Roaming Bath with Discover Dorset

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This Saturday past saw me roaming Bath in Somerset (and coining thinly veiled photo tagline puns that any historians worth their salts would turn their noses up at) with award winning Bournemouth based guided tour company Discover Dorset. This was my sixth and final outing of the season with them under a commission to generate marketing imagery for a series of virtual tours on their Web site. When I say final I mean specifically under this commission. I dare say I’ll be inclined to return as a passenger when my three and a half year old is better prepared for a little jaunt in a bus without a potty in tow; each time she’s seen me editing images from the latest tour outing she’s been excited to see the stripy bus and insists that she wants to go on it (in the hope of seeing Zebra). Aside from that I’ve genuinely enjoyed each outing myself and will be happy to take her out on them (though I’m more partial to Gazelle).

I’ll be back to more weddings in the coming weeks but with the intention next year of expanding my commission base to engage in documenting wedding days in Dorset and, also, elsewhere in the UK I’ve certainly picked up on some fantastic locations for shoots in other counties through joining these tours! So if you’re planning to get married in Bath, Oxford, London, Salisbury, the New Forest or anywhere else for that matter (though I don’t think Stonehenge, which was a cornerstone of one of the tours I photographed by the way, is licensed for marriage ceremonies) I’d be more than happy to talk photography :~)

In the meantime, spin over, it’s on with the trip to Bath…

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What a lovely sunny start to September it's been; compensation for a rather wet August really (though each trip I set out on with Discover Dorset during that earlier month came packaged with sunshine). I thought I'd make a mockery of my lens shade and find beauty in the back of a bus as we awaited a contingent of passengers in Westbourne. Discover Dorset collects tour passengers from pick up points that best suit its customers needs rather than obliging them to make their way to a central collection point.

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I decided to treat this outing renditionally like a Southern Californian wedding shoot. It'll make sense to someone :~) These four passengers hailed from Thailand. Before the tour had set off even, as soon as they saw the stripy bus they 'phoned a friend and insisted she must come join them. On the way back they were asking for information on other Discover Dorset tours with the intention of sampling further of their offerings. Having now covered six tours the amount of repeat custom I've witnessed has provided abundant evidence of the quality of the company's service.

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The scenery as we made our way through North West Dorset (and thereafter into Wiltshire and Somerset) made the outing worthwhile in its own right.

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Our first port of call was Bath's Royal Crescent where animated tour guide Tim explained in depth the history, heritage and architecture of what must be amongst the most beautiful housing terraces in the world. Tim is currently studying for his Blue Badge with the Guild of Registered Tourist Guides, a seriously studious long term venture that makes for the most knowledgeable and engaging practitioners in the field. His passion for the job was evident throughout the day; the commensurate tour guide.

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The umbrella certainly wasn't for warding off rain.

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I'm Spartacus!

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On to The Circus where Tim demonstrated his umbrella wielding skills (whilst pointing out some fascinating architectural details of course).

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The leaning telephone box of Bath (which I shall use to place a call to book myself onto a tagline writing course).

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Pulling focus. Having taught cinematography for a decade or so and being a lover of film in general I like to bring to bear moving image techniques wherever possible in the realm of stills photography; film after all is but a series of still moments in time played back at 24 frames per second and stills photography is the epitome of the filmic editing process, selecting those key moments that define the meaning of a shot and stimulate progression towards the next passage of the narrative. I must remember that for my next lecture on the topic! Pulling focus between two subjects is an age old cinematographic device for enunciating relationship and interaction between characters in a scene, even unspoken and physically inert connections. It's a simple technique to execute quickly with consistent framing using a stills camera. In this example I focused on Tim's face as he spoke, holding the shutter button down half way to lock focus, then re-framed to position the tour passenger - looking on attentively in the background - to the centre of frame though left out of focus to maintain emphasis on the act of something being spoken in the foreground. Completing depression of the shutter button records the image then quickly pressing the shutter button a second time shifts focus onto the listener (for cameras with multiple auto-focus assist points, selecting centre focus only is required for this to work; for cameras that offer face detection you'd be best switching that function off). Thus the connection is established, someone speaking, someone listening to their words attentively. If any of that's of interest to you of course :~) One day I'd like to shoot a wedding in the style of a Spaghetti Western though I hasten to add I'm down with Merchant Ivory as well, which is great for wedding dresses. But... Shekhar Kapur's renditional style in Elizabeth! Now that would be the way to do it; English period costume drama meets Bollywood!

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Tim relates a passage from the Magna Carta.

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Now here's an interesting story about the origin of the expression "Pay on the nail", on display in Bath Market. Interestingly, The Exchange in nearby Bristol lays claim to the same thing :~)

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I wonder how long it would take to pose a group shot like this on a wedding day. Here it is though, in the blink of an eye.

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I think it's actually a lightning conductor he carries around with him. Tim is Thor!

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On each of Discover Dorset's tours that I've joined, I've spotted someone demonstrating such perfect technique in wielding a camera that I've been moved to frame an image for my own future reference. In this case it was a member of the tour party itself using a camera strap in commensurate manner to ensure maximum stability in a shot. A+

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All that history in front of them and all they can do is natter on their mobile 'phones. We're in to the Roman Baths by the way.

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I wonder how I look in hers.

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I think he'll have a good range to choose from for his Facebook profile :~)

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If push came to shove...

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Possibly the most vibrant and boldly defined stained glass windows I've yet seen, in Bath Abbey.

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Bath is certainly a city for foodies.

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Much of nothing as a photograph but I think I'll laminate it and keep it in my wallet. It's something I've always aspired to apply but I think I keep getting the key words muddled in practice.

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Maybe it's because I'm 60% water, but it doesn't mix awfully well with camera lenses. On the Discover Dorset London Express tour I spotted a performer creating giant bubbles on the South Bank. I approached close with a wide angle lens to express the sheer scale of a bubble he was creating and it burst all over my lens. The clean up was a doddle though. Then on the Oxford tour I spied a small bubbling fountain in Christ Church college and set about framing it against a tall background spire, thrusting my lens towards the centre of the fountain as far as it would go without taking a full frontal soaking. They must have been using some kind of detergent to keep that particular fountain flowing smoothly as the resultant lens clean up job was certainly not a doddle! Spotting this fountain in Bath's Laura Place I just couldn't help myself though. Thankfully on this occasion it was pure unadulterated Bath water. The efficient weather sealing on the Canon 5D MkII is reassuring as well :~)

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My client, in briefing me prior to the tour, asked if I could get some shots of Bath Rugby Club, particularly if there was a match in progress. The risks I take to provide my clients with all they desire!

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Maybe I should have brought the 2.1m step ladder I transport to weddings with me in case there's a lack of natural elevation for me to use to frame group photographs. Then again it weighs 15kg and might have made my jaunt around Bath something mildly akin to a Roman punishment of sorts.

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I was having a bit of a Tomb Raider moment.

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Unlike sunny Bournemouth, sunny Bath doesn't boast a beach, but who needs all that sand between their toes anyway.

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This week's caption competition.

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And off we headed back to Bournemouth...

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Contact Bournemouth wedding photographer Phillip Allen : phill@misterphill.com : 07870 696248

Susie - This is a beautiful photo. I love it.

Phillip Allen - Thanks Susie :~)

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