Hooray for XA! ..

I dusted down one of my old Olympus XA cameras last weekend, took it to the Southport Air Show and pointed it at .. people! Got some nice pix, too! (Click the montage to get a closer look!) Oh, yes .. this is what I’ve been missing! The kind of close up, in yer face photography that I shot so much of in the past. Now, I almost steer away from it. The fear of getting whalloped, attacked or called a paedo has kept my camera in my pocket and my self-value as a street photographer in the waste basket! I’ve just not dared do it, to be honest. I’ve not dared shoot the kind of photography that I shot all the time in ‘the olden days’! The days when you weren’t thought of as sleazy because you wanted to photograph someone, the days when a subject thought it was practically a form of flattery to be asked to pose, or to be amused if they ‘clocked’ me taking their photograph. I filled a book with shots like those – Don’t Miss This, available in the foyer! – and, guess what, I intend to fill another one now! I’ve priced up dev and scan at Asda, and I’ve started ordering film in five packs. Oh, yes! Da boy is back! The Olympus is back. Hooray for XA!..

Advertisements

Just in time for .. October!

I heard an ad on the radio yesterday for one of those ubiquitous sofa companies, proudly boasting that orders were guaranteed to be ready in time for Christmas!

I should bloody well think so, boys! It’s September!..

Anyway, I’ve had Christmas on my mind these past few days, as I’ve been designing an album from a Wedding at Peckforton Castle on December 23rd last year. Now, I see a lot of photographers’ blogs that basically just consist of a huge selection of photographs! One never-ending line of shots from a single Wedding. An easy way of blogging but then, I suppose, also a great way to show off one’s work to the general public. So, for once, I thought that’s what I’d do, too! I’m showing you a selection of pages from this album. The Wedding Day itself was one of non-stop rain and murk – so all the photographs were shot inside. (You can see a few more from The Big Day here!) Anyway, Emma and James emailed me their choice of photographs only last week, and their album is being printed as we speak! Ready by Christmas? Dude! Try October! ..

Actually, we own the hall ..

Actually, we own the hall ..

The first time I ever photographed a Wedding at Willington Hall I noticed the field next to it had just been mown. It made a fantastic pattern. “Grab your champers .. ” I told the bride and groom “.. and take a hike into that there field!” They did, and this was the result. Some time later another couple came to see me about photographing their Wedding at Willington. “We saw you at work..” they said “.. when you photographed the couple in the field” “Ah .. ” I said ” .. so you were guests at that Wedding?” “No ..” they replied ” .. we own the hall…!”

They booked me and I shot their Wedding a year later. A little bit of trumpet-blowing there, should you happen to be going to Willington’s Wedding Fayre this Sunday…

Hanging around ..

Amazing what you can find on the web these days .. ho, ho! This is a spider who’s set up home outside our back door, shot on my favourite lens – the Nikkor 85mm 1.8 – and, for me, it’s a shot that sums up the past few days. I’ve just been hanging around, basically! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a couple of cool shoots in the studio,  a PR job for an Estate Agent and a lovely new booking for a Wedding next August but, overall, things seem to have gone into slow motion. It’s just that quiet time between the end of Summer and the beginning of Autumn. Neither one thing or the other…

Still, let’s hope things start to gear up after Sunday, when I’m doing my one and only Wedding Fayre of the season. I’ll be at one of my favourite venues, Willington Hall, in Cheshire. By all accounts the other fayres in the series have been doing very well, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a good show. Lots of brides! That’s what we want! After all, there’s nothing worse than going to a Wedding Fayre and just hanging around ..

Stepping up to the base ..

I’ve never been good at sport! I admit it, I hold my hand up! When the footy captains picked sides before a game when I was at school I was always the last person to be chosen. “Oh..” one chisel-jawed skipper would say to the other “You can have him!” “No..” the second wind-swept stud would say “It’s ok! You have him…”  So imagine my delight when I got picked last night to play a league badminton match at the club I play at. Ok, I was substitute on the D team .. and I’m not joking .. but it all counts and, for the record, I lost five games BUT WON ONE!..

The thing is, playing in a ‘proper’ match gave last night’s games such an exciting ‘real’ edge – a thrilling purpose I’ve just never got from playing at my usual level. It was ‘do or die’ .. in or out! Well, I was out, obviously, but it made me think how exciting it is to be a Wedding Photographer. I think Wedding Photography is the only thing in my life that really gets the adrenalin going. The only thing that’s ‘real’, ‘do or die’ .. in or out! Of course, all my photography gets me excited, but it’s not all at the same high-speed, ever-changing, get-it-right right now level! I get such a buzz from shooting Weddings. Just as well, ‘cos I don’t think I’ll be getting another call from the club anytime soon ..

Ps: Today’s picture is from 1979, when I went to White Hart Lane to cover Altrincham FC’s amazing 1-1 draw against Spurs in the FA Cup. Spurs walloped them in the replay! I just liked the analogy!…

©Martin O’Neill 2014

Byline, Libya ..

Well, whaddya know? You’re not all depraved, slobbering perverts, after all. My ‘lesbian hooker’ experiment has proved it! Following the mega-hits I got after blogging ‘Pin-up girls..’ I tried giving Friday’s blog a mischievous, kinky title and .. guess what? I had fewer hits than I normally get! Yes, fewer!..

Very interesting, and from now on all my blogs will have erudite, sophisticated titles like wot today’s has ..

By sheer chance I reached for one of my old scrapbooks on Friday and it opened at this page, featuring a press story I covered that involved a trip to sunny Libya.
It was twenty years ago to the day! How incredible .. and how on earth have twenty years gone by so quickly? It certainly was an adventure and a half, with myself and a reporter taking 14 hour ferry journeys from Malta to Tripoli and back – there were no flights into the city back then – only to find that the subjects of our story – women whose children had been ‘kidnapped’ by their Libyan fathers – had been ‘got at’ by a TV channel and they wouldn’t play ball with us! I ended up – as you can see – taking mainly snatch distance shots at night – with flash – before we were told to go on our way ..  and they didn’t say please! Of course, this was still in the days of film, so I had to wait until we’d arrived back in Manchester – and then hang on until the film was processed – before I could see what I’d actually got.
Well, we made the lead story in the paper that day – even getting back in time to make the lunchtime edition – and very happy I was with the result. The only downer? They’d bylined the writer .. and not me! I was furious, and immediately rang the office to complain. They managed to squeeze in a tiny name-check for the evening edition. Byline Libya! Happy .. 

Pin-up girls ..

Loving all this stuff on TV lately about Debbie Harry and Kate Bush. I never could decide which of them I fancied more! In the flat I shared with my Dad I had a poster of Debbie on the front room wall and a poster of Kate on the door (The one where she was in the shiny blue leotard. Phwoar!) I know my Dad would have been much happier if they were pictures of Tammy Wynette and Billy-Jo Spears but I beat him to it and, as far as I remember, Country and Western posters weren’t a very big seller in sunny 1978!..

It was whilst I was looking for a shot I took of the ‘Debbie’ poster that I came across this old picture of a girl in our office called Karen. That’s all I can remember – just Karen. Before I got my first job on a newspaper I worked in the Progress Office of Gardner Diesels in Eccles, and Karen sat directly in front of me working as a typist. She must have been 19 or 20 when I was 17 so, to me, she was the absolute height of sophistication and the pin-up fantasy of practically every bloke in the factory! How envious they all must have been when I asked her if she’d let me take some photographs of her, and it must have taken the timorous young O’Neill an age to come up with a classic pose like this one! Still, it was all about learning my trade, and growing the confidence that has stood me in good stead from that day to this. I wonder what Karen’s been doing these past 37 years!..

Pin-up girls ..

Loving all this stuff on TV lately about Debbie Harry and Kate Bush. I never could decide which of them I fancied more! In the flat I shared with my Dad I had a poster of Debbie on the front room wall and a poster of Kate on the door (The one where she was in the shiny blue leotard. Phwoar!) I know my Dad would have been much happier if they were pictures of Tammy Wynette and Billy-Jo Spears but I beat him to it and, as far as I remember, Country and Western posters weren’t a very big seller in sunny 1978!..

It was whilst I was looking for a shot I took of the ‘Debbie’ poster that I came across this old picture of a girl in our office called Karen. That’s all I can remember – just Karen. Before I got my first job on a newspaper I worked in the Progress Office of Gardner Diesels in Eccles, and Karen sat directly in front of me working as a typist. She must have been 19 or 20 when I was 17 so, to me, she was the absolute height of sophistication and the pin-up fantasy of practically every bloke in the factory! How envious they all must have been when I asked her if she’d let me take some photographs of her, and it must have taken the timorous young O’Neill an age to come up with a classic pose like this one! Still, it was all about learning my trade, and growing the confidence that has stood me in good stead from that day to this. I wonder what Karen’s been doing these past 37 years!..

Bak to skool ..

School’s in for Autumn .. as Alice Cooper never sang (Hasn’t got quite the same ring to it, has it?) .. and already poor old Lesley’s commute to work has just got half an hour longer! Oh, for the days when kids walked to school, through all kinds of weather, getting fresh air and fit as they frollicked! Unfortunately, though, I can imagine a stream of modern pupils – sorry, students, as they all seem to be called these days – all slobbing along at a mile an hour, earphones in, heads down and focussed on their ‘phones!..

I have but one thing to thank my school for, and it’s obviously not grammar! No, I thank my school for its camera club, which I joined at age 13 and which got me hooked on this photography lark – so much so that by the time I left school at 15 I was the sole remaining member of the club – even the teacher had packed it in! – and I was the proud keeper of the keys to the darkroom, which meant that, instead of studying in the biology class, I was locked next door, developing film and printing those early masterpieces that have led to my world-wide fame, fortune and notoriety as a ..

Hmm, back to school there, then …

Bending over backwards ..

September, and I’m already thinking about my Autumn Weddings. Working around the weather, in other words .. and I certainly got a taste of that during Friday’s Wedding at Mere Court. It rained all day, basically! Couldn’t do anything outside apart from a few brave shots of the bride and groom under one of my brollies. Still, as you can see, we managed to shoot the ‘Handstand’ shot that I was asked for, so all is good in the wacky world of Weddings!..

It just goes to show how right I am when I tell a bride and groom that the weather won’t affect the enjoyment of their Wedding Day. On Friday, a bad crash in the rain caused an hour’s delay to the start of the Wedding and, as I say, the weather prevented most of the guests from going outside for photographs, but it didn’t spoil the day one jot for Victoria and Michael. It did mean a lot of scurrying about for yours truly, though! In bad weather, at this particular venue, it’s usually possible to use their conservatory for group photographs. Not so on Friday! The room was being turned around to host the reception. Plan C then! There’s a little room to the side that works well for shots but, once again, I was scuppered at this Wedding as the room was already being used for a small family get-together. I had to rapidly come up with a Plan D! Plan D was to shift a bunch of tables and chairs in the bar to make a little studio between the guests in which I could work. It worked, and we got all the group shots in a few minutes flat! See? It’s true! A good Wedding photographer always bends over backwards to get the shots ..