Saturday, December 22, 2007

Runswick Bay

I usually shoot photographs with a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera with interchangeable lenses. I have at least three different camera bags with which to transport my ever growing collection of bits of glass and camera-person essentials. In theory I should never be in the position of 'having the wrong lens'. So why does that happen so often?

The main reason is that I don't like to be encumbered by a bag. Nor do I like to look like a photographer. So my preferred lens storage place is a coat pocket where it can mingle with the fluff, toffee papers and other detritus. It is not really a suitable environment for a £700 piece of equipment but who cares. My long grey raincoat is ideal, lovely deep pockets that will take not only two lenses but also the camera body, spare battery, cable release, a few humbugs, a piece of cake, whatever. But if I'm not wearing that coat, I can carry only one lens. Often I make the wrong choice, leaving home feeling like it will be a wide day and then finding that all the subjects that present themselves turn out to be narrow.(No, I don't understand what I'm talking about either).

Given that I can only carry two lenses using the coat method, what is the choice? Well I shoot very little with what could be called a standard lens, the one usually sold with a DSLR camera. Instead I have two favourites, a 12mm-24mm wide-angle zoom and a 55mm-200mm vibration reduction mid-range telephoto. In theory not having access to much of the standard range, which is about 18mm - 70mm, forces me to make images that are a touch outside the normal, however that is defined.

I'm not sure it works because I still photograph far too much that is merely ordinary and gets deleted. However the image above, taken a couple of days ago on the Yorkshire coast at Runswick Bay, is one for which I did have the right lens in my pocket. It was taken at the widest angle I can achieve and I got the coat wet in the process. It's used to that. I just like the overall compass that this lens gives me, with the breadth of the sky and the immediacy of the foreground.

And it's pretty.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Going through another quiet, urge-lacking spell hence the paucity of posting (but not, it would appear, of alliteration).

Still it's good to be able to find an image from close to home for a change. Jubilee Bridge is about a mile away, providing a shortcut from our village to the south side of the Vale. I've stopped there are numerous occasions when the light's been interesting. One morning a couple of weeks ago, after a good, hard frost and with a light mist glowing in the low sun, the world (and Pixie, bless her cotton socks) begged me to stop the car and give it a bit of a going over. As always I had the wrong lens on the camera but that was to no avail. Shoot me, shoot me, said the river.

So I did.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


War Sonnet

Is it not war that drives us to despair
That we will never rise above the mire,
The grim and festering fields of fire,
The smoke, the noise, the shrieks that rend the air,
From men we've sent across the mud to dare
The foe to take their lives amongst the wire,
A ceaseless flow of death that will not tire
Until we have no more, or come to care?
Yet if we found the means to end this game
To fix this dreary picture in a frame,
To paint it as a scene of love and bliss
Instead of blood and hate, would we think this
A better way to live our lives, behave?
Or are the ways of conflict those we crave?

(I posted the above poem a few years ago. It seems appropriate to give it another airing today.)

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Just returned from another jaunt to foreign parts. A couple of images to be going on with - words later, if I think of some.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


You will be pleased to know, I’m sure, that the condition of the baked beans at my hotel has improved and they can now be described as ‘comfortable’; they are once more satisfyingly gloopy. Also someone has obviously been out gathering hash browns as they were present this morning in abundance. My early morning equilibrium has been restored.

You may have observed, if you are at all interested, that my days must be pretty uneventful if all I can find to comment on is my breakfast. Well, sad though it is to say, it is the highlight; from then on it’s a steady roll downhill before gently nudging up against the buffers of ‘reading in bed’.

Nevertheless my day is not all gloom and doom, although watching people play poker for hours on end is a fairly stringent punishment and unworthy of someone as well behaved as myself. As past readers may be aware, I’m usually lucky enough to be incarcerated with some jolly companions. On this occasion it’s Tracy and Sarah, and what I don’t know now about moisturiser, eyeliner and mascara is just not worth knowing. At some time soon I expect we’ll all traipse off into town to get our nails done.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Misty Morning

Yesterday morning, before starting work, I was finally able to succumb to the call of the autumn light. I headed up into the low hills near the hotel, found a farm gate, parked up, removed the camera from its comfy billet in my backpack and pointed it into the sun. I didn’t have long; just enough time to track a few sheep strolling back and fore in front of some misty trees. It was very satisfying.

As for the rest of the day, nothing happened.

This morning I bounded from my bed (and if you believe that you are sadly delusional), opened the curtains and it was dull. Result. I could breakfast in peace, without the nagging little voice in my head saying ‘Go on, get out there, you know you want to’. And so I did, the only disappointment being a shortage of hash browns, and baked beans with a higher than desirable sauce-to-solid ratio .

Then, because I had nothing better to do, I went to work, early.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Sonnet & A Bit More

For a few years I’ve been playing around with poems where the theme is ‘light’. The following piece is one that’s been on the back burner for some time. Last night, while much of England watched a game of rugby on television, is suddenly worked itself up into a sonnet. And then added a bit of something on the end.

I’ve got the feeling there’s a touch of Shelley about it but since I’ve not really read any of his works, I can’t be sure. Perhaps he was also cheesed off by the country’s obsession with sport and paid me a visit.

But then, now I’ve re-read my opus below, perhaps not.

The Palace of Dim Light

Within this crumbling palace of dim light,
No sun-cast shadows break the plangent gloom,
No bright-lit dust motes dance in random flight,
Unseen as draughts sweep through the mighty room.
Grim, rough-hewn columns of enormous girth,
Spring up towards the bleak, bat-ridden vault,
Scarce seen above the floor of beaten earth,
Thrust beams of stone, that light so rarely sought.
But what would turn this edifice so dire,
Once more into a monument of fame?
The fizzing embers of a glowing fire?
A single candle, with a trembling flame?
Would these drive out the all-pervasive dark,
Bequeath the stones the longed-for vital spark?

It is too late
The ground awakes
And with indecent haste
Throws down the walls
Decants the beams
Into the ruptured space
No more a place of dancing dust
No more in need of candle flame
A centre of God-given right
No more the palace of dim light

Saturday, October 20, 2007


A gnat’s whisker. An interesting measurement. First catch your gnat. Then find a really good micrometer and some very delicate tweezers.

Unpleasant things, they are; gnat’s, that is, not tweezers although they can give you a nasty nip. And midges, the scourge of the Scottish Highlands, vicious, microscopic bearers of misery. They pale into insignificance, though, when compared to the New Zealand sand fly. The reason I mention them is that there’s an advert running on UK television at the moment that shows a couple strolling hand-in-hand along an NZ beach. As if. They’d be running for their lives if my experience in anything to go by. Glorious sandy strands to look at but don’t get out of the car, or wind down the windows.

In fairness this only seemed to be a problem on the east coast of South Island when Pixie and I were there one December – we walked for miles on the west side without any aggravation. But that advert is still misrepresentation, whichever way you cut it.

Now if you’re expecting a picture of a beach or, for that matter, a gnat, you will be disappointed. Instead here’s a ladybird.

Alan Coren

One of England’s great humorous writers, Alan Coren, died on Thursday. He was a master of taking something trivial, like the discovery of Neolithic hut circles in Hampshire, and transforming it into a magnificent flight of the imagination, in that case involving dodgy builders and a god in the form of the Isle of Wight. He loved language and the use of words. Along with the late Douglas Adams, he was a formative influence on my writing style. I am in his debt.

Friday, October 19, 2007


I wanted to use the word ‘obesogenic’ today but I’ve decided not to. Please pretend you’ve not seen it.

I left the hotel this morning to be greeted by a glorious autumn day. I’d about an hour to kill before being needed in my substitute womb so I nipped off across the car park and knocked out a few arboreal images. This is the time of the ‘leaf peeper’.

Pictures of leaves are pretty but curiously unsatisfying – you just know that they’re not even remotely original; all over the Northern Hemisphere, at this time of year, photographers are drooling over these riotously coloured icons of decay.

Determined to cast aside this lack-lustre subject, I leapt into the car and drove off in search of something more challenging. And didn’t find it. Beautiful light, stunning countryside, but nothing took my fancy. So I went to work early. Such is life.

There isn’t a muse traditionally associated with image making or, for that matter, prose writing so I can’t really blame the absence of any inspiration on their being away on a jolly somewhere. Of the ones that are recognised, Terpsichore; dance – not thanks. Not just now. Euterpe; music? Well I did whistle a bit of Mendelssohn earlier so perhaps she’s still about. Melpomene; tragic poetry – well there was a burst a couple of days ago so maybe she’s also on the scene (and wishing she wasn’t!)

Now if I could get Thalia back from the mall, we could all have a laugh.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Some years ago I took a creative writing course. The person who ran it implied that we should be able to write something worthwhile at any time, night or day, come rain or shine. I never had the chance to enquire as to which planet she came from but I assume it wasn’t Earth. I can no more write on demand than I can fly.

I’ve been sitting in front of a blank screen for about 30 minutes. My colleague, Tracy, has just asked me if I’m waiting for inspiration. I am. I usually try to hang these posts on an image and at the moment I haven’t got one. Time will have to pass…

…And it has and it’s a new day. I’ve rifled through the images on my laptop yet again and come up with one from a trip to Australia in 2005. Not that it is of much help, as it doesn’t really say a lot. Can a giant air-conditioning fan give me the impetus to pen a witty little piece about the environment, perspiration or fuel consumption in Honda diesel-engined cars? No, it can’t.

The muse is absent again. Perhaps she’s on holiday, sunning herself on a beach in the Maldives or checked in to a health resort in the New Forest. Whichever it is she’s not on hand at the moment.

Not that there’s anything wrong with muses being on holiday – everyone deserves a break now and again. Pixie and I seem to be in a continual state of returning from one, on one, or planning one; I think we’ve got four in the air at the moment and that’s just before the end of the year. You can never have too much travel unless it’s to and from work; most of my work is over 150 miles from home and not commutable. The holidays make up for the long days in the studio and the weeks spent in hotel rooms. It doesn’t matter how comfortable they are, hotels are not home.

The breakfasts are much better though.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Not Lived

I'm a fairly cheery bloke by nature, not given to great seriousness, except in my taste in music, so when a sombre moment creeps up on me, it catches me by surprise. That's how it was with the bit of free verse below. I don't know where it came from. I was sitting at the lighting control desk in Maidstone Studio 1, at peace with the world, everything looking as it should, lunch approaching and then this serious nonsense just appeared in my head. Before I could say 'whoa', it was on the page and lurking with intent.

Not Lived

Outside the open door,
The world awaits,
Its warm light beckons,
Bask in my glory,
It says,
Revel in my scents,
Let me surround you
With sound
I will enchant.

You do not go.
The glow does not extend
Beyond the threshold
Quite far enough,
To touch your heart,
You cower,
In a corner,
Safe, unharmed,
Life limited,
Not lived.

As an antidote I searched out this image from my 'Door Furniture Shadows' collection. Incidentally if you've seen it, or its mate above, before, I apologise. I'm not in a position to shoot much fresh stuff at the moment as I'm working 12 hours a day or more. Also I've a poor memory of previous usage. These were on a disk I found in my laptop bag. Unfortunately there was no chocolate to accompany it, just some oozing Remagel indigestion chews.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Day Out

Beautiful day in central England, warm, windless, the perfect weather for a walk in the Cotswold Hills or getting the bikes out. So Pixie and I got in the car and drove to Witney in Oxfordshire to do some shopping; after all, where's the fun in the healthy option?

Pixie and I have well-developed shopping routines. If it's for food, I leave her at home; I just can't trust her to search out the bargains and the new lines. Since I do the cooking it makes sense for me to deal with the acquisition as well, although the aisles at Waitrose are pretty restricting when it comes to bringing down a wild boar.

General shopping, such as today's outing, is also structured. We tend to go our separate ways, meeting up only when there's an opportunity to consume food or drink or we want to show each other something we've found. Today, for example, Pixie took me to a shop to show me a handbag and I took her to a church to show her a 16th century tomb - quite similar, really.

Pixie's main activity will be searching out goods for her business. Mine will be buying the paper, visiting second-hand book shops and, of course, photography. I quite often end up in a coffee shop, reading the paper and sneaking in an illicit muffin or toasted teacake which I may, or may not,take a picture of. I can wait for Pixie for hours as long as I'm occupied and near food.

Other than clothes, shoes, second-hand books and the temptations of the kitchen department at John Lewis's, there's very little I buy on the high street nowadays; I've been an Internet shopper for many years and, almost without exception, it's been a positive experience.

So today's purchases in six hours of exposure to commercial pressure?

  • The Times newspaper

  • The latest novel by Arturo Perez-Reverte

  • A tin of Australian shoe polish (black), found in a shop in Burford - I was thinking I'd have to take a trip to Sydney to get some and that was going to be a touch expensive.
Pixie's haul is a closely guarded secret.

Today's images are a couple of threes from Witney Parish Church.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

One That Got Away

As previously mentioned, I have a thing about lonely chairs in rooms so here's one I photographed earlier.

In the small town of Rochester, Vermont, is an outpost of the perfect world. Seasoned Books & Bakery runs one of the best bookstores I've been in, and I've been in hundreds, combined with a superb bakery/cafe/deli. It was a place in which to spend a few hours and gain a few pounds. The other plus was it had a vintage clothes shop attached to keep Pixie occupied while I browsed and indulged my passion for coffee and muffins.

That was back in June so you may be wondering why it's taken me until now to post this image; I know I am. Well it's quite simple really. It went into hiding. I must have prepared it months ago and then it slipped off into some nook or cranny on my PC, doubtless intent on a life of excess and frivolity. Today, suddenly, it popped back into view and tugged at my coat tails. 'Use me now,' it said, 'use me now'. So I have - anything to silence its plaintive cries.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Three in Steam

I think my interest in railways has surfaced in this journal from time to time. Generally, though, I keep it under wraps, a guilty secret that runs contrary to my arty pretentions. To be honest I'm not that interested in the locomotives and rolling stock although the smell of a steam locomotive on heat is pretty irresistable, the sound sends shivers down my spine and the sight of one at speed is beyond compare. Still, small beer really. It's the system engineering that fascinates me - the routes, signalling, architecture, etc.

This group of three were operating on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway at the weekend. Sorry about the lack of smell and sound.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


It's that time of year again, the time when I can be found on my hands and knees in churchyards and other locations beset by decaying plant life and shrivelled fruits. My favourite haunt is the old graveyard behind the church of St John the Baptist in Cirencester, the place where I was myself baptised - perhaps the water wasn't strong enough.

Burials ceased here in the mid 1800s due to overcrowding. Today it is a peaceful place on a warm, autumnal afternoon, populated only by the birds and the few locals who escape there to sit and eat lunch, or have a quick ciggie. Beyond, the sound of the traffic in the busy town is damped by the buildings, high, dry-stone walls and the enveloping foliage.

The fascination of this place to me is the endless opportunities to photograph leaves and other debris on ancient slabs of limestone, lit by light filtered through aged yew and birch trees. The juxtaposition of these elements with the inscriptions on the stones is the main compositional imperative. I like to shoot what's already there rather than indulge in a festival of arranging but occasionally I have to help out nature. I'm sure she appreciates it.

I’ve added a GV (general view) of the churchyard – thought it might set the scene – just add a large chap in a blue jacket with dirty knees to get the full effect.

Monday, October 01, 2007


A pair of unrepentant threes today, just because I can.

The first is a revisit to an old favourite, Rickards' hardware shop in Ludlow, Shropshire. Symbolism is a tradition in paintings from the Renaissance period, a feature picked up by the Pre-Raphaelites in the Victorian era. For example, depicting a plane tree symbolised charity, the snail, laziness and smoke indicated the shortness of life. While glass suggests the notion of purity, the main symbolic focus in my image is to do with numbers.

Three bottle-carriers strung out on three hooks in a geometric progression of two, four and six sections. Three has an obvious Christian significance in the Trinity and is also seen as a number of completeness; expressing a beginning, a middle and an end. Perhaps that's what so appealing about threes in visual terms. Then throw in its importance in fairy tales - when do you ever get four wishes? or six?

I'll brush aside two, four and six and their sum, twelve (apostles, anyone?) because it would take me all night and I'm really not that committed to this line of enquiry - sorry. But I will not ignore the faintly lurking seven at the bottom of the glass pane. It is regarded as the second most important number after, you guessed it, three. It gives us, in western civilisation, such groups as the seven ages of man, seven virtues, seven deadly sins and the seven sacraments of the Christian Church. A bit of a cracker, seven and combined with another just the same, as seventy seven, the address on Sunset Strip that will be memorable to all those who watched television in the early 1960s.

It may appear that my interest in religion runs somewhat contrary to my avowed stance with regards to belief in a god. All I can say is that it fascinates me. I was dragged to church as a child, on one occasion wearing a brown corduroy cap, a seminal moment in the destruction of one's belief system, and had formulated a view on the rationality of the whole business by the time I was thirteen. Now, having discarded it for my own purposes, religion is something I can embrace as a dispassionate observer and, to that end, I studied it as part of my degree course in European Humanities. It intrigues me and as long as people keep it to themselves and don't try to inflict their beliefs on others, nor practise their beliefs in a way that impinges on the lives of others, then I'm fine with it.

Now, which direction is Cloud Cuckoo Land?

And so to another three, a lovely faded green door, distressed and in want of TLC, and a trio of letter boxes, ripe for letters from loved ones or bills from the accursed.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Red Three

A return to the passion for red, in fact a third-class return. And a pair of threes. You lucky people!

That last phrase, a saying of the mid twentieth-century British comedian, Tommy Trinder, is one I must have picked up from the radio in the 1950's. It intrigues me that it's still in my brain and ready for deployment fifty years later. Another favourite of mine, which I use far too frequently, is 'deep joy'. Only this week I discovered that it’s attributable to another entertainer from around the same period, Stanley Unwin. All those hours listening under the bed covers have left their mark.

A further catch phrase, which both Pixie and I use for no good reason, is 'Right, Monkey', made famous, in the UK at least, by the northern comic, Al Read. We normally reserve it for when we're in France where we've loosely translated it as 'D'accord, Singe'. Meaningless to anyone who actually speaks French but it gives us pleasure to utter it whenever we have to deal with any particularly obstructive facets of the culture on the other side of the Channel (and there are plenty of those). It's an up-and-at-'em phrase, perfect for stirring our Anglo-Saxon blood to greater endeavour in the battle against the old enemy, even if Agincourt is long gone and all we need now is two grandes crèmes and a couple of croissants.

Since the last part of my surname is Norman in origin I can’t really say too much. In my defence I would point out that they were descended from the Vikings, the backpackers of the Dark Ages, roaming at will across the globe, discovering America, and generally having a good time (or at least a better time than some of the people they visited). I suppose the modern-day equivalent would be British lager-louts and their trollops vomiting their way around Spanish seaside resorts.

Or any of the local towns.

Bike Light

Chromium plated,
Beacon of light,
Guiding, warning,
Dimly bright,
Pushing the rim
Of darkness, away,
But never turning,
Night to Day.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


British television companies have been in a bit of trouble recently and not just for producing excruciatingly bad programmes like 'Big Brother' and anything else to which the word 'reality' is attached. No, instead they've been caught engaging in plain honest-to-goodness deception.

The children's show, 'Blue Peter', asked viewers to name a new cat and then rejected their choice (which was 'Cookie') in favour of something more trendy and today. The production team, using their 'just-out-of-media-college we-know-best' brains decided to call it 'Socks'; so much more BBC HQ, so much less everywhere else. In addition several companies have been caught fixing competitions, taking millions of pounds off of viewers phoning in after the winners had been chosen but before the phone lines have been closed.

I'm not sure why all this is such a big thing. The media has always manipulated what it feeds its audience - canned laughter on situation comedies is a classic example, some of which couldn’t get a real laugh out of a guy high on nitrous oxide. It's the way it's done - these people are the modern day gods and our entertainment is in their hands. Picking a winner out of the studio audience and feeding her the correct answer after the phone-in has failed (another BBC gaff) is par for the course - all television must look perfect, failure is not to be tolerated, nothing must be seen to go wrong. If it does, your nice little media career could end up with you working as an advertising copywriter for the Balsall Heath Free News.

Anyway, I can hear you say, what has all this to do with the image above and why is he droning on anyway, hasn't he got a bed to got to? A legitimate query and one which I'm happy to answer. It’s about manipulating the image.

I thought the gravestone motif looked quite interesting with its channels of water glinting with reflected sky. Then I thought, wouldn't it look more interesting with a leaf? So I went and found one and placed it in an appropriate position and lo, it looked better and I took the picture. Then I thought, wouldn't it look even better if the leaf was more central? That thought was immediately followed by another one which was, wouldn't life itself be better if I went and had a piece of Orange & Almond Cake? So I did, leaving the even more perfect image as a figment of my imagination.

If there's a moral to this tale, and you’re going to be hard-pushed to find one, it is probably that while perfection is worth striving for, it’s not worth your soul, nor is it worth anything near as much as a good slice of cake.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Heading into the Sun

I've just returned from setting up a TV programme in Holland. It has been three days of almost unremitting tedium, the sort of days that start at about eight in the morning and seem to end about a week later. They have only been enlivened by flashes of wit, cameraderie and the occasional piece of lighting that I'm almost pleased with.

I think I've got a high threshold of boredom. Without it I wouldn't survive in my job; it's not all glamour, parties and fine living at the viewers expense. Often there's a lot of hanging about. Actually I'll reword that. There's always a lot of hanging about.

When it comes to setting up a venue, lighting is the first thing to go in. The sparks and I then have to wait while everything else is built, rigged, aligned and generally fettled into shape. Finally we go back in before the show kicks off to set the lamps for whatever function I've assigned to them. Consequently I'm usually to be found still on the set at the last minute with the stage manager breathing very closely down my neck - we have an interesting relationship in which I have the upper hand; it's difficult to televise something if it's having to take place in the dark.

This job had plenty of tiresomeness but it was also next to a railway station, a chink of light in an otherwise stultifying experience. I took myself off there during a break from hanging around. Low sun straight down the lens and the 18.58 to Rotterdam Central poised to gallop off into the sunset.

Back home, a strange moon, with a halo. First frost of the autumn?

Thursday, September 20, 2007


1. Favourite past-time? Sitting in a coffee house with a latte, a copy of the “Times” and an almond croissant, either alone or in the company of Pixie, Cath, Lou, Niki, Peter, Jane, any of the people whose lives enhance mine. I apologise to those relatives/friends that I’ve left off the list but the deciding factor is the croissant sharing experience (although please don’t get the idea that any actual sharing of pastries take place or that I necessarily put my paper away).

2. Favourite item of clothing? A blue moleskin jacket made by R M Williams of South Australia that I bought several years ago in Leura in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales – sorry about the detail but I felt the urge.

3. Favourite jewellery piece? I don’t do jewellery. When I started work I was shown a safety film which included a lovely shot of a finger, a gold ring and a length of tendon – the point was taken.

4. Favourite month? March – the awakening (northern hemisphere readers only).

5. Favourite number? 4651.

6. Favourite year at school? All years indifferent and marred by unrequited love.

7. Favourite season? Autumn, a time of smells.

8. Favourite hair length? Whatever makes me look most distinguished, a difficult task.

9. Favourite expression on self? Never looked.

10. Favourite expression on others? Contentment.

11. Favourite chips flavour? Plain.

12. Favourite ice-cream flavour? Caramel, from Morelli's in Broadstairs, Kent.

13. Favourite time of day? Midnight.

14. Favourite day of the week? I’ve worked for forty years in an industry where all days are treated equally so I’ve never had one.

15. Favourite movie genre? Anything which moves slowly, gives you time to think, is romantic and/or humorous and possibly features Penelope Cruz, Sophie Morceau, Kate Winslet, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Bill Murray, Juliette Binoche, Kevin Spacey, Patricia Clarke, and numerous others about whom I could rabbit on for hours.

The quintet of images of threes comes from a recent visit to the county of Kent in south-east England.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Fading to Amber

Just a quickie tonight as it's late and I need my ugly sleep.

Recently I made a slightly derogatory comment about the light in the UK during the summer. Now it's within a gnat's whisker of autumn and things are on the change. Pixie and I decided to have a trip out last Friday up to one of the jewels of the Cotswolds, Chipping Campden. The light was stunning, kissing the warm limestone with tones of amber velvet. A glorious evening.

Later on we sat on a bench on Dover's Hill, looking out at the dying day. It was here, twenty six years ago, that we decided that somehow or another we were going to spend the rest of our lives together.

A special place.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Narrow Vista

Vistas seen through openings - aren't they grand? This one is taken from inside the redundant church at Earl's Croome in Worcestershire. It's one of those locations that I return to on a regular basis, a drawing-to sort of place. Some people doubtless get up in the morning and think about going to work, nipping out to do a bit of shopping, maybe a dose of ironing, cleaning the car; I get up and think 'the light looks interesting, I'll go and find a church'.

So I do.

I've been assured that belief in a god is not necessarily a pre-requisite for a career in the clergy these days. So I thought I'd get in a bit of practice. There are lots of things that appeal - the element of performance and theatre, the dressing up, the sense of place, the reasonable working hours (I've always worked Sundays so that isn't a problem). Difficult to think of a downside, really, other than some of my flock might actually expect me to believe in something. And that would be a real drag.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Bits of Chairs

We took a trip over to Hay-on-Wye yesterday, the book capital of the UK, to look for a birthday present for a friend of ours. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny with just the merest hint of autumn. As in past visits, I was overwhelmed by the number of books available and suffered the usual lack of will to search miles and miles of shelving. Fortunately I quickly found a specialist shop with just the sort of thing I was after. This saved a lot of tramping around and grumpiness and allowed a lot more time for eating and image-making.

Today's picture, taken looking through the door of an empty pub, does not shriek 'art' at me but it appeals on some level. It has diagonals (which must be my 'Theme of the Year'), reflections and an example of bounced soft-light (the lightening of the area under the window). Simple elements but inherently satisfying, to me at least. Also I find chairs photogenic which just goes to prove that there's nowt as queer as folk.

And here's a group of three plus a gargoyle with a Churchillian cigar.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cliché & Rant

I can't remember when I last posted an image of a sunset. The stock photography company I work for reckon they've got enough and I can quite believe it. But they're irresistible. I can't pass one up, no matter how hard I try. Some evenings I even go out down to the fields at the bottom of our village for the sole purpose of shooting a few of these clichéd images. And then I inflict them on you.

A couple of days a week I work as a volunteer in a charity shop in Pershore, sorting and pricing books. The income we generate supports a local hospice which provides care to life-limited children and their families. It's a worthy cause made necessary by the fact that the British Government provides minimal financial support to the children's hospice movement within the UK, giving them only about 5% of their funding needs.

So given that paltry contribution from our lords and masters, it is obviously important that the people using the shop help out as much as possible. So why, you might ask, do we have customers who ask for a discount, who haggle, who try to get money off because of some tiny defect (these are not new goods, after all, they are all donated) and, and this really does take the biscuit, steal - shoplifting is a recurrent problem.

Perhaps we should have pictures of all the children we help on the wall behind the till. Then we could ask our less generous clientele which particular one they'd like to deprive today. Strangely enough, though, I don't think it would make the slightest bit of difference.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Messing About

Somewhere in the preamble to these ramblings I claim that every image shown has been taken by myself. That is true. Since I profess to being a photographer I can see no point in using other people's images. Arrogant, perhaps, but that's the way the dark chocolate digestive crumbles.

Today's picture is no exception except that, in a moment of tedium, I decided to play with it. I was not content. I wanted more than the shallow original (which I will not show, so there). I fiddled with it, manipulated it, opening menus on my imaging program that are best left unopened. I delved into the enormous box of tricks called filters. What wonders lie within! But I chose one of the simplest. We all now what too much excitement before bedtime causes.

The program claims that the result resembles a watercolour. I collect Victorian watercolours and it's not really like any of those. Perhaps they didn't have a filter section on their porcelain palettes. But it will pass for one. Just a little bit of digital magic.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Contemplation in a Flowerbed

Pixie and I like objects in the garden. In various places on our small plot, hidden by the rampant post-deluvium growth, there's a Venus rising from the waves, Roman man-about-town, couple of fountains, sort of wheel thing, bird bath, Celtic cross and a sea horse. Oh, and, horror of horrors, at least one gnome. However pride of place goes to Pixie's Buddha - apparently something about him reminds her of me, possibly the bit hidden in the shadow cast by his hands.

Despite a lifetime's career lighting people, places and things, my garden is a bit on the dark side at night. I have ongoing projects in a typical manly fashion; they have completion dates set decades ahead and illuminating the garden is one of them. For the moment some small solar-powered gizmos do the job, fading gently away as the night progresses.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Found this image the other day and was struck by the crispness of it. It's the sort of crispness that can be found in a really fresh bag of crisps which some of our friends call chips, which, confusingly, are also made of potato and sometimes called fries. All clear? And anyway crisps can be made of almost anything these days - parsnips, swede, beetroot. Why anyone would want to experiment with the perfect snack is beyond me but they do. Why else would we be offered margarine or skimmed milk or any of the other abominations that the food industry thinks up? It's like being invited to imbibe Belgian Chocolate flavoured drinks. Have they got Belgian Chocolate in them? I think not.

Anyway I digress (and that is so, so easy). Summer has arrived in the UK at last and I've switched my desk fan on for the first time this year. It rattles but not in a totally unpleasant way. It's more of a swaggering sound, a 'look what I can do if I want to' sort of noise. It doesn't push it. It knows I could switch it off if I wanted to and then where would its rattle be.

So we're talking about crisp images, not crisp foods, although a nice crisp lettuce takes some beating. The contrail arrows across the picture in a pleasingly diagonal fashion; not perfectly so but striving in that direction. The little pennant on the top of the tower has some miniature diagonals in the letters 'MV', an abbreviation for something that probably has Monmouth in it as that's where I was. It's also very crisp and why is that? It's the lighting - clean, low, sharp, winter sunshine. I doubt it would be the same today; summer light in southern England is not as envigorating, or so it seems to me. It's short on rawness, short on effort; the sun has to try so much harder in January.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Just the Teeniest Bit Creepy

I'd finished shooting the organist's hands and decided to revisit the chapel for another tussle with the angels and maybe some more spit. The tomb within was an image-makers gift and, by the standards of the Victorian era, quite restrained, unlike me who likes nothing more than a good cavort around a bit of mucky stonework. As I shifted across to the other side of the recumbent figure, an up-the-nostrils shot caught my eye.

I plonked down my tripod and let fly. On the wrong white-balance setting (Oo, er, mother, he's gone all technical). Daylit room, camera set to tungsten for the reading light on the organ; result, it's all gone blue. And sinister, and just the tinest bit creepy. Day-for-night, Hollywood style. Gorgeous.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Promise of Home

Last day. Hotel room vacated, nothing left behind, bill settled, dull, driving rain, flooding at Hackney Wick, road chaos, A12 jammed solid. The promise of an early finish; rarely fulfilled. Demob happy. A parting of friends.

Always pleased to be heading for home. About now I start to see it in my mind – sweeping round the M25 at 75 mph, cruise engaged, looping on to the M40, coffee stop at Oxford around midnight, out into the country, Burford, the deserted uplands of the Cotswolds, new moon, scudding clouds, deep darkness. Dropping through the S-bends of Fish Hill into the Vale. Home, the tedium and frustration of the last ten days dropping away, reunited with my soul mate.

I love driving at night. I like the desertion and the solitude. I never have the radio on. Or the mobile. Cocooned, the world damped by the purr of the diesel and the modulating road noise. Three hours of uninterrupted thinking. Man and machine at one, the ultimate cliché.

Barring mishaps.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Diagonals with Added Circles

I’m beginning to think that diagonals are a bit passé so, for today’s image, I thought I’d mix in some circles. This detail shot comes from the canopy of Knaresborough Station in Yorkshire. It is one of the survivals on the British railway network from an age when embellishment was everything. Unlike so many railway buildings this one has been allowed to pursue its remaining years with dignity; others include Great Malvern, Kemble Junction and Hellifield.

I think I give the impression that I’m against modern building but that is far from the truth. There is much to admire; I just wish I could think of somewhere off the top of my head…………..

OK, I give up. Maybe there’s not much but there must be something; perhaps modern architecture is not as memorable as the old stalwarts. I’ll make it my mission to find something 21st century that I like and knock off a piccie or two for your edification.

Pixie is a very elusive subject and I have to sneak up on her when she isn’t looking. This is one of my favourite photographs of her. I’ve dropped it in today because I haven’t seen her for nine days and that leaves a big hole in my life. Also I’m a sucker for women wearing glasses.

Friday, August 10, 2007


I think it was Shara who was wondering what I was up to this week. So in a spirit of enlightenment, here’s an image of two of my cameramen colleagues at work on the set what I have lit (great bit of English). Although I was bemoaning the fact that I was using pink and blue again, as you can see it’s much more like lilac and blue (and that makes all the difference to my mental state). Unfortunately the broadcast camera technology is not up to the challenge of such subtle distinctions so the picture you’ll see on the tele will be - pink & blue.

I’ve commented in the past on the deplorable habit of English men taking to wearing shorts as soon as there’s any hint of summer. Just look closely at the photograph – my case is proven.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Mirror, Mirror....

Contrary to the evidence available in this journal, I’m not fond of photographs of myself. Nor, despite the industry I work in, do I have any desire to appear on television. I have been caught in ‘behind the scenes’ documentaries several times over the years and they’ve always been ‘cowering behind the sofa’ moments or excuses to leave the room and make tea or mow the lawn.

However I chanced the other day upon a rehearsal room fitted with a wall of mirrors and enlivened by a shaft of sunlight. It was irresistible so once again I must apologise for inflicting me upon you.

Incidentally I loathe the b**g word. I’ll go to any length to avoid using it or its derivatives, b******g or b*****r. Hence the references to posts, posting, pages, journal, etc. What’s the point of getting older if you can’t become reactionary and rebellious?

Once you’re in your late fifties, wrinkled and written-off are not on the distant horizon; they’re just outside the gate waiting for the chance to nip up the path and batter down the front door. Resist them for as long as you can.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Nine Chimney Pots

Things in threes make regular appearances on these pages. I give no apology for that. Some days threedom rules.

Working away from home I usually have limited access to the Internet. This is not because wi-fi does not exist in the UK. It is because the oft-reported culture of Rip-Off Britain extends well into the provision of free Internet access. Unlike in the USA, as I found back in June, most hotels, cafes, etc will attempt to charge an extortionate fee for a facility that costs virtually nothing. They lack the wit to see that providing something so fundamental to modern living for nothing might encourage patronage.

As an example, the Marriott hotels that I stay in when on business charge £15/$30 a day for wi-fi access, an obscene amount of money for which, I assume, most businesses pick up the tab. I’m not that stupid. Although I like to be able to keep in touch, not having the Internet is not life threatening, just as not having a mobile phone isn’t. We managed well enough twenty years ago.

Fortunately for me, although maybe not for those who mistakenly read these postings, the studio where I’m working this week has free wi-fi in its café. In most of the recording breaks I can be seen hoofing it across the cobbled courtyard, laptop under my arm, to get a quick fix.