‘The Drowning of Arthur Braxton’ – Book Launch

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Last Thursday (April 11) was the launch of Caroline Smailes’ new novel ‘The Drowning of Arthur Braxton’ published by Friday Project at Belgravia Books in Ebury Street near Victoria Station.

I first came across Caroline  as a contributor to the 100RPM project last year and she’s always one of the nicest people on Twitter. However until Thursday, we’d never met in person. She’s really just the same in ‘real life’ (people on Twitter tend to be) and it was a pleasure to catch up with someone who is always  encouraging and full of fun.

This is the second time I’ve taken photos at a book launch, the first being ‘The Night Rainbow’ by Claire King. It’s not that easy. Much as I love books, they provide a distracting background and it’s difficult to get well composed photos in such a confined space especially if, at this shop, there’s no vantage point over the floor space. It really is a case of gaining experience, taking plenty of photos and learning from mistakes.

Having said all that, I’m quite pleased with the full set of images from the night.  The author tends not to see a lot of the event as they’re the centre of attention, which is nice in one way but they don’t get much of a chance to see who’s there and what else is going on so it’s good to get shots that capture the feel of the evening.

Needless to say it was a lovely relaxed evening, helped by wine and cake. It’s always great to meet new people especially those who were just names on Twitter before. The only frustration I have is seeing afterwards that someone you know from Twitter was there and you didn’t recognise them from their avatar!

I haven’t started the book yet. I’ve read Caroline’s other work which has that gritty but also humorous feel to it which reminds me of growing up in the North and it has received critical acclaim so I’m pretty confident that I’ll enjoy it.

Thanks to Caroline, her publishers and Belgravia Books for hosting a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

p.s. If you ever get the chance to visit, this is a wonderful independent bookstore. Not an inch of shelf space is wasted and it’s a great place to browse and buy.

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Messing around in (narrow) boats

IMG_4563I had a great  morning on Saturday taking photographs for Reach Out Plus a local charity helping people with special needs and disabilities at their centre at Nash Mills on the Grand Union Canal (near Hemel Hempstead). It aims to support special people to overcome exclusion and discrimination, develop their skills and broaden their experience. On the waterway, they have a small fleet of craft offering riverboat experiences and holidays.

The purpose of the day was to launch their new fund raising appeal. Other than getting speech pictures, some general atmosphere shots and pictures of the boats and kids, the key shot of the day was to get a photo of all the supporters and the appeal message. Large groups are always a challenge to organise. People have short spans of attention, it’s cold and it’s easy to miss someone not doing what they’re supposed to be doing e.g. in this case holding letters at the wrong height / angle. The major problem was finding somewhere to get a shot from. The obvious places had plants growing in front of the camera so the only thing to do was to traverse across a flower bed on a steep bank until I could find a clear space. It’s then a case of directing everyone as forcefully as possible while trying to be humorous (and keeping my balance) then taking as many shots as possible in order to get one where most people are looking at the camera. I didn’t get ‘the’ perfect one but this is pretty good given the whole thing was done in about five minutes from start to finish.

Luckily the session seemed to work reasonably well. The kids were just lovely, happy to pose for pictures and hopefully the photos will help the charity publicise the appeal as they try to raise funds for their ongoing activities.

Square One : Photographic work in Progress

Ther Festival, Wimbledon, 27th July 2012 I know it’s nearly Spring but like many people I’ve been ill. You’d expect that, you’ve probably been ill yourself at some point. Flus, colds and that Novovirus, eh? You wouldn’t forget that in a hurry. The problem is I’ve had the lot (so it seems have others) and there’s now a ten week chunk of my life I’m never going to get back. 2013 was always going to be an interesting and challenging year. I hadn’t reckoned on starting it at the end of February.

So, as I am getting back to something like ‘Square One’, I’m cracking on with what I should have been doing. Two goals for the year are to produce a photo book and to apply for my Associateship of the Royal Photographic Society (I’m a Licentiate at the moment). I’ve developed the rough selection of images to choose from and created a proof PDF through Aperture. I now need to find a cheaper printer than Apple for the final version when I’ve made my final selection and if possible an e-format too. On demand books are expensive and I need to bring the costs down. Blurb looks a cheaper option but it’s still really pricey.

My subject matter is the Ther (Chariot) Festival held in Wimbledon each summer for which I’m the photographer. I’m finalising the picture choice at the moment which is an agonising choice between great photos in their own right and photos which aren’t quite as good but tell the story. It’s an extremely colourful and unusual event which is great for providing good photos. The downside is that you have to take the photos as given. You can’t interrupt a religious ceremony just because you’d like them to stand to the left a bit. It’s all about doing the best you can with what’s available sometimes working in very crowded spaces. However judging panels don’t particularly recognise this and are notoriously difficult to please!

For my Associateship application, I’m still undecided whether to do prints, go digital or submit the book or what to submit. I also have a good portfolio of Olympic venue shots which might be more suitable. It’s an involved process with lots of pros and cons plus cost so I’m reading the very long Distinctions document and thinking about all the options carefully. Decisions, decisions!

Picture at an Exhibition

I enter ‘big’ writing and photographic competitions more in hope than expectation. It’s not because I think my stories or photos are rubbish but because the entry standard is so high and there are so many entries, it’s not just a case of writing a good story or taking a great photograph. Being ‘brilliant’ is key ,of course, but when the entry and standard are high, there’s also an element of luck involved so any kind of acknowledgement is a large achievement.

My approach to submitting, knowing well that the odds are against me, is as follows:

1. Do the best work I can

2. Follow the rules for entry to the letter

3. Press [send]

4. Forget

5. Read about winners at some point. Be slightly envious of their success and wonder whether I’ll ever be any good but then remind myself that judging is subjective especially when the entries are both large in number and of high quality (I know, I’ve done it)

6. See winning entries. Agree with choices and vow to do better next time.

So this morning, I was amazed (yes, I know that word is overused now but I was) and thrilled to see that one of my images has been selected for the RPS Members’ Biennial Exhibition 2013.  With nearly 9,000 photos submitted by over 1,000 RPS members worldwide, getting selected for the Exhibition is incredibly unexpected and exciting. You can view all the finalists photos here. There are some wonderful photos so I’m feeling stunned and pleased to see my own sitting amongst them.

My own photo is of an installation at the Olympic Park underneath the main Stratford bridge entrance. Bit.fall by German artist Julius Popp is a fountain of water droplets that create words as they drop from spray heads situated on the underneath of the bridge into the canal below. The words are chosen at random from live news feeds all controlled by specialist software. It was incredibly difficult to get a still image due to the contrasting light sources especially the water words which were to put it mildly ‘a sod’ to capture but somehow I got one that seemed to balance all the different light sources properly. This was one of my favourite spots in the Park so I’m really pleased that more people will get to see it, albeit in a photograph.

UPDATE

As part of the tour, the exhibition will be coming to the Royal Albert Hall in London at the end of March for one month.

Restoring My Twitter Mojo

Two people I have come to like and greatly admire for different reasons have decided to leave Twitter recently. They both gave very eloquent reasons for leaving and I respect their wishes entirely although I am extremely sad to see them go. They have helped me through very difficult times in ways which they will never understand and I’ll always be grateful to them. I consider them real friends in every sense of the word. However Twitter has an immediacy of communication akin to a real life conversation (albeit in dialogue of 140 characters) which can never be replaced by other forms of contact. It feels like a friend has announced that they are moving to Australia. You’re pleased for them and you will always be friends but somehow there is a weakening of the ties and the feeling that somehow you’ve been left behind even if that’s not the intention.

Inevitably, as a result of their actions, I began to question my own relationship with Twitter and Facebook and how I use them. Facebook is easy for me. I hate using it. It is a visual migraine. I find the adverts and the games annoying, the constant changes in privacy functionality  incredibly irritating and there is a natural limit to how many pictures of my friend’s children I can bear, as much as I love children (some people seriously overdo it!). I’m sure people can find my posts equally dreary. However it is by far the best (only?) tool I have for keeping in touch with many of my friends who I would inevitably have lost contact with over the years as they moved around the world and overall  I get some benefit from it. Last year I was able to share the sad loss of my friend and instructor Eric with all my ski buddies scattered around the world. I’ve reconnected with old school friends lost in time and those people I have met through work or travel for a brief period and wished that they lived round the corner. I dip in and out of Facebook. If anyone really needs me, they’ll message me. It’s not perfect but it will do.

Twitter is much harder for me. I got onto Twitter and found a strong community of short story and flash fiction writers, picked up a whole bunch of friends from a podcast, found out what was happening locally and built up some followers too. It provides a platform for publicising my (spasmodic) output of flash fiction and it keeps me connected to people when I am alone. However I have begun to feel the same pressures that my two friends felt and that, rather than being an asset, Twitter is destroying the headspace I need in order to be creative, productive and happy.

There are many problems in the world and if like me, you believe that life isn’t just about winning at the expense of others, then there are a lot of causes that are worthy of support. Inequality and the demonisation and exploitation of the vulnerable would sum up most of them. However I am beginning to become overwhelmed by these. Yet I feel to ignore them is dangerous.  The economic circumstances of the 1920s and 30s gave rise to a cruel and terrible period in our history and we are sailing in similar waters today. If we switch ourselves off and say nothing, then we run the risk of history repeating itself. Silence becomes mistaken for agreement and ultimately our voices are extinguished. Twitter gives us all a voice. However I need personally to come to terms with the fact that I cannot fight every battle and perceived injustice.

I like to read what the people I follow say and have some kind of meaningful relationship with them but  recently I have started to become drowned in the thoughts of other people. Is this the fault of Twitter or myself and what should I do? Do I leave like my friends or is there someway I can go back to a more balanced use with which I am more comfortable?

I’m going to make some painful choices. I’ve decided to unfollow a lot of the campaigns and media outlets I’ve been following. One Twitter buddy shares very similar viewpoints so I’m just going to see her retweets and that’ll be it. I’ll comment on the ones I feel most strongly about but I’m hoping there will be a balance between being heard and in touch whilst not being overwhelmed with sadness and indignation. I have also decided to cut back following writers, publishers etc to a manageable number and not to follow back new writers automatically unless I have a particular interest in their work. I’ve always felt the need to be courteous to fellow writers but I’m annoyed by an ever growing number of writers who just plug their wares (See Some Authors Who Tweet Are Twits ). and I’d sooner follow and be followed by 300 people which I can interact in some meaningful way than follow and be followed by 10000 anonymous faces.

Now here’s the hard bit. I also need to unfollow some of my own followers and this will be much harder. I’ve tried using lists but found this hasn’t worked well for me. You might not care less or you may be greatly offended. If it’s the later I apologise sincerely and if you unfollow me as a result, I’ll understand fully but I hope that the above outlines my reasoning and I genuinely mean it when I say ‘it’s not you, it’s me.’  I feel I have some sort of connection with everyone but I need a timeline that moves at a more sedate pace not a constant scroll of consciousness. I’ve also installed ‘Anti-social’ which blocks my access to various sites whilst I’m working in order to be more productive. I may not be around as much but I’m hoping that all these changes will help me to get a better balance and stay positive.

I’d be interested to know what other people feel on this subject. Are you feeling the strain or is Twitter still working well for you?

 

Update: I’ve not cut down to under 250 follows and redefined my lists. It feels far more manageable. The trick will be to keep it down.

My Most Beautiful Thing

My most beautiful thing is my camera. Which camera? Any of them. I have six of them at the moment (some are very old!) not counting the one on my phone. It doesn’t matter, any of them plus every camera I have every owned in the past. They’re all equally beautiful but the most important is the one I’m holding when I need it.

Now I could have picked a person, a place or a memory for my most beautiful thing and there are thousands to choose from.  They are all more ‘beautiful’ than a lump of metal and circuitry, more important too. But, I’m overwhelmed by choice and my camera has taken pictures of all of them. The piles of slides, negatives and lately digital files have captured virtually all of the things that I hold dear to me. I have been taking photographs since I was four years old and my life is in those pictures. It seems a natural choice.

Today I’m taking part in the My Most Beautiful Thing Blogsplash to celebrate beautiful things – inspired by Fiona Robyn’s new novel, The Most Beautiful Thing. Bloggers from all over the world are taking part and writing or posting pictures of their most beautiful things today. Find out more here and see everyone else’s blog posts here

Silverstone FIA GT1

Last weekend was the FIA GT1 Championship at Silverstone using the new Silverstone Wing pits and paddock.  My photos can be seen at http://peterdomican.zenfolio.com/p963284723 .

In the evening I had the chance to ride the Grand Prix circuit on my mountain bike and the photos from that are here too http://peterdomican.zenfolio.com/p995753245 Considering these were taken on my point and shoot Panasonic camera whilst ‘at speed’ (well I was peddling anyway!), I was quite pleased with the results.

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