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My 2010

January 4, 2011
Well haven’t I done well keeping this up to date?  Ah well. First resolution for the new year, maybe?

2010 was a massive year for me and although there’s been a lot of uncertainty financially- mainly because I keep spending what little I earn on photography gear- it’s been a really enjoyable experience where I haven’t stopped learning. Learning about myself and what I need to do to succeed, learning  about my abilities (yes!) and boundaries,  not just as a photographer, but as a person and then the constant learning that is there with photography as a medium, an art, and the expectations of other people and that actually, I’m alright, I just need to start believing it a bit more…

So anyway, 2010 was a bit of a journey. Like most years (in my experience at least)  it started in January, by which time I’d already enrolled on my photography course at Ffotogallery in Cardiff, which I’d been meaning to do for years. So coming to the end of my first module I had a bit of coursework to deal with, along with the snow.

That was nothing compared to doing my second wedding. I’d still been researching everything weddings photography related since I photographed the wedding of another pair of friends in June 2009.  Any spare moment I had was spent looking on forums, reading magazines and books. I’ve never prepared for something so much in all my life,  even Gareth and Nicola’s wedding, but then I didn’t have the experience of doing a wedding before that so I kind of knew what needed to be addressed for the second one.

Sian and Andy's amazing wedding party at the Gate, Roath.

We went to the venue the night before when they were setting up so I could check I knew exactly what I was doing on the day. Everything seemed fine, I was just really nervous. Then we got to the venue on the day and everything was totally different. Panic,  Experimentation and learning as you go has never been so well disguised! It’s a lovely venue, just incredibly tough to photograph with it’s high, dark brown walls. But what a wedding. The video I took of everybody dancing to the last song was easily my most watched of the year. A really, really lovely moment at the end of the song where Andy picked Sian up and pulled her into the middle of the circle, they spun around and everybody just ran in to them. A beautiful end to a beautiful day.

February was spent editing the wedding in between my job and my course. There wasn’t much time to do much else, my mum’s 60th Birthday and maybe a couple of gigs but that was it. Such a short month, so little time.

Then in March love was still in the air, this time taking photos for Laura and David who were soon to be married in a small ceremony in Cardiff. They brought Ada along, who is pretty bloody adorable it has to be said.

David, Laura and Ada, Thompson's Park - March 2010

 We took a series of photos to be put into a book for guests at their post wedding party in April. It was a lovely night and included both Sian and Andy and Gareth and Nicola who are the only other victims of my wedding photography so far! One day I’m determined to get a photo of all of them together…

April was a pretty busy month again, with editing the photos for Dave and Laura to sort their book out, then their party, plus moving back home to my parents’ house at the very end of the month and extra hours in my part time job and before we knew it it was May 6th and I was on a plane to Greece with my parents, brother and sister in law and niece.

 There were beautiful blue skies for the whole week we were there, then we came back and it was off to more gigs, featuring Los Campesinos! at Cardiff University supported byRight Hand Left Hand and Slow Club, Right Hand Left Hand supporting Dead Meadow at the now closed Cardiff Barfly and JT Mouse supported by Prince Edward Island at Buffalo Bar. Not a bad month for gigs actually, having started with the Bluetones at Clwb Ifor Bach.

 Right Hand Left Hand supporting Los Campesinos!

Right Hand Left Hand supporting Dead Meadow

Dead Meadow at Cardiff Barfly

JT Mouse, Buffalo Bar, Cardiff

I don’t remember much of June to be honest, I think I was pretty much living in Buffalo Bar. Plenty of gigs and a few promotional things for them. Lots of late nights, not much sleep.
July was a month I’d been looking forward to after being asked by Bethan Elfyn and the Vinyl Vendettas to take photos of them at Latitude Festival. I’d never been there before and though I was close to not being able to get there, the marvellous Jonny Bull came to the rescue with his Tardis like car. Not Tardis like in space/time travel terms, obviously, but in terms of the sheer amount of  stuff we were able to fit in. I thought I had loads with my camera gear, but that paled into insignificance when compared to the contents of Carl’s portable kitchen. I’ve never understood why someone would take so much (or indeed, any) cooking equipment to a festival, but seeing Carl’s generosity with the bacon sandwiches (not for me) and coffee it all made sense. Especially the frother thing. What a bloody lovely bloke.
There was so much going on it was easy to forget why I was there. Taking photos at a festival is something I’ve only ever done as a punter, but to be onstage photographing the Vinyl Vendettas DJing to their crowd for three hours or so after the bands had finished was something I won’t forget. I haven’t had that much fun since. 
Little did I know I’d spend the rest of the month recovering!

Robbo on the decks for the Vinyl Vendettas at Latitude Festival 2010

Obviously the main draw for me going to Latitude was seeing Tom Jones not once, but TWICE in three days! I joke about it, but it was absolutely fantastic.

Tom Jones performed songs from his new album Praise and Blame, Latitude 2010

August saw me have a bit of time off work so I went to London and went to a few exhibitions. The main one I wanted to see was the Ray Harryhausen exhibition at the London Film Museum. I’ve always loved his films- the ones I know at least- so it was lovely to see some of his creations up close. The museum itself was ok but doesn’t reach the standards set by the sadly no longer with us museum of moving image that used to be on the South Bank. The visit was slightly marred by lots of annoying spelling mistakes on quite a few of the exhibits, but  the staff there were great- very friendly and enthusiastic about film and I do think the place could reach its potential if it gets the right funding and management. Something I know absolutely nothing about.

ooh look it's London

The Press Photographer’s Year 2010 exhibition at the National Theatre was nothing short of stunning. Some unbelievable photos there, among them a huge photo of Alex Higgins. He died two days before I saw the exhibition so seeing that as I turned the corner was an unexpected shock.  I’d strongly advise anyone to go to the 2011 exhibition when that comes around.  
My musical highlight this month was going to see Drains supporting Idiot Glee and Women. I’d taken promo photos of Drains back in December and consider the band good friends and so you may be sceptical when I say they were really good, but they were really bloody good. Lots of energy and songs inspired by Wayne’s World. I don’t need to say any more.

Drains at the Globe, Cardiff, August 2010

Just realised I’ve picked the wrong photo of Drains to upload.
Well done me.
So, September was a pretty big month. Asked to take photos for Buzz Magazine for the first time in ages, the Vaselines were in town. The only thing I’d heard about them was something about being an influence on Nirvana or something, and a rant from a local frequenter of indie gigs who’d had a few too many bottles of red wine. She probably doesn’t really remember, but it really annoyed me at the time that I wasn’t allowed to not know who they are. They were fantastic though.  As long as no one tells my mum what was said between songs, or what any of the lyrics are… 

The Vaselines, Clwb Ifor Bach. Filthy.

September also saw the 10th Birthday of the Welsh Music Foundation and a series of events, seminars and gigs were put on to celebrate, featuring bands like Future of the Left and Spencer McGarry Season. Unfortunately I couldn’t go to the SMS night, but fortunately I went to the night headlined by Future of the Left. The band were great as expected, but you’d think if you’re going to put a band on like FOTL you’d know what to expect. A bit of language during and between songs comes as part of the package, if you don’t want to offend anyone, don’t book them. And good luck finding one person there who was offended – most people were there to see either them or Exit International anyway.  The only people who weren’t there to see them were too busy talking to notice any bad language anyway.

Ashli from Spillers Records dancing to Future of the Left. One of my favourite photos I took this year.

The other notable gig this month for me was Gindrinker and Joy of Sex in Buffalo Bar- I think this was a joint single launch but I can’t actually remember. They did a couple of gigs with each other in 2010 and hopefully there will be more this year. They’re both quite different to most of the bands I get to see coming to Cardiff and both have grown in confidence in the last couple of years. Something good for the more “arty” side of me. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way.

Max, Joy of Sex, Buffalo Bar, Cardiff September 2010

October was one hectic month. This was the month when my two photography modules would collide spectacularly, resulting in by far my most exciting time of the year. Immersing myself in photography, whether taking my own photographs or studying the work of others was just the most enjoyable way to spend my time. I have a constant urge to learn about photography, I just want to improve in every way and it’s got to a point now where it’s probably ruining some of my friendships because I have nothing else to talk about.
So I threw myself into taking some portraits and landscape photos for the modules whenever the chance came, and hopefully I’ll be able to continue this with more success in 2011.

Adam Chard, Bute Park. Pontcanna fields. I think.

Polly Aplin, Roath - one 580EXII Speedlite

For my landscape course one of the first assignments I got given was to photograph the same place a few times in the day to see the effect of different light on the landscape. This has turned into a long running project with the rugby posts in the field not far from my house. Through the landscape course I’ve started thinking about the histories of places, and the things that happen that we are unaware of or don’t see. So much happens in front of these rugby posts, from the expected rugby matches and people walking their dogs to the occasional (probably) stolen  motorbike ripping the field up and general drunken behaviour. The place has become quite important to me now with the threat of the park and leisure centre being turned into big new school. How long will I be able to take these photos? How long will people be able to use it as a shortcut to the shops?

Rugby Posts at Eastern Leisure Centre, Cardiff

Rugby Posts at Eastern Leisure Centre

This may or may not seem like incredibly dull subject matter to you but it keeps me thinking of photography and keeps me going on slow days.
I’m not a rugby fan, but these posts are an important part of the local landscape and now I enjoy taking the photos and occasionally talking to the odd person who will ask me why I’m taking photos of the posts.
Another project I started was looking at the things that distract us from our view of a landscape or place of interest. Things like a chip fork on the floor, a bit of litter, a bin (spot the theme) when you have a lovely view the other side of it.
Bin and Bench with a nice view of Llanrumney.

A shallow depth of field is used in this series to draw attention to the distraction.

I only really did one gig in October, and that was HEALTH at Clwb Ifor Bach. An amazing gig where I took possibly one of my favourite photos I’ve ever taken. The first time I took photos there, just over 4 years ago now I think, I was asked to try to get the logo on the backdrop in the photo and it’s always stuck with me. Generally I’ve failed- it’s a hard thing to do to get a good photo when you can’t get ask the band to stop playing and pose, but with this photo everything came together. You don’t need the head in the photo in the foreground, you know that the person holding the guitar is obviously an important figure, you don’t need to see whether he’s singing or not, which he wasn’t at this point. I’m just so fed up of taking and seeing photo after photo of a person singing. Somebody pointed it out to me about my own photos a few years ago – photos which I was really proud of- and it really hurt. I think his exact words were “that’s a singer, that’s a singer, that’s a singer, that’s another singer” as he went on to tell me there was nothing interesting about any of my photos. It took me a while to come round to that way of thinking, but I think I’m finally there.

Health at Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

At the end of October a load of us went to Newquay in Cornwall to celebrate our friend Mel’s 30th birthday. It was a lovely weekend of pub, beach, pub, food, party, hotel, breakfast, another breakfast, another breakfast, home.

Shame I only took 2 pairs of trainers though, they both got drenched!

Frisbee on the beach

Beach huts, Newquay 2010

I also babysat my niece at some point in the month. She loves the camera. Hopefully she’s past the myspace photo posing stage already.

my niece, Oct 2010

November was really busy. I started off doing a portrait of my friend Becky, following a similar formula to the previous photo of my friend Polly a month or so earlier. She seems quite willing to have her photo taken again so it’s nice to have someone to experiment on!

Becky, single 580EXII speedlite

Spillers Records  also had a visit from Phill Jupitus who was in town to promote his book and volunteered his services in store before going to Waterstones to sell his book.
He proved himself to be the very knowledgeable music fan we knew he was, and a lovely bloke to boot.

Phill Jupitus and Ashli, Spillers Records

We also had a beautiful gig by the Divine Comedy at the Gate in Roath put on by Loose, which was an absolutely lovely experience.  It’s so nice to see such an appreciative crowd AND a sold out show, but everyone left the venue knowing they’d seen something just a bit special. This coming from someone who had never been that bothered by the band. And who knew Neil Hannon was such a fine pianist?

The Divine Comedy at the Gate, Roath 2010

November also saw me enter the world of student film making for the first time, which is kind of odd given that I finished my film degree in 2001. I met Craig Harris back in January or February and we kept bumping into each other through the year. He told me he was hoping to make his short film this year so I told him if I was free I’d take photos if he needed them. Filming finally started in November and taking photos was a really nice experience. It’s also nice knowing that I’ll probably see most of the people again on other projects if we’re all available. It’s nice to meet people like make up artists who I wouldn’t normally know the first thing about and hopefully it’s a nice start in a very contact based industry. Most of the filming took place over a weekend in Rhymney and I met some really nice people over the course of the weekend.

The actors listening to Cimmeria director Craig Harris.

On set just before a take, Cimmeria, written and directed by Craig Harris

Also this month were a great gig (but possibly not as good as the one in May) by the Bluetones…

Mark Morriss, the Bluetones, Clwb Ifor Bach

… and a massive drop in temperature!

Rugby Posts in the snow at night, Eastern Leisure Centre, Cardiff

December was by far the busiest month of the year. On top of working 55 hour weeks in my part time job, I had family photoshoots, two band photoshoots and a gig at the BBC, plus Christmas and somehow I had to find time to sleep.

We started with photos for a forthcoming release by Samoans and Strange News from Another Star. It was 8am on a Sunday and it was freezing! The record should be out early 2011 featuring two songs from each band, and should be LOUD. Check them out on myspace.

Samoans vs Strange News From Another Star photoshoot, December 2010

Jimmy vs Dan Strange News From Another Star & Samoans photoshoot

 Then we got more snow, so I decided it would be a good idea to go out at midnight and take photos. It was about minus 6 or 7 degrees I think.

Back Garden, midnight, minus 6 degrees

Washing Line, Midnight minus 6 degrees Dec 2010

Rugby Posts in fog - 7 degrees, Eastern Leisure Centre, Cardiff

On 16th December I was lucky enough to be one of the few to be at the BBC Club in Llandaff, Cardiff, for a party organised by Bethan Elfyn for her last Introducing show on Radio 1.  Bethan’s been tirelessly working away promoting new music in Wales for over 10 years now and recently took over the Rock Show on BBC Radio Wales. She’s put on some fantastic gigs not just in Cardiff, but all over the country in the last few years, so putting on a show featuring a mesmerising solo set by Gruff Rhys with support from H. Hawkline and Alex Comana was a fitting way to see out her time with the show. Having seen Gruff at various gigs since 1995 ranging from small clubs for a couple of pounds entry to big festival stages and arena gigs with quadrophonic sound, this was one of my favourite gigs I’ve seen him do. With a table full of plastic things making magical sounds and a head full of fantastic ideas, this was a stunning gig and a fitting way for Bethan to celebrate what she’s done for Welsh Music at Radio 1.

Gruff Rhys at the BBC Club, Llandaff

Then it was back to work until Christmas Day when I took a much needed rest from the job I’d been working all hours under the sun to fund the purchase of a new lens in the new year. Christmas in our house has changed quite significantly in the last few years, having had one which was spent visiting my grandmother in hospital, one where the company I worked for went into administration plus the first Christmas where my brother had gone to spend Christmas in Manchester with his new in-laws, this was the first one I’ve properly been able to enjoy in quite some time. More please.

Christmas Day sky, 2010

So to 2011.

More of the good bits of 2010 please. More photography, more studying, more confidence, hopefully all resulting in better photos from me.

Bring it on.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 5, 2011 1:48 pm

    a brilliant read, simon – and fantastic photos 🙂 – hope 2011 brings you more fun and sleep and photography work and less of that pesky day-job stuff

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