Sunday, April 24, 2016

Frances Hardinge, The Lie Tree – Costa Book of the Year 2015.

The tearsheet of my recent interview with Costa book prize winner Frances Hardinge for New Zealand magazine 'Your Weekend'. Please note the photo in this shot is not mine. It was an absolute pleasure to interview Frances, if you've not read any of her books do yourself a favour and go to Amazon now and buy one of her bestsellers.

For a novel to win the Costa book of the year prize it needs to be exceptional, the newly crowned winner, 'The Lie Tree' by Frances Hardinge is exactly that. Formally the Whitbread Book Awards, the Costa Book Awards honour some of the most prominent and standout books written by authors based in the UK and Ireland.

There are five principle categories - First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book - with one of the five winners chosen as Book of the Year, announced at an awards ceremony in London every January.

Launched in 1971 as the Whitbread Literary Awards, they became the Whitbread Book Awards in 1985, with Costa taking over in 2006. This year for the first time since Philip Pullman won in 2001 with 'The Amber Spyglass', a children’s novel has taken the honours.

Set in 1863, a family have just arrived in the remote, rain-swept Channel Island of Vane. The head of the family, the Reverend Erasmus Sunderly, is a renowned natural scientist, and ostensibly he has travelled to Vane to help with a dig at an ancient site. His fourteen-year-old daughter Faith, however, suspects that the family have left the mainland hastily because they are fleeing from something. When the father she idolises is found dead, only Faith believes that he was murdered. Looking through his notes, she discovers more about a strange plant that her father was desperate to hide from everybody. He believed that it was a Lie Tree - if somebody whispered a lie to it and then persuaded as many people as possible to believe the lie, it would bear a fruit, which could be eaten to learn an important secret. In her quest to learn the secret of her father's murder, Faith decides to feed the Lie Tree, and spread her own lies in the island community. Of course, they do not remain 'her own' for long, since lies have a way of running out of control...

Hardinge, having won the Children’s award was quite surprised to take the main prize. Humble and self depreciating she stressed she was still in shock at the result, anyone whose read her work was less so. Hardinge's modest demeanour belies a brilliant mind, a master storyteller who gently pulls and plats the threads of story arcs together creating a rich and textured narrative. 'The Lie Tree' is “a Victorian gothic murder mystery, but with more palaeontology, post mortem photography, feminism, lie-munching foliage and blasting powder".

Comparisons with Pullman have obviously been made they share the city of Oxford in common as well as both being authors of acclaimed children’s fiction. Hardinge is flattered yet side steps the comparison... “Being mentioned in the same sentence as Philip Pullman is rather wonderful, but he's a giant in children's fiction, and I wouldn't say that I was in his league.”

 The city of Oxford however is a factor in her literary world; As for Oxford, I lived there very happily for about twenty years, so it probably did affect me and my writing. I always found it easier to think there. It's beautiful, anachronistic, non-Euclidean, helplessly eccentric and fascinating. A city like that does seep into your brain.

 Hardinge describes 'The Lie Tree' as a feminist book, indeed inequality is central to storyline, she writes; “It takes a good look at the gender inequality of the Victorian age, and the negative effects of that inequality, so yes. At the point where I realised that I would be setting the story of The Lie Tree in the nineteenth century, and that my main character would be a smart teenage girl with an interest in science, gender wasn't really something I could ignore. Such a girl was likely to have encountered endless rejections and obstacles, her dreams and aspirations crushed at every turn. It didn't seem right to tip-toe round that.”

 It's this aspect of the book, that led James Heneage, one of the judges on the Costa prize board, to describe 'The Lie Tree' as an important book which highlighted issues that affect teenage girls. Have things gotten better for teenage girls? Hardinge believes so, “Well, things are a lot better than they were in the mid-nineteenth century, but we're not there yet.”, adding further “Gender stereotyping does nobody any favours, male or female, so it's healthy to have books out there that challenge or dismantle these stereotypes...”.

 Faith is a complicated character, and far from being a simple role model. She has had to suppress a lot of her personality, including a great deal of anger. The ways in which this anger finds outlets aren't always admirable, but are hopefully understandable. There's a lot of internal conflict, since she has internalised much of what she has been taught about her role as a female and dutiful daughter. During the course of the book she breaks out of this constraining shell... but you might not want to be standing too close to her when she does.

 Hardinge hopes Faith will strike a chord with anybody who has been pushed into playing a role, or forced to suppress a part of themselves, or undermined at every turn, or not taken seriously. They may realise that it's OK, she says “...to feel angry. Just because you're angry, it doesn't mean you're wrong. Faith is a difficult heroine, and makes mistakes, but she has courage, intelligence and strength of will.”

 Some might challenge the rationale of complex themes and messages in Children's and Young Adult fiction but to do so is to underestimate children's cognisance and sophistication not to mention the extraordinary quality of the writing. The genre has a history of tackling difficult and challenging issues and high profile wins like Costa awards, prove it doesn't do so at the cost of entertainment to both the Children's and Adult markets in fact its increase the genres reach. Hardinge says “The crossover market has definitely expanded. I'm very happy to see more and more adults openly reading children's and YA literature. It's always good to see people overcoming preconceptions and discovering whole new worlds of enjoyable and rewarding books. For one thing, it's very liberating. Adult genres can be a little ghetto-ised. When writing for younger readers, you can get away with a lot more genre-crunching and experimentation. It would make me very happy if my win led to the wide range of excellent children's and YA literature out there receiving more attention, sales and critical acclaim. I would have been delighted to see any children's book win the Book of Year for exactly this reason.”

 But would Hardinge like to visit the worlds of her books to jump back a few hundred years? “No, not really.” she says, “I create settings that are rich, surprising, macabre, comical or implausible, because the world I experience is rather a lot like that. I suppose we all live in a reality shaped by our own perspective and choices. Talk to enough people, follow enough impulses, seize enough chances and nothing is boring. The past is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.” adding, “I'm rather too fond of certain modern luxuries, like penicillin and the vote.”

 The author is hoping to visit New Zealand again soon, having already spent time over here. “New Zealand is one of the friendliest places I've ever visited, and you do have the most amazing volcanoes and geothermal areas. I'm somewhat addicted to volcanoes…” In the meantime she is already working on her eighth novel - a YA book for Publisher Macmillan, set during the early English Civil War.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The students of Netraheen Vikas Sansthan school for the blind

Founded in 1977 Netraheen Vikas Sansthan school has been working for the rehabilitation and education of blind students for the last 35 years in Suncity, Jodhpur. All the teachers many of whom are even blind also are well trained and highly qualified. Providing free education with board for blind children from all over northern India. Outside if the usual academia the school syllabus is structured to give a practical step up in life, lessons include trades and life skills. Home Science, regular cooking & hobby classes are conducted for blind girls and boys to make them self dependant Both male and female students are taught practical skills that can provide an income. These skills include the canning of chairs, weaving & spinning of bed sheets & towels on handloom machines. The students are paid stipend for these activities under Learn and Earn programme. This is combined with modern educational subjects including computer studies and languages provided the students, many of whom from impoverished backgrounds with an advantage in life otherwise unavailable to them and their families.

I've never been sure about sharing this work but over time I felt it was wrong not too.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

5 tips on planning a travel photography trip

After the success of my blog on the Travel gear I use, I thought it would be useful to give my top tips on getting everything right for a travel photography trip.  Like most things in life it requires a sizeable amount of planning. Here are my 5 key areas to consider to help you get everything right for your trip.
  1. What images do I need? 

  2. With travel photography its important to consider what the images will be used for? What will make them sellable? To capture something different should be your goal, an angle that will catch an editor or a stock buyer's eye. Ask yourself questions; Would this composition work better taken with a fisheye? Can I get higher to get a better, or more original view of the subject? Look at the great images of your destination already on the market and think about what you can add. By all means get 'the shot' that everyone gets too but thinking outside the box may help you get an image that is a bit special.


  3. Technical support.

  4. Technical failures happen, its just an unfortunate fact of life with photography so its important to have some support in place. Memory cards can fail, get lost or get stolen. As a starting point a tough case to protect them and keep them in one place is a good idea. Given how cheap they are now, its quite cost effective to take enough with you as actual image storage depending on the length of your trip (and how snap happy you are!). Remember to be brutal when editing your shots in camera. Theres not point in keeping poor shots or endless doubles they just take up space on your cards. If your trip is longer or you need to get images back home for deadlines, you should consider taking a laptop. Get into the practice of backing your files up and consider separating your cards and laptop in your luggage so if there are any accidents, theft or other disasters you'll still have some of your images safe. Also its worth hanging on to the cards that do fail as you'll be surprised what you can recover with data recovery software, with a bit of luck you'll get your photos back.

  5. Photography is an exchange.

  6. Getting great travel shots is not just about taking a flight to an exotic location, its about getting involved in local life and interacting with people, forming bonds and having enough communication skills to transcend language barriers.  So have a cup of Chai or a bit o food with someone, accept hospitality and go with the flow a bit. Sometimes your subjects may ask for money or for a copy of your photo. Its important to remember that you are taking something so its fair to give something back in return. If people offer to show you around its reasonable to pay them for their time. You'll get access to places you previously might not have and perhaps get a special image (see point 1!). In short give a little to get something back. I bring a selection of small prints to give to people and you can always get shots printed and send them to your photo subjects.


  7. There's an App for that.

  8. Smartphones are wonderful things (apart from the massive privacy issues...) and a great tool for photographers. There are a number of great apps I use that make a big difference to any work.  
    Easy release  - for model releases on the go.
    Long Exposure Calculator - to cut down on time faffing on getting the right exposure time. Calculate it first.
    Full Moon - To track the stages of the moon.
    Luna Solaria - To track the position of the sun and moon.
    Booking.com - For accommodation deals.
    BBC Weather - To check the forecast of your location days in advance.
    TripAdvisor - to ensure you avoid the lousy hotels / restaurants.
    The Photographer's Ephemeris - Plan the position of the Moon and Sun.
    Tinder - just kidding...


  9. Security.

  10. Carting several thousand pounds of gear around can make you a target for crime. While there are always risks, there are a few things you can do to make yourself less of a target and keep you and your gear safe:
    Hide your camera model number some black duct tape, particularly if your camera body is high value. Use a security belt with a hidden pouch for emergency money. Eagle Creek do a great one. I've added some small discrete modifications to camera bags in the past that have made them more secure against opportunist crime. I added brass eyelets that allowed me to lock zip pulls shut and give me a secure point to lock my security cable to. Of course this will do little to stop persistent thieves  but if it can put off an opportunistic one its well worth it. Finally it's important to insure your gear. Keep hard copies of your paper work and back ups in the cloud / Google Drive. One final travel tip that will help you stay secure is to always get a hotel card with their address and number on it, so when you get lost you've got some way of finding your way home.

With this preparation in place you've done the hard yards to ensure your trip will be successful and you can concentrate on get yourself great images. With regards as to what kit to take check out my blog on the Travel gear I take on trips.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Street photography video for Wex

A little video I did with Wex Photography on the lenses I use for my Street and Travel work. In short 35m and 50mm primes and a 24-70mm 2.8 mini zoom. If you fancy some glass Wex recommend, check out this page.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Gear Warrior 32 bag review

A little review video on the Gear Warrior 32 bag given to me by the folks are Eagle Creek. Its a bit of a beast so will coming with me on my next jaunt. Speaking of which I'm running two workshops in Delhi later this year if you want to know more, check out the details here.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Rufa'i Sufis of Kosovo documentary film.

Yet another project thats been hanging around for an age. I'd been meaning to edit the footage I shot in Kosovo last March while on assignment for Geographical Magazine and now in February this year I've finally completed it. A poor showing on my part but I'm still pretty proud of the final product. Thanks again to Chris Fitch of Geographical for his great audio editing work.

"The 22nd of March marks a special day in the year for Shejh Adrihusein Shehu and his sons. They will celebrate the Sufi ritual 'Ijra’ during which Shejh Adrihusein Shehu will pierce the cheeks of his sons and followers. The Shejh and his family are Rufa’i Sufis and on this day they celebrate Sultan Nevrus, according to the old Persian calendar, the first day of the year and regarded as the start of Spring. They culminate in a ritual called 'Ijra’ in which Shejh Adrihusein Shehu pierces the cheeks of his sons and some of his followers with long needles called ‘Zarfs’. Devotees chant the Zikr - a devotional mantra-like repetition of verses from the Quran. I met Shejh Adrihusein Shehu at his Tekke (Sufi gathering place) where he talked to me about Sufism. ‘Most people are here, on the surface of the ocean,’ he began, with his hand gestured horizontally in the air. 'But Sufis, Sufis go deep, go under,’ and he swept his hand down in a diving arc. His eldest son Sejjid Rina Shehu took me on a tour of the Tekke. In the centre of the wall was a semi-circular enclave called a Mihrab. It was bathed in green light and housed many Zarfs, ranging in size from the small for the boys to the large and heavy for the men. Sejjid is 25 and was first pierced when he was five years old. His brother Xhihan is 19 and experienced his first piercing at seven, and Emir the youngest of the three at 12 began his piercings at six. Sejjid explained what he took from the practice of Zikr: how it made him content and happy. He radiated a sense of calm as he talked. The piercing he explained, wasn’t the focus of the day, it was only part of the ceremony. The focus was the Zikr, the devotion to God. The Tekke is full to capacity the day of the piercing. The floor is filled with kneeling Sufi devotees, both men and boys dressed in white and black robes and felt Fez. For several hours the Sufi’s sing and chant, the songs building up into a guttural, repetitive and immersive crescendo. The day reaches its zenith and Emir, the Shejh’s youngest son stands before him stoically as the chanting Shejh passes a small Zarf through his cheek. Emir does not react and retakes his place in the core of the circle of swaying Sufi’s while several boys wait their turn. Men stand forth who wish to be pierced, including Sejjid, his father presses his fingers on the outside of his son’s cheek and presses the point of the zarf through the flesh in a well practiced movement. The pierced Sufis do not bleed as they sway back and forth holding the large bulb of the zarf in their left hands. The only blood appearing was a small trickle after the zarf was removed. The Shejh promotes a message of religious peace stating ‘We all believers in the same God, but take different paths.' The tradition is a responsibility and inheritance running through the generations of the family of Shejh Adrihusejn and at its core a mysticism and belief in the divine that is at once compelling and beautiful."

Photography and editing by Darragh Mason Field
Audio editing and interview by Chris Fitch

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Travel and Street Photography India workshops October - November 2016.

WORKSHOP DESCRIPTION: Dehli, October 2016, 4 days 1st -4th

5 Places available
Over the four days you will be working with me, as we visit the architectural wonders of this stunning city and explore the warrens of Old Delhi, the Red fort, Jama Masjid and  Chandni Chowk. Not to mention lunch at the famous Karims. 
I am an award winning travel and street photographer and while shooting with me you will have a chance to learn new techniques and tricks. Focus will be on developing and practising “social skills” photography, which isn't about hiding behind the lens but instead using it as a tool to interact with people, a tool that transcends language. In the evening you will edit and discuss your photos in the group with me. There will also be the opportunity to learn photo editing skills, both in the technical and creative sense.
My Delhi photographs have been featured in Digital Photographer magazine,  Digital Camera and national papers.
Above all I promise you a very memorable adventure in which you'll improve your photography skills and have a lot of fun doing it. 
  • Each workshop is limited to 5 participants.
  • Cost per person for all tuition is €350. This does not include travel, accommodation, entry into sites or food.
  • You should own a DSLR and a laptop with appropriate software to view and edit files.
  • Dedicated one on one tuition during the trip.
  • Expert critique of images.
  • Expert post processing guidance.
  • All transport covered during workshop covered
  • Lunch and soft drinks provided
  • A list of recommend hotels will be supplied on booking.
  • An itinerary for the four days will be provided.
  • We will get a lot of walking in so be sure to bring comfortable clothes and footwear.
  • Deposit is €80 to book your place with the balance to be paid before arrival.
If you want to book on a trip then get in touch and get ready for your adventure! darragh.field@gmail.com





Monday, February 1, 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Croagh Patrick chapel.

The Chapel #2

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Review of new Eagle Gear.

Very proud to announce Eagle Creek's equipment sponsorship of my travel and expedition work. Massive thanks to Eagle Creek Gear & Proagencies. Your support It'll be a huge help with 2016's adventures. I can't tell you how happy I am with this gear. I've listed it below so you can pick some up yourself.
  • Specter E-Cube Medium and Large 
  • All terrain money belt 
  • Etools Organiser Pro 
  • Compressor Cube

Monday, January 18, 2016

New sponsor, Eagle Creek!

Very proud to announce Eagle Creek's equipment sponsorship of my travel and expedition work. Massive thanks to Eagle Creek Gear & Proagencies. Your support It'll be a huge help with 2016's adventures. I can't tell you how happy I am with this gear. I've listed it below so you can pick some up yourself.
  • Gear Warrior 32
  • All terrain money belt - this has a plastic clips so no taking it off at airport security
  • Specter E-Cube Medium and Large
  • Etools Organiser Pro
  • Compressor Cube
Eagle Creek 2016

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Aurora

The journey of Aurora, Goddess of the dawn as she travels through the night to be reborn at first light.

Aurora from Darragh Mason Field on Vimeo.

Finally finished this film, its taken two months of waiting for the right conditions to shoot, about 40 hours of shooting and 100 hours of processing and editing. It was a lot of fun to shoot and good to get back to using manual focus and range finders. If you have't done a time-lapse project go out and give it a try, the results are great and it will help hone your camera skills.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

First post of 2016

Happy new year everyone! I hope you had a great Christmas holiday and spent some quality time with those you love. The weather in Ireland was record breaking rainfall which meant I did next to no decent photographic work. I had planned on taking some shots of the amazing landscapes that Mayo offers but all to no avail. That was put to bed by the worse December rainfall on record. So I give you a simple shots of the Kielty brothers whom I photographed 6 years ago as part of my 'This is where we meet' project on pensioners in Ireland. Pension day, Guirys, Foxford, Ireland The original series is here

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Shooting a simple video for youtube.

A little video I shot of my Dad working on Jewellery in his workshop. I'm lucky that I have access to a location that has lots of rich textures and details in specialist tools not to mention a Master Goldsmith! This is a very simple project and for the photographer moving into video its useful to get as much practice as possible. This was shot for Youtube as an instruction video. I used:
  1. Nikon 610
  2. Tamron 24-70 f2.8
  3. Tripod and ball head (it's better to use a slick head)
  4. Sennheiser directional mic
  5.  iMovie (this is a quick edit so nothing fancy is required)

When shooting use live mode and do a few test clips to make sure you're happy with the results. Make sure you have a the key area of the action is in focus (zoom in an manually focus). You'll need to stop and refocus here and there during the shoot to get it right. Remember you're not doing this in one take so do it as many takes as you need. There's a nice level guide in the live view on most modern DSLRs that will help filming and help you keep things level. Its particularly useful when shooting hand held.

Just use the timeline interface to drop your videos in sequence and crop them where necessary by dragging the ends of the videos in to the desired footage. You can drop transitions and titles in using the simple templates and you're away. Practicing with these simple projects will give you a simple grounding that will give results before you move up to something more complicated like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere.

iMovie also has generic video compression built in for the leading online platforms which will makes things far easier then trying to figure out the nuances of video compression yourself (for the record use H264)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Still from a short film I'm making

Just a simple still from this project I'm working on. It will be about 1'.30"- 45" long and has taken me about 15 hours to shoot so far. I expect about 10 more hours shooting I should have a draft ready to polish.

Still from a short film I'm making.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Ottery St Marys 2015


Ottery St Marys 2015 from Darragh Mason Field.
The Tar Barrel runs are held in Ottery St Mary's, Devon, England. A tradition built around the November the 5th bonfire night celebrations. Only people from the town can run the barrels. They run in teams carrying the huge barrels through the crowded narrow streets as people jump out of the way! I really enjoyed the event, it was wild and had the perfect balance of fun and danger. It will form part of my 'British' series, which will compile my shots from festivals and events from around the country that are quintessentially British.
Further to that one of my shots from the night ran in the Telegraph.
The final essay can be seen here.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Liz Allen portrait

Liz Allen

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The aperture of home

The beautiful eye of a Cob house in Totnes, Devon. Taken from a long term project I'm doing on those that live free, that live outside the social grids. I'm hugely drawn to this way of life and I hope someday to live it in someway.

The aperture of home

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Milky Way rising

During my 15 peak challenge weekend in Wales we had the good fortune to have perfect conditions for a bit of Astro photography. The pristine, light pollution free skies of Snowdonia provided the perfect opportunity to get a bit of practice in. In the photo below, the Milky way can be seen rising over the horizon. I plan to do some more Astro work as its quite satisfying with almost guaranteed dramatic results, once done correctly of course! I'm primarily a doc and travel tog so landscapes and astro shots are not my forté but luckily for me I was with adventure and landscape tog David Tidman and after some good pointers from him on getting my focus range right, I was away. The biggest issue I had was using the live view on my camera and it not being sensitive enough to pick up starlight to focus on. I had to work around it and got some results but overall I'd like to find someway to boost the video gain in live view so if you have any tips... drop me a mail.
Milkyway rising

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Ursa Major over Tryfan

Ursa Major over Tryfan, to the left and right of the mountains silhouette are the dotted paths of tumbling satellites, illuminated as they catch they reflect the suns light as they turn.

The Plough over Tryfan