Blog

In this Blog section, I will provide more insight into the photographic excursions that have led to some of the images in the gallery

The Event of the Year is Here

Pictures sifted, selected, rejected, accepted, printed mounted and FINALLY up on the wall for all to see!

Not my first exhibition but my first for many years and boy, I'm full of emotions - excitement, fear, expectation, trepidation... All of those and many more besides but, I suppose, the overwhelming feeling is pride. Pride in what I have achieved. Pride in the overwhelming support I have received from numerous friends and family.

The journey will continue beyond this and who knows where it will lead but for now, I'll enjoy this feeling of pride (and all the others that go with it).

So, do me a favour. Join me for an evening of celebration, tonight, at Javabean Cafe, Tunbridge Wells from 6.30pm.

Visit Javabean

Reboot

Javabean Exhibition

Yes, that's right - a full reboot - of me and my site...

What does that involve? Taking down all the old images and setting up a gallery for my new exhibition at Javabean, Tunbridge Wells, from 11th Feb for 5 weeks.

So, grab a coffee and a sandwich (both are excellent), take the weight off your feet and enjoy the images on the wall - they really are better in their full printed glory!

Visit Javabean here

The First ........

This is my first image of 2012 - it really is the first time the shutter has popped this year.

I was going to capture the first dawn of the year but New Years Day was grey and overcast so I thought better of a 4.30am alarm call and postponed until today - the 2nd January.

4.30am, the alarm sounded and dragged me from my deep sleep. 30 minutes later, I'm on the road and heading South. I enjoy driving this time in the morning but it seems I'm not the only one - lorry drivers were getting a head-start on the traffic but slowing me up - c'est la vie ......

2 hours after the alarm, I am setting up to take this shot (anyone looking at the Metadata will notice I haven't set the camera clock back!). The morning was cold, the coffee was hot and the sounds were pumping!

Until recently, I never used to listen to music, preferring the sound of nature around me. I accept I am missing out on natures sounds by listening to music but I do find I concentrate on what is in front of me - no distractions.

Someone is bound to ask what music. It started with Bob Dylan but quickly turned into a Pink Floyd day and continued that way until I got home at about 4pm .......

If this is how the year is going to be, bring it on by the bucket-load!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

No photo for this entry but I hope you will allow me this indulgence.

At the beginning of 2011, who would've thought what the year would deliver. From a photographic point of view, it has been a year of highs and lows. A new 5DMkii that has taken me to some great places - albeit, I seem stuck in the South East and many of the lows have been because of my desire to get out but inability to do so - no one to blame but me.

I had intended to do a book, but that hasn't happened. I had intended to complete more sales but self-marketing is not one of my strong points!

But let us not dwell on the negatives - they can be rectified ....... So what other notable points in 2011? A daughter that is now studying at Cambridge University, a son that is starting on the rocky road to being a man and getting in touch with a good friend again are but a couple of many highs ....... but one has to stand out as a personal achievement - something I have done for me and something that makes me feel good.

In 2011, I became a bloodrunner for a charity called SERVKent (Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers (I am a driver and perform the same)). As a part of around 80 volunteers, I volunteer my own time and fuel to move blood around the hospitals of Kent from 7pm to 7am, when the NHS do not operate.

Who would've thought I would become a community minded volunteer? I certainly wouldn't have. It is a double edged sword - if I get a call it is because someone needs me to move blood products from A to B but I am honoured to be able to do my bit to make that persons day a little bit better.

To learn after the event that my small link in the overall chain has helped save a life really does make me feel good, proud and able to hold my head high.

Bloodrunning is not for everyone but if you can find a community cause to volunteer for, I would highly recommend it - giving back is good for the soul!

So, it remains for me to wish you all a Happy New Year and fulfilling 2012.

Thank you.

It's been 8 months ..........

It's been 8 months ..... since my last confession and it is nearing the end of the year.

My last blog entry talks of a new camera and boy, what a pleasure it is to use the 5DMkii - absolutely no regrets in such a quick upgrade. It has become my friend and my enemy - friend because it goes everywhere with me. My enemy as it is capable of far more than I am. I do not complain - I ask for me, it delivers ....... what more can I ask for?

I'm not sure why I have neglected this site for so long. Maybe it was getting to know the new camera? Or was it the restricted size images I could load here? Probably more of the latter but with the new upgrade, I can now post the same size image here as I do elsewhere on the Internet. However, trying to apportion blame to the site is hiding the pure fact that I neglected my shop-front on the World.

This site "make-over" is the start of my intent to make more of my photography and if I were inclined to make New Year resolutions, this would be one of them!

New Camera, New Shot

So ....... I admit that my compromise over the change from the 450D to the 5D was one or two compromises too much. It was time for the 5Dmkii to make an appearance.

We all know about the Japan disasters from earthquake, to tsunami to nuclear peril; but how many of us know what impact it would have on our lives? Well I now know first hand what it is like to get a product when stocks are kept as "just in time" (something the Japanese invented) - frustrating!

Could I get a 5Dmkii? For a couple of weeks I would search the usual on-line suspects and speak to my local shop (who are bitter about the whole Canon treatment of small independents) - nothing available. I would watch the price increase as availability decreases and had resigned myself to the fact that I would not get one - it was not meant to be......

I had the fortune to go to the Gadget Show Live at the NEC and chanced my arm with Park Cameras to see if they had one available at the show. After the guffaws of polite laughter, I was advised that even IF they could get hold of one, then the Gadget Show was not their considered market for that level of camera. With a heavy heart, I left Birmingham and resigned myself to the fact it was not meant to be......

Until the next day ........

A very close friend, Bev, took it upon herself to ring around stores in Essex to see if anyone had one. On the second or third call, London Camera Exchange of Colchester said they had one being delivered and (following a call from me), it was reserved. Just as I was about to leave, a call from a previous contact, said they had one available and at a price not to be sneezed at....... In the space of 24hrs, I had gone from zero to two .... what to do? ......

Obvious really ...... I advised my Twitter friends that if they wanted one, I knew where one was. A few interested parties but nothing to speak of. So I rang Dave and advised that another had come up, so I would not be collecting/buying. We left on very friendly terms and I will most definitely consider Dave for future stuff. Downside to the other deal? I had to wait a few days ........

On the Tuesday, as promised, it arrived. Charge the battery, read the manual (yes, I am a freak of nature!) but still I could not bring myself to fire the button ...... I had waited so long ........

Wednesday afternoon and the temptation was too much. Down tools and head for Rye. I had planned the shot to have the sun setting behind the silhouette of Rye, whilst reflecting in the lake - the weather was the unknown.

So, the shot on this blog is not the very first shot I took but is one from the first session with the new camera. I am pleased with the results and believe me and the 5Dmkii will become intimate friends within a very short space of time.

New Venue, New Images and New Options

First let me start by saying how pleased I was to raise £150 for the Japan disaster relief efforts so a big thank you to all who bid and for John who is the new owner of the print - Thank you John.

So, a new venue? Yep, that's right a new venue - well two actually ....... Photoshoot Studio and gallery in Southborough and Banjos Deli in Tunbridge Wells. Details for both can be found in the links section.

Banjos Deli is showing a new style of images as I am now selling on canvas with a limited print run for the size and style on show. Images can be seen in the Banjos section in the Gallery - but of course, why not grab a coffee and have a proper look in the Cafe!

Tranquility Charity Print Auctions - Japan

For the last few days, everyone has been glued to the TV screens and absorbed every last scrap of information, watching the Japanese tragedies unfold from a 2 minute earthquake, to a 10 metre tsunami and now onto a potential nuclear disaster. The earthquake proved the Japanese building regulations are necessary and paid off with limited damage to property. 8,000 times stronger than Christchurch yet a fraction of the damage? Do we hear of the millions saved?

Of course we don't because the tsunami that followed has claimed the lives of thousands, with thousands more still missing and tens of thousands displaced. I struggle to understand how I would cope if all I had was just washed away and I had nothing to look forward to but rebuilding my life. The next few months and years of struggle to recover will only replace a fraction of their loss. Will they ever get it back? Friends and relatives lost. Histories washed away as the tsunami claimed all the physical objects we treasure and rely on to give us "place". How can you ever replace this?

To add to an already burdened and shocked population, thousands more people are displaced because of the unfolding nuclear disaster. This may yet be the most devastating of the three tragedies that have befallen Japan in the space of a few minutes and long hours. How could I deal with this as well? I don't know I could.

I sit and watch the hours and hours of images and marvel at the Japanese population. There is no wailing in the streets. There is no looting or profiteering (at least not that I can see). Instead, the Japanese are working together and facing each problem together. Orderly queues for food and water. Children with control of posture showing only fear through their eyes, being scanned by men in scary suits. Out of chaos they maintain order and I will always look upon the Japanese with a renewed respect and awe.

But all this pride and control comes to nothing when they seek shelter from the snow and the rain. All this pride and control means nothing when they are hungry and thirsty. All this pride and control means nothing when you share a hard floor with many others. Where is the humanity in this?

When this first unfolded, I thought of Japan as being a rich country who will be able to fund their own recovery and anything I could do would not be required. How wrong was I. I have learnt that Japan was emerging from a recession and has now been plunged right back in it. I learnt that Japan has one of the largest debts of any nation. I learnt that the financial markets have started losing confidence in Japan. I learnt that these disasters will probably effect my life with the supply of electronic equipment and parts being reduced or stopped completely.

Let's face it, from a humanitarian and economic position, Japan is in serious trouble.

So what can I do? I can't go out there and offer my services - I would just become another burden. I can send money through a number of relief operations but this is just like paying a bill - I don't have enough to offer and it won't make me feel as if I have done something. What can I do?

Well I'll tell you what I am doing.

Whilst watching the news unfold, I was processing a number of images from a windy, frosty dawn shoot on Camber Sands and I found myself wishing I could share my love for that morning with those struggling to rebuild their lives. I know I can't and I know it is not what they want right now - an image will not keep them warm or feed them BUT ........ my image CAN be used to raise awareness of their plight. It CAN be used to raise funds to help them rebuild their lives - maybe not much but as the saying goes, every little helps ..........

I am auctioning one of my images to raise as much as I can to aid the relief efforts. The highest bidder will pay the full bid amount to one of the four main relief programmes, forward me a screenprint/receipt to show the payment has been made and I will send the image to wherever it needs to go. I will pay for the printing and shipping and will take nothing from the final bid.

So why don't I just donate my costs to the relief funds too? I believe that by auctioning my image, I will raise more money than my costs and hope to encourage bidders to bid to win and end up donating more than they may have done otherwise. The highest bidder receives my token image as a thank you for supporting the relief more than I could've done myself.

So where is this image, I hear you scream! It's right here So please, please help by bidding and promoting the image to others via email, twitter, facebook and any other means you have at your disposal.

I am not alone in this effort to raise funds, but just one amongst many who have come together by auctioning prints for charity. Their auctions can be found here and I again ask you to make bids and promote the group. click here

Thank you for listening to my heartfelt ramblings, now please get bidding and promoting - with your help we CAN make a difference.

To visit the auction image on Flickr, click here EDIT: NOW ENDED

Thank you.

Photographer of the Year

Another week goes by and I have struggled to get some shots in the bank. Like many others, I have been hit by the one of the many dreaded bugs inflicting their pain on many of my friends and family, Combine this with the wet weather and struggle to get back into a work routine and you probably get the picture!

Last weekend was a waste of time. I did manage to wander around a new location that has promise for later in the year but the day resulted in a lie-down in the middle of a muddy path, just to prevent myself from flaking out – not the best of feelings, I can assure you!

Tuesday …… ahh, Tuesday ……. The Jewel in the crown, you could say! Anyone who knows me will know I have become somewhat addicted to Twitter and I am so lucky to live in a place that has a very strong Twitter community and people willing to put themselves out for the enjoyment of others. The result? The Tunbridge Wells “Twuddle” Annual Twitter Awards and yes, yours truly was up for TWO nominations from the numerous categories …... “TWIT” (Twitterer of the Year) and Photographer of the Year. Being as addicted as I am, I started a passioned campaign for both titles by sharing many of my images from my Flickr account. The result? Well, mixed results really. No TWIT of the year for me but ……

I am Photographer of the Year (Tunbridge Wells Twitter Twuddle)

What can I say, I’m dead chuffed, extremely honoured and seriously humbled.

I suppose I should say that the rest of the week was then an anti-climax. Far from it! With the pride of Tuesday, I embraced the rest of the week at home, at work and out with family, culminating in today’s trip out with my son, teaching him to drive on the farm lane – good day!

So was there a chance to take a few pictures? Of course, I managed a few but will I put any on this site? Oh yes! A couple of different shots from me but my choice of the week is an image taken at the end of a freezing cold, windy walk to the end of the harbour arm.

So what will next week bring? Who knows …….. but you’ll find out soon enough!

New Year, New Camera.

Well, I’m a bit late but New Years Day was spent nursing a “vague” head following a most excellent party to see the New Year in. The one consolation? Poor weather designed for staying indoors (or at least that’s what I told myself). So now I’m a day late but no matter as with the New Year comes a new camera. At last I have gone Full Frame, so part of New Years day was spent removing the old camera and installing the new – but more of that later but now to start today …….

As is my norm, the night before is spent preparing coffee for the flask, charging batteries, getting all the layers together so when the alarm sounded at 4am (God bless my Android #Applefail), I was up, readied and out by 4.30am and headed South – a new camera deserved a location that would be “easy” and allow me to concentrate on the technical “journey” of the new camera. As always, the drive South was entertaining with clear roads and nature all around (2 badgers and 3 foxes – these were the live ones).

On location and the first task was to decide the best place to park to reach the groynes I knew existed from many years previous. I got it wrong by around ½ mile so the dark journey started with a slog along the beach as the tide progressed off the flat sands and onto the foothills of the shingle bank. No moon, cloud …. It was dark……

Problem number 1. When taking out the old camera, I really should have removed the tripod plate from the bottom of the camera – a tripod without the plate is like balancing plates on a beanpole – DISASTER! But, being the Boy Scout I am, I had a spare in my bag. A bit of rummaging and the tripod resumes its rightful task as being a solid platform. Phew!

Now, before I go any further, the new camera was new to me and I was advised that the Canon batteries were shocking and could not hold a charge. That proved to be an understatement and either my incompetence at charging batteries or their unwillingness to hold a charge led to two attempted long exposures aborted and two batteries relegated to the bottom of the bag. The third battery lasted a while longer but it too was in the bottom of the bag well before the sun made an appearance. Fourth battery in (non-Canon) and things improve, though the last battery too would replace it before the end of the session.

New camera and new lens mean a slow start to the session, trying to remember all I had read about what button does what and where in the menu list is this and …… and …… but hey, I’m a photographer right? So working with what I know I start to work on some compositions. I shan’t be posting my first shot here but if anyone is really curious, it is on my Flickr stream.

As the light increases and the clouds start to break, I start to see more compositions and using various lenses and filters; I end the session with a number if images I hope will be OK.

The journey home is much more sedate with more sleepy heads on the road, as one would expect for a Sunday morning. Home and I do a number of things, including removal of the tripod plate from the old camera and ordering a few extra batteries!

Am I happy with the results? I think so. Will I get on with the new camera? Oh yes …. Just need to learn a few more things ……

Happy New Year to you all!

Boxing Day

Christmas and Boxing Day is always spent with family and whilst the family stuff is great, anyone who knows me will agree when I say I hate Christmas – all the commercial stuff, decorations, expectations. Yep, expectations. I’m sure I had great Christmas’s as a kid but, to be honest, I only remember the bad ones. I now have a reputation as a “Bah Humbug” and all my efforts are put into maintaining and bolstering the image – nothing original but like Pink Floyd so eloquently put it “it’s just another brick in the wall”.

So Christmas is upon us and Christmas Day passes without too much drama – at least none that can’t be put right and good time was had with lots to eat and drink and all the stuff that is expected of me but Boxing Day deserves to be different. So Boxing Day comes and we try to leave as a family unit but number one son can’t get his butt out of bed, so we leave him behind – not for the first time does he decide his own path.

Not having a pre-designated time to turn up at the next party, we arrive a little early and make our own introductions to my sisters friends who were to be our hosts for the day – and what hosts they were! A house on the Camber Sands beach overlooking the exercising horses, dog walkers and families ….. what more could I ask for? Oh yes, hosts with culinary skills to die for and a choice in Rioja and Port to make the day go by with a real buzz.

As the tide came in and the sun started to drop below the misty, cold cloud, I stole a few moments to grab my camera, sneak off down the beach and take a few shots with the 10 stop and ND Grad filters, to balance the sky and smooth out the waves into a milky, surreal finish. No more than 10 shots for the day and I have something “in the bag”. Who needs to spend hours pouring over maps, charts, weather forecasts etc. etc., when a chance moment can also produce the goods.

As the day grows old and blends into a new day, it was time to take our leave and wander home. To Lane, Suzy and the whole of the family – thank you for a special day.

Norfolk Wanderings

On a cold Thursday morning, I made a call, packed a bag and headed for Norfolk. Why not? As the light completely disappeared, the snow hid the verges along the M11 and A11 and slowed the traffic to a frustrating crawl. Funny how the same crawl became an interesting challenge between man and machine when venturing onto the Norfolk ditches (they call them roads up there!). Destination Mum’s house, with a warm meal and bed awaiting.

Friday came and went with emails, phonecalls, more food and lazing around in front of an open fire – taking timeout is great to do and I highly recommend it. Not wishing to “waste” my Norfolk time, the alarm was set for 4.30am.

Woke up 1 minute before the alarm. Water-bottle still warm but not warm enough to fend of the cold fingers that creep into the skin as the covers are thrown back. Layers ….. lots of layers …… Twenty minutes later, scraping the inch of snow and ice off the car and sliding out of the drive. Where shall I go?

Headed toward Happisburgh in the full knowledge that IF the sunrise was too far South, the sun would rise inland and would be no good for what I wanted. Not having maps and poor 3G signal, the only way to work it out was to get there first. Fresh snow provided some but minimal grip on iced lanes (ditches – must call them ditches!) but a quick step out of the car showed me that Happisburgh was not the pace to be …. Where now?

Time to fallback on somewhere I’ve been before and less “challenging” for sunrise direction and I’m off to Horsey Wind Pump – just another 15 miles of snowy roads. Excellent!

OK, fun-drive over and it’s STILL dark and with the temperature at a balmy –11C, it was time to get out of the car ….. more layers required!

With a few calculations, I decided on a 30 minute exposure – giving me time to go back to the car to find a drink and pick up the thicker pair of gloves (that were later discarded as my control over the camera was limited). Getting into “the zone” and leaving all of “reality” behind, I went in search of images in a white, frosty landscape. Watching a Kingfisher flying along the frozen reed bed was such a special moment for a special place.

Unfortunately, soon after, reality came crashing in with a tap on my shoulder and a bailiff telling me I was disturbing the ducks. DUCKS!!!! Not that him and his THREE dogs would disturb them! I was not a happy bunny and after a few expletives (out of earshot of the “jobs worth”), I was back where I should be and looking for more images.

Very soon after, I was adopted by a puffed up Robin-redbreast, in obvious search of food. Either really tame or really desperate for food (maybe both) but having my new friend perched on the end of the lens as the sun finally rises is another memory that will be with me for some while to come.

Footnote: I searched the car for a scrap of food and found none – I do hope my little friend survives this winter, as I get ready to stuff my face on Christmas Day!

Cuckmere Meanderings

Alarm set for 4.30am (thank goodness it is winter!), up with the cold and 30 minutes of applying layers - don't want to be cold! Scraping the car off to the obvious annoyance of the neighbours, satnav set, ipod set and off I head for the South coast again.

I have decided one of the many appeals of being up before anyone else is the fact the roads are clear so time to allow the car to stretch its legs - albeit, with definite care and consideration to the sub zero temperatures. The satnav timings are always a challenge and they are no different this morning.

Doing all my planning the night before, I knew where the sun would rise, that the tide would be rapidly dropping, the skies would be clear and a biting Northerly wind was what awaited me this morning.

I was not disappointed and having parked up, added more layers and put on my walking boots, I decided to put in the ear-buds and listen to some tunes. This is unusual for me as I'm not a great fan of music (I get frustrated by not remembering names so never know what the ipod is trying to show me) and I generally like to absorb myself in my surroundings by listening to the night and early dawn sounds - but not today ......

I parked in a different place to normal as I wanted to walk the length of the floodplain and see what I could find. I was disappointed, with all the fences and gates topped with strands of barbed wire. I agree there has to be a control of passage in high footfall areas to allow nature to do its "thing" but at 5am, I like a bit of flexibility in angles - I leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but photos, so see no harm in my normal wanderings.

So it wasn't until I reached the shoreline that I was able to look for compositions and wander with just the cliffs, groynes and water to impede my progress.

Many hours were spent taking images and then wandering along the shoreline to see the potential for other visits - a high water visit is on the cards for another day.

Finally found my way back to the car, remove some layers (temperature had increased nearly 10 degrees since I left) and find the nearest McDonalds for a proper cup of coffee. The home and doze in front of the snooker.

Will I use the ipod again? Jury is still out - it was nice but I didn't feel "at one" as I would normally.

Now Showing in Achieve More Cafe ......

That's right, I've taken some images and put them on the wall in Achieve More cafe, Tunbridge Wells.

I believe my images look better the bigger they are, so having somewhere to show them is something I am thankful to Ruth and Nathan for.

So grab a coffee and a bite to eat, sit back and enjoy the images, then dig deep to fund my continued photographic journey.

Please leave comments about this site AND the display at Achieve More cafe.

Thank you,

Full Moon and Clear(ish) Skies

After a busy day doing family "stuff", James called and said "Full moon and clear skies. Fancy a shoot?". So it's Sunday evening and work the next day so what do I respond "Where?". Rye Harbour had caught James' eye on Google Earth and once being a local, I agreed it would be a good place.

The tide was rushing in as we put on warm clothes, hats, gloves and waterproof boots and off we trudged to the end of the harbour wall.

James doubled his chances with two cameras, whereas I had just the one - so I had to make them count! Even with a full moon, the exposure length was well in excess of 10 minutes per image, allowing for many light trails and "smoothing" of the waves.

So 3 hours passed and about 10 images in the camera and it was time to get home and into bed. Monday morning work beckoned!

3AM Rise To Despatch Daughter

My darling daughter was off for a long weekend to Rome with a number of friends. "Great" says I, until I am "instructed" to deliver darling daughter to her friends house by 3.30am on a Friday morning. So Friday morning comes earlier than expected with the new sleep app waking me @ 2.40am. Not to be the only up at this time, I decided to ensure darling daughter was also up - albeit 20 minutes sooner than she intended!

After lots of fuss, darling daughter is despatched - PHEW! So what now?

Well, the obvious really....... dress up in my warmest of clothes and drive to a likely photography spot to enjoy the forecast fog and mist. Yep, Bewl Water will do!

As the mist rolled in and out and the light in the sky increases, I trudged my way through ankle deep mud and slippery slopes to various slipways on the reservoir. A few hours of total escapism and pure indulgence and it was time for me to head back to the car, go home, shower and get some day job stuff done.

If the lady with the Merc is reading this, it was really great to meet you and have a chat.

How to clear a sorry head ......

I'm not going into any details but I have some "life stuff" to deal with right now and I'm not great at dealing with it!

Had a great day on Saturday but paid for it on Sunday and just didn't feel like doing anything at all. All the apathy does is make me worse and it is a long spiral downward ....... culminating in something said that worried me enough to Google some stuff and yes, you guessed it, ....... not one of my better ideas! So feeling pretty low, I tried to sleep but not much happening ......... So how do I get out of this spiral? Yep, time to take some pics!

The alarm woke me at 4am on Monday morning. Do I want to get up? Guess I must ..... Kettle on, layers of warm clothes on, coffee made and satnav set for the South coast.

For about 6 months, I have been planning the shot of the Beachy Head lighthouse, with the cliffs on one side and the sun rising on the other. Why did the perfect weekend have to coincide with all the stuff going on? So on a freezing cold Monday morning, I find myself parked up at Beachy Head and think to check in on foursquare and guess what? Yep, I'm now mayor of Beachy Head! Rather ironic given my state of mind! lol! Gloves? check, Russian hat? check, thick socks? check. All set for the cold.

DAMN IT WAS COLD!!!!

Using my 70-200 L (for a change), I found a spot about 6 feet from the edge of the chalk cliffs and placing my bag at an angle and sheltering in a small depression (don't even THINK about subsidence on top of the cliff!), I was able to hide from some of the chill wind....... and then I wait for the sun ...... Where is it? Oh yes, behind that growing bank of clouds! :-(

With the loss of fingers and toes, I do manage a few shots but the results were poor and I'm not sharing them.

So there you have it, a story and no pics! lol

Well not quite ..... being a Monday morning, I had to work and a while later still, found me sat behind my laptop yawning from ear to ear ..... Power on, check, connection .... ummm ..... connection? ...... Connection was down! Quick (in IT timescales) call to helpdesk confirmed I was not the only one with connection problems ...... What to do? After many phonecalls and accessing what I can, I ran out of things to do so it was a case of pack up and give in! Deciding the best thing to do was to go for a walk, I find myself chasing the sunset to get to the harbour arm at Camber Sands and I manage to take the image above.

Now THAT is the best way to clear a bad head! :-)

4am Project

If you Google 4am Project, you will find details on the 4am project that first kicked off on 4th April 2004 - funny enough! Not sure why (happy to be enlightened) but there was also a 4am project on Sunday 17th October. The general idea is for anyone across the World to take an image at 4am in his or her local time and post it on the Internet.

I had been planning my shot for many many months but with the intention of using sunrise or sunset light to enhance the image. At 4am, it would be dark so I was using it as a trial session, as much as anything.

If anyone knows of the Dartford Toll Crossing, it is the Eastward side of London, M25 link to get across the River Thames, consisting of two tunnels and the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge - an understated example of British engineering! The Southside is surrounded by a trading estate on one side and a powerstation and huge lorry distribution centre on the other. My first problem was finding somewhere to park!

I found an off-road patch of hard ground that was not obstructing the road, the pavement or any access point BUT ……. No sooner had I stopped than a security guard appeared stating I was in the way. “In the way?”, I said ….. I only want to park to take photos of the crossing area. Well, mention a camera and the guard became particularly agitated spouting off about terrorist threats and high-risk site etc. etc….. When I asked if I looked like a terrorist and he failed to listen or respond, I realised I was on to a loser and offered to park elsewhere. “Thank you”, he says and watches me leave.

So off over the other side and double yellow lines everywhere, car-parks barricaded off and signs threatening £200 clamping for unattended vehicles – not the friendliest of places! I found an unattended unit car park about ½ a mile from where I wanted to be, slung my camera bag on my back and started walking up the hill.

Once on the bridge, I set-up my tripod and swapped a few lenses before settling on the wide angle lens and having over an hour to go, I had plenty of time to practice the shot and observe the traffic – the highlight being one car drifting from left to right in controlled wheel spins exiting the booth – highly illegal and dangerous but impressive all the same!

So 4am came around and I “got the shot”, before dragging my tired feet off to find the car and crawl into bed!

10.10.10 10:10

Yep, it's binary day, so had to catch the binary hour too.......

Filter used to slow the shutter speed so the only movement within the image is the minute hand - something special about the passing of time in a static image. Do tell me if I'm losing my marbles!

Slow shutter speed also had the effect of losing all the people going about their daily business.

The Hastings Wake

Sneaking away from work a little early, I made the pilgrimage to Hastings just 4 days after the disastrous Hastings Pier fire, reported to have been started by two teenage youths. Why a pilgrimage? Easy really, during my teenage years, I spent many many hours in the penny arcades and generally "hanging out" on the pier. I was shocked at how the news of the fire had effected me, so a pilgrimage was the order of the day.

On arrival, the sun was shining but did little to lighten the shock my heart felt on seeing the twisted metal, blackened boards and gaping holes. The sun realised my mood and the mist rolled in to soften the sun and dampen my spirits further. Taking my first few shots, various people stopped to chat and all had the same thing to say "Hastings has lost a friend".

Some people had placed flowers and notes of sympathy against the iron railings that have kept the general populace out for the last 5 years or more. One official notice, posted before the fire, stated that the pier was due to be saved as popular momentum gathered together with the public purse.

Having pre-planned, I knew the tide would be dropping and turning just after the sunset, so I needed to get on the beach. The Hastings council had closed off all beach access for approx 1/2 mile either side of the pier but undeterred, I made the long walk along the front and then back along the wet sands, photographing various bits of debris still lodged within the sands despite the numerous tides since the tragedy.

As I got within 30 metres or so, a megaphone call from the seawall advised "The man with the camera" that I had strayed too close to the structure. In my opinion, I hadn't and even if it DID fall over, it would not reach me .... so I ignored the voice. Carrying on with my work, a council official finally reached me and asked me to move back. I politely refused stating I was in no danger and had every right to be doing what I was doing. When the official threatened to call the Police and started taping numbers into his phone, I advised "If you really want to waste Police time, I will still be here". The official walked back to the seawall and apart from megaphone calls to other beach users, it was the last I heard of him.

I met with a good friend, Paul, took more photos and chatted to lots of people and we all had the same to say about the tragedy that had befallen an already struggling Hastings.

The image above is my last shot of the night, just as the night security guard asked me to move away. I had my fill of shots, did not argue and enjoyed another long chat. By the time I left, it was really dark and Paul tempted me with the offer of a beer - it tasted grand Paul and thank you for sharing my Wake with me.

So what happened about the Police? I had been on the beach for around 4 hours and not a sign of them ....

All In a Days Work ....

Today found me working in Bristol with so much to do. I had a choice, leave the office early, leave some work undone, sit in traffic with the hope to get home in a half decent time or ........ Stay in the office until a reasonable time, get out and take some photos local and then get home late!

Yep, that's just what I did! Out of the office at 5pm, up to Clifton Downs and take a few pictures. Unfortunately, the clouds came in too early, so no real sunset to speak of. The image to the left was taken with a Lee Big Stopper, enabling me to have a 2 minute exposure time whilst the sun was still in full light. I like to call it "Big Brother".

As seems to happen to me on regular occasions, the three young Italian ladies asked me to take their picture (with their camera) and, of course I obliged - not the best image but I'm sure they will enjoy it - it's all about memories .......

A few hours shooting and it was getting dark. One of the young Italian ladies came over to my vantage point and was trying to balance her camera on the top of the fence to get a clear image - shutter speed was too long. Using some poor sign language, I managed to take her camera from here, fit a tripod mount and put her camera on my tripod - she was so pleased to be able to take the shot she wanted and I was pleased to have helped her - in a small way.

We then said goodbye and I loaded the car for the 3 hour drive home - cruise control on, classical music playing, no traffic jams and with pics in the camera, it was the RIGHT way to end the day.

Misty Madness!

So remind me, why do I get up at 4am on a Saturday morning, after a long weeks work? Probably because photography is my escapism and relaxation (if you call lugging my gear for miles, relaxing!) and it works!

The alarm sounds at 4am and I stagger down the stairs, kettle on and coffee readied. Quick check of the weather forecast, not that it is likely to change in the last 5 hours, and I'm ready to go..... Nice clear skies and a waning moon beckons me out into the cold but by the time I reach my destination, the mist has rolled in making for a difficult walk through the woods, over bridges and along the streams. Peaceful, you might think? Not a chance! I'm headed under the A21 flyover to the Tonbridge Flood Barrier.

Unfortunately, the mist did not lift all morning except for the one small window when I took this image. So the results are not as desired but hey, who wants to stay in bed? Right?

Calling it a relaunch would be a poor excuse.

Truth is, I have been lacking in maintaining this site - what with Flickr, Twitter, Facebook and P4A, I have neglected my own shop window on the World. Time to put that right, methinks .......

Having ordered some filters in April and being frustrated with their absence until they arrived just 2 weeks ago, I have struggled to create images I was pleased with. But now they are here, the last few weeks outings have been productive, with the left-hand image being my picture of choice.

I now make a promise to you (and myself!) to maintain this site and add blog entries as exciting things happen in my photographic journey.

Thank you.

Where has the time gone?

The Exhibition was a great success and it seems people like my images BIG. I'm hoping to do some more shows soon, so please keep an eye open here.

Exhibition Goes LIVE!

The pictures are up and initial feedback is good, though the old saying of "you can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can't please all of the people all of the time" was ringing through my ears when one lady said "It would look better with a picture of a cat". I just didn't know what to say ....... except (lamely) it is an exhibition of Local Landscapes.

On the hottest day of the year so far and with Tunbridge Wells resembling a ghost town, with the exodus to beaches and open spaces, I was pleased with the crowd who turned out to show their support. The question is though ..... was it my pictures or Sharon's free cake that drew them in!

So Day 1 open event is complete and the exhibition runs to the 3rd June, so please do pop in!

Local Landscapes Exhibition

I'm exhibiting some of my work at the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery, on the Big White Wall from 21st May to 3rd June.

There is an official opening event on Saturday 22nd from 2.00pm to 4.00pm so please come along and join me.

Thank you.

Norfolk Trip Day 2 Part 2

I have been to Blakeney before at the height of the summer season and you just can't move for tourists (I was one) but on a wet Thursday morning, it was empty except for a few boat owners preparing for a day out. The rainsleeves were required again as I pried myself from the warm and dry car. The sky was grey and flat - such a disappointment but a challenge to get something from the conditions.

This was taken from the car park before I ambled up the river bank to see what else to find.

The path was wet and slippery from the recent rain and high tides that cover the sparse vegetation, while I headed out to sea. The area is open and a great chance to stretch the eyes and listen to the marsh wildlife that was oblivious to my escape from the constraints of daily life with the ability to share their experience for a few fleeting moments.

A rusty old barge (see image in gallery) didn't look like it would ever float again but still someone is converting it into living accommodation and I have to say, I could put up with wet feet to wake up to a view like this everyday. Oh yes, I could make a really good hermit!

I found the track I had taken did not go much further so I retraced my steps but this time, sloshing in the mud and water in the empty riverbed.

Trying various shots, the sun finally made the briefest of appearances so forgetting the wet feet, I tried to capture its fleeting glory (see shot in the gallery).

Feeling cold and tired, I decided it was best to head back for the car but just had to tackle one more shot before giving in .....

So back to the car. What to do now? Fire up the laptop and find that yet again, another spot where the Vodaphone 3G dongle thingy could not allow effective connection - lucky I have the OS maps on the laptop to pour over. I drive along to various points along the coast but don't feel inspired and the lack of food is nagging at my stomach - is was getting toward noon so no real surprise! Weather is not showing any significant signs of improvement so a retreat was now the order of the day.

So back to the caravan via the shops and it was time to get my head down for a few hours - totally unsuccessful so it was back out to recce a few places for a sunset. Just a waste of diesel really, as the warmth of the car and tiredness in the eyes combined to conspire against my photographic desire. So a Chinese takeaway (they kindly supplied me with chopsticks and napkins - didn't realise it would be so obvious about my 'sleeping rough' after such a short space of time) and back to the caravan. Wolfed the food, set the coffee for the morning and settled down to watch the slideshow of all the shots I had taken.

I remember seeing some of the Brands Hatch shots but no more .......

ZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Norfolk Trip Day 2

...... Did I really set the alarm for 3.30?

What is that noise on the caravan roof?

Yep, dark, cold and wet....... just the recipe for turning over and going back to sleep. But no, that's not what I left everyone at home for. Managed to extricate myself from the wrap-around zip and switched the (already filled) kettle on. Throw my waterproof and warm camo gear on (which Liane refuses to be with me in) and load the car - find an old McD coffee cup on the car floor and fill it with the fresh coffee now made. Refill the coffee filter thingy, then add cold water and gulp. By 4am I am telling TomTom where to go.

So where am I headed? Cley-next-the-sea here on the North Norfolk coast. Beautiful little town that is totally chocked with traffic during the summer months - and this Easter weekend.

I had in my mind where I wanted to be to get the sun but knew the chances of sun would be limited as the light showers continued to make the car even dirtier than it was before (Norfolk use lanes as ditches with the fields being higher). Car parked, out of the car and stretching the tired limbs while re-fuelling on coffee and listening to an owl hooting in the distant trees. The birds are starting to stir and I remind myself it is time to get my act together and do what I came here for. So boots on, lens fitted and off I tramp along the sea defence wall.

With the lightest of light in the sky, I realise that the reed beds have been cut and a makeshift bridge across a small drainage channel revealed a wet field of reed stubble. Picking my way through the maze of mud pools and drainage channels by the light of the reflected twilight I work my way toward the mill, change the lens and set-up for this first shot (various shots were taken at the time).

The sun really wasn't going to play ball and make an appearance so I had to make do with what I had and investigated various other vantage points. The light was getting up so navigation was far easier and I really didn't want to slip into the main channel that was rushing at a surprisingly fast rate.

I looked at various other viewpoints but it just wasn't happening for me so it was time to head back to the car and seek another location.

Blakeney......

Norfolk Trip Day 1

Let me start by setting the scene .........

I have 5 weeks hols each year and I can carry upto 5 days across to the following year as long as they are used by End of March. If you don't use them, you lose them - no cash option ...... So I had all of Christmas off and still carried 5 days across. I realised (after the school hols) that I have to use or lose, so last week was booked in the diary.

Sharon was working all week and Liane and Ashley were at school. What was I going to do? I already had the Tuesday Brands Hatch Media day for my first proper motorsport experience but what else? I didn't want to waste the week ......... So with some nifty negotiation (I think the family were happy to see the back of me), it was agreed I could go off on my own for the rest of the week. Trust me, this was no insignificant thing. Other than 2 weeks in Belarus on a charity thing, I had not been away from the family other than the ocassional work night (and the sailing ......). Gotta be 20 years ........

After Brands Hatch, I stopped off at Bev's place for the Tuesday night (thank you Bev and David - pleasure as ever) and Weds morning trip to Camera World (highly recommended shop - nice, knowledgable staff) for some rainsleeves. Having extracted myself from Bev's hospitality, it was intended to head for the caravan, settle in and then go out for the sunset. Traffic meant a change of plans, so I headed for Great Yarmouth to find the Berney Arms mill on the Broads.

The weather was not great - grey and overcast, with a slight 'smudge' of sun forcing it's way through the cloud. Not inspiring but hey, I'm here to take photos! So a recce of the place established that the reed beeds were too high to take pics over so a new viewpoint was needed. Burgh castle is the remains of a Roman fort sat on the 'cliffs' above the Broads and the locals had been clearing some of the trees to provide a small bench and an opening vista across the marsh. OK ...... How long until sundown? 2 hours? Best make myself comfortable then.

During the 2 hours, it rained (rainsleeves are a great emergency cover and I recommend everyone have some in their camera bag), the wind got up and I froze. To try and keep I warm, I moved around but it didn't work. The only 'incident' was me trying to step back over the bench and thread myself into the tripod to find my centre of balance was wrong - keeping my eyes on the camear to avoid kicking the tripod, over I went - backward with a thump on my hand, followed with a slight twist (still avoiding the tripod) so I didn't crush the gear in the backpack and smacked the back of my head on a rock/stone. A few stars later and I was sat up to see if anyone had seen me. Phew! And I started laughing. Is this what the week was going to be? Rain, cold and broken limbs ....... What had I done?

Back on my bench and chatting to a few locals, I worked out the two birds I had been watching were Marsh Harriers - too far off for any shots but great to watch them patrol the reed beds with the ocassional dive to their prey.

So just as I was going to give up and head for a warm, dry car, the colour changed ever so slightly and the image to the right was the result.

Just the one good enough to show .......

So at the end of day 1, I know of a very good location for further sunset shots ...... and promptly bought some paracetemol for the camera bag for future visits!

On to the caravan and found it in the dark. Electrics on but no heating ....... ah well, who cares ........ It is Norfolk! Bedding sorted, alarm set and off to sleep, dreaming of fantastic images to be taken in the morning.

BTCC Photocall

My first day at motorsport photography found me at Brands Hatch for the British Touring Car Championship Media Day.

What a day!

Windy and Cold .....

I had to play taxi driver for my daughter and friends from Brighton, so had a few hours to 'kill' in the best way possible. It was blowing a real gale (read: strong wind) and the car thermometer of +5 degrees Celsius was obviously lying!!

Jill is one of two windmills - the other being Jack - and is the better of the two, having been restored back to full working order (Jack is privately owned and has seen better days).

The black base of the windmill is fixed, with the white top in constant motion to ensure the sails are pointing directly into the wind. As such, a real nightmare to take a long exposure shot.

Still, never leave empty-handed ...... and the girls had a great evening too. Splendid!

4AM is good for the soul. A Big Breakfast is good for the Belly.

Yep - alarm is off at 4AM (much to the pleasure of my wife who wakes before me), stumble out of bed, get dressed, flask done and head for the car. Frost is solid and I'm warm before the car is!

Destination - Rye!

I have a shot in mind and also am aware of the need to capture a picture to suit a forum monthly competition with the theme of "used". The day promises a lot with clear skies and bright stars.

I park up close to where I want to be, climb the gate and crunch my way across the frozen field using the glint of frost as my guide between solid ground and wet/icy ground. Negotiate a caravan (not sure if there are inhabitants but not taking chances), climb the flood defence bank and voilà - the River Rother in full flow out to sea.

Testing the salt grass, I find it firm to get right to the edge and start to take lots of photos from all various angles.

3 hours later, it is time to creep back past the caravan and navigate the flooded field - with a realisation that if it weren't frozen, I could've been knee deep in mud!

Quayside Cafe, Rye, do a rather pleasant Big Breakfast and a chat about the world in general......... then off to the next place (which I can't reveal until the comp has been set and votes cast....).

All in all, a great day!

Twitter anyone?

Well that's it ...... A new Facebook page carlsphotography.com and a Twitter account carlsphotograph (not enough room for the "y").

Whatever next!

On those cold miserable days ....

Why not try something new?

I have been meaning to try this for some while and never really found the time. But with little else to do, I decided I'd give the water droplets a go.

So first, how? Searching around the house, I wanted to set something up where I could control the flow rate. An empty washing up bottle was the container (bottom cut off), plastic pipe fitted and a clamp made of two plates and bolts with wing nuts. By altering the clamp, I could control the flow.

Container ..... what to use? I chose a deep glass vase to try and create an infinity pool.

Background ..... one of my previous shots of Hastings pier at sunset. It needed to be almost non-de-script so it wouldn't detract from the droplet. If you look into the water droplet, you can see the background and how it is fixed ..... need to work on this!

Set-up was camera on tripod, container suspended above bowl (great things bike mechanic stands!), infinity vase in washing up bowl, background fixed to board and remote flash aimed at the background.

Flash was close to the background and allowed a 1/32 power output. This enabled a continuous shooting with the flash re-charging as fast as the camera could burst fire. I haven't finished it yet, but I should have some animation shots where it looks like the drop is moving upward.

So there you have it - my water droplets!

"I'm a Photographer not a Terrorist"

Yesterday was the group rally of professional and amateur photographers from all over the country at Trafalgar Square. The group "I'm a Photographer not a Terrorist" organised the rally as a 'protest' against Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, that allows the Police to stop and search anyone with no reason or provocation. Since February 2009, when Section 44 came into force, there have been many high profile incidents of photographers and tourists being stopped from taking pictures in public places. In many cases, this has led to people being arrested.

The European courts have ruled that Section 44 is illegal under European law as an abuse of the Human Rights Act. The UK government have declared they will appeal the judgement and continue as normal.

If I were a terrorist and I wanted to 'case' an area, I would use inconspicuous photography equipment, not the tripod, camera and many lenses I use as a photographer. Furthermore, if I were a terrorist, I would use the Internet as my source of information from Google Streetview to architectual building plans to freely available documents. Why would I want to make myself so visible in areas covered in CCTV?

My attendance at yesterdays rally was not as a militant anti-establishment but rather a citizen with ever growing concerns over the abuse of my civil liberties and the abuse of power now afforded to those who are supposed to protect my rights.

The day was well supported, well mannered and a great opportunity to make new friends - special hi to the crew of Amateur Photography who made me feel very welcome.

Festive season is over .......

.... and I have time to update this blog with a few pictures from the past few weeks. So what has happened? Well, it snowed and I couldn't get the car out, so a few snowy pics of the local area were all I could take.

I have uploaded a number of pictures of the snow and cold weather we have had for the last few weeks - including some of Bodiam Castle - so check out the Galleries page.

Frosty Sunrise

Again, reference to The Photographer's Ephemeris and the weather forecast had me up before dawn and visiting a local windmill.

The horizon cloud was my curse again and there was not enough cloud in the sky - such a balancing act between too little and too much cloud!

The windmill is on a public footpath and the picture of the Golden Rails is the boundary fence of the people who live in the windmill. The owners had let their gorgeous Spaniel dog out to see me off but was just after a lot of fuss and attention.

When taking a series of shots, another person walking two dogs walked along the footpath and when I struck up a conversation, her first question was "You're not taking pictures of their dog are you?". I immediately said no and she walked off. I wish I had had the presence of mind to ask why as I felt affronted that she should think I would be meaning harm to anyone or anything ...... then I realised, I still had my balaclava over my head and face, with just my eyes and glasses visible. I guess I should not be surprised at her frosty reception.

So the sun was up and time to move on and I decided to stop off at Bedgebury Forest Pinetum to take some more shots of the frost.

The shot of the frost crystals took ages to set up, with my Sigma 105 Macro lens with a full set of extension tubes, on the tripod at very strange angles.

Bedgebury Forest has a wonderful variety of trees and the frost provided a wonderful 'blanket' for some further pictures.

Then it was home to warm up .......

Hastings Sunset Trip

Having a few hours free and having checked the weather forecast, Tide Tables and The Photographer's Ephemeris, I decided a trip to Hastings Pier would find the tide out and the sun-setting over the sea.

The Hastings fishing fleet is the largest beach launched fleet in the UK, with boats of all shapes and sizes being readied for sea or in various states of decay.

As planned, the tide was out, sea nice and calm and the sun-setting just where I expected it too. Except for a few lug diggers, I had the beach to myself whilst noisy Hastings carried on over the shingle bank and sea wall.

The sun didn't perform as I would have hoped with the usual (for me) cloud bank obscuring the far horizon but I still managed a few and have uploaded for your pleasure.

A Meeting in Southend ....

I had a business meeting in Southend and as is my normal habit, I decided to leave plenty of time for the dreaded M25 and left really early. So early in fact that I was in Southend well before the sun's twilight showed on the horizon. Not knowing the area too well, I didn't have much in mind but wanted to include the famous pier but knew this would be a challenge given its very long.

I knew the tide would be in, the moon would be but a slither and the sun would rise across the water so with this in mind, I drove down toward the creeks. Being as it was so dark and I hadn't recced the area, I decided to play safe and headed back to the pier.

Guess what, is it winter and all the building work that can't take place during the summer is being done now - so builders in vans keeping warm, lorries dropping off supplies, scaffolding, diversions, signs and people were all obstacles that meant many views were too obstructed for a clean view so I gave up with the main pier.

The dawn continued to be a problem , with an ideal viewing platform not opening until 9.30am (well after dawn!) and a series of shots are probably spoiled as the street lights switched off mid-shoot (a series of shots intended very a Little Planet but don't expect to see it now!).

So down to the empty beach to see what I could find .......

What a beautiful sunrise and while I have yet to process the shots, I hope to have a least one picture to upload later.

Cheers .......

UPDATE..... As expected, the Little Planet didn't work so don't go looking for it!

The site goes live!

Well it was about time!

Please feel free to browse and test to destruction. Use the "contact me" form to advise of site errors and I will do my best to put right.

I do hope you will bookmark me and return on a regular basis.