Little Gems - Trish Gant Photographer

Bonkers About Bulbs

 

Ah…Spring….it’s that time again when the world starts to wake up. I always look forward to seeing new signs of life, especially in the garden. There’s a sprinkling of much needed rain this morning and I’ve had a hankering to look round some new gardens. I love taking photos of plants and working outside whatever the weather.

Last Friday, a little thought popped into my head. How is Marcel I wondered? We met at Walton Open Gardens last year. A teacher at an American school, he explained in his oh so soft Dutch lilt, that he was bonkers about bulbs. Apparently, his garden is a marvel to behold this time of year….so I dropped him an email. Often things work out just fine when they’re impromptu, and despite South West Trains being out for all of Easter weekend for engineering works,  I endeavoured to get to Addlestone. Luckily there’s a bus that stops right at the top of his road.

Before I knew it, I was stepping into a wonderland. Marcel has planted his small town garden so that there is as much colour for as long as possible throughout the course of the year. Clever gentle giant he is. I just had to get an over-head shot, so I stuck my camera out of the bedroom window.

Immediately I was struck by the clusters of Narcissi, from the delicate Tazetta to the large, sunny classic Daffodil. I tried a range of shutter speeds to try and capture their bobbing heads in the breeze.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a pleasure to see such contrast in colours and texture, from pink Darwin hybrids, one of the tallest tulips, to  two toned Rembrandt. Marcel assured me that frilly types like Parrot with its frayed edged petals were present but perhaps were due to come up a bit later.  Hot Greigii crocuses nestled among  delicate, traditional lilacs. There were plenty of containers, some with Delft-like glazes planted with strong blue hues from Hyacinthoides. One of my favourites was the burning Kaufmannania, spiky and architectural. Dwarf varieties were also present.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh…and how could I forget Genevieve, Marcel’s cat and gardening assistant? Gorgeous.

Merry Christmas Everyone & Thank You

Well, it’s come round AGAIN! I can’t believe it. So I’m taking this opportunity to thank all my customers, family and friends for their support this past year.

Little Gems was meant to be aimed at young families but strangely the variety of work that’s come through my doors has been far broader. Yes, I’ve done the usual amount of babies and kids, but did you know I photographed the Duke of Kent this year? Zed Tunnel Guidance Systems in Hersham won the Queen’s Award for Industry and asked me to cover the event. Nerve wracking or what?

And when I asked Zed how they had found me, they said they just Googled me and I was the only photographer they found in their area who had done corporate work. I find that hard to believe, but it’s testimony to the book I bought: Search Engine Optimisation for Dummies. There’s a chapter in it that says you can optimise your web site in half a day. Seeing that I find that process reeeeeaaaaallllyyyy boring, I gritted my teeth and did it. Surprisingly, just a couple of days after, that’s when I got the inquiry from Zed.

Another fabulous job came in to photograph Sue Blake, a very brave woman who’d lost 90% of her stomach to cancer during a 12 hour op ordeal. She wanted some nude images in black and white for her partner. This was a job on the other end of the spectrum to Zed’s. It required subtle studio lighting and a delicate approach rather than daylight and bang, bang, bang, get it while you can. The variety is what I love about this work. I get to meet such interesting people too. But then, I always try to get to know my subject first when I can. It makes for better pictures.

 

Read more about my photo session with Sue

Donate to MacMillan here

 

 

 Here’s to a successful 2012 for everyone, full of love, laughter and prosperity.

Surbiton Ski Sunday – Taking a tumble for charity

 

It was a lovely sunny day as I headed down to St. Mark’s Hill this morning. A small crowd gathered close to Surbiton Station while colourful bunting fluttered gently on the breeze. Robin (Homage De Fromage – fromage meaning cheese in French), a prominent local figure,  was MC as usual waxing lyrical with his unique, arid humour. Just a few more donations and they’d make the £45,000 target.  Janey, a well known promoter of local creative talent through Fusion Arts in Kingston presented the prizes.

Is it really that time again? Can it really be a year since I stood on this same spot shooting? I was testing out my new Canon since the lenses had been calibrated and also giving the HD video function a go. Having video capability opens up a whole new can or worms. I love it! And I managed to get some footage of Mike, Shooting Star and Chase Hospice’s representative, taking a tumble for charity. What a brave guy!

What strikes me about this event, is it’s quintessentially British: eccentric and silly. Spectators of all ages, including a multitude of kids, benefited from the fun of it. People’s faces were alight with jollity. So if you’ve never been, make it a must for next year.

Donate to Shooting Star Chase here

 

Growing A Thick Skin

Why do professional photographers charge so much for their services? Why is shooting a wedding such a big deal?

What would you do if you had a catastrophic failure and you were stuck on an island far away from any help? Some of the most idyllic settings for weddings pose major headaches for the professional snapper and even a wedding on an island in the middle of the Thames can be a challenge. Although digital has allowed us to see our results instantaneously, I remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach when I thought I’d lost a roll of 35mm once. Those days are gone now but other risks are still very real.  I spend a fortune on insurances, up-grading equipment and software….liability this, public that…. Wedding photography is one of the most challenging fields in photography and dreaded by many.

Bridesmaids and groom in front of Rolls Royce

Recently, at Marcia and James’ wedding, I had the chance to run home and download the registry office shots from Weybridge before boarding the boat. This offered me a little breathing space and although I hate doing the standard group shots, they’re almost always still required. So it was good to know they were on the lap top safe and sound. (I’m only titchy you see and carrying a lap top as well as all my gear would kill me! So far I’ve managed to avoid the chiropractor….) Generally, I don’t take my lap top unless I’m specifically asked to. It’s one less thing to worry about.

Bridesmaids outside The Anglers

On this occasion, I took my older Canon IDS Mk2 as a stand by, batteries fully charged : it’s hefty, weighing in at about 5kgs with a long lens…still rather safe than sorry. I figured that once on the boat, everyone would be captive (including me), so I’d be safe to dump my spare somewhere under a seat. I expected to use a lot of fill flash as the Thames Boats have large windows and low ceilings, so a bag of AA’s was a necessity. The beauty of my new 5D Mk 2 is the higher iso available, so the batteries would last longer. About 20 gig of cards in small denominations is normally enough to cover about 6 hours at a wedding and so far touch wood, I’ve not had a failure with any of my SanDisk Extremes. I’m after a dump box now….

Hanging on for a drink

The expectation will be huge from friends and family. And what about having a few bevvies at the do? Can you imagine me staggering down the gang plank 4 sheets to the wind with all that gear? Focussing on the couple, getting that luvvie duvvie moment is definitely not to be missed.

You just download the shots and that’s it?

Erm…..no….. I shoot everything in Camera Raw. Why? So that I can output the files at any size, correctly colour balanced, clear of dust marks and retaining the details in that expensive white wedding dress. And while the wedding party is sleeping off their hang overs the next day, I’m doing on average 6-8 hours editing and that’s before out-putting to Facebook, making up a wedding album or sorting enlargements.

Bride and friend singing alongHaving a toast

Pre-wedding checklist:

  • Make sure you have an itinerary up-front so you can do a bit of planning.
  • Ensure you have permission from the authorities to shoot. Check out the venue if you’ve not been there before. Be sure you know where you’re going.
  • Check all your equipment before you go. Clean lenses carefully. Charge or buy enough batteries.
  • Have a ladder on stand-by if you can.
  • Offer a second photographer if budget allows. You get better coverage that way.
  • Make sure there is enough petrol in the car.
  • Take a big bottle of water. Photography is thirsty work and you don’t want to pass out doing it.
  • Grow a thick skin. It can be hard to deal with people under the influence of alcohol.

Why ask for a professional’s help?

  • It’s a key moment in everyone’s life and development.
  • It’s memories and souvenirs.
  • It’s too risky to ask an amateur or a friend to take responsibility for it.
  • How much would a failure mean to you?

What has a professional got to offer?

  • A professional photographer allows ALL of your friends to relax and enjoy the day.
  • Experience, professional pride and creativity – high quality values.
  • Technical knowledge. Best placed to safeguard your images.
  • Cutting edge equipment for quality results.
  • Access to third party services.
  • Professional indemnity cover should anything dramatic happen.

Bride and GroomSaying the vowsBride and Groom in Registry OfficeThe Lads during the speech

Best wishes to Marcia and James, whom I know through networking in Walton and the Walton Business Group.

For good value premises and shared offices in Walton on Thames, contact here.

Weybridge Registry Office

Lazy Summer Time Jazz At Polesden Lacey

 

Looking for something to do last Sunday, Jez and I headed down to Polesden Lacey to check out the Jazz. It was a perfect Summer’s day, so we packed a picnic.  The lilting reed of the clarinet floated dreamily through the air and was sublime. It felt so genteel to be here on the lawn. Kids ran around enjoying themselves and some danced, even if a bit wobbly.

(I was told that the band was called the London Jazz Trio when I called up, but having looked on their website on My Space, it doesn’t look like it’s the same band. So if anybody knows who they were,  please let me know and I’ll credit them.)


We had a really great time meandering around the walled rose garden, and although most of the blooms were over, the colours shone. The thick aroma of climbing sweet peas was intoxicating. Of particular interest to me was the cottage vegetable garden and some bee hives which are part of the BBC’s Adopt-A-Hive scheme. Chickens took earth baths, creating great entertainment for the children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polesden Lacey, a beautiful Edwardian House with magnificent grounds is  managed by the National Trust. Situated on the North downs,  not far from Guildford, the views of the surrounding hills are breath taking. The gardens cover 30 acres  and includes a walled rose garden, summer border and winter displays.

The house belonged to the earliest recorded owner Herbert de Polesden, and records show it was here in one form or other since 1336.  First described as ‘Pollisdon Lacy’ in 1562,  Anthony Rous acquired the estate in 1630 and shortly afterwards completely rebuilt it. The most famous owner was the poet and playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, who purchased the house in 1804 and adored it, playing host to many lavish parties.

Mrs Greville, a famous Edwardian hostess with many royal connections, bought the property  in 1906 and bequeathed it to the National Trust in 1942 in memory of her father, the brewing entrepreneur William McEwan. Since a serious fire in 1960, several rooms were redecorated by the trust.

I thoroughly recommend Polesden for a great family day out. The staff were friendly and informative plus it didn’t cost an arm and a leg just to sit in the garden and take in some Sidney Bechet. You can join the National Trust and take advantage of all of their properties on an annual family membership costing £66.38 if you pay by direct debit.

 

http://www.visitsurrey.com/site/events/lazy-jazz-sundays-at-polesden-lacey-p597321

Adopt a Hive: http://www.bbc.co.uk/breathingplaces/beepartofit/

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-trust/w-support/w-jointoday/w-jointoday-categories_costs.htm


 

 

All awash at Elmbridge Music Festival

Buzz, buzz…another text….It was from Marcia who works at the Forsyth Centre in Churchfield Road.

“Fancy helping as a volunteer at the Elmbridge Music Festival this weekend? Fantastic networking opportunity…” I thought about it and figured, why not?

So yesterday morning at 9.30am, I found myself at the gates of Imber Court with a lovely thespian lady called Celia. As we chatted, I discovered that we had a few things in common. 1: She went to drama school with Celia Imrie whom I photographed for Hay Fever at the Rose Theatre and 2: her daughter designs and makes willow paper lanterns in fantastic designs for the Walton Festival of Light which I shot last year for the Walton Business Group, and 3: Celia directs plays at the Riverside Barn just around the corner from me in Walton…small world indeed. She also runs a stage school at the top of Walton High Street. She had trodden the boards at the Walton Playhouse as a girl too. Good start.

The day opened with a bit of sunshine but very soon, things started to get a bit hairy. It was more like Easter than June,  hardly warm and slow so I took off for a walk to see if there was anything else I could do to make myself useful. I grabbed a tea to keep myself warm and spotted Marcia at her stand, a Tombola in aid of the charity Home Start, which aims to ‘help parents build better lives for their children.’ I had a go for a quid but was unlucky. I don’t normally win these things so it was no surprise.

Then the music started with a rousing piece from  Molesey Scouts Brass Band…. As I wandered around, I noticed there were quite a few people I recognised: Sam Thompson, the organiser from RC Sherriff Trust and also the engine behind Walton Festival of Light, then local photographer Ted Palmer, who turned out to be on the Board of Governors for local school Chandler’s Field. (I happen to be volunteering there for Surrey EBP in a couple of weeks.) He’s a lovely man. Always friendly and very positive.  Then I noticed the willow lady,  Celia’s daughter, assembling some round thing which later turned out to be a drum kit.

After the talented Low Barnets, a young  trio of rock musicians (see the video below), the skies darkened and a sprawling gust got up. I helped Marcia hang on to her gazebo: bucket-fulls of rain! What a shame. Still, we remained hopeful that this wouldn’t put the punters off. Once the Loveday Singers were on, a small acoustic band called Bootneck turned up their speakers in competition. I was dispatched to ask them to knock it off a bit and was greeted by hurt faces : “Don’t blame me, I’m only the messenger!” I retorted.

This opened up the conversation. I noticed they had a Veedub camper van parked up on the side. (Not a split screen, newer than that. ) I always look at these things with affection and as a symbol of freedom that I aspire to. Lots of my friends have had them. They’ve been welded, the engines have blown up, they’ve caught fire in petrol stations in Ceuta but still….so reminiscing about spending the night at Ros and Dave’s Garage years ago slid off my tongue:  nice blokes, Rob, Tiz and Ali who was sporting a fetching Porky Pie hat. I was shown around the gas powered fridge, which rather cleverly also runs off mains and battery. Rob offered a rather yummy Great British Banger, cooked on their little hob, but as I’m a veggie, declined politely. Smelled good though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then came the Loveday Singers who sang in  Barber Shop stylie and rather ironically gave us a rendition of  a song called ‘California here I come.’ People huddled under the tents opposite the stage. By now one of the uprights on Marcia’s Tombola gazebo had snapped clean in two. Mark from the High Barnets, a well know local cover band bowled up with other family members and bought over £40′s worth of tickets. He won loads of stuff.

I mooched over to the stage and took in The Midnight River Blues Band, whose singer has a rough, growler of a  voice. After a bit of a boogie to a Salsa band, Sam’s tent blew down so I was able to nick a couple of uprights to help stablise the Tombola for Marcia. Ted was busy taking stills of the acts.

Finally it was time for the High Barnets. It had stopped raining thankfully and although I normally can’t stand covers of Specials songs, they weren’t too bad and Mark did a good imitation of Mick Jagger’s singing voice during Louie Louie, at which point they bought out a brilliant young bass player called Josey who seemed to be part of the Low-High Barnet family clan. I had to video him, he was brilliant and didn’t even use a pick!

Earlier, I’d used Twitter to tell everybody about #Elmbridge #Music #Festival and to my surprise I got a Tweet back saying: “Elmbridge Police are now following you!” Weird. The wonderful power of Twitter. Paranoid? Moi?

Elmbridge Music Festival 2011 on YouTube

http://www.phototed.co.uk

Rent a room for business at Forsyth Business Centre

http://rcsherrifftrust.org.uk

http://www.home-start.org.uk

Getting Children To Relax In Photos

It’s difficult. You’re asked to go and do a shoot with people you’ve never met before. It’s a joyful but sobre occasion with religious meaning and etiquette attached.

 

 

 

You may remember that back in March, I photographed Debbie O’Connor,  the new Motivating Mum, who needed a head shot doing. Well after that, she booked me to shoot her daughter’s Holy Communion. So last Sunday, pootling over to her home in my clapped out Suzuki, I joined them. I had met the kids, Tim and Sally briefly when I went over to have a look at the venue. I often do this before a shoot so I come prepared and with something in  mind. We had a rainy day contingency plan in place to shoot inside but as it happened, there was no need – thankfully.

The sun was blazing. This itself can cause a lot of problems for a photographer. I hate using fill flash but there was no option. The ceremony was due to start at 11am so I had to be there before 9.30. Already the light was extremely harsh and the best view of the garden placed the sun behind them. No choice. I stuck the flash in at -1 stop to lift  unsightly shadows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I went through a couple of formal groupings and then grabbed the chance of some instantaneous pics of the kids while the other side of the family prepared themselves. It’s always best with kids, to get them in a situation that takes their minds off things. So we headed off down the bottom of the garden where there was a swing chair. Being on something comfortable that moves and provides shade does two things: enables me to dispense with the flash and expose for daylight in the shade, (much more flattering) and entertain the kids by getting them to swing the chair. This gives them a sense of fun. Psychologically they are contained on the chair and gives me a chance to tell terrible jokes. (I’ve only got two I can remember. What did the big telephone say to the little telephone and what did the big chimney say to the little chimney?) Often the kids will pipe in with their own. Sometimes they’ll do something really interesting, like playing with an ear-wig or slug or something. I use those situations.

A slowish shutter speed gives interesting movement at times and once done, it’s time for some more formal pix so on with the fill-flash again. The largest groups are always the most difficult with kids involved because they have limited patience. And sometimes getting the adults to behave is just as challenging. I take lots and lots of shots, so that even if one person keeps blinking, I can always comp in some eyes from another pic. I concentrate on the kids telling the adults to just keep looking at the lens, and gently pick on behaviour going on in a silly and mocking way. Tim kept pulling a funny face, so I just mirror him, exaggerating. Lots of giggles follow.


Another trick I find that works well is directing the subjects to look away somewhere out of shot and then counting to three and getting them all to look at camera at once. You’ve got to have an itchy finger but again, it gives them something else to think about and in the end, the act of moving gives them a distraction and their facial features are less rigid.

All images © Trish Gant

Debbie O’Connor has just appeared as a guest speaker at Cybermummy, the blogger’s conference. Keep an eye on what she’s up to here:

http://www.motivatingmum.co.uk

 

 

 

Dunsborough Park, A Horticultural Hotbed

Ah hah! Spring has certainly sprung this year. It’s almost as though someone just came in and  switched a light on.

I love visiting gardens in all kinds of weather and this weekend, having read Surrey Life, I was prompted to go and have a look at Dunsborough Park, Ripley.

What struck me was how beautiful the formality of planting in rows can be, how this offers structure to a garden. As the rows disappear in perspective, they can be used to direct the eye towards different focal points. Set against the softness of apple and cherry blossom,  the contrast as I moved from one room to another was fascinating. The intensity of colour hurt my eyes and when the sun came out it was almost like eating one too many biscuits.

Chiseled topiary hedges created doorways into chambers of acid euphorbias, with antique, weather beaten benches inviting a rest.

Open to the public through the NGS on selected days only, Baron and Baroness Sweerts de Landas Wyborgh offer tea and cakes in a very English way. The Baron has great taste and  is a collector of fine objects of particular nostalgic value and humour. I met the him briefly and was struck by his congeniality.

The land at Dunsborough Park was originally granted to a local nobleman by Newark Priory (which  lies in ghostly ruins just up the road off the B367 and also worth a look). Overlooked by a handsome house with Georgian styling,   the gardens were first professionally laid out in the 18th century and include wild areas with lovely views across a  lake and stream. When the Baron and Baroness bought the house in 1995, they spent time restoring the grounds with the help of garden designers Penelope Hobhouse and Rupert Golby. They re-opened the gardens in 1997 which offer Edwardian glasshouses and a large water garden as well.

For more information check out the National Garden Schemes’ website or the Yellow Garden Book

 

 

 

 

Want To Free Those Radicals? Then Green Families Could Be For You.

Jessica St. Clair breezed into the studio wearing a broad smile. She had come down as part of my New Year’s Head Shot Clinic offer and oozed enthusiasm from every pore. The first thing that struck me was the colour of her hair…a beautiful russet colour – like autumn leaves.

Considering we had only just met, we instantly clicked. We nattered about this and that…taking her portrait was a breeze!

Never before have we been more aware of our actions on the planet. Thanks to an active media, every day there seems to be a health scare about something in our food or environment: from the meat we eat to the fire retarding chemicals used on furniture. It’s important to keep things in perspective. Sometimes it’s hard to know just who to believe. But the facts are there…allergies in our children are increasing….it’s hard for parents to know where to turn for help.

Jessica, owner of Green Families,  seeks to empower families to take action on a realistic scale. This day, she waxed lyrical extolling the virtues of going green. She spoke about how, by making small regime changes, by trying to live sustainably, a healthier lifestyle can be achieved. Green Families provides education about holistic living. Offering customised, individual plans for families, Jessica helps people to improve their environment and lifestyle with a greener future. By empowering families with the knowledge they need to make meaningful change, Green Families is a breath of fresh air.

Green Families provides three customised plans for lifestyle changes by identifying green actions your family can easily implement, helping you to reduce your impact on the planet. By offering in-home consultations, toxicity assessments, action plans and following up with useful email tips and on-going support, Green Families take you by the hand helping you to make long lasting, beneficial change for everyone.

Workshops for Parents

Jessica has designed a range of workshops, addressing nutrition for the healthy development of babies and toddlers. She offers simple recipes to try and ways to overcome fussy eating habits. Jessica guides families to make informed green consumer decisions, including nappies, clothing and safer toys.

If you’d like more info then check out:

http//:www.greenfamilies.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter : greenfamiliesuk

 

Coming in March, Debbie O’Connor, Motivating Mum UK, sets up an On-line Mentoring Fest.

Some time ago, in the early days, I wrote a little piece on the inspirational Alli Price of Motivating Mum fame. I was so impressed with the support Alli gave other mums and so when she announced she was back off to Aus, I was a little bemused and asked myself who is going to take over? Will anyone take over? I noticed that Alli had started advertising for a replacement on Twitter so I kept an eye on it.

Around January, I had set up my value portrait session for social media and a little message from a Debbie O’Connor dropped into my in-box. Small world: turns out Debbie had taken over from Alli in September under the name of Motivating Mum UK and was finding her feet. She needed a new head shot so we set a date. I liked Debbie immediately. She’s open, friendly and genuine and that’s exactly what we wanted to portray with her pictures.

The Motivating Mum UK site offers help and support to mums in business. Debbie knows her stuff as she’s actually lived it. Alli interviewed many prospects, having built the business up into a thriving on-line community, she had to hand it down to someone she could rely on to make the most of her past work.  Finally she settled on Debbie, I guess for that reason. Previously an accountant, Debbie now works as a Cambridge Weight Plan Distributor and is accustomed to juggling several lives.

I asked Debbie about her background and she explained that due to her husband’s work commitments, they re-located to the Channel Islands when she was having their first child. (She has two now, 8 and 6 years.) Because she didn’t have a work permit, she stayed at home. Looking back she says she enjoyed motherhood more than she realised.

Once back on the main-land, she had to find flexible work to fit around her family’s activities, so that’s where the Cambridge Weight Plan thingie comes in. The main hours were after the school run and in the evenings after work. Debbie describes her life as “living in two time zones.”  Taking on Motivating Mum fills in the rest of the day, but Debbie does say she’s been struggling with the back end stuff to do with the web site. We all know how difficult that bit can be and what a steep learning curve it is, don’t we? As entrepreneurs, we have to do everything ourselves until we’re solvent enough to farm out. Debbie can help with that too as part of  Motivating Mum UK’s services, she can put you in touch with other mums who can help you at peak times.

What about the future for Motivating Mum UK?

Well, apart from the web site being financed by advertising, Debbie has several contacts, mums who write books. She reviews the books on the Motivating Mum UK site and provides links to Amazon. This yields a very small revenue stream for her but she hopes this will grow in time.

On Line Mentoring Festival

March sees Motivating Mum UK offering services such as business training, image consultancy and mentoring by higher profile mums in business, all on-line. Twenty quid gets you half an hour’s continuous mentoring by phone for instance. This is a great idea isn’t it? Making these kinds of services so accessible is brilliant because we all know how difficult it is for mums to get out and about.

If you’d like more information, contact Debbie O’Connor at Motivating Mum UK, whose site is a treasure trove of help and advice to mums everywhere.

http://www.motivatingmum.co.uk