Transitions and textures on the beach :-)
Transitions and textures on the beach :-)
Chancelot Mill in Leith, Edinburgh is one of my favourite buildings. It’s imposing and bleak and kind of ugly, and it looks somewhat out of place amidst the new apartments and retail units that have sprung up around it. I’ve always imagined it having a bit of a “Screw you!” attitude, mostly because I tend to anthropomorphise pieces of architecture for no apparent reason.
In my quest to explore taking interesting pictures with my Android phone and using nifty apps to do fun stuff with them, I downloaded VSCO Cam, a rather fabulous offering for mobile devices from Visual Supply Co (VSCO). The app has a camera built in, which I haven’t used yet, and allows you to apply the visual style of various types of film to your photos. A few different film types come included with the app and you can buy LOADS more from the store in Collections, priced from 99c to a few dollars, with even more presets also available for free.
The app itself is really easy to use and intuitively laid out. Once you select the film preset that you want to use, you can then choose how strong you want the effect to be. It doesn’t stop there. Delve further into the tools and you’ll find exposure, temperature, contrast, rotation, cropping, fade, vignette, tint, saturation, shadow and highlight darkness/brightness, sharpening, grain and shadow and highlight tint, all with intensity that you can set.
You can save the resulting images to your own gallery on your device, share on social media, email your pictures and use VSCO’s own Grid publishing platform, which refreshingly seems to prioritise the imagery itself rather than likes/follows/other social media type validation and popularity systems. Full disclosure, I haven’t actually gotten around to using Grid yet because at this point I just do not need yet another thing to become obsessed with, but what I’ve read about it looks pretty wonderful.
The app is free (yay!) so whether you take this whole photo-editing-on-mobile-devices thing very seriously indeed, or just want a new toy to play with, I fully recommend it.
I’ve been spending quite a bit of time on Calton Hill lately for Beltane rehearsals, which is lovely because it’s a beautiful place with gorgeous things to take photos of. This is the Nelson Monument, built between 1807 and 1815 in honour of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson. If you’re interested in finding out more, check out Wikipedia and if you fancy seeing the amazing view of Edinburgh from the top, you can find visitor information here on the Edinburgh Museums’ website.
This picture kind of explains why I haven’t been posting much in the way of photography over the last couple of months. Preparation for Beltane Fire Festival 2014 (for more info, go to Beltane Fire Society’s site at Beltane.org or check us out on Facebook) began in February and has been consuming pretty much every second of my spare time since then.
Along with my husband, I’m organising Torchbearers, a group of 22 black-cloaked lovelies who light the procession around Calton Hill on 30th April. As with everyone involved in the festival, we’re all volunteers so what we do is definitely a labour of love. It’s easy to get so caught up in the logistics and planning that I forget how many beautiful moments happen, even during rehearsals, but occasionally I manage to capture one to share.
Festival prep is intensely busy at the moment so there probably won’t be much in the way of planned/intentional photography happening over the next month or so, but I always have my phone in my bag so random bouts of droidography may still occur.
I love posting pictures like this on the internet and describing how they were made, because I KNOW there are people out there who think that a photograph is only real, artistic or valid when it’s taken with a big, shiny dSLR and the mention of taking and editing photos on a phone makes those people twitch. So if you’re one of those people, it’s time to twitch.
One of my favourite toys at the moment is Snapseed, a surprisingly fully-featured and versatile digital editing app available for iOS and Android. As well as basic tuning tools like cropping, straightening, contrast, saturation, brightness and ambiance among others, Snapseed has some really fun and very customisable retro-style filters, which I just adore. It does SO much more – HDR-style, monochrome, vintage, drama (what a name for a filter style!), grunge, various focus alteration options, frames and probably some other stuff that I’m missing cause honestly, the list of things you can do with this app is HUGE.
It’s very intuitive and easy to use, and the first time you use a feature, it’ll kick into tutorial mode to show you how everything works. You can also play around with a pre-loaded sample image to get an idea of what everything does. You can save your images to your device (which I do) and also post them to Google+ (which, so far, I haven’t felt the need to do).
So yes, it’s basically a way to apply pre-created styles, textures and filters to your pictures and yes, strict photography purists will probably not be into that kind of thing, but for those of us who find creative value and artistic joy in simply playing, it’s totally worth downloading. Did I mention it’s free? No? It’s free.
Model, costume and make-up: Miss Valkyrie
This shoot has been a long time coming! Back in 2011, our lovely model accepted the role of the Cailleach at Beltane Fire Society’s Samhuinn Fire Festival and we worked together on some images to help with the creation of her incarnation of the character. You can see one of the photos in this post. Since then we’ve been talking about doing another shoot based on the concept of the Divine Feminine, and it finally happened last week.
The most recognisable aspects of symbolism in the images are based on the goddess Kali with shades of the Celtic divine hag, the Cailleach, who is also often depicted with blue skin and, like Kali, is often associated with destruction as part of the cycle of life. I’ve included links to Wikipedia pages as a starting point for anyone who wants to read more, as I don’t believe for a moment that I could accurately and fully describe these deities here without this post ending up being extremely lengthy.
Goddess mythology, whether your interest is spiritual, anthropological, historical, theo/thealogical or a combination of those things, is absolutely fascinating and it was a joy to work on these photos with someone who also finds deep personal resonance in the subject.
There’s a risk when creating images based on deities, especially when drawing inspiration from more than one culture, that people will assume you simply looked at some pictures online, thought “Ooh, that’s pretty”, then got stuck into the body paint with no appreciation for the significance of the figures or archetypes that you’re working with.
That is most definitely not the case here. Every aspect of these pictures was considered with the deepest respect as both the model and I believe that inspiration can be drawn from all cultures in the present day and throughout history with genuine openness, understanding and opportunity for personal interpretation and expression.
Finally, an explanation for the title. Often, when archetypes are depicted as primarily dark in nature or portrayed as being strongly related to destruction and death, it is easy to forget that they are part of a cycle. Destruction can be the removal of unwanted things, the creation of a clean slate. Death makes way for life. Consumption can lead to creation. Winter becomes Spring. Endings become beginnings. She is maiden, mother, crone, destroyer, creator. She is necessary.