Glastonbury

40 Years of Glastonbury

I went to Glastonbury for the first time this year. I tried and failed to get a ticket last year and then spent the festival weekend kicking myself. Not so this time and what a fantastic festival it was.

I’ve never seen so many tents pitched so close together. There’s an instant market for the 2 story tent.

Rolf Harris opened with a very entertaining set. It’s hard to believe the guy was 80 years old this year. Others sets of note for me were the Bootleg Beatles, Paloma Faith, Faithless and of course Stevie Wonder. He closed the festival with a marvellous gig.

It was smack bang in the middle of a heat wave by UK standards. A huge amount of dust was being raised by people and traffic moving about the site. So much so that the tracks were watered to keep it down. Most years mud is an unwelcome facet of the festival. This year it was missed so they had to create some.

2 other things that I will always remember about this year’s festival (I’m definitely going again!):
1) the irony of an emergency ambulance with blue lights flashing in the healing field; &
2) the flags billowing in the breeze.

White Flags at Sunset

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Don’t Pose For Photographs

This may sound strange coming from a photographer but there’s nothing worse in a photograph than an obviously put-on smile or a forced pose. We’ve all either done it or seen it.

And that is why good photos of animals (technically correct – in focus, well lit, etc.) stand out so much. They’re natural; What you’re capturing is their everyday behaviour at that moment in time.

Tail Wag Brown Lab Puppy Stretch

Now some (lucky) people are naturally photogenic but if that’s not you, next time someone’s got a camera, at least try to ignore it and trust the photographer to catch you looking your best.

Russ

Think More – Shoot Less

Everyone generally agrees that time is precious and we would all prefer to spend it doing the things we want to and not those we have to. In photography, at least in my mind, what that boils down to is “Less is more!” I read a few web postings recently that talk about this in more depth.

Scott Bourne isn’t exactly a hero of mine but he does talk a lot of sense. In an article from last year, Become a Better Photographer by Taking Fewer Shots, his general advice is to put more effort into thinking about the composition of a select few images rather than “spray and pray”.

Nicole Young echoes this sentiment…

Avoid “machine-gunning” your photos. Every time you press the shutter you are creating an image that you will import into your computer and do something with (even if it’s just deciding you don’t want to edit it), and shooting in continuous mode all the time (several frames per second with each press of the shutter) will exponentially increase your editing time. I have found that as I develop my skills as a photographer I am taking fewer and fewer photos, but I end up with just as many, or more, “keepers” than I did in the past. I am selective about my shots and know that want to think about everything I see in the frame and only press the shutter when I’m sure I have what I want. It doesn’t result in a great photo every time, but I know become a better photographer every time I press my shutter and don’t just hope I get a good shot due to “luck”. There are going to be moments when shooting several frames-per-second is appropriate, so the key is to know when to use that method.

So, how do you remove the temptation to “spray and pray”? Well, Chris Weston, a respected wildlife photographer, summed it up brilliantly in an interview with Digital Photography School. When asked “Do you have a tip for beginner to intermediate photographers that will help them improve their photography?”, his reply was a bit of a Eureka moment for me.

Something I still do to this day is, before I press the shutter I ask myself the question “How would I caption this image?” If the only answer I can conjure is the species name, then I wait for a better shot.

My Shutterstock Portfolio

Sunrise at Almscliff Crag

There was a full moon recently so I had the bright idea of getting up early and finding somewhere high to watch the sunrise. It was a fantastic plan when it was hatched but when the alarm went off at 2:40am and outside being a real pea souper, it didn’t seem like one of my better ideas.

Almscliff Crag was our chosen spot and when we arrived there at 4am, the sky was already starting to turn blue…
Almscliff Crag in Silhouette

It was really erie sitting up on the crag watching the fog retreating…
Receeding Mist

…but I think the end result was worth it…
Sunrise

While we were there, I’m sure we saw the crack in Amy’s bedroom wall
The Crack in the Wall?

As always, any feedback and comments welcome!

Cheers

Alex

Why Blog?

It’s all Scott Bourne‘s fault!

Scott Bourne wrote an article about why photographers should build a blog and not a website.  I started my own website years ago for a variety of reasons but recently I’ve found it harder to maintain (keep current) and with less time to do so.

Also, just like everyone else, I’m looking to collect (or reference) all my online content in 1 place.  So here are some blatant plugs for now and we’ll see how this evolves.

Shutterstock

My Shutterstock Portfolio

Dreamstime

My Dreamstime Portfolio

Fotolia

My Fotolia Portfolio

CanStockPhoto

My CanStockPhoto Portfolio

Bigstock

My Bigstock Portfolio

Cheers for reading thus far!

Alex

Activity Holiday in Majorca

The suggestion to go rock climbing in Majorca at February half-term spawned from a rather drunken night out for a meal with friends at the end of last summer but unlike a lot of other ideas, this one got followed through. Alasdair had been there before quite a few years ago and the trip was based on his recommendation. Majorca didn’t disappoint us. I used to climb about 10 years ago but I tore the anterior cruciate ligament in my left knee a while back so now I’ve got to be careful of the stresses I put on it. Swimming and cycling are OK but any twisting or turning movement means I can be limping for weeks. However, not 1 to miss out on an outdoors holiday, I was going to use the trip as a photo opportunity.

Booking the Holiday

We booked flights with EasyJet from Liverpool John Lennon Airport to Palma, secure parking with Imagine, accommodation in the Aquasol Aparthotel in Palma Nova and a hire car with Hiper Rent a Car. Isn’t the internet fantastic!!!

The Weather Forecast

I had checked the weather forecast for the week before we left and it looked really promising – 16 to 19 degrees Celsius with occasional cloud – but as we got off the plane, it started to rain. This lasted all afternoon until finally it rained good and proper that evening. And that was the last we saw of it. Over the course of the week, the weather just got better and better. It was always a good idea to carry a spare top or fleece just in case the wind picked up or the sun went in but generally we only needed t-shirts because we were so active. Beforehand, carrying sun cream seemed daft but we needed it most days. Going out at night, you need a top or a jacket as the temperature drops away fairly quickly. It was too cold to sit outside and eat.

Palma Nova

We stayed in Palma Nova which is just a stone’s throw along from Magalluf. It’s your typical resort with everything on hand to cater for Johnny Foreigner. Spar shops ( which were never open – must have been too early in the year ), English Breakfasts ( but not before 9am – guess they only cater for people with hangovers ), etc. Although it hadn’t even started to gear up for the season, there was still a constant stream of people around. It must be a complete nightmare at high season. I’m so glad we spent so much time driving around the island. It seemed a lot at the time but you get to see a whole different way of life than what’s in the brochures. Getting away from the resorts and exploring for yourself is highly recommended.

Eating Out

Having rubbished the resort, we did find a cracking French restaurant in Palma Nova. We were only there for a week but we ate at La P’tit Bistro 4 of the 7 nights. Each time, we all ate something different and none of us were ever disappointed. The food is just heavenly. Try any of the starters, the lamb and finish with the crepe white lady if it’s still on the menu. None of the other places we ate at came anywhere close.

Rock Climbing

We spent days climbing at Cala Magraner, Valldemossa, Sa Gubia & La Creveta.

  1. Cala Magraner – From Manacour, take the road to Porto Cristo. There is parking for 5 or 6 cars in a layby opposite the sign post but it is on a blind bend so be on the look out for passing cars. The walk in is easy and takes about 25 minutes.
  2. Valldemossa – Parking is limited as the crag is next to and overhangs the road. This means belaying can be dangerous as the road down to Port d’Valldemossa is narrow and surprisingly busy.
  3. Sa Gubia – Park up in a large layby on the MA-11 just outside Bunyola. The walk in is down a track about 100 metres to the south of the layby. Turn right to follow a dried up river bed which is rocky and uneven. This takes about 30 to 40 minutes as the gradient rises as you get closer to the crag.
  4. La Creveta – From Port de Polença, take the MA-2210 going to Cap de Forementor and park up at the viewing point. Find the old pipe line heading back down the hill. Without it, the trail to the saddle is much more difficult. Cross the saddle and scramble down and to the left underneath the outcrop. The path to the crag becomes more obvious at the bottom.

Scrambling the Cavall Bernat Ridge

To the north of Puerto Pollenca is the Bouquer Valley, lined on 1 side by the Cavall Bernat Ridge. This classic saw-toothed walk has been compared to the infamous Crib Goch scramble in Wales. Traversing the ridge can be made as difficult as you like. There are sections which are quite exposed and may require a safety rope but you’ll need a head for heights and reasonable level of fitness. The upside is the views are spectacular.

Home Insurance Claims

Getting divorced and moving house are supposed to be the most stressful things in life but there’s another… Having Carillion Property Services sort out repairs to your home under an insurance claim. They turned what would’ve been a simple, straight forward job into 11 weeks of a complete nightmare. Some quick background… I lived in a block of 8 flats that was insured under 1 policy arranged by Lampier. The escape of water from my bath damaged the floor in my bathroom, the adjoining bedroom and caused some damage to the decoration of the flat underneath.

Logging the claim with Norwich Union was easy. It took about 5 minutes from start to finish. I got the claim number, the name of a contact and their telephone number if I had any problems. I was told Carillion would be in touch to organise doing the repairs. I also had their phone number if I had any queries. I explained I was going abroad the following week but that shouldn’t stop anyone getting in touch. I was assured it wouldn’t and I could expect a phone call from Carillion while I was away. I was fairly relaxed about it at this point. Stuff like this happens in life and there’s really no point in getting all upset about it.

I never did get that phone call from Carillion and when I phoned them 10 days later, they didn’t know a thing about the claim. The fax from Norwich Union had “…gone missing”. I gave them the details I had from Norwich Union and was told they’d look into it.

Being a bit clueless turned out to be 1 of Carillion’s main themes throughout the whole episode. I would tell them something 1 day but the next time I called, they’d quote a completely different version of the information to me. At 1 stage, I spent about 20 minutes with 1 guy going through the case notes, sorting them out. Of course, it was the “…computer system’s fault.” There’s 2 possibilities here :-

  1. it’s not fit for purpose so get rid ; or
  2. if you put garbage in, you’ll get garbage out.

In-action was another main theme. I called them so many times, trying to get progress but nothing had been done since I last called. They promised to call me back but that never happened within any reasonable time. Generally, the excuses were missing paperwork or having to follow procedure. At one point, a fax hadn’t arrived so they couldn’t make an appointment for a surveyor to come out but they hadn’t done anything to chase it up even though I had told them to expect it.

ChemDry and Simpsons The Builders were the do-ers appointed by Carillion. Their website boasted “a substantial field repair force of directly employed operatives”. Rubbish! They’re agents and not very effective ones. ChemDry and Simpsons were brilliant throughout. They were working within someone else’s rules and again the information they’d been give was very poor. On their 1st appointments, they didn’t really know what kind of job they were turning up to but they did make up for it with their professionalism.

On several occasions, when I complained to Carillion, their ambivalence was the thing that stood out most. Caring just doesn’t seem to be in their nature. Norwich Union didn’t seem to be much use in this area either. Their excuse was that they’d given Carillion carte blanche to get the claim sorted and the only thing they really wanted to know about was the final invoice for the work. Norwich Union use 2 marketing tag lines :-

  1. quote me happy ; &
  2. you’ll be happy with Norwich Union.

You might be happy with the quote but there’s no guarantee about any of the other stuff.

UPDATE – Oct. 20th, 2006 :- The work was finally completed over 12 weeks after the claim was logged. I wrote to our insurance broker asking to be reimbursed for expenses caused by the extended period of time taken to resolve the claim and this was reviewed.

UPDATE – Nov. 20th, 2006 :- Over GBP600 was paid out in compensation and the matter is now settled.