I made a point when I first started this blog that I would never use it to talk about photo gear or equipment except to perhaps swear really loudly at something that didnt work the way I wanted it to. I have no intention of going against this idea except to say that I do briefly touch on it.
taxi rank at Belfast International Airport
Last week I took a quick flight across the water to Liverpool
for a couple of days and due to security restrictions and overall general paranoia, flying isnt the pleasure it used to be. So for a trip lasting 48 hours I wanted to travel as light as possible to keep within restrictive hand luggage restrictions. Im not exactly a tight arse but for 48 hours I dont want to spend 4 of that in check in queues and waiting at the baggage carousel.
hand baggage luggage size checker
Back in the day when I used to travel regularly I could turn up at an airport with bag 15 mins before the flight and just walk on. Even recently Ive taken a couple of 48-72 hour trips to the likes of Rome
just for the purpose of taking photos, but in the last year or two it has just become a chore. I obviously dont have the dedication to queue in line to be the first irish suicide bomber! Besides which they still allow alcohol sales airside – isnt that flammable?
airport duty free shop
Anyway back to the hand luggage problem, for this trip I would be just using my Canon G9 and my tablet computer. Notice I said tablet computer (advent vega if you must know) rather than ipad. Not that Ive anything against the overpriced, under specced, restricted piece of male jewellry, I just want something that does everything I want it to and not what someone else says I need and not to bother about all that other stuff I dont really need as they know best.
ebook reader on a plane
There are always ongoing debates in photography about quality of equipment and how you dont need to spend a fortune on equipment to get good photos. I always tell my students that this is the case, with a large caveat. Its not necessary to have good equipment to get good photos but it is necessary to have good equipment to get consistently and repeatedly good photos.
Dont get me wrong I love my G9, Ive an underwater housing for it and its got me photos I normally wouldnt get but it is incredibly limited. People get tied up in the number of megapixels debate that camera companies bandy about like boys getting into a pissing up the wall contest (or something a lot less polite) without actually discussing the quality of those pixels.
Of course the overpowering argument is that why should I spend in excess of 50 thousand on equipment for a photography business when I could just buy a 500 quid compact and be done with it.
Come to think of it, why am I?
coffee and panini in the airport coffee shop
The advantage of using something like a G9 is that it generally doesnt attract the attention of the thought police, put on my rucksack, add trainers to a 40 year old(ish) man and and anorak and you can happily snap away looking like a complete loser. Change that to 10 grands worth of camera body and lens and its a short cut to a body cavity search.
Of course the converse argument is that with the high end kit people push their kids in front of the camera, with everything else they shy the kids away from the weird looking man.
passengers at departure gate
Id given myself a brief of documenting the journey and trying to use the camera with the limitations it has. Namely that its crap. Ok thats being unfair, the photos would have limited editorial use, they couldnt be used in low light conditions as the quality would be too poor to pass any agencies quality control and the total frame would have to be used as resolution is small as it is. Going back to the quality of pixels argument the dynamic range of the small cameras is very poor, what that means is that it doesnt handle both bright light and darkness in the same photo too well. Well it does but instead of being able to sell the pictures, I would just call them ‘art’ and add to the vast majority of my art collection and the ‘if this sells I’ll buy my friends a pint’. One such image is one I took in a bluebell glade in a woodland. I was walking down the hill and went on my arse and skidded the whole way down. Of course reaction was to hold the camera in the air and inadvertently fire off 9 frames a second for the whole journey. So I picked one ‘abstract’ and put it up for sale. I owe several people pints if it ever sells.
boarding easyjet aircraft
A couple of current affairs issues were apparent, there were a number of people with big bags and one way tickets, signs of the recession here in Ireland and Ireland continuing with its greatest export, its people.
Then the usual of taking your water off you and then getting you to buy overpriced water airside which is a complete pain someone like me who is advised to take aspirin tablets to fly due to previous injuries and help avoid dvt. Security measure or profit making – hmmm maybe Bin Laden has shares in bottled water companies.
The journey was reasonably uneventful and quite painless thanks to the pre boarding cards so the blog represents a little storyboard of the up, down, turnaround come back trip.
From a technical point of view, the camera performed well but thats within very strict guidelines and limitations. If it was possible for me to sell 50 grands worth of camera equipment and just get away with a couple of compacts, then from a business perspective I would.
Of course thats not to say that images produced from compacts wont and dont sell, I’ve sold some compact images for reasonable prices but never for a double page spread or advertising use. I could argue that if the photo was really important then I wouldnt take it with a compact so how do I expect them to sell, or put another way, everything finds its price point.
Various stock sites sell images for a dollar or whatever the equivalent is, in the vast majority of cases the photographs are taken with cheap equipment and thats not knocking them, everything has a value and a price point but its unlikely to produce long term growth except for a chosen few mass producers. At the minute the UK editorial market (newspapers by and large) are paying a pittance for photos, so using compacts for this type of work seems to go along with the price point.
My issue is when other agencies sell images that take years of experience to produce, are researched well and are shot on high end equipment sell them for pennies regardless. There is a lesson to be learned there though, over the last 4 weeks I have been taking some photos with minimal setup (although still using high end camera and lens) to see how they get on with other agents in the uk market.
Not exactly a great plan of action but an interesting experiment in trying to tailor production costs for the price points. It will be interesting to see if on a per unit basis how they compare with the higher end production cost photos.
Speaking of experiments, I had planned a number of ‘Top Gear’ style photo challenges for last year which Ive moved back to this year, one of which was a travel from easterly point to westerly point in Ulster in one day (dawn to dusk around midsummers day) and take photos of each county inbetween along with sunrise and sunset (hopefully). The Top Gear show last night did the reverse in England, driving from west to east from dusk til dawn….
…watch this space.
more irish related stock photos here
more travel and transport stock photography here
more ireland stock pics here
more general daily life stock photography images here
more conceptual stock photographs here
I really like Liverpool, I always have. I have family there and its always sad leaving. It has some of the friendliest people in England.
Having said that after spending a Saturday night photographing my nephews band practice I had to drive round a burning car, a burning van, police across the main road, helicopter in the sky with searchlight shining down etc etc. It was slightly nostalgic, looking like Belfast during the troubles without the actual troubles bit.
Now with a good bright day spare before heading home I decided Id drive up the Lancashire coast and see Blackpool. Down the years I’ve given Blackpool a bum rap. It all stems from stories as a kid of people going to Blackpool on holidays and sort of describing it something short of Las Vegas and Disneyland all rolled into one. Now given my cynical views I thought this might be slightly over exaggerating.
It was further added to by an ex-girlfriend who kept suggesting it as a holiday destination when I was suggesting the likes of Hong Kong, Florida, Mexico, Carribean etc. I knew then it was never going to last.
So I thought Id be fair and although it was a bright almost summery day it was bloody cold and it was April in a no fly zone. The only other no fly zone Id heard of was southern Iraq. I didnt want to draw comparisons.
On the way to blackpool I heading into Southport, a lovely Victorian town which has seen better days and is aging as much as its residents. Gods waiting room really wouldnt be in it.
I stopped off at Southport Pier for some fish and chips and stupidly decided to walk the length of the pier, rather than waiting on the tram. Take it from me, wait on the tram!
After lunch which was hideously expensive (and why do people in England not give receipts?) it was off to Blackpool. I parked up on the seafront, got my parking ticket and headed off for a coffee. I looked back at the car and there was already a traffic warden checking my parking ticket and tax disc. Being a Northern Ireland registered car he spent a bit of time looking at it. Now he was wearing a bright red uniform and maybe Im slipping but I didnt see him the length of the seafront, so I can only conclude he was a stealth traffic warden. Maybe a cloak of invisibility or maybe they come up from the ground but it did make me set a reminder on my phone. I didnt see me getting a seconds leeway or being able to talk my way out of a ticket here.
Walking round Blackpool it really did make me realise that in Northern Ireland we have still no idea what this credit crunch/financial crisis is all about. We are going to be in for a big shock with this new government and when ultimately the axe will fall.
Im sure that Blackpool is a lot of things to a lot of people and Im blowing my chance of ever working for their tourist board but its not for me, Id say it would be a holiday hell for me although not packed it is full of interesting characters and a lot of them seemed to want to talk. Not really talk to me, more talk at me. Interesting.
I definitely got the ‘not a lot to see here, move along’ impression and after Id spent a fiver on a cup of scalding nescafe and 4 microwaved donuts I realised it was time to leave.
Blackpool, been there done that, didnt buy the kiss me quick hat or t-shirt.
The journey home was reasonably uneventful apart from a 3 hour delay on the ferry then an ‘incident’ breaking out on board. Alarm bells going, crew running up to the passenger area, walking through hurriedly, sweating, then going into the restaurant/galley area. Nothing to be alarmed about apparently, just a minor incident they were hoping to get under control.
Half an hour later the incident was ‘under control’ but there would be no afternoon tea.
That will be the scones that set the kitchen on fire then.
Meanwhile back at the ranch we’ve had 24 hour coverage of the ‘hung parliament’.
Thats democracy for you, still it kept the discussion on how shite England are going to be in the World Cup out of the headlines for another week.
More Liverpool photos here
More Blackpool photos here
No seriously I was….
Ive been travelling this week and as Id booked the ferry to Liverpool I didnt think Id be affected by the biblical cloud of volcanic ash that has brought chaos and pestilence (well maybe not pestilence) to the whole of europe.
To be honest the only thing Id noticed was that it got quieter at home at night as there were no evening or tourism night flights flying lower than they should be over my house on the way to the international airport.
Id never seen the amount of foot passengers on that ferry before in my life. I dont think the ferry companies had either, loads of bags with air baggage tickets on them indicating a lot of one way journeys.
Now if Id have been one of those people stranded this would be a more interesting blog but lets be honest, for the vast majority of us the only hassle would have been not getting fresh strawberries from Spain.
After an evening based in Liverpool it was across to the peak district, an area Id never visited before despite driving past many a time. Id planned two days there, a couple of days back at Liverpool and if the weather was right a few days back up in the lake district (again somewhere I’d never been).
Driving across northern England it reminded me a lot of Jeremy Clarksons rants. Every couple of miles was a speed camera, speed bumps and all sorts of warning signs. Now this leads me to two conclusions, people in England cant drive properly or there truly is a nanny state. Funny thing is theres an election on and there are very few election posters. Areas of Northern Ireland are plastered in them, maybe we have less TVs so people dont know theres an election on or as a people we enjoy the false smiling faces of people we never see for 4 years at a time. Maybe in England the posters may just end up as visual clutter in amongst the speed warning signs and the slow down and the signs for housing estates (like what?).
The other odd thing is that driving through North Manchester you then hit country, then 20 miles or so of country then Sheffield. Theres no real suburbs, its city then country then city again. Its odd, as I said to one of the tourists in last nights B+B, in Ireland you drive through wilderness for an hour to get to the wilderness. Its like someone in the UK decided they were going to have countryside here and here and here and then just build like mad around it.
Its also the first time Ive been through England on St Georges Day. At first I thought theyd just got the flags out early for the World Cup so then started asking around for events. Well, err, umm, errr, thats about it really.
I also find the reaction of tourism places quite mixed here. I turned up at one castle entrance run by english heritage a half an hour before the opening times (10am) and was told to come back by the staff. Hmmm. Not impressed. Ive never come across this at home or most other places, usually people have a bit of leeway and after all I could have just climbed over the wall and got in without paying.
Id to queue for about 20 mins in the tourist office in Buxton to get information on B+Bs. I wasnt interested in paying them 3 quid to get them to ring on my behalf, after all I do have a phone and do speak English (of sorts). I just wanted a brochure with details of B+Bs in it, which of course wasnt on display. Very odd. I did feel like not bothering to spend my hard earned crisp bank of england notes in their coffee shop but did need to sit down and plan out the route.
I spent the night in a wee town called Castleton and again the reactions were mixed. I rang round a few B+Bs who although they had vacancies at 6pm on a thursday night, they wanted me to pay for a full double room for two people instead of single occupancy. Im sorry but 55 quid for a b+b is tearing the hole out of it. 30 mins drive was a hotel chain with rooms for 29 quid a night and I wanted to go to local businesses. One did say that 50 quid for a B+B for the night with no parking spaces did include a great british breakfast so I enquired if it was cooked by Gordon Ramsey or Jamie Oliver. They didnt see the sarcasm.
I eventually found a great B+B the causeway house in Castleton
where the owner Janet couldnt have been more helpful. She sorted me out with a driving route the following day (which the tourist office wouldnt recommend because they wanted to promote walking and cycling which is fair enough until you point out you have a damaged leg and cant walk or cycle), advised me on where in town had the best food (the rabbit pie in The George was excellent) and generally made my stay very comfortable indeed. Comfortable room, reasonable price, great filling breakfast and hosts who couldnt do enough for you. Big thumbs up.
The tourist office in Castleton was equally helpful, tracing out details on maps, telling me where to skip if I didnt have time and advising the best times for certain points given the light if I was interested in photography.
Which brings me to the title of the blog. One of the tourist attractions near Castleton is a cave called the Devils Arsehole. No honestly! After a pint or two of the local guest ale in The George with my dinner I did try to avoid being 16 again by asking everyone I met if they could give me directions to the Devils Arsehole.
‘Can you tell me where the Arsehole is?’
‘Is there a good route up the Arsehole?’
‘I hear the Devils Arsehole attraction is a bit shitty, what do you think?’
Id love to say I tried all this but it was thursday night in the peak district in April and I was the only sinner walking the streets. Bummer.
So I went back to the B+B to try and find either the Liverpool game on the TV or the prime ministerial debates. Because of the valley theres no Sky TV or channel 5, radio reception is poor and theres no 3G. So for the first time in a long time I was left with a choice of only 4 channels.
I got back just in time to watch Have I Got News for You and Jeremy Clarkson was presenting and ranting about speed cameras. I feel your pain mate, I really do.
More England photos here
Ok I’ve never been on a ferry across the Mersey (yet) but I have been on a ferry going up the Mersey. Not good enough I know.
On my way to Liverpool today for the weekend, so what has this got to do with Ireland?
Well I always feel a connection when I go to Liverpool, it was the first stopping off point for a lot of Irish migrants, many stayed there, many used it as the first stop on a long journey to other places in the world. Its a city that has a lot of parallels with Belfast, both formerly big with shipbuilding with a rich maritime background, both cities famous for working class humour and both cities have had tough and turbulent times. Belfast is coming to terms with the troubles as now part of its history and in Liverpool the last time I was over I went to the slavery museum.
Most of Liverpools beautiful waterfront buildings were built with money generated from the slave trade, its not alone in this, I seem to recall when Obama was elected how the White House in Washington had been built by slaves.
Theres an inherent sadness in cities like Liverpool, troubled peoples, troubled times have left their mark but the cities carry on and are full of life and humour. Like Belfast Liverpool has some of the finest new waterfront developments only a few miles from some of the worst troubled areas in Western Europe.
Of course unlike Belfast, Liverpool is home to one of the greatest football clubs in the World, as well as Tranmere and Everton. Ive supported Liverpool since I was a boy, probably a mixture of the all red strip and they were top of the league when I was a kid. But lets not linger on their current fortunes for too long
Im not a big drinker but one of the worst nights in my life on the drink was in Liverpool, Its a very long story, very long story indeed but the night ended/morning started with me being woken up in a hotel room with all the lights on, the bathroom tap running, the tv on, the radio on, all the bedclothes on the floor and me lying on the bed wearing nothing but a facecloth. It wasnt my alarm that woke me but rather the sound of the maid leaving the room. Unlike my travelling companion, the sense of shame was overwhelmed by the sense of hunger and I braved all the dirty looks to have breakfast in the silver service dining room. I wondered why my mate was so keen to just use the key drop box rather than face the hotel staff as he had only been woken in a similar state by the maid finding him rolled up in the floor in a pile of bedclothes. It wasnt until she started vacuuming around the pile of clothes on the floor that she realised there was a person in there.
Still, Ive never touched southern comfort since and even now the smell of it makes me wretch. So let that be a lesson to you boys and girls.
None of that on this trip as Im doing the pre christmas visit to my brother, sister and nephews, just part of being an irish family, it seems a lot of us have families scattered around the globe, something I’ll touch on in later blogs. Im not able to get over over Christmas so its a mini christmas and mini birthday weekend rolled into one (did I mention its my birthday next week).
Right back to Liverpool, during the summer I did a series of various photos in and around Liverpool, for one of the days I had a local guide show me round some of the more interesting or quirky or off the tourist trail spots. One of the more interesting stories was this photo below.
Its somewhere the guide told me the story about, its a pyramid grave which is in danger of being knocked down and either relocated or the body in it being buried which there is a minor uproar about due to the story associated with it.
Its the tomb of a guy called Mackenzie . He was a gambler who is said to have lost his soul to the devil in a game of cards. The agreement was the devil would take his soul when he was put in the ground so MacKenzie was placed in the pyramid tomb above ground sitting on a chair holding a winning hand of cards. So the devil has never got a hold of his soul, but if he is reburied then the game is over.
Now the photo itself is probably never a seller but it is an interesting story and sets the backdrop for the demolition or restoration of the nearby church which is the centre of the controversy. Something I’d never have come across without a local guide.
OK Id better get packing, photos of Liverpool below.
Stock images of Liverpool here