After my last post on the 1st August I said that this blog was not going to die so here is another post just to prove my point. I will admit that not blogging has been a blessed relief for the last couple of weeks, although during those two weeks it seems that England (yes, England NOT the UK as news outlets would have you believe) has gone to hell in a handcart. This blog is not going to try and understand why the recent riots happened but I do I find it very sad. A lot of lives and livelihoods have been ruined and even lost but I think last week’s events have been coming for a long time. Our culture is now obsessed with the accumulation of goods and the cult of celebrity then it should come as no surprise when those that have nothing decide to take what they don’t have. The violence cannot be condoned and those involved must be punished but at the same time those at the other end of society – bankers, MPs who were economical with the truth expenses wise, huge corporations avoiding tax – must also be seen to be punished. But that will not happen. Indeed, our current Prime Minister, and the Mayor of London, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer were members of an exclusive club at university (the Bullingdon) that used to regularly behave badly, smashing windows and trashing restaurants. Of course in their case they could pay for the damage and it was only ‘youthful high jinks’. Similarly, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has admitted to setting fire to a greenhouse full of rare cacti in his youth.
It’s very sad that a student – with no previous convictions – walking home from his girlfriend’s house who stole a 3.50 bottle of water gets 6 month in prison and does not deserve a second chance; conversely, Andy Coulson, the Prime Minister’s disgraced communications chief did deserve a second chance despite allegedly overseeing widespread criminality at the News of the World. Of course the majority of the rioters deserve to go to prison for a very, very long time but for a government obsessed with fairness this seems to be in short supply. Knee jerk reactions are almost always wrong and there seems to be no proportionality.
But enough hand-wringing. I never meant to write all that but got carried away a little. Despite the news coverage coming out of England this week, its still a beautiful country and today we are heading up north to my favourite place, Northumberland. From a photographer’s point of view I find the landscapes of Northumberland, where it seems you are never that far away from a castle, a rugged coastline or mile upon mile of empty sandy beaches, to be inspiring. I am hoping to get lots of good pictures that I can share as the blog progresses at a more sedate pace.
This picture was taken in Northumberland, on Holy Island, last year at the same time as I was photographing a wedding. Of late I have been experimenting a bit with different effects and tints and this was an image that I liked but which in its colour form was bleached out by the sun rising over the headland. This seemed to work and prints are available from my society6 shop.
In other news, the last set of wedding photographs that I did, which I agonised over for so long were delivered to much praise (phew) and as a result I have had an enquiry about shooting another wedding next year. Sales are picking up slowly on the society6 site and a friend in PR has decided to take me by the scruff of the neck and put a plan in place for promoting my photography more widely. We’ll see how that goes. But first a holiday… Back soon
Americans often take our great big vistas and scenic views for granted. We don’t have the same sense of ourselves as bounded or constrained by our shoreline as I suspect many English people do. We only rarely refer to ourselves as an island, and even then, it’s usually crazed fundamentalists who are alluding to our existence as an island of religiosity and morality (yeah right). But I am just as guilty of taking the immensity of my country for granted as the next Yank is. I’m pretty lucky because I have gotten to experience some of the amazing big skies, mountains, and plains that we have to offer, the same ones that so enchanted Stephen Fry on his American travels. This image is from Christmastime 2009. I was visiting my family in Scottsdale, Arizona and riding in a car. One could write a whole other posting about adult parents and their adult children and the diplomacy and rules of engagement when it comes to who drives whom. I shall just say that, after what my father still refers to as the scariest ride of his life when I was a freshman in college, I have never driven my parents anywhere, ever again. Thus I was in the back seat when I took this snap. I was hanging out the window and used a tiny Nikon Coolpix to capture it. It’s no Mark Nelson image, but I’m pretty pleased with it, as the man himself might say.
Mark writes: As I said in my post of yesterday I had several offers of help on the blog after my late-night rant about giving up. So this is a guest post from my friend Jenn – only the second guest post that the blog has had since starting – so be gentle. It is much appreciated and takes the pressure off me. Plus it must be nice to have a non-English perspective once in a while. I think that this picture proves that even the simplest point-and-click camera can capture something special. I have never met Jenn, we met via LastFM as we share an almost uncannily similar taste in music. That said, I do consider her a real friend rather than a virtual one. My how times have changed.
So I have backed up all the wedding photos and it totals 706 images and suddenly the enormity of the task stretches ahead of me. OK’ I‘ve got 3 weeks to sort through them all and the number will be whittled down to something a lot more manageable but that still means looking at all of them and making decisions on what to cut. There are a fair few multiples (i.e. pictures taken in continuous shooting mode, so it should be a case of picking the best from a selection . I have decided to wait a few days before starting though so that I can approach them fresh. Besides, this weekend is really busy with three parties to go to (one 40th, one 50th and one 9th).
As a reminder there are now 6 days to go before the ‘Your Britain’ photo competition closes and I have entered three of my images. You can vote for them EVERY DAY here, here and here up to including the 15th July or even more often if you are the type of person that uses multiple browsers or cleans their cache regularly. Here endeth the shameless plug…
And the picture? Rain falling on Wales viewed from the English side of the Dee estuary at dusk. Hope you are having a good weekend. Words are failing me today (you may have noticed).
… so sang the Super Furry Animals, who are from Wales where this picture was taken. I am not sure what it means but I do like it as a phrase. I assume its because rocks endure whilst all around them changes much more quickly. The black and white version of this is in my Society6 studio so I thought I’d share the colour version here.Taken with a tripod in fading light at f-22 the picture captures the movement of the water with that wonderful silky effect but its really about the rocks. Slow life. I like it.
Whilst traipsing the streets of Bala, North Wales last weekend we passed this church. It seemed remarkable only in that is was so tall and thin compared to the surrounding buildings and was slotted in to such a small space in terms of width. Anyway, it seemed worthy of a photograph and here it is. Once can only wonder how many parishioners can fit inside at one time; mind you it was a Church of England building in the midst of Wales, so perhaps there aren’t that many to cause a problem.
Another picture from last weekend and an example of the contrary nature of the photographer’s lot. You would think that with the landscape of Wales’ largest lake and surrounding mountains to photograph then this would be the focus of the window of opportunity I had to take pictures. I did indeed take loads of pictures of the lake and surrounding countryside but as I go through them there are not that many that I actually like. Of course it may be that I need to leave them for a while and come back (I have found this to work in the past) but the fact is that I committed the cardinal sin of getting the camera’s image sensor dirty (too much lens changing I’m afraid) and some of the later pictures are going to need a lot of post processing work to clean them up – and I have not got the heart for it at the moment.
I think that this is my biggest failure as a photographer – I am always changing lenses in the the field as I am never quite sure which to use. In other words I try to hedge my bets. On the plus side this over cautious approach means that of all the rubbish I take at least some are worthy of taking forward. The downside is that when you take the lens off a camera, especially if you forget to turn it off (which I frequently do) then dust can get inside attracted to the static generated. As a glasses wearer I am also always taking my glasses on and off, putting them down, losing them, standing on them etc… Basically, I am not particularly well organised and this is definitely something I need to work on.
Anyway, of all the pictures that I did take, the best are a series of pictures capturing buttercups growing on the lakeside. Some of these have turned out really well i.e. I might be able to do something commercial with them such as producing some artwork or entering more competitions (not that I have had much success of late). Again, I experimented with different lenses and this one was with the camera’s standard 18-55mm kit lens. I like the sharp focus of the flowers against the background blur of the lake, mountains and bruised purple sky. You can tell the daylight is fading but there is just enough sunshine breaking through the clouds to illuminate the flowers.
As a follow on from yesterday’s post where I counterpointed the madness of my triathlete friends against my own personal brand of madness (i.e. standing knee deep in a Welsh lake as it goes dark) I thought I should post one of the photographs that I took. I have not been through them all yet, and I took a lot, but this is one that looked promising. You can never tell how your images are going to turn out by viewing them on the camera screen; it’s only when you get them home and look at them full size that you realize how good/bad they have turned out. This one seems to be OK though. Other photographs from the weekend just gone will no doubt materialise on the blog over the coming weeks, once I have had a chance to go through them all.
I can guarantee that the pain I went through to take this photograph was nothing compared to the pain of doing the triathlon, but I did get my boots wet and stand on my glasses.
Ok, so I am back and posting in real time again. I can see that my automated posts actually appeared so that is good thing to know going forward. We have actually been camping in Wales this weekend on the shores of Lyn Tegid near Bala, the largest lake in Wales. And the reason? Two friends (and not me I should hasten to add) were taking part in the Bala triathlon which, I am reliably informed is also a ‘half Iron Man’. This is basically a 3-mile swim, followed by a 50-mile bike ride, followed by a 13-mile run. My friends, we can call them Steve and Simon for this blog, which also happens to be their real names, do this sort of thing quite regularly. I take photographs, they do triathlons; it’s a middle-aged thing.
On Friday night then three families (six adults, seven children) all headed into Wales for a weekend’s gentle camping before the race today. All things considered, the weather was not too bad on Friday and Saturday (when this picture was taken) but today was a different matter. I took this picture of Steve heading into the lake yesterday for a practice swim. It almost looks inviting. Yet today, for the race, he will have headed into it in driving rain and gale conditions. They started at 10 am and were hoping to finish by 3 pm. Five hours! Of exercise! In the pouring rain! I was going to call this blog post ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen’ but there was no midday sun involved, just driving, relentless rain.
Spare a thought also for their families too, standing in the rain, cheering them on. Safe in the knowledge that we were home, showered and snuggled on the sofa watching telly as we had no reason to stick around. Also, since my daughter had left her waterproof outside all night there was no way we could have spectated, even if we’d wanted too. And the blog title? This is how my daughter pronounces ‘triathlon’. I thought it sounded suitably Welsh. If things have gone badly, they could still be running as I type. I have asked ‘why’ but there is no reason other than the vague ‘because it’s there’ excuse that you always get from people that are far healthier and fitter than you are. I maintain though that putting yourself through that hell, in those conditions, must take its toll mentally as well as physically.
I salute them, even though I don’t understand. They may have felt the same yesterday when I disappeared with camera and tripod to go and stand in the lake as it went dark. Mad dogs and Englishmen indeed.
Day one of the ‘living without children for a week’ experiment and all going well so far. Having adult conversations that do not revolve around the state of my son’s bedroom or whether my daughter should really be wearing eye shadow at the age of 8. Went for a run, with my wife, which has never happened before and was remarkably easy compared with when I run on my own. We even managed to hold a conversation without resorting to iPods. Just phoned the in-laws to talk to the children to be told that they are ‘too busy’ and will phone us back later – so much for being missed.
Anyway, this picture was taken along my running route and something about the young corn (?) and the parallel lines of the tractor running up the field appealed to me. I had grand plans of using this in colour but the sky was too bleached out so I resorted to black and white to get some added texture in the foreground. I know that you can replace the sky in Photoshop and I have attempted it before but it always seems not quite right to me; I think you can tell when a sky has been replaced. At least you can when I do it and this probably says more about my processing skills than it does about Photoshop.
Still, I’m happy to go black and white; the original image is uniformly green anyway. So now I just need to sit by the phone and wait to see if my children can be bothered to phone back [drums fingers on table, checks watch, decides to open a bottle of wine instead]