Bossiney Haven and Benoath Cove

Quick automated photomerge in Photoshop CC 2015

Quick automated photomerge in Photoshop CC 2015

Benoath Cove is tucked around a headland from it’s main access at Bossiney Haven. It’s beach is usually under the waves, but on a low spring tide rocky cave pierced cliffs are like heaven to me! I was there in mid-March on one of the lowest tides of the year which gave me four hours to explore and photograph. This blog post represents my sketchbook or work-in-progress as I haven’t made a finished image at the time of posting; that will have to wait until a rainy day. However my working practice includes making iPhone photo-constructions on location and I like to process my RAW images asap and then make quick, automated, photomerges from the jpegs produced.

Quick automated photomerge in Photoshop CC 2015. Making a sketch like this helps me to progress the image later on; I'm immediately wanting to lengthen the exposure of many of the darker frames to expand the overall tonal range and I also need to delicately bring out the water drips which give a sense of both the dampness and of time passing.

Quick automated photomerge in Photoshop CC 2015. Making a sketch like this helps me to progress the image later on; I’m immediately wanting to lengthen the exposure of many of the darker frames to expand the overall tonal range and I also need to delicately bring out the water drips which give a sense of both the dampness and of time passing.

I timed my visit to Benoath so that I was there two hours before low tide and took the less used, old path, down to the beach. This path isn’t way-marked and I wouldn’t recommend it; the first part was covered in brambles which are only bearable in the winter when they’ve died back and heavy jeans are worn, the second part, the decent down the cliff, is treacherous as most of it is on a steep ledge with only a rail to keep you from plunging to the beach. The last section has no handrail and just an old fishing rope, tied to the end of the rail, to help you over the steep, wet, smooth, slippery rocks onto to equally difficult beach below. I had been on the beach in the past but it was disorientating with the sea still so far in, so it took a few minutes of clambering up and down the so far accessible rocky beach, before I could find the cave I was looking for. I refer to this cave as Signal Cave because you can actually make a mobile phone call inside. I even received a text right at the very back which has to be at least 30 metre from the opening.

My reason for getting into the cave as soon as possible after the receding tide was aesthetic, the wet walls and dripping ceiling make for a far more dramatic image. This particular cave is my current favourite and I could easily have spent all four hours here, as it has three distinct entrances which all join together far into the the cliff. It takes me approximately an hour to shoot the frames for a single constructed photograph so four hours was never going to be enough on this beach as it was visually so generous.

It takes me approximately an hour to shoot the frames for a single constructed photograph so four hours was never going to be enough on this beach as it was visually so generous. These last two iPhone AutoStich images will have to wait to photographed properly! The first I entered with only a few minutes before low tide, which was lapping at it’s mouth, and I had to force myself to leave it for another day (I know how obsessive I can be to perfect the image, I knew I would be so absorbed in my work that time would disappear and I could be cut off, inside the cave!).


Public Art pt4 – Realisation

My original intention was to have a completed piece of Public Art on McColl’s window for the beginning of August, the start of the 2 month long Culture Show.

Unfortunately the project was marred by delays. Firstly the relationship with Bidford youth club needed more time to develop and so next week was given here, then, the time needed to install the public art was far greater than originally anticipated. I had naively imagined that a couple of days work outside on the space would have got everything finished, sealed and looking good. A day was booked in the Arts Centre in early August with the intention of laying out all the images in their respective window frames end then installing them in place. I decided to use Scotch Photomount spray glue to stick the 3×4″ prints in place, despite its high price, because it allowed for a little repositioning but was a permanent glue, and it was tried and tested by me in the past. A couple of volunteers, who had participated on BBC workshops in the past, Stuart and Shirley Stickler helped with this process. However after a whole days work only half of one panel was complete and this needed to be varnished straightaway to protected from the weather.

The weather was another important factor in the delay of installing the artwork. August 2015 proved to be very wet in Southwest England. It was rare for a day to go by without a shower of rain. This rain played havoc with my outdoor work which needed extremely dry conditions until it became protected from the rain. Confounding this situation with wetness, when it wasn’t raining it was often very sunny, the sun shining directly onto the windows and making them very hot indeed. The black-and-white A4 card that had been pasted onto the window has shrunk slightly around the edges. Some of them had also started to peel from at the edges from the flat surface, and I needed to add stronger glue to hold them in place.

Another issue, which caused delay, was the varnish. I had spent a lot of time researching varnish, needing something that would give UV protection and protect the work from the rain outdoors. The yacht varnish that I bought was supposed to be clear, but when applied and dried it gave a yellow skin to the work making the images seem faded, like an old photograph. My experience of using varnish indoors on similar work in the past had been very very successful. The varnish from my previous experience had completely sealed the photographs, like a lacquer or resin might have done. I decided to remove the worst offenders of the yellowed pictures and replace them with new ones. I also ordered a clear spray on varnish that seemed to have very good reviews on the Internet being designed specifically for artwork. However this spray on varnish didn’t seal the images as I had hoped and I found that with bright warm direct sunshine often the corners of individual pictures curled upwards.

My cycle of work was that every time there was to be a dry day I would spend the whole day working on the panels. Gluing down any corners that may have curled up, spraying pictures in place and then, by the end of the day stopping only for lack of sunshine, I sprayed the whole lot with clear varnish to seal.

As the artwork started to evolve in the very public space I would often and sometimes continually get members of the public coming up and asking what it was, or commenting on how they liked it, or questioning what it was for? This was a thrilling, but unexpected part of making art work in the public realm. A part of making public art which I recognise as very important but had not factored in the time needed to talk to people who were interested in what I was doing. Having the public’s enthusiasm for what I was doing made the arts practice very rewarding. I was fascinated by the fact that so many people came over looking at the work but could only see small pictures on the window some on their side, some upside down, but they could not see the big picture. It was only when they walked away, viewing it from a distance, that they saw it as a photo mosaic of Bideford Longbridge. When questioned what the image was supposed to be I would often show them how it looked through the wide angle lens of my iPhone and they would instantly see the bridge.

Once all three panels were complete I waited for a very dry day when I knew that everything was absolutely bone dry and then sealed the whole lot under clear sticky back plastic. The clear plastic film was then trimmed all the way around the edge and sealed with exterior white sealant.

The completed Photomosaic on Jubilee Square in Bideford.


Exhibition at Sock Gallery 29th October – 5th December 2015

Over the last 25 years I?ve exhibited my work all over England, and also a few places in the USA, but never in my home town of Loughborough. Encouraged by my parents, who still live in the family home, I approached the Sock Gallery in Loughborough Town Hall over 18 months ago and was fortunate to be given this slot in their calendar. I have fond memories of Loughborough Town Hall having seen Def Leppard play here in 1979.

The gallery here is a wonderful place to show work; clean, light, well lit and well looked after. They even added vases of flowers which seemed to compliment the colours in the work! The 3 day exhibition turnaround is impressive; one day for the old show to be taken down, the next for filling and painting of holes, the third for hanging of the show. As an artist I was also impressed with the efficiency of the Sock gallery staff; communication was very good and Excel worksheet which self-generated picture labels and a sales sheet was well thought out.
Sock Gallery, Loughborough


Public Art pt3 – Trials and Tribulations

The photomosaic created on a computer with Artensoft software gave me a good idea of the kinds of images needed for the piece in terms of their colour, contrast and arrangements of compositional elements and where they should be placed. Unfortunately, the software wasn?t ?clever? enough to keep each separate photograph to its format of 3×4, often cropping frames then magnifying them to a larger size. The computer generated photomosaic was to be my guide but in reality it proved to be a very loose guide and it?s only value was in selecting or suggesting a range of images to use.

My intent, as noted earlier, was to collaborate with the public in sourcing images for this Public Art; specifically images generated by members of Bideford?s Youth Club run by Devon Youth Services. The photomosaic project idea, within Culture Show, was discussed in the Spring with DYS and gained a very favourable response, as the young people would get some photographic training through the partnership. Dates were set in June and July for this to take place. I had hoped for up to 100 digital photographs each from the 20 or so members of the group, and was particularly keen on including portraits, or selfies, of the young people as a way of dating the piece, but always knew that a lesser number could be supplemented by images of my own taken to document various Bideford Bay Creatives events. However things don?t always work out as one hopes perhaps due to the timing on the calendar, a breakdown in communication, or the sheer size of the task. Only one member of the club came up with a set of images, though sadly many of these where of too low a quality to print at 3×4 inches. A few more images were extracted from staff members. I had a small set of images from a previous workshop with the same group and with Young Devon (now dissolved). This left me very short of images as I was hoping I would only need to add a few hundred of my own to complete the cache. So time was spent trawling through Bideford Bay Creatives? archive of images, mostly taken by myself. The images found were mostly from First Fridays, music on Jubilee Square, Potwalloping Festival, Appledore Arts Festival, AONB Photography Project, Wicked Week workshop and documentation, A Year in the Life of Bidefod project (which included many of the towns events), Culture Show and Tales of the Riverbank. I was never going to find hundreds of blue images, of differing shades, so I decided to shoot a whole lot of pictures of sky.

Back on Jubilee Square the window?s, which had been covered with a white plastic film for many years, were cleaned of their greasy surface and roughened up with an abrasive scourer. A4 card was fixed to this surface with wallpaper paste to enable easy removal in the future. The card was white or black and it?s positioning in the grid was determined by the brightness or darkness of the image that would be on top of it, so that any ?cracks? between the prints would be a similar tone to the images.
I used a scaled down print of the Bideford Longbridge photomosaic on my computer, with grid lines, as my guide. At first I had positioned the 3×4? prints on my computer screen as layers on top of the photomosaic grid; then, precisely, used the same prints on the prepared window. However this proved to be an extremely slow process, locating specific prints, and ultimately it didn?t work anyway because of small discrepancies in the cut sizes of the prints in comparison to those on the guide. Very soon I reverted to drawing the grid and all of the key features of the image straight onto the prepared windows and working in a far more intuitive way. It was clear by now that I would have to trim and crop prints down to make the overall image easier to read so I made the decision to work from the irregular inside shapes of the bridge arches, so that their shapes were as accurate as possible. I was essentially making a computer generated photomosaic manually, a massive task for a picture 12ft x 5ft in size. This was a fascinating part of the process for me as I could no longer ?see? the individual prints as images in their own right, but as a relative colour and hue. I found myself looking for lines, horizontal, vertical, diagonal and curved; where those lines were created by a light area and a dark area meeting. It was a thrill to make the crown of an arch with an upturned image of Jubilee Square or the vertical wall of an arch with a coastal horizon. Prints were grouped by their colour, tone, line, shape etc and my creative approach was to keep same or similar images apart from each other and also to find interesting juxtapositions of unrelated images.

Public Art pt2 – Budget

Tim Mills

Tim Mills’ installation ’30 Plymouths’ at the Mayflower West Car Park

I got to see installed public art and experience a community led piece in the making at the Plymouth Art Weekender on Sunday. It was encouraging to see a lot of photographic image use in various temporary and semi-permanent ways which gives me food for thought for future projects.

The budget for this work was always going to be small and only sufficient to cover material costs, but as a founder of Bideford Bay Creatives with the opportunity to make a large piece of art for the town that I?m living in I was happy to proceed under these restrictive conditions which define the finished work. I decided to use Truprint to print the images because I?ve been very impressed with the quality of image in both colour accuracy and longevity in the past. Truprint was used in 2012 for my Postcard from Manteo Open Studio where images were glued to the risers and varnished ? these images are still there and look as good as when they were first installed.

Union St

Use of historic photographs showing how Union Street used to look

Also Truprint is very cheap, approximately 5p for a 6×4 inch print – my intention was to get two images 3×4 inch on each print making them 2.5p each. My reason for such small prints, a size too small for any commercial printer to offer, was to achieve a truer representation of the original image through the photomosaic. Essentially, a photomosaic gets progressively easier to read as the number of images increases. However, the cost of the printing was small in comparison to the glue needed to fix the prints to the window surface; and this was compounded by the condition that the artwork needed to be temporary rather than permanent.

David Green

Making the arch for the middle section of the Photomosaic

It would have been possible to have sized an MDF board for each of the three window frames, then to have constructed the photomosaic off site in my studio and so only spending time in the allocated space for the installation of the finished boards. However, as this was Public Art, I felt that the public had the right to be engaged with the artwork in progress, so I decided to construct the whole piece within the public domain of Jubilee Square.