Experience the Pink Hour with Tom Vooght

Sky fire cr Tom Vooght

Sky fire © Tom Vooght

I visited Tom Vooght’s ‘Wild Wonders of Norway’ exhibition when he brought it to the Centrespace Gallery, Bristol, in May. Tom’s been on my periphery for many years – our dads both studied Theology at Oxford, and while my dad went on to become a social worker as Tom’s dad ascended through the church, they’ve remained close friend. Our mums are creative forces in their own rights, and, along with our dads, have instilled in each of us a passion for the world’s wild places.

I was blown away by the splendour of Tom’s Norway photographs, collected over a series of years. But before asking about these, I wanted to know what got him started along the route to becoming a photographer.

Wasp cr Tom Vooght

Wasp © Tom Vooght

“When I was a child, both my parents worked full time, so I used to get farmed out to one of three older ladies, who looked after me,” Tom says. “All three, Dawsie, Jummy (Jilly Jennings) and Beatrice, have had a significant influence upon my life’s passions. Dawsie (Mrs Dawson) introduced me to photography, wildlife, and cooking. I used to love going to her house, as I would always learn something new. She’d lived in Kenya for most of her life, and had the most amazing pictures, and photographs, of African fauna. I learnt a lot.”

He adds: “Beatrice was 6ft tall, with short hair, and a glass eye. She had been an architect, and was a keen gardener with the best water garden I’ve ever had the pleasure of being in. She fostered creativity, and told me great stories of how, she had visited Mexico on her own in the 1930s, which would have been a brave move for a young man at that time, but unheard of for a woman then. She had cut her hair short, and as she was tall, had worn bandages to change her figure.”

Last, but by no means least, he says, was Jummy. “Jummy had grandchildren about my age, so when they were staying, I would go and stay too, even though she was our next door neighbour. We used to play in Box Woods (between Minchinhampton and Nailsworth), and have fun.”

When Tom was eight or nine years old, his parents gave him their old Kodak Instamatic camera, “a good 35mm film camera to learn on.” From then, Tom’s had a variety of different cameras, and has always taken photographs throughout a 20-year career in telecoms.

Stourhead cr Tom Vooght

Stourhead © Tom Vooght

About five years ago, Tom decided to make the move from keen amateur to pro. “I’d managed to get better shots than several pro photographers at weddings, and had lots of encouragement from friends. So I tried it.” At the end of 2014, Tom felt ready to go full time. “I ditched telecoms in favour of a better, if somewhat financially poorer, life.”

Tom has an enduring fascination with Norway’s dramatic vistas, its culture and its people. “Northern Norway has so much to offer – it’s not just fjords, and aurora,” The people are warm, friendly, and helpful. The air is crystal clear, light pollution is minimal, and the colours of the skies, day and night, are phenomenal.”

Tromsdalen night cr Tom Vooght

Tromsdalen night © Tom Vooght

He’s so keen on the Arctic that he’s also set up travel company Phor to arrange for you to go there too, either on holiday, or a photography trip with tuition, along with insights on the best places.

Tom’s first trip to Norway was the opportunity to visit a country “which I had dreamt of as a child fed on Norse and Viking myths and legends.”

Rosatimen cr Tom Vooght

Rosatimen © Tom Vooght

Among Tom’s images are several that capture the Norwegian pink hour.

“They call it Rosatimen,” he says. “The closer you get to the poles, the shallower the angle of the sun is, so the light in the Arctic will have always travelled through more of the earth’s atmosphere than light seen closer to the equator. As light travels through the atmosphere, more of the blue, and green, wavelengths are scattered. This leaves more red. When the days are relatively short, the sunset is really stretched into hours. Rosatimen starts as the sun has almost set, and will last until blåtimen (the blue time) begins and it gradually gets dark.”

Blatimen cr Tom Vooght

Blatimen © Tom Vooght

How’s that for poetic?

Tom explains that he carries out much of his work in an effort “to remove an image from my imagination. Some images are the result of having dreams, and wanting to realise the shots. Once taken, I can start to work out how to do the next one. Other shots are of landscapes which I want other people to see how I saw them. This isn’t always what my eyes are telling me, but what my brain suggests could be possible. It’s quite hard to explain!” He adds: “I also like to document as an impartial onlooker, be that people, or wildlife. Then the last factor is when I have to take shots to record my arty moments.”

Find more of Tom’s work at any of the following: facebook.com/TMVmedia,
Instagram.com/TMVmediaTwitter.com/TMVmedia and www.tmvmedia.com.

Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Give me a shout at judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Writing prompt – shelter

Triennale Brugge by Tadashi Kawamata photo cr Peter De Bruyne

photo credit Peter De Bruyne

I have something of a passion for treehouses. These particular examples are ‘tree huts’  created by Tadashi Kawabata as part of an outdoor art exhibition called Triennale Brugge. I love the way they look like garden sheds suspended above the city.

There are so many story possibilities for this scene. Who might live in them? Why do they need to be so far off the ground? Or might they actually have been built for some other purpose entirely?

If you create something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. With your permission, I’d love to share it on SkyLightRain.com.

New Visions V at the Grant Bradley Gallery

Collection by Amy VansThe Grant Bradley Gallery in Bristol is currently hosting their annual open exhibition – New Visions V. It’s one of my favourite exhibitions of theirs, featuring an eclectic array of artwork from a wonderful variety of artists. This years offerings include Collection by SkyLightRain favourite Amy Vans, pictured at the top of this post.

The exhibition is on until 1st August 2015 – do go along if you have a chance.

Be inspired in Manchester

Bjork Copyright Inez and Vinoodh 2015

Bjork © Inez and Vinoodh 2015

Manchester International Festival returns from Thursday 2nd to Sunday 19th July, with a programme of dazzling world premieres, unique concerts and one-off events, including a scattering of free events across the city.

It’s the festival’s tenth birthday, so expect some jaw-dropping and inspirational acts, including theatre commissions such as Neck of the Woods, a collaboration between Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon, novelist and playwright Veronica Gonzalez Peña, pianist Hélène Grimaud and actress Charlotte Rampling. The show’s been described as “a portrait of the wolf brought to life in a startling collision of visual art, music and theatre.” Sounds spectacular!

Neck of the Woods image credit Douglas Gordon

Neck of the Woods © Douglas Gordon

You’ll also have a chance to take a surreal culinary journey to mark the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, with High Tea In Wonderland by chef Mary Ellen McTague. The event takes place at a part of Manchester Museum not usually open to the public, and Mary Ellen says “even that space will be transformed and will allow us to take our participants on a journey through Alice’s wonderland via the flavours, aromas, sights and sounds of the experience.”

High Tea In Wonderland - Mary Ellen McTague and friends Photography by The Mancorialist and Hemisphere

High Tea In Wonderland © The Mancorialist and Hemisphere

Oh, and queen surrealist Bjork will also be dropping by to perform a special one-off gig at Manchester’s Castlefield Arena.

And those are just a few of the highlights.

Discover more events and book tickets at www.mif.co.uk. And if you attend any of the happenings, do let me know! I’d love to publish your festival review on SkyLightRain.com. Just email me at judy(at)socketcreative.com.

National Flash Fiction Day celebrations

Flash Fiction Day booksThis year National Flash Fiction Day falls on 27th June, with events unfurling across the UK to celebrate and share creative writing’s shortest form.

“It is with words as with sunbeams—the more they are condensed the deeper they burn.” Robert Southey.

Over the years, Bristol has become the hub for National Flash Fiction Day, and will kick off with free flash fiction workshop sessions at the Central Library. The workshops will take place from 1.30-4.30pm, led by NFFD director Calum Kerr and prize-winning author KM Elkes.

From 6pm, head over to Foyles Bookstore Bristol for An Evening of Flash Fiction I’ll be sharing a couple of stories at this free event, along with some serious writing talents, including KM Elkes, Zoe Gilbert, Kevlin Henney, Sarah Hilary, Susan Howe, Calum Kerr, Adam Marek, Freya Morris, Grace Palmer, Jonathan Pinnock, Jane Roberts and Diane Simmons.

It’s a free evening of literary entertainment, so please do come along!

Wild art on the island of Anglesey

Anthony Garratt painting at Brynsiencyn cr Richard Broomhall

Anthony Garratt painting at Brynsiencyn cr Richard Broomhall

I love encountering outdoor art, particularly when those artworks join forces with their setting to enhance an area’s existing beauty. Done well, it has the power to engage people with nature and art in a way that’s really exciting.

With this goal, landscape artist Anthony Garratt has created four spectacular al fresco paintings on Anglesey, painting them at the locations where they’re now displayed, on the north, south, east and west of the isle. Each artwork takes in a different iconic view: Caernarfon, Snowdonia, the Great Orme, the Lleyn Peninsula and the Irish Sea.

Anthony Garratt painting at Lligwy cr Richard Broomhall

The four 2.5-metre acrylic and oil canvasses have been hoisted onto bespoke steel structures to be enjoyed in the spaces they were inspired by and where they were painted. I think they’re amazing – really dramatic. I love the way they reflect and interact with the scenery.

Anthony Garratt painting at Lligwy cr Richard Broomhall1

“This is a hugely exciting project,” says Anthony. “The fact that the paintings are at the mercy of the ever-changing light and weather adds a whole extra dimension both to the painting process as well as to the experience of the viewer. Sitting under the watchful eye of Snowdonia, Anglesey is an amazing landscape to contemplate.”

Anthony Garratt painting at Rhoscolyn cr Richard Broomhall

The project has been commission by Anglesey resident, Bun Matthews, owner of Menai Holiday Cottages. The outdoor art exhibition of ‘Four on Anglesey’ will remain in situ until October 2015. Do go along if you can, and if you do, let me know what you think.

Writing prompt – ribbons

Ribbons cr Judy DarleySometimes I’ll happen across something entirely unexpected and delightful, such as this tree hung with vivid ribbons of cloth.

I’ve no idea what prompted someone, or perhaps a group of someones, to adorn a patch of woodland in this way. The fact the ribbons themselves seem torn from vibrant, possibly hand-dyed, fabric is even more intriguing. What ritual was carried out here? What do the ribbons symbolise? Whose garment was shredded, and why? Did they have to run home naked?

Write a story from this, and send it my way!

If you turn this into a short story, or know the real answers to these questions, I’d love to know. Just send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. You could see your words published on SkyLightRain.com.

Book review – Meridian by David Rose

Meridian by David RosePart novel, part interlinked short story collection, this immersive tale takes you into a world of people each deeply absorbed in their own lives. Whether it’s the architect seeing the beauty in the world around him, or the man building a wine rack and obsessing over a misadventure on a quiz show, each character is focused on their activities in a way that can’t help but draw you in.

Objects hold an emotive significance that becomes almost sensual – for the woman bidding at an auction items conjure up a nostalgia in which jam-making “means freedom, expansion of the soul. The clatter of copper pans in her grandmother’s kitchen was the comfort-zone of solitude”.

For me this is the sense the book as a whole offers up – a gaze at life’s minutiae that’s both intensely personal and dizzyingly universal. Often this is simply about our own sentiment and connections, but many ring out, following the protagonists’ rambling thoughts to uncover some wise observation or intriguing information. For example, a section about a remembered pair of binoculars becomes a wonderment over the aftermath of World War II “the returnees, the expulsions, the Displaced Persons housed in barracks, prisons, derelict halls”, finishing the paragraph with the simple, vivid sentence, “Life, he found, was a constant rippling out.” Continue reading