Monthly Archives: April 2011

Arrival

Liverbird

I have a visitor this weekend. A very old friend from my university days in Liverpool (hence the picture) that I don’t see very often. The main reason for this is that he lives in Brazil. He went on holiday there almost 20 years ago after being made redundant and never came back after meeting the girl of his dreams (awww).

I think he sees himself now as more Brazilian than English; the last time I saw him we had to pretend it was 1989 as none of our cultural references were the same any more. So it goes… I have a weekend planned of beer, music – tomorrow we are off to Salford for an all-day music festival – and reminiscing about old times.

Tonight I am cooking for my guest plus some other friends that he knows via social networking but has never actually met. This could be a total disaster but I am seeing it as in interesting social experiment. I mean what could go wrong?

OK, don’t answer that. Anyway, it will be good to see him. Friends come and go throughout our lives. Many are lost; some are lost and then found but its the true ones that stick – even if you don’t hear from them or see them very often. When we left university I would have put good money on me never seeing this particular friend again but it didn’t pan out that way. I am not sure why but it has something to do with bonds formed whilst both hating working in London; we used to meet regularly in the Elvis Presley Memorial Bar (I kid you not) on Tottenham Court Road and try to keep each other sane. The invention of Skype means we talk face-to-face on a regular basis. It really is a small world.

Machiavelli said that you should keep your friends close but your enemies closer. He was talking bollocks.

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Canal life

Canal life

Bank holiday today for the R**** W******. And no. I am not going to mention it. And if you were expecting me to blog about it then prepare to be disappointed. Therefore a short post tonight as I don’t want to be dragged into commenting on the day’s events. I wish them well and all that but in the words of Morrissey ‘it says nothing to me about my life’. Needless to say I didn’t watch, so lets leave it at that. I won’t say any more on the grounds that I may incriminate myself. And yes I am well aware that I am a curmudgeon. I took the kids to see Thor instead… now that’s the kind of royal family I can relate too. Always fighting. And using hammers.

When I am very old and even more curmudgeonly (there’s a word I should use more) I would very much like to live on a narrow boat and spend my days cruising the waterways of Britain shouting at passers by. Until then, another picture from the canal basin on Good Friday. Again, I like the striking colours here in the early morning light.

Busy weekend ahead with a guest arriving from the other side of the world so the blog posts may be short and sweet. Have a good one!

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ABC. As easy as…

123

When I started this blog it was obviously going to be about my attempts to get to grips with photography. It was about documenting my progress; yet somewhere along the line it went a little awry. I’m not sure when this happened but there did come a point where the words sometimes – and it is definitely sometimes – were as important or even more important than the image. This will always be a photo blog but I can’t disguise the fact  that since it started I have written tens of thousands of words. I always used to love writing. Creative writing, as it was then  called, was always my favourite subject at school even though my stories often took a turn towards the macabre (blame Doctor Who and Stephen King).

However, since graduating all those years ago (1989 if we are going to get depressive about it) and up until I started this blog I have written very little other than e-mails and PowerPoint slides. My day job, as an Editor, is very much wholly about words but these are not words that I have written myself. So, its fair to say that until this blog I had written very little for myself for the last 20+ years.

This is post 272 since I started. Lord knows how many words that constitutes. Some posts are long and rambling, some short and pithy (normally when I have nothing at all to say). Yesterday’s post was the most read this year and I have no idea why. However, I did feel that I needed to highlight how important the words have become. If only because I am now forced to write for pleasure. On a daily basis.

With this in mind, today I entered a competition. Nothing to do with photography but to write a short story in less that 500 words. I found this task unbearably hard and I’m not really sure how it turned out; time (and judges) will tell. The story itself was dark (quelle surprise) and based on the short stories that Roald Dahl wrote for adults. It’s probably not very good but that is beside the point. The point is that I wrote it and that I submitted it. Photography seems to have helped enable a creative area of my brain that has been shut down or idling along for far too long. I have no musical or artistic (in the conventional sense) talent at all but photography has enabled me to be a) good at something and b) start writing in a way that I haven’t for a long time.

My son, who is 10, tells me all the time that he is rubbish at everything. What he means is that he is not a good footballer and to him that means everything as  football dictates everything at playtime in school. True, he is not a good footballer but then neither am I. What he does have is an incredible curiosity about how things work, a passion for history and the lessons of the past and a wicked sense of humour. His handwriting could be better (but I think that applies to all 10-year-old boys) but what he doesn’t realise – not yet at least – is that you can’t be good at everything. You have to specialise. And sometimes you may not even realise what you are good at until very late. I actually think that High School, coming the year after next, may actually broaden his outlook. It did mine.

In the meantime here’s to reigniting the spark. It’s never too late.

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Moving forwards

Crossing

As the end of April approaches it would appear that I am now a quarter of the way through a post a day for 2011. To be honest I never thought that I would make it even this far so I’ve surprised myself. The hardest thing about this whole process is deciding which pictures to blog and how much to write. I must say that taking on this challenge has focused the mind in terms of pictures AND words. So I thought it was maybe time to take stock of recent developments; it has been a pretty busy year thus far, mostly because of the enforced blogging but also in terms of developing an audience for the photographs, no matter how small.

  • I’ve recently set up a gallery on Society6, an on-line artists collective. It is from here that I had a print accepted for sale by the Urban Outfitters print shop. Over the last few years, I’ve been asked on several occasions to upload photographs to such sites and also to photo libraries (and even created my own rudimentary website) but with no interest generated in terms of sales. Society6 appears to be different. Not only am I in awe of some of the talented individuals in the community, particularly in terms of graphic art, but I’ve also been heartened by the response to some of my work. And yes, I have made some sales, particularly from the aforementioned print that Urban Outfitters have optioned. Despite the fact that it all works on commission, it is the artists themselves that get to set the commission rate; so in other words I can set a commission and let Society6 handle print, format and despatch of the pictures. This sees me generating real, tangible sales for the first time online and to be honest it’s rather exciting that somewhere in the world, probably the US, there are walls with my photographs hanging on them. With this in mind I’ve been concentrating my energies here of late and I would recommend the experience to other photographers/artists/crafty people out there. The rewards may not be great just yet but if I can build a presence and get more work accepted for the various affiliate print shops then this could become a means for financially sustaining my hobby, which is all I’ve ever wanted. Most importantly, all copyright remains with the artist so I am free to sell the same works elsewhere should I so wish. This has led me to consider abandoning Flickr, especially given recent coverage of abuse of image rights (by the Daily Mail you will no doubt be unsurprised to learn).
  • In other news, I’ve been asked to photograph another wedding (my third) in July and on this occasion the approach has been unsolicited (i.e., the other two weddings that I’ve photographed were family of close friends and a work colleague [and friend], respectively), which means that it is not the wedding of someone I know. This is good as means that someone has seen my photographs and liked them, but at the same time daunting as they are unlikely to give me the leeway that I may have got previously.
  • Also this year, I had two photographs shortlisted for a national photography competition and even though I didn’t win this would seem to suggest that I am moving forward. Said photographs (and others) have also appeared credited in both Cheshire Life and Lancashire Life magazines.
  • Some photographs that I took for the website of a furniture shop in West Didsbury, Manchester have been used (again credited) in a lifestyle magazine; what was particularly pleasing about this is that the shop-owner wanted to use my pictures as the ones taken by the magazine’s photographer were not of the standard he expected.
  • I have put in a submission for exhibition space in Manchester for 2012 thanks to a contact made on Twitter.
  • Finally, I have continued to receive help and support from a great many friends – old, new and virtual – some of whom are rather surprised (like me) that I am doing this at all, let alone that I don’t suck at it big-time (as my children would say).

It’s only when I write this down that I can actually see the progress made in the first 4 months of this year alone. Hopefully I can keep it going for another 4 months and do another recap at the 2/3 stage of the year, after which I will have photographed that wedding and made my annual pilgrimage to Glastonbury. Apparently, I am pretty expert at non-promotion and wallowing in self pity. This post is an attempt to buck the tend. Onwards and upwards…

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Canal basin, early morning

Canal basin

As I mentioned in the swan’s nest post of a couple of day’s ago, on Good Friday I was rudely awoken and so nipped out to take some pictures, specifically to catch the swan on her nest while she was still there. Given the unseasonal weather it was quite a bright morning, with a slight mist and this was the first picture I took on arrival at the canal basin. If you are interested the swan is nesting under roof with pillars in the centre of the image, just to the left of the footbridge.

Mornings and early evenings work well for photographs, particularly landscapes and I like the stillness here. The reflections work well and the single plume of smoke adds a bit of character, and I think the misty haze adds a bit of further character. This image has been cropped to 20” by 8” which is not a standard size but I have come to a bit of an epiphany. Photographs exist to be printed out, framed and hanged; therefore I had a look at the website of my preferred printer to see their standard dimensions for wall art… Lo and behold (and this is probably blindingly obvious to all but me), standard dimensions for print exist well beyond the dimensions I have been using. So, since I can print and frame this picture at this size I have cropped it accordingly. Another illustration of my ability to get constrained by the rules.

I’ve gone with the colour image here as the canal boats are so brightly coloured that I wanted to preserve this; however, as usual, I have also processed a black and white version. I’d be interested to know which works best. I have an opinion but want to make sure that it tallies with consensus.

Canal basin b&w

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Zombie pirate!

Zomdrac

Take two 8-year old girls, one sleepover, one copy of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, a box of face paints, some pirate/vampire costumes and what do you get? The answer of course is ‘Zomdrac’, the dance troupe sensation (half zombie pirate, half vampire) that is sweeping the world (well, our house at least – but everyone has to start somewhere). The word ‘sleepover’ is one that often strikes terror in me. This picture explains why…

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Eggs

Eggs

It’s Easter Sunday and yesterday I promised you eggs… so here you are. Taken on Good Friday morning, very early in the morning in the brief few seconds when female swan (Pen ?) awoke to rearrange the eggs underneath her – surely it can’t be very comfortable.

Very late post as today has been a bit of a whirl, including a trip to take the kids to see The Harlem Globetrotters (!) in Manchester. Sadly cameras were not allowed in the arena so no photography to share. We are the proud owners of a Globetrotters basketball so maybe I’ll post a picture of that once I have perfected spinning the ball on the tip of my finger. Hope you had a good Easter break (assuming you had one) and I am able to go to bed know safe in the knowledge that as tomorrow is a bank holiday I don’t have to go to work.

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Nest

Nest b&w

Regular readers may be wondering why I have mentioned running of late. Indeed the more cynical among you may feel that this is a sign that I have stopped running and lapsed back into my old ways. However, I can assure you that this is not the case. I am now running 40-50 kilometres a week; this has resulted in weight loss (not as much as I’d like) and the appearance of muscles that I was unaware I had. I know have a circular running route that takes me through the city centre via canal. But I digress… the last week or so I have been running past this swan sitting on her nest in one of the canal basins. Every time I run past I make a mental note to go back and take a picture before she goes and yesterday I managed to remember to do it, which is quite an achievement for me.

Despite it being Good Friday and the start of the Easter holidays I was up very, very early (around 6 am) thanks to that age-old combination of birdsong and children dropping things.Therefore I decided to head down to the canal basin and take some pictures in the early morning light. No doubt some of them will make an appearance in the blog this week. So, the swan was still there; this time with her partner who was doing his job in protecting her and the eggs. Having a swan hiss at you is actually quite threatening and I was reminded of the fact, as recounted my mothers everywhere, that an angry swan ‘can break your arm’. I have no idea if this is true but I think probably not.

I had no idea that swans made nests; I’m sure that this is the most stupid thing I’ve ever written as its obvious, being birds, that they would. It’s just that I’ve never seen one (until recently) and given that it’s so huge I’m amazed that I have lived to age of 43 without seeing one before. This photo works well in colour and black and white but I think the black and white treatment works best in conveying the dark texture of the twigs making up the nest versus the whiteness of the swan.

The ‘rules’ say that you should avoid shooting down from above – certainly in terms of nature photography – but as I have been encouraged recently to break them, I think this is an occasion when the pictures works. I also managed to get some shots of the eggs but I would be stupid to blog those today wouldn’t I? 😉

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Easter bunny?

Urban rabbitjpg

Trip to Liverpool today with the family and came across this touching scene on the way back to the station. All that’s missing is the ‘hungry and burrow-less’ sign. Of course the children wanted to keep him but my wife and I argued that whoever had lost him might come back. Besides he looks quite happy. So there you have it. The Easter bunny, out on the lash in Liverpool and making the most of the sunshine. And who can blame him?

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Two trees

 Two trees

At last! It’s the Easter holiday so I am going to be off enjoying myself in the sunshine that looks like it might be hanging around for a while. Therefore, the weekend posts may well ne brief. Wherever you are, enjoy the break and make sure you spend it having fun with friends and family. Another photo taken on the way home from work in the haze of early evening. I’ve also done a black and white version of this that I like but my quality controller tells me that with all that yellow it needs to be seen, despite the fact that the sky is a bit bleached out. And who am I to argue…

Two trees bw

However, for reference purposes, the black and white version is to the left. Of course its all about personal preference, but for me the sky is better in the black and white version. But which is better? And do you care?  There’s only one way to settle it. FIGHT!!!

Have a good holiday. I hope to get out and take some more pictures over the long weekend, so hopefully will have some new stuff for next week.

 

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