If you live on the coast of Hampshire or the Isle of Wight you probably look forward to the annual Round the Island yacht race. This is the largest yacht race in the world with almost 1600 boats taking part in an anti-clockwise circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight. Everything from 80 foot millionaires play things to sleek America’s Cup speed machines together with tiny folk boats and family day cruisers take part.
As a photographer I have tried in vain, for the last six years, to take a decent photograph of this huge sailing event. I have been up to the Needles park in a gale, walked to Hurst Castle multiple times and this year had a great opportunity to get on the water with a friend,Mark Redpath in his motor boat. The only down side was that the visibility was less than great. However, you play the cards you’re dealt and I managed to get a few decent shots including a rescue by the Coast Guard chopper.
The only downside was that, due to the tides, the race started at 5.30am so Mark and I were catching the tail-Enders at 7.00am. Next year let’s hope for a slightly later kick off.
In the last fortnight I’ve made three photography trips. One to a World War 2 reenactment on a steam railway, one to Portsmouth and one to Southampton. None of these,if I’m honest, were my natural choice of venue. However, I’m a firm believer that it is often the least immediately appealing venues that generate some of the most interesting images.
The first trip was to the Watercress Line, a privately owned and managed steam railway in Hampshire. It is named after the Watercress that grows around Alresford.
This weekend they were celebrating ‘WW2 on the Line’ and it was an excuse for everyone to raid their dressing up box, pull out their uniforms and 40’s clothes and have fun. Add to that the vintage car and bike collectors and a very special time was on the cards.
What I loved was the sheer joy in the faces of those taking part, from the Girl Guides being taught the Jitterbug, to the hairdresser doing 40’s hair styles,the Glenn Miller Tribute band and the ‘Yank’ doughnuts or should that be donuts.
A week later, I joined a MeetUp group called ‘Hampshire Social Snappers’ in Portsmouth. We walked in blazing heat from Southsea Pier to Portsmouth. It was the archetypal, British seaside hell complete with large tattooed women eating chips, lonely fairground rides and hundreds of hot people eating ice cream. The light was a bit harsh but there were a few images along the way. We ended the walk opposite the Spinnaker Tower and near Ben Ainslie’s BAR HQ which was looking a bit deserted after their recent America’s Cup exit.
The final trip was with Lymington Camera Club. The initial purpose was to do a Street Photography workshop with members. We had a decent turn out but while I expected the main shopping area of Southampton to be teeming with a rich and varied pageant of human life it was rather mundane. Just tired and stressed people trying to get home. However, in the distance we heard the revving of hundreds of motor bikes and our luck had changed. The Southampton Biker Night was in full swing (every Thursday in the summer 6-8)
Over 600 bikes turned up for Ladies Day in honour of Ascot and what a funny, friendly bunch they were. I grew up when bikers were synonymous with Hells Angels but times have changes. These folks might still sport the odd tattoo, goatee and earring but they were so welcoming to us. The marshals helped us get shots and the bikers themselves were delighted to be photographed with their bikes.
So what did I get from these three trips? The key lesson for me is that you should always step out of your comfort zone photographically. I’m not a environmental portrait shooter by instinct but my tip is when you see a tattooed biker with an earring stop him and take his photograph….. but remember to ask nicely first 🙂
I went up to London on June 4th to photograph London’s City architecture. Two things of note about this. It was the morning after some terrorists drove a van at people on London bridge and then attacked them with knives. I went up with the Hampshire Social Snappers, a Meet Up Group.
We agreed to to meet at Monument Station and said we’d find each other because we we’d be the people with the cameras. Sadly the world’s press were there all filming down London Bridge but we eventually met up and fought our way through the associated bloggers, vloggers and mainstream press and started our walk using a map provided by the Corporation of London.
We walked across the City to iconic buildings like the Walkie-Talkie, the Gherkin and the Lloyds Building. We were lucky with the weather with blue skies and nice white clouds.
I last worked in the City nearly forty years ago and so expected the cityscape to have changed beyond recognition. And it has. It feels more like Manhattan than London but tucked between the glass and chrome of new London were the gorgeous Wren churches I remember from my time there. However the thing that struck me most was the sheer quality of the architecture.
I’ve always felt that good corporate architecture is a mix of sheer vanity and flamboyance. Most companies who build a mega-structure are basically waving their dangly bits in the face of their rivals and saying ‘mine is bigger than yours’ in a 60 story,thrusting,glass and steel sort of a way.
The architecture is also a triumph of capitalism. You cannot imagine a government funding the Gherkin or the Willis Building. It simply requires too much money and imagination and governments aren’t very good at that sort of thing.
So this was an exciting trip that started with the aftermath or terrorism, moved through world class architecture and ended with a tango demonstration in Spitalfields.
I decided to try and find unusual angles so I asked an Italian tourist if I could photograph her and her glasses with the Gherkin in the reflection. She was a bit stunned initially but readily agreed.
Not the greatest shot but she was a good sport and I took a picture of her and her friend on their phone to say thank you.
A wonderful day out. Lunch at Wagawama and then the train home to the New Forest.
For over the years I used TravelPod to write blog posts while travelling and in all that time I had 6000 page views which certainly won’t give TripAdvisor sleepless nights. The site also informs me that during the period I travelled 104,156 km or 2.6 times around the earth, all of them wonderful trips.
TravelPod was a free travel blogging platform that was easy to use but lacked a compelling reason to exist. I fear it was killed by Facebook and Instagram where people were content to upload a snap and fifteen words and call it a day.
I miss the long-form content it allowed its authors to create and so I am in the process of migrating all of my old travel blogs to this site which is a painless if lengthy process.
My wife had broken her foot just before we were due to head off to Bath for a few days. So with a non-cancelable hotel room in our name I decided to shoot off to Bath and then onto Clevedon for a spot of photography.
Clevedon is a funny little Victorian seaside nothing, famous for its Grade 1 pier and from what I can see very little else. It’s an hour west of Bath and in addition to the pier it has a marine lake – basically a sea water pool.
I arrived intending to shoot the pier a sunset but with a couple of hours to spare I shot the marine lake in what started as overcast conditions and moved swiftly onto rain and then torrential hail.
Just before sunset I moved onto the pier and met a strange bloke who shoots the pier every night and claims to have over 14,000 images. It’s good but let’s be honest not that good.
As the Ferry Tales project is now nearing completion I thought I’d do a personal book of the project. It gave me the freedom to publish the shots that meant something to me and the poems that I liked without the constraints of an exhibition. I was also free from the demands of sponsors and funding bodies.
So I debated long and hard and used Blurb. They have excellent downloadable Indesign templates and a reasonably simple publishing process. Their optional ebook download is rubbish so avoid that as it creates a PDF of single pages where as my book is in spreads.
I opted for the hardcover 11×13 inch version with pearl paper and the result is excellent. Almost as good as my Canon Pro100 printer.
The process was painless but the cost isn’t cheap as you might expect. The 46pp worked out at £70……ouch.
If you want to buy it or have a passion for ferries between the Hampshire Coast and the Isle of Wight you can order it here. Lots of my photographs and some great poems will be yours. Alternatively you can view the whole thing as a preview before coming to the launch event at Dimbola Museum and Galleries on the Isle of Wight from 22nd April to 1st July or in Lymington 6th-8th July at the Library.
We are now trying to get the anthology of poetry finished (£4) with 8 A5 pages of my pictures. Somewhat less impressive but far less expensive. Drop me a line if you want to buy a copy but I sense they will sell out fast.
I will do a further post about Ferry Tales once the project is finished but the good news is that the grant from the Arts Council England will just be enough to send me to The Albuquerque Balloon Festival in New Mexico in October. So stand-by for endless Monument Valley sunsets and balloon images.
I’ve noticed on Facebook in particular and to a lesser extent on Twitter a tendency towards a hideous self-righteousness that is driving me crazy. My town of Lymington has a Facebook page called Lymington Rumour Control that is supposed to be a lighthearted watercooler (or village pump if you go back that far). The plan was that local people could gossip about local events in a lighthearted manner, share a joke and generally get along with each other.
However, in the past year a hideous form of groupthink has arisen whereby you must agree to the following tropes or be denounced and verbally shat on by the scores of mouth-breathers who inhabit the site
Our local community hospital can do no wrong
All local shops and business are exemplary and must be supported even if they are feckless rip-off merchants
The armed forces are saints
Fireworks emanate from Satan’s darkest nether regions and should be banned as they scare dogs, cats and most importantly horses
You are a Nazi sympathiser if you don’t wear a poppy for Rememberance Day
Cyclists and gypsies should be banned from the New Forest
…and the list goes on
What I particularly dislike is self-righteousness of these opinions. Who would want an animal to suffer ? therefore no fireworks for anyone. If we don’t support local businesses we will end up with 23 branches of McDonalds in the High Street. It is so thoughtlessly binary; A or B, if you criticise the hospital you de facto want to destroy the NHS. There is no debate or nuanced discussion; just for it or if not for, against.
Our local hardware shop Knights closed and people rung their hands in nostalgic outrage. The fact that the owners plan to sell the land to a property developer to build retirement homes is conveniently overlooked. The news was greeted with the same degree of shock as if the National Anthem had been replaced with Gangnam Style and Winston Churchill was gay. Now we have Screwfix, a national chain, that are open longer hours, seven days a week and are, as a result a great deal more convenient. But God forbid you should mention the fact as you’ll be denounced as some disloyal, bourgeois interloper who’s only aim in life is to destroy our precious High Street which as it happens is filled with charity shops and coffee bars.
So my message to the pseudo-outraged of Facebook is calm down and get some perspective or as they say so eloquently in the United States. Take a chill pill.