My weekend

August 22, 2011 11 Comments

This post is part of a photocontest held by Brian Matiash over on Google+ – all images were taken over this weekend just gone.

This weekend was supposed to be a relaxed one, a nice trip to the coast, a BBQ with a few beers, a nice walk down the beach and a little ramble over the cliffs – relaxing right? Well…not quite.

Friday I left work early, jumped on a train and headed to the coast. The BBQ started not long afterwards, and that went well. The alcohol was flowing, the beer and food was pretty darn good, and the night was clear of clouds and full of stars.

Wait a minute…I’m from London! I never see stars! All I ever see is the orange glow of the city…I need to get me some of that captured in a photo.

Fellow partygoers don’t see this as the same opportunity as I do…
“It’s too late…”
Photography knows not what time it is!
“It’s too cold…”
I have a warm heart…and a hoodie!
“It’s too dark…”
I have a torch…oooh, shiny.
“You’re drunk….”
No…you’re a skunk! Wait…what?

I won the arguments and headed off up a very steep hill to a nearby church. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try my hand at ‘star trails’. I had seen awesome ones recently, most notaby from Jacob Lucas and thought I would easily get this on such a clear night.


I composed in the dark and took a few failed shots, but then I had the brilliant idea of bumping up the ISO and shooting for a just a few minutes in one shot so that I could see if I was indeed composed and if the stars were indeed moving at all.

Then I went for an 8 minute exposure.

Dum dee dum…wait a bit…a bit more…done. Hmm…a bit dark, and not much movement…but I see the potential. Let’s stick it on for 30 minutes.

And so I wait a bit more. I get bored. I take a seat on a nearby mound. A few minute later I lean against a wall…well, not a wall…what is it. I use my phone to light it up and realise that it’s a gravestone…of course – the church has it’s own graveyard. So…um…this mound of soil I’m sat on? Yeah…that’s a freshly laid grave. Sorry to whoever it was that I sat on.

Hmm…only 9 minutes gone? Well…this will be a doozy by the time it’s done.

Eons pass…and I get my shot…and…and…well, it’s a little too cold and it seems that the camera was fogged up – plus there are stuck pixels everyewhere.

Here are my attempts:

Attempt 1 – a bit dark:

Attempt 2 – yeah…no shades required just yet:

Attempt 3 – 6400 ISO…at least I can check the composition now:

Attempt 4 – 8 minute exposure, not long enough yet but getting excited!

Attempt 5 – welcome to stuckpixelville – it’s a little cold here also:


It’s now past 1am, time to get a taxi back to the hotel.


The next day I get up around 4.30 and head down the beach for the sunrise. It’s not the most special one, but as it’s very rare that I actually see a sunrise it’s still nice enough for me. I expected to be alone, so though it was nice to meet another photographer I kindof wish I had showered or something before rushing out of the hotel.

The birds timed it perfectly to get in my way…

Here’s a few of them enjoying the leftovers from the night before:

Finally, a decent shot:

ooh, and the pier all golden like…

A few hours later and I head back to the hotel for a few more hours sleep.

Later that morning and I’m going around the hotel knocking on the doors and ringing the phones of 6 other people in my party trying to get them up and checked out of the hotel. Late night shooting of stars, even though unsuccessful, seemed to be the sensible idea as they had all gone clubbing and were feeling very much worse for wear this morning. They all opted to jump on the first train home to London instead of go on the planned walk over the cliffs…but not I. I am fearless, and intrepid…and so I opt to do the walk myself.

A few years ago I did the same walk, but didn’t have suncream on me so was severely sunburnt. You may imagine a comedy red face and the cries of ‘lobster boy’ as I walked down the street, but in reality it was much worse. I was so burnt my face was covered in burn blisters. Well, except for the white stripes and eye patches that my shades had concealed. I spent a week speaking to no-one. I went to work, and straight home – head down, face covered by a baseball cap, using self service checkouts so I didn’t need to speak with someone and applying a burn cream facemask each night – for a whole week. Anyway…I digress. This time I was not going to be as foolish. This old dog learns from his mistakes. I bought a bottle of suncream lotion, applied a lot of it, and made my way over the cliffs.

Gosh I’m unfit.

A three and a half hour trip over these cliffs and I’m having a great time and taking plenty of photos. Unfortunately I’m also panting heavily, and sweating buckets. I fear the suncream may be washed off and the dreaded burning will come back to haunt me.

I’ve gained a bit more courage over the past few years. What I haven’t gained in courage I’ve gained in stupidity. Standing on the edges of buildings and climbing cranes on various urbex trips has seen to that. In short I was like a mountain goat and happily standing on the precarious edges of the cliff trying to get a few decent shots off. These cliffs are the number 3 suicide hotspot in the world…though I wonder how many of those are actually just idiots like me trying to get a better view of the place.

I have no fear…this is as far away as I could get from the camera due to the drop behind me:

This man has fear…he is miles away from the edge!

This lady has no fear…she laughs in it’s face and says ‘I’m going to have a nap now’…

(note: I should have asked her for a date but the aforementioned sweat and panting meant I shouldn’t approach women…especially those at the edge of a cliff)
(also note to self; if I ever do meet someone in a similar location, remember to pretend your name is Cliff…oh how she will laugh at such a funny joke)

Anyway, a looong trek later and I arrive alive and well at a friends cottage…though the man from the deli who had seen me arrive later enquired with concern as to the health of the hot and melty looking chap with the camera.

A cold drink and a cold shower later and my core body temperature was reduced to molten – all was good.

Before long I was back on the train to London, and cancelling my plans for that night so that I could crash (and also because a new series of The X-Factor was starting).

The next day I lounged around with a well deserved rest before heading out for the photowalk I had missed the night before. We had plans to get a few shots, eat something and then shoot the sunset. Unfortunately we also went to a bar and the food took about an hour to arrive; we stepped outside to find that the sun had already set and we had missed what I’m sure was an epic sunset. Someone had tweeted about how amazing it was, so I know it was a good one. All I got was this really bad image from inside the pub while I was bored waiting:

I then did a little bit of planking and a few other shots which turned out alright.

My final shot of the night was my creative one. As we walked down the south bank I saw a huge set of furniture sitting there, it was pretty odd, but I used it as a perfect photo opportunity and as a way to do something a little creative:

(note – this image would have been much easier to do with Perfect Layers by OnOneSoftware!)

Hope everyone else had a great weekend.

London Looters

August 9, 2011 3 Comments

There’s a lot going on in London right now, and a lot of people rightly want to try and identify those who are looting, lighting fires, vandalising things and essentially terrorising people on the streets.

I agree, I would like to identify them also and hope that once all of this has died down and come under control – which it will – then they will be held accountable. I know not all of them will be, and there are idiot looters sitting at home with shiny new toys which the majority of people have accepted we need to work hard to purchase – hopefully karma will see them off.

I must make a plea, however, that not everything you see on social media sites is as it appears to be on the face of it. Sure, people are using Twitter and Facebook to co-ordinate things and plan attacks, and hopefully the tracing of these now and further down the line will bring the individuals to justice; but trying to identify those in the images may not always be a correct thing to do and could cause a lynch mob to turn up at the wrong door.

For my avatars on websites and on the social network sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ I use an image of a lion. Please be assured that I’m not a lion…and certainly not a cartoon one at that.

The example I will use is the case of Twitter user @itsBARBZbabes who tweeted that they had spoils from looting and exploded on the Twittersphere with people feeling this person should be held accountable (their Twitter page is now gone). I agree that the person should be held accountable if indeed they have done wrong and aren’t just a muppet who thinks it will be funny to write such stuff.

The avatar for this person, and therefore the ‘can you identify who this looter is?’ plea that is out there, is this:

The question I ask is, would finding the person in this image really tell you who the Tweeter was? There is no way to know if the person in this image is the one who is sitting at the PC posting under this account, I could easily have the same image as my avatar.

A quick search on the internet results in this photo being found:

Oh good – it’s this person with their boyfriend/brother (possibly both) in it – that would surely mean we’re twice as likely to find out who this criminal is now, as we can also just identify him!

Not the case.

The urban dictionary has an entry on Chavs and image 20 in the slideshow is this same image.

The World Hates Chavs has an article featuring the same image.

The Chav-English Translation Dictionary facebook page also features the same image.

TheRegister ran the image back in 2004.

There are 9 pages of Google image results that show this image in use.

So, what are the chances of this random Twitter user being that very girl who is in the image which is so closely related to chavs? It’s more likely that the person behind that account simply wanted to find an appropriate image to use for their Twitter, Googled for ‘chav’ and found that image to use.

Identifying the person behind this image and lynching them may take one chav off our streets, but it’s not going to help us in finding out who the looter is.

Your time and energy is better spent looking through the sites that are posting images of criminals who are out on the street trashing places, setting fire to everything and stealing things under ccTV and the media spotlights. Check out these sites to see if you can help:

Stay safe all!