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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Seaside Ride

Whilst staying at Portmeirion, we took a little trip to Porthmadog, and ended up at the little seaside town of Criccieth.

We saw a castle on a hill, but drove round trying to find out how to get to it. We couldn't work it out, so parked opposite the lifeboat station and had a stroll on the very stoney beach, and took some photos from there.

While wandering about I came across this very rusty and decomposing child's bike. A great subject for a photograph I said to Gail. Something that Derek Jarman collected at Dungeness. So I took several, at various different angles. But I like this one the best.

Also on the beach were three girls. Probably friends, rather than sisters. They all wished me a 'Happy Birthday' as I was wearing a very large "I am 50" badge, which Gail gave me at breakfast. They were very cold, as they didn't seem to be dressed very well for the cold & windy weather.

We chatted to them for a while, and Gail took some photos of them jumping off some old rowing boats. We then watched them stroll off onto the pier for some very strong sea breezes.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Seeing The Sea

Well we did something that Patrick McGoohan's character didn't manage to do, and that was to leave the Village.

We were sad to leave Portmeirion, as it is a magical place, and the sun was shining again too. We wondered which bit of North Wales to visit. I suggested seeing the waterfalls at Betws-y-coed. So we checked out and popped the details in the sat-nav.

Unfortunately when we got there, we found that the gates to the attraction were closed. Possibly because it was early closing or they weren't open for the tourist season yet.  So we did what most people do, we went to the local pub for lunch and a drink.

Gail set the sat-nav with our home address and we set off. I was expecting to drive down the A5, instead it decided to send us up the A470 towards Llandudno. We then found ourselves on the A55; a major road that follows the coast. Gail was looking out the window and surprised to see how close we were to the coastline. She wondered if we could stop off somewhere.

I noticed a turning coming up ahead for a place called Llanddulas, so I turned off and headed for the seafront. It was a little disappointing, as there wasn't that much there. Only a stoney car park and a pebbled beach. Not even an ice cream van.

Here's a couple of shots from our short stay there. Whilst I was taking some photos, Gail got talking to a husband and wife who were there birdwatching. They had set up a spotting scope, and the husband had a camera with a big lens, with which he was trying to photograph the various species that were there.

They said that they came from Northampton and were on the lookout for a couple of particular birds. I said that we lived close to the Attenborough Nature Reserve, and that hundreds of 'twitchers' sometime go there if there is an unusual visitor. They said that they've been a few times. So we left them to look for some lesser spotted thingy, and went on our way.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

A Home From Home

When we woke up, we noticed the sun shining through the curtains. Gail got out of bed and pulled back the drapes; and we saw the sea.

It was magical. Sunshine and the sea. What more could anyone want when they are on holiday?

As it was my birthday, Gail had bought some cards and a couple of presents with her for me to open. Which I did. In Gail's card was a big badge with '50' on it. Which I then pinned to my coat.

After breakfast we went for another walk around the village.  It had only just opened to the public, so there weren't that many people around.  I was wished a "happy birthday" from the people who saw my badge.

This shot shows the village hotel. It partly burnt down many years ago, but has been restored. The open air heated swimming pool was used in the original Brideshead Revisited, when the village stood in for Italy.

Monday, 25 February 2013

I Am Not A Number

It's my birthday & seventh wedding anniversary tomorrow. I'll be 50 by the way. Gail asked me what I wanted to do as something special. Go on holiday somewhere perhaps. Yes I replied, Portmeirion in North Wales.

I had been before on a day trip some years ago, but have never actually stayed there as a guest. It's a very special place, as it was designed and built over a number of years by one man, a Clough William-Ellis.

Portmeirion is of course more well know as the place where Patrick McGoohan's character tried to escape from in the TV series The Prisoner in 1967. A very unusual series of 17 episodes in which a spy resigns from his job, is kidnapped and finds himself trapped in 'the village'. He is called 'Number Six' and various psychological methods are used to try and find out why he resigned.

So I found a deal for two nights bed & breakfast. Fantastic. When I rang up to book, they told me which cottage that we would be staying in. I then looked it up on their website and found out that it was that the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein used to rent during the 1960s.

When we arrived it was dark, so we didn't know where in the village we were located. After we had unloaded the car we went to have dinner in the main hotel, which looks a bit like a castle.  We then went for a walk around the village. We had it to ourselves, as there was nobody else around.  And boy was it quiet.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Ava Maria

Another bit of luck with a Twitter competition. This time it was to win two tickets to see international musical superstar Maria Friedman, who was appearing tonight at the Nottingham Playhouse.

I was fortunate enough to win a couple of tickets through a competition on Twitter. So it made another pre-birthday treat. Or should that be tweet!

It's been a good day in all, as Gail's ex husband came over to see us and wish me a Happy Birthday, and to congratulate us on seven years of marriage. We all went for a very tasty lunch at the Victoria Hotel, a lovely old pub near Beeston railway station.

Maria sang a number of songs by Stephen Sondheim, just accompanied by a pianist by the name of Jason Carr. Although the only one I knew was "Send in the Clowns' and I didn't even know that it was one of his! I guess it's because Andrew Lloyd Webber's songs are more well known. I think most people have heard "Memory" from Cats, "Music of the Night" from Phantom of the Opera and of course "Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat".

After the show, Maria went into the foyer to meet her fans and sign autographs. In front of me in the queue was a mum and her daughter, who I understood from their conversation that she was studying to be a singer too.

She was telling her mum how to take a photo using her mobile. Poor mum looked a bit worried and said that she hoped it came out OK.  Of course I had my OMD already pried for action and took a couple of shots. I said that if it didn't come out, they may like one of mine. So I gave the mum one of my cards; so hopefully she will be sending me an e-mail, so I can send them a copy. But if anyone does know this delightful young lady, please point her in my direction.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Point Of No Return

I had a bit of good news via Twitter the other day. The Galleries of Justice contacted me to say that I had won one of their mugs for following them on Twitter, as they were running a competition for the next 3 people to follow them would get a mug. And fortunately, I was one of them.

They asked for my address, so they could send it out to me. I suggested that I could collect it in person. They also said that my photography was amazing and invited me to have a look round and see what I could find to photograph.

So here's a couple of the results. The first is a board listing the rules of the prison, with the reminder of what might happen to them if they were not going to be transported to Australia.

Below is the typical of the conditions that the prisoners found themselves in once behind bars. I think the rats had a better life. At least they found themselves a way out.

It is a very good attraction, and the actor led tours are amusing and informative. Apparently it is the only one of its kind in Europe, and so should be on the 'to do' list of every visitor to our fair city.  It has been suggested that the site is the most haunted in England. This is not surprising, considering the number of people that must have died there. Not including all those that were hanged.

For more details about all the things you can see and witness, here's a LINK to their website.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Grub's Up

Walking through the Old Market Square today, I noticed several large yellow gazebos all neatly placed in one area.

Of course I had to go and investigate and found that it was promoting exercise and healthy eating.

The Government's 'Change 4 Life' scheme is to attempt to make people fitter and healthier, as we appear to be going down the same route as Americans in being obese and unhealthy.

It could be argued that they are at the root cause of the problem with the introduction of fast food restaurants like McDonalds in the 1970s, and other companies following suit. Don't get me wrong, as the UK had fast food before then; think of fish and chip shops and Wimpy Bars. But there seems to be such a glut these days, that it's no wonder people are getting fatter. Pizza anyone?

I had a look round the various stalls, and of course stopped by the food tent. Here, a chef was cooking some pasta and chunks of lamb. He gave me some in a small bowl, sans lamb, as I don't eat red meat.  It was very nice. He said that he didn't put any salt in, but used dry seaweed instead.

I asked where I could get one of the recipe books which you can see in the middle there. The chef pointed me in the direction of one of the other tents. I ambled over and filled a form in exchange for one. So I will be studying it in the near future, to see if there are any dishes that cry out to be made.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Life In Monochrome

Another shot from Sunday's shoot with Kirin and Michael Lau.

Michael was looking for this narrow street, but couldn't remember where it was. Fortunately we stumbled upon it, almost by accident. I had a rough idea where it was, but recognised it, as soon as I saw it.

There was some lovely light available, which was being reflected off the cobbles. Kirin stood in various  poses for us, while we took our photos.

I like this shot, as there is a certain amount of mystery to it. What is she looking at, and where is the light source coming from?

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

It's All Over Now

Well it's a bit of a sad day today as I say goodbye to the friends that I have made during the time that I have worked for Ofsted; practically the past 11 and a half years.

As with every other part of the Civil Service, there has been many changes going on within the organisation to save money and streamline procedures, and so have recently found myself without a permanent position within the office, and have therefore been encouraged to look for another job elsewhere.

Fortunately the HMRC (the taxman) came across my CV and have offered me a job with them, which I take up next month. So I have two weeks off to rest and to enjoy myself, before starting my new job.

So I have spent the day deleting emails and sorting out my desk. It's surprising how much junk and paperwork one can accumulate, even though I tend to have regular sort outs.

The picture above shows some of the stuff that I have on my desk to make it a little more friendly and a bit like home. One of my co-workers has a lot more than this. In fact she has to have a crate when she moves desks!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Stone Age Fashion

I popped over to the Contemporary today as they have a new exhibition on now and I've not been to see it yet.

This costume is by Italian artist Piero Gilardi who was involved in an art movement of 'poor art' or Arte Povera, as they say in Italian.

I'm not sure whether anyone would want to wear this outfit, even though the stones aren't real; tI think hey are made of some sort of sponge.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Bridging The Gap

The construction works for the new tram lines is moving along slowly. Unfortunately this has meant the chopping down of even more mature trees. And they say that it's an environmentally friendly form of transport!

One big development has been the installation of a new bridge over Queens Road. It also runs over the railway station, and will eventually join up with the existing terminus.

I can't say that it looks particularly attractive, and I'm not sure that it is in keeping with the area. It will certainly stick out against the Edwardian majestic splendour of the station, with it's ornate brickwork and art nouveau motifs.

But things are designed these days to be as cheap and as easily built as possible, with hardly any thought into the aesthetics, or how it will look in relation to the other buildings around it.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Street Life

Gail and I went on a little adventure this morning in Nottingham city centre. We participated on a street photography workshop, arranged by Michael Lau with a model and five other photographers.

The idea behind using a model was for those photographers that had not done street photography to become used to shooting on the street.

It's something I do all the time, to varying degrees of success, so I went along for the fun and to shoot Keiron our model for the day.

We went to various places across the city centre; especially the Lace Market and the Old Market Square.

Gail had no problem in going up to strangers and asking if she could take their photo. She seemed to spend more time doing this, than shooting the model.  Some people, including myself were a little bit more reserved about doing this. I actually prefer to shoot strangers in a way that they don't know that they are being photographed, which I think is the essence of street photography.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

All Fingers And Toes

On Wednesday Gail and I went to do a boudoir shoot at Michael Lau's studio with the lovely and exotically named SINderella Rockafella.

We were meant to be there for 5.30, but it took us two hours to get there, even though the city centre is only some five miles away.  All the roads were gridlocked. It couldn't have been all down to the snow that had been falling since the afternoon.  There must have been some accidents or breakdowns in several places, as the traffic just wasn't going anywhere.

Eventually we got there and got sorted out. On these sorts of shoots, I usually take my Nikon D3s, but for a change, I thought I would see what sort of photos I could produce using just my Olympus OMD.

I think Michael is a little envious of my camera, as he said that he would like one himself, but wouldn't be able to justify the expense.

Anyway, here's one of the results, with just a little tweaking in Lightroom. SINderella was great to work with and very adaptable, even though she has been modelling for less than a year. She clearly has a successful career ahead of her and presently has over 10,000 likes on her Facebook page.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Crane And Able

I've got a day off from work today, as I have a few days holiday to take before I move jobs next month.

One of my goals today was to mend the loo, as it wasn't flushing properly. This meant a trip to a local DIY store. Whilst driving down a road that I always use,  I found out that the road had been closed and came across this scene, which explained.

Two houses were being redeveloped, and as neither has a driveway, it clearly was impossible to deliver the building materials to the back of the house. So it seems that using this big crane was the only method.

It was certainly very easy for the builders, but a tad inconvenient for residents and motorists, as they had to do a long detour around some other streets, to get where they wanted to go.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Love Don't Live Here Anymore

Not a very encouraging newspaper headline on today of all days; St Valentine's Day.

But no, the council are not considering banning lovemaking or encouraging celebacy in Nottingham, but the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner is deciding on whether to close all sex shops and lap dancing clubs in the area, as they are seen to degrade and endanger women.

There is some debate as to whether this is true or not. As if it is stamped out and goes underground, then it might become more dangerous to the women who work in them. Maybe it should go the other way and the industry is properly regulated and checked like it is in Holland and some states in America.

Still the poster for Nandos behind takes the subject of St Valentine's Day the other way, with the idea that you can become Rudolph Valentino or Casanova after eating a plate of their spicy chicken legs.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Snow Joke

Well it happened again. Snow was predicted, and indeed fell during the afternoon.

I was on half a days leave, and was cycling home when the real flakes began to fall. The wind was blowing strongly too, so my face was being stung by the flakes.

The ground was becoming white quite quickly, and so by the time that I had reached Highfields, it was beginning to look a bit like Switzerland.

As it was all fresh snow, there weren't that many footprints about, so I stopped off and took a few photos of the different scenes.

I don't know whether it was just the snow, or some knock-on effects, but it took Gail and I the best part of two hours to drive into the city centre for a photoshoot, whereas, it normally only takes about 15-20 minutes.

All the roads were gridlocked. Nothing was moving. In fact it took us the best part of half an hour to drive along the road next to Highfields. Something we can usually do in about five minutes.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

I Can See Clearly Now

A quick update as to the progress of the demolition of the old Odeon cinema.

The demolition workers have had a final push and have removed the front of the building over the past few days.

They put fencing up to stop any debris falling onto the pavement. But there are gaps, and so I popped my camera through and took a few shots.

You can now see all the way through to Maid Marian Way. Something that no one has been able to do since the 1930s. So this is could be quite an historic documentary photograph in a few years time. And you saw it here first.

Monday, 11 February 2013

The Writing's On The Wall

A return to the delights of Light Night, as it was a bit of a slow day in town today, and could find nothing worth shooting during my lunch time walkabout.

Gail and I missed this, when we arrived at the castle, but I noticed that some writing had appeared on the wall of the castle entranceway. A chap with a laptop or iPad was standing near the Robin Hood statue and he was using some gizmo to beam writing and shapes on the building.

Sometimes the software itself would find itself shown to everyone. I don't know what the software they were using was called, but it looked fun to use.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Geisha Look

Another shot from the Chinese New Year celebrations in Beeston Square.

The giant Geisha was walking around and waving at people. The person on the stilts must have had a very good sense of balance, as they didn't wobble once.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Year Of The Snake

The local Chinese community got together today to celebrate their new year. This time it is the snake's turn.

According to the Chinese, the snake is meant to represent steady progress and attention to detail. Which I think everyone needs at the moment with the economy being in such a poor state that it is.

There was quite a bit on offer, including the classic dragon dance, a martial arts demonstration, some music and some dancing from this young lady, who twirled around with her long sleeves flapping in the air.

The weather wasn't very good, but still the large audience enjoyed it and enthusiastically clapped at the end of each performance.

There is some more celebrations tomorrow over at Highfields, including some dragon boat racing. So I think Gail and I will be popping over to see what else is on offer there.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Lighting Up Time

Tonight saw Nottingham city centre lit up once again, as it was the annual Light Night festival. The yearly event where buildings are used as cinema screens, strange things pop up in all sorts of places and it is generally very cold.

Well this year was no different. The castle was tonight's backdrop, where a group calling themselves 'Elemental Force' projected a show containing animation, photos and pyrotechnics. It seemed to relay the history of Nottingham, and included of course Robin Hood, lace making and Raleigh bikes.

I was pleased to see that the Daleks and the Tardis were making a return visit. They looked very good last year standing next to the Robin Hood statue, where they were trying to terrify the fabled outlaw. This year they were placed outside the Theatre Royal. I must admit it didn't look so good. Possibly because where they were was quite bright, and so they lost some of their impact, as where they were before was quite atmospheric and darker, so they all stood out more.

Still I suppose I shouldn't complain, as we were lucky to get anything with the continuing cuts in finances and relative poor state of the economy, as it is funding for the arts that always seemed to get trimmed first, rather than say sport.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Feeling Old

A slightly alternative view of Wollaton Hall for a change. A bit different from the usual full frontal shot that you usually see in books, postcards etc.

It certainly has become very well known now through last year's Batman film. And it is indeed a striking building with all sorts of architecturally interesting nooks and crannies on both the inside and the outside.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Blue Period

Today has been very cold and windy. The snow that the weather people had predicted didn't turn up. Although some parts of the country did get a few flakes.

So there wasn't very much happening in the city centre today, but coming home, I noticed that the sky wasn't completely black yet. It was what they call the blue period, or dusk. So I stopped along the canal and took this photo of the sky and lights reflected in the water.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

That's Not The Sort Of Mouse I Was Thinking Of!

I was amused to see this cat with a computer mouse in its mouth as part of a window display for a city centre fashion shop, on the fashionable Bridalsmithgate.

I think it is quite creative, although I am not too sure what it has to do with women's clothing though. At least its eye-catching, so maybe that is the point. Stop to look at the cat, and then realise what the shop is. Sex might sell, but obviously so does eccentric window displays

Monday, 4 February 2013

Smile, As You Are On The Radio

Last week a professional photographer friend of ours called Michael Lau announced that he was going to shoot a couple of local radio presenters, and that he was going to invite one of his friends to act as an assistant.

Of course I and 30 odd others applied, but there was only one winner. But as I work in town and Michael's studio is only a ten minute walk away, I sent him a message to ask if it was alright to go along to see what was happening. Happily he said yes, so I popped over this lunchtime for a short period.

The presenters he was going to photograph were Amy Voce and Sam Pankham from Gem 106's breakfast show. To be honest, I had no idea who they were, as I don't listen to the radio very much, and when I do, it tends to be BBC Radio Nottingham or Planet Rock. Still I wasn't there for the celebrity, but for observing the action.

Alas when I got there, they were still setting up and Sam & Amy were having their make up done. So I chatted with Michael and the others while everyone was getting ready.

At last they were ready and Michael started shooting the two presenters. I also started shooting with my OMD.  Although my camera wasn't attached to the soft boxes, I was using my 45mm f1.8 lens,  and this is one of the results.

If you want to hear what Amy & Sam sound like, then here's a LINK to their website.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

You Rang M'Lord

Gail and I travelled to Grantham today, to have a look at a big superstore called Downtown.

It sells all sorts of things from furniture to clothes and gardening supplies.

We had a look around and I saw a wooden office chair, similar in style to one you would see on an old sailing ship. So I just had to sit in it, as I like the sea and maritime nick-nacks. Although I dislike being in the water. Which is an odd thing to say, being a Pisces.

It was very comfortable. And so I just sat there, whilst Gail had a look at some sofas and tables.

On the lovely wooden desk was this replica telephone, that probably someone under the age of 30 wouldn't recognise.

Although it looked like it was made of metal, it was actually very light and so only had a metal coating. To look really good, it should have been made out of Bakelite.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

A Mirrored Life

This is the new E-on building that is now open and occupied after a lengthy build last year.

For those that don't know, E-on is one of the UK's main power supply companies, and I think that this is their main HQ for the region, where most of the admin goes on.

Strangely enough, last weekend, a friend of mine was cajoled by one of the building's security staff for taking photos of the building, and was told that he needed a permit form the company to be able to take pictures of it. My friend Pete told the 'jobsworth' that he was perfectly entitled to photograph the building, as he was on public land, i.e, the pavement.
Pete wrote a formal complaint to the company about his treatment, and has since received an apology.

Fortunately or unfortunately I was not approached whilst I was taking my photographs. Probably because they didn't notice me.

Friday, 1 February 2013

February Theme Day: Under My Umbrella, Ella

Typical, the one day that I wished it would rain, it didn't.

I was hoping that there would be a shower or two today, so people would be walking around with their umbrellas up.

Alas it wasn't to be, so I have had to find one out of my archive and have given it a bit of a tweak, so it looks a little different.