I like to say that I am the Head Pixie and Pixel Pusher at Pixielated Pixels which is the name of my rather eclectic photography website. I'm from Brighton, by the sea. The UK born and bred and still an Englishman at heart. However, I have been New York City-based for longer than I care to remember! In Brighton, when I was a child, there was a small museum/art gallery in town that was free to visit and in that museum were galleries of paintings that included a whole room full of work by several surrealists including many works by Rene Magritte. These attracted me and I would often go there to gaze at the peculiar art and I think that that started the whole thing off for me. There were also other rooms full of various skeletons and taxidermy animals. And a room full of art-deco furniture which contained some things designed by Salvador Dali. All of these curiously strange things fascinated me and influenced the things I am drawn to even today. I do like to flirt a little with the dark side!
At around 13 years of age I borrowed an old 1940s bellows-type Kodak camera, that my mother owned, and took it off to Italy on a school trip. It was a decades-old, vintage device, even then but shooting in black and white at places like Pompeii with this clunky 12 shot 120 roll film camera got me hooked on photography for life.
In the early 1980s, having finally upgraded to Nikon SLR Cameras, I created a darkroom in the middle of my apartment, which was a damn nuisance but I made it work giving up on an entire dining area and draping it in blackout fabric. However, even though I produced a bunch of decent looking “Cibachromes,” pouring evil-smelling chemicals in and out of containers and waiting for that timer to buzz in the dark was not my idea of fun. A few years later I got married again and had to remove the darkroom and sell off the equipment for the sake of domestic peace. Just before that in 1986, I discovered the Amiga Computer and bought one on the first day they were available in New York City.
Around the time that I had to get rid of my darkroom, I discovered that I could actually digitize my slides using a black and white closed-circuit TV camera. It involved making three exposures through the red, green and blue filters of a motorized color wheel and software could put these monochrome pictures back together and combine them to create a color picture. I was then able to view this image on the screen and manipulate it to some degree. I had discovered heaven. Before digital and for as long as I could remember I had been shooting slides and every time the boxes arrived in the mail I would rush to open them and take a look. It was always the same, I would pick up slide after slide and just go meh! Disappointment always sets in. The images that the camera had taken never matched what my mind had imagined I had seen. Now being able to manipulate an image, I could finally create the images that I had in my head. Perhaps a trifle over the top for the purist photographers among us especially back in the day, never-the-less these new style images made me a very happy shooter.
After a few years working with “The Art Department” an early software program on the Amiga my passion finally morphed around 1994 into a love of working in Adobe Photoshop (just version 3 at the time) on the PC. At first, I played with the built-in filters and created images that although different were not particularly creative or good. But I progressed and at some point, I attended a few one-day seminars put on by Scott Kelby’s N.A.P.P. which came to town twice a year. Watching “The Photoshop Guys,” who were expert teachers, demonstrate this complex software, live right in front of me, allowed me to grasp concepts and methods for doing many things in Photoshop that I hadn’t yet realized were possible and my skills grew so that I could create freely and do so in an even more powerful way. Eventually, the software began to become intuitive and I could think about what I wanted to do rather than how to do it. I could work towards a pre-visioned idea rather than fooling around to see what happened and accepting the result when something good finally happened. Now I often have the final image in my mind when I click the shutter on the camera.
Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are now my staple workflow programs and I use parts of several “plug-in” bundles from onOne, Topaz and Google’s NIK collection. When using these time savers I avoid the “presets” and tend to use a little bit of one and a bit of another, then perhaps a touch of yet another, just as I did with recipes when I was a chef. I’m quite happy to distort pixels, stretch images, remove parts of an image, add parts from another image, replace or overlay skies, add textures and grunge and generally annoy the hell out of the purists. Reality is rather overrated has become my mantra! Many people who saw my images, as I progressed, told me that I should do something with my work but due to the pressures of a frenzied and stressful career as a chef and food service operations director, I found very little time to devote to my hobby.
Once digital became “a thing” I had quickly moved to digital camera shooting starting with a tiny three-megapixel Nikon Coolpix. At some point, I had grown weary of carrying the Nikons with several lenses and had moved back to simple all-in-one cameras. After a couple of other point and shoot type cameras I realized that these cameras couldn’t perform well enough to allow me to catch all the shots I wanted so I eventually upgraded to an SLR buying a Canon 5D when that camera became available and, later, upgrading that to a Mark II. In another unsuccessful move to lower the weight I carry I now use two Sony full-frame, thirty-six and forty-two megapixels, mirrorless cameras, a wide zoom on one and a tele-zoom on the other. (Oh, and a Canon fifty megapixel camera with 150-600mm lens for airshows). As of the end of 2019, I have now sold all of those cameras and use two 61-megapixel Sony A7r Mark IVs. I am very happy with them. Back in the day, before the world wide web, I learned as much as I could about computers and photography by using old-time text services such as Compuserve and People-Link, connecting with a telephone modem in the days that getting a simple network to actually work was as much pure magic as technology. I spent ages reading and asking questions on internet bulletin boards, now known as forums, It was always cheaper to fix something yourself rather than lug your machines into a shop somewhere and usually find that the employee knew less than you about what needed to be fixed. I still research every new purchase carefully. Being a bit of a geek, I always build my own computers and recently built my latest workstation from scratch, a dual (ten-core) Xeon, 64 gig RAM, powered computer. This machine boots from a tiny solid-state drive fitted into a slot built right into the actual motherboard. It includes a huge amount of hard drive space including four SSDs in striped RAID that act as a temp folder for Photoshop, and provide a cache for Bridge (always open on my third monitor so I can pull textures and skies, etc. right into my open image in Photoshop) and Lightroom. It truly helps to speed up these programs and makes being creative easier when the software gets out of your way. I remember all too well the days when you waited minutes for a screen redraw after making even a tiny change to an image. I edit on a 27” Cintiq pen tablet/monitor with two 34” widescreen Dell monitors above it on a sit/stand desk so I can work longer without back problems. Not ever wanting to have that sinking feeling when you know you have lost files I backup my work to an eight (six terabyte each) drive Synology Diskstation server with a two-drive failsafe.
I have always shot a varied and eclectic bunch of subjects. Various places or things that the universe kindly presents to me and that I can get to in the course of life without spending a ton of money on trips abroad to exotic locales, which, of course, I would love to do like anyone else but can, unfortunately, hardly afford. Meanwhile, I'm constantly on the lookout for new material for my pictures and I'll point the camera at anything that interests me. Naturally, New York City, where I live provides the bulk of my subject matter with its many skylines, boroughs, parks, gardens, zoos, and parades. Brighton (my hometown that I visit every year to see family) gets it’s fair share of attention, of course, and airshows have also become a much-loved provider of fun and subject matter these past 6 years. I love to get out into the countryside, parks and gardens, both in England and in the States to catch the beauty of the four seasons and nature. I take every opportunity offered to get out of the city and go off on a road trip to anywhere! This year I began to lead photo-walks in the New York City area after having been asked to become an organizer for one of New York’s biggest (over 4000 members) photographic meetup groups, The NYC Photographers. Shooting with groups is great for inspiration and visiting areas one might not visit alone.
The need to create (oh, if only I could paint!) was always part of my life but it was not until I retired from the working world eight years ago that I finally have had the time to fully pursue my bliss. Since then, I have been able to spend almost all of my waking life shooting or editing or spending time online posting photographic artworks. I consider myself very lucky as my images do sell on several art sites and I’m able to make a bit of extra cash to supplement my pension and help pay for the toys I need to create in the modern-day.
So Pixielated Pixels! Why Pixies? Well I grew up in England and, when you are in the English countryside, there is almost always two or three Pixies hiding just outside of your peripheral vision! You can sense them even if you can't quite see them and you can be sure they are dreaming up some kind of gentle mischief! There is also an expression in parts of England to describe someone who seems in touch with different realities or perhaps just a little eccentric as being "off with the Pixies" or simply pixielated! I rather like that so maybe I'm "off with the Pixies" So, what's a Pixie anyway you ask? Wikipedia has an article on that at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixie. My mother's family came from the west country and somebody in that wiki suggests that Pixie females mated with humans so who knows maybe there is a little Pixie blood running in my veins as I like so much to introduce a little "gentle mischief" into my images whenever I can!
So now that I am retired and living the life of a starving artist I hope some kind folks will buy some of my pictures so that I can afford to keep up and follow my bliss into my old age. My images do look even better when framed and hanging on a wall!