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Getting back in the game…

March 1, 2012

Here we are on the 1st of March (Happy St David’s Day everyone) and I’ve only been to a handul of gigs this year. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME? I realised a few months ago I need to get back in the game, and for months there has only been one gig I’ve really wanted to go to. Being the same night as the Gary Speed tribute match between Wales and Costa Rica – I still can’t believe I’m saying that-  it was a tough decision. I’ve not really been to a Wales match for a few years, after 20 years of attending I really started feeling uncomfortable in the crowd at some of the matches, but I really thought hard about this game. In the end, due to various circumstances, I went to see Allo Darlin’.

I’ve known of them for a few years now, but it was only about 2 years ago that I first saw them. I didn’t really think I’d like their music, going by their name, so when I did see them and found out they were actually brilliant, I felt a bit stupid.  I still didn’t get round to buying their first album until about six months ago, and it’s only really been the last couple of months that I haven’t been able to stop listening to it, particularly My Heart Is a Drummer.  Last night saw them play lots of great new songs mixed in with lots from the first album, and a Just Joans cover.

Great support from Tigercats and This Many Boyfriends ensured the night got off to a good start. Sorry, I’m no gig reviewer. Most feel good gig I’ve been to in ages. Here are some photos.

Behind the scenes at Scrum V

February 28, 2012

Those of you reading this who are Welsh rugby fans may remember that Sunday 12th February 2012 was the date of the Wales vs Scotland match at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. I’ll be honest, I’m not a massive rugby fan, I love watching the Wales internationals and get really into them, but club rugby has largely passed me by for the last 20 odd years. It probably goes back to the time I played for my school against Cardiff High School; we lost 38-0 and I touched the ball twice. The match stopped and started so many times with the referee/ teacher explaining things with every blow of the whistle I was probably not the only one losing interest in the game as we played. To me, we were a football school, with ex- rugby player Games teachers and a history of unhappy boys being forced to play rugby when most of us would rather play football.

Despite this (well, they weren’t to know), I got asked by Buzz Magazine ( if you don’t know what Buzz is you can pick one up in many places in Cardiff and South Wales or go to www.buzzmag.co.uk for the online edition) if I’d be interested in taking some photos for a behind the scenes piece on Scrum V, which you can see if you click on this ridiculously long link —–>http://content.yudu.com/Library/A1vsdb/BuzzMagMARCH2012/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=http%3A%2F%2Ffree.yudu.com%2Fitem%2Fdetails%2F482353%2FBuzz_Mag_MARCH_2012 . Of course I would. And it would give me a chance to catch up* with Jason Mohammad, who I once had a conversation with about John Squire in Brannigans in Cardiff about 15 years ago, then a few years later recommended a Spiritualized album to him when he came into Virgin. I may bump into him again in 7 or 8 years, who knows?

Anyway, enough of my top drawer name dropping.** Buzz editor Gareth and I got to the studio for 6:30 a little ahead of the presenters to watch the rehearsals, then had a tour of all the editing suites and production rooms and trucks being used for the show. It has to be well prepared in order for it to run smoothly, and with the show airing a few hours after the match there’s only a small time frame in which to get everything right. So after a couple of rehearsals of the introduction and a couple of links and tweaking of camera shots, we went to the green room for interviews with the presenters and guests and some photos, as the audience was let in to the bar. The last time I went to the BBC Club was for Bethan Elfyn’s Christmas gig with Gruff Rhys, H. Hawkline and Alex Comana a couple of years ago (you can see the photos here  http://www.flickr.com/photos/simonayre/sets/72157625633778760/) and the transformation into a rugby club for Scrum V was quite impressive.

As the room filled up we were asked to go and take our places in the audience for the show, which I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with as I prefer to be behind the camera, but it was all over in about 50 minutes. An enjoyable show with great guests (Andy Nicol, Jonathan Davies, Robert Jones and Kingsley Jones) and a great atmosphere, due as much to the BBC team as to the result of the Wales v Scotland match.  I didn’t really enjoy all the sarcastic “nice tank top” texts and tweets as I switched my phone back on after the show though! The curse of being sat in front of a camera…

Many thanks to the BBC/ Scrum V team for being so welcoming and letting us in to do our thing despite a tough live schedule.

Jason Mohammad goes through rehearsals for the live broadcast of Scrum V, Feb 12th 2012

Buzz Magazine Editor Gareth Ludkin in conversation with Scrum V presenter Jason Mohammad

Lisa Rogers in the make up chair, ready for the show.

Guests chat and sign rugby balls in the green room.

Robert Jones, Welsh rugby legend!

Jason and Lisa pose for a photo after the studio lights are switched off.

* When I say “catch up” I really mean say “Hello.”

** I haven’t even mentioned chatting to Ron Howard at the Roller Derby a few weeks ago. That’s mainly because I didn’t chat to him, but I was in the same big hall in Earls Court/ country.

Losing your job is no fun. Be nice.

January 16, 2012

La Senza’s gone… that’s PANTS! AHAHAHA SO FUNNY! Blacks are closing down… winter of our discount tent! AHAHAHA I CAN’T STOP LAUGHING! Actually I did find that one mildly amusing the first time.

You know what though? It’s not that funny. If you’ve been through the administration process or lost a job you love, the last thing you need is people poking fun at it or reminding you of it. The worry of how you’re going to pay the rent and bills, feed yourself, feed your family if you have one and the general uncertainty and feeling of “What the hell am I going to do?” is one of the worst feelings I’ve had, and for me it’s lingered longer than any other bad feeling I’ve had.

Again, the news of shop closures in the last couple of weeks has brought all the memories flooding back, not that they ever really went away. Memories like having to tell the first customer after THAT meeting you can’t accept their gift card because the company is in the hands of the administrators. The texts off nosey/ caring family and friends saying they’ve just heard the news. Having to put up with customers telling you they’ll steal things from your place of work because you can’t take their gift card. Having to put up with people telling you they’re glad you’re losing your job, all because they can’t spend their £15 voucher. Having to put up with phonecalls from reporters, tv crews and press outside, knowing that your shop or place of work is going to be on the lunchtime news on the television, radio and all over the internet. Thinking you work with people you can trust who end up getting sacked for stealing, and worse still, the ones who don’t get sacked…

Most of this happened on Christmas Eve 2008 in the Cardiff Zavvi store, the day the company went into administration ( I should probablygive a special mention at this point to the cash office person in another store that did a runner with a load of money a few days later).

It’s pretty unlikely these days that you wouldn’t know somebody who has lost their job recently, so before you retweet that joke that’s been tweeted by 100s of other like minded thoughtless people, think about who your friends and followers are and how they might be affected. My use of ‘thoughtless’ isn’t meant in this instance with nasty connotations, I just mean it literally. I’m not calling anyone out  and this isn’t aimed at anyone in particular, but we all have moments where we instinctively do things then later think maybe we shouldn’t have because we haven’t thought about what we’re doing.

How about doing something original like wishing them luck? Or if that’s not edgy enough for you, say nothing.

Also remember that just because somebody works for a shop, it doesn’t make them less important than you. It doesn’t matter what you do for a living or for a hobby, it doesn’t make you cooler or better or more deserving or important than these people and this is no time for saying the high street is better off without a shop because it doesn’t sell what you like.

Think about the people involved: cleaners, shopworkers, cooks, graphic designers, clothes designers, merchandisers, reps, delivery drivers, contractors… the list goes on. When a big company goes the knock on effect is massive.

There will be people who loved their jobs and people who don’t, people who need their jobs and people who don’t. People who may not be bothered, and people whose job meant everything to them and defined them. It drives me nuts to see some of  the attitudes presented in the comments of related news articles just because a person associates a business with a person of a different social group or class, or different taste. It doesn’t necessarily mean the people working at these shops are of a different social group or into different things, and even if it did, what difference does it make?  We’re all people.

Before you make a comment or retweet something, just think. Think about how you’d feel in that situation if you were to read it. If you still don’t care, I hope you at least understand how it feels.

Be nice, people. It’s not that hard.

And if you’re one of the unfortunate ones caught in the middle, don’t let the attitude of some people or customers get to you. Don’t take anything personally. Keep an eye on your colleagues and make sure they’re ok, help them deal with any nasty situations that may arise. Stick together, you’ll need each other.

You will always get people moaning at you that your merchandise isn’t cheap enough considering you’re closing down. Rise above it. You may be in a situation where your company is desperately trying to salvage parts of the business and jobs so they won’t be selling things off dirt cheap straight away, but some people still won’t understand that. Again, it comes down to people being thoughtless. It may not be intentional- when you work in a shop you’re quite often not seen as a person, you’re seen as a thing to assist people in getting what they want. How often do you go into a shop and ask for help, then wonder about the person who has served you? Very rarely, I’d guess. It’s easy to not make the connection that they’re a person with a beating heart and feelings too.

There will be customers you’ve never seen before complaining about prices- there’s not much you can do to stop the vultures from circling, all you can do is try to educate them. It can get tiring, which is why you need to stick together with your colleagues. Support each other and hopefully every so often you’ll get an absolutely lovely customer who brightens up your day, just by wishing you good luck and telling you they know what you’re going through. When this happens, be grateful and sincere. It’s much easier when you know the person is genuine.

If you’ve been feeling a bit stuck in a rut in your job now is the time to act. If you’re in Wales you may be eligible for free retraining for a different career, just pop into your local careers office or go to careerswales.com and see what help they can do. If you’re not in Wales, still pop into your careers office, they’re there to help.

Stand tall and stick together, and from some who’s been through it, good luck. And if you do lose your job and have nothing to go to, don’t do what I did and throw all your savings away. Follow the advice of this till prompt (and please don’t steal my photos. 😉 )

Kutosis live at the BBC!

January 15, 2012

Last Saturday saw Cardiff based band Kutosis live in session for Bethan Elfyn’s Saturday night show on BBC Radio Wales, and what a great session it was. The band released an album, Fanatical Love, on November 14th with a great gig supported by Effort and VVolves at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff. I managed to buy the last physical copy of the album/ dvd set after making a big fuss about not getting one, then managed to lose it after only one listen. Go me! It’s here SOMEWHERE! I WILL find it!

The evening started off well with Ian getting some great advice regarding his amp from the chap doing the PAT testing. The advice can be summed up with the words “Get a new one.” It was fine for the session though despite the buzzing and panic when Ian’s guitar decided not to make any noise through it. Actually, it was one of the leads causing the problem. Details, details.

The boys performed four tracks on the show: Shadows, Devo, Skin and Battle Lake, broken up with a quick interview in the studio with Bethan, then before we knew it we were on way home. If you can find a time machine and go back a few days you can listen to it on that BBC Iplayer thing. It’s worth finding one.

If you can’t find one, download the album from iTunes or buy it from one of the links at www.kutosis.co.uk and look at the following pictures over and over again.

2011. Gone in a flash.

January 1, 2012
 

Pretty much every other day this year I’ve thought to myself that this year is speeding by way too quickly. Here I am at 20:50 on New Year’s Eve writing my blog o’ the year- while everyone else is getting pretty tanked- I’m coming to terms with the fact that actually, I have progressed with my photography. I think.

Every year I start with some vague goals to reach by the end of it, rather than a proper outline of where I want to go with my photography in terms of turning it into a career. At the end of every year I feel no closer than I was at the beginning. It’s my own doing. The problem is not negativity as such, more a lack of confidence. I’m confident in my ability, but I’m absolutely terrible at selling myself. I’m always trying to be the best I can be and if I don’t feel my work is 100% perfect then I have a problem telling someone else that it is. I feel dishonest about it. I know what I need to do in terms of business and the sort of market I want to aim for. I’ve turned down plenty of things this year because I don’t want to get caught in a circle of referrals to the wrong market. People have questioned my thinking, but to me it’s simple: there are certain people I want to take photos of and for. People that share the same ideals as me, have the same interests and people who interest me. I want clients who want me for my photos and my personality, not because I’m just somebody who takes photos so I find myself in the tricky situation of needing to build a portfolio of sorts while not getting into any situations that I don’t want to get into.

Luckily for me, I’ve found myself being able to do this a bit more, thanks to Eleanor (www.eleanorjane.co.uk) who has allowed me to assist her at a few of her weddings this year. I’ve been following her for nearly two years on Twitter  after a tip off from my friend Sian (www.thegingerbread.co.uk) while I was planning and  researching to photograph her wedding nearly two years ago. After a few tweets back and forth I got a message back in April or May asking me to send her some of my wedding work. I’d only done two at the time so was a bit nervous about what she’d think. I was secretly hoping she’d ask me to assist her,  we met up and got on really well. The resulting wedding was recently featured in Wedding Ideas magazine http://www.eleanorjaneweddings.co.uk/2011/12/em-marc-wedding-ideas-magazine.html and was absolutely amazing. Assisting Eleanor has been an absolute joy this year and I hope to be able to do more in 2012, so if you’re planning a nice wedding with plenty of DIY ideas and something a bit different, get in touch with her!

Outside of weddings this year I’ve been to some great gigs and taken a step further with that, photographing gigs in bigger venues for Buzz magazine. I’d done a few things for Buzz in the last couple of years, then back in January they asked if I’d be willing to cover the NME Tour at the University. I’d been to a few NME Tours in the last ten years (and wanted to go to many more before) and was aware of how big some of the bands playing them had become. Bands such as Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, Kaiser Chiefs (hmm… I’m not really selling it am I?) have all played the tour in the last ten years or so and occasionally there’s an interesting thing where the band at the bottom of the bill seemed to become the biggest (IT IS INTERESTING!) while the bands headlining disappear into obscurity. Anyway, this year saw Everything Everything, The Vaccines, Magnetic Man and Crystal Castles arrive at Cardiff University Great Hall. Not necessarily the sort of stuff I’d listen to – I’d photographed Crystal Castles and Everything Everything before but only in the now dead Barfly and the thankfully still alive and kicking Clwb Ifor Bach. This was a really big thing for me, despite being an absolute nightmare in terms of lighting, being on the side of the stage for Crystal Castles was something I won’t forget in a hurry. A few days later saw the Duke Spirit come to Clwb Ifor Bach. That was defintiely more to my taste!

Crystal Castles, NME Tour, Cardiff University

Magnetic Man, NME Tour, Cardiff University

Duke Spirit, Clwb Ifor Bach

Towards the end of February I also covered the Go! Team at the also now closed Millennium Music Hall, where the challenging conditions included terrible lighting and not being able to get out of the photo pit due to a fight between two bouncers and a homeless chap who’d blagged his way in and crept into the band’s room to steal all their booze. He didn’t give up too easily, especially considering the two bouncers were probably twice his size.

The Go! Team Millennium Music Hall

March saw my first Arena gig for Buzz. It would have been my second arena gig but some swine nicked my LCD Soundsystem pass a few months before. This time, Elbow were in town. I’ve always quite liked them without being a particularly big fan, but this gig was something really special. The general feeling in the crowd (from the reaction on twitter at least) seemed to be that despite the size and cold surroundings of the arena, it was as close to an intimate gig as you’ll get in a venue that size. Everyone left that night feeling they’d seen something pretty special.

Guy Garvey, Elbow, Cardiff Motorpoint Arena

Also this month… DRAINS AT UNDERTONE!

Drains, Undertone, Cardiff

April saw the return of Record Store Day around the world, and Spillers Records put on a great day involving lots of records (obviously), dj’s and bands, ending with Future of the Left at Clwb Ifor Bach. I’ve taken photos of FOTL a lot of times over the last few years, but the one photo that stuck out for me from this gig wasn’t of anyone in the band…

Crowd, Future of the Left, Record Store Day, Clwb Ifor Bach.

May saw the start of me assisting Eleanor, with a bit of practice at Sue and Andrew’s big day the day before. Also, Fucked Up visited Cardiff again for a matinee performance with support from Black Lungs and er… some other band whose name I appear to have forgetten to write down. That was one sweaty, noisy gig. A few of us also had the pleasure of meeting Damian (their frontman) after the gig. What an absolutely lovely guy. I should have asked him for a photo.

Sue and Andrew first dance

Black Lungs supporting Fucked Up, Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

Fucked Up, Clwb Ifor Bach

June involved a lot of travelling around and a lot of spare time, so I went on a family holiday to the Isle of Wight, visited friends in Leicester, went for some chips at Barry Island (and everywhere was closed!) and went to take photos of Kitty, Daisy and Lewis and Battles. It’s quality, not quantity. Also, June saw the wedding of my friends Leigh and Helen. What an amazing day.

Leicester

Battles, Cardiff University

Barry Island

Isle of Wight

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, Clwb Ifor Bach

Leigh and Helen first dance

July was quiet again for me with gigs, but the highlights included one of my heroes, Evan Dando, and the Tom Tom Club, support by Love Parry III. Two of my favourite gigs of the year right there. Also a photoshoot for Among Brothers on a lovely sunny Saturday at Roath park. Lovely guys, and I’m so pleased I took the time to research the band. I’d heard of them and knew a bit about them, but I didn’t realise there were six members so I spent the evening before looking at photos of them and learning their names. ALWAYS LEARN THEIR NAMES!

Evan Dando, The Globe

Evan Dando at The Globe, Cardiff

Love Parry III with Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz of Tom Tom Club, post gig, Clwb Ifor Bach

Among Brothers, Roath Park

The first full weekend of August always sees the end of the Cardiff Festival with the Admiral Big Weekend. Another mixed and eclectic line up, and a soaking as the pool that gathered on the canopy above the stage managed to totally soak me and a few other photographers. It’s all part of the fun though, as long as nothing gets damaged. August also saw a couple of lovely weddings with Eleanor in Brecon and near Bridgend.

Funeral For a Friend, Admiral Big Weekend, Cardiff

Ty Taylor, Vintage Trouble, Admiral Big Weekend, Cardiff

Nerina Pallot, Admiral Big Weekend, Cardiff

The Feeling, Admiral Big Weekend, Cardiff

Finally in September I had a proper wedding of my own to do in Abergavenny- . I definitely need to learn to drive if there’s going to be more of this wedding malarkey! It went really well, and definitely gave me more confidence. If you need to get the DJ to turn his  red and green LEDs off for the cake cutting, do it. The couple may not notice when you deliver the photos, but they WOULD notice if there were lots of red and green dots over their faces and the lovely expensive clothes they’ve bought specially for their big day!

Also in September, the regret of not trying to get a photo pass for Public Enemy, and the decision to go to the UltraSound Festival in Tamworth instead of Merthyr Rocks. I met a lot of interesting people that day. It’s interesting how some photographers will tell you one thing (“don’t bother there’s no money in it”), then as soon as some good looking girls flutter their eyelashes it’s a totally different story (“I can earn £112,00 in 13 weeks”)! Given the nature of the music at the event there was a mix of music photographers and local press photographers and paps and it was interesting to hear the difference in the frequency of the shutter use between different people.

Last Partisan, Undertone, Cardiff

The Saturdays, UltraSound Festival, Tamworth

Tinie Tempah, UltraSound Festival, Tamworth

NDubz, UltraSound Festival in Tamworth

September also saw the final tour of one of my favourite bands, the Bluetones, who finally split after something like 17 years together. I’m so glad I got back into them in the last few years- I even quite enjoyed having to say my name was Simon Hair when I picked up my photopass. This month also saw me take one of my favourite music photos of the year with a gig featuring Last Partisan, Gindrinker and Totem Terrors, and a photoshoot for a really great local band called Samoans.

The Bluetones final UK gig, Shepherds Bush Empire

Samoans photoshoot

Samoans

Also in September I was introduced to the Tiger Bay Brawlers. I’ve been looking to get into photographing some sports for a while and I’ve finally found the perfect one in roller derby. I’ve given up on the dream of photographing NBA games, mainly due to it being slightly impractical for my current situation!

October was BUSY! Art Brut! The Lovely Eggs! Totem Terrors! The Pierces! Swn Festival! The Specials! Gregg and Alida’s lovely wedding! So much to do!

Eddie Argos/ Art Brut, Clwb Ifor Bach

Art Brut, Clwb Ifor Bach

The Lovely Eggs, Clwb Ifor Bach

Swn Festival worker

Charlotte Church/ Banded Puma, last minute secret addition to the Swn festival line up

Jim Jones Revue, Swn Festival, Clwb Ifor Bach

Among Brothers, Undertone, Swn Festival

The Pierces, Glee Club, Cardiff

The Specials, Cardiff Motorpoint Arena

Gregg and Alida's big day, Wenvoe

November was nearly winding down time, knowing I had lots of photos to edit and a couple more weddings left I only went to a handful of gigs, including the bands Los Campesinos! Strange News from Another Star and John Mouse , Throwing Muses and a Kutosis album launch. Their album is brilliant by the way so search it out and have a listen then buy it. The highlight of the month was definitely Polly and James’ bonfire night wedding. An amazing day.

Polly and James, Tetbury

Polly and James, first dance

Mark Foley, SNFAS, The Globe, Cardiff

Los Campesinos! at The Globe, Cardiff

Finally, December. One last roller derby and my last wedding of the year, near Leicester, for my old friend Simon and his new wife Katie. So much fun and in the beautiful surroundings of Beaumanor Hall. The camera had one last outing the week before Christmas with a portrait session for Jess. I managed to lose half the bits from my light stand, but I think the pictures were worth it. She looked great with very little effort and I’m really hoping I’ll get to do more portraits in 2012.

Tiger Bay Brawlers, Newport Centre

Kid Block, Tiger Bay Brawlers

B.B. Bombshell

Boba Fettish, Tiger Bay Brawlers

Jess portrait session, Roath Park

Jess, portrait session, Roath Park

So, here we are. A new year with new challenges all with the same result in mind: Be a better photographer. Be a better person. Have a great 2012 everybody!

Congratulations Simon and Katie, Mr and Mrs Baines!

December 26, 2011

Back in 1998 I moved into halls of residence in Tottenham, as I started my degree at Middlesex University. Three of us lived in the flat, Paul from Deal, Hadyn from Wolverhampton and Simon from Desford, a village in Leicestershire. We still all keep in touch thanks to the wonderful worlds of Twitter and Facebook though we don’t see each other that much. In fact, I haven’t seen Hadyn since we left Uni in 2001- something which we hope to rectify in 2012.

I hadn’t seen Simon for a couple of years, then about five years ago I was stood eating a vegetable samosa from the shop in departures at Victoria Coach Station, as you do, killing time by the entrance to the Greenline station when I heard the person next to me say “Siiimon?”

As I turned around, there he was with his girlfriend, having taken her to see Madonna the night before. We kept in touch in and out, then they invited myself and another university friend to stay for the weekend earlier this year. It was great to have a catch up and properly meet Katie, who by the way, is just a female version of Simon. An absolutely perfect match. It was this weekend they asked if I’d be interested in photographing their wedding. Over the course of this year I’ve stayed with them a couple of times and been with them to photograph the Ultrasound Festival in Tamworth which I blogged about a few months ago. Getting to know Katie properly and catch up with Simon has been one of my favourite things about this year.  I also feel like I’ve made a few friends from their hag/ joint stag and hen do and wedding, rather than just meeting a few nice people who I’ll never see again.

Friday 9th December was the date of the big day, and what a day it was. Set in the beautiful surroundings of Beaumanor Hall in Loughborough, to be honest I was initially really worried that the venue was too big and grand for me to do it and the wedding any justice. Being  157 miles away from my house and unable to drive, it wasn’t somewhere I could easily scope out before the big day, and as a 4pm wedding I was worried about the light. I went there in the morning to have a quick look at the place and luckily the place where I was to do my formal photos was away from any windows so I could control the lighting myself with my new triggers. Excellent!

Anyway, enough boring stuff about camera thingies. We arrived at the venue just after 2:30 and I made my way to Katie’s room- she looked stunning in her dress, as did her five bridesmaids. I think it was five. I’m counting on one hand while typing with the other. The guests arrived and Katie made her way down the lovely staircase with her Dad, Bridesmaids in tow and everyone downstairs -including Simon- watching, before entering the room for the ceremony.

The ceremony went really quickly, with a fantastic piece of singing by Mary,one of the bridesmaids and a lovely reading by Penny, Simon’s oldest friend. And in what seemed like a flash, they were husband and wife.

Speeches (with a video from Simon to Katie including a message from the Wanted!) were held at the bottom of the stairs before the lovely, varied buffet, then a band playing some easy listening classics to get everyone up dancing before the DJ finished off the night.

It was a fantastic day and so nice to see one of my oldest friends happily married to such an awesome girl. I wish Simon and Katie a long and happy life together. Lucky devils!

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Last photo session of 2011!

December 23, 2011

 

I’ve been wanting to take some portraits of people for a while now as I haven’t done a great deal of them in 2011. The chance to learn and develop without an audience is rare, so when Jess got in touch with me the evening before my day off about doing a portrait session the next day I was really up for it. I’ve had some ideas about it as we’d talked about it a while ago, but I’d put it on the backburner until we discussed it any further.

With no further discussion, we met at 3pm and it was already a bit dark and had been raining intermittently for a lot of the day, but it was just about ok to go out in. By the time we got to the location we only really had around an hour before it got too dark. As the photos went on I ended up pushing the ISO to 4000, then 5000… not really the sort of ISO I want to use unless absolutely desperate, but I wanted a bit of ambient light. As the photos by this point weren’t too important and I was already pleased with some photos I had, it didn’t matter too much.

After the mud and rain we went back to her house for a quickly set up portrait and that was that. I’m really pleased with the results despite not being as prepared as I’d like to have been, and I’m still not too great at directing people, but I’m getting there and I think Jess looks really great in all of these photos, as well as connecting well with the camera.  I really feel like my photography has come on a lot in the last year, whether dealing with other people or in my technical abilities. As with anything, it’s such a good feeling when you feel you’ve broken through another mental wall and I hope to continue learning and growing in confidence again next year. 

One more post coming before the end of the year. My review of my year in photos! Wow, I bet you’re REALLY REALLY excited.

Oh yes, here’s Jess.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Brawl I Want for Christmas”

December 6, 2011

After what seemed like an eternity, Saturday 3rd December finally saw the return of the Tiger Bay Brawlers at Newport Centre for “Brawl I Want For Christmas!”

I can’t even remember when the last one was, it seems so long ago- actually not that long ago, not that it really matters- but I was looking forward to this so much I excited about it for the whole week before.  It’s such a challenge taking photos at these bouts as everything happens so fast. There are different ways you can do it, but I want to try to do things in a more interesting way than just taking action photos.

A few years ago I showed a photographer some of my “best” music photos and the response was “that’s a singer… that’s a singer… that’s a singer…”  with every one. It made me feel like giving up- I felt pretty insulted and like I’d been wasting my time. I carried on doing it out of habit probably, but found that I started thinking a bit differently about my photos. My style is still evolving three or four years later, and I expect it to keep evolving as I see the work of others and get better as a photographer myself. How does this relate to the Roller Derby? Well, I’ve gone off the point as I always do, but basically, I want to take more interesting photos, which concentrate on all the aspects of a bout, not just the girls skating. Some of my favourite sports photos are of the little things that happen between plays and the little interactions between team mates or referees and that’s what I want to do more of, while still capturing the exciting bits of the action. I think I’m getting there.  In the mean time, the Game Face will always entertain.

Anyway, back to Saturday, another great win for the Tiger Bay Brawlers as they ran out convincing winners against The Central City Rollers’ B Team, the Slay Belles. I had every intention of talking about jams and stuff, but having only been to 3 bouts I’ve just realised I’m still coming to terms with the rules of the game- it’s kind of hard when you have a camera stuck to your face- but I guess the blogs (and photos) will get better as I start to understand it more. What would really help is a really good computer game. If we could go back to 1991 and get Electronic Arts to make a roller derby game for the Megadrive I’d be sorted. Maybe things would be different if they’d done that instead of John Madden Football or EA Hockey. At this moment in time I know when to cheer and that’s about it.

Anyway, here’s some photos….

Fun and games with Polly and James

November 30, 2011

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a month since it happened, but on November 5th 2011 I finally had the pleasure of photographing the wedding of Polly and James, two of my nice friends from my days of working at Virgin Megastore/ Zavvi in Cardiff.

We visited the Matara Centre in Tetbury a month or so before so I could get a feel of the place and an idea of where I’d be shooting from, and I couldn’t believe how beautiful the place was, inside and out. I think as a venue it just about wins my favourite wedding venue of the year award.  The website says Matara was “built upon organic and earth friendly principles” and as soon as you set foot inside the place it all makes sense.  Each room themed differently yet still as calming as the next, and any food not grown in the grounds is locally sourced.  It goes further than that, it really is a lovely place.

Anyway, this isn’t about the Matara Centre, fast forward to the morning of November 5th and James’ dad was ringing me to give me a lift to the venue. If ever I’m getting a lift off someone I don’t know, I always ask what car to look out for. I didn’t really need to ask my second question (what colour?) as I knew there wouldn’t be another Porsche in the Premier Inn car park. If you love fast cars like me and are wondering what sort of Porsche it was, it was a fast silver one. So, childhood dream fulfilled and I wasn’t even at the wedding yet. I knew it was going to be a good day.

Polly and James are pretty laid back, so when it came to sorting out group photos it went fairly smoothly as we managed to get pretty much all of them done before the other guests arrived. I cannot begin to tell you how much this arrangement relieves the stress of shooting a wedding. Going into a ceremony knowing that it’s the only specific thing left to shoot is a fantastic feeling.

All registrars are different and have different rules, and it’s always best to get in touch with them before the ceremony so you can establish boundaries. For Polly and James, the only part of their wedding I was allowed to shoot was the exchange of the rings. I’ve only done 11 weddings in my life and have never come across this particular arrangement before so was quite taken aback, but sometimes you just have to respect the rules of the house. It’s hard listening to a conversation about 40 feet away with a water feature gargling away between you, but you just have to use your best ear and try to lipread! On the plus side, this means that people don’t have to put up with constant clicking away, and can actually enjoy the ceremony with their eyes, rather than through the back of their camera/ phone screen. People really should go back to actually being IN the moment, rather than living life through the back of a screen.

There wasn’t a first dance planned (though this soon changed when James’ mum found out!) so Polly and James disappeared briefly to get something off their ipad to give the DJ and it was up to…. the smashing pumpkins, maybe(?) to start the night. I’d normally have these sorts of details written down.

The rest of the day had everything you could ask for;  a stunning buffet (I know those two words don’t usually go together, but it even beat the lovely buffet from Gregg and Alida’s wedding the week before) great dancing, a 3 tier cheese “cake” next to the actual 3 tier wedding cake, and being bonfire night… FIREWORKS! Woooh… Aaaaahhhhhh…. Oooooohh…. Eeeeeeh etc. Oh, and a special shout out to Ben Potter, the DJ for the night. He played a perfectly weighted set for everyone across all genres that had everybody dancing until the fireworks, then almost a chillout set after some people left later in the evening. Perfect for the mood of the day.

So massive congratulations to the newlywed Reichelts – I wish them a long and happy life together and hope to get to see them a bit more! x

 

Tiger Bay Brawlers Newport Take Over.

October 11, 2011

Ah Newport Centre. I spent so much time there in the 1990s seeing some of my favourite beat combos of the era, such as Supergrass, Paul Weller, Garbage and Marilyn Manson, but now it tends to only provide gigs for bands with names ending in ‘head’- most notably Machinehead and Motorhead. Seems like a bit of a niche market to me. No wonder they don’t seem to have many gigs on there anymore.

So what could possibly bring me back for the first time since 1997? Oh nothing much, just the FLIPPIN’ TIGER BAY BRAWLERS!

A month after seeing them for the first time I’ve become a little bit obsessed. I’ve finally found something that has filled the void left by the demise of the Cardiff Phoenix basketball team I used to love watching so much when I was a lot younger. If only the bouts were more often.

So on Saturday there was quite a lot of activity in the area which obviously I missed, arriving at the venue half an hour before the start. As soon as I got in I bumped into Scott Cole, a great photographer I had the pleasure of meeting at the Cardiff Big Weekend back in August. It shows how far I’ve come in photography terms that I didn’t feel too in awe or under pressure- I used to be terrible at gigs when Mei Lewis was there photographing, sometimes to the point of stopping altogether. I used to get a bit down about it and give up, and now it’s something to strive for. To be the person others respect or want to look up to is something that drives me on with my photography. I’d like to be a photographer people talk about in the same way I’ve talked (and still do talk) about others.

Anyway, enough about me. The roller derby is really exciting and the Brawlers seem to be really good from what little I know. Following a narrow defeat (I think- I can’t actually remember for sure!) for the B side against Swansea City Slayers, the A side took on the Cardiff Roller Collective (CRoC) and dealt with them accordingly. Properly showed them who’s boss. TIGER BAY BRAWLERS RULE!!

More (colour) photos on my flickr account http://www.flickr.com/photos/simonayre