Skip to content

Expecting to Cry or ‘How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bluetones’

October 1, 2011

“The Bluetones? Hmm the name rings a bell, what did they do?”

Well, I don’t/ didn’t get that reaction THAT often, but it does happen occasionally, more with people I work with than my friends. It got to a point I just gave up mentioning them to certain people whenever I was going to see them. Looking back over the last 16/ 17 years or however long it’s been I’m annoyed with myself for not getting into them properly much earlier. I quite liked their first album and their second, in fact some of the songs I really loved, but I sold my copy of Expecting to Fly in my first year of uni, back when I was living in halls in Tottenham in 1999. It was the only thing I could get any money for and I was skint, and hey I could always buy it again. I didn’t need to buy the second album because my flatmate had it (I WAS STILL SKINT OK?) and everyone back at home was into heavier stuff, so it was kind of hard to stay into them, without all the media streaming and players we take for granted today. Peer pressure is a terrible thing. Just ask the guy selling programmes at Reading when they played one year… “Come and get your programmes so you can find out what time to avoid the Bluetones!”

I hope he cries into his gin every night, still trying to be cool.

After uni I got a job in virgin and just overdosed on anything else I could briefly get into, leaving the Bluetones behind. I knew they were touring regularly and they played the Big Weekend at the Cardiff Festival one year, which was great, and I knew they were still occasionally releasing stuff but I didn’t have anyone to go and see them with until 8th February 2007, when they played the Barfly in Cardiff. Mark Morriss’ voice was still great but I’d forgotten what a charming and funny front man he was, and I left kicking myself for not seeing them for so long. From then on I tried to see them every time they played Cardiff (I may have missed one, but I don’t think I did) and every time was as enjoyable as the last. Then earlier this year came the news that this tour would be the last. WHAT? But, how will I get to photograph the Bluetones? How can I not hear these songs being played live again? Quite honestly, the thought of not hearing a New Athens (YES OFF THEIR BRILLIANT LAST ALBUM) live again is quite depressing.

The odd thing is, I’ve kind of become obsessed with the Bluetones, but I don’t own any of their albums except their last one and a bbc sessions one. (Well I do now because I went and bought them all today, but I didn’t own them until this afternoon).

Anyway they played Cardiff a few weeks ago and to be honest, it was a bit depressing. Depressing because it was the last time they’ll play in Cardiff, but more depressing because it was just lacking atmosphere. I don’t know what it is about crowds in Cardiff but it does seem to be a problem, and the Glee Club didn’t seem to help as a venue. I just don’t find it ideal for (those sort of) gigs. Also, maybe there weren’t enough “hits” in the set to get such a casual crowd going. All the factors added up to us leaving feeling a bit deflated, but spurred on to see them again.This could NOT be the last gig we saw them do. Actually by this point we already had tickets for the final show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire (I refuse to call it by the sponsor’s name, unlike the cardiff motorpoint arena which comically rolls off the tongue) and finally last night, the end was upon us.

The day started with Mel and I (Mel being the one who egged me on to going to see them again back in 2007 and someone who I have seen them with every time since) hopping on the National Express to London, got to the Proud Gallery in Camden to see a Beatles exhibition which was really good, then hopped off to the Little Black Gallery in Kensington. The exhibition featuring the work of Terry O’Neill is quite fantastic. Classy large black and white prints of superstars and ‘proper’ celebrities. Celebrities with character, and photos that are so captivating. The huge photo of Brigitte Bardot on the wall opposite the entrance simply has to be seen. It was also a treat to see a small amount of Bob Carlos Clarke’s work in there too. But that’s not what I’m writing this for, so…

We then went to Shepherd’s Bush to meet a few friends, then I went on in to pick up my photo pass and sea Married to the Sea. I’ve seen them with the Bluetones before and remembered that I liked them, and I remember thinking I was enjoying them while I was taking photos, but as soon as I got out I realised I couldn’t remember anything they did. That’s the problem with taking photos of bands, I get so into the visuals sometimes there may as well be deafening silence.

The next hour was a bit of a trauma. Being kicked out of the venue without my camera bag and having to go and find Mel and the girls back at the pub to get my ticket off them to get back in. It was fine, but I was getting a bit nervous about the last time I’d get to shoot the band. It’s the last time I’ll see them. What if I mess it up? What if I don’t get any decent photos? What if my friends are disappointed? I wanted photos for them and to share with other bluetones fans as much as myself. I finally found myself back in the pit, talking to some of the fans at the front. All such friendly people, probably dreading the end of the next two hours. That’s one of the many things I love about the Bluetones- the sense of community with the fans is like no other band I’ve loved- not that I’ve ever really been part of the blue army, but they’re the only band I’ve ever been into where I’ve become friends with people because of their love for one band.

So there we were, chatting away, then the came the Walker Brothers, and down went the lights. Here we go.

It was over all too quickly and I just didn’t feel like I got the photos I wanted, so I put my bag back with security and walked out of the stage door with one of the other photographers, a friend of Mark’s and a really nice guy. We got back in halfway through the sixth song, Cut Some Rug, due to being accosted by one of the touts for a game of “guess how old I am” outside (he was 49 if I remember correctly). Time to go and find my friends. The place was rammed and there was no way I could get to them, so as I stood at the bottom of the stairs the security guy told me to go round the corridor and speak to the security out the back so I could get back down the front where my friends were. Unfortunately the security guy I spoke to ended up being a total bone, not giving me any chance to speak or explain, so I spent the rest of the gig propping up the merchandise stall. I needed to buy a t-shirt for the trip home anyway. By the time A New Athens started I’d decided to get over it and go to the bar. The atmosphere was pretty electric- it’s been a long time since I’ve been to such a gig. You just don’t get it in Cardiff, though we also don’t have the lovely venues London has. When we do, they don’t seem to last long before someone puts in a complaint or some sort of big spanner gets thrown in the works. Such a shame.

The rest of the night was pretty much hit after hit (well, y’know, for fans of the Bluetones) interspersed with the charming witty between song banter Mark Morriss is so good at, and then before we knew it, it was all over. A jubilant night with a contradictory hint of sadness.

And a bulb of a security guard.

At the time of finishing this the band are only MINUTES (I don’t know how many) away from their last ever gig in Osaka, so for probably the last time, here is my parting gesture.

Here are some photos of the Bluetones.






So that’s it. The Bluetones are no more.
My world will be ever so slightly more miserable and my gig diary will be ever so slightly more empty without them. Good luck to them, and catch Mark Morriss on tour soon!

Tour of Britain 2011 Stage 4

September 14, 2011

Today saw stage four of the Tour of Britain, in case you couldn’t guess by the title of this post. Cycling is one of those sports I was massively into when I was young, watching cyclists like Paul Millar and Sean Kelly, and I realised today that it’s nearly 25 years since the height of my interest. TWENTY FIVE YEARS! Since then, my interest in the sport has gone up and down- normally up during the Olympics, and down in the times in between. Recently cycling’s come back onto my radar, partly due to successes at the Olympics and other such world famous competitions like the Olympics before (probably), and partly due to the fact lots of my friends have come out of the closet as cycling fans. If only I’d known. What is it about my friends? Can’t they mindread? (Hmm, deja vu.)

So today I toddled off to Caerphilly, not knowing anything remotely geographical about Caerphilly. It was a fairly last minute decision to go and I have also been really busy the last week or so, otherwise I may have gone to check the route out beforehand. As I got to Caerphilly, I wandered around, obviously not knowing where to go or what to do, and made friends with a local amateur photographer to go and find a spot. He was quite a nice chap, I should have got his name. I didn’t even say goodbye, I’m such a horrible man.

After waiting what seemeed like at least forty minutes, finally the police bikes and team/ tour cars started to make their way up the hill I found myself sat on. And then came the cheers. And then the bikes. Clickclickclickclickclickclickclickclick and it was all over in probably little over a minute. I spent all the build up checking my two cameras (Canon EOS 7D and 5D mk2) with different lenses, checking framing and planning my shots ready for when the action came and if there was a big window by the side of me all those plans would have flown out of it. Wow. So I’m pretty disappointed with my shots, but it was a really thrilling couple of minutes and a great new experience. Sports photography has always impressed me and I’d love to be absolutely brilliant at it. I WILL get there.

After the race had finished everyone headed off towards Caerphilly Castle, but being the idiot I am I followed the crowd to the wrong part of the castle, meaning I couldn’t get a decent position for the presentation. Well, that wasn’t what I was there for, so it didn’t matter.

I really want to get a lot more sports under my belt in the next few months, so hopefully this is just the start.

Roller Skating Jam Named Saturday

September 13, 2011

I was going to go for Rollin’ but I’m not a fan of Limp Bizkit- or that song- and the Rawhide theme tune didn’t seem as apt. Not that I’ve really listened to the lyrics of either. Then I remembered this http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6kj8e_de-la-soul-roller-skating-jam-named_music
so that’ll do for me, as this post is about Saturday, and the rollerderby …er… jam.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter, I’m just stalling writing anything of any substance.

So, Saturday, out for Helia Phoenix’s birthday which involved going to see the Tiger Bay Brawlers in their home bout against the Rainy City Roller Girls at Tal Y Bont/ Cardiff University. I’ve never been to the Roller Derby, despite being in a band previously that used that exact line (give or take a load of words) in one of its songs- I’ve never really had much chance. Since I found out about the new team in Cardiff I wanted to go, but had nobody to go with when they played in Newport a while ago. Little did I know at the time that I had friends who went, the swines. Can’t they mindread?

So it’s all quite exciting and combines most of my favourite things like… y’know… roller derby… and amazing girls who can also skate- otherwise it would probably just be a derby. I’ve never been to Derby. So, I was going there (to the match, not to Derby) with Adam (of Hack/ Flash, We Are Cardiff, Croatoan Design, other stuff) to photograph the sold out bout with no idea what’s going on, but I’ve seen the 1975 James Caan film “Rollerball” which has nothing to do with it, and I picked it up pretty quickly. Sorry, I’m rambling. Here’s some pictures.

So there it was, The Tiger Bay Brawlers beat the Rainy City Roller Girls by 1,000,008 – 87 (I maybe a bit out on that one, I didn’t see the final score) and off we went to the afterparty at O’Neill’s, were I did some sit down dancing and took some photos, then walked home via Dempsey’s and got punched in the face on Newport Road for no other apparent reason than the fact I was there. Thanks, whoever you are. Wooo!

So, erm, when’s the next match?

More photos at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/simonayre
http://www.flickr.com/photos/croatoandesign
and some more to come at http://www.hackflash.co.uk

Remember August?

September 7, 2011

Well, so far the start of September has been wet and cold. What a lousy week! What a great time to remind ourselves what a great month August turned out to be! There was a lot I was looking forward to, but I didn’t expect to get so much out of it. Best things about this month? Definitely FESTIVALS and WEDDINGS. Well, I say music festivals, I didn’t really go to any “proper” ones this year for the first time since 1995, but there was enough to keep me going.

Starting at the Admiral Big Weekend- the finale of the Cardiff Festival- introduced by local promoter/ swn chap and general good egg John Rostron with music provided by USVThem DJs…

John Rostron LIVE ON STAGE!

… and the bands!

Funeral For a Friend

Vintage Trouble

Gabrielle

Nerina Pallot

The Feeling

Then there were a few days totally taken up by watching the coverage of the riots across London and other parts of the country. It’s hard watching a place you have fond memories of being ripped apart and set ablaze, but that’s exactly what they were, memories. I’m fortunate that I didn’t have to live through it. Having said that, the sense of community seen through various people on Twitter was an amazing thing to watch as it grew so big, so fast, not to mention the groups of people defending their shops and homes and local communities. It’s been a while since I’ve been back to Tottenham or Enfield, but maybe soon I’ll get back up there.

So anyway, while this was going on and there were rumours of trouble happening in Cardiff, DIVORCE played a show at Undertone supported by Drains and Run, WALK! Wow. My ears. As I left the venue to miss my bus I walked past the local O’Neill’s pub where an Irish folk band were playing. I couldn’t hear them, despite the fact they were playing about 30feet away, because I could still hear DIVORCE over them. DIVORCE who were playing in a pub around the corner. UNDERGROUND! Behind two closed doors. I’ve got some photos on my flickr page if you want to see http://www.flickr.com/photos/simonayre/sets/72157627400795288/

After this I had a couple of weeks off from gigs- visiting friends in Reading in between two weddings. I’ve shot four weddings so far this year, three with the brilliant Eleanor Jane (who can be found at http://www.eleanorjane.co.uk) and one of my own, with 3 of my own left. Exciting times. I hope she lets me work with her again next year!

Anyway, last weekend (not strictly August I know) I had the pleasure of visiting my old flatmate from uni and his wife-in-twelve-weeks Katie. I’ve only met her twice and I’m shooting their wedding in December so I thought it’d be a good idea to go there and say hello. Oh, and take photos at the Ultrasound Music Festival in Tamworth.

Anyone who knows me will know I’m often at indie and rock gigs around Cardiff, that’s how I’ve met a lot of my friends in fact- and this weekend saw the arrival of the Merthyr Rocks festival. Ordinarily I’d be there, but this was no ordinary weekend. I couldn’t pass up the chance to shoot acts such as the Saturdays, Tinie Tempah and NDubz. I’ve been trying to take the next step in my gig photography and this month was another big step. Festivals and big gigs are so different to shoot than the small club gigs that I’m used to, it’s almost like learning it all again.

Ultrasound was a great experience- a mixture of music photographers and press photographers- there was quite a big difference in the attitudes of the two groups but essentially we all got along. I think!
I’m getting to a point now where I’m starting to feel more relaxed in the pit at bigger shows so I can start shooting more in a style that fits with my smaller gig photos. In the first few big gigs I did I had problems relaxing enough to take the sort of photos I like to take. I don’t like to just take a photo of a singer, there’s so much more to look at when you’re shooting a gig that other people don’t notice and the things that stood out for me (apart from being a few feet away from the saturdays, obviously) at Ultrasound were without a doubt, Tinie Tempah’s trainers! Luckily I maganed to take a photo of them with my last shot before we all got kicked out of the pit. Good timing.

one of Six-D
S

Starboy Nathan

Alexis Jordan

The Saturdays

NDubz…

Congratulations, Mr and Mrs Evans.

June 6, 2011

I have a few unfinished blogs saved in my drafts, due to my inability to come to any conclusions about things like whether I prefer black and white or colour, so in the meantime, here is something I can write about with a conclusion that I have recently been to what was possibly my favourite wedding.  I’ve been to 3 this year so far, two as photographer or assistant, and one as a guest, ranging from a fairly low budget to a lavish affair at the Vale Hotel, and this one sits somewhere between the two, but this is the only one I’ve been to as a guest and friend of the happy couple. In the beautiful setting of the Mill at Gordleton, we knew as soon as we got to the venue the day before that it was going to be something special.

The wedding planning had gone through so many twists and turns with such unfortunate circumstances that it was just nice the ceremony was upon us, but to be in the lovely setting of the Mill, with what was probably the most perfect weather you could hope for on your wedding day, everything had finally gone right.

We arrived the day before and met up at the venue, then went for some food. Dan, the best man, and myself went for a wander around the local area, then found a a park with some swings and a roundabout which we had to test drive for my niece. I would have taken photos but I was too busy going “WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.”

pre wedding night walk for the best man

Aaaanyway, Helen and her mum came over on the morning of the wedding, bringing Leigh with them so he could stay with us to get ready while Helen got ready at the venue. Being the thoughtful friend I am I didn’t want to over do it with the photos, so we did a few last minute chores/ errands and waited at the flat, until the time was upon us.

The Bride to be and her mum arrive at our flat with Leigh (out of shot)

Leigh listens as Julie goes through her reading for the ceremony.

My brother and my niece

So we eventually went to the venue an hour or so after Leigh and Dan, and we met them at the bar. I left my camera in the boot of the car and let the paid photographers do their job and had a pint before the ceremony, which was quickly upon us.  Helen came down the aisle to “Here Comes the Sun” and she looked amazing, the sun was shining bright and Leigh was down the front, apparently bawling his eyes out. A few moments and vows later, they walked back to the sounds of Sebastien Tellier’s La Ritournelle and applause from the crowd (and crying from one 3 year old niece of mine). So, Pimms anyone? Yes please. More Pimms? Yes please. More Pimms? Yes please! More Pimms? Ohhh I shdn’t. More Pimms?  shkujhspleass. More Pimms? yssshhplsss. More Pimms? NooIbetternot. It’s the last jug. Oh I better had then. Amazing how the fear of the last jug of Pimms can sober you up, temporarily. So, the photographers have gone, I need the loo due to the amount of Pimms I’ve had and apparently delay the entrance of the bride and groom.  Oh, and I’ve got my camera. The rest is a bit hazy, but most excellent. Amazing food, great people, a really good band, dancing, lovely weather, Bailey’s, cake, cheese and biscuits and a drunk man with a camera- everything you could want.

Dan being the Doctor

Father of the Bride

Mmmmmmmm caaaaaaaaake.

Yeah, it’s a bit odd ending on a picture of the cake after it’s been cut isn’t it?

It’s because I’m hungry.  Anyway, big hearty congratulations to Leigh and Helen.  That wedding will take a lot of beating.

Well done guys, have an amazing future together.x

Maybe I won’t end on the cake.

Wales This Week.

January 30, 2011

Well, this week has been an interesting one. I type this as I sit in pain after “doing the ligaments in” in my right ankle playing football today. It was sort of fitting that I should do it whilst wearing my old basketball shorts as when I played basketball I wrecked my ankles for years, pulling and straining the ligaments in each of them pretty much every fortnight for two years such was my addiction to the sport. On top of that, Spurs got unceremoniously dumped out of the F.A. Cup 4-0. What a day. But it’s been a good week.

I’ve had a lot of interest in my photography with 3 different people asking me about covering weddings this year, and I got asked to cover a conference for a company in Cardiff, which unfortunately I had to turn down because I’d already agreed to do extra hours in work. If it was just in Cardiff or Newport it would have been fine, but it’s in B-B-B-B-B I’ve forgotten, I know it begins with B and it’s not Basingstoke.

So as I said, I’ve been asked about doing a few weddings, one of which will hopefully be in a biodome at the Eden Project, which is immensely exciting. The fact that it’s for a friend, well, two friends, also means a lot to me, but also, it’s the type of wedding I’d love to do. Somewhere a bit different and not your usual venue, and it’s a lovely place too. So hopefully that will all come together nicely.

 The year has got off to a bit of a slow start for me in terms of actually doing anything outside of the house, aside from a lovely time visiting friends a couple of weeks ago in Maidstone, so this weekend I’ve made up for it a bit.

On Friday I went to two gigs – by this time of January I’ve normally been to a few gigs but a combination of not much on for me and er… well, that’s it really, has meant that I haven’t been out until now.

First up was the band Drains, from Cardiff. Made up of members of  Kutosis and Samoans this is more of a grunge sound than their other bands, and they’ve got some really good tunes too. Dan was sporting a moustache as an homage to DFA1979 getting back together, which to be fair, I thought suited him.

 

So after the mild carnage they caused, I ran off to Buffalo Bar with Will Steen from www.thejoycollective.co.uk  to catch Ratatosk and Benni Hemm Hemm which was organised by Liz/ Loose. Ratatosk is one half of the awesome Right Hand Left Hand, if you ever get the chance to see them, do. This is more murder ballads being played with looped guitars and vocals and saws. Unfortunately I walked in about 10 minutes from the end of the set, and there’s nothing I hate more than being at a quiet gig than people pushing to get down the front or making noise, so I stayed at the back until he finished what seemed to be a great performance.

Then came Benni Hemm Hemm, who I believe come from Iceland, via somewhere in Scotland. I’d never heard them before despite seemingly having a natural love for anything Icelandic and they didn’t disappoint. Some really beautiful songs.

It’s a really dark venue so I’m quite pleased with the results, and it was the first time I’d used my new 100mm f2.8 Macro IS L lens for  a gigand it didn’t disappoint. It’s not one for all occasions, but for a quiet gig where there’s plenty of room between me and the band it’s fantastic, as long as the band isn’t running round too much.

So, Saturday I was off to a venue I’ve never been to before, The Promised Land. It’s a place I’ve only ever really heard anything about for after show parties for the likes of Paul Weller, so I wasn’t surprised when I got in to find the walls full of signed music memorabilia and photos from the likes of Paul Weller, Andy Fairweather-Low, Manic Street Preachers… I can’t remember who else, but there was a lot of it! All of it totally different to the bands that were playing last night.

I went mainly to see Gindrinker. I don’t know how many gigs they’ve done but I’ve probably been to around 90 per cent of them. A lot of people don’t get them, I didn’t really at first if I’m honest but now I absolutely love them. The venue was packed out, not hard considering the size of the place, but it was a good crowd there with some familiar faces.

The first band on, Daylight Fireworks, were ok, not really my thing, but they had a good crowd there who enjoyed them. Their one guitarist was good to photograph too.

Next up was the Milk Race, made up of member of bands such as Space in The 50s, Heck and The IK+ which was a nice surprise. Nice, loud bit of carnage. 

My 24-70 lens even took a headstock to the glass. Not even a scratch and it was a pretty hard blow too. It was a bit of a worry but it seems to be fine.

Next up, I’d missed my bus by this time but I paid my money to see Gindrinker, so I was staying. It’s been months since they’ve played so it was a good enough reason for me to stay out. 

Check Gindrinker out at www.gindrinker.co.uk – it’s an acquired taste, but worth working on if you don’t get it straight away.

So, another busy week this week. A gig from Loose tomorrow with Sweet Baboo and Allo Darlin’ which should be great, then I’m going to B-B-B-B wherever it is for work. Who knows what the rest of the week will bring?

Aberystwyth

January 20, 2011

I’ve been looking through my hard drive quite a lot recently just to see if there’s anything I’d forgotten about, and by coincidence was asked by my friend Emma if I had any photos from when I visited her back in October.

Yes! Yes I do!

It was really windy but not too cold and all the photos I took were pretty natural. Even the one with Emma lying down on the pebbles came after we’d both been resting after a long walk and I just decided to get up and take a photo. It’s not easy to feel comfortable in front of the camera, so when you find someone who is make the most of the photo opportuinities!

New Year, New Me

January 15, 2011

Dave

Hannah

Emma

Well, not quite, but you know, I’m taking opportunities a bit more when they arise. Had a lovely week this week, really tiring but really enjoyable. Starting off with a bit of football last sunday- I’ve probably only played a handful of times since 1990 so it was lucky for me there were only 5 of us, then monday met up with a great photographer from the Valleys, Naomi Calvert. It was really interesting to talk to her about her experiences, especially as she’s 8 or 9 years younger than I am. She started at an early age and she’s done so much. she’s so generous and easy to talk to… great person, and I’m borrowing/ buying a ring flash adapter from her which is something I’ve always wanted to have. I left her swanky new place to play badminton where I got a bit battered and very tired, then Tuesday I went to Maidstone with my friend Emma to see a friend. Had a lovely time, so nice to catch up after so long and really nice to get away from Cardiff and the part time job. I also got the chance to take a couple of photos while I was there, after I’d made sure everyone had had a couple of drinks.

The photos weren’t quite what I was going for – room was a bit tighter than previous attempts with other friends so different positions had to be adopted-  and the subjects weren’t the only people to have had a few drinks (well I was on holiday!) but actually, I really like them.

These were all taken with one Canon 580EX II off camera and have been processed/ edited individually, according to how I think the shots feel.

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.

Things I like

July 7, 2010

Well, again I haven’t taken many photos this week, aside from some stuff for my project and my photoshop coursework and a gig on saturday night. I’m getting better at it, but I’m looking at other things, other photographers and sources of inspiration. I do find that I have to work at the photoshop stuff a lot more than I’d hoped.  I’ve never been great with software really, but it’s just a case of being persistent. I won’t get anywhere with photography if I’m not persistent, and through the persistence I’ll get more experience and therefore more confidence.  That’s my take on it anyway.

So as I’ve been getting sidetracked from photoshop quite easily recently I’ve been looking at other stuff on the net for inspiration in general. Here are a couple of things that I’ve found inspiring recently, in no particular order…

Damien Lovegrove / Lovegrove Consulting www.prophotonut.com 

I went to a photography business seminar held by skillset and Damien Lovegrove back in May, and though I’ve read everything he said in various broken up bits on forums, it was great to have a living breathing person in front of me confirming everything I thought about what I need to do and how I need to be to be successful. He obviously has a great head for business and his photography is fantastic. Really simple and elegant, very well thought out. Some of the photography on his recent blogs has been nothing short of stunning. If only I could afford one of his dvds.

www.eleanorjane.co.uk

A friend (www.thegingerbread.co.uk) sent me a link to this blog/ website a few weeks ago and I loved it. Updated roughly every week/fortnight I guess, eleanorjane has a really nice eye for things, and her photos just have a lovely feel to them, kind of reminding me of www.kirstenmcternan.co.uk  ‘s work. Really contemporary, but with a nostalgic finish if that makes any sense.  She also appears to be doing very well for herself at the young age of 24 – When I was 24 I’d just finished my film degree, had no direction, went back home to live with my parents and got a job in Virgin Megastore where I stayed until it shut, 8 years and two name changes later. This girl is really really good.

Nadine Ballantyne www.soundscapemagazine.com www.nadineballantyne.com

I’ve known Nadine for a year or two now, we’d been flickr contacts for a while and I introduced myself to her at Swn Festival in Cardiff a couple of years ago before Future of the Left came on. I don’t know how she manages to fit so much in to her life. I swear her days have two more hours than mine. If she’s not blogging, doing college work, updating or sorting stuff for her magazine or taking photos she’s playing on her xbox. I swear she doesn’t sleep, whereas I seem to have turned into a lazy old cat in comparison. I was immensely jealous when she bought her Canon 5D mk2, but then countered with a 7D of my own. I love my 7D, but the first time i went to photograph a band with her I realised I’m still jealous of her 5D.  Anyway, jealousy aside she’s a great photographer (and designer) who seems to be getting better all the time.  Her live band shots are really good (she likes more exciting bands than me too) and her understanding of flash is way better than mine too…

http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/07/summer_is_here.html?camp=localsearch:on:twit:bigpic

Yeah I got this link from Twitter, from Rob Sheridan who is no slouch when it comes to digital media/ photography/ whatever. Do a search if you don’t know him. He’s great to follow on Twitter because he tweets fairly regularly with really interesting stuff, and I think it’s through him that I came across this link. Well, this is this week’s link, but I’m sure he’s linked other’s before.  The big picture is a selection of photos from across the world from news stories that particular week- such a wide selection of photos covering every aspect of life (not every week admittedly, but trawl the archives) and some of it is inspiring, whether it’s because it’s a photograph of something you want to see or do, or a photograph you wish you’d taken.

Right, time for food. No time for sleep before the football. I can’t wait until the world cup is over, I don’t know why I’ve put myself through it. I’ve watched nearly every match and I can barely remember anything.

What shall I have to eat?