Monday, 21 September 2020

Road to Wembley 20/21 #2

Round: Preliminary
Date: 20/9/20
Ground: Bottomdale Road (Slyne-with-Hest FC)
Attendance: 60 approx.
Match: Morecambe Ladies FC 3-0 Salford City Lionesses

Full set of photographs HERE.

Sunday, 20 September 2020


If you haven't already gathered from my social media, my animation 'Together | Fragmented' has been shortlisted for the Lockdown DepicT short film competition, as part of Encounters Film Festival. Woop! That sounded sarcastic, but honestly it wasn't- I made this film with this competition in mind and have entered it numerous times over the years without success, so it goes without saying that I was overjoyed to be selected this year.

The standard this year is really strong and I feel super privileged to be amongst such a line up. My film is up for the audience award, so if you have watched it (and like it) then all you need to do is rate it five stars. And if you really like it, you can also leave a nice comment. And if you really really like it, then I guess you can tell your friends to do the same too. Okay, I'm a little biased.

You can watch and vote for my film HERE.

Friday, 11 September 2020

Animation Update

I've not written much on here lately about animation, because I'm currently working on a short film which I touched on in this post and I won't be giving too much away before it's finished.

But, I will be sharing clips every now and again to keep the good old social media algorithms happy (what a world we live in) and also so my social feeds aren't overly saturated with football.

During the last few pieces, I worked out a new (faster) way of colouring the clips. So I've basically jumped on here to share my joy with whoever that one reader is my stats seem to tell me I get. Hello! I used to draw all the outlines in one go, then colour at the end. Sounds logical, yes? Though that was a slowwww process, because when using the colour fill it doesn't always reach up to the corners or the small gaps where lines are too close together. This resulted in a lot of time spent going over the fills with the brush tool, filling all the bits which the paint bucket missed. Not great for an already labour intensive process. 

Now, this time I do still draw the outlines in one go, but on two layers. So, the first layer is a more silhouette/ basic block shape layer, like so:

And the other layer is the detail:

I then switch off the detail layer, leaving the block outlines which I then colour. Because there's not as many lines or spaces to fill, there is less to retouch with the brush tool. Once that's complete, I switch on the detail layer and proceed to fill in the other shapes that need colouring, such as the facial features. This takes so much quicker and I have no idea why it's taken me so long to do it this way! Below is the final result.

You can watch the full version here:

Monday, 7 September 2020

The Road to Wembley (Take 2)!

On 6th September the 20/21 Women's FA Cup started for 376 teams around the country. It also marked the start of this season's 'Road to Wembley' attempt for myself and my partner, Ben. We will aim to attend one game from each round of the cup, from the Extra Preliminary to the final. You can read more about why in my post from last year here. The reasons for doing so stay the same.

Round dates

The difference this year though will that I'll not be writing a full blog for each one, but concentrating more on the photography side of things. This is due to having less time at the moment to write full written blog posts. I will, however, do a post for each game with match details and include some photos, along with a link to the full set. So without further ado, here are the details for Road to Wembley #1:

Round: Extra Preliminary
Date: 6/9/20
Ground: H.E. Barnes Stadium
Attendance: 135
Match: Dronfield Town Ladies FC 2-1 Arnold Eagles

Full set of photographs here.

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Ground 300!

Little did I know that when myself and my then housemate Ben (now partner) attended Haig Avenue to watch Southport FC in November 2016 just 'for something to do', that three and a half years later I would have been to three hundred different football grounds and would class myself as a 'groundhopper'. It was a cold evening and I had zero inclination that watching football in this capacity might become a hobby. I didn't even know it could be a hobby.

Fast forward to 2020, after many days travelling to strange places, thousands of miles covered (whether that be by rail, road, air or water), hundreds of goals witnessed, countless coffees consumed and multiple photographs taken, we pulled up to Allithwaite, just outside Grange-over-Sands on the evening of 17th August. The previous day had been overcast, though this day the sun was shining and seemingly ignoring the amassing storm clouds overhead. The conditions were fantastic for photographs and couldn't have picked a more appropriate evening for this occasion. Having seen a few images of Quarry Lane beforehand online, I knew that I would enjoy this one. I was not wrong.

We approached from the top of a hilly lane, already giving us a taste of how we were about to spend the next ninety minutes: we were faced with a large, partially grassed over quarry behind one goal. As we neared more details began to reveal themselves: to out left was a building housing the dressing rooms, alongside this was car parking and a grass bank soon to be dotted with spectators. To our right were a number of houses lining the road running parallel beside the ground and beyond these, further in the distance was the sea. 

This match itself had many aspects which would send some groundhoppers running for the hills: it was played out in 3x 30 minute thirds rather than the traditional 2x 45 minutes halves, there was no programme issued, it was a pre season friendly, it was played between two reserve teams and the pitch was not railed off. To me it was paradise. There are not enough superlatives to describe the ground and I honestly suggest you look to watch a game there yourself, whoever is playing. Cartmel 'A' are currently using it, due to their home ground not yet ready. It was topped off by the appearance of a rainbow, which stayed for almost the entire game.

Here's to the next 300...

You can view the full set of photographs by clicking here.

Ps. I've been terrible at regular blogging throughout August. Will try better in September!

Friday, 14 August 2020


Nope. I haven't taken up running, apologies Strava fans.

What I have done though, is an animation test clip of someone running. Well I say test clip, but it's more of a segment, because it's part of a longer film. The film is a work in progress and is quite experimental, so perhaps that's why I say 'test clip'.

The film is a mixed media short, comprised of various recycled bits of paper from my studio. Sometimes this is from previous projects or works, or sometimes just scraps which I don't know what to do with. I then cut these up in to 8x8cm squares, sometimes paint on them or sometimes manipulate them in other ways, scan them in and sequence them on the timeline in Premiere Pro. I have also started adding some rotoscope animation to them, because it fitted well with the theme. I won't be discussing that until it's complete, because it's more of a moving image artwork than a film in the traditional sense and therefore don't want to be influenced in any way while creating it. Despite this, I am happy to share segments and explain about some of the creative processes I'm using.

This piece is made up of photocopied paper, cut up in to *loads* of squares (above), recycled from a previous project. I thought the paper would make a fantastic background, because the amount of texture and unintended pattern it would make. I think I made the right decision! The result was just what I was looking for and perhaps turned out even better than what I had first imagined. The project I was using the recycled paper from was quite a big one, so there was plenty of paper to play with. I had enough to create another section of similar style and there is still lots leftover, which I will also be utilising. 

I also went for a slightly different style for the rotoscope animation in this project. As you can see on the above image, the outlines have quite a smoothness to them, more so than what I usually use. I activated the line smoothing on TVPaint. I'm always looking to try new ways of animating and again wanted to diversify my portfolio, so decided to use this technique. It's quite reminiscent of the line style I used to use when I started off animating in Adobe Flash, so I feel it was perhaps a nostalgic choice which lead me here.

I also reverted back to the bold, block colouring, than employing the more realistic shading style I have been using of late. This was because the backgrounds throughout this project are all quite textured and 'hand made' looking, so wanted the rotoscope animation to contrast with that. I think with the smooth lines and the block colouring, it provides the contrast I was after.

Here is the clip:

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Cricket Continued...

Having taken my camera to a recent

Buxworth FC
Buxworth FC

In my usual fashion I scour the fixtures a few days beforehand, looking at a variety of leagues. The main day for club cricket is (like men's football) on Saturday's, though 2nd XI teams (and below, including women's) often play on Sunday's. I don't mind what level I watch in any sport, because I just love watching it regardless. In my research, I happened to stumble upon the

The drive was fairly easy, arriving us in Earby with plenty of time for a walk. If you do ever have a free afternoon in East Lancashire, I would very much recommend taking a trip to this picturesque town. It even has waterfalls (and no, I'm not talking about the stereotypical Northern weather). After a couple hours it was time to make our way to the Applegarth, home of Earby CC.

It definitely had the views of the hills I wanted and a lot more, including a visible mill tower from one end. Not only that, but it boasted a good sized pavilion and bar, along with an electronic scoreboard opposite. Despite not being used to photographing cricket, I got into the swing of things quite quickly. It wasn't too dissimilar to football and in fact, somewhat 'easier': the line of play was more predictable and the players stayed still for longer periods, making composing shots and framing players a less arduous task. Earby also had ex England Women's cricketer Arran Brindle playing on their side. Not everyday you get to see that!

Some technical stuff:

Since purchasing a 'new' (second hand/ pre owned/ vintage- whatever the term is these days) 24-105mm lens earlier in the year for photographing football, I was slightly frustrated I had to go back to using my cheaper 55-250mm for this game. In my opinion, this visibly hindered the image quality as the lens used is a Canon 'STM', unlike the higher quality USM 'L' series of my newer one. As I wanted to get a mixture of both action and landscape shots, the 24-105 was not appropriate as it doesn't zoom far enough to get good close ups of the players at the crease. Despite this, composition and content wise I'm very pleased with the outcomes. I would definitely like to photograph some more cricket matches this season should the opportunity arise, before the return of football takes over...

I have attached some images below, but you can view the full set

Monday, 20 July 2020

The Return of Cricket

In early March this year as the weather started to improve, like many others I was looking forward to the impending cricket season. A little later in March as lockdown started and restrictions implemented, I thought I would see no cricket this season.

As restrictions eased and confirmed Covid-19 cases dropped, the ECB announced that from July 11th, recreational cricket could begin, complete with spectators. This was a very welcome initiative for all cricket fans, players, volunteers and officials around England. It felt like a step in the right direction and towards a normality we have been longing for since March.

An avid cricket fan, I immediately took the opportunity to witness some live sport on the 11th and headed to my nearest club Fulwood and Broughton for an inter-club friendly. It felt mostly 'normal', despite breaks every six overs for the application of hand sanitising gel, clubhouse/ toilet restrictions and socially distanced supporting. You were also not permitted to touch the ball, should it come near you after a boundary. None of this especially mattered as it was great to be back watching sport, whatever the circumstances.

I have since watched two more club level games. With the long overdue announcement that bowling alleys will be able to open from August 1st, hopefully it won't be long until the return of grassroots football.

Further Development

Pretty sure I've already called a post this, but whatevs 💇

To be honest, I was struggling a little to decide what style to do this next piece in. As stated in my previous post, I felt I had taken the fairly realistic style as far as it could go and had also tried a watercolour test. I started a piece regardless as wanted to keep animating, but this was slightly problematic, due to not knowing what direction to take it. I like to plan out each piece beforehand, because it makes the animating easier and you're less inclined to change your mind mid project.

I did differentiate the outlines more than what I usually do, in terms of using a brush which gave me more option in line thickness. I'm not sure how noticeable this is to the casual viewer, but it made me feel like I was diversifying my usual technique. Perhaps I could have pushed it further and used a mixture of really thick and really thin lines, so it would be even more noticeable.

It was when it came to colouring him, was when I really altered what I do though. I decided to use texture on top of the realistic rendering style. I used multiple textures, some which I scanned in and others I created digitally in After Effects. Texture (especially created by analogue means) is something I really try to implement throughout my work, which is quite apparent when viewing past pieces. I wanted to bring it back in to my recent work, which has been more clean cut than what I have done in the past.

I felt the pairing of the techniques worked well, but improvements can be made. I feel the texture I used on him was a little too artificial for my liking and in the future, would prefer to implement this texture in a more organic way.

From a piece which I started under little inspiration or direction, it turned out quite well and has pushed my work further. Though going forward, this unplanned way is not the way I want to create each piece. 

Monday, 6 July 2020

Watercolour Test

As a continuation of my recent character style tests, I decided to meander away from the look I had been developing to something completely different.


Following on from my previous post on this topic, I carried out a further two pieces (see videos below) and felt I had completed what I wanted to achieve with that specific look. If I carried on with similar clips, then I wouldn't have been honing my craft further or pushing my comfort zones. The whole point of me doing these tests is to look at new and different ways of doing things, rather than stick to what I already know. For once I decided to be true to my word! In animation I sometimes struggle to do this, because each short clip takes so long and I don't want to waste time on something which may or may not 'work'. Early this year I realised that my work wasn't really progressing further in terms of aesthetics and differentiation, so the only way I could change my situation was to bite the bullet and go for it. If it doesn't work, I know not to use that style again and if it does, then great, I have a new style to use! In fact, I pretty much wrote the same in a post in April, though I have jumped up another level since.

Something I haven't tried before is watercolour, so I decided to go ahead and create something using that. TVPaint has a fantastic selection of watercolour style brushes which I took full advantage of when creating this piece. As I have been doing recently, I used a piece of footage off my new favourite stock footage site Pexels: 'the World's first inclusive free stock photo and video library'. I love the variety of clips on their site and they are more inclusive and diverse than other stock sites. This is honestly not a sponsored post!

It took a little time to work out what thickness brush stroke to use for the outlines. Watercolour possesses different properties than the solid brush tool I usually use, so it did take a little trial and error. I ended using a 20% thickness with pressure sensitivity, which enabled me to get flowing, realistic lines.

It also took some time to work out how to colour her. I wasn't sure whether I was going to use watercolour for this, or something else. Again, after trial and error, I decided to go ahead with colouring her with watercolour, achieving a full watercoloured look. I think this was the right choice, as I do love the outcome. As the outlines, to choose the right brush thickness for the colouring was a little difficult. If I used a small size, it would end up looking rather blotchy or 'bitty', a look which I really didn't want. Too big and it would have been hard to colour without the brush jumping outside the lines (the watercolour ones tend to be quite jittery). I ended up using a mixture of sizes: a first 'pass' with a larger brush to cover the majority without going too close to the edges, followed by a series of smaller sizes, working my way up to a neat edge.

This 3.8 second clip took twelve and a half hours to complete. I would say that despite being very pleased with this style (and happy that I tried it), it is definitely more time consuming than using a block fill to colour it in. I coloured each frame separately which is why it took so long. I can think of a couple of work arounds, though whether they will achieve a similarly authentic look, I'm yet to find out.

You can watch the video below: