‘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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A Twitter Manifesto

Here’s my Twitter Manifesto. This is how I run my Twitter account to meet my needs. It’s a work in progress so I’m going to amend it as time goes on, I learn new things or people tell me off. Some of it you’ll agree with and some of it you won’t. Some of this may seem plain wrong. I appreciate that.

Introduction
There are millions of people on Twitter and hundreds of them interested me. I couldn’t keep up with them all. Lots of other people just wanted to sell me something. It became stressful and I started not to enjoy Twitter. So I had a major rethink and cut it back to something manageable. Now I love Twitter again. Here’s my ‘strategy’ warts ’n’ all.
Topics
On this account @petedomican, I tweet mainly about the following (in no particular order):
1. Writing and books including my own work
2. Photography including my own work
3. Politics – Always a tricky one. I try to be fair and recognise that there are different sides to any argument but I feel there are some bad things going on in the world these days.  I’m not a member of any political party but I’d say I’m probably unlikely to be voting for the Tories or UKIP anytime soon. Others have described me as a ‘leftard’. I’d describe myself more as an ‘equalist’, interested in a ‘fair’ society and a committed European. I have a slight obsession with Denmark.
4. Football – I support Spurs and Benfica. It’s both a blessing and a curse.
5. Marketing, business and social media including my own work (although I’m setting up a separate account to tweet about this more).
6. Random stuff -TV, music, podcasts, creativity, F1, humour (slightly warped)
It’s likely you’re interested in some things and not in others – it’s a weird mix. I try to be aware when I’m overdoing a topic to death but if it’s the Budget or Benfica are playing Porto, it’s probably best just to ignore me for a few hours.
Agreeing / Disagreeing
Some people seem to go into a huff if someone disagrees with them and block/unfollow them. I tend to be fairly open minded about most things (or at least just rage silently). I’m happy to be corrected on a factual error or for you to disagree as long as you’re reasonably polite. I’ll stand my ground and argue my corner. If you cease being polite, I’ll just stop. Some people though can just never give up on an argument. At some point I’ll say we’ll just need to agree to disagree.
Dislikes on Twitter
People who ‘tell it like it is’ (it frequently isn’t), people who don’t get how fortunate they are in life e.g. thinking you’ve hard up just because you have a large mortgage and two kids at private school or generally nasty people e.g. racists, people who hate disabled people, foreigners etc. Oh and my particular Twitter pet hate – hashtag pun masturbation e.g. ‘Smack my witch up #medievalsongs’. It’s rarely funny and I instantly mute the hashtag. I’ll admit that last one is a bit random but I thought you ought to know.
Following Me
I’m always surprised and delighted when someone follows me. I tweet about particular topics (see above), some of which don’t tend to sit well together for some people. If you unfollow, I’ll notice and maybe I’ll be sad for a while but I’ll survive and I won’t be offended. ‘Live your life, be free’ as pop goddess Belinda Carlisle used to sing (and probably still does, somewhere).
I don’t automatically follow back so if you’re just looking for lots of followers then probably not best to bother. I live in Welwyn Garden City, UK so if you’re a tree specialist in Austin, Texas, you’re probably not to get much work out of it (that one’s true by the way).
I keep Facebook for friends I know from ‘real life’ or those I know very well from Twitter and wish I knew them in ‘real life’. Please don’t make it awkward. Let’s stick to Twitter and see how we get on first.
Following You
I follow people who I find interesting, funny, thoughtful, insightful or generally good eggs. I like to interact with them at some level and I like to read their tweets. I’m now following between 350-400 people and that feels roughly the right number I can cope with for the moment. The consequences of this are:
1. I don’t automatically follow back so if you think it’s being impolite or insulting, then sorry but now you know the reason.
2. I need to periodically review who I’m following to keep to a sensible number. Sometimes people who were great a while ago lose interest in Twitter (and it shows) or just start using Twitter to promote their wares. I wrote a whole blogpost about people who just use twitter to promote themselves. It’s worth reading because it seemed to strike a chord.
3. If I follow you and you send me a DM promoting your wares as your first interaction, I’ll automatically unfollow you. It’s a no no!
If I unfollow you, please don’t get too upset about it. Yes it’s personal in a way but it’s just Twitter for God’s sake! Chances are we’ll never meet and you’ll forget about me. People in real life grow apart too. Remember all those ex colleagues who never keep in touch
Favouriting
People tweet to say thanks for ‘favouriting’ my tweet. Please don’t, there’s no need. I favour a tweet to read it later or where it has some information I need. I’ll then ‘unfavourite’ it.
Lists
I add people to private lists. I don’t tend to use them a lot of the time but sometimes I want to look at Twitter and avoid seeing the results of a sports event or avoid politics so I’ll only look at a subset of people. I should use them more.
Reading your Tweets
I scan my timeline whenever I can but I don’t spend my life on Twitter. I pick a lot of things up but often I miss things. If you need to get my attention, mention me. If it’s really important DM me. Note that promoting your wares may or may not count as the most important part of my day especially if we’ve only just met.
Retweets
I retweet things that interest me, promote people and things I’m interested in or things that amuse me. However I’m aware I overdo retweets so sometimes I try not to RT things. Please don’t take it personally if I fail to retweet something you think is noteworthy. But just because I RT something doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with it. I tweet things that I violently disagree with just because it’s awful and needs to be shared. I usually preface these with a ‘coming up’ tweet.
Scheduling Tweets
99.5% of my tweets are live. I use scheduling for the following:
1. Scheduling tweets publicising my blog posts or an announcement so that there’s a reasonable chance people will see one mention over a few days
2. Where there are multiple tweets which need to be read together. Sometimes I need more than 140 characters and 20secs to make my point. Must try harder.

#ff (Follow Friday)

This is in theory a good idea as you come across new people but it has become a nightmare. I don’t normally do #ff but occasionally I’ll tweet one #ff and a reason why I think you should follow them. If you don’t that’s fine. If you do #ff as a regular thing, please don’t tweet lists of people. It’s pointless. I’m not going to wade through your lists and it’s more likely I’ll mute or even unfollow you. That’s really horrible I know, but scrolling through 230 names then seeing other people RTing their mentions and thanking a whole list of other people isn’t my idea of a Friday night.

Being Wrong

I try to be nice all of the time but sometimes I’m not. I get things wrong, quite a lot. I’m human and I’m sorry.

 

This article was updated 24/3/13 to include #ff and several edits.

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!

The Launch of ‘The Night Rainbow’

On Wednesday, I was delighted to attend the launch of Claire King’s ‘The Night Rainbow’ at Daunt’s wonderful bookshop in Marylebone.

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I’ve gone on about ‘The Night Rainbow’ (a lot, sorry) for two good reasons. Firstly, Claire is a friend. We worked together many moons ago in London and shared that Northern sense of humour that made the full on heads down madness of London a little more bearable. And, since I started writing, she has been a great source of encouragement and help.

Claire brings people together and good things happen; it’s a gift. I love seeing my friends do well in any aspect of life but, outside sport, it’s rare to be present at a moment when someone’s dream comes true so I wanted to be there to celebrate her success.

Secondly, when I put all my bias and partisanship aside and sat down quietly with a proof copy of the ‘Night Rainbow’ over Christmas, I thought it was an extraordinary book. I could see why Bloomsbury snapped it up and why they have put a lot of love and care into it. It has its own beguiling mood and rhythm which is captured perfectly by the trailer. .

Being a photographer, I took my camera along and took a few photos just to capture the moment*. The setting is fabulous. If you haven’t been to Daunt’s, go and visit them. There is nothing better than talking about books, whilst being surrounded by books (oh, and drinking wine). It was lovely to see a collection of Night Rainbows in the shop window and a huge pile of them on the shop counter beforehand; even better to see that they had all been sold at the end of the evening to find their way to new homes far and wide.

I took away two things from the evening. The first was that, as much as I love Twitter, making personal connections with someone just adds something else entirely. Secondly, that as writers, editors or just book lovers, we really need to champion our remaining bookshops and libraries and we must never undervalue the skills and sheer hard work that go into writing a novel and bringing it to an audience.

So, after a very long wait, it gives me enormous pleasure to write my final sentence. ‘The Night Rainbow’ by Claire King has been published by Bloomsbury and is available from all good bookshops.

*If you’ve a strong objection to having your photo on the gallery e.g you’re wanted by Interpol, please let me know the number of the photo and I’ll remove it.

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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