The Beauty of Birmingham - Solo Exhibition @ The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter.

Considering it’s been live for nearly two months, I thought it was about time I wrote about my first solo exhibition that’s on show at the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter. 

My mum and my lovely wife-to-be pointing at something or other...

Me + the BMAG team

I’ve lived in Birmingham permanently since 2012, and originally struggled to come to terms with living in such an overwhelming metropolis when ideally I wanted to be living up a hill somewhere in the Lake District. However, I’ve inherited my mother’s ability to make the best of a situation, so from the start of my residence I decided to make friends with the city using my camera.

 Grand Union Canal in Acocks Green

Grand Union Canal in Acocks Green

I began by exploring the canals, the natural habit for someone who is drawn to the countryside. There I found a world of beauty; quiet, serene and seemingly completely detached from the buzz of the Stratford Road, or the busyness of the city centre.

Eventually all canal towpaths led to the city centre and I discovered that there was plenty of beauty that could be uncovered in an urban setting. I started to appreciate the intricacies of an evolving city, exploring how different lighting conditions could highlight various features of the juxtaposing architecture.

Two Libraries at Dusk. An image that would now be impossible to replicate.

This exhibition is the culmination of 4 years of work, with many failed mornings standing under grey skies. Occasionally the weather was on my side and the conditions conspired, and for any photographer, the skill is to know how to capture those conditions within a short time frame. Virtually all of these images show transient conditions, where the frames two minutes previous or afterwards are entirely changed by the lighting.

Sunset from the Staying Cool Apartments in the Rotunda.

The exhibition is partly a celebration of my work, partly a celebration of Birmingham, and finally it also celebrates the Museum’s 25th birthday. I’m ashamed to admit that I’d never visited the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter prior to them approaching me regarding this project. In fact, I was so confused that I went to the wrong museum to attend our initial meeting (embarrassing)! The city should be so very proud of all of the museums and heritage sites that are open to members of the public, they are an insight to the great city of Birmingham that is constantly changing and reinventing itself. If my exhibition ensures that more people learn about the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter and more importantly, visit the museum, that would make me exceedingly happy. These institutions are so very important, and the team who run them are unsung heroes, passionate about this marvellous city and it’s diverse history.

The Jewellery Quarter (at sunset) where you'll find the Museum (and therefore my exhibition).

It’s been an honour to be the first to exhibit in this space, and I look forward to enjoy many other exhibitions from other brilliant artists in Birmingham. I’d also like to thank the many organisations and photographers who have supported me and advertised the exhibition including Brumpic, Independent Birmingham, BrumHour, Ross Jukes, Tim Cornbill, Fraser McGee and the IgersBirmingham crew, Trevor Beattie, the Express & Star, BBC Midlands Today, and so many more who have shared, RT’d and turned up to the opening night. You’re all legends.

The exhibition is free to visit during the opening hours of the Museum (10:30am - 5pm Tuesday - Saturday) until the end of June.

12” x 8” unmounted prints are available from the Museum shop for £25 (£50 for special edition prints)

Other sizes of prints (unframed) are available here

All framed prints are available for purchase after the exhibition for £250 per framed print (20x28”) or £350 for the limited edition Cherry Blossom at the Ikon Gallery print. Please express your interest via e-mail - admin@veritymilliganphotography.com

The Bullring at Sunrise. 

On location with the SanDisk 200GB MicroSDXC Card

I’m not particularly good at traveling light, probably due the fact that I’m inherently over prepared in pretty much everything I do. When I travel, I pack all the kit I need and then some, included a myriad of storage. Of course, being prepared doesn’t necessarily mean I’m the most organised of photographers, quite the contrary, I’m prone to leaving items in the field, and have mourned the loss of several filters that I’ve either dropped or smashed (one time in my bedroom which was particularly galling). This extends to my SD cards, which invariably end up scattered across different camera bags, and when I return I can be found trawling through endless gigabytes of data. So, when the lovely folks at SanDisk offered me the opportunity to try their new, super large, yet very very small MicroSDXC Card, boasting a capacity of 200gb, I jumped at the chance. That’s a lot of storage right there. 

Happily coinciding with my photography excursion to Iceland, this presented the perfect scenario to put the card through it's paces. Although I was sceptical that it would be the only card to used through the trip, that turned out to be the case. Of course I was careful in terms of backing stuff up, and every shoot I transferred the files from the card to my back up drives. Then the card went straight back into my camera for the next shoot. No need to create space, or format, and I kept all the previous shots on the card in case either of my back up options failed. 

 Skógafoss, Iceland.

Skógafoss, Iceland.

Shooting in RAW + JPEG with my 5D Mk III, I would have to capture over 5000 images before the card would reach capacity. Moreover the performance is incredibly fast and responsive, more so than some of my other SD cards, and a welcome respite from the slower wifi enabled SD card I’d been shooting on previously. It would would certainly be interesting to see how it would cope shooting video on a DSLR, however it's certainly one of the best SD cards I've used for still imagery.

Overall, I had a really solid experience with this 200GB SD beast. It enabled me to streamline my workflow, and ensure all my files were in one place. It’ll definitely be one of my go-to storage solutions for my next adventure. Check back soon for a post detailing my trip to Iceland with further images.

 The Sun Voyager,  Reykjavik

The Sun Voyager, Reykjavik


Top 14 for '14

2014 has been a seminal year for me as a photographer, both professionally and personally. I can see the progression from the beginning to the end and I've had the help and support of some wonderful people in the industry. I wanted to share my top ten images of 2014, as well as give some thanks and praise to the people who have been there along the way.


"Relentless Optimism" - Bear Pits in Bristol, England.
Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/4. 1/50.

I've always been a photographer and a person who struggles to pick one discipline. At school I won prizes in arts and science, played sports and tried my hand at everything (except musical theatre, never musical theatre). Ostensibly, I'm a landscape photographer, but I love exploring all the different genres of photography, so this top 10 will be a mixed bag of images and disciplines. Basically, if I find it interesting, I'll shoot it. This shot was taken in the Bear Pits in Bristol on my birthday. I'm very fond of Bristol, especially it's culture, and I instantly fell in love with this piece of graffiti. As the old lady with her shopping bag turned the corner, I pushed down the shutter. 'Relentless Optimism' is one of my mantras, even though it can be sometimes hard to maintain.

"Sunrise over Selfridges" - Birmingham, England.
Canon 6D + 16-35 f/2.8L II @ f/22. 1/25.

Couldn't really not include an image of Birmingham. I've done my own top list for Brum, but this one I held back for this blog. I get excited about foggy mornings, and this one was a favourite. The fog cleared quickly, making for a beautiful sunrise, and my favourite aspect of the 16-35mm, the sunstar, pretty much made the image for me. 

"Turquoise Light" - Clevedon, England. 
Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/11. 1/200.

I've spent a lot of time down in Clevedon and Somerset in general. I've always found a decent sunset impossible to capture, mostly because the conditions have never been favourable. However, on this particular day, it wasn't the sunset that was the major event, it was the transient light several hours before. The colours in the sky complimented the colours on the pier, turquoise, with streams of light penetrating through the cloud. Probably one of my favourite images of the year.

"Light at the End of the Tunnel" - Monsal Trail, England.
Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/2. 1/50.

The Peak District is a favourite place of mine, and two of my favourite people live near it. I love visiting them just because being near such good energy is inspiring. 2014 has taught me again and again that people matter, much more than praise or success. We went on a winter walk through the tunnels of the Monsal Trail which afforded the opportunity for some dynamic monochrome silhouettes. Looking back I hadn't realised how much I appreciated the Fujifilm 18mm f/2 lens. It's fast and it works really well in situations such as this.

"In Rolls the Weather" - Crummock Water, Lake District, England.
Canon 6D + 70-200mm f/4 @ f/11. 1/400.

I visited the Lakes several times over the year (and intend to return for my birthday weekend in January). During the first trip, we stayed in Buttermere so I had easy access to both Buttermere and Crummock in the early morning. Neither sunrise was particularly note-worthy, but the light that came afterwards made up for the disappointment. The cloud rolled over the fells above Crummock Water, and the diffused light illuminated the slopes. I'm a big fan of telephoto lenses for landscapes. Wides have their place, but looking closer has it's benefits. 

"Cat in the Afternoon" - Cognac, France
Fujifilm X-T1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/5. 1/450

Probably my favourite photo of the entire year. One of those moments where the three photos before and the three photos after fail to have the same impact (it's all about the timing). The cat arching into the sunlight at that moment made it work. It's a quintessential continental image, the kind I want to put on my living room wall, and reminds me of a happy afternoon on a warm summer's day. 

 "Generations" - Cognac, France. Fujifilm X-T1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/4.5. 1/400

"Generations" - Cognac, France.
Fujifilm X-T1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/4.5. 1/400

Another example of France being a haven for interesting scenes. I went back for this shot after wondering if I should or not. That's something I really struggle with; street photography in general, but I find people wonderfully interesting. I initially noticed the old man sat on the bench, looking thoroughly French, and when I returned, his quiet solitude was amplified by the family to the left. Generations, close together put completely alone. 

"Lansdale Light" - Cumbria, England
Canon 5D MK III + 16-35mm f/2.8L II @ f16. 1/50

Taken at the end of a wet weekend in the Lakes with good friends. On the final morning, my buddy Rich and I returned to Blea Tarn for the sunrise, finally the light prevailed. We drove on to the Langdale valley, chasing the weather and the light that appeared on the winding road that descends down the scene was worth all the rain. My favourite part of this image is the hint of a rainbow on the left hand side, it's virtually imperceptible, but like the best things, if you look hard enough... When the rainbow took form, I literally jumped up and down with excitement. These are the moments, amazing to witness, whether I capture it or not, that define me.

"Purple Haze" - Exmoor, Devon, England
Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm f/4 OIS @ f/10. 20 Seconds.

September is a lovely time to visit the moors, and I spent time of both Exmoor and Dartmoor. The late summer sun remained throughout the week, a treat after the dampness of the Lakes. On Exmoor, the heather was just about to go over and presented some final opportunities to capture it's colourful beauty at sunrise. Looking torwards Porlock, this was a 20 second exposure on a morning filled with transient light. Of course, the universe remained in balance as I left my shutter release cable on the moor, forever lost. 

 "Rugged Edge" - Stanage Edge, Peak District, England Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm f/4 OIS @ f/22. 1/3.

"Rugged Edge" - Stanage Edge, Peak District, England
Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm f/4 OIS @ f/22. 1/3.

November, mid semester, the most bonkers for someone teaching in higher education like me. We took a weekend out to explore the Peak District, drink whisky, take photos and be with our soon-to-be traveling friend. On Stanage Edge, the wind was howling, but the climbers were undeterred. As the sun went down the cloud broke and my timing was on to grab the briefest of sunstars, peaking through the weather, illuminating the rugged autumn foliage.

"The Watchers" - Dartmoor, Devon, England.
Canon 5D MK III + 24-70mm f/2.8 @ f/22. 1/80.

There is something magical about the ponies that roam Dartmoor and Exmoor, especially in the golden light. The fog had lifted off the landscape of Dartmoor and the sun was creating to most glorious of atmospheres as the road winded through, back towards Yelverton and an impending breakfast. I spotted these two grazing on the roadside. When I arrived they calmly paid me the smallest moment of attention, surrounded by sheep and gorse. Several frames after they would gallop off into the morning light. I'm saving most of those images, although I'm not sure why. Some moments feel more sacred than others.

"Face in the Crowd" - Birmingham, England
Canon 6D + 70-200mm f/4 @ f/4. 1/2500

It was the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Digbeth, and I was capturing the atmosphere. This gentleman's face caught my eye and then his hat grabbed my attention. All I can see is all the stories he must have to tell, one for each badge, each line on his face. The crowds closed around me and he disappeared into the festivities. I've been told he is a Digbeth local, maybe I'll see him again when the parade rolls through.

"Textured Nature" - Pontsticill Reservoir, Brecon Beacons, South Wales
Fujifilm X-T1 + 18-135mm f/3.5 - 5.6 @ f/11. 1/60.

One of my latest. There's nothing more satisfying than clean, crisp, frosty mornings and still, reflective water. Pontsticill Reservoir and the surrounding Brecon Beacons has been my playground for the last 4 days, and each morning exploration has brought immense happiness. That's the thing about all of these images, the process, the moment, the editing, the sharing - all of it contributes to my wellbeing. Photography keeps me grounded, it keeps me focussed, and it keeps me learning. It is a curve, a beautiful, endless, unfinished curve. 

"Hoar Frost" - Brecon Beacons, South Wales
Fujifilm X-T1 + 18-135mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 @ f/13. 1/160

Sometimes you shoot an image and you know that the value it has is intrinsically personal. It's unlikely to be popular, but it signifies something. This image of entangled branches covered in hoar frost in the heart of the Brecon Beacons symbolises a shift, just not one that I'm able to verbalise at the moment. It's abstract, conceptual and reminds me of the interconnected nature of art and life. I'm proud of it, and I'm not even sure why... But it makes me excited to see what 2015 brings.


I want to shout out to the amazing community that have supported me through the year, and also some of my contemporaries who inspire me.

Johnny Patience and Rebecca Patience - Both intensely talented photographers working predominantly on film. I've had the pleasure of spending time with them on both of the LNDNWLKs and feel grateful to call them friends. Good energy is infectious. They are people who vivaciously encourage the community around them, building confidence, and sharing all they can, whenever possible. One of biggest inspirations from this year, and I'm incredibly grateful for all that the do and say. 

Mathieu & Heather, AKA Mirrorlessons - The Mirrorless community has some brilliant bloggers at it's spearhead and one of the finest is Mirrorlessons. It's a resource not only for the technical aspects of using a mirrorless camera, but also for aspiring photographers. The community that has grown up around the site is a great place to get feedback and generally be part of something. I'm honoured to have been interviewed for their website, and their collective belief in me and my work has been a high point of the year.

There are some amazing photographers that have influenced me this year:

Olivier Glod - What a guy! One of the loveliest people I've met in the last year. Genuine, talented, warms your heart to chat with him. 

Marco Larousse - Inspirational street photographer, all round lovely guy too. This image in particular sticks in my mind. Perfection. 

Ben Cherry - Wonderfully encouraging and supportive. Also has a fondness for the Peak District and his work from Borneo is superb.

Robert Paul Jansen - Stunning in whatever format, whether it be iPhoneography, film or digital. 

Donovon Bond - Creator of Fuji vs. Fuji and Co-Founder of FujiTuesday. An inspirational member of the Fujifilm community. Hopefully I can buy him a pint when he makes it back over to the UK!

Othman Kammah - The other Co-Founder of FujiTuesday, and another supportive member of the Fujifilm Community. I'm a particular fan of his 1 camera, 1 lens project. 

Rafa Garcia - A genuinely wonderful photographer with whom every interaction is a joy.

Basically owning the mirrorless wedding photography scene and generally an absolute dude, Gavin Hardy

Then there's those who are inspiring me to shoot film and helping me find the best way of going about such an endeavour, especially the lovely and talented Andy Spencer.

My dear friend Rich Jones, currently traveling the world with his camera. 

Also big love to Stacy Guiney, an old friend who took a big step to strike out on his own as a freelance photographer. Check out his shoot at the Morgan Motor Car factory.

Recent acquaintance Ugo Cei. Currently in love with his project on lighthouses. Amazing stuff.

Lots of love goes out to anyone I chatted with on both LNDNWLKs, especially this enigmatic bunch - Thomas Menk, Darren SeamarkMatthew Dowell, Matt Wilkinson, Daniel Ruffles, Sam Burton, Joe Harper, Jann Lechelle, Vincent Opoku, Mark Hales, Steve Davis 

A year ago I was without a strong photographic community, and a year on I feel very much part of a beating, vibrant, supportive family. If I've missed anyone out, I do apologise, I've been writing this blog for about 3 days and I've sort of lost the will to live at this point.

Thanks for all the inspiration, guys (and a few gals). Can't wait to see what you produce in 2015! If there's anything I can do to help, I'm ready and willing.

 

Kinship: The Fusion of Formats - Rebecca Lily Pro Set III Presets


In this blog post I'll be reviewing Rebecca Lily's Pro Set III Presets for Lightroom 4/5. If you'd like to read more about how to install presets there is a simple tutorial here

All shots taken with the Fujifilm X-T1.


I'd like to start this blog with a small disclaimer (although it's not necessarily needed). I write from the gut. I tend to evaluate things from an very personal perspective, concentrating on my creative and emotional response rather than the more technical aspects, and I appreciate that might not be for everyone. I'd also like to point you, the reader, in the direction of these two excellent reviews of Rebecca Lily's Pro Set III Presets from Mathieu Gasquet over at MirrorLessons and also, Robert Paul Jansen, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. For now, I'd be most grateful if you'd join me on this tactile and immersive journey into my own responses. 


I’m probably what you might describe as someone who ‘fiddles’ with her images. I like post-processing and it’s part of the joy that comes with photography for me. Lightroom has become an integral part of my post-processing workflow, and presets definitely play a part in this, especially as a jumping off point for further explorations, and I’ve regularly dabbled with VSCO, amongst others. They’re a time saving device, but also very useful for demonstrating different perspectives on an image.

Before

[RL] Pro III | Bright Color | Limoncello III + Soften Color I + Violet Tint + Outer Glow + Minor adjustments.

With this in mind, when I was afforded the opportunity to try out Rebecca Lily’s Pro Set III presets and tools, I decided to set myself a challenge; minimal editing, using only the presets and very small adjustments, to see what I could get from my images without compromising the original integrity of Rebecca’s filmic version. There is a certain quality to these presets that I haven’t really witnessed in others for Lightroom and each feels carefully crafted with love and a passion for the art form. 

Presets encapsulate the preferences of another photographer in malleable form, designed for manipulation, the combination of personalities, the fusion of vision. This is especially prevalent with presets that emulate the beauty of film. On a personal level it immediately evokes an bygone era, a sense of powerful nostalgia; memories of long forgotten boxes of negatives where you see yourself as a child, surrounded by your family, caught in a moment of frozen encapsulated joy.

In the above images, the ice cream van is a perfect example of this sentiment. The Limoncello present softened the harsh blue hues in the sky, matching the shirt worn by the man buying his ice cream. The original image seems somewhat garish in it's starkness, but the adjusted image is softer, pulling the viewer into another world, the suggestion of a story and the willingness to buy wholesale into our own sense of time and identity.

Before

[RL] Pro III | Pastel | Candy III + Shadow Save + Outer Glow + Inner Glow

It was an early July day, warm in the best kind of way, when I wandered the streets of Cognac in the South of France, and I knew this would be the perfect set of images to test out the presets and unify the set of images into a coherent whole, documenting the day, visualising the adventure. Combined with the quintessential continental scenics captured the day before, the presets began to shine. Each preset comes with three versions that strengthen or reduce the effect, and I found myself often veering towards the former, opting for the strongest form due to my own personal preference for bright highlights.

The above image of the Cat in the box demonstrates the neutral, exquisite colour palette, pulling the lighter tones into the foreground, eroding the gritty, flat feel of the original. One of my absolute favourite features of the tools is the Inner Glow, which works so wonderfully well with the image of the cat above, pulling out the delicate tones of it's fur and the expression of mild distain flashing across it's face. There's a classical quality to the presets that brings something timeless to the image.

Before 

[RL] Pro III | Pastel | Candy III + Highlight Save I

If you've never experienced the amazing work of the woman behind these presets, I would urge you to visit her blog - Poems Without Words - and I warn you, keep something soft beneath your jaw, because it will drop. The sheer grace of Rebecca's work has been an inspiration to me (and no doubt many others). The symbiotic relationship between Rebecca and her love, Johnny Patience is the stuff of Hollywood movies from the 1940s. I see that affection, that mutual respect, shining through in these innovative presets.

The overwhelming characteristic of the tools and the presets is their subtle power. That might sound like an oxymoron, but it’s actually something rare and sought after in the photographic world. The effect on the image is minimal but it’s all the better for it in ways that you wouldn’t have noticed before. It's something that can be difficult to appreciate in these times of over-processing (something which I feel even more guilty of after this challenge of editing in a minimal fashion). In the view above, the small but effective enhancements emulate the darks and the lights without contrast taking over the whole scene. In the processed image there is a sense of a quiet, summer's afternoon. I can almost feel the sun and the breeze, hear the sound of local cafes and bars buzzing with the brilliant sound of lunching locals.

Before

[RL] Pro III | Mid Color | Kinfolk III + Inner Glow + Shadow Save

This photo of a cat in a window is possibly one of my favourite images I've ever had the pleasure to capture. It did not need too much adjustment as, to me, it was near perfect on it's own. Again the Inner Glow played it's part to highlight the cat, arching backwards in a bid to catch a few of the afternoon rays, the picture of bliss and tranquility. All I wanted was to make the image cleaner, and Kinfolk in the Mid Color range worked perfectly.  

I predominantly work with colour and the the bleached whites and blues of that summer’s day in Cognac beg to be presented in such a fashion. High in contrast, it’s easy to overdo such a delicate balance, but the presets shined with their empathy towards the available tones. For the street scenes, I tended to remain in the pastels, switching between Candy and Epiphany for the most part. These brought out the shadows and highlights just enough to satisfy me, and in the image below, the real power can be seen in the light that is cast across the gentleman's face, imperceptible in the original, but a focal point after processing.

Before

[RL] Pro III | Pastel | Epiphany I + Highlight Save I + Soften Color I

When the light dulled, the black and white presets are called upon to provide some dynamic range and give an ernest and authentic feel to the image. The barrels below, shot in the historic vaults of Hennessey's Cognac distillery, present themselves as perfectly apt for exploration of the black and white options. In the distillery, the barrels lose, on average, 2% of their alcohol content per annum. They call this 'la part des anges', or the 'Angel's Share'. The invisible is sometimes more poignant than that which can be plainly seen. This sentiment is remonstrated in the beautiful rendition of black and white, the silent beauty of the colours fading into something more powerful -- the 'Angel's Share'.   

Before

[RL] Pro III | Black & White | Audrey I

I can imagine in the coming months these presets will be my absolute go-to when it comes to wedding photography. Their timeless and classical qualities will compliment the celebratory beauty often found on a couple's special day. 

The image below is from a friend's wedding. It was a day filled with poignancy, a celebration of life, love, loss and the indomitable human spirit. I caught Sarah, the bride, turning, moving in from the incessant drizzle that permeated the sky that day. In colour it seemed too bright, too warm, but the way Rebecca has designed the presets, especially with regard to the light, meant that the image took on a new quality when I applied the Black Jack preset. The perfect combination of dark and light to show a beautiful soul at her finest. Enduring. Amaranthine. 

Before

[RL] Pro III | Black & White | Black Jack I + Creamy 

My final foray textually into the majestic nature of these presets involves the ethereal beauty of Dartmoor Ponies, captured on a windy, overcast day, my first experience of these elegant creatures. In the examples below you can see how the use of different presets can dramatically alter the scene and the mood, the black and white demonstrating the diversity in tones, emphasising the celestial grace of the pony.

[RL] Pro III | Black & White | Orion III + Innre Glow + Highlight Save + Outer Glow

[RL] Pro III | Mid Color | Chardonnay I

[RL] Pro III | Pastel | Epiphany II

[RL] Pro III | Bright Color | Limoncello III

For someone like me, who fell in love with photography in the digital age, the eclectic beauty and timeless nature of these presets is simply wonderful. Evoking filmic tones and colours underlines the real potential of Rebecca's approach and I'm almost tempted to clear out my cluttered shed to turn into a rudimentary darkroom. Ultimately, the challenge I set myself has permeated into my creative consciousness. Less is becoming the new more.

Finally, the real triumph is that Rebecca has managed to forge a bridge between two close relatives, Film and Digital, who share the same blood, but always remained in tension with each other. Here, little of that animosity remains, just a gentle and overwhelming affection for both formats, combining without any pretentious or precocious undertones, a resplendent and pulchritudinous alliance.

Do please check out Rebecca's website, and thank you for coming on this journey with me!

[RL] Pro III | Pastel | Amethyst III + Highlight Save I

[RL] Pro III | Pastel | Innocence III + Highlight Save

[RL] Pro III | Mid Color | Avalon III + Outer Glow + Inner Glow + Shadow Save II