About This Site
I initially developed this site in January 2019 to host photos taken at the many sporting events I covered. I had previously used Flickr and still do to some extent, but needed a site with more flexibility, customisation and a bit of e-commerce. As Smugmug had recently acquired Flickr, there was an introductory offer and I had an event coming up, I decided to give it a go.
I must say I've been very pleased so far, support is great and with a wealth of online tutorials, I was quickly up and running, no pun intended! I have since added some new galleries and a recent Shows page as I have a stand at many Northumberland Shows during the summer. There are lots of recent photos and some old favourites too and I'll continue to add more as this site develops.
I very much hope you enjoy the time you spend here and you return often. If you wish to view more, please visit my original site martinandjohnphotography.co.uk, which also includes a shop with greetings cards and my new Northumberland calendar.
My name is Martin Ellis and I live on Tyneside, in a small village on the outskirts of Newcastle and Gateshead. It’s almost in the countryside, with lots of nice walks, cycle paths and all the amenities of a city close by. Yet within an hour or so, I can be lacing my boots up and heading out into The Cheviots. Then there’s the North Pennines and the Durham Dales, or the wonderful North East Coast.
I can’t say I’m a native as my beginnings were on an RAF base in Norfolk and besides, all my family are Welsh. Yet I moved here when I was eleven, so I'm almost from the North East, but not quite. I may have moved away occasionally because of college or work, but have always returned. I still rather like it here, it’s a bit special.
It was whilst I was away at Art College that I discovered clay. Strictly speaking, that was initially on my foundation course at Sunderland, but that felt like away back then. I found I could throw pots on the wheel and so started my working life as a Studio Potter, as well as teaching pottery night classes.
I began working in other potteries, production throwing, product design and mouldmaking. As my skills and technical knowledge increased, I made a gradual move into industry. Primarily tableware and sanitaryware as a production manager and latterly, a factory manager and director.
In comparison, I'm fairly new to photography. There's more than a bit about that in the next section, but before heading there I'll come to Martin And John and a question I'm sometimes asked, namely, who's John? It's one of my middle names, the other is Andrew and they both come from my grandfathers. Tradition has it that I should have been called Robert and I would then use my second name as my first. It's all a bit confusing and besides, I would have an even longer e-mail address.
Martin And John itself comes from my youth, mostly misspent playing pool, initials chalked on blackboards waiting for a game and the nicknames that came from winning or losing tournaments.
On a school trip, I distinctly remember looking into the viewfinder of a Kodak Box Brownie (I still have it), not really knowing what I was doing. My first encounter with a camera and not the most auspicious of starts. So I returned to my drawing, nothing could really compete, I was always happy with pencil and paper.
It was drawing that took me onto Art College, where I was taught how to use a camera, develop film and print in the darkroom. Yet it was only so we could record our proper work, not something to be creative with. Which is all I ever used a camera for, taking slides of my ceramics and maybe the occasional holiday snap.
So it was a bit of a surprise to find myself thinking it might be nice to start taking photographs whilst out hiking, to document my journeys and perhaps do some drawing from them. So I purchased an entry level Nikon D40X with a couple of lenses, looked down the viewfinder and realised, I still didn't really know what I was doing.
This time something seemed to click (please excuse the pun) and I persevered. It was all a bit of a struggle and frustrating to begin with and often still is. However, I'd been here before, there are many similarities with learning to throw pots on the wheel or indeed, anything new. The only difference is that for my throwing I got a job at Shire Pottery, where I met met Ivar Mackay.
Having thrown over a quarter of a million pots, Ivar was a master potter by any definition. Working beside someone with that level of skill and ease of making proved very beneficial. It didn’t seem like it at the time though and I often felt like quitting, yet with time, practice and a bit of dogged determination, I continued. It brought me to a level where I could throw a pot without thinking, everything came and worked together perfectly.
So I know with my photography that there’s always more and I need to keep challenging myself, especially when it's just me. I'm not at the level I was with my throwing yet, but there have been times recently. Drawing has helped immensely, who knew that sitting in a high chair, singing along to The Beatles whilst drawing away would be quite so useful. It really teaches you how to see and to look intently. To take in the whole frame, to see what I want to photograph and also, what to leave out. I've always thought visually and have a pretty good visual memory, I think drawing helped there too. It certainly helps when it comes to processing my photos, I do very little. They just have to look as they did when I took the photo, with a bit of me in there and what made me stop and pick up my camera.
It is from my many wanders amongst the landscape that my photographs come and I now appear to go out hiking just to take photographs. I love The Cheviots and Upper Coquetdale in particular, the landscape here can seem vast and bleak, utterly beautiful. One taken here won The Sill photography competition in conjunction with Northumberland National Park. I feel I can lose myself here, immerse myself in the ancient landscape, sometimes literally when I sink into peat bog.
During the summer, I make my way down into the valleys and take photographs at the many events and shows. I very much enjoy the community aspect of these shows, as farms and villages in Northumberland are quite remote, there is a reliance that is quite apparent. I decided to have a stand and exhibit my photographs, maybe sell a few prints. I started at Harbottle Show in 2014, this year I'm at quite a few more. It’s been a good and enjoyable way of meeting the farmers, shepherds, runners and other hikers that I’ve occasionally encountered in the hills, with their family and friends. It was during these many shows that I began to photograph trail runners taking part in the hill runs.
For those who like to know, I moved on from my Nikon D40X to a D300s (still used as a backup camera). I now use a D800 and a recently acquired D810, one has a 24-70 lens attached, the other a 70-200. I also have a 24-120 and a 50 prime that are often used as well as a Sigma 150-500 that makes an occasional appearance.
A recent development saw the purchase of a Nikon F100, with a few rolls of Ilford HP5 and Kodak Tri-X 400. Well I did say I needed to challenge myself and one I'm looking forward too. I've also cleaned and refurbished my old Praktica camera that I used for many years. The old Kodak Box Brownie that I mentioned, I recently purchased a very tatty one for parts on Ebay for £2 99, mainly for the shutter release spring but it also had film spools and even a roll of film, well expired. I'll hopefully head out with my refurbished one soon, hopefully this time I'll look down that viewfinder and know what I'm doing.