Monday, 28 November 2011

'Tis the Season

With four weekends to go, the party kick-off has happened.


Providing a different take on the more ususal images.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Now Showing

Tail End

One of my framed prints from a selection currently showing in a local gallery and available for purchase.
Ideal Christmas Present!                           

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Seasonal Muddle or Seasonal Adjustment Disorder

A High Street still lined with plane trees clad in green leaves...
Recently laid poppy wreaths around the war memorial...
The town Christmas tree installed...

An outsize pumpkin abandoned, then kicked to pieces in the local park...
Following an auction bid to raise money for a famous Friday night, annual, national charity spectacular...
Having missed the night of its true calling and becoming, a now undesirable acquisition...

It is all a bit odd...

For just one day of observations...

Where exactly are we in the seasonal calendar?

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Christmas is Coming...

"It was a murky Monday morning in November, and the previous days star-light activity by the Christmas elves was in evidence..."

Yes, it is that time of year again and I am relieved to say that apart from a number of Christmas items arriving in the shops some weeks ago, the actual shop window decorating in our town is only just taking place. Shop owners sensitively, and rightly, waited until Remebrance Sunday had passed before the change of mood.

So, now is the time to really start considering Christmas gifts, and if I may be as bold as to suggest a visit to the i2 Art Gallery in Saffron Walden, where, along with a whole crowd of other great artists, you will find some different and unique art work for sale, including a few of my framed photographs.

If you are unable to make it along to the gallery, then don't worry, it is still possible to get your hands on one of my prints in time for Christmas! If one of my blog images has caught your eye, then go on, order it for the husband / wife / granny / grandad... or even for yourself (you know you like buying your own prezzies too). Similarly, any images you see on my website are also available to order.
Im afraid shopping carts and paypal are still one step away here (that's the project for the New Year) but not one to miss an opportunity, I am still happy to accept payment by those old-fashioned pieces of paper that you write your name on, oh as well as the £££s of course.

How to order.
1. Decide on the image.
2. Make a note of the blog page and date, then if necessary, the title or sequence number as it appears on the page (you can count can't you!)
3. Decide on size.
4. Go to this contact page and fill in all the details and I will confirm by return.

Up to A4 size Giclee print + mount               £20 +p&p
Up to A3+ size Giclee print + mount             £35 +p&p

(Last orders for UK delivery, by Saturday 17th December please.)

There you are, Christmas presents sorted!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Cashier No 9 Gig Photography

Cashier No 9 playing at Esquires in Bedford, 17th November 2011.

All images were taken on a Canon Powershot G12. Exposures varied from 1/4 sec to 1/40th sec, f3.5 - f4.5 and all on ISO 2000. Raw images processed in Canon DPP with post process in CS5.

Daniel Todd – Vocals, Guitars, Sequencing
James Smith – Guitars, Vocals
Stuart Magowan – Bass guitar, Vocals
Philip Duffy- Drums
Ronan Quinn – Keys, Percussion, Guitar, Vocals
Philip Wallace – Harmonica – Percussion

Apologies for missing shots of Stuart Magowan!

Review of the performance

Cashier No 9, Bedford. 17.11.11

Danny Todd
Cashier No 9
I actually have Bell X1 to thank for introducing me to Cashier No 9.

Back in the summer, Cashier No 9 were supporting fellow Irish band Bell X1 and by way introduction, had given a link to the video for When Jackie Shone; Cashier No 9's second single. Out of curiosity and thinking they would be just like many other support acts, I took a listen and immediately sat up and listened more intently. They were far better than other support acts I'd heard, in fact, these guys were good. Unable to make it to this promoted event, I continued with my interest in the band and in June, they released their first album To The Death of Fun. I was at first, a little surprised that the style of the album seemed somewhat different from their single but never the less, it proved to be an instantly enjoyable album that has been pretty much on repeat on my iPod since. When a tour was announced for November I ran down the venues in the hope they might just be performing somewhere that didn't involve a trip up to London (Cambridge perchance?). Unfortunately it was down to Bedford to fulfil that critera.

Originally billed for Hemel Hempstead on the 17th, the venue was changed at some stage to Bedford, which sadly for the band, seemed to affect the attendance on the night. The news obviously hadn't caught up with all of the promtional material that was still advertising Hemel and in this confusion many actually missed a fantastic gig in Bedford.

Playing with passion and polish, they treated us to what could be described as a brilliant and exclusive, private gig. Opening with Goldstar, they then played through tracks from this award-winning album including one of my favourites Lost at Sea, which had also gained them an award for best video at the NIMAs this year. (I love the harmonica-playing star-fish thingy. I want one!) We were all pleased when they also treated us to a play of my other (non-album) favourite, When Jackie Shone.
Having primarily gone to the gig to enjoy live music, I and the select audience were not disappointed. My only disappointment was for the band in that they didn't have the capacity audience they deserve.

As I said, I had gone to enjoy live music but I couldn't but help taking my little G12 along for a spot more gig photography, this time hoping for some close up opportunities. The smaller audience was actually good news for me as I'm not good in crowds and I hadn't looked forward to the front row crush. Taking my big DSLR I thought, would not be appropriate for the front row, apart from which, I might get ejected as press. However, I needn't have worried as I was in company with a couple of other DSLR users. (If only I had taken mine after all!)

So, the little G12 was being put to the test again. Of course, there would be issues with the speed of the lens and the low light. I was working with an ISO of 2000 which I knew would raise the grain issue, but I would just have to try it and see. However, if the image above is anything to go by, the little G12 is more than capable of perfoming. Right now, I'm in the process of editing the rest of the images from the night which I will post shortly.
I do question, what might I have managed had I chosen to take my pro camera - who knows?

I would like to say a big thanks to the guys for
1. Putting up with me and my camera
2. A brilliant performance - I only wish I was going to another one!


Thursday, 17 November 2011


The tap on the water butt dripped relentlessly during my visit to the town allotments, late on this November afternoon. It dripped as if ticking away the seasons, although it was already plain to see that Autumn is finally moving towards Winter. The air had a distinct chill that has been unusually missing until now. The low afternoon light passing through the leafless trees, caught the presence of my breath as I wandered between these end of season plots.

Taking in this special atmosphere at the allotments is an enjoyment that all should experience. They are busy, vibrant places during the growing season and yet peaceful, and ever-valuable patches of earth during the dormant months.

Yesterday I saw the few remaining flowers doing their best to add the last bit of vibrance to the new seasonal colour palette of assorted browns. I saw the few remaining vegetables sitting jauntily in the ground, hoping to be harvested before they rotted. Bamboo canes gathered into bundles, pots stacked neatly into piles and compost heaps covered with old carpet.

But most of all, I saw the people. The people who may not physically have been there but the individuality of their own special little place, showed me so much about these gardeners, that I could almost hear their chat between each other on those sunny summer afternoons.

That chat will come again, as sure as the seasons come and go.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


This 'Serpent in the Sky" was seen above the Cambridgeshire countryside this afternoon.

Although this particular murmuration was not as big as some that have been seen nationally, the evening gathering of starlings at this time of the year is always a spectacle.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Shaggy Ink Cap (Coprinus comatus)

You might be amazed to see this looking back from the underside of a mature shaggy ink cap mushroom.
Not quite what I expected either but you have to agree, rather impressive, if maybe a little menacing. A bit Lord of the Rings-like really!

With the mushroom and toadstool season now in full swing, it wasn't difficult to spot these common fungi on the roadside.

Just had to watch that the inky liquid of this self-digesting mushroom didn't drip onto my camera lens whilst taking the inside shot.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Birds Eye Queue

For a bird of less than average intelligence, it seemed to know where to go for bread.

(A birds eye view over Liverpool Street Station cashpoint machines)

Sunday, 6 November 2011


Saffron Walden Round Table
Firework Display 2011

10am Sunday. The morning after the firework display in Saffron Walden and the only signs of the night before were:
The dedicated bunch of Round Tablers replacing the turf on the area where the huge bonfire had been.
The dedicated bunch of local Scouts on litter-picking duty.

Gone was everything else including the sideshow stalls and the fairground rides.

It is amazing what can be achieved if everyone works together as a team.
If only there was more of this spirit and more appreciation of these efforts.

Thanks again to all involved...
...until next year.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Firework Display 2011

Armed with tripod and the remote shutter release on my 5Dii, I ventured out into the misty and slightly damp evening, to join thousands of others for our local firework spectacular.
I had done the same on a lovely clear evening last year but this time I wasn't so hopeful at bagging the same nice shots as before.

The misty sky hampered the all important first shot tonight. Important as this is normally when the view is clearest and so it is wise to grab these shots before the smoke sets in. Instead I had to concentrate on the display lower down in the sky, at the point where the treeline crossed the horizon, as unfortunately the large and splendid chrysanthemum-like explosions were way up into a low cloud base instead.

Never the less, I manged to capture a few shots from this years impressive display, although 2010 had provided a more successful collection for me, including the aftershow shots around the sideshows. I decided not to hang around in the ever-dampening (but not raining) conditions for a repeat go at these images this year though.

My thanks to Saffron Walden Round Table for the all the hard work in putting on a great FREE firework display again this year.
I hope they have been able to collect loads of money in their charity buckets.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Tori Amos Gig Photography

Tori Amos
HMV Apollo, Hammersith

Yesterday I was treated to a lovely surprise night out by my better half. I knew it was going to be somewhere in London and I knew it was going to be a gig by a female artist but that was all I knew.

So it was, we arrived a the Hammersmith Apollo, sorry, the HMV Apollo, Hammersmith, for the second London night with Tori Amos. Now I have to say, I'm not very familiar with her music, unlike my other half, who has long enjoyed listening to her albums but I was going to listen with interest, as was I going to try some more gig photography with interest. Not with my "You're not allowed in here with that!" DSLR but with my pocket camera.

Now, since my last gig venture with Bell X1 back in May, I have upgraded my point and shoot to the desired, Canon G12 and I have been putting it through its paces ever since. My hope was for a vast improvement over the 'not too bad' results from May but the first major obstacle this time was distance. Unlike the small venue of La Scala where I was in relative proximity to the stage, being way up in the Circle at the Apollo put me into 'max digital zoom only' zone - something I pointed out only last week, that I would only do if there was no alternative.
There was no alternative. So I set out to see what could be made from this situation.

Clearly I was not going to get the stunning close-up portrait pictures of a musician in mid-performance. Instead, this would be an exercise in recording the artist and event whilst providing a sense of place and atmosphere. By including the audience in the foreground of the image above, it gave more of a sense of the moment, rather than the 'publicity-style' images (1&2) shown before. Here she is clearly singing to her fans who had moved to the front, reinforcing her interatction with the audience.

The lighting was a constantly changing show, creating both atmosphere and difficulties with exposure but rather than fighting it, it was fun to find ways of making it work. Here, the radiating rays from an audience-facing spot, beautifully silhouetted and rim-lit a member of the audience. Due to the shallow depth of field offered by these lighting conditions, it rendered Tori Amos and her string quartet as an out of focus backdrop but the sharpness of the person helps us to consider the overall event.

The final image produces a dynamic between the audience and performer with the movement adding to the moment of the curtain call. This sort of image would not be complete without the light of the mini-media screens, glowing back to those behind. A glowing screen was something I was keen to avoid in an attempt to 1. Not draw attention to myself 2. Not annoy those around me. Thankfully, this was easily achievable as the screen on the G12 rotates shut, thus rendering it turned off. The 'old fasioned' view-finder, the presence of which was an important factor when choosing the camera, allowed continuation of composition. However, having the screen 'off' meant that it was actually impossible to review the images, but I could afford to take a chance with these 'trial' images. After all, these images were just for pleasure on this occasion.

So how do these compare with the images from May- using the factors from before.
1. P&S is still the way at events like this as generally, DSLRs aren't allowed, but if I get asked to photograph a gig then that is a different matter, and the DSLR would my camera of choice.
2. Camera support- no room for a tripod and with no alternative available support, all shots had to be hand held, and yes there were blurred reject shots.
3. More pixels now, so the chance of a clearer image
4. With the automatically selected ISO at 1600 the G12 gave more chance of hand-held images. Grain is far less of an issue in conditions such as these unlike the sharpness required for wildlife shots. However, grain with the G12 is dealt with far better than with my old p&s.
5. Flash, but of course not! Although there were those in the audience who failed to recognise the ineffective nature of it at times like this and still persisted in deploying flash.

Conclusion. Some acceptable record shots, but nothing worthy of being used commercially as they are just too distant and unclear. Some burning out of highlights but that could be an issue with almost any camera. Now just waiting for the opportunity to be up-front for some great close-up shots.

Of the camera- I take a little of my previous criticism back as the G12 tried really hard.
Of Tori Amos- must listen to more of her albums now.
Of the venue- I now know what it is like to be an insect on a sticky trap. Countless pints of beer spilled from the plastic cups, needlessly allowed into the auditorium had made the carpet into one big sticky ugh and I was glad to get outside onto the rainy pavement to cleanse my soles!