Posted by: Alex Taylor | October 20, 2010

Baby 365. 6 months and growing.

I know I should have updated this a long time ago but I have found out that for some reason babies suck away all the free time you used to take for granted.

When I last blogged Alfie was just learning to smile, and that if he lifted his legs up he would be able to flop on to his side. Fast forward a few months and he is now busy trying to co-ordinate his movements into a proper crawl, aswell as having mastered the art of sitting up (if only for a minute at the moment).  He has also become a lot more vocal and seems to practicing ahead of his first word. Some of his gurgles at the moment sound disturbingly like “mama” too, despite all my hours of “dada” training.


Day 64.  A summery baby photo with his first shades which he promptly tried to remove from his head probably trying to work out why everything had all suddenly gone dark.

Alfie and the pram

Day 73.  Alfie never did like prams, he always wanted to see what was going on, whether that was sitting in a pushchair or a view from my shoulder he has always been curious and inquisitive, forever exploring his surroundings and looking for new things to experience.

This particular pram belonged to Alfie’s mum and her dolls. Briefly rescued from the loft along with the doll for this shot it had not fared too well in the years it was away. Still it fits Alfie’s emotion perfectly in this instance.

In charge

Day 107.

Alfie is forever exploring now only content to be still for a short while before looking for something to entertain him. Unless he sees something that will keep his interest, in this case a bright little softbox caught his eye.

Alfie's dinner time

Day 121.

Something a little more mad today,  several pictures of Alfie’s various emotions that day edited and pasted onto some vegetables, what could be more normal? This pic always makes me smile.

Balancing act

Day 135.

A trip to Nan’s today, and Alfie perfects his new circus skills with a fantastic balancing act. This was a pain to edit, with lots of separate layers to keep track of and all the shots taken handheld which made stitching the images together a nightmare. It was easier to light with a softbox to the right and a flash bounced off the wall to the left to give the natural light a helping hand.

new shoes

Day 162.

Alfie has some new shoes. Lovely handmade shoes from Dee Morgan at S.P.A.C.E in Ellesmere and he seems to like them and is very content to bounce around in them. I love these sort of pictures, the ones that arent taken too often but record the little details you would otherwise miss.


Day 181.

Alfie is turning into a big baby now, more confident in everything he does he is rapidly finding out how to move and will soon be scurrying around on all fours. He has definitely found his feet and is busy exploring what they do.

 6 months today

Day 183.

6 Months today! This is the halfway point while I document Alfie’s first year and looking back he has changed so much but he still is and always will be the tiny fragile little bundle that I held for the first time on April 8th 2010.

The full set of Alfie’s pictures can be found here with more coming for another busy 6 months.



Earlier Baby 365 posts are here:   Part 2 Part 1

Posted by: Alex Taylor | October 6, 2010

The 1950’s man

Hidden within the picturesque village of Audlem on the Shropshire/Cheshire border is the home of a very interesting man named Billy Gibbons.

Billy lives in a house on the edge of the village which from the outside may be described as quaint, but gives little clue to the 1950s shrine hidden inside.

Billy Gibbons

Billy inside his front room which in contrast to the rest of the house was quite dark . He commented that he had taken several skulls down so they did not scare the paper’s audience.


Not quite a 50″ screen but the TV shows a lot more character than a normal set.


Walking into the kitchen is quite a shock as you are assailed by an array of bright primary colours and a collection of period artifacts including toys, magazines and a variety of other details waiting for you to discover them.


And it is not just the house that suprises you, heading outside you are presented with more madness, including a garage filled with old petrol pumps, signs and other items.

in the garage

Billy himself commented that he understands that people can be taken back by his home but for him it is just his normal environment and the usual for him.

Posted by: Alex Taylor | July 22, 2010

Making life difficult: Groups.

Over the past few weeks I have had jobs that have provided some interesting challenges, from lighting to large groups and unfamiliar kit it has kept me on my toes and provided some great results. In this instance I was faced with the difficulties and complexities of a large group of people.


There is nothing in a press photographers day that can kill interest in a job quicker than a large group of people who all “deserve” their face in print, unless it also involves a cheque and people looking uncomfortable in suits but then we are really in the realms of grin and grab photography.

The reason behind this is that groups generally just look bad in newsprint, which to be fair is the equivalent of printing on toilet paper and cheepo value toilet paper at that. People are not visible due to being so small and the composition often ends up being boring to say the least as a large group often, but not always implies something very dull to report on. Besides long lines of people who are not willing to do anything but stand there do not make good photos.

My definition of a large group is 5 upwards. below that it is easier to move people and pose them effectively, above and you tend to run into problems with time space and often the mentality of the group.

There are exceptions however, and while this image still runs into a few problems with the size of the reproduction, it maintains enough interest throughout the picture to remain appealing.

The background behind the image was Norton in Hales, a village in North Shropshire being chosen to represent the Midlands in the Britain in Bloom competition. Upon arriving I was greeted with 8 people and a somewhat familiar sinking feeling. I was told that “the reporter” had suggested using a flowerbed they had planted in the churchyard, “yes but the reporter often has the photographic sense of a blind turtle so we shall see”.  I left to look at this flowerbed  (which was indeed a bit rubbish) partly to scout out my immediate location, and partly to stall for a little extra time in which to assess my next course of action.

Large groups can often be slimmed down by asking who actually wants to be in the photo, because if you dont want to be there I dont want you clogging up my frame and looking grumpy but you can still help by holding a light and normally be happy that you avoided having to pose. The alternative is to take two photos one boring lineup which is promptly binned or sent as an “alternative” with another shot including just a few people, which is normally the one that will be used.

In this case everyone wanted to be in the picture, but more importantly they all seemed flexible and willing enough to be shunted around for a few minutes.  The backdrop for the image is classic Norton in Hales. It incorperates the centre of the village, flowers to illustrate the story,  the church and a sign proclaiming this to be Shropshires best kept village, all good foundations for a group shot to build on.

Main triangular compositional elements.

When I do shoot a large group like this I will always start small and build the image up in stages. My first move is to ask everyone to move to one side and bring in the first person. This person was the closest to the camera  large in the frame and a cornerstone to build the image on.  This time I brought a seccond body in straight away posed behind the first to start to balance the frame. This seccond person also helps complete the composition involving the couple on the bench who were placed next, creating a triangle from the three of them and linking them and the bench to the rest of the image.

Third to be placed was the man sitting on the rock. Alone he seems rather insignificant in the frame, however he provides a lead in line to the church and completes a triangle involving the man seated near the front and the jumping girl who were placed next. The woman by the sign is in essence on her own. She acts with the sign but is separated from the rest of the photo by it, she does balance the picture though and without her presence the image would appear unbalanced and weighted to the right. Once viewed in its complete form, the picture fans out from the front in a triangle involving all parts of the image, framed by the two signs and leading towards the church and sky in the background.


Compositional layers and lighting.

The image can also be seen as possessing three distinct layers of interest as the eye travels from front to back. First is the front two figures the area where the eye initially falls and important as they need to catch your attention and dictate the path your eye will follow through the image.  The second layer includes the rest of the people and contains the bulk of the detail and interest, with the jumping girl acting as a sort of hot-spot quickly drawing your eye from the front into the centre of the image and allowing it to spread to the other people. The third layer includes the church, sky and signs surrounding the group. Your eye is encouraged to follow the line of the church tower up towards the sky and then back down the signs on the edge round to the front of the image again.

Lighting the image was simple a few flashguns equipped with softboxes were used to lift the left of the image as light was coming from the right. One was used to light the very front section of the image where the eye naturally arrives first, placed on the floor and slightly higher than the ambient light to make the person in the front really stand out, and one further back to fill the shadows on the second layer of the image. A graduated filter was placed on the sky afterwards to add contrast and interest to the third and final layer.  It was also necessary to shoot the image a few times to slightly correct some of the poses and get the jump correct.

From arriving this image took around 30-40 minutes to shoot, however 10-15 minutes of that was scouting and waiting for people to arrive, and a further 5 minutes was packing away. Predictably it was somewhat buried in the middle of the paper but it remains a favourite of mine from my recent work.

Posted by: Alex Taylor | July 16, 2010

Baby 365 Part 2. One month old.

After one month Baby Taylor is quite the little character wriggling around and showing a greater range of emotions. It was also a time where we brought Alfie outside,  introducing him to all manner of new places and people leading to some interesting opportunities.

Swinging around

Day 35. Alfie enjoyed trying to wriggle off his swing onto a hard floor today. He was however being held by his mum throughout (Photoshop to the rescue here). Light was a little awkward for this shot as Alfie was backlit by a sun behind and to the right of the frame, this was balanced by setting a flash on a stand quite high up and to the left of the camera at 1/2 power.

Alfie's favorite place.

Day 37. Alfie is getting bigger now, still my little boy though.

Biker baby

Day 38. We have a smiley baby, and no it’s not wind. Maybe he just likes bikes, his granddad certainly does this is one of many he has restored. A challenge to light it was achived by bouncing a flash off a silver reflector to light the scene, then zoom ing another light onto Alfie to make him stand out in a fairly cluttered environment.

scrabble baby

Day 40. An attempt to create a complex arrangement of baby related words on the board was foiled by Alfie wriggling when he was put into place. I think he enjoyed destroying the careful arrangement and the noise it made.

In the garden

Day 44. A visit to grandmas house today, Alfie was fascinated by the flowers and spent some time with his fist wrapped round a bluebell. He seems to like the outdoors and it has a calming influence on him, probably the background noise combined with interesting shapes and lights capturing his interest.

Hanging around

Day45. Another Photoshop aided pic. Despite actually being hung on the washing line Alfie was held up by his mum he didn’t seem too impressed with this and will probably be even less impressed in 18 years time. Again mum helped out with this one by holding him up, and then needing to be removed.

Alfie day 49 Alfies hat

Day 49. hat pictures are cool! So are babies who can hold their head up for pictures, not for long at the moment but it gives us some new options and ideas to keep his photos fresh.

Starting early

Day 59. Alfie has a proper camera now, much better than his dads too.

Alfie keeps on growing up, now he’s smiling, interacting more and quickly learning how to roll around too. All his pics can be found here

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