Over to you, La Galerie ..

I thought I’d hand today’s blog over to La Galerie, our gîte in Loubillé, France .. and it can let you know how it’s getting on. (What do you mean, a gîte can’t write? I’ll have you know our gaff does its own ‘Gîte Tweets‘! ..

‘Hi Martin, and thanks for letting me take over your blog today. It’s a great opportunity for me to tell you how busy I’ve been lately. At the moment I have an English family staying with me – they’ve been here for quite a few weeks now as they’re in the middle of buying their own house in France. It’s been lovely to give them somewhere to call ‘home’ whilst they get everything organised, and such fun to host their pets, as dogs are always welcome here. Next week I have a French family staying with me. A couple from Normandy are staying for a week with their parents from La Rochelle. Really looking forward to meeting them, and I’ll soon be buying wine, bread and other goodies to make up their Welcome Basket.

I’ve had a bit of ‘tarting up’ done in my front garden, and now have a lovely private gravel drive for my guests to park on. A new set of garden furniture and a lick of paint on my walls and shutters is on the cards too, now that the weather’s perking up. (It’s going to be 26 degrees later this week. Good job I have a cooling ceiling fan in my spacious lounge!)

Yes, spring is making itself known all around me. At the moment I’m surrounded by gorgoeus fields of yellow rape-seed, and buds, blossom and fresh lime green leaves are appearing everywhere. It won’t be long until I’m back to my full summer loveliness. Lots of wildlife is reappearing, too. Hundreds of cranes flew over my head on their way back north, and a hoopoe called in yesterday. I have goldfinches, skylarks, black redstarts and long-tailed tits twittering above my head and birds of prey hovering in the fields around me. The swifts and house martins are back and, for the last two mornings, I’ve heard a cuckoo calling from the nearby woods.  I often spot deer and hares in the fields, and lots of butterflies are starting to enjoy my garden.
 
My friend ‘Entre-Pote’, the local bar in the village, has thrown some great party nights recently, to which my guests are always welcome. They do a great line in lunchtime meals, too. I’m so lucky to have this lively place just around the corner.

My owner (Yes you, Martin) had a busy day recently when he staged a ‘Photo-Walk’ around the village, teaching keen amateur photographers how to use their cameras. The photographs here are some that my owner took yesterday. Don’t forget he offers One-Day camera workshops for anyone that stays with me. What a great way to spend a day of your holiday.

I’m lucky to be surrounded by some gorgeous chateaux, and they’re all busy dusting down and opening up after their winter breaks. The cycling’s getting good too, now that the weather’s improving. If you don’t want to bring over your bikes, don’t forget I can organise ‘wheels’ for you when you’re here. 

My bookings are looking good for the summer, although I still have some dates available. Check out my web-site for availability.

Thanks again, Martin. Maybe I can give you another update in the summer? Ciao for now. La Galerie x’

Brilliant. Thanks for the update and yes, catch you in the summer. Have a great Spring!

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I spit on you ..

Blackbird2ArchiveThere’s a chance you played that ‘drinking game’ the last time you watched a film. You know the one? You take a drink every time someone on the screen has one. Depending on the movie, there’s a good chance you could end up being completely sloshed. Well yesterday I played the ‘spitting game’. I watched two football matches back to back and decided I’d spit every time I saw a footballer spit. Every goddam time there was a close-up of a player – or Pep Guardiloa, come to that – they coughed up a lovely big ball of snot. And full marks to subs Fabregas and Gabriel Jesus, both filmed spitting before they even got on the bleedin’ pitch. Put me right off my family bag of Maltesers, it did. And what am I supposed to do with two and a half gallons of saliva?..

Man of the land ..

There’s an old photographic adage – and if there isn’t there should be – that says you should always photograph what you’re given so, yesterday, in the absence of a Wedding or a PR shoot, I shot what was in front of me, namely the stunning French countryside. The funny thing is that landscape photography has never really ‘done it’ for me before. I’ve looked at shots of hills and lakes and mountains and, I’m afraid, shrugged and said ‘So what?’ .. but yesterday something started to click. I was only out for an hour on my bike but photographs started to jump out at me all over the place. The setting sun, a returning flock of lapwings, autumn leaves dropping from the trees as new crops nudged their heads out from the delicious chocolate coloured soil .. it was incredible. And it was the exact opposite to the way I’ve always worked, with newspaper deadlines and hungry brides dictating the speed at which I’ve needed to work. More than that, I actually enjoyed myself and I’m really happy with the results. Expect more of the same, folks. I’m hooked ..

Lady Di ..

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It’s time to mark the anniversary of the death of Lady Di, and I’m sure I’m not the only person wondering where the last twenty years have gone. At least I was lucky enough to photograph The Princess on a couple of occasions but it made me think of the changes in photography over that period. I mean, just look at my shots. They’re in black and white! They’re in black and white and I had to take my film to a darkroom to get it processed before I could see what shots I’d got. Man, that’s so last century! It’s no wonder 18 year olds look at me as if I’m an antique!! ..

Plane crazy ..

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Heading home on Ryanair and yes, believe it or not, both these shots were taken on the same small 90 minute flight back from France to Manchester. No prizes for guessing which shot is Manchester. In fact, one little girl behind me asked her Mum “Why is it not sunny at England?”..

I’ve always loved aircraft, and taking photographs of aircraft, and just plain old standing and gawping at aircraft. As a lad I used to catch the number 500 bus to Ringway Airport, as Manchester was then called, just to stand on the roofs of the termini for a couple of hours watching and snapping the jets. And yes, you were allowed to stand on them in ‘the old days’ – right above the gates and mere feet from the jet-fuel smell and the screeching engines. It was great ..

Thing is, I never got to go on a jet until I was 18. My parents simply couldn’t afford to take us anywhere. And I know that plane-spotting isn’t everybody’s cup of tea but when I left for France last week I saw the saddest sight I’ve seen in a long time. Ok, keep it in context but ..

.. as I was at the gate, waiting to board, I was back to being 15 and excitedly watching all the aircraft taxiing past me. A plane I didn’t immediately recognise was identified for me by an app on my phone, and I was delighted to realise I was looking at my first Airbus A350. I strained my neck to watch it disappear around the corner then looked down to see .. a boy of about ten, with his back to the jets, playing games on a tablet. I almost threw up on him ..

Anyway, gotta go dust off my 500mm mirror lens. I’m off to the International Air Tattoo this Sunday..

Car Insurance .. a crash-course!

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It’s been an interesting start to my day ..

I needed to renew my car insurance, so rang for a chat with the company who currently insure me. A new policy, they said, would be £205 more than it was last year.  “What?” .. I said, er .. politely “How come?” ..

“Well ..” said the lovely chap in the call centre “It seems that, last year, your insurance was underwritten by the Co-op, and they don’t seem to want you any more!” When I asked why not he said it could be because of my job.
“My job?” .. I said, protectively.
“Well, yes ..” he said “They’ve probably seen ‘Freelance Photographer‘ and lumped you in with all the “Lady Di paparazzi” types! Your occupation is right up there with the most risky types like .. journalists!”
What?” I gasped “Not that crazy bastard loony driver bunch. No way ..”

He chuckled and I heard his keyboard tapping again “There’s something else ..” he said, and I gulped.”You have the highest risk car on the entire list!”

(At this point he must have felt a bit sorry for me, as he added “You’re not having much luck here, are you?”)

“What do you mean, the highest risk car?” I asked.
“Well ..” he said “You have your Ford Ka kind of thing .. that’s down at level one for risk. A BMW 5 Series is at level 50. Your car ..” he said, building up the tension ” .. is level 61 !!!”

I thanked him for his time and went to an online comparison site, putting in exactly the same details as he had on the old policy. I’ve got a great new policy now, for £10 less than I paid last year.

It’s with .. the Co-op!

Back at ya ..

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I pulled a muscle in my back last week, causing pain sufficient for me to go to the doctor. Nothing, though, has been able to wipe the smile from my face these past few days. Firstly because I’ve had another great weekend .. with two fun family portrait shoots, and a ‘Shoot ‘n Tutor’ photography workshop on Saturday afternoon. Thing is, all the sessions had an extra glow about them as I’d had some great news beforehand ..

The first piece of news was that I’ve had a Wedding enquiry .. for St Tropez!! .. and the second was that another of my clients has said that – once I’ve moved to France – they’d be happy for me to return to the UK to shoot their bigger events. It’s so reassuring to know that my PR work won’t cease once I move abroad ..

I’ve had some fantastic feedback from Weddings and portrait shoots, too. “Gorgeous” was the verdict from one young Mum on her daughter’s photographs and “He was lovely and everyone commented on how great he was, and how funny he was” was from another of “my brides ..

Sorry if this blog sounds a bit “braggy’ ..

My back still hurts, if that’s any consolation! ..

All at sea ..

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It’s all getting very real! Our move to France has stepped up a gear now that we’ve started getting quotes from removal companies to ship all our gear across the Channel. Another two months and all our worldly goods will be boxed, packed, wrapped and on a big lorry heading for South-West France.

This, of course, brings up the big question of what exactly we take over with us. Do I really need that old copy of the NME from 1985? Yes, of course, it’s got The Smiths on the cover. And that advertising brochure for the Nikon FE2 from ’83? Naturally! That’s part of my photographic history. And so it goes on. I have managed to throw out one or two things. There are only so many copies of The Face and Spin magazine that a man needs but, apart from that, I’m finding it very, very hard to part with any of my past. Perhaps I might start thinking differently once the quotes start coming in ..

Sunshine after the rain ..

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Like the Tory manifesto, this morning’s blog was going to be full of light and goodness, of hope and optimism, of the feel-good factor ..

.. and now I just feel like having a grumble!

Firstly, because of the weather. I awoke to pouring rain on a day when my car is going to have its air-conditioning re-gassed – for the intolerable high temperatures, don’t ya know – and on a day when I’ve got to wait in for the delivery of an inflatable plunge-pool to take to France – for the intolerable etc., etc., etc …
Oh, the irony ..

And then there’s the fact that I’ve just had some emails from a hotel at which I shot a Wedding recently. “Can you send us some of your shots for a booklet we want to produce?” they asked. “Of course” I said, and mentioned a repro price that was sensible yet reflected my undoubted skill, artistry and genuis vision (!) “Oh, we’ll leave it then” they said “We thought you’d supply them free of charge” ..

I shall leave a pause here for you to imagine the angriness ..

And so to today’s photograph. What has it to do with the blog? Sod all, but I shot it in France so it makes me feel better. Oooh, the sun’s coming out ..

Get in there ..

Doreen couldn’t have expressed her feelings any more clearly when she married Graham on Saturday and do you know what? .. that’s exactly how I felt yesterday when I got my first ever booking for a shoot in France. Yes, I’m booked for a job in France! Bloody brilliant!..

Anyway, first things first. I shot the Wedding of Graham and Doreen on Saturday and had a blast. They were so much fun and much to my relief we managed to get all our shots done outside despite the threatening thunder rumbles.
Check them out here ..

And then yes .. I got my first booking for a shoot in France, and will be heading over again next month to photograph three gîtes for website and advertising purposes. I am so thrilled. This is where my work needs to take me as I aim to be living there full-time by September. So thank you Doreen, for expressing my feelings exactly ..