Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

I've got a couple of wee video projects currently in the works, which will be written about soon. But in the meantime, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, and have a good New Year!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

More curling photography

Last month there were a couple of big events at work, with the 21st annual Kinross Junior Curling Classic taking place from 7th-9th October, and the Kinross Wheelchair Curling International Invitational from 18th-20th October.

On top of my usual Ice Tech duties, I was also the official photographer & webmaster for the Junior Classic. This involved creating, maintaining, and editing a blog/website for relevant news, scores/results, and photos throughout the weekend; as well as perching myself rink-side for between 30 & 60 minutes per session to photograph the sporting action (with 13 sessions & about 48 games - if I remember correctly - over 3 days)!

You can visit the Junior Classic website at:

And you can see all my photos from both the Junior Classic & Wheelchair International on the Kinross Curling Rink facebook page.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Behind-the-scenes: Kinross Curling Rink

Two-and-a-bit weeks ago I returned to work at Kinross Curling Rink (after a long summer away) in order to help get the ice constructed and ready for a new curling season, which started yesterday.

It was a busy but highly interesting process - and to enlighten curious curlers (plus anyone else that may be interested) I have photographed the many different stages of construction...

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Scottish Women's Football photography

For the past 3 Sunday's I've been doing match photography for Scottish Women's Football (SWF) to help promote the sport. It was an interesting experience, and culminated with me getting media accreditation from the Scottish Football Assocation (SFA) to photograph the Scotland Vs Belgium women's international friendly match at Falkirk Stadium, which was an exciting new experience for me.

Jane Ross (blue no.13) plays the ball to a teammate while hounded by opponents.

Despite growing steadily for many years, the status of women's football in Scotland remains rather low-key, but following the success of the FIFA Women's World Cup a couple of months ago, SWF has been looking to capitalise on a growing global interest in the sport: So when I read that they were looking for a helping hand from some photographers I was keen to get involved.

I've avidly watched major women's football tournaments (ie: World Cup, Olympics, European championships, etc) for several years now - having first been impressed by the skill and flowing gameplay of the 2007 Women's World Cup in China, which (if I remember correctly) was extensively covered by BBC3 - and this years tournament, despite restricted coverage, continued to impress.

Timelapse experiment.

Although I was not too familiar with the game in Scotland, I was curious enough to spend time at some matches and do photography for the SWF website.
The game in Scotland is certainly far from as developed/commercial as the men's version (at this time), but I have found the few matches that I have so far experienced to be full of promise for the future; and considering the current state of our men's game (following last week's early exit from European competition by our top 3 men's clubs), I think the women's game is in a prime position to boom in popularity over the next few years.

The mainstream Scottish media focuses almost entirely on the men's game, and often spouts despairing headlines about the poor quality of our leagues, so for some positivity Scottish football fans may want to start looking towards the women's side of the game...

Glasgow City FC is the leading women's football club in Scotland, and despite being a part-time club, are into the last 32 (knockout stages) of the Women's Champions League - having progressed from the group stages undefeated against several professional European clubs!
They now face Valur (from Iceland) over 2 legs in September, and if they progress will equal the furthest any Scottish women's club has previously reached.

And while the men's national team have a tense battle against Spain, Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Liechtenstein, to qualify for the 2012 European championships (for the first time since 1996); the women's national team is currently riding high, having recently won their warm-up matches against Switzerland & Belgium as they prepare for the 2013 Women's European Championship qualifiers against France, Israel, Wales, and Ireland.

Teammates congratulate Julie Fleeting after opening the scoring within 3 minutes.

A trio of influential Scottish women, including the supreme Julie Fleeting, play for Arsenal Ladies, which at the weekend won the inaugural FA Women's Super League title, and with the core of our national team playing together with Glasgow City, the Scottish women have surely got to be strong contenders to qualify for Euro 2013.

In hard financial times when hefty attendance costs and dull quality of play repels fans from men's football in Scotland, women's football makes perfect sense: Attendance is cheap (if not free), matches are very competitive, unlike their highly-paid male counterparts the female players are reluctant to dive or feign injury; and most importantly at this moment in time, the women's game in Scotland is both growing in status and becoming evermore successful.

With this in mind, consider cheering on the team at their upcoming matches - click here for info/details from the SFA.

Jane Ross & Hayley Lauder (blue) chase down an opponent.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Video: Stirling Summer Skins

Last weekend was the annual Stirling Summer Skins Curling competition at The Peak sports centre. It is a light-hearted event that attracts curlers from around the world, and I was there to film some of the fun.

My video, below, contains lots of colourful highlights from Day 1 (the Friday), in which every team played two games. You can expect to see plenty of crazy Loudmouth trousers, folk dressed like they're in the Caribbean (despite the rink temperature being rather cold), lots of fancy dress, and an appearance from Batman, Robin, Catwoman, and The Joker!

Days 2 & 3 of the competition were played on a knock-out basis, with the Final being contested on Sunday afternoon. I went back to the rink on Sunday to film the Final, which was a closely contested game, played with a bit more seriousness than the Friday - but as you'll see from Bob Cowan's photos, it wasn't completely serious!

I filmed most of the Final, but I am yet to edit a highlight video of the game: One reason being because it'll take a lot more time, and secondly because it won't be as colourful/fun as the Day 1 video. However if there is a demand for the Final video then I could be tempted to go ahead with it...

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Commission: Chatelherault

Here is a large painting commission that I completed a couple weeks ago.

It is an acrylic on card portrayal of Chatelherault near Hamilton (Scotland); and measures roughly 80 x 40cms - making it by far the largest painting I've done in several years.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Novak Djokovic caricature

Of all my recent tennis caricatures, this Novak Djokovic caricature was the third (of five) to be drawn but is the last to be coloured.

Second seed Novak Djokovic met Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in this afternoon's first semi-final match: Despite defeating the mighty Roger Federer in his previous match, Tsonga was today knocked out in 4 sets, so Djokovic progresses to Sunday's Final.
Djokovic would play the winner of this afternoon's second semi-final match between defending champion Rafa Nadal and fourth seed Andy Murray: British hopes were raised when Murray won a hotly-contested opening set, however Nadal dominated the following three sets to secure his place in yet another grand slam final.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Work in progress teaser

I'm making slow progress on the largest painting I've done in about 5 years. It's an acrylic on card commission, and measures roughly 80cms x 40cms (32" x 16").

The photo below is a wee teaser, showcasing the painting and my re-arranged work space (which is temporarily set-up to accommodate work on this painting).

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Making of... "Fear Is On Your Side"

Apart from my animation work, this music video is probably the biggest personal project I've taken on to date.
The entire video consists solely of band practice footage, with no parallel storyline (as you see in the majority of music videos) therefore I had to spend a huge amount of time synching/editing all my recorded footage in order to create the video you see below.

Because the editing process for this project was unlike anything I've done before, I've decided to write more about it for anyone that may be interested...

As you may have read in my previous post about the music video, I had spent about an hour filming the band while they performed the song multiple times (so that I could film different takes and camera angles), and ended up with over 90 pieces of video footage.

After downloading all the footage from both cameras onto my laptop I went through a lengthy process of watching every piece of footage so that I could delete the rubbish/irrelevant pieces while renaming/labeling any pieces that I wanted to keep for possible inclusion in the final music video.

Some of the 90+ pieces of footage renamed for easy identification.

Once all the pieces of footage were suitably renamed and easy to identify, I opened my editing software (Sony Vegas Movie Studio) and set about synchronizing all the different bits of video footage with the band's pre-recorded music track.
Having not really made a music video like this before (with each band member filmed separately and getting edited together later) I was unsure of where - or how - to start editing all the footage. The first few minutes I was almost aimlessly jumbling bits of footage around the timeline hoping I could quickly figure out how best to proceed.
Soon realising that this would be a very time-consuming project, I came to the conclusion that there were no easy shortcuts, and that the best way to proceed was by taking a simple, albeit long, route...

My instinctive approach was to just work my way along the timeline, adding and editing all the relevant pieces of footage as I went. However my aimless jumbling of footage around the timeline (as mentioned earlier) made me realise that it would be far easier to work on footage of just one instrument at a time, rather than working on all four instruments simultaneously. As a result I only ever needed to work with a small percentage of my overall pieces of footage (which is easy to keep track of) and the number of video layers I was working on was also of a lower quantity.

I don't suppose that the order in which I edited each instrument matters much to the final product, but at the time it seemed as though the drums would be the best place to start. The drums had the largest quantity and quality of video footage to choose from, and therefore seemed like the best instrument with which to find my feet and build upon.

Working with the longest pieces of drum footage first, I added these to the timeline on various layers and synched each of them with the dubbed version of the song. Once all the long pieces were added and synched to the song, I began editing them all down into one video layer by snipping and deleting all but the worst pieces of overlapping footage.
This allowed me space on the timeline to reduce the number of video layers I needed to use, and meant I could start adding new smaller pieces of drum footage without worrying about mixing up the existing edit.

Example of longer video pieces at the bottom, and new short pieces above.

The idea of building up all this footage for just one instrument at a time was that I would end up with a full music video of nothing but that instrument: Afterwards I would do the same for the other three instruments, and then all I had to do for the final edit was layer up all four videos and cut away small sections from each to create the conventional editing you see in the finished video. (It was perhaps simpler to do than it is to read or understand!)

After 14 hours of editing the drum track I began work on the vocals because they feature for only a small part of the music video, and I felt that it was important to know how much of the vocal footage was useable before committing to the project any further. (There wouldn't be much point editing the rest of the footage if I'd have to re-shoot much of it).

For the vocals I started a new project in my editing software, so that I could go back and edit the previous drum track if I needed to do so later. But rather than work on a blank timeline I imported a copy of the finished drum track so that I had some sort of reference material that didn't make it feel like I was editing a near-empty video (cos remember that the vocals feature for less than half the song). Once complete I rendered out the footage as a new video file of vocals only, meaning that I now had full-length video files for both the drums and the vocals.

By a late stage in the second day of the project I had started a new project for the bass guitar footage. This consisted of only two full-length pieces of footage and a few smaller pieces, so compared to the drums was a breeze to work through. I saved the bass edit as another full length video file, and was now roughly three quarters of the way through the full project.

On day three I was finally working on footage of the last instrument - guitar. Again footage consisted of only two full-length pieces and a few smaller pieces, yet the guitar solo and many varied camera angles made editing a bit trickier than the bass guitar footage.

After three days of synching and editing (equating to roughly 30 working hours), I had complete video files for each of the four instruments: So for the final time I opened yet another new project, and began the final stage of editing.

At this stage I had each instrument video edited in what I regarded as the best way possible, and all four complete video files were now layered up in the timeline ready to cut for the final music video.
This is definitely where the simple yet long working method that I had selected at the beginning of the project began to pay dividends: All I had to do now was use the beat and rhythm of the song to edit the video in small sections, and then choose the best instrument to display for each section while deleting the other videos from it. (The image below demonstrates what I was doing - notice how all the video layers, bar the bottom one, are cut into small sections with few overlaps between them all)...

Screenshot of all four instrument videos layered and cut for the final edit.

Once all the layers were cut into small sections and I was happy with how the full video now played, I considered the project complete, and rendered out the finished music video ready for publication.

Overall I'm pleased with how the project turned out. It was certainly more work than I anticipated, but it was good practice, and I learnt a few more things about the editing software that I bought late last year.

The positives to editing with this method are that:
+ It's relatively easy to keep everything under control;
+ It allows for a mix of synching and editing, rather than a huge amount of tedious synching prior to any fun editing.

The negatives of this method are that:
- You tend to spend loads of time editing nice little sequences for one instrument, forgetting that it's likely to get hidden by the editing of other instruments later on, which ends up being a waste of time.
- Although I say it's easy to keep everything under control, I'd imagine that if you accidently delete a few video or editing files before completing the project and can't retrieve them, then you'd be in big trouble.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Music video: "Fear Is On Your Side"

A couple weeks ago I filmed and edited live-action footage for my latest music video: Fear Is On Your Side by Kill The Commodore, a melodic metal band from Perth.

We filmed loads of footage on two Sony Handycam video cameras during little over an hour in the small practice room of Clearwater Studios, Perth.

The compact size of the darkly-lit room with a large bright window presented some challenges during the filming process, however we managed to overcome these to a good extent.

I always knew it would be difficult to imitate the professional sheen of the music videos that we were using as inspiration (Slipknot's Before I Forget and The Eyes Of A Traitor's Come To My Senses), but considering our equipment and location I'm pretty happy with how the finished video looks.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Andy Murray caricature 2011

As part of my current tennis caricature series, here's Wimbledon home favourite Andy Murray.

The colouring here, in much the same way as the Nadal caricature previously, is very different from my 'normal' caricature painting style - which is all part of my ongoing experimentation.

Nadal was painted in quite a colourful style, vaguely inspired by the illustrations of Edwin Georgi.

Murray on the other hand, I tried to paint in a monotone style patriotically inspired by the blue and white colours of the Scottish saltire. Unfortunately this caricature has simply ended-up looking dull, as if a plain blue tone has been placed over a greyscale image... Perhaps I will re-paint it later with a bolder blue and white style that uses less midtones to see how that looks - that would certainly be more like my original intentions.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Wimbledon caricatures

I've been working on a number of projects recently, but until they are ready to unveil here are some caricature experiments inspired by recent tennis tournaments (Roland Garros, Queens, Wimbledon).

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Rafael Nadal.

Roger Federer.

Despite having a little tablet pen for about a year now, I've only just got around to properly installing it on my computer and personalising the settings. It doesn't work quite as perfectly as I'd like, but it's nice to experiment with every now and then...
These caricatures started off as quick, loose, pencil sketches that I had planned to paint with watercolours (as I normally do). However I admired the 'unfinished' quality of the first few drawings, so I decided to scan them and try painting digitally to see how they turn out - and I'll return to traditionally finish the original drawings at a later point.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Experimental Promo

On Monday I was filming live-action footage for a short promo about an upcoming collaboration between myself and Edinburgh-based sound engineer Chris Bathgate.

We previously worked together on my 2009 graduation film, Pigment of Imagination, and this second project is the result of several ideas that we have since developed.

Embedded below is the 80-second Experimental Promo made from Monday's footage:

The above video should serve as a bold taster for the kind of work that we are currently developing: It is very abstract (which I'm intrigued with), however the upcoming collaboration will be a bit tamer with some kind of narrative background.

The plan now is to devise a bizarre script and shoot/edit the film before Chris creates a new song specifically for the film.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Music video: "Counting Sheep"

On Sunday afternoon I was filming a quirky music video with Glasgow-based band Randolph's Leap, who have just released their new double A-side single "Counting Sheep / Deep Blue Sea" on Olive Grove Records.

I spent 2 hours filming the band (using both live-action and stopmotion-style photography) while Glasgow University Trampoline Club performed in the background: The result was a vast compilation of amusing footage, ready for editing.

After roughly 10 hours sifting through the footage and editing it all together, the video was complete. Today my finished video for "Counting Sheep" was released on both YouTube and Vimeo; and the news posted around the internet, leading to over 150 views within the first 12 hours of getting promoted.

So without further ado, here it is folks, enjoy!

Around The World In 6 Clicks

A couple of weeks ago I started a new painting project, basically to help get me back into the practice of regular painting.

I'm calling the project "Around The World In 6 Clicks", and through the use of Google Maps I'm going on a virtual painting tour of the world.

Working process:
- From the Google Maps homepage I zoom-out until the whole world is visible;
- I close my eyes before click-and-holding my mouse cursor anywhere over the map and vividly moving the mouse around in order to spin the map to a random location;
- I release the mouse button before again vividly moving the cursor around the screen (so that it finishes over a new random map location);
- Once I've stopped moving the mouse I use the scroll-wheel of my mouse to zoom-in as far as possible and pin-point a painting location;
- Finally I select the orange Google Streetview man and move him over the exact location that I ended-up at in order to get a photo of that location, which I proceed to paint in my sketchbook.

It's been an interesting journey so far, and I've even learnt a few things about some of the locations after doing research on them (out of curiosity)!

You can check out the first 5 paintings on my facebook art page by clicking here. (The series won't be limited to 6 paintings as the title may suggest - 6 is actually the number of clicks it usually takes to arrive at the source photos).

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Photography from 2011 WJCC (Perth)

From Saturday 5 - Sunday 13 March, I was volunteering as a steward at the World Junior Curling Championships (WJCC) in Perth's Dewars Centre: And on two of those days I was pretending to be a photographer.

Briar Hürlimann (Switzerland) delivering a stone

20 of the top teams from around the world (10 boys teams and 10 girls teams) were representing their countries and competing for the World Junior trophies. Amongst them was Scotland's Eve Muirhead, who in her final year at Junior level was aiming to win a record-breaking fourth title (having previously won in 2007, 2008, and 2009 - she missed the 2010 tournament while representing Great Britain at the Winter Olympics).

I thoroughly enjoyed the week: Welcoming many friendly faces from around the world to the Dewars Centre; getting to meet the competitors, coaches, and support staff (including notable curlers like Rhona Martin and Ralph Stöckli); and getting to watch top-level international curling from prime viewing locations every day.

Here is a small sample of the photos I took while not working - during Day 5 afternoon (girls) and Day 9 afternoon (girls final, bronze medal game, and the closing ceremony)...

Sara McManus watches as Sofia Mabergs & Anna Huhta (Sweden) sweep

Ekaterina Antonova & Galina Arsen'kina ready for Victoria Moiseeva's stone (Russia)

Norwegian sweepers (in centre) and Swiss sweepers (on right)

Most of the teams lined up during the closing ceremony

I'm surprised how well a lot of my photos came out, and I've become really fascinated with the panned action shots that [usually] make the moving players appear static in near-perfect focus while everything else is a rushing blur.
I first noticed this style of photography in a couple of the photos on the official WJCC website, where my initial assumption was, ironically, that someone had made the curlers stand out from the image by doing a bit of tacky photoshop work! I wasn't impressed with those original images because the overall style looked forced - as if the photo was originally in full focus before someone used photoshop to mask the curler (keeping them in focus) while distorting the remaining background with a motion blur filter.
I only began to appreciate the style once I saw that some of my photos appeared the same, and I realised that it was all done in-camera rather than as a quick photoshop edit.
My photo of Briar Hürlimann (top) is possibly my favourite with this style, although the Swedish photo just below it is also pretty cool (particularly how the sweepers are framed in perfect focus between two blurry photographers).

If you'd like to see more of my photos from the WJCC, please visit the relevant albums on my facebook profile by clicking the links below:

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Kinross Curling Rink website

During January and February I set up a blog/website for Kinross Curling Rink (where I work part-time as an Ice Technician) to compliment its new(ish) facebook page.

The aim was to give the rink an easily-accessible web presence so that both regulars and newcomers alike can find all of our news and information easily in one place.

After feedback from the rink/hotel management and from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club's Development Manager, we launched the site a couple of weeks ago.

You can pay us a virtual visit at:


Fife Flare VS Eve Muirhead curling photos

In February I did my first bit of 'serious' sports photography, during a curling game at The Peak sports centre in Stirling.

David Jones, who is the "Area Curling Development Officer" for my local rink at Kinross, had entered his amateur team, Fife Flare, into the British Open and was drawn to play his final group game against the Great Britain 2010 Winter Olympic Women's Team, skipped by Eve Muirhead.

Here is a very small sample from the hundred's of photos that I took for Fife Flare that day:

You can see more of these photos on the Fife Flare facebook page by clicking here.

And as a little experiment, here is a conceptual video of the 300-odd photos that I took in a fast slideshow-style montage... I think it worked surprisingly well!

Project Onomatopee: "New Year's Resolution" (Jan 2011)

This was my January submission to Project Onomatopee for the theme of "New Year's Resolution".

Click here to see all the New Year's Resolution submissions.