Nik Blog

Welcome to my MA blog, during my time at Gloucester university, this page will be an assortment of thoughts, ideas, images and videos in connection with my course and course work.

The latest post will always be just under this one with preceding posts following on in date order. 

22nd January 2020

Back to Uni today, though only for an afternoon session. I am now having to start to think about my next project, and I am not to sure what to do, should i do something more esoteric or continue on the commercial wider audience route? 

I am thinking of combining images with soundscapes.

What might be interesting is to show an image in silence first then use a soundscape to give an impression of the environment it was shot in. 

Any way next week should be interesting as we are taking a look at sound, so been taking a look at some Youtube videos in connection with some of the kit i own and intend to take along next week. 

5th December 2019

I had the honour of spending a morning with four men who have served in her majesties armed forces, three of them (Jesse, Tony & Ken) served in the same regiment (The Staffords) and fourth served in the Royal Artillery (Jim). 

The video was recorded in Jesse’s conservatory in Penn Wolverhampton and I was there for over three hours, talking, laughing, drinking tea and listening to their memories of their time in the forces right up to how they feel about the Army, the youth and life in general today.

I recorded over an hour and a half of video footage, which I have uploaded to Youtube as a way of storing it for archival purposes and have also created an abridged version for hand in as part of my project work. They were also good enough to share with me some of their photographs that I have included in the videos. 

Bellow are links to the short and full edits of my recordings with the boys.

Abridged 00:13:59
Full unedited archive 01:27:05

2nd December 2019

I spent this morning with Cyril William Jones who is an octogenarian veteran who was national service conscripted on Monday 8th September 1952 aged just 18 years old. One year later Cyril married Beryl Pugh.

What an amazing person as well as serving in the RAF for two years he was also a councilor and a Magistrate, he was so open and friendly and patiently gave of his time as I transformed his lovely home into a small TV studio. 

Cyril & Beryl Jones

I recorded around an hour of conversation with him and then set up my camera as a rostrum to photograph some of his pictures that will be inter cut with the video footage. I will also try to find some other relevant imagery from Google, youtube etc to also embelish the final production.

Abridged 00:12:16
Full unedited archive

Just a rough cut of part of the interview with Cyril.

1st December 2019

This sixty second clip is especially for Rob Irving

Rob asked me a while back about using a single video clip for sixty seconds, I think this clip along with the sound track is very poignant, it is a shot from a mock up of a ww1 trench with a recording of an attack on the trench. 

It was filmed hand held to give the impression of being the eyes of a soldier waiting for the enemy to come over the top, listening to the thunder of battle and being barked at by his CO. Even the jolt when there is a nearby explosion adds to the tension.

I noted how beautiful the sky looked juxtaposed to the image of barbed wire along with the fear and smell of death. 

I was tempted to render the image as a black and white video to give it even more period atmosphere, but decided to leave it colour as the soldier would have seen it.  

I wanted to create a logo for my documentaries that could overlay other images and even video. The above is a PNG file I made in Photoshop with the top half above the soldiers being opaque so the logo can then become an overlay. 

The typeface is Alexa Standard, I chose this as it has a slight handwritten feel about it and made me think of soldiers reading letters from back home, I also included a couple of gif images depicting soldier images and used them to as a substitute for a couple of the letters, namely the O and the L.

I think it is a strong clean simple image that can be used in various areas of the production, and will come to define the project as a whole. 

The above variation shows the logo overlaying a still image. As the series progresses the still image could be complimentary to the veteran being interviewed, for example, RAF would be a sky scape and the navy sea.

I have made the image dimensions 1440 X 1080 pixels as this will be what I shoot and edit the videos in so will fit perfectly on the screen. The above is an example of the logo overlaid on a video sequence. 

Today I went along to the Staffordshire regiment museum which is based in Whittington barracks on the A51 near Lichfield. 

The purpose of the visit was to collect some potential B roll for my videos.  

My Image
Google Maps

30th November 2019

My Image
My Image

Today I visited the birthplace of the Staffordshire regiment, and met up with some of the guys from the Wolverhampton Tuesday group.

The venue is the Kings Head in Lichfield and is now owned by a group of the ex-soldiers from the regiment.

They hold a breakfast club the last Saturday of each month especially for the veterans. It was humbling to see a mixture of old and not so old soldiers there all mixing together, and although from different generations they all have that same distinct camaraderie with one another. You can not help but come away feeling proud and energized by the warmth they have for each other and the friendship they have extended to me.

26th November 2019

Today I went along to a veterans meeting for the second time to finalise days, location and times with the ex-servicemen. Due to their close relationship and connection to the Staffordshire regiment I have decided to record four of them together, Jesse, Jim, Steve & Ken will all appear on the one video, as explained before in a previous post these guys interact with each other in such an amazing way that I changed from the initial idea of recording them as individuals.

I have also concluded that this video is destined to be much longer than the 5 to 10 minutes originally planned. My only worry is lack of B roll and cutaways to keep the visuals interesting, but this is something I will consider during the edit.

An important part of a soldiers life is reliance on your other colleagues, this obviously continues well after their service is over when you are in the company of these four men.

Jesse
Jim
Steve
Ken
Cyril
Google Image
Google Image

I will be meeting up with the guys on Saturday 30th November at the Kings Head in Lichfield, it holds a breakfast club every last Saturday in the month for ex Staffs soldiers and needless to say the guys are very proud of this venue as their regiment was established here in 1751 and was named 1st Staffordshire regiment in 1782

I also have booked in a meeting with the men on Thursday 5th at the home of Jesse should the Kings Head prove too distracting for an interview situation. 

Cyril is ex RAF and was conscripted during World War One. I will be recording him at his home on Monday 2nd December 2019

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21st November 2019

Taken from a series of videos called the gap, each video put two people together with the same experiences but from different generations.

This episode took two soldiers one who served in the Navy during ww2 and the other who served more recently in Afghanistan. 

20th November 2019

Brian Griffin

Brian was Born in Lye near Birmingham UK in 1948,  he studied photography at Manchester Polytechnic.  In September 2013 he received the Centenary Medal from the Royal Photographic Society and in November 2016 was inducted into the Album Cover Hall of Fame.

19th November 2019

Today I visited a local venue where veterans meet to have a chat, a drink and take part in a quiz, organised by Steve Gloss an ex soldier himself the event is free and all ex or current service men and women are made very welcome.

The atmosphere was amazing and you could still feel the comradeship and playful respect that these men and women hold for each other and it is infectious.

I was invited to address the group to give an outline of my ambition to produce some short videos of ex-service personnel talking about then and now. 

I now also realise that the videos will be much longer than five minutes and probably will extend to around 30 minutes. I have also decided for one of the videos to film three of the soldiers together as they are all ex Staffordshire Regiment, and feel that the three of them just talking and interjecting with each other will make for a very informative and entertaining piece. 

Wolverhampton Civic parade 2019

The following three videos were filmed and and then edited by me over the following week. They serve to show how important it is for us to remember the past so we do not make the same mistake in the future.

Mankind can be so cruel to itself and to what end? Surely we all want to live a happy safe life, we need to turn our backs on greed and work for the common good of our fellow human beings., it matters not what your skin colour is, your language, gender, religion, etc, it just matters that you are part of this race, the human race. 

Three camera shoot at Jeffcock Cemetery, in association with the Dutch war graves commission.

Each year a group of serving Dutch soldiers come over to pay thanks to the town of Wolverhampton and honour their fallen comrades. 

This was the first of the three recordings I made this weekend, and originally was only going to use the footage for inserts in future videos, However I later decided to cut it together at the request of a parent of one of the RAF regiment soldiers. Due to this the audio is from camera mic only, also there is no power available on site so I have to provide my generator for the PA, hence the noise. 

Hopefully the above does not distract too much from the solemnity of the event. 

A three camera shoot on Monday 11th November 2019 at the Cenotaph to commemorate the armistice. 

A three camera shoot of our local remembrance parade. Sunday 10th November 2019.

Recorded on a GoPro and two Canon DSLR cameras.

Tony Vaccaro

He was sent to fight on the front lines as a combat infantryman was part of the D Day landings. He purchased a $47.50 (£37.01 in today’s money) Argus C3 35mm camera secretly in tow.

Vaccaro was an active fighting soldier and so was able to bring his handheld camera to the heart of the battlefield.

By the end of his tour of duty he had 8000 exposures that he had strung together on an old 35mm film reel. The first 9 rolls of film he shot he sent back to the US to his sister but they got lost and were never seen again it was from that point he decided to keep all his negatives with him. 

He used to develop the films late at night using his tin helmet and a borrowed helmet from a comrade to hold the developer and the fix. 

Considering the bad conditions that the films were developed in they have retained remarkable clarity and show a dimension to the war that no photographer standing on the side lines could capture. 

Christina Broom

BUCKINGHAM PALACE ON ARMISTICE DAY, 11 NOVEMBER 1918

This image was taken 101 years ago today  by Christina Broom. It shows crowds in front of Buckingham Palace on Armistice Day, 

Christina Broom: Crowds in front of Buckingham Palace on Armistice Day, 11 November 1918
The UK's first female press photographer.
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11th November 2019

The following was not written by me but wanted to include it on my blog as a note of respect for animals that also served during the war.

Judy, a purebred pointer, was the mascot of several ships in the Pacific, and was captured by the Japanese in 1942 and taken to a prison camp. There she met Aircraftsman Frank Williams, who shared his small portion of rice with her.

Judy raised morale in the POW camp, and also barked when poisonous snakes, crocodiles or even tigers approached the prisoners. When the prisoners were shipped back to Singapore, she was smuggled out in a rice sack, never whimpering or betraying her presence to the guards.

The next day, that ship was torpedoed. Williams pushed Judy out of a porthole in an attempt to save her life, even though there was a 15-foot drop to the sea. He made his own escape from the ship, but was then recaptured and sent to a new POW camp.

He didn’t know if Judy had survived, but soon he began hearing stories about a dog helping drowning men reach pieces of debris after the shipwreck. And when Williams arrived at the new camp, he said: “I couldn’t believe my eyes! As I walked through the gate, a scraggly dog hit me square between the shoulders and knocked me over. I’d never been so glad to see the old girl!”

They spent a year together at that camp in Sumatra. “Judy saved my life in so many ways,” said Williams. “But the greatest of all was giving me a reason to live. All I had to do was look into those weary, bloodshot eyes and ask myself: ‘What would happen to her if I died?’ I had to keep going.”

Once hostilities ceased, Judy was then smuggled aboard a troopship heading back to Liverpool. In England, she was awarded the Dickin Medal (the “Victoria Cross” for animals) in May 1946. Her citation reads: “For magnificent courage and endurance in Japanese prison camps, which helped to maintain morale among her fellow prisoners, and also for saving many lives through her intelligence and watchfulness”.

At the same time, Frank Williams was awarded the PDSA’s White Cross of St. Giles for his devotion to Judy. Frank and Judy spent a year after the war visiting the relatives of English POWs who had not survived, and Frank said that Judy “always provided a comforting presence to the families.”

When Judy finally died at the age of 13, Frank spent two months building a granite and marble memorial in her memory, which included a plaque describing her life story.

More here.

9th November 2019

8th November 2019

This is an amazing excerpt that I came across on youtube. They do not give the ladies name but she is a police forensic assistant who has been deaf from birth and she is a lip reading expert.

6th November 2019

Some B roll footage is hopefully going to be shot over the next weekend. I have three parades to attend around the Wolverhampton area in connection with Remembrance Sunday. So hopefully the weather will be kind and I can get some external filming done.

I am still trying to get some ex service personnel to commit to being filmed for my project and getting a little worried that no one will come forward to take part. Hopefully I can connect with a few of the soldiers at the memorial parades and move things forward. 

4th November 2019

A very interesting and emotional short video about the end of war. 

We very often talk about the start of a war and the continuation of it from an individual stand point but only ever talk about the end of a war from a nationalistic point of view.

This is a dramatisation of the end or ww1, it shows the confusion of some soldiers who knew the war was ending compared to those who did not. It is sad to think of the men and women who died in the closing minutes of the war when the end was so close.

31st October 2019

Today taking a look at the Royal Navy at war. As an Island nation the Navy plays a very important role during war time. Not only helping to protect our boarders but also able to take the battle to the enemy and providing assistance and protection to merchant shipping.

25th October 2019

I can not imagine what it must have felt like to receive one of these through the post, going about your everyday normal life and then suddenly you were in the army and would be expected to go and fight.

We take so much for granted today and enjoy a free life pretty safe in the knowledge we are safe and protected. 

The dreaded Telegram, hundreds of thousands sent out reporting of people missing or killed in action. But also a few giving comfort letting family know they are safe and well. 

18th October 2019

Broken India how Instagram only shows one side of the story

Interesting morning lecture with Jack and Richard Salkeld, talking about reading images and how perspectives over time tend to change, which has been a long time held belief of mine. 

The importance of the photograph is not realised at the moment of the shutter closing but in the longevity of the image.

I have always held the view that for the most part the moment that an image is captured is somewhat insignificant compared to when a large period of time has passed (withstanding that this is not the case for all images). I think this takes place the minute the words are changed from how it is, to how it was. 

Robert Frank 1924 - 2019

I see my self more as a commercial than a fine art photographer, but I do think there is a cross over of the two genres and although I do not go to the extremes of fine art I do think that I have visited upon it from time to time.

An image can produce many emotions and a plethora of different stories can be formed when the image is viewed by various people. I think this leads from the individuals back ground, their up bringing and life experiences to date. 

This image, for example, was shot by Frank in New Orleans America in 1955. A group of people sat on a trolley bus individually framed by the pannels and open windows on vehicle, but of cause when you understand the ethnic issues of the time especially in the south of the United States of America and that segregation of whites and blacks was still taking place then the image changes and becomes stronger much more important document of the time.

Again going back to my above premise of “how it is to how it was”, Though some back then might not of totally agreed with it, it was just how it was and people of all ethnicity had to just get on with it. However now we tend to recoil from images like this almost in disbelief that people treated other people in such a callous way. 

Jack suggested we might listen to these recordings from James Bridle taken from BBC Radio 4

Click one of the titles below to listen to the audio each one is about 30 minutes in duration.

In particular he said we should listen to episode three “Machine Visions”. 

I have listened to it twice now and each time I grow more aware of how photography has moved from the need of mankind to capture reality and has started to move into the realm of virtual reality, not the sort that we use for game play, but the sort where images are manipulated to sway opinion or create a totally different point of view. Sometimes this is done honestly but be aware that many times it is done covertly. Some times even the overtly created fake images transcend into the realm of believability because the image is propagated time and time again through such portals as social media. 

The image to the right is fake, no actual image was captured of a drone in the vicinity of Gatwick airport last June (2019), yet The Metro and other print media published such images. The credit to the image reads

Airport officials said airlines bore the brunt of the costs (Picture: PA)

PA stands for press association and so the image is given gravitas and believed to be true, where as the image was created just to give a representation of how a drone might look in such a situation. 

“No videos or photographs of the drone were handed to the police”.

The broadcast went on to talk about the use of AI (machines) to capture images such as ANPR and CCTV. Our privacy is being eroded and our whereabouts and habits are being monitored almost minute by minute for example London is the 6th most watched city in the world with 627,707 cameras for 9,176,530 people that’s 68.40 cameras per every 1,000 people.

Not only are images gathered and analysed of us and our activities by third parties but we also unwittingly give them our images so that they (companies, advertising agencies, government, legal services, etc, etc) can better understand us and again keep track on our movements and trends. 

Many companies will now do a social media check on prospective employees to see if there is anything untoward that might affect their working for that company.  This is also ongoing and there have been instances where an employee has been let go due to something posted on social media about them or by them. 

Our rights to privacy are being eroded and i do worry that more and more big brother is indeed watching us. 

A couple of mine

Shot in Brum on my Canon eos50e with my 70-200 F2.8 lens on Kodak Tmax100 film stock and developed using Ilford Perceptol.

Wedding catwalk show

Canon 5D Mk4 Sigma 85 mm F1.4 lens.

14th October 2019

Today I finally got around to sending some correspondence to some veteran soldiers requesting a meet up to discuss further their potential inclusion in my project.

Also checking my calendar I noted that I have three civic parades next month so intend to gather some footage from those also.

13th October 2019

Doing a bit more research today and decided to look at the war in the air, I came across this documentary that gives a non biased view of both sides of the Battle of Britain. It contains a lot of old war footage which will assist me when putting together my own video’s 

10th October 2019

I presented my video yesterday at uni and I think it went down well, I got some good feedback from it and a few pointers were given as to other areas I could look into. 

It was mentioned that I should also include more recent wars such as the Falklands etc, which I have taken on board but I feel that the initial reason for me doing this project may well be lost.

For example, I wanted to identify and put across the feeling of being conscripted, being told you were in the Army is very different to joining the Army during peacetime.

Though I have taken this on board and may well expand my project to include other soldiers from other conflicts. 

8th October 2019

I spent most of today producing this video ready for tomorrows presentation at uni, most time was spent trying to find period footage to intersperse through the video. 

As this is a presentation I needed enough relevant footage to cover all the speech based element, but also wanted to try to keep it moving so it will be entertaining as well as informative.

I have used various video production techniques during the editing process including but not limited to, split edits, visual overlays, rostrum camera movements and multi track audio with music and sound effects added to give parts of the video (visual and informative) more emphasis.

The final package has a narrative from start to end and the inclusion of the troops marching and singing during the intro and outro tie the package neatly up.
I included an image of a friend of mine who died late September to again make a point that these men are slowly passing away.  

7th October 2019

Today I went along to the war graves in Cannock to capture some footage for inclusion in my presentation video for Uni on the 9th. The weather was not ideal but I do not have time to delay this and I need some footage to cover my narration about the losses during world war one and two.

I used a combination of my phone camera and my go pro to acquire the footage and also employed a smooth Q gimbal and a gaffer pole.

I used the gimbal on the pole to give some elevation to some of my shots giving the impression of a crane or even a drone shot. Movement will give more interest to the footage by adding some dynamics to the shots.

I decided to try some shots on my phone (Samsung Galaxy Note 8) along with the go pro (Hero 5 Black edition), both set to 24FPS as I did not intend to slow mo any of the footage, however, when I capture some more footage with the DSLR I should bear this in mind and adjust the FPS accordingly.