PhotoBeast

The Photography Blog from Beastmaster.co.uk

Looking At Bruges


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Looking At Bruges – 28th – 30th November 2014

On a bit of a sudden whim we decided to go to Bruges for the Christmas Markets that they have in several of their squares The journey to Folkestone is the hardest part of this trip by far, as once you are across the Channel it is only an hour and a half of easy driving and you are there. So we drove down to Mrs P’s Mum’s on Thursday night so that we could catch an early crossing on Friday morning and as it all went to plan we were in Bruges  at our hotel just after eleven. We had deliberately chosen somewhere within the city walls so that we would be able to easily walk around, but even so our satellite navigation in the Paceman effortlessly took us to the front door of the hotel.

The hotel was lovely and the black out curtains ensured perfect sleeps. We intended this  to be a lazy-ish break with shopping, eating and just enjoying the moment stuff and that was exactly what we did. Mrs P treated herself to a new pair of slipper boots from the  Christmas market which have made her gloriously happy ever since.  I enjoyed walking along stuffing warm waffles topped with cream and chocolate sauce into my mouth and grabbing the odd photograph along the way. We also bought some chocolate gifts mostly for Christmas and a seasonal tablecloth for Christmas Day Lunch. We passed on the ice-skating in the central marketplace as we have tried that before with mixed success. All in all  a lovely time walking and mooching although Lady P would not let me buy her the lovely Swarovski necklace I spotted and fell in love with. Too Elizabeth Taylor for her was her conclusion so she would never get a chance to wear it. Nonsense you could wear it at home cooking I countered but, it was an argument I was not going to win. Hey ho who cares she loves her Christmas bootie slippers and that’s what matters.

We had been looking for a clock for the living room for some time now without success, we had in mind a glass one, and as luck would have it we found just the thing in Bruges so it made a nice keepsake to bring home from our trip.

In summary then, we went to Bruges, bought a clock and had a great time. You should try it!

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The Imperial War Museum November 2014

We have been a bit lazy with our blogging lately and there is no real excuse. You might well think we had done nothing for the last few weeks but in fact we gave been quite busy and this is the first Sunday at home for a while, so now we have some time to post some pics and tell our tales.

Mrs P has been absorbed by World War Two in various guises. This started with a trip to the Tower to see the poppy display. It was only when she realised it was a temporary display and would be dismantled after Armistice Day that we made plans for the trip and as it also coincided with her son Duncan having a play put on for Halloween on the 1st November it would make a good weekend break.

We drove down to London to meet up with Duncan and see the poppies, which were quite breathtaking as the display was almost finished at this point and the sun was shining  brightly too. Although it was very busy, we got there in time to be able to enjoy the spectacle and take some pictures before the crowds got too much. It really was a moving spectacle and you can see the photos we took from the day here.

Then we wandered to St Katherine’s dock and had some lunch before heading to Ashtead to my cousin Lorraine’s house. In the evening we headed to the Selkirk in Tooting, to see Duncan’s play Fetch and have a drink afterwards. His play appropriately was a Ghost story and very entertaining it was too.

We had also wanted to visit the Imperial War Museum as we had read  about its recent renovation at huge expense and wanted to check it out, but couldn’t realistically do both in the same day. So we planned another trip for that sole purpose a couple of weeks later.  back to my cousin Lorraine’s in Ashtead, a train ride and a black cab ride and we were at the Imperial War Museum. Initially, we found the inside a bit confusing and disjointed but it grew on us after a while. The First World War exhibition was very impressive and our most memorable fact brought  home was that we now know why tanks are called tanks. We also spent some time in the art gallery looking at WW1 art and left thinking very few of the paintings of the time actually did justice to the horrors of the battlefield. Those that did seemed to be widely condemned at the time, but to our eyes leave a more lasting impression. All in all it was a very satsfying day well spent and Mrs P  had got the bug for modern history.

Returning home Mrs P found herself reading The Best Of Our Spies, by Alex Gurlis, this time based in WW2. What Mrs P reads is always a bit hit and miss as she only really pokes about in Amazons bargain Kindle selection. But this book was a cracker, very absorbing and focussing on the deception necessary for the Allied invasion of France in June 1944, something we were aware of as a passing occurrence, but not the extent to which it was played out. This story then was fiction played around certain real people and events.

Then to cap it all we have not long been to the pictures in Malvern to see Fury, the Brad Pitt film taking a snapshot of  the life of a tank sergeant in WW2. This film seems right from the start to be a very realistic portrayal of events and involved consultation with survivors from tank regiments, with real tanks gathered for the filming and even a very rare Tiger Tank. It was intended to be as real to life as possible and even for all its horrific brutality it was said that it was not considered to be as bad as the real thing. Very gritty, not pretty, but incredibly gripping and believable and you can understand why many survivors never spoke of what had happened when they got home.

So right now. modern history is big in this house and the visit to the Imperial War Museum certainly satiated some of this current appetite.


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A Weekend In Versailles

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Friday 3rd October to Sunday 5th October

A little trip to France
We decided at quite short notice that we would like to visit the Paris Motor Show, a trip we have done before, so the plan was pretty well sorted. But as we were late to the party there were no cabins on the overnight ferry so we went to stay with Peanut’s Mum in Ashford on Friday night and got up at some very silly hour to catch an early tunnel crossing.

So we had an early start straight after work on Friday night and suffered the ghastliness of a trip along the M5 and M25, which once again took longer than it should before we were finally in Ashford at about 8pm and had a late meal before an early night. We were up and off early in the morning and in France by 8 o’clock. We then had a completely trouble free journey to a car park we have used before, near the Paris Expo and a 20 minute walk to the Motor Show

And there we were straight in the door and face to face with the Mini stand. It was a very warm day and even Peanut wished she could take off her jumper. You can read a more thorough review of our day at the Motorshow on our sister site AutoBeast. Here though are a few snaps from the show.

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As the day wore on my feet started to feel the pinch by about 3.30 we had seen about as much as we wanted to see, so we made our way back to the car park stopping off at a café for a drink on the way. That however,wasn’t such a good idea as I thought because after the rest my feet were very painful and it was still a  fair way to the car park and Pea wasn’t going to carry me, so off we went. We had a smooth exit from the car park and soon found ourselves in Versailles at the Cheval Rouge Hotel which again we have visited before several times. As it was such a lovely evening, we strolled around the market in front of the hotel and then looked in some shops before  returning to our hotel to get showered and fresh for our meal.  We came across a few antique shops  on our stroll and for some reason I particularly liked the antique mirror below!

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Earlier Peanut had spotted a small restaurant she quite liked the look of so we headed there first in the evening, but after a short while a large family group arrived and sat next to us. We realised this would spoil our evening as they were very noisy before they started and we just could not hear each other talk, so we decided to leave, which is very unusual for us as we would normally put up with it and have a lousy time! But every moment is precious these days and much to the waitress’s dismay we left and found somewhere more peaceful further along the street. It was still busy but we could at least hear and talk to each other and the staks we ordered were delicious. For dessert I had what they described as a fine apple tart with vanilla ice cream. The slices of apple were indeed cut very fine and layered on a very thin pastry. It worked beautifully and was delicious. I flattened the cold ice cream and spread it over the top of the warm apple tart, Mmmm, have I said it was delicious?

We were not destined for a late night out on the town as we were both tired from being awake so early, so after our meal we trotted back to our hotel for a good sleep waking at the late hour of 9 o’clock the next morning which is unheard of for me.

Our plan was to explore the gardens at Versailles on Sunday morning as long as it wasn’t raining, so we packed up checked out and made our way to the Palace. We were both quite shocked at how much cooler it was after  the sunshine the day before. Rain was threatening but it stayed away and at least we had coats for all weathers. We were lucky enough to catch the morning fountain display with musical accompaniment which is only on for one hour in the mornings and again in the afternoon, although it took us a while to realise that there are many fountains in the gardens, all hidden away in little arbours and crannies. Whilst we might not have seen them all, we saw enough to get the idea. It is a vary magnificent garden but to us not exactly beautiful, as like the Palace itself it is actually too big, too imposing and too daunting. We have been to Fontainbleu in the past and that has a much more beautiful quality about it, although even that is not a small place. Similarly, for us the likes of Chambord, Villandry, and Chenonceau in the Loire valley all have gardens more to our taste. However, here are a few shots of the fountains and the gardens.

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We stopped for a quick drInk before setting off for the tunnel and home. We had another very uneventful journey as you so often do on French motorways and arrived in perfect time for our crossing. On the train we got chatting to a Mini Classic owner who was coming back from a trip to Monte Carlo organised by the Mini Cooper Register – Minis to Monte – which made the journey pass quickly and he tried to get us to think about coming on their trip next year to Ireland. He was not a new MINI hater as he had once had a GP himself and wished he had never sold it, but next September for us is a long way off.


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Why Do I Take Photographs And What Is My Style?

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I have always enjoyed taking photographs but over the last ten years or so I have got a bit more serious, probably from when I bought my first DSLR a Canon 400D. Over the last 2 years I have moved away from the DSLR to Fuji’s mirrorless camp with a Fuji X-E1 and  a Fuji X-M1. Shortly after this we joined our local camera club, the Beacon Camera Club. Moving to a more portable, lightweight system in the Fuji, married to the retro rangefinder like styling and I found my enthusiasm for photography massively reinvigorated. With this renewed enthusiasm, coupled with our joining of the local camera club, we (my wife and I) began to question why exactly we take photographs and do we have a particular style? A chance conversation at work and I was asked to bring in some old photos from when I was younger and duly went through the old box to find photos of me from various stages of my younger life and I enjoyed looking at the old photographs from my past. The topic  of why we take photographs was touched upon at the camera club and the overall conclusion seems to be, take photographs for your own pleasure. I accept this, but I have felt compelled to explore this to perhaps “find my own style” or my special niche if you like, so I would like to explore this a little in the following paragraphs, as my photographic journey from complete novice to the lofty heights of “keen amateur” (my current self appointed ranking) has seen a lot of changes that have impacted on the photographs that myself and Peanut take.

Along the journey from novice to keen amateur a fundamental change has occurred in our photographs. Initially our photos were snaps, often of each other or sometimes us together, but as we became serious about photography we began to remove ourselves from the photos and a proliferation of epic landscapes, macro photos of flowers, street scenes from holiday destinations began to appear in their place. Photos of cars and watches appeared to complement features we might blog on those subjects. Without doubt the photographs had improved immeasurably from the novice days and yet they had also lost something, they were impersonal – we were not in the photos and yet these were supposedly our memories?

Somewhere along our photographic journey we had answered the very fundamental question of why do we take photographs? For us it was to diarise our lives and adventures, recording all the places we visit for holidays, or days out or with car clubs. It was to use the photographs to enhance short blogs or diary entries if you prefer, describing our holidays or days out and so on. A nice set of photos would accompany the writings and for us they have been great to look back on. And yet they lack something. What they lack is the personal. Four days in Venice will produce lots of views of Venice but only two or three shots of us in Venice, and you know what? When I look back at our Venice pictures my favourite is The snap above taken on my camera by a bloke I passed the camera to, so that he could photograph us! When a friend in work asked me to bring old pictures in, she wanted to see me as a young man, not a photograph of the Everglades that I had taken in 1980! And when I look back at my photographs, I want to see us back in ’93, or ’97 or 2005, not the car we were driving then, but us. How thin we were, how fat we were, how happy we were. Whatever, but we wanted to see us. Our journey then to the lofty heights of “keen amateur” has then resulted in some great but impersonal photographs.

Without meaning to sound cynical, it seems to me that almost everyone with a DSLR these days sees themselves as a great photographer, on the verge of becoming professional. But look on Flickr or 500PX and see how many brilliant photographers there are, it is very hard these days to make a living from photography and most of us will just be keen amateurs or gifted amateurs. Nothing wrong in that by the way, but that is why the best reason is “for your own pleasure”! In my case, my reason for taking photos is compatible with this but I now realise that my execution of this goal has been compromised by my efforts to be a better photographer, as so many of my photographs now lack the personal.

As a photographer I don’t specialise in any one field, such as landscape or wild life or portrait and I have never really found my own style either, I like black and white, I like colour, I like photos with a film like quality, so I guess I imitate the best in these genres. A recent speaker at the camera club coined a wonderful phrase for this – Karaoke Photography. It was meant dismissively but it really stuck in my mind and I have adopted it to describe my photography. The other phrase I have come up with is “Posh Snaps” because really it is the snap shots, the selfies that have longevity and the wider appeal. If you don’t believe me try a social media experiment; put your best landscape up on Facebook then put up a selfie or you and your friends and see which gets the most likes and comments.

To conclude then in our case we photograph primarily to diarise  but sometimes to improve our abilities, and our style is best described as Karaoke Photography / Posh Snaps. Have fun asking yourself these questions.

Car Events 2104 – Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb 20th September

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Originally posted on AutoBeast:

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Shelsley Walsh – Autumn Speed Finale

Even though the season is drawing to a close, there has been a capacity entry received for the final two meetings of the year at  Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb this weekend. (20/21st SEPT)

Entitled ‘Autumn Speed Finale’ the two separate one-day events saw the usual mix of sports, classic, saloons and racing cars taking part, as well as nearly 30 motorcycles, with several championships reaching their final crucial stages.

Saturday hosted the BARC SBD Speed Championship, The HSA Speed Championship, the SSCC Championship, the Revington TVR Championship, the Service Hydraulics Speed Championship and the Classic Marques Handicap Challenge, while Sunday saw extra classes for an entry of 11 Morgans, 13 Austin Healeys and a dozen Ferraris.

We had the opportunity to go as press photographers courtesy of our local camera club Beacon Camera Club in Great Malvern. This gave us free entry to the…

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Blog A Pic – Balloon Ride Over Worcester and Droitwich Aug 2014

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Balloon Ride. Monday 4th August 2014

It has long been a wish of Mrs P to go for a balloon ride and it had been put off for far too long. Well we don’t put things off any more so it was booked and paid for when we came back from holiday. The first attempt was cancelled due to bad weather, which is not an unusual occurrence for these things. What was unusual was that our second attempt was successful, as some of our fellow travellers in the balloon had waited two years and 12 attempts to get lucky!

So 6.30 saw us at Pitchcroft Racecourse in Worcester where the balloon was laid out ready. Although the evening had been glorious, when we arrived there were some dark clouds hovering around and our pilot wanted to wait for them to clear if possible. So we had a natter to a chap with a helicopter drone with a GoPro attached, who was playing with his toy and hoping to get some good footage of the balloon taking off. It was absolutely fascinating and the gimbal attaching the camera to the helicopter gave perfect control and stability for the camera. A very tempting new hobby but then I began to think about how much I would actually fly it and decided that another Fuji camera might be a better way to spend money I haven’t got!

Eventually we had to set off or it would  have been too dark to fly, so we were told what would happen and instructed on how and when to get in the basket, which is not as easy as you might think. Then the balloon was inflated with cold air to fill it up and once it was fairly full the burner was turned on. The balloon then filled more and rose whilst the basket stood up, we all had to clamber in our places in the basket and  then we were off!

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It was not a bit scary and for Mrs P the basket was nearly up to her chin, so we felt very safe in its confines. We slowly rose off the racecourse and drifted across the houses and streets, it was not windy or cold, just gentle and magical and as we flew over the rooftops we waved to people below as the dogs barked madly along our route, spooked by the noise of the burner. We took some pre-packed glasses of wine that we had bought in France to toast our voyage, as you can see above.  We flew over fields of sheep and on towards  Droitwich where we dropped very low over the houses and could talk to the folk below. One thing I was not expecting was the excitement and joy that the low flying balloon caused. It was a very special feeling to be the cause of so much excitement and joy. Children chased us, waving and cheering, people in their cars stopped and took pictures through their sunroofs, we even shouted down to a couple in their hot tub, telling them to get ready as I threatened to dive in! In fact everyone seemed very pleased to see us and it made us feel like Mary Poppins.

We flew on and our pilot soon began to plan his descent. They try not to land in a field of crops as it tends to annoy the farmer, as does landing amongst animals. In our case he managed to find a hay field newly cut which was perfect and to seal the deal they carry a bottle of whisky for the farmer. The Landrovers followed our journey and caught up with us once we had landed. Then the balloon had to be packed up and loaded onto the trailer, which was a job that involved everyone as by now it was getting dark. Once done we all piled into the Landrovers and were taken back to the Racecourse.

It was a truly magical evening, every bit as perfect as Mrs P had imagined it would be and for me something that I might never have done without her wish to do so. It was a wonderful evening and as I watched Mrs P bound over the rows of hay in the field where we landed I felt immensely happy that we had made this dream of hers come true. Anyway click on the photo below to see more pictures from the adventure.

Click on The Image Below to see a Slideshow of all the photos from the day.

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