Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Heads you win

Many years ago I worked in the photography industry, as a salesman in a camera shop. It was a great job for a new photographer as I had nearly unlimited access to all the latest shiny bits of kit and first pick of any second-hand equipment that came in to the store. On top of that I had the chance to build contacts with some of the major importers and manufactures, which lead to such perks as free services on my cameras and very cheap bits of kit.
One of the other benefits was the training courses that we got sent on. These were normally run by the big manufactures like Sony and Minolta and while giving you good training on some aspect of the job also normally had some fun element built in.
The training day ran by Minolta was a good example. Set in a good hotel in the centre of Birmingham its main aim was to make us aware of the new range of cameras and to do this there were a number of demonstrations on the latest models and chance to handle kit that would normally only be seen by the top professionals. The high light of the day was a chance to put some film through the cameras. The scenario was that we each could take our pick of the kit on show and the hit the streets around the hotel taking as many shots as we wanted, the best shot, judged by the training team once the photos had been developed, would win a prize (a bottle of bubbly).
I immediately grabbed the top of the range camera; one not even released at that time, and then fastened to it the most expensive super wide lens they had got. To give you an idea of the cost of this kit it equated to at least 6 months wages and they let me out of the door with it! I had about ½ an hour to get some shots and hit the streets around the hotel looking for something interesting. With a super wide nearly anything can take on a new perspective and I had great fun, but did not have a winning shot in the bag.
To fully understand the next bit I need to set the scene, I am a small town boy and also quite short and weedy (well at that time). The hotel was just outside the city centre in a rough area and peopled with some very dodgy types, I’m not saying they were all drug dealers and muggers but they could have acted as extras in most gang related films and fitted in quite well.
So heading back to the hotel, still short of a good shot, I come across 4 of the biggest, toughest black guys I have ever seen (and me with 6 months wages held in my hand) and I have an idea. This basically involved me on the floor surrounded by theses guys and taking a photo shooting straight up as they loom (boy, could they loom) over me in a menacing manner (menacing they were good at too). On reaching the hotel alive, I found that my models had been spotted by all the other whom promptly hid their cameras and headed in the other direction. I won to competition but still have not seen the champers.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

The writing is on the wall.

Yet another stunning night for British talent, congratulations to Kate Winslet and Danny Boyle, great news to wake up to on a Monday morning.
The weekend has just flown by, as it always does when you’re busy, started this one on Friday afternoon, sawing 3 scaffolding planks in a howling gale in the hills above Leek. The planks were from a reclamation yard and at 13 feet were too long to fit in the car so needed to be cut down, a hard job with a blunt hand saw. These were then made on Saturday into 2, 3 feet by 6 feet rectangular frames for 2 raised vegetable beds for the front of the house. This area is at the moment unused and this seems the best way to utilise it, although I was amazed how much soil was needed to fill just 1 of them that the other will have to wait a while before it can be filled. If the weather picks up I will be out later planting my onions and shallots.
Sunday was walking day and the 3 of use headed up to Macc forest for a wet and windy walk that pointed out to me just how long it has been since I did any manual labour as my back and arms had not stopped hurting from Fridays and Saturdays hard work.
Photo today is from our trip to Egypt a few years ago, a really great place to see and one we really want to go back to. The image was taken on a compact digital camera as I really did not feel safe taking a bigger camera with me, now having been there I would feel quite happy taking my more expensive kit.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Duffy 3, Leona 0

Watched the Brits last night and what a fantastic set of winner’s, it makes me so proud to come from this little island when I see the talent that we can produce and the effect it has all over the world. I was especially please for Duffy, she has come up the hard way, no reality TV help for her, and has proved what hard work can achieve. It was also very telling that Miss Lewis did not win anything for the second year running. If only the rest of our economy was as strong as our entertainment professions then we might have a chance at beating this down turn. The only down side to the night was pointed out by Caz (and Kylie if you read this it was nothing to do with me, I think your great) but why was the Brits hosted by an Australian? (a very pretty one), don’t we have enough talent that’s home grown that could have done the job? One strange point but did the listeners of Radio 2, normally thought of as the middle aged easy listening station, vote Iron Maiden as the best live act! Hopefully now it’s on to the Oscars and a repeat post celebrating more British wins.
Photo today from the Greek islands, the front of a fishing boat moored in a quite harbour.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Old habbits die hard

I know I said I was cutting down but there were a couple of things I needed to inform you of.
First I’ve added another lesson to the photo course, this one covers shutter and aperture and was by far the hardest to write. The course so far has been more technical than I wanted but I think its important to know what is going on in side your camera, as this give you the ability to then take control. I have not pre-planed the course and the lessons are taking a natural shape of their own, but any feed back would be welcome.
Second, the Leek daily photo has gotten off to a cracking start, much better than I could have hoped for, so thank you for all the support.
The picture to day is of a leaf stuck to a piece of old Perspex’s security sheeting, fastened over a window, under normal conditions it looks horrible, but with the light behind it, I just love it.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

A new beginning

Well now that’s all over I can free myself from all those self imposed rules and have some fun.
It was so strange not to post anything here for a day, even though Sundays were normally just quick posts or quotes, it did leave a little hole. Thank you all so much for your comments, it made what was a special day just that more magical. We spent the day together Caz, Kep and me walking in the hill through the snow, followed by a pub meal, unfortunately surround by all the valentines trapping, but at this time of year you cannot get away from them. I still found myself taking shots for the blog, but not as manically as I don’t have to feed it every day, it’s amazing what a stress it use to be.

So what now? Well for a start less posts, may be 2 or 3 a week, but that depends on the quality of the pictures. The pictures don’t need to be new ones, so some of my older images will get an airing for the first time, a few treats there then. I’m also thinking of inviting some guest Bloggers along, I’ve visited so many good blogs and would love to share them with you all. My new daily project is up and running, the Leek daily photo blog, it’s a lot less labour intensive than this was as the picture are close to home and the writing is to be kept to a minimum. The photograph course is still on going the next lesson is nearly finished and will be posted soon.

Today’s photo, it’s a Wolf, a real one, Caz got it for me for my birthday a couple of years ago, well a least for a few hours when I got to walk in it’s company around a wood. Afterwards we were taken in to an enclosure with 3 large cubs, the size of a medium dog, who were free to roam and I ended up with one nibbling my ear, probably one of the most unique experiences of my life. If any of you are interested in wolfs and live in the UK this is the link to their web site, UK Wolf Conservation Trust.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Last post

I wrote this as part of the second days post:

“365 different photos, I’m daunted and intrigued at the same time. Daunted with the task of taking the images and writing words to tie it all together and intrigued at what will be here in a year’s time. Will anybody see this? Will it make any sense?”

70,849 words, 367 photos, 3014 comments, and 43358 visitors from 164 countries later and it’s all done, I’m 42 and have the answer to those questions.
Yes somebody has seen it and no it really does not make much sense, but that really does not seem to matter that much.

I wanted to mark the passing of a year in my life and have ended up with a fantastic record of a year in both words and pictures. More than that it has changed my life, I have gained a confidence I never had, I can write without fear, my photography skill has improve and I realise that you can do nearly anything if you work at it.
One of my dreams was that it would become a “blog of note”, I still smile at the feeling’s that hit me when it happened, going from 25 visitors to 5000 in a day! The thrill I get reading the comments has never faded and I really miss people I’ve never met when they go away for a week and don’t post.

So the last thing to say in the last post, THANK YOU, without all the support and encouragement I would not have been able to do this and by visiting the blog you all have help in a great way.

A special THANK YOU to Caz, she has put up with a lot as I have spent hours over the year working on this, mostly without any complaint. She has also had to put up with me checking the stats and comments over and over again, and then giving her them in great detail. I’m sorry if I take you fore-granted at times, I don’t mean to, you really are my whole world, and I don’t care if the whole world knows it.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

The penultimate post

The penultimate post, a least of the challenge I set myself. I will post a review of the year and of the blogs roll in it tomorrow, but today I will make a bit of an announcement, I have a new project!!
As if this and the photo course weren’t enough I have decided to start a new daily blog, why you might ask, well the answer to that lies at the start of this blog. When I had the idea for this blog it was just to publish a daily photo to showcase my work, I had no idea what a blog was. Once it was up and running I learn about all the different types of blog and found mine was neither one thing or another, but I also found the type of blog it should have been, so now’s my chance to do that.
Meet the Leek daily photo blog, inspired by all the city daily photo blogs (lots of which aren’t cities) I intend to post a photo a day (see I’ve not learned a thing), but with very little writing (learned a bit then). To start the site off I have collected around 20 shots of Leek and the surrounding area that have appeared here and my intention is to try and capture both the good and bad sights of the town and surrounding villages and countryside. The blog (like all good blogs) start on the 14th and I hope it has ½ the successes that this one has.
As for this one I will still keep posting, just not every day. See you tomorrow for the last post.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hints and tips for new bloggers No1

When you chose your blog title make sure that you are happy with it and that it is accurate.

365 to 42, a year in photos, unconnected images taken by me during my 41st year.

After about a week of use Caz pointed out that it’s my 42nd year, but by then I’d signed up to various site using that as part of my profile so I let it run. Then I notice the bigger error, it’s a leap year and in fact its 366 days to my birthday, on top of that as I first posted on my birthday I really wanted to finish on my birthday, an extra days post, so 367 posts and photos in total. As for the images taken by me during the year, well they were all taken by me, but as I said very early on I intended to not restrict myself to images just taken this year as a spell of bad weather could leave me short of images, as it happened only 3 images were shot before the blog started a lot less than I would have guessed at the start.
So 365 posts and photos, but not the end of the year, or the end of the challenge and not even the end of the blog. Photo today of the Great ridge looking back towards Mam tor.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bin there, done that.

My morning routine has settled down over the past year and now goes something like this. Get up to the gentle tones of Sarah Kennedy reading through the mornings news papers on radio 2, this is a great start as by the time I’m fully awake I know what’s been going on in the world. A quick fuss of Kep as I open the bed room door he sleeps out side the room but normally right against the door so you have to fuss him as you go past. I then head down stairs for a cup of coffee, now my only real cup all day and spend 10 minutes watching TV or reading. By this point Kep has finish waking Caz and is down stairs giving me the eye as he wants his food and exercise. A quick game of ball in the garden and while he is eating I nip up stairs to fire up the PC. While he is out, doing his business I make my breakfast then let him back in and head to the office.
Once at my PC and still eating my weetabix, I start Firefox and open my emails, Kep settling down by my side, I start one of the best parts of the day, reading the comments on the blog. Mid way though this Caz shouts up that she is going, so I nip down stairs to give her a proper send off, I never miss doing this if I’m around. Then its back up stairs to finish the comments, check the stats, pop round my fav blogs and prepare to write this one. This is how it normally goes, but if the day is looking extra good I can some time sort out Kep and then head for the great out doors. Its hard to think what I used to do with my mornings before the blog.
Picture today is of a typical park bin, I liked the look of it so took the shot, it made it onto the short list for the blog and Caz spotted it and said it looked good, she is always a great judge, so here it is.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Leader of the band

Think I’ve just sorted the last shots for the blog, as I said yesterday my main fear was that I would end up just posting anything, but I’m happy with these and they are a fitting end to the year. I’m not going to stop blogging, I will keep this one going but not at quite the same pace, Saturday will be the last of the daily posts, I still cannot believe that I’ve managed not miss one day so far, very unlike me. I am planning a new blog and if I can get my act together it will start on Saturday, which is a big “if “though.
I’ve been watching the fires in Australia with new eyes as the girl I sit next to at work comes from near there and has been giving us a first hand account of living with bush fires. I know that a number of my visitors do come from around there so I hope you are all safe and keeping well out of trouble.
One of my closest friends is also a Blogger and has updated her blog with the goings on over the past few weeks, Polergirl has been in and out of hospital and both Caz and me have been very worried, having read the blog I would have been even more concerned if I had known it all, as it was, knowing someone close was that ill certainly put my petty moans into place, although some of my customer very nearly got put in their place, so what if the letter was a day late, my friend just been rushed into intensive care! She now seems to be on the mend and we are both so looking forward to seeing her again.
Picture today was taken in Leek park, I had it nearly to my self and it looked great, but this just stood out and I had to share it.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Much better Monday

The start of the last week, my main worry was that it would just fade out as I ran out of things to say and stuff to photograph. Then the English weather took over, it snowed again last night and so this morning has been spent walking round Leek shooting also sorts. So a short post so I can work on 700 odd shots I’ve taken since Friday.
The 3rd lesson on the photo course is now posted, the 4th lesson is ½ way done and I hope it will be on the blog next week.
I’m also working on a new project, which I would like to start next week, more later.
Photo from the walk around the Great ridge in the peak district on Saturday

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Music triv

At age 47, the Rolling Stones' bassist, Bill Wyman, began a relationship with 13-year old Mandy Smith, with her mother's blessing. Six years later, they were married, but the marriage only lasted a year. Not long after, Bill's 30-year-old son Stephen married Mandy's mother, age 46. That made Stephen a stepfather to his former stepmother. If Bill and Mandy had remained married, Stephen would have been his father's father-in-law and his own grandpa.

The song "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" was written by George Graff, who was German, and was never in Ireland in his life.

In 1939 Irving Berlin composed a Christmas song but thought so little of it that he never showed it to anybody. He just tossed it into a trunk and didn't see fit to retrieve it until he needed it for a Bing Crosby-Fred Astaire movie, HOLIDAY INN 10 years later.
Bing Crosby was a staunch Catholic and at first refused to sing the song because he felt it tended to commercialize Christmas. He finally agreed, took eighteen minutes to make the recording, and then the "throw-away" song become an all-time hit.
Crosby's version has sold over 40 million copies. All together, this song has appeared in 750 versions, selling 6 million copies of sheet music and 90,000,000 recordings ,just in the United States and Canada.
You might not recognize the song from the movie HOLIDAY INN...or from the composer's name of Irving Berlin. But you're bound to know it because it's on everyone's list of Christmas favorites: WHITE CHRISTMAS.

The only guy without a beard in ZZTOP surname (last name) is Beard

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

It's a dog's life

Still running behind and its still the snows fault. Today we headed out to the Great ridge and spent the whole day just walking in the snow, taking pictures and enjoying the sight of Kep having fun, a great day. Most of the photos for this week will probably come from today’s walk as the light and conditions were fabulous, but to start with a shot of Kep ploughing through a snow drift.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Rock in Robin

Time really rushes by, I cannot believe it is already Friday and I’ve not done ½ of what I wanted to do. Still playing out in the snow 3 days running probably does not help, but I’ve taken loads of photos.
With just over a week to go till my birthday I feel a little sad that I have nearly finished this task, not that I will stop posting on here, its given me so much I would be a fool to give it up completely. I am also looking at another project, one that will keep me photographing but not take up the amount of time that this has, more on that after I’ve looked into it a bit more.
Picture today is the great British symbol of winter, the Robin, this one was a right little poseur, all I had to do was stand by a bush that was well lit and wait for him to come over.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Good snow day

Well yesterday was fun, I managed to get of my arse and face the cold outdoors. Not waiting for the cloud to lift I headed out, aiming to get to an old barn just off the main road to Ashbourne and managed that with no problem as the side road was very clear. Now this road runs deep into the heart of the Staffordshire Moorland and in a moment of madness I decided to follow it. What a good decision, it ran clear right up to Longnor and beyond. Once in this area my only idea was to try to get to Chrome hill, as I had only seen pictures of it covered with snow and wanted to see it for real. All went well until I turned off the main road and hit the farm track you can see in the picture (it runs from the bottom left, along the left bank of the stream, then curves round the side of the hill, meeting the wall that seems to end in the middle of the field on the right of the picture). At the road end this track was fine, until you had gone about 100 feet, then it became white over with no places to turn round
It was at this point I realised that I had bitten of more than I could chew, I could not go back and the sides of the road were too deep to attempt to turn round, the only hope was a cattle grid about ½ a mile down the track that had a hard stand by it to allow animals to be driven through a gate. The track had a gentle downward slope and with a bit of care I reached the turning point, once turned, a task that involved a lot of cold sweats and swearing, I decided that it would be silly to give up, so drove my car off the track, leaving the front wheels just on the hard stuff and went for a short walk up Chrome hill, where this photo of Parkhouse hill was taken.
Than I faced the journey back, up hill, all went supprisingly well until I met a quad bike pulling a trailer, driven by a very surprised looking farmer, luckily it was by a wide-ish bit of track and I managed to get most of the car out of the way to let him passed. Once on the main road it was just a ½ hour dash to get home.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Snowy day

I love snow, I spend a good part of my year walking the local hills thinking what they will look like in the snow and when it arrives I grab my gear and head out. The result is nearly always disappointing, either the snow has melted, or the weather is crap, or as was the case yesterday, the roads are too bad to risk getting to the areas I want.
I left Leek on the Buxton road, hoping to get to the back of the Roaches, only to be stopped at each turn off by blocked roads; at one point I thought I would have to drive to Buxton just so I could turn round, a journey of 12 miles. Eventually I ended up at Merebrook, a little village just 3 miles from Leek, feeling over dressed in my full winter walking kit and rucksack. On the way back I stopped off at the local supermarket, only to meet the worst conditions of the day on their car park, it had turned into a thick sheet of ice and had not been gritted at all.
Today I’m sitting fully dressed in my walking gear again waiting for the cloud to lift, I don’t known the number of times this year I’ve sat here looking for that break in the clouds to start, it’s so frustrating.
The picture today is from Merebrook, an old fashion road sign, I’m sure these will become rarer as time goes on, there seems to be less around even now.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A better day

Thank you all for your kind words, you will be pleased to hear that Kep is back to his normal self today, although the vet said we may see some more fits before the meds take effect. I spent the morning keeping him company yesterday and made up for it today by getting out in the snow.
He is a shot I took today, a full update tomorrow as I’ve spent too long out in the snow and have loads of work to do.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

I really don't like Mondays

The weather forecast has been promising snow for today, for the past week, so my plans were to post early and then rush out to play (capture some serious images). Then at 6am I was woken by a strange noise coming from out side the bedroom door, Kep was having a fit.
Kep is one of the fittest dogs you could meet, but for most of his life he has been on medication for epilepsy, it started when he was about a year old. I had taken him out for his morning walk and as usual he was running round like mad, when all of a sudden he collapsed and started shaking. I had never seen a fit and thought that he was choking to death, but after a few moments he was on his feet and nearly his old self. During the next few months he had a number of fits until we got his medication right. This morning was his first fit in over 10 years, and it lasted longer than most of his other fits put together.
I don’t have kids, I’m just not that type, Kep is my child and I’m so worried and scared, that I can only just function. At the moment he is lying by my chair, snoring gently and I’m clock watching until I can ring the vets, but every little movement drags my attention straight back to him. When he came out of the fit this morning he did not know where he was, for the next hour it was like having your computer reset to the factory settings, it looked like Kep but he was not yet in there, then slowly he started to come back, and when he picked up his toy and wanted to play, well that was just so good.
Back to the pictures, yesterday was a shot of the church at Rutland; this building must be one of the most photographed in the country. Today it is a shot that matches my mood very dark and depressing with just a hint of brightness on the horizon.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Music quotes

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." -Decca Recording Company rejecting the Beatles, 1962

"I don't know anything about music, In my line you don't have to." -Elvis Presley (1935-1977)

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace." - Jimi Hendrix

"... when I saw Jimi Hendrix I knew immediately that this guy was the real thing ... and when he played it was like a rough sketch of what he was going to become ... this guy was our generation, and he wasn't in a suit .. he played a Howlin' Wolf song 'Killing Floor', and then we (The Cream) had to carry on the set. It was pretty hard to follow ... " - Eric Clapton

"Whenever society gets too stifling and the rules get too complex, there's some sort of musical explosion" - Slash / Guns 'n Roses

"... everyone was using tiny brushes and doing watercolors, while Jimi Hendrix was painting galactic scenes in Cinemascope. We are working in a field of mystical resonance, sound and vibration... that's what makes people cry, laugh and feel their hair stand up ... " - Carlos Santana

"Without music, life would be a mistake." -Friedrich Nietzsche

"Secretly, I wanted to look like Jimi Hendrix, but I could never quite pull it off." -Bryan Ferry / Roxy Music

"An intellectual is someone who can listen to the "William Tell Overture" without thinking of the Lone Ranger." -John Chesson

"If music be the food of love, play on: give me excess of it..." -William Shakespeare

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