Post Apocalyptic?

Yesterday I was nominated by my friend and office colleague David to take part in a Facebook seven-day black and white photo posting challenge. A personal photo each day, no people, no caption or explanation and I’m meant to nominate someone else each day.

Now much as I love David, he knows I’m not a massive fan of this kind of thing, but he’s a big fan of my photography so couldn’t resist just to see how I’d handle it. He also likes to watch me squirm, so that’s two excellent reasons for him to nominate me.

You might wonder why I’m not a big fan of this kind of thing then. Well, since you’ve made the mistake of asking, I’ll tell you.

I’ve been on Facebook for, oh I dunno, many years. Twitter and Instagram too. Over the years I’ve posted pictures I’m very proud of and some junk I probably should have left on my hard drive or in my head. Of late I’ve been working to get my feeds looking more consistent in quality, more coherent in style and less scattered with random junk. This kind of posting challenge may not help.

Therefore I’ll have to be careful that what I post adheres to qualities I can be proud of. Tough to do every single day. But that isn’t the only reason – When I post pictures online I’m aware there is a trade-off happening; I’m exposing my work to a wider audience, getting more eyeballs on my pictures and helping my search engine optimisation, while the social media platforms are benefitting from a constant supply of free content and data they can mine, monetise and aggregate for future, as yet un-defined purposes.

Perhaps I’m being too conspiracy-theorist about this, but here’s a final point to consider; I’m meant to nominate one person every day of the challenge. That’s seven people over seven days (and even I remember from my school times tables terrors, that comes to 49). Each of those 49 people is meant to nominate 7 people, so that’s 343. 343 x 49 = 16,807. You get the idea, if nobody drops the chain we’re quickly into millions of people posting more millions of photos (I tried to work it out, my brain melted).

So mana for Facebook as it keeps people going back to their pages, interacting and laying rich soil for the advertisers who pay Facebook to display their wares in our feeds. We’re all working to feed it like we’re being paid, feeling guilty if we don’t, and so it goes on.

Thankfully we’re not all robot slaves. I was the only person David nominated during his 7 days. My wife got nominated, made it to day 4 and then forgot to continue. There is hope for the human race when we don’t follow the peer pressure and the made-up rules.

So my plan is to post a photo each day, only nominate if I can think of someone who would like to be nominated and I’ll state here that I won’t be accepting future nominations for this kind of thing. If it’s a nomination to be King of the World, I might accept that, but not another photo challenge please.

Summer Light In Summary

With the weather we’ve been having this August you may not be feeling especially Summery, and it’s true to say I’ve had a challenging few weeks dodging downpours, thunder storms and gales, but it’s often assumed that Summer sunshine is perfect for photography.

Well it can be of course, but as a rule, when I’m taking pictures of people for their business website or press release, if we’re having to work outdoors and the sun is screaming down, it’s not always a great help. The subjects will either be squinting into the light, their eyes streaming, or if I put the sun behind them I’ll end up with silhouetted people unless I balance the daylight with flash – not always a simple task.

Of course there are things I can do to minimise the problem, but sometimes the chosen location and time of day for the photo session mean it becomes a purely technical exercise in overcoming the sun.

In the two photos featured here you’ll see how placing the subjects in the shade has meant they’re not not made to squint into the sun or get hot and bothered, while I’m able to fill in their features with controlled use of flash.

The client, the award-winning The Bristol Pest Controller, needed some images for their website, including a hero image, and they knew the location they wanted. My job was to make it all work for them and their website.

The session happened back in March of this year, but I don’t know if you remember, it was quite sunny back in the Spring! Sunshine in Spring is just as tricksy to work with as sun at any time of year, but finding the right location helps a lot to mitigate the issues.

And of course if it’s sunshine like we’ve had this August, ie not a lot, that can actually be quite helpful as it’s easier to balance overcast daylight and flash. The only problem this Summer seems to be how to avoid getting drenched or struck by lightning during your photo session.


Fancy a Challenge?

Last week was huge fun as I was booked to cover the IRTE Skills Challenge 2015 for the Society of Operations Engineers. The event, hosted by S&B Automotive Academy in Bristol spanned four days and involved teams of bus and coach technicians tackling challenges from diagnosing electrical faults in a wiring loom to repairing a metal box section in the bodyshop.

It was full-on and all-go as I set about making sure I had a good selection of photos of each of the 50+ competitors over the course of the event, as well as group photos, detail shots and general views.

The pictures will be used on the SOE website, on social media and in press releases and you can see an edited selection of the pictures here.

This was my first year covering the event which has been running for 5 years now, but hopefully I’ll be invited back next year. I was really impressed with how helpful everyone was, especially the candidates who were under pressure of time and having to concentrate while I worked around them.

It was a fascinating challenge to see how to get the best angles and light the subjects in the most effective way. Welding shots are always fun as they have to be done through a welding mask (or risk permanent eye damage!), but here’s one of my favourite images showing competitor Tim Laws Chapman of FirstGroup grinding a tidy finish to his welded section in the body shop.


A little while back I told you about the zip wire challenge that I and some of my office colleagues were to undertake in aid of SOS Africa, a Somerset-based charity which helps children in African townships get a proper education. Well we did it! And in the process we raised (as of writing this post) £645, which beats our group target by £45. And if you feel inclined, you can still donate here: SOS Africa

As to doing the challenge itself, it really was good fun. The wire wasn’t as high up as we’d hoped due to insurance/practical considerations, but plenty high enough for most people. Climbing over the balcony rail was a little dicey, but once settled onto the other side and ready to go, the actual zip run was over all to quickly. I squealed a little at the start I must confess, but a couple of “WOOHOOs” later and I was at the end of the line being unbuckled. Quite an adrenaline rush and I would have done it again had the opportunity arisen.

My son Joe even took part, taking advantage of a spare slot which became available, and his run was a little more fraught as his line went too fast and he overshot the end and kind of bounced off the tree to which the line was secured. He’s ok though, but he might not do another challenge like that for a while…

Everyone who took part seemed to enjoy themselves, and given the opportunity to do another zip wire challenge I’d take it. And of course, I took a few photos which I hope convey some of the fun of the day.

I leave the tower, screaming and sobbing for my mum

I leave the tower, screaming and sobbing for my mum

I arrive at ground level, hero-like n'all

I arrive at ground level, hero-like n’all

Gavin Eddie says it tickles

Gavin Eddy says it tickles

A wave of support from TOCS folk

A wave of support from TOCS folk

Joe sets off on his crash horror run, as the papers would have called it

Joe sets off on his crash horror run, as the papers would have called it


Cranmore Tower, Somerset

Cranmore Tower, off which I shall be jumping for charidee

A bank holiday week means no one will be reading this, so I thought I’d sneak in a bit of a charity appeal.

On September 15th myself and a number of colleagues from The Old Church School offices where I’m based will be taking a zip wire challenge off the top of Cranmore Tower, a 19th Century Victorian folly. It’ll be a 100 metre long wire from a height of 148 feet (the wire is metric, the tower is imperial). A reasonable height then.

Money raised through sponsorship will go to SOS Africa, which is “a small, non-profit, UK registered, predominantly volunteer-run Somerset charity, which funds the education and care of underprivileged African township children.”

I’m paying to jump off the tower, but anything I can raise from you good folk will help the chillun (less justgiving’s cut I guess). It beats climbing Mount Kilimanjaro which requires huge amounts of sponsorship, a comparatively large carbon footprint and just means I get a free holiday and a smug glow. This way I just get the smug glow, though that might be cancelled out if I spend the entire 100 metres screaming like a big girl’s blouse.

If you would like to chuck some money in the pot, go here. You never know, if you raise enough money I might do it naked. Raise even more, I’ll keep my clothes on.

View from the top of Cranmore Tower

Spectacular views from the top of the tower. Slightly stomach-churning when you look down.