Category Archives: Blog Notes

A blog about Stuart Coleman’s professional and personal photography.

Travel photography: India

201302_india-546Travel photographs from India


Tour of Northern India from Mumbai to Calcutta

They describe India as ‘incredible’. I was told it would be a country of unbelievable extremes and to expect a new tableau  at every turn. It was all this and more…much more. Wherever your photographic interests lie, India is a photographer’s paradise.

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Variety….the spice of life

I’ve finally accepted that I suffer from a serious addiction to variety. It’s been leading me into adventure and trouble all my life. Those around me are often dismayed, surprised and troubled by my actions but, for all that, life is and has been full, fast and complete.

Since the start of the year I have; had my work accepted at the Royal Academy, been commissioned to photograph people, actors, bands, dogs, landscapes, wildlife, riots, weddings, celebrities, cars and politicians. So when somebody says, ’What do you specialise in?’ I can only answer photography.

It’s a passion that drives me forward with purpose. Earlier this week I got a phone call from a local journalist asking me if I wanted to cover his interview with the head of Alcatel-Lucent in Westminster. It didn’t need much thinking about especially when he informed me it was all expenses paid. Not knowing what tomorrow holds makes life unpredictable and exciting.

So, is an addiction to variety something I’m worried about? No not really… is too short, I’m going to continue to a enjoy it all.

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If you go down to the woods…….

We have been looking to organise a camping trip to Northern Canada for many years but have never managed it, so when Charlotte said she wanted to do something really special and different it was the obvious choice.  Planning a trip these days with modern airline restrictions is always fraught with problems especially when trying to squeeze camping gear and camera equipment into their luggage allowance but with a little creative packing and ingenuity anything is possible.

With all our luggage in one piece and safely stored in the back of our hire car we left Calgary and started our journey north. The plan was to follow the Trans Canadian Highway from Banff to Whitehorse then continue on to Dawson City and the Yukon, camping enroute. To see photos from the trip click here.

In a country as vast as Canada its reasonable to expect that wildlife will avoid coming close to people so if we wanted to see anything we knew we would have to leave the car and head off into the woods. How wrong can you be! We were leaving Lake Louise, looking forward to the delights of the Icefield Parkway, when, to our utter astonishment, we found ourselves side by side with a large light brown grizzly bear, happily munching  shoots on the grassy verge. A few cars had stopped and even in this land of the bears, they were surprised by the sight. We were in a state of complete amazement and excitement. This was the first bear in the wild that Charlotte had ever seen and the realisation that there was nothing more than flowers between the bear and us was mind blowing. This fully grown female was just nonchalantly ambling along, stopping only when there was something good to eat. She seemed indifferent to the small audience she had attracted, only looking up when three motor cyclists roared past obviously disturbed by the noise – I know how she felt.

We followed slowly like a pair of kerb crawlers, watching its every move with camera clicking through the  car window. Someone had phoned the ranger and we could see a white truck blue lights approaching on the opposite side of the highway. On reaching our location the truck suddenly shot across the central reservation, performing a perfect u-turn. A large highway sign above our heads lit up with the words ” Bears in the area”. The ranger (Smith), with dark glasses, leapt out of his truck and armed with a set of wire cutters prepared to cut the fence. He was hoping to give the bear an escape route, however the grizzly had other plans. On seeing him she suddenly turned towards the immense wire barrier and forced her huge frame underneath it and quickly disappeared into the dense forest. She knew it was time to go. The ranger was relieved when we told him what had happened, a not unreasonable reaction considering he was just about to meet it head on.

Throughout our trip we had many encounters like this. The snow on the mountains has been late melting this spring forcing the bears down into the valleys. They love the lush grass at the side of the highways so are willing to expose themselves to the dangers of passing traffic to get their fill. During our trip to Dawson City Charlotte counted 38  bears, from tiny cinnamon coloured cubs to huge lone males, mostly they would be grazing, but we also observed them swimming, stalking and climbing. To see a beautiful creature living in its wild state is a wonderful and unforgettable experience. The sheer incongruity of the bear on the highway, like a jewel in the mud, will stay with me for ever. A reminder that we share our planet with species who need space just as we do. It is a joy to see them outside the confines of captivity and thriving in an environment shared with people.

Would I recommend exploring Canada with a two man tent? Absolutely, I can’t wait to go back.

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Successful BBC Newsroom Tour

by Freelancer Peter Brown

 A delegation of five CIOJ freelance members visited the BBC Television Centre in West London in early August, where they toured the studios and were given an insight into the way the corporation runs its news operation before sitting in on a live transmission.

The CIoJ Five who gathered at the BBC Centre on Wednesday 3 August were Freelance Division Treasurer Tom Caldwell, Hannah Valize, Hugh Mooney, Stuart Coleman and yours truly, following negotiations between freelance committee member Vivienne DuBourdieu and Lorraine Dance, VIP Visits Manager, BBC Tours.

Delegates were met by Adrian Lacey, himself a broadcaster and presenter, who conducted the party around, starting off by pointing out Studio One which is used for Strictly Come Dancing. After that it was a short walk into the star dressing room, the most lavish and largest in the complex.

 Insider insights

Marvellous insights into who has used the dressing room came from Lacey, who, pointing to some stalls, revealed that Sir Paul McCartney had refused to use the luxurious facility.

“Sir Paul McCartney doesn?t come in here because those stalls are real animal hide, something he has objected to,” our tour guide said.

“Those who have used it are Cilla Black, Tess Daly, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, Joan Rivers and Lionel Ritchie. “Sir Bruce Forsyth doesn?t normally use this. His is closer to the studio, nearer to the stage, so to speak, in the old theatrical tradition.”

In the walls . . ?

Soon afterwards, we found ourselves standing in the cavernous 8,000 square feet that is Studio Eight, known best for its comedy, having been the location for the making of iconic shows, such as The Two Ronnies and the Morecambe and Wise Show.

“Because of the immense history of this studio, it is famed for its comedy,” Lacey revealed. “Modern comedians like Catherine Tate insist on using this studio. It seems they really do think that some of the comedy will rub off on them from the walls.

Another show done here is Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. Other shows are of a much more serious nature, such as Crimewatch and Watchdog.”

 News from around the world

With the time ticking towards 1800 hrs, for the CIOJ party that meant the opportunity to sit in on the Six o’Clock News on BBC One but, before that, we were whisked into the frantic newsroom, which has 1800 journalists working there –not all at the same time – even though it seemed like it when our party visited.

It is here that all news is gathered for the BBC websites as well as radio and television news. It is a hive of activity where stories from around the world are tasted, and camera crews and reporters located and dispatched to the breaking news of the day. In one section staff booked lines for global feeds and transmissions.

But the big rush to beat the time was the breaking news story of phone hacking claims by Sir Paul McCartney?s ex-wife Heather Mills. Assignments editor, Claire Gibson had been brought to London from her Birmingham base to coordinate the events of this ongoing story.

This was the time that we saw the real technique of the BBC news department, working for all sections of its media.

“Newsnight found out about Heather Mills making these claims and it was a breaking news story when we decided to go for it,” Gibson told us. “We have a deadline of five pm for the national news bulletin and it?s going out on PM on Radio Four and the Six o?Clock News.”

On the way to the gallery for the Six o?Clock News, Adrian Lacey arranged for us to have a look into the studio of News 24, although our guide told me that here at the Beeb they like it to be called the BBC?s News Channel. Anyway, whatever it is called, we had the opportunity to stand on the studio floor watching Jon Sopel presenting and handing over to a sports reporter.

To the epicentre . . .

Time was not on our side and we were whisked away to another world – quite literally.

It was eight minutes to six and the barrage of screens in front of us carried live pictures from many parts of the globe. At one point, studio director Chris Cook was busy chatting to reporter John Simpson live in Cairo on the events that had been taking place in a courtroom, where Egypt?s former president Hosni Mubarak had been pushed into court to answer charges – in a hospital bed.

Meanwhile, presenter George Alagiah, OBE, was discussing the script with the production team and suggested he was not happy with the wording that said a young woman in Australia had a bomb tied around her neck. “We don?t know at this stage that it is a bomb, it may be a hoax,” he proposed. “We should say a ‘suspected bomb’.”

He won the argument.

Then it began: “Run eleven,” Cook called out. “Have John Simpson ready. John, do we have a wind-up? George asked if you were at the court, you were, weren?t you?” “Yes,” replied Simpson.

Yet after 30 minutes of mayhem in the gallery with a very calm Alagiah at the helm, it suddenly all went quiet.

The CIOJ party was then shown the actual studio, which had the Breakfast programme set in one corner and told that, originally, this very studio had been used for children?s shows including Multi Coloured Swap Shop, starring Noel Edmonds.

Even after several hours at the Television Centre in Wood Lane, watching the ten o’clock news on BBC One was a must. At least the CIOJ Five are now aware how it is all done.

Story: Peter Brown© 2011

Photos: Stuart Coleman©2011:

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200 Years and still legging it

During the weekend of the 2nd April 2011 I agreed to photograph the bicentenary of the Standedge Tunnel which links Diggle to Marsden travelling for 16,499 ft and 600 ft beneath the Pennine Moors. Dressed in period costume (not Gortex) we guided three boats, Maria, Elland and Vixen under the watchful eye of Sue Day (Chairperson of the Horseboat Society) through the tunnel. I’ve always wanted to take this trip so this for me was an opportunity not to miss and to travel in this traditional way at such a significant time just put the icing on the cake.  To see photographs of this event click here.

Nikon say the D3s copes well in low light and is well sealed against the elements. Well Nikon need to consider the Standedge Tunnel as a testing ground for their equipment. When I take photographs, I always try to remain relaxed and focused but when you introduce zero visibility, dirty hands and water pouring from above and the need to make your contribution to legging a narrowboat through three miles of little used tunnel the photography and the equipment can become slightly sidelined. Add to this the exacting demands of a narrowboat captain and their equal desire to protect their vessel from being smashed against the sides of the tunnel you have a fairly pressured scenario.

This was a fabulous experience which left me with real sense of history. Three days of hard work in cold and damp conditions ended with the sounds of the Diggle Brass Band playing Rule Brittania. I think I may have even doffed my cap to some local dignitary.

To learn more about the history of the tunnel and the canal click here.


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Live performance photography: Semolina Pilchard

Semolina and Pilchard are not a combination that usually go together but earlier this month at the Witchwood, Ashton Under-Lyne, Manchester the Beatles tribute band Semolina Pilchard performed a tasty blend of classic Beatles songs going back to 1963. They covered tracks from all the classic albums including; Please Please  Me, Sergeant Pepper and the White Album.

From the start of the gig the audience rocked and it was great to see such a mixed age group (not just first generation Beatle fans) enjoying the experience. Every live performance has its dramas and this was no exception. The lead singer Paul Brierly had lost his voice earlier in the day due to illness and was forced to find someone to cover at short notice. Paddy O’Hare, front man from the local band Fink Ployd stepped in and did a brilliant job and considering how little time he had had to prepare you wouldn’t have known he wasn’t a permanent member of this band.

Photographing the band was a pleasure. I was given free access to all areas and was made to feel welcome both on and off stage.  With the stage being fairly small and cramped it was difficult to shoot around the mike stands and speakers etc. so I had to focus mainly on close ups. It was challenging catching the significant moments with the changing light but then that’s what makes gig photography so interesting.

To see more photographs from this gig click here.



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Joining Women for Women International on the Bridge

When I was asked to go to London to photograph the ‘Join Me On The Bridge Event’ for Women for Women International marking their 100th anniversary, I jumped at the chance.

Women for Women International has a vision of a world where no one is abused, in poverty, illiterate or marginalized; where members of communities have full and equal participation in the processes that ensure their health, well-being and economic independence; and where everyone has the freedom to define the scope of their life, their future and strive to achieve their full potential.

In the UK, more than 400 events were held including the mass march across the Millennium Bridge, in London, led by the musician Annie Lennox, social activist Bianca Jagger, Helen Pankhurst and actor Cherie Lunghi. The event was marked by the release of hundreds of white ballons from the Millenium Bridge to highlight the plight of women in Afghanistan.

I was inspired and moved by the speeches at the Royal Assembly Hall and my heart went out to the 100 women who stood on a bridge for 15 minutes in Kabul in a couragous display of  defiance and solidarity. Shortly after they left the bridge two bombs exploded close by.

If you would like to read more about this event click here and for more information about Women for Women International click here. To see more images of the event click here.



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