Every Picture Tells a Story

The world of digital photography is so easy and convenient. Point your camera and shoot. Upload to social media or your cloud storage and there it is. If your picture isn’t quite right you can lighten or darken it, straighten it, crop it, even delete it if you want and start again.

Things weren’t so easy in the film age. I used to be a pretty enthusiastic amateur photographer and I used to like taking pictures of, well anything really. I’ve tried my hand at portraits, still life and pretty much everything.

When I was a schoolboy my parents got me an Instamatic 126 camera for Christmas. Bit of a mistake on their part as they had to shell out for film and developing too, which must have been painful for them when they saw my first efforts at photography, and probably more so when the fruits of my ‘experimental’ pictures came back from the chemist.

In the 1980’s I had an Olympus OM10 then moved up to an OM2SP. The SP stood for spot programming where instead of accepting the average reading the camera’s light meter gave you, you could choose a particular spot in the image and take your light settings from that. Very useful in a picture with light and dark elements for instance.

I also used to have quite a few long lenses which I used at race circuits, particularly Oulton Park where I spent many a weekend watching and photographing racing cars. I must have looked really professional clicking on my wide-angle lens in the paddock and then switching to my 200mm long lens back on the circuit.

The big difference with photography today is that back then in the film era, you took your shot and then sent the film for developing and and printing and sometimes the results were good, but then sometimes they weren’t. To the developer though there was no difference between a bad shot and a brilliant one, they both cost the same!

Today you can shoot as many pictures as your memory card will hold, free of charge, no developing charges and as for printing, why bother? Just upload to your favourite social media page. If you take a bad picture you can edit it with imaging software. If the picture is too bad, delete it and shoot more. In fact the best way to take a great picture today is to take multiple exposures just like a professional, shoot a shed load of pictures and just delete the bad ones!

Four of my Favourite Pictures.

It’s hard to choose favourite pictures because I have so many of them, anyway, here are four chosen pretty much at random.

Bob the Dog.

I took this picture years ago with our old dog Bob with my Kodak Instamatic. We had such a lot of fun with that dog as children, me and my brother. He went everywhere with us. We took him on coach trips where he was always sick and my brother, my dad and I would deny ownership of him, all looking fixedly through the windows whilst my Mum apologised to everyone and cleaned up the mess.

Ayrton Senna Hockenheim 1988

Here’s a picture taken with my Olympus at the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim in 1988. Senna was one of the great drivers of the day. Today he is revered as a legend of the sport but I think it’s fair to say that back in the day he really wasn’t that popular. I remember him being soundly booed at Silverstone in 1989 or 1990 but his talent was unquestionable.

The Greek island of Kalymnos

This is one of my favourite pictures and I did have it blown up and framed once but I must have lost it during various house moves. It was taken on holiday on the Greek Island of Kalymnos. I remember flying to some other island and having to take a ferry over to Kalymnos. The ferry though had to wait 2 hours for a delayed flight from London (those bloody southerners) and when we reached the island it was dark. Our apartment was up the side of a steep hill, right at the top and the rep told me lights would come on by a sensor when we got to the steps. After jumping up and down wildly for 10 minutes the lights did come on and I asked the rep to wait till we got to the top and found the keys. He assured me the keys were there but then drove off. Just at that moment the lights went out and stranded us in a deep velvety blackness. More jumping about and waving and the lights came on so we climbed the steps and finally bumbled into our apartment. Inside I opened the door to the patio and in the darkness of the all-enveloping night, I could sense something over the way. It was not until we awoke in the morning that we were finally able to take in the magnificent view.

Blackpool, Lancashire

This last picture was taken in Blackpool during a drive through of the Blackpool Illuminations. It’s a lovely colourful snap which captures the atmosphere of the lights. I took the picture with my GoPro camera but I have a confession to make. I was trying making a video of the lights and when I set up the camera I didn’t have my reading glasses with me and couldn’t quite make out the tiny menu and accidentally set the camera up to take stills instead of video. The resulting pictures were actually a surprise!

Floating in Space is a novel set in Manchester 1977. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information.



Five basic steps for Blog Success!

There are a heck of a lot of blogs about blogging. How to start blogging. What to blog about and so on. The thing is though, if you don’t know what to blog about you shouldn’t be blogging. You have to have some idea what you want to talk about, some subject or interest that’s close to your heart, otherwise, what’s the point?

quotescoverb-jpg-39My blogs are pretty diverse but generally they are funny or at least mildly humorous observations on life. They usually get serious when I talk about things like the Bobby Kennedy shooting or the JFK assassination or even when I look at my writing or film heroes like James Hilton or Woody Allen.

Blogging is something that I started just to promote my book, Floating In Space, and my blogs are mostly written in the same style as the book so they give the reader a sort of taster of what they will be in for if they decide to purchase a copy but now I’m starting to feel almost like, well a professional journalist! I have my deadlines, well my deadline, my one deadline and that is to have something written ready for Saturday when I post. Throughout the week I’ll usually jot something down then edit it into something like a readable piece of work prior to Saturday, and when I say prior to Saturday that usually means Friday night!

Recently I returned from six weeks in Lanzarote and I had planned to write so much and in fact did so little. I started work on another book and another radio script as the last one was rejected by the BBC (what do they know anyway!) I didn’t make much headway in either of those areas but what I did do is a huge amount of networking and I boosted my twitter profile and quadrupled my followers and signed up to Linked In. Actually I was already on Linked In but never used it that much but there are quite a few writers’ and bloggers’ groups worth joining. I’ve also started posting my blogs on Google+ which has substantially increased my network presence. Has it led to more buyers for my book? Well, the exposure has certainly helped with my free promotion but sales are still not quite where I’d like them to be. I’m reading lots of blogs about blogging and book promotion but I’m sorry to say that the chap who promised that he could boost my sales by 1667 % in seven days did not deliver! Well, I did follow most of his advice but stopped just prior to the bit where I should hand over a substantial amount of cash for even more help!

Anyway, after over six months as a blogger here are a few handy tips!

1. The important thing I’ve learned about writing is this: be disciplined. If you plan to write on holiday then choose a time that is good for you and try not to be distracted by e-mails or the internet. In Lanzarote I’d get up early, switch on my laptop with all the best intentions and then start checking e-mails and tweeting and so on. What I should have done is set aside a time for that later, switch off the internet, write for an hour or two hours, or whatever your allotted time is, then go to the internet later.

2. Try to have something visual in your blogs to catch the eye of a potential reader, even it’s only a graphic showing the blog title. There are plenty of places online where you can sort out a graphic, places like www.picmonkey.com, www.pinstamatic.com or www.quotescover.com. You might even want to create a video. Take a look at one of mine made on the www.animoto.com site, created from still images.

3. A good headline pulls people into a newspaper and the same is true for a blog post. Think about your title as much as you think about the content. You also need to get some vital keywords in the title too, just so google can pick up your post, so if you’re writing about motorcycles, get a snappy title in there using ‘motorcycle’! 10 things you should do before starting your motorcycle engine! Try that one and if you’re stuck for a headline title or even content, try this site at portent.com, tap in a few keywords and it’ll come up with a title for you!

4. Create a blogging schedule. There’s a reason why your favourite TV show is on every Friday at seven thirty: So you’ll know when to tune in. It’s the same with a blog. Some people write every day, some people knock out a random blog every so often. My blog comes out once every week, on a Saturday so my small band of followers know when to look for a new one!

5.One final thing you might not have heard of, it’s the ‘call to action.’ So what’s that? Well it’s the thing you want your reader to do, buy your video, buy your product, or even, buy your book, so it might go something like this . . . .

If you liked this blog, why not buy my book? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.



Wedding days, Cumbria, and what to do with those Wedding Snaps!

Wedding day!

Tania and Alex

Well, you can’t beat a good wedding but weddings are hard work,  what with the planning, the arranging, the compromises, the cost, the logistics, and of course all the attendant stress that comes ready built in; very hard work indeed!

The wedding I went to at the weekend had a lot of great elements and the one important thing that only nature can provide; good weather! I shouldn’t complain really but I was sweltering in my three piece suit and a couple of degrees cooler would have been nice but that would be quibbling. The day was wonderful and one that all went to plan as far as I could see anyway.

Another fact that comes built in at a wedding are tears. I am referring to tears of joy of course and the bride and her Mum did their fair share as well as others. I doubt if there was a dry eye in the place during the speeches when it’s traditional to ponder in public about the subject of love and loved ones, those who are with us and those departed. On this occasion, the mother of the bride did a speech herself as her husband had passed away some years ago and her performance as she balanced emotions and stage fright was outstanding.

The one disaster, well for me anyway, came part way into the evening when I took a glass of red wine to my mouth,  inexplicably missed and as a result poured red wine all down my shirt. Anyway, I nipped round the corner to my room, luckily we were staying at the venue and soaked the shirt in cold water which I think was the correct remedy for the situation, changed shirt (to a less formal shirt I should add) and was back at the reception within fifteen minutes. My fiancée Liz, and also the mother of the bride, who seems to like me in my three piece attire was not amused that I had ditched my splendid outfit (jacket waistcoat and tie had seemed a little superfluous by this time) but of course you can’t please all the people all of the time.

The only other problem came earlier. The wedding cupcakes were painstakingly assembled in the reception room by bridesmaids and friends only to be told of a rule, well a law actually, that food could not be placed on the tables until licensing hours! First I’ve heard of that so the cakes had to be hastily removed! The thing is the wedding was in Cumbria and my experience of Cumbria people is that they don’t necessarily care about things like rules or laws.

A couple of years ago Liz and I stayed in the small town of Wigton. We had rented a small cottage for a few days and the first day we went to the local chippy for some old fashioned fish and chips, then decided to wash it down with a pint in the pub next door. When we stepped inside there were a number of locals smoking away, happily flouting new anti-smoking laws. We ordered our beer and one of the group asked if we minded them smoking and if we did then they would go outside. Actually we did mind them smoking but being British and not wanting to upset the regulars of a pub we reckoned we would be visiting regularly during our stay we said ‘OK, go ahead and smoke.’ Just as we were about to ask if the pub served food a couple of other locals arrived with fish and chips from the chippy, sat down at a table to eat and called over pleasantly for two pints of bitter! Yes, that’s the way they do things in Cumbria!

Not long ago I asked my Mum what had happened to her wedding pictures as I don’t remember seeing any. She replied, rather shame facedly, that after a row with my Dad she had taken her wedding pictures and ripped them up! Still, she continued in her marriage to my Dad, happily I might add, until his death in 2000. My wedding pictures are still intact in a box somewhere in the loft although my marriage ended in divorce many years ago. So, perhaps my advice to Tania and Alex should be to rip up their wedding pictures! Not so easy in the digital internet age!

If you liked this post then why not try my novel, Floating In Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more info!