Oh, what’s occurrin’…?

What’s occurring is my sixty-sixth birthday. And Dot and I chose to occur it on the Gower Peninsula. Wales. UK.

Ten years ago we visited the Gower. The King Arthur at Reynoldston was good a decade ago, and blow me, it still is. Well done somebody.

I love the idea of hitting a cattle grid, then making your way over common land to a pub with a comfy bed, good beer and tasty food. Simple always wins.

I would imagine to buy a home on the Gower now costs an arm and several legs, and whether you’d want the kind of neighbours who can afford to buy into such a place is something else, but the area is still outstanding.

The National Trust own and manage a decent chunk of the Gower, and Rhossili Beach is acknowledged as being one of the world’s best. And it’s in Wales. Well done somebody else.dot_rhossili

 

 

 

 

 

Port Eynon and Oxwich Bay, where there must have been at least seven people on the beach, came next. A quiet hour watching the waves and dog walkers, listening to The Unthanks, I thought I’d died and gone to Barry Island. But that was tomorrow.

Land of Gavin and Stacey, The Island provided coffee and a stunning almond croissant at Marco’s, followed by a stroll along the collonades and palm trees, and friendly conversations with other visitors. There was a sense of The Prisoner in the surreal September afternoon sun.

I first came here over fifty years ago on a coach trip from the Black Country, a day out at the seaside, and I don’t remember a single thing. Yet a couple of hours strolling up and down the front brought back no memories whatsoever. Funny that.

However, we both realised we will come back. The place is friendly, quirky, and inviting. People of a certain age talked to each other.

Who’da thought it? Is this what happens when you hit Route 66? Not so bad so far…

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It’s only rugby, don’t lose your head…

Somedays, photography is really easy.

When three headless rugby players, a dinosaur and Captain Hook all turn up in the same place, under a fluffy clouded September sky, on a red carpet, half an hour from where you live, it would be churlish to refuse a quick snap.

Stourport funfair in Worcestershire, UK provided the subjects, Fuji provided the camera, and I just walked about a bit with my eyes open.

 

headless tsi

More offbeat images can be found in this gallery.

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A politician’s lot is oft a snappy one…(apologies to G&S)

People regularly say politicians are two faced.

For a photographer, that is often a good thing. In fact, the more faces a politician can summon up, the merrier.

Watch the news on the telly, and see the flashes go off when there is any slight animation from a normally po-faced public figure. It’s what the pressman waits for – waving arms, pointing fingers, manic eyebrows…

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan visited a couple of schools in Stourbridge, and apart from the meet and greets, the wide scene setting pic and informal chats with pupils pix, it’s always necessary to get a nice, tight headshot.

A head and shoulders pic can be cropped in a multitude of ways, it can have a headline laid over it, it can be incorporated in another picture. Invaluable. So it’s always one to get. And Nicky Morgan is a performer. Her face is what you might call, animated.

It can be a struggle to get close enough to some people, but once I was through the retinue of school photographers, parliamentary chaperones and interested parties, all was well. With a range of expressions that a stand up comic would be proud of, she was off. And so was I.

All pictures were taken on a digital Nikon with a 105mm lens using natural light.

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Posted in Editorial/Press

Funtimes at Dismaland

Three quid buys you very little these days. Nearly a pint of beer (so long as you’re north of Watford), almost a magazine, a bus ride to not quite where you want to go.

Or a few hours at Dismaland. Apocalypse by the Sea.

Walking down the prom to the old Lido at Weston-Super-Mare, I was asked by a lady sitting on a bench “Have you come to see Banksy? Welcome to Weston, have a lovely time.”

So I did.

Chuckling as I manoeuvred the zig-zag queueing system, which I’m convinced is actually an installation, I prepared myself for the onslaught of mild abuse which was promised to come my way.

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Dismaland keeps it’s promise. In buckets and spadefuls.

Humour as black as sin, brilliant animations and music on the outdoor screen, powerful images and 3D work in the exhibition, a great dodgem installation by Banksy, anarchy around every corner.

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And we all got to join in with a piece of artwork depicting a woman being eaten by seagulls. Serves her right for using a shopping trolley.

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It’s England, so it rained.

That’s why we had a beautiful rainbow on the way back up the M5.

 

Posted in Coast

Monarch of the Bren

While driving around this week taking pictures of events and happenings celebrating the long serving reign of our queen, I was reminded of a photograph I took last year.

“Quick, come and have a look in here” suggested my wife, as I sipped a pint in the Propeller Inn pub at Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, next door to a busy little airfield, during a week’s holiday there.

The ‘here’ in question was an annexe to the bar area, where you could sit and have a quiet meal and a glass of wine,  surrounded by machine guns, pistols, rifles, the odd grenade and rocket launcher, a variety of aircrew clothing, and general war memorabilia. And a life size cardboard cut-out photograph of Her Majesty. Of course.

Now, I know she gets about a bit. Very democratic in that respect. But that blue outfit just wasn’t in keeping with the general thrust of the place, if you get my drift. Something a little more casual would have gone down just as well, without upsetting the ambiance one jot.

Anyway, a polite “Good evening ma’am” and a couple of photographs to show the folks back home saw me easing myself slowly towards the exit, before I was asked to sign a pledge, or sing something patriotic.

No slaves here, for sure.

gun room

 

 

 

 

 

More photos in a similar vein can be found in this gallery.

 

 

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Unthankuverymuch

“Going off The Unthanks” a friend I met at Moseley Folk Festival offered.

“Preferred ’em when they were just a capella and clog dancing. Too over-produced nowadays.”

Over-produced clog dancing…I ask you.

Admittedly there were long, quite long moments when the sisters stood gazing wistfully towards West Bromwich, while a melancholic solo trumpet and hissing cymbal crescendoed around Moseley Park, but happily this soon gave way to waves of forboding violin chords and the occasional death knell wallop on a couple of drums.

Then the clogs kicked in again. Magnificent in their mystery (and misery).

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The festival was on Fryday, Fatterday and Funday (beer and chips a-plenty) or you could opt for a bag of green stuff, falafel or healthy Bakewell flapjack. One family was seen eating chicken legs with hands encased in those plastic gloves you use to fill up with diesel. I didn’t stay for the trifle.

Having been once told I looked like Dave Pegg from Fairport Convention, and was almost asked for my autograph at another festival because of said similarity, I kept an eye open for more famous faces in the crowd. Saw a man who looked like Robert Plant, heard a woman who sounded like Marianne Faithful, and smelt something that was possibly being used for medicinal purposes.

Then she spotted me. A woman in high-viz made straight for me, never taking her eyes off me. Here we go again, I thought.

“Would you mind moving along sir, you’re standing still in an area where you should be walking…”

Now if I’d been dancing in an area where I should have been whistling, or thinking in an area where only weeping was allowed…

Rebel Without a Clue – that’s me.

cameraphone carthy_swarbrick

I moved on, sympathised with a bloke who was having a good natured rant at a dustbin, and waited for The Monkees to entertain anybody over fifty who was intoxicated with nostalgia, and amuse/annoy the rest.

couplekiss kids

Well, I guess I’ve reserved my place at the back of the queue for next year’s do.

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Red Lemons anniversary pic

I was asked to recreate a classic band pic of the Red Lemons Electric Blues Band for the local paper, to celebrate their 30th anniversary. They had reformed to do some anniversary gigs, and a 1980’s promo pic featuring the band with an American car was the model and inspiration for the new shoot.

The reporter on the phone said “Next Wednesday, four o’clock, Base Studios, Stourbridge.”

At ten to five, on the Tuesday before, same reporter said “Somebody’s dropped a whoopsy, the band are there now (30 miles away) and waiting for you. They leave at six. Is the picture going to happen?”

There was heavy rain, temporary traffic lights and rush hour traffic between them and me. Smiling, I did a U-turn and headed for the fun that was Tuesday tea-time traffic trauma…

The band had just finished rehearsing as I arrived at one minute to six.

Miraculously, the downpour ceased on my arrival. A suitable backdrop location was found on the industrial estate while the band changed into stage clobber, and the owner of the American car did his best at squeegeing the rain off the bonnet.

These two pix show the before and after effects of photo-processing.

The first is straight out of the camera, the second shows judicial burning, shading, cropping and some colour compensation, ready for publication.

The whole shoot took less than five minutes, so my particular thanks go to the car owner who could accurately reverse park the American beast first time, the bunch of thoroughly nice professional lads who posed without prompting, and the God of Reflections who gave me the image of the musician at far right.

Red Lemons Electric Blues Band. At the time I never even noticed the Red brickwork, Lemon (yellow) parking lines, Blues car, shoes, door and window frame.

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Honest.

Posted in Editorial/Press

Wednesday morning at the Hagley Palladian (Bridge)

I was bouncing down a winding dirt track in a golf buggy, facing backwards with my camera bag on my lap and Joe the landscape gardener hanging on alongside me, following the twisting ravine that carries the stream from a rotunda on top of a hill to a Palladian Bridge and pool at the bottom.

“Are the brakes designed for this sort of thing?” was my question.

“Can you swim?” was the answer.

The third person in the buggy, facing forward, was freelance reporter Louise Jew.

The fourth person, and driver, was Lord Cobham, of Hagley Hall, near Stourbridge.

Work is being done on the currently private estate with a view to opening it up to the public, and I was there to photograph his lordship with the newly renovated Palladian Bridge.

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Landscape gardener Joe Hawkins and Viscount Cobham joked and jostled for position on the edge of the pool, while I maintained some sense of decorum by leaping onto a steep little bank, before thinking, if I start sliding down to the water’s edge, what do I drop? Nikon or decorum? Sounds like a Latin motto…

Nikon or decorum in Palladio est.

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Anyway, nothing happened, apart from a very pleasant morning hobnobbing with Joe Hawkins.

And his lordship.

 

Posted in Editorial/Press

Editorial/Press

Stourbridge’s Mary Stevens Park had an extensive (and probably expensive) refurbishment of their 1931 main gates, which are modelled on the ones at Buckingham Palace. Funding came from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund.

“Can you get a picture of the gates?” An obvious if seemingly uninspiring request from the Stourbridge News reporter covering the refurb sent me waddling up to the park to do battle, dodging dog walkers, dodgy car parkers and podgy joggers. Phew!

My first shots were perfectly useable, nicely framed and lit images of the new(ish) gates.

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In a fit of mad enthusiasm – steady Phil – I mooched around for another angle, a different take that might add a bit more colour to the mighty edifice…

A nearby flower bed in the shadows was brought into play, along with dog walker and joggers. 24mm wide angle on my Nikon, a touch of fill flash on the geraniums (I think that’s what they are) and I ended up with something that said a bit more about the park entrance.

parkgates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I truly detest the phrase job done, so I’m not going to say it.

However…

 

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Coast

Another cycling/camping holiday in the Netherlands comes to an end. Another splendid diet of applecake and waffles (for strength and stamina, obviously) makes way for the usual UK fayre.

Another realisation that Brits will never achieve what the Dutch have done with their fabulous cycle routes and their open-hearted acceptance and love of two wheeled travel.

Oh well, just sort out the photographs and prepare for a winter of pot-holed hell in our lanes and by-ways.

The Dutch island of Markem is everything that Birmingham isn’t. I won’t say any more. Except that it is peaceful, quiet, a contemplative space that occasionally has to fight off the rigours of a harsh winter, but still says come in, sit down, breathe a little, and believe that things can be different.

And maybe put up a shed.

 

Shed Markem

 

 

 

 

 

The Werfs are clutches of homesteads that are tightly grouped to keep out the worst of the winters, with narrow passageways weaving a path through the wooden houses.

Path Markem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These pics were taken at Rozewerf, where I saw three other people in the space of forty minutes. A bit like a somewhat unpopular museum, but less crowded. Nice. Hollyhocks and a good breeze. A bit like Birmingham then…

Rozewerf

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Dutch pix from the mainland and islands can be found here

Did I mention the Oude Jenever??

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