Thursday, 31 December 2020

2020 in Football

2020 wasn’t the year of football myself or many others was expecting back in January, though despite several interruptions and restrictions I was still able to attend some fantastic matches and grounds all the same. I managed to go to 87 games, 86 of those being ‘new’ grounds (the revisit was Cheadle Town for all those wondering).

As a person who loves lists, I have devised some sort of ‘top 10’ of my favourite grounds from this years hopping travels. I find it a nice way to look back and appreciate some of the places I’ve been. It was a genuinely hard list to compile and there were lots of venues I had to leave out to keep it to 10. Of course, like groundhopping itself, this is all arbitrary and I could have instead chosen to do a top 17 or any other random number, but a top 10 seems the most appropriate so here we are!

I have listed them in the order which I visited them.

Ravenhill Park

Brereton Town 1-5 AFC Bentlands
Staffordshire FA Kimberly Cup QF (Sunday League)

For someone who loves both power stations and grass roots football, Ravenhill Park was a match made in heaven. It’s hard to avoid the eye catching concrete structures in the form of Rugely Power Station, which are still striking despite the bottom halves distorted by an Amazon building. Sadly, these towers are set to be demolished sometime in 2021, so you better be quick if you want to experience football against one of the most exciting backdrops there is. Well, in my opinion anyway!

Full set of photographs here.

Knypersley Sports Club

Staffordshire Victoria Ladies 3-0 Doveridge Ladies

Staffordshire Women’s County League


While searching for a women’s game we could double up with Ravenhill Park, Knypersley Sports Club in Staffordshire made for the perfect accompaniment. It had a stand at one end, views of the cricket pavilion at another, set amongst fields and topped off with a warm welcome, it was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Full set of photographs here.

Newlandsfield Park

Pollok FC 2-0 Hurlford United

West Region of the Scottish Junior Football Association


Newlandsfield Park was on my hit list for some time and we finally took advantage of a free weekend in January to visit. The ground was everything I expected it to be and more, with the welcome and hospitality one of the friendliest ever. This will be a day I’ll hold long in my memories.

Full set of photographs here.

Western Lane

Buxworth Reserves 3-2 Railway FC

Hope Valley League A Division


Craving a ground with views, Western Lane in the High Peak did just that and then some. Not only did it provide me with the views I was yearning, it was hemmed in by a dry stone wall and situated alongside a row of picturesque cottages, it really made a photogenic football setting. 

Full set of photographs here.

Indodrill Stadium

BSC Glasgow 1-4 Hibernian FC

Scottish Cup


A large grandstand, some terracing (both covered and uncovered) and views of what I assume are the Ochil Hills, this made for a brilliant first game of a double header back in February in the midst of Storm Ciara. Sadly this was one of those grounds I didn’t take my camera to, so all the more reason to return…

Horsfall Stadium

Bradford (Park Avenue) 0-2 Curzon Ashton

National League North


A little different to my usual idea of what I like in a ground, but perhaps because it was the penultimate match I attended before the first lockdown it holds a special place in my heart. Or maybe I just liked the large seated grandstand, complete with terracing on either side, the friendly welcome and the unique clubhouse.

Full set of photographs here.

Quarry Lane

Cartmel AFC ‘A’ 2-3 Endmoor Reserves

Pre season friendly


From seeing pictures of this one on Twitter the previous week, I knew this ground would be making this list before I even visited! Set within a quarry and with views out to the sea, this was a great August Monday evening out and a fantastic ground to mark my 300th. It was so special, it even got it’s own blog.

Full set of photographs here.

Bamford Rec

Bamford FC 4-1 Buxworth FC

Pre season friendly


The Hope Valley League never disappoints for grounds with views and Bamford Rec was no different. This one even included some football furniture in the form of a small wooden stand tucked to one side. Would recommend! 

Full set of photographs here.

Sir Tom Cowie Millfield Ground

Crook Town AFC 0-2 Marske United 

Men’s FA Cup Preliminary Round


For the limited time travel restrictions were relieved, we took advantage with a trip to the North East to the magnificent Sir Tome Cowie Millfield. One which was on our to do list for a while, I was so pleased we took up the opportunity to attend for this sold out FA Cup fixture. I’ll let the images do the talking, so without further ado you can view those here. 

Park Road

Swarthmoor Social FC 2-1 Bootle AFC

Furness Premier League Premier Division


After seeing an image of Park Road, I couldn’t get the ground out of my head and knew I just had to visit! I finally put my words into action one weekend and took the train up to Grange-over-Sands, where the ground was a couple miles walk away. Not only did the ground have fantastic views, but also a clubhouse and a compact bus shelter stand. It’s just a shame that there were only 8 or so spectators to enjoy it… 

Full set of photographs here.

That’s it from 2020, hope 2021 brings more football and travel for those that want it and hope to see you at a game when circumstances allow!

Friday, 18 December 2020

Shadow Play

Being as I seem to be playing with light a fair amount at the moment (see older posts for details), I continued this in my next clip with a slight deviation to exploring shadows. Having never really worked with shadows before, it was a subject I definitely wanted to try out.

I didn’t have an idea what to do going into this mini project, but found a clip I really wanted to animate as I loved the framing and the movement of the character, so I decided to use that as my starting point. Perhaps a bit of a backwards way of working, but I find ideas from lots of different starting points, rather than just the ‘traditional’ or ‘obvious’ ones. I loved how the shadows from what I assume are trees appear across her as she walks and that was something I wanted to replicate.

The original footage

Before getting to the ‘fun part’ though, I needed to rotoscope the character. I wanted to do this differently than a standard outline, so went for a quite chunky brush. I haven’t worked with a thick outline like this for a while, so it seemed like an appropriate time to go back to it. I knew it would work as I have used it previously and as this clip was more about the shadows than the character, I didn’t mind using a style I had used already. Again, to colour her, I used familiar block colours which I know work.

I still had another step before moving on to adding the shadows: the background. I didn’t want a plain background as I wanted to contextualise the character, but I didn’t want to spend hours and hours rotoscoping the footage from the clip, because it wasn’t an exercise in background. I decided to put the background frames through a couple of filters in photoshop, before altering them further in After Effects, where I composited the project. I tried to make them more ‘cartoony’ or animated looking. Looking back, I think this still needs further work as it looks too close to the original footage, but as said I didn’t want this to be a time sucker as it’s not about the background, so just left them without further additions. I think it gives the right impression anyway.

So, now for the fun bit! As always I wasn’t totally sure how to do this when going into it (I bet you can see a familiar theme here, right?!), but I did have an idea. The idea was to draw some shapes which could represent tree shadows (very impressionistic ones):

Ok, yes, I know it just looks pretty random at this point, but stick with me here! I then brought it into After Effects and set the position key frames so it moved from right to left (the opposite way to her walking so it didn’t look like it was following her). I then added some blur, took down the opacity, added a ‘wiggle’ expression and a couple of magnifiers so when the shapes were on her they looked more 3D.

At first, it was a little hard to get the timing right and I ended up having to make the shadow file longer in length (it went from 6000x1080 to 9000x1080), which ended up being the right length for the speed I wanted it to be moving at.

I felt the shadows turned out really nicely and looked quite realistic. They definitely gave me the effect I wanted to create and perhaps turned out a little ‘better’ than what I was expecting. If I require shadows in this context again, I will be sure to use this style. 

Friday, 11 December 2020

Playing with Fire

In continuation from the last piece, I wanted to continue exploring the visuals of light. I had a lot of fun creating that piece and I think it shows in the result. In true Flora Martyr fashion I didn’t want to replicate what I had already done, because that would be a) pointless and b) boring, so I decided to take some of the aspects and combine them with something new. I always say on here I constantly want to be developing and learning new things, which is true. Once I feel I have ‘mastered’ (probably a too grandiose word, but whateves) a certain style or technique, I like to have that in my ‘bank’ of what I can do knowing I can pull upon it again in the future, but then acknowledge that it’s time to move on for now.

I downloaded a nice piece of footage of someone lighting a match- it made a lovely glow on her fingers when the match was lit. This piece was actually downloaded for the intention of using in the previous piece, but decided against it and to save it for something else. A good decision, I think!

At first I didn’t quite know what to do with it, but then I started scribbling a few ideas down and came up with what I thought was the style I would use. If I can’t think of any ideas, I find noting down or sketching thoughts usually helps develop what I already have. I come up with a lot more ideas when I put pen to paper rather than when I think ‘oh I’ve no idea what to do with this’ and leave it for some ‘inspiration’ to hit. Rarely happens without making it happen. I feel that creativity spawns more creativity, so it’s better to start with something, however small. Anyway, I digress.

Initial sketch
Style frame #1
Style frame #2

Above is my initial sketch on paper with a couple of notes followed by some style frames I created in TVPaint. The second one is the one I decided to go with- well as a starting point, because the final design is a little different.

Being as the previous piece had such a heavy emphasis on colour, I decided to go the opposite way here and drain all but several colours. I did this for a number of reasons: the first being I wanted the match and the light of the match to stand out, but also as a nod to my earlier rotoscope work where I used to use a lot in greyscale for some reason. I also thought using grey for the hands would really bring out the yellow glow (which I think it did).

Roto test (May 2013)

I decided to revert back to using an outline here besides the flame (and smoke). This was to emphasise the flame, but also because fire isn’t a tangible object I thought it would make sense. The outline was a different style to what I usually use when working with an outline- here I used the pencil tool (one I pretty much never use) to give the edges a bit of texture and to test out using an outline style I usually avoid. I did think it worked quite nicely- I really like the sketchiness of it and would definitely use it again if the circumstances allow, but it won’t work for everything. Despite the fact that I coloured the piece quite ‘blocky’ or non-textured, I don’t feel the rough edges look out of place.

When thinking of ways to colour the light reflecting on the hands, I first tried to create them in a textured way. I drew up a number of style frames testing out different brushes and then started shading the light using one of the styles. Below are two of these frames:

About ten or so frames in, I decided the textured way was not the best fit for this piece- I felt it looked ‘weak’ and didn’t have much verve about it. I then changed direction and decided to use a way I did’t even use for any of the style frames, but I just felt it would work better. I used the ‘filled stroke’ (which gives a solid colour) and drew the shapes as they appeared, adding emphasis and exaggeration where appropriate. This way felt much more suited to the piece than any of the texture ideas I was initially considering. It also brought further emphasis to the pencil outline, making it the only textured element in the whole piece.

The result of colouring the light in this way looks somewhat naive, but I quite like the bold effect it has. It won't work in every circumstance and I feel if I’m to use this technique in the future, using it sparingly might be best. I do kind of like the result though and it’s definitely a step forward for me in terms of my development.

This 7 second clip took 20 hours to complete. Usually hands take a lot quicker (I do hands a lot), but I think because of the fact that I used a textured outline with multiple stokes, along with adding some highlights and colour, it took a little longer than it usually might have. I think each style takes as long as it needs to take and there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ regarding completion time. Or at least not at the moment where I have no external pressures of deadlines etc and I can really spend time creating work.

Sunday, 6 December 2020

It's Back (Again)!!

After a second forced break this year for spectators (and 'non elite' teams), football is now back! We headed to Trimpell Sports and Social Club to witness Trimpell and Bare Rangers Reserves 3-0 Bolton-le-Sands FC in the North Lancs League Premier Division. You can view the full set of photographs here.