The Light in the Shadows

Creating a book from a website feels like it should be easy. But it turned out not to be like that at all.

Earlier this year while agonising over what to exhibit at Art@Ancrum, I came up with a plan to offer a book along with the usual array of prints. But what to write about?

Then it struck me that it would be worth publishing the articles I had been writing for the website looking back at my favourite images over the last few years. Just having a book on offer at an arts event would be different; a book illustrating some of my back catalogue would be ideal, especially at my first ever event.

And so The Light in the Shadows came to be. I was surprised at the amount of work I had to put in to make the book work. You’d have thought that you could press a button on the website screen and out would pour a book. But no, not as easy as that.

The Words

Selecting the pictures was easy – I’d already done that for the website. The words were a different matter. On the website I typically adopt a conversational tone. I try on purpose to lighten the stories. I have always felt it a little self indulgent to be writing about my own pictures – but then, if not me then who?

So the language got a little more formal in places in the book. In a film they would be the glances direct to camera. On a website, these touches make the thing more human. In print, they just felt too arch, and so they had to go.

I had to count the words too. On screen, you can just keep writing, and writing … On the page, there’s a limit to the number of words that will fit, and some of the editing I did was to make sure I could squeeze the pieces into the space available.

The Book

Then there was the problem of actually creating the volume. I use Adobe Lightroom which has a plugin that make creating and publishing a book via Blurb Books really easy, so that was my start point. The pricing of the finished article felt a little steep, for a first effort anyway.

I did think about creating my own books using hand made paper from Lucy Baxandale at Tidekettle Paper in Berwick. I realised I had left it far too late; next time perhaps.

I ended up using the online self publisher, Bob Books, downloading their app to my computer to layout the words and pictures. With the exception of distributing text across columns, this makes it straightforward for an amateur book editor to produce something presentable.

Revisions

The first edition was relatively simple with an introductory page leading straight into a dozen or so double page spreads of articles and associated picture. But it felt far too abrupt, almost as if you needed to sell the idea of turning the pages even before getting into the meat of the book.

So for the second attempt at a layout, I simply added a proper title page. So you start with the cover, open the book to the title page, go on to an introductory page and only then do you get to the real content. There’s a generosity about this approach that works well. Clearly there’s a reason why just about every book in the world does this!

Typography

The typography matters too. On screen, you don’t get to see the whole article and picture all at one glance. In a book, the whole thing needs to work together far better. I found I had to choose the fonts for the heading and the body text far more carefully than I did on the website.

The book is now available to buy online. You can preview it and / or buy it at Bob Books.


More projects

Fiddlers Ferry Panorama 2011

This image was part of a panorama project I undertook for a client in Oldham in the UK. You can clearly see, from 40 miles away the Fiddler’s Ferry power station on the Manchester Ship Canal.
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Kelso Town Hall and Square 2016

In 2016 I developed a series of images to create a panoramic view of the Square in Kelso. I felt it would be both interesting and useful to record the current state of the Square.
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The Tweed Crossings Project 2016 –

Maps identify over 30 river crossings on the Tweed between Kelso and Berwick in the borderland joining England and Scotland. Many, especially the fords and ferries, have now vanished. But each of them has a story to tell in the turbulent history of the region.
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