I was back at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland yesterday where they were holding a special service to mark the 450th Anniverary of the Scottish Reformation. This coincided with the hottest day of the year so far, 77F, and wall-to-wall sunshine. Edinburgh was mobbed with tourists, marathon runners and Assembly attenders so I chose to leave the car and let the train take the strain - remember that advert?. Anyway, the Assembly Hall was also packed and hot however it was a really interesting service. The readings and speakers gave life and light to a part of our country's history that we all now take for granted. The Reformation was the beginning of the huge sea of change in our country and lead to the period of our history called The Scottish Enlightenment, when Scots were among the most literate citizens of Europe, with an estimated 75% level of literacy. This change all began with ordinary men, like John Knox, who stood against the might of the Roman Church. At the service yesterday actor John Shedden played the part of John Knox and spoke his words about the new confession of faith. It was very moving and helped to service to connect with those brave reformers of 450 years ago. Afterwards I took the Right Rev John Christie, Moderator of the General Assembly, and actor John Shedden down into the quadrangle to have their pictures taken with the famous statue of Knox in the background. It was a historic picture in more ways then one.
Proving, once again, that no two days are alike in this job, I spent today at the opening session of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh. The opening day is quite an occasion, a kind of cross between a Royal Garden Party and a Kirk Session meeting. Basically it's attended by a lot of ladies in fancy hats, which are only out done by their men folk who done suits regaled in coats of arms and wear cock feathered bunnets for the day. Steeped in history the Assembly building is a dramatic and imposing structure which will take your breath away, supposing that you still have a breath in you after the steep climb up The Mound carrying heavy camera equipment! Once through the gates you have to cross a courtyard watched by the imposing figure of John Knox then it's up a set of stone stairs designed with the penitent sinner in mind. I love the pomp and circumstance, it's a great excuse to dress up for a party and the colour adds to the whole sense of occasion and is, of course, great for pictures. However the General Assembly is not a frivolous talking shop for dandies, the Assembly decides the acts and regulations of the church and this year it has a difficult and potentially divisive issue to tackle. The ordination of homosexual Ministers is proving, once again, to be an issue that won't go away and one that seemingly can't be resolved to the satisfaction of all. In the end it comes down to each individuals conscience, and although it might sound corny, Kirk members would do well to ask themselves the age-old question: what would Jesus do?
Years ago when I worked for the local paper in Helensburgh one of the highlights of the year was the BATD Annual Stage Dance Festival in the Victoria Halls. Over the space of a week hundreds of kids from all over Scotland would come to the seaside town to take part in the competition. The picture potential was always good and you were virtually guaranteed a spread of your pictures and a byline in the next weeks paper, so I loved covering the Festival. I say 'love' and in fact that's where I found 'love'. The organiser of the event was a particularly attractive young woman (with a great pair of legs) called Kirstine Cameron. The first time we met we didn't actually see eye to eye, if fact our first conversation was more of an argument really. As she was the event organiser I had to ask her permission to take pictures and we had a bit of a disagreement about where and when and how that was going to happen. The main stumbling point seemed to be about using flash photography, try as I may to convince her that I didn't want to use a flash anyway as it would kill the atmosphere, she didn't seem to trust me! Well readers this story has a happy ending, I got my pictures in the end and, in spite of our first meeting starting with an argument, this July will see us celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary! Kirstine doesn't teach dance anymore but our daughter Kimberley is a talented dancer and this week she was taking part in the Margaret Rose School of Dancing's annual display. So for the first time in many year I was back in the very same halls where I met my wife and where I took many a good picture. 25 years on I'm please to say that the photo opportunities are still as good, although using a Nikon D3 makes it a lot easier to capture those magic moments than when using a battered old FM2 and a roll of HP5. This picture made me laugh as I took it. I had set up a small studio back stage to photograph some of the kids in their costumes during the dress rehearsal. The 'babies' are always the best for pictures as they just do what they want to do, sometimes that's 'I'll do the dance and look cute', sometimes it's 'I'm gonna stand here and wave to my Mum in the audience' and sometimes it's 'NO - I'm not doing the dance and that's that'! Anyway, whatever they do they always steal the show!
With the summer just round the corner it’s all too easy to forget that only just a few months ago the whole of the country had ground to a halt in the ‘Big Freeze’. You will remember that almost every council in the UK had run out of salt for gritting the roads. Well last week I spent a fascinating day at the headquarters of Peacock Salt in Ayr. They were at the vanguard of meeting the demands of councils desperate to keep their road open during the record cold weather. They import raw salt from all over the world. We were there to photograph managing director Angus Craig and what a great guy he is. He was very patient and understanding as we rigged up multiple lights and softboxes trying to make an interesting picture out of this enormous pile of white salt in a huge, dark, storage hanger.
These days a Saturday morning in our household is all about a long lie, breakfast in bed and watching the Saturday Kitchen on the telly. So this Saturday was a bit of a wake-up call as there I was setting up studio lights poolside at Scotstoun Leisure Centre at the ungodly hour of 8am! I had been tasked to get some nice pictures of babies learning to swim as part of our contract to provide images for the new NHS Scotland Photo Library. Why 8am you ask? Well we had been given access to the small swimming pool by Glasgow City Council at the only time of the day when we could assure them that we wouldn't get any other kids in the background - such is the politically correct world these days. Anyway, armed with our battery powered Elinchrom studio lights and softboxes, we were set up beside the pool by 8.30am. Our models for the day were the Baxter family from Knightswood, who very kindly agreed to help us out. Star of the show was their one-year-old son Owen who is a natural water baby and splashed about the water quite happily with his Mum Karen while we took our pictures.
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