Wednesday 28 November 2012

Royal Visit, Cambridge 28.11.12 (Alternative view)

Crowds anticipate the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
on their first visit to the city since gaining the Cambridge title.

Formal and informal. Working both sides of the fence.

Punt workers arrive to represent a traditional facet of the city.

Royals about to arrive. Quick!

All smartly turned out and ready.

Press photographers during the few moments of madness
as the Royal couple walked towards them along Market Street.

Pleading with the police in hi-vis and the plain-clothed detectives to move out of the line of view.

Quickly back to work, and they need to be!

The Duchess of Cambridge flashes by.

The Duke of Cambridge arrives at the Senate House

A bank of non-press cameras trained on the Royal couple.

Overwhelmed Royal gift-porters, craning for a view.

Someone has to do it!

And after just four minutes, the whole affair had moved beyond the public gaze.

Sunday 25 November 2012

RNLI Southwold 2

RNLB Leslie Tranmer, in action, Southwold

"We're having a tweetup on 24/11 would love it if you came. If you can't make up your mind then how does tea, cake & lifeboat display sound?"

Who can turn down tea and cake?! (and later, the promise of a Sea King search and rescue helicopter putting in an appearance)

And so it was on a frosty and misty Saturday morning, I set off from the furthest inland corner of Suffolk with another Tweep (and blogger) to drive to Southwold on the far Suffolk coast.

Following the shoot I had done during a training session for RNLI Southwold back in June, they asked me if I would again be interested in being photographer for this special open day, which had been arranged for the social media followers of RNLI Southwold. There was no way I was going to turn this down as it was set to be a fun event with sea recovery exercises, a Sea King helicopter and the chance to watch the exercises from a boat.

A boat!
Whilst an ideal platform from which to photograph the RNLB Leslie Tranmer (with suitable camera protection deployed) it was not my position of choice, me being a poor sailor and all that. The fellow Tweep, whom I had persuaded that it would be a good idea to join me on the day, also shared a similar apprehension. Wouldn't you too if you saw what 'boat' meant?

It may only have been an open day at the lifeboat station for the social media visitors but the exercises were to be serious and important training for the crew.

After the launch of the Leslie Tranmer, a few exercises were executed within the relative safety of the harbour area.


Then, it was onward with some exercises out at sea, with the Sea King helicopter also due to take part.

The Leslie Tranmer.
Platform for the lifeboat crew

Coastal Voyager.
Platform for all of us!

Oh my!!


Suitably waterproofed, life vested and loaded onto the Coastal Voyager, which normally catered for thrill-seekers, we had been reassured that this trip would be much more considerate. After all, the helicopter would have to know where we were at all times.
So where was the helicopter?

"They've brewk it!" came the announcement in a broad Suffolk accent. This was the simple explanation from one of the crew, that sadly, the Sea King would be unable to make it after all. Regardless of the real reason for the non-participation, there was naturally a slight element of disappointment.

Gliding along the length of the harbour, past the gull-guardians at the mouth of the harbour, we went out into the North Sea, where the conditions had worsened slightly since our earlier arrival.

The considerate ride was only as considerate as the waves would allow. Coastal Voyager smacked down hard onto the water, sending spray everywhere.
What was I doing? How was I going to fulfil this assignment?

Being close to leaving my stomach somewhere out in the North Sea, I took a deep breath and set to capturing the lifeboat in action, my angle of view limited by the seatbelts holding us onto the 'standing-stools'. Lighting conditions were never going to produce an absolute stunner of a shot either, so I would have to make the best of what was thrown at me (which was frequently sea water!)

Naturally there were shots with gloriously salty, soft focus! 

Then a towing exercise, before making a welcome head back towards the harbour.

My trusty two little sailors helpers had just about managed to do their job, (thank you Stuge & Ron) and these two land-based friends of the sailors did their job by providing the returning party with the scores for the performance at sea!

And what was the score?
My Tweep friend, after her initial apprehension, had had a whale of a time. Meanwhile I was relieved to be back on solid ground and keen to go carry out a spot of delayed chimping in the privacy of my car. Thankfully the whole adrenaline fuelled experience hadn't been a waste (as hopefully this selection of images proves).

Back at the lifeboat station a huge pot of tea was on the go with plates of home-baked cakes, lovingly made by families of the crew. Now that was a welcome sight.

A huge thank you to all those who were involved in the fun day out.
Important for PR purposes and most importantly, for their training.

I am so happy to support the brave crews of the RNLI, who help to keep our coastlines safe and help those in need, often in the foulest of conditions. Conditions, the like of which followed on later in the afternoon, and which would have made the whole morning event impossible.

(My thoughts are with those people, both inland and in coastal areas, who have suffered in the overnight flooding)

RNLI, you have my utmost respect. Thank you all.

So, please do consider giving the RNLI your support now.
Who knows when you might need their help?

All of the images above are available as high resolution prints, with proceeds going to the RNLI.
If you would like copies, you may contact me with your details here

Thursday 22 November 2012


May I take this opportunity to wish all of my American friends
A Very Happy Thanksgiving

Or, as spotted on the rosta board during my recent visit to the American base at RAF Lakenheath, simply
'Turkey Day'!

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Wildlife Photographer & Everything was Moving

A snaking line of schoolchildren pass through the main hall of the Natural History Museum
(Photography is not allowed within the actual exhibitions,
however, all of the Wildlife Photographer images can be viewed online)

Every year I make a point of travelling up to London to go and enjoy a morning at the Wildlife Photographer exhibition in the Natural History Museum. It makes a change to go an admire someone elses wonderful images for a day rather than, as usual, sitting in front on my monitor being self critical with my edits. However, this year, not only is there this exhibition currently showing in London but there are at least five further exhibitions worthy of a look right now.

It is a case of the proverbial bus- wait a long time for one, then several good shows all pop up together: Cecil Beaton; Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize; Ansel Adams; Cartier-Bresson and one at the Barbican which looked interesting, Everything Was Moving. Photography from the 60s and 70s, the latter being my choice for the afternoon viewing.

Images in the Wildlife Photography exhibition are always beautifully displayed via backlit frames and in a darkened room, which adds to the whole viewing experience. For me, two hours spent here is not unusual, as I'm always keen to read the technical details for all the images (Pretty much all Canon and Nikon contributions this year! A couple of to be expected, Hasselblad and a Mamiya but not until nearly the end do Sony and Fuji put in an appearance. Again, mostly DSLRs but a Canon Powershot pops up in the 10 years and under category)

So, what of the images? As with every year, there are those shots which make an instant impression and those which either take a little longer to appreciate the subtleties or just 'don't do it' for me. Of this last type, the winning image in the Urban Wildlife category didn't sit easy with me. Did it look too set up? Was the squirrel stuffed? I might be doing Kai Fagerström (Finland) a great disservice for all his patience to capture the shot but there is just something...
However, there were plenty of other images which appealed to me for one reason or another. It might have been composition, as in the polar bear image by Ole Jørgen Liodden (Norway) with everything in the right place, to Remo Savisaar (Estonia) beautifully simple black and white image. Sam Cairns (UK) had a similar simplicity with his fulmar image. He was one of seven of the thirteen young photographers who were from the UK, which is encouraging to see.

In a different vein, an image from the Wildscapes category by Fortunato Gatto (Italy) personally appealed to me as there was a distinct similarity to the landscape on the Isle of Eigg to that of some of the western Irish landscapes I love. Moving on to the World in Our Hands category, (where the precarious relationship with man and nature is studied) the joy I had from the Eigg landscape was rudely shattered by an image by David Chancellor (UK) (winner of Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize 2010) entitled 'Trophy Room' Now this is just me here. I can understand going out and shooting for food, but to shoot (managed shooting or not) to furnish your room with the trophies of the killing, like this, is just obscene. The repulsion of how man carries out unnecessary slaughter continued in Paul Hilton (UK/Australia) image of the shark fin trade, fuelled by the demand from China's increasing middle class population.
(Note. It is the actual subject matter which I am uncomfortable with here and not the photographer who is raising the awareness)

The Chinese link continued into the Wildlife Photojournalist category. To a degree, Steve Winter (USA) 'Tiger Tale', and more so Brent Stirton (South Africa) with 'Deadly Medicine', showing horrific images of the carnage to the rhino population by poachers supplying the misguided needs within the Chinese medicine trade. By this time my emotions were at a jangling high and I needed something to calm the soul once again. A glance at Charlie Hamilton James (UK) wonderful giant otter started to put a smile back on my face. Then I retraced my steps back past the wonderful Wildscapes and to the stunning Botanical Realms where all of these images had the desired calming effect. However it was to be Jasper Doest (The Netherlands) image of an often photographed Japanese macaque that finally brought me back to where I came in, and it became my favourite image of the exhibition. Clearly not the judges choice but I loved the beauty of the droplets of snowy rain on the finely detailed hairs, the closed eyes providing that feeling of contentment that the little primate was experiencing in the warm waters in which it sat.

After the unexpected emotions of the morning, I was open minded as to what to expect at the Barbican (a place I still can't feel comfortable in!) with Everything was Moving "Exploring how artists and photographers intersected with their historical moment and the world they inhabited during the 1960s and 1970s"

However, I was in for another heightened experience with some truly amazing photo-documentary images from happenings within my own lifetime but which were remote from my own comfortable years of growing up.
South Africa; Southern States Black America; Vietnam. All would pop up in the news items of the day although I had little understanding of what was really going on. These images from twelve different photographers in assorted global locations, really captured the feelings from the era. I was back up on that emotional rollercoaster again. Sadly, I really hadn't allowed myself enough time to do justice to this incredible collection and I can only recommend that you need to allow yourself plenty of time if you do go to visit this exhibition.

So, another calming period was required whilst waiting for the post rush-hour train home. A reflective walk along the Embankment followed by a very pleasant pub meal, provided me with the feet rest time that is required after 'Exhibition days'.

I now have the prospect of two more such days to take in the remaining four unviewed photographic exhibitions.
I had better check my diary!