This photo was taken at The Royal Windsor Horse Show and is the closest I have ever been to serious competitive sport with horses. This competitor was taking part in a driving marathon and the photo was taken at a point in the course where a series of gates had to be negotiated under timed conditions. This required a combination of speed and accuracy. It’s possible to get a sense of how fast they were going by noticing that the horse on the right has only one hoof on the ground as they go in to a turn. They are also negotiating gates that are by no means flimsy as evidenced by the sturdy poles.
It’s quite a privilege to get this close to the action in a truly competitive sport featuring some of the top competitors and I was certainly struck by the skill and agility of both driver and horses. It’s an amazing witness to the mutual trust between the driver horses that’s necessary for success and it makes me think that we need to exercise this more among ourselves as people in whatever ventures we are collectively involved in. Incidentally I was also trusting that they would not crash into the barrier behind which I was standing!
For those interested the photo was shot at 1/640 sec at f5.6 on a focal length of 55mm. The lighting diffused by heavy cloud cover so I opted for an ISO of 800 to give me the flexibility of a fast shutter speed and decent depth of field.
These two young girls are refugees.
This photograph was taken in MaeLa camp in Thailand near the border with Burma. At the time the photo was taken, in late 2005, the camp was home to around 48,000 Karen people and only one of a number of camps along the border.
In January 1984 the Burmese Army launched an offensive against the Karen National Union (KNU) and the first refugees fled across the border to Thailand. Over a period of 20 years, almost 3,000 ethnic villages in the east of Burma were destroyed by civil war affecting at least one million people. Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly Karen, were displaced inside Burma while the population of the refugee camps, over the border in Thailand, increased to over 150,000.
The Karen are an indigenous people to Thailand and Burma. Traditionally, most Karen are farmers who cultivate the nutrient rich soils of southern Burma and eastern Thailand. The religion of the Karen majority is Animism and Buddhism although there is also a sizable population of Christians accounting for approximately 30 per cent of the population. These two girls were photographed in one of approximately 40 churches in the MaeLa camp and, although I can’t be certain, they were possibly born in the camp.
Their happy, smiling faces were so typical of the Karen people and they were clearly intrigued by the foreigners in their midst. I deliberately chose a slow shutter speed to emphasise their movement as they fidgeted happily to the music and singing. I see this as a photograph of hope and the triumph of innocence over conflict.
Amazonian rainforest, Ecuador
This is one of those photographs that is the result of sheer opportunity. It was December 2004 and I was in Ecuador with a BMS film team. This was about two thirds of the way through an epic trip.
Ecuador has three distinct geographic regions and climates; the pacific coast, the high Andes and the tropical steamy heat of the Amazonian rainforest. We’d flown in to Guayaquil on the coast after a stop-off at Quito sitting at 9,350 feet in the Andes. We’d shared the flight with the European based players of the Brazil football team who were on their way to a match with Ecuador, which we watched on TV in a little cafe as we ascended the Andes on our way across to the rainforest region. Two days of filming in Guayaquil had seen one vehicle burn out a clutch on a steep slope into a shanty town. The journey up into the Andes was proving too much for our fourth vehicle which pretty much stopped working on a narrow mountain road at night, in the dark and with large lorries trying to get past us as we sat there with no lights. Eventually we made it to a small town where a phone call to an American missionary saved the day as he came to our rescue in his pick-up. Thanks to him we made it to our filming location in the rainforest but it was an arduous, bumpy and rough journey. Sleep over a few days there was a rare and precious thing.
At that time I owned what were my favourite ever sunglasses. One day we set off in small narrow boats with huge and probably overly powerful outboard motors to travel a distance down the Rio Napo to a rural settlement where would spend a day filming. This was deep into the rainforest with resident monkeys. As was my habit, I’d pop the sunglasses on to the top of my head when taking photographs and at the end of the day as we climbed back in to the boat, I reached up to take them off only to find they were missing. To this day I am convinced there is one cool monkey swinging around with my sunglasses on.
After days of arduous travel an filming we arose early to set off from Tena and make the long journey by road up out of the rainforest region to Quito where a couple more days filming would complete our work before flying home from the capital. As we drove, tired and aching, ever upwards out of the rainforest dawn began to break and were greeted by this sight. Three of us simultaneously called for the vehicle to stop as we reached for cameras. This was one of the most atmospheric and beautiful sights I’ve seen and it was so welcome and refreshing after what we’d been through up to then. It’s a sight I’ll never forget and this photo is special to me not only in capturing the sight but as a reminder of the story behind it.
This is a woman living in relative poverty in Kinshasa in D R Congo.
I took this photo on 9 November 2007 whilst on a BMS filming trip. We had come to this area to get some general footage and our hosts, who knew this woman, had taken along some food for her.
We know little of her story other than for many years she had cared for children, despite her own poor situation. In doing so she had probably given many a chance in life they would otherwise not have had.
It’s an unusual angle of view but I wanted a character shot that said something of her role and condition in life. By selecting a low viewpoint I wanted to photograph her from a child’s perspective. The bucket and basket in the foreground speak of her labour in keeping things clean and the background is the wall of her home. The moment she turned and looked at me was the cue to take the photograph as I saw her expression, which seemed to say so much.
For those interested, the photograph was taken on a Nikon D70s using a shutter speed of 1/80 sec at f13 on ISO 500. The focal length was 18mm.
This photograph is from my successful portfolio submission for the Licentiate of The Royal Photographic Society. I submitted a portfolio of ten photographs for the panel which were taken in a variety of locations both in the UK and abroad, including Thailand and D R Congo. The photograph of the peacock was taken in June 2012 at Scone Palace near Perth and was an opportunistic shot grabbed quickly in the moment. Other photographs in my portfolio were more planned and considered.
The Society’s distinctions are internationally respected and sought-after by professional and amateur photographers. Over 1,000 applications for Licentiateship, Associateship and Fellowship are received each year with around 600 being successful. Submissions are held in different categories and are assessed by a qualified Panel of senior members of The Society. The Society takes great care in maintaining standards and in promoting excellence among photographers.
Royal Photographic Society is an educational charity with a Royal Charter, It was founded in 1853 “to promote the Art and Science of Photography”. Membership is open to everyone and The Society is the UK’s largest organisation representing photographers with over 10,000 members in the UK and abroad.The Society’s world-class Collection of historic photographs, equipment and library is housed for the nation at the National Media Museum, Bradford.
For more information visit www.rps.org
See my successful LRPS portfolio here
This is a permit to enter a refugee camp. It was issued to a BMS World Mission filming team I was part of in 2005. We had gone specifically to film inside a particular refugee camp. No access would mean no film and we had no guarantee of getting in.
We were reliant on an Australian mission worker to facilitate our trip and he had arranged for us to meet the local government official who would, we hoped, give us a permit to enter the camp. I remember all of us sitting in front of his large paper-strewn desk answering questions with our Australian friend acting as interpreter. We were intent on making a good impression and being careful to say that we were not going to criticise the government in our film. It was an anxious meeting.
Part of my role with the team was looking after the finances of the trip and it crossed my mind that we might be asked for money for the permit. What would I do, and how far can you go in that instance? It wasn’t anything we had discussed before the meeting and I was conscious that whilst not paying up would have meant leaving with no film, the alternative would be to potentially harm our Australian friend’s relationship locally and also leave us party to corruption. Fortunately no money was asked for and we clearly satisfied the local official who smilingly passed over the permit and wished us well.
I’ve not thought about that time until recently when it was announced that BMS is implementing an anti-corruption policy which covers things like paying bribes and facilitating a public official in exchange for preferential treatment. I’m relieved I’ve never had to face paying a bribe so I’ve never had to face the moral dilemma. It has to be a good thing, though, that organisations like BMS are standing up to corruption and prepared to pay a price for doing so, even it should mean returning empty-handed from a filming trip. Of course, the policy allows for exceptions where there is a threat to life, limb or liberty but the only way to deal with corruption is not to be party to it and now we know how far we can go.
An interior view of Glasgow Cathedral
This happens to be the interior of Glasgow Cathedral. It could be any but this just happened to be my most recent photograph of a cathedral. So what’s the fascination?
I’ve not been much of a cathedral visitor until I moved to Oxfordshire from the Scottish Borders and it’s noticeable that there are many more cathedrals easily accessible from where I now live; Winchester, Salisbury and Wells to name but three within an easy day’s journey.
There’s one particular thing I find fascinating every time I visit a Cathedral and it’s something that first struck me when visiting Durham Cathedral (more of an easy day’s journey from the Scottish Borders than Oxfordshire!).
It’s not the majestic nature of the architecture nor is it the sense of peace and sanctuary. What strikes me again and again is the sheer size and scale of these buildings created from huge blocks of stone, reaching high above the ground and built in times without our modern techniques. But that’s not the real thing that amazes me. It’s the time it took to build them and that someone had the vision and imagination to begin a project that would almost certainly not be completed in their own lifetime. That’s the amazing, awe-inspiring feeling I have every time I visit a huge cathedral.
What makes it so amazing is I often feel that today, despite our technological advancement, we have lost something of the capacity to have a long-term vision of starting something we won’t see completed. The very idea of this seems to be at odds with our contemporary consumer culture. And I find that rather sad.