Monthly Archives: July 2013

What a week……I helped, honest I did. Oh, I even took a sunset

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Ive been on a Twitter diet, a photo diet, a WordPress Blog diet. Everything seems to be taking a back seat at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a formal complaint its just a statement. A very alternative way of saying that I have been quite busy. Moving on to the whole point of this post and as I already said in the title…what a week it was. I don’t think I have spent so many hours behind my computer for many weeks. Lets work in reverse and start with the sunset last night. What a cracker too ! I looked outside at the last-minute and saw the sky. In a very bad place at the moment with my cameras, think its possible they have both joined forces and fallen out with me. Neither have batteries in them, if they did then the would be discharged of all power and be totally pointless. Two Compact Flash Cards sit on my desk with 48gb of Data on them waiting for back up so that just says everything.

I went to collect my son Scott from his scout meeting and I saw the colours. It looked quite impressive with the naked eye and I hastily pulled up at the side of the road to grab a shot with my mobile phone. The above is an unedited panorama with a Samsung Galaxy S3.  Nice colours I am sure you will agree.

So, lets jump back a few months…August last year in fact. I offered to put together a wedding album for two friends and its been sat in the “waiting to do column” for quite a while now so I decided to pull my finger out and sort it. Phil and Jan got hold of an album and I duly asked them to provide me with the dimensions of the pages. So, on Monday the huge design process began. Weddings can be a daunting scenario for any photographer and I have been in that position but what is a very strange scenario is building a wedding album using images that you didn’t actually take because you were not at the wedding. Anyway, many hours later the task was complete and my lovely friends at Pro Am provided the printing services as well as dispatching via courier too.

It has taken me two days to finish this post. I think I’ve got terribly lazy and not spending enough time behind this computer doing what I love. Time to fix the problem..get out and take some images. Kind of difficult when the rain is pouring and thunder and lightning are singing from the skies above.

Patience is a virtue. Anyway, I got one photo…even if it is a camera phone shot.

Have a nice day all..

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Who turned the heating up?… A Mozzie

It was 34′ in my car this lunchtime. Memories of the Top Gear Africa Special came flooding back……this is a nice change though isnt it? Afterall, this is what Summer should be like. We have had so many bad ones over the last few years I think we have all forgotten what Summer actually is.

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I think the above image just sums up the last few years in a nutshell. Lets forget the weather for a minute and talk about its side effects. You may recall my insect bite last week that very nearly hospitalised me yet again. Seeing the little blighter hanging off my leg in hindsight I should have inspected it and then wrung its neck. However, a flick of the finger cut to the chase and sent it from here to oblivion in less than a second.

Years ago, we would have only associated Mosquitoes with the tropics and jungles of the world. Nowadays it appears these little menaces have become illegal immigrants and are now residing in our neighbourhood here in the United Kingdom. How rude and inconsiderate is that. So, have the British Summers been getting warmer? Well, it appears not…you only need to take a look at the statistics and see. So what about this little menace then….

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Complaints of mosquito bites are on the rise in the UK. So should Britons brace themselves for a future mosquito menace? Hovering perfectly at ear level with a lingering, bothersome whine, mosquitoes leave you with bites that lead to itchy, swollen welts. In much of the world, affected by malaria, repelling them is a matter of life and death. In the UK they are a mere annoyance, interrupting summer holidays and barbecues.

Based on a survey of UK local authorities, reports of mosquito bites over the last 10 years are 2.5 times greater than in the 10 years up to 1996. NHS Direct statistics show 9,061 calls in England complaining of bites and stings from early May this year to now – up nearly 15% from last summer. Not all bite complaints are due to mosquitoes – many can be attributed to bedbugs, midges and fleas. But conditions in the UK, particularly in southeastern England, are increasingly hospitable to mosquitoes. “The wet weather through May and June this year, along with a warm summer, has affected the population because mosquitoes like the standing breeding water,” says zoologist Michael Bonsall at Oxford University.

It’s difficult to track mosquito numbers accurately, but the UK authorities are trying to do so. The Health Protection Agency has organised the Mosquito Recording Scheme to look into where and how mosquitoes live and breed. And the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, with help from the HPA, has created Mosquito Watch, a voluntary reporting system geared towards collecting and analysing various specimens. Not only do mosquitoes swarm over pools of standing water, including bowls left outside for pets, they appear under man-hole covers and even travel on London’s Tube network.

But while mosquitoes transmit deadly diseases in many parts of the world, they do not cause major harm in the UK. They may spoil picnics in the park, but they are usually only a major problem when Britons travel to countries with malaria, dengue or other mosquito-borne diseases. But once upon a time, malaria-carrying mosquitoes could be found in the salt marshes of southeastern England.

It is believed that malaria – literally “bad air” – dates back at least to Roman times in the UK, and outbreaks occurred as recently as the years just following World War I. British doctor Ronald Ross, who discovered the malarial parasite living in the gastrointestinal tract of the Anopheles mosquito in the 19th Century, recruited teams to eliminate the larvae from stagnant pools and marshes.

Malaria in England had effectively died out by the 1950s, mostly due to the draining of much of the marshland where mosquitoes bred. But because of the growth of global travel, the number of imported cases of the disease in the UK has risen, with nearly 2,000 a year today.In many cases, live mosquitoes have been found on aircraft, or travelling in luggage, having been transported from countries with malaria. On rare occasions, people may even have contracted malaria in Europe and North America, dubbed “airport malaria”. Five of the 30-plus species of mosquito found in the UK are not native. One variety is coming alarmingly close to the UK. The Asian tiger mosquito – Aedes albopictus – known for its white and black striped pattern has been spotted as close as Belgium.

While the species does not carry malaria, it does transmit West Nile virus, Yellow fever and dengue. “It is possible that Aedes albopictus could make its way to the UK,” says Dr James Logan, medical entomologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “Because they lay their drought-resistant eggs in transportable materials, like used tyres, there is a possibility that they can be transported to a country where they are not normally found. “Some studies suggest that they could survive the UK winter, however, to date this species has not been found in the UK and the HPA are keeping a watchful eye on it.” Bonsall agrees and adds that predictive models show how malaria-carrying species could even make their way to areas such as the North Kent marshes, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk.

Mosquitoes are becoming immune to the insecticides used to treat them – via spray or bed nets, according to a recent study from Senegal. Between 2007 and 2010, insects with a resistance to a popular type of pesticide rose from 8% to 48%. “This could be a big problem for future control,” says Dr Hilary Ranson, head of the vector group at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.But according to Dr Logan, the health infrastructure and access to drugs in the UK means malaria is unlikely to take hold and cause major problems. Unlike much of the world, the rise of the mosquito will be a nuisance in the UK rather than a serious threat.

And for me, well…..if you have Cellulitis like I do, then you have a constant reminder of them 365 days a year. They are definitely on my Facebook block list.

Thanks for reading.

Excerpts of Article from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14613140

Blemish here, a mole there….all in an edit

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I think I may have become obsessive. Is there anything wrong with making everything correct down to the finest detail? I don’t know the answer to that to be totally truthful. I think I will come across as quite patronising if I say that I am totally obsessive because it doesn’t apply in every instance. I mean, if I sometimes forget to put my shoes in the cupboard I wont usually think twice. I can do methodical with obsession, I can honest. Here is a funny example that will show you more about me than I need to say really. A couple of days ago I offered to help my lovely wife Elaine clean up. The first thing I did was head towards my desk which amongst PC’s, printers and monitors  was cluttered with unopened envelopes and scattered notes of names and telephone numbers. I proceeded to remove the said rubbish from my domain which led to dusting and wiping. This in turn led to screen cleaning times two and before I could complete my simple task thirty minutes had gone by and Elaine had completed the whole house. Mmmm enough said.

Cleaning is not my obsession though. Retouching and editing however is; I started working through my images that were shot a couple of weeks ago on my “hat shoot” and realised that my attention to detail may not exactly be the same as someone elses attention to detail. Small skin blemishes, moles, awkward stray hairs, blood vessels in the eyes are all little things that could be left untouched would bug me and make me feel like the job isn’t complete. Like I just said though, not everyone sees things in the same light. The subject of the photo-shoot was the hats, okay, that hats were sat on top of three lovely models but that is exactly where I went wrong. The edits took longer and longer whilst I paid attention to every minor detail. I think the editing procedure went something like this….

1.  Exposure
2. Brightness & Contrast
3. Saturation/Hue
4. Levels/Curves
5. Spot removal (dust spots not face spots)
6. Cropping
7. Masking & Layering
8. Artefact removal
9. Noise Reduction
10.Saving

As you can see from the list that this can be a lengthy job and each image can take up to thirty minutes to complete. This amounts to a serious amount of time when you have a couple of hundred images to do let alone over a thousand. In an ideal world it would be lovely if Photoshop could identify these blemishes and spots, it does in its own way but it’s not the best. So, I revert to Lightroom and manual and edit how I know best. Have a look at a few images that I have finished and see what you think. In my opinion, I am very happy….not sure what the models think as I have only seen messages on Facebook. There is much to be said about-face to face contact. Hope you like the images, as always… comments are welcome

A huge thank you to Stephanie, Margaret, Jemima, Missy, Martina & Rebecca, your help is so much appreciated and I will never forget your patience.

Credits:

StephanieJaneMillinery
Margaret Woodliff-Wright
Jemima Robinson
Missy Ellwood
Martina Peluso
Rebecca May

The dreaded Cellulitis…..

480426_10151718805790831_1601438609_n In 2007 whilst on holiday in Lanzarote I suddenly became mysteriously ill. It wasn’t like it was something obvious it was just a gradual feeling over a few hours. I recall coming back from a place called “Rancho Texas” and suspecting I had been bitten by a fly of some variety. It could well have been Spanish but as flies don’t speak I couldn’t really ask it could I? Whatever it was took a real fancy to my blood and within twenty-four hours I was flat on my back, sweating profusely and craving cold drinks. We were staying at Lomo Blanco Apartments in Puerto del Carmen and as far as I can recall with only two or three days to go until our plane ride home I did nothing but sleep. Much of this was down to heaps of Panadol kindly dispensed by my loving wife Elaine but with all good intentions she wanted to get me home. In hindsight she was right, ten days in the Leeds General Infirmary has a little more appeal than being stuck on your own in a Spanish hospital 1800 miles from home. I am sure you see where I am coming from here.

After getting me on the plane drugged up to the eyeballs I managed to get home. Looking back, two things spring to mind… firstly, I cannot even remember the journey home and secondly, how in the name of all thats holy did I get away with it? It would only have taken an eagle eyed flight attendant to realise how sick I was. Once home a call to “NHS Direct” for advice seemed the right things to do. When the call was made with all the symptoms it must have come across as a little misleading to the call handler and we awere advised that “deep vein thrombosis” was likely. I think the fact that I had just stepped off an aircraft may have swayed the decision in this direction to be fair. Anyway, that was not the point… Elaine was instructed not to panic and to get me to Accident and Emergency like…rapid. And thats exactly what happened.

My home for the next week or so was a darkened ward in the bowels of the Leeds General Infirmary called the “High Dependency Unit”. Here, I lay with my feet in an awkward postion much higher than my head and drugged up to the eyeballs much like I was in the final days of my holiday to the Canary Islands.

I was very lucky really, bites like this can be poisonous and if not treated can do real damage. Since then, my legs are painful and the skin is very soft and even the slightest knock will cause them to bruise quicker than an old tomato. The price I pay for this means I have to be careful, much like I wasnt the following year when back in Lanzarote when I scraped my leg on a the rough edge of a plastic sunbed and tore a hole on my shin. What I have managed to do is stay clear of flies and mosquitoes. Two more visits to the Canary Islands and I have stayed bite free. All down to special wipes, wristbands and a loving and caring wife who obvisouly doesnt want to see me in that state again. This was until last Friday…..when the unexpected happened…in Cottingley. Yes, Cottingley del Sol.

A beautiful summers evening and the last thing that was on my mind was the dangers of the British fly. I was at the Moonlight Walk hosted by ny good friends at Cancer Support Bradford & Airedale  — if you get a chance please take a look at the great fundraising and events the friends do…they are nothing short of fantastic.  They often ask me to take photographs for them and as its my passion I never turn down an opportunity. The event was to be held at Cottingley Fitness & Wellbeing Centre near Bingley. The place has fantastic grounds including a lovely water feature and open lawns. Ideal for an event of this kind I am sure you will agree. It also appears that it was ideal for an old friend of mine, one that was to come back an haunt me with a bang. The Fly !

It had never crossed my mind when getting ready that on a beautiful summers evening I would be better covering up my legs or caking them in Jungle Formula Insect Repellent. Afterall this is West Yorkshire not the Canary Islands.  I had been taking photographs of the participants (below)

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and all was going well. I was sat by one of the tables near the edge of the lawn when I felt a sharp pain in the side of my left leg. I looked down and to my horror saw a black humped shaped insect drawing blood from the depths of my calf. How rude ! Without permission too, surely that constitutes theft? With a swipe of my hand I tried to remove said creature from my leg but it was going nowhere fast. I had to physically pick it from the hole itself had created. I was left with a trickle of blood and a feeling of nervousness came over me. What if this brought back my Cellulitis?

After a few panic ridden text exchanges with Elaine I thought nothing else of it until the next morning. I woke with a slightly more swollen pair of legs than I went to bed with, a warmer and hotter (not in the biblical sense) pair of legs along with a nauseous feeling. This was the last thing I needed. Once again, thinking nothing more of it I carried on my normal Saturday morning routine and my lovely wife went to work. Within an hour of her departure something went wrong. It was almost like it was waiting for her departure to create this problem because the timing was just that. My legs started to swell and the skin started to stretch. I took evasive action and lay on the sofa nearest the window and propped my legs up on the window sill. It was there I stayed until Elaine returned home from work at two o clock.

She knew….Straight away. Women know when something is not right, they have this ability to detect problems it’s a seventh sense (lol). No matter how much I could have tried to hide it, it was never going to work. The proof was in the size of my body parts so without removing my legs I had no chance. We both mutually agreed that a trip to Leeds General Infirmary was in order….Oh no, here we go again.

Saturday afternoon at casualty is no fun, nothing compared to Saturday evening but still no fun. Five hours later and a number of potions later and I was allowed home. This was only because no matter how much they tried they could for the life in them get a drip in to me. This has resulted in numerous bruises in my arms but I’m not going to worry about that. I will have to look like a temporary addict for a few days and deal with it.

And here I am, its Wednesday and I am still sat with my feet up and resting. Top Gear has been the highlight of my week. Thanks foe reading my woes. Call back soon for more.

A rapid change of plan….

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Model: Jemima Robinson

Occasionally I need a kick-start, but then again doesn’t everyone? Maybe if you were to answer this truthfully and actually say “no” then subsequently email me; I would realise the problem is actually me. Once again we are heading mid way through the month of July and the photo count is quite stale.

There was the faintest glimmer however, a friend of mine Stephanie got in touch last week and asked if could take some photos of the hats she had designed. Well, firstly I never turn down the opportunity to help a friend and secondly when given the chance to get in to the studio how could I refuse.

I was introduced to three lovely models Jemima Robinson, Rebecca May and a very nice lady that to this day remains nameless. A whole day shooting a subject that I can honestly say I have no experience in shooting before….Hats ! Yes, hats.

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Model: Rebecca May

I have to say these models were absolutely fantastic at their jobs. They made 1500 images roll through my camera like a breath of fresh air. With a large space to work in, air conditioning and every facility you could ask for it was like a dream. A big thank you to Margaret Woodliff-Wright (Hats) , Stephanie Murie (Hats) and Martina Peluso (Make-up) for the assistance during the day and also a big thank you to the technicians from Leeds College of Art for the lighting and equipment.

I have now created a dilemma. As I know from many past shoots, the selection process is probably as hard as the shoot itself. Having said that, having never subjected actual hats before things weren’t as easy as first thought. It quite easy to drift “off-topic” and shoot the model for her qualities leaving the hat to fall by the wayside. It just took a couple of frames to knock me back on the right track, redirecting my focus on the hat as opposed to the glamour side of the photography.

All three models were fantastic at modelling the hats and gave the images every quality that was required.

If you have never photographed in a studio environment before it can be very nerve-racking. Throughout my years as a photographer I have used many studios and lighting set-ups but I have to say the crew at Leeds College of Art have got the dogs doo dahs of set ups. I took a couple of images using my phone of the studio setup, these are posted below.

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Leeds College of Art, Studio

Leeds College of Art, Studio

Leeds College of Art, Studio

A great day’s shooting, somewhere totally different. Thanks for the opportunity.

Fundraising is a family affair for mum of three

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My Vocation….Photography vs The Great British Summer

It might be time to head indoors and try the studio for some photography. I am a wee bit miffed at the number of opportunities that havent presented themselves of recent days. But then again, why would they, it hasn’t stopped raining for days. Having said that, as I sit here typing this blog the sun is out, just not in a way that would justify a camera-road-trip. No way Jose.

After getting bored I dreamed up a WordPress site called Streetographies which in all fairness has kept me busy for the last week or so. I’ve been trawling through images on my hard drives that may of otherwise being confined to the archives. Images that one decade earlier would have hit the cutting room floor. I even lowered myself by resurrecting flatbed scans of prints, monochrome ones at that.

Streetographies has done quite well; with only a dozen or so posts so far the new “column” approach looks quite appealing and the words that follow the pictures appear to be readable. Yes, I can quite categorically say that I am happy with whats going on over there. Like I just said, I have been trawling the old hard drives for applicable images and I found some too, seventy-nine of them so far which is a great start. I currently have sixteen of my favourite street portraits up there and the comments and viewing statistics have proved worthwhile. On the back of that I scanned my Flickr photo stream and my Lightroom catalogues and discovered another eighty candidates.

As for the paragraphs that accompany the images, well…. writing is another way of expressing my ideas just not with an image. I still have no idea whether it works or not and I am waiting for a few more comments with feedback to decide whether I should carry on. I already did a little research with regard to buying the domain name for the site and hosting it with 123-reg. That was a mistake, I don’t think I can really justify £120.00 to do this just yet. Afterall, its in its infancy and very fresh and wet behind the ears.

I think I maybe sitting back when it comes to grabbing more images. The knowledge that I have eighty to do kind of puts the idea of getting more a little less tempting. Maybe I should, that would keep a constant supply going. It definitely has had an impact on the number of posts here at “no more dead pixels” as I have spent more time thinking about images than I have writing.

I understand the weather forecast for the weekend is quite good. I will believe it when I see it.

Thanks for reading my moaning…..

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