The story behind the photo with Steve Aves

In the fourth installment of our Story Behind the Photo feature, lighting expert Steve Aves shares a poignant image that features the colour red. We hope it inspires you to check out the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) Red for Heart photography competition – all you need to do is snap a photo that incorporates the colour red too!

When and where was this photo taken?

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go on a school trip as a parent helper with a group of students. It was a history based trip, visiting many of the First World War battlefields in France and Belgium. During the trip, we went to the Ypres salient and the Somme, looking at the trench systems of the Allies and the Germans to find out how hard life was for both sides during those terrible years. It was a visit to Tyne cot, the largest allied cemetery in France, containing some 12,000 graves that brought home the huge loss of life, and an experience I shall never forget. I took this image of the grave of an unknown soldier to remind me of Tyne cot cemetery.

What kit was used to create this image?

I normally use Nikon, but on this trip I didn’t really have the space to pack it all, so I took my compact with me, my nice little Leica D4. It’s a great little camera that I’ve had for about 18 months and I love everything about it. It’s really small, but has some great features and the lens quality is superb.

What effect do you think using the colour red has had on this image?

I feel that the colour red makes this image. I know that we usually associate red poppies with remembrance, but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission plant red roses in all their cemeteries, as they flower for much longer.

What do you like about this shot?

Apart from reminding me of my visit, this shot has a timeless quality about it. It could have been taken in almost any year after the cemetery was open. That’s what I was trying to convey. The loss, the silence and the timeless quality that continues to remind us of the sacrifice so many young men made during the First World War.

What (if anything) would you go back and change if you could take this photo again?

When you choose to shoot outside, it’s often the weather conditions that dictate what can or can’t be done. While we were in Tyne cot cemetery, it rained, the wind blew at gale force, and the sun was out one minute and in the next. So given those conditions, I couldn’t have changed a thing, I just had to work with what I had.

If you missed them, you can find the previous week’s Story Behind the Photo posts here:

To find out more about the Red for Heart photography competition visit

Steve Aves has worked in the photography industry for over 30 years and is an expert in studio flash equipment and other studio related products. Steve is running a Beginners Guide to Portrait Lighting seminar in Norwich on 5th February 2011, visit Warehouse Express to find out more and to book your ticket!