next year. This is how little family traditions are started I suppose, and it’s very strange indeed to think that when the decorations come out next year, there will be three of us – our own little family :-)

Also this month I actually took some proper photographs with the proper camera and made my first wormhole in months. It is the monument to victory at Blenheim Palace, where we walked in the snow with an old friend of Crafthole’s he hasn’t seen in twenty years. It was a lovely day.