Monday 31 December 2012


I'm writing this blog from Ardnacross on the Isle of Mull, over looking the sound of Mull.

A good place to reflect on what has been, for me at least, a tumultuous year.

In 2012 the highs were very high, and the depth of the lows could barely be imagined.

I lost my dear father who inspired me to set out on this remarkable journey and one of my very closest friends who so frequently inspired me at many different times in my life.

Having the Olympic Golden greats exhibition in the year of London 2012 was is something I will never forget, and something I will always be proud of, having achieved it with my partner Lucinda Marland.

It's to the Olympics I return.

Like many others the opening ceremony exceeded my expectation many times over, something to be proud of and something I believe will positively influence many people for many years to come.

The charismatic ringmaster of the opening ceremony was the talented and likeable Danny Boyle.

With the director of 'Slum Dog millionaire' and 'Trainspotting' at the helm it should have been a foregone conclusion that it was going to be a big hit, right?

Well let's not forget he also directed the lack lustre movie 'The Beach' for which he received a verbal lashing from the critics and some Hollywood insiders too.

He was recently interviewed by the Mark Lawson for the BBC Radio 4 arts programme 'Front Row' where he unveiled large neon sign with one word which he felt reflected the games and the year.

He chose the word 'Wonder'

But he said that he could have equally have chosen the word 'believe' but did not in the end, as it could come over as 'dangerously messianic'

I really like Danny Boyle but I reckon he bottled this one.

'Believe' would have been a little more direct and pertinent too.

Just as Danny Boyle, quite rightly, is the media darling at the moment with the success of the opening ceremony, I believe it was a success which was hard fought for, and was indeed built on the foundation of many of his less glorious moments and failures.

I'm not Danny Boyle, but aside from the loss of two people who were very dear to me, I have had to endure some career let downs this year which were bitter disappointments.

One can let events like this dent your confidence or even crush your spirits, but I'm taking forward the lessons learned and will build on the foundation of faliure to go 'Faster, higher stronger'

It really is all down to that word 'Believe'

Anything that one has a profound belief in does shine through.

That is particularly true in the world of photography, anything that I shoot which I'm really passionate about stands out a mile.

So, for 2013 I will be taking a little bit of Danny Boyle's advice and carry more belief into some of my 'background' projects than I ever have before, and this time next year let's see what the outcome is?

Friday 21 December 2012

The Ghost of Christmas Past

I was searching for a fun image to send out to my Agency Access mailing list when I remembered shooting this picture many, many moons ago.

On film in fact.

I know what your thinking, a set up picture, posed up?

Not at all.

I was driving through Kettering, Northamptonshire when I saw this guy walking through the town.


In fact it turns out he would dress up as all sorts of characters throughout the year from Benny Hill to Elvis Presley and it being he run up to Christmas he dressed accordingly.

As did his Yorkshire terrier, though I'm guessing it did not get much say in the matter......

As I recall, this was the very first frame I shot, as soon as he was aware of me the moment had passed, even though he was happy to be photographed.

I shot it on a Canon EOS-1 with a Canon 'L' series 70-200 F2.8

The shot was helped immeasurably by being shot on a hill with compression playing its part to give it a great feel.

Anyway, thanks to all of you who read this blog have a great Christmas.

Thursday 20 December 2012

Last Minute Christmas Present for someone special (or yourself)

Workshops, downloads....e-books.

Everyone seems to be at it.

But I want to recommend this really superb ebook by Mediastorm via iTunes.

I have mentioned this book before but it is my designated Christmas read.

It covers everything you need to know about creating great multimedia project's, that really work.

Here are some screenshots from the book.

It is a steal at $10.00.

Monday 17 December 2012

A special case

When I get my iPad 3 out with its high definition Retina out to show people my work I always get compliments.

But not about the work, nor for that matter the beautiful screen.

It's the case they like.

'What make is it...where did you get it?

Oh to be upstaged by an iPad case.

With good reason though.

I have a Portenzo 'book case' which as the name suggests gives your iPad the appearance of a well loved journal, where you can specify the exterior and interior colour, protecting your investment in a stylish lightweight wooden chassis, which further adds to the appearance of a journal and is strong, very strong.

I rely more and more on my iPad all the time, being impressed by how much I can get away with on it.

As a result my iPad's leads a pretty tough life.

Like the time when my first iPad had a little adventure on the roof of my car for two junctions of the M1.

As you can tell I'm a big fan.

And when the case does start to wear as mine has done, it just has the appearance of a well loved journal.

Also it does not quite look like an iPad, perhaps making it less of a target for the opportunist thief.


Not many.

Well, it is not the cheapest. If you spec it up adding all the bits and pieces the price can drift northwards of $100, and if you go for a leather version much higher but you are getting a very special case.

The way I have justified it to myself is as a really good value portfolio case and not as an iPad case per se.

You can customise the cover with your name and logo by special order but I would like the option of deleting the 'Portenzo' name which features on the back cover.

I wish the guys at Portenzo success, but not too much success.

I would hate to see this case EVERYWHERE and for it to lose its unique, special appeal.

I have re contacted a busy ad agency who could not quite remember me until I jogged their memory by saying I was the guy with the wooden iPad case.

Oh to be upstaged by a bloody iPad case, but at least they remembered me.

That is the most important thing surely?

Note: I do not have an affiliate link with Portenzo they are just cool cases......

Monday 10 December 2012

The Seal Hunters

When I worked for the Sunday Telegraph I was lucky enough to be set to some far flung and interesting locations.

At that time it was far more common place for photographers to be sent by newspapers to far flung corners of the world to record the stories of the day.

With circulation of newspapers in free-fall it does not happen on anything like the scale it did.

It gave me some of the most unique and special moments of my life.

Being a photojournalist is having a 'passport' into other peoples lives, in sometimes challenging situations, giving you an insight which can be challenging to put into photographs.

Often what made the journey special was the people I would meet.

In the late 1990's I was sent with reporter Adam Nicolson (a great writer and good company, a rare combination in journalists) to Newfoundland to report on the highly emotive seal cull/hunt.

We were guests of the Fisheries department of the Canadian government, who rather predictably played everything 'by the book' and would not let us anywhere near the seal cull, too difficult to get to and dangerous.....feelings running the line went.

Indeed we needed a permit from the Canadian government -which we did not have, for good reason.

Some years earlier an image by Kent Gavin of the Daily Mirror of a young seal pup being clubbed to death on the ice caused widespread international outrage and a major headache for the Canadian government.

Our government minder did not want a repeat of this episode.

We could however meet some 'sealers' at a diner and get their perspective.

There is little more frustrating for any news photographer than having to sit through an interview having travelled half way around the world knowing that your photos are never going to match all the interesting stuff being said.

We met the two sealing representatives who were telling us how they were being unfairly portrayed and how the media had it wrong and how the seal hunt was just part of their seasonal rotational harvesting of the sea, depending on what there was to catch at that time of the year.

Snow crabs, Cod (before they were fished to extinction on the Grand Banks) and the Harp seals.

I went to get a coffee from the counter, leaving the journalist and the government minder talking to the other sealer and was joined by the most vocal and eloquent of the sealers a guy called Gary Troake.

The conversation went something like this 'it's a shame you can't see how we hunt seals'

I said I would like to but we needed a permit, we had no clue where the seal hunt was and we did not have an idea how to go out onto the ice.

'I will take you if you like' said Gary

'What about the government minder?' I said

'Just lose him' he said

I passed the journalist a note telling him of my plan.

There was after all one minder and two journalists so there was little he could do when I headed out into the parking lot and into Gary's car.

As we drove away from the diner I knew I was going to have and adventure but I was not ready for the kindness and generosity showed to me by Gary his wife Suzanne and his young family.

We had to wait for the weather to come right before we could go out on the ice.

They put me up in their spare room in their small house for several days. Giving me a valuable opportunity to document life in the community.

It gave an amazing insight into sealing but more importantly Gary's conservation views (well worth a read) which were pretty illuminating and learned.

One of the thing I did learn a lot about as a photojournalist was grey areas.

The world is full of them.

Just because Gary hunted seals it did not mean that he did not have a lot of sound knowledge and big ideas for conservation, some which were not always universally welcomed in the sealing community.

I think I was there 3 days until the weather was right.

Crystal clear blue skies with no wind.

Cold is a word which took on new meaning.

The sea was frozen.

They asked if I had good cold weather clothing and I confidently replied that I had, fleece and gortex layers galore.

In moments of being in the harbour I realised the clothes I was wearing was next to useless, the cold cut right through me.

They gave me a thick insulated survival suit, think of a babies romper suit made from hot water tank lagging and you will not be far off.

As we made our way out of the harbour the glass fibre hull of the boat cut though the ice making the most horrible juddering sound.

I was told this is why they favour glass fibre over wood, as it cuts through the ice and holds up better against damage.

Very little could prepare you for the sight once we were out of the harbour and into open waters.

Just clear blue skies, oily deep blue water which went on forever punctuated by the occasional piece of ice which had broken off from the ice flow.

Apart from the sound of the engine there was nothing, not a sound at all.

A few hours in one of the men saw a seal and fired a single shot.

He had killed the first of three seals that would be shot by the sealers that day.

I was not ready for it.

Camera's packed away because I really was not sure how they, or the batteries would stand up to sustained exposure to cold.

I was shooting with Canon EOS-1's and they did just fine but I had to manage my batteries.

I have to admit I did not shoot roll after roll of images as changing film was a mission and so damn cold to boot.

Just a matter of making every frame count.

From the day there was one frame which worked really well.

I was with one of the seal hunters on the ice who had just dragged the seal out of the water.

The others thought that they had seen another seal so left us, giving me a this shot which gave a real sense of the vastness.

The challenge was to tell a story often in one frame as this was frequently all a paper used to illustrate a story.

Then to hope that they use it.

How did I feel about going out with sealers who killed three of the most appealing mammals in my presence?

One has to leave one's emotions and prejudice's at the door when covering news.

But it was difficult to have any bad feelings for these guys and the community when they are just trying to hang onto life in one of the most challenging of places in the world.

One thing that struck me was just how dangerous their relationship with the sea was in small open boats, wether sealing or fishing.

A way of life that has claimed many lives in the small community of Twillingate.

When researching this blog I read with great sadness that Gary Troake and Roger Blake's small boat capsized in the icy seas while retrieving their nets.

Both men lost their lives.