31 March 11

Posted at 9:00

A week or so ago the town of Wootton Bassett was awarded the title Royal, joining other 'Royal' towns like Lemington Spa and Tunbridge Wells. Wootton Bassett was awarded this title in recognition of the part it has played in dignifying the repatriation of our troops killed in action in Afghanistan and Iraq. The nws about the award reminded me that last August I visited a reptriation to shoot a 'reportage' record of an event that has become an all too common part of our recent history. Here are a few of my images and a brief insight.

Early on Parade

The day starts early for some. Local and not so local ex servicemen arrive in the town early in the morning. They are extremely proud men. I also arrived early and found, by talking to these gents, that the press are pretty much hated in the town for the way the increasingly intrude on families and friends grief. With a pro camera round my neck it was initially assumed I was 'one of them' and I had a cold reception. I soon broke the ice and got the message across that I was not working for the Sun or worse still the Mail but I was there to learn about and record the whole day and had no intenetion of sensationalising personal grief. Within a short while I was approved by the towns elders.

The Regulars

These two chaps attend every repatriation they can. The one on the right has attended all 135 (including this day 5th August 2010 which was the 135th).

Wootton Bassett Memorial

This is where and why the cortege stops for a minutes (actually about fifteen minutes) silence. The repatriated serviceman land at RAF Lyneham and have to pass through Wooton Bassett to get to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. In April 2007 the first repatriation slowed for respect as it past the church and then stopped again at this memorial. The memorial itself has an interesting history. A local teenager Jan Cunningham campaigned for five years to have a memorial erected in the main street to commemorate those who fell in the two world wars. Jan raised £30k and the memorial was erected in October 2004 - little did they know then it would take on such a different role a couple of years later.


During the day the crowds increase, the bikers arrive (more on that later) the families and friends arrive as do comrades, the public and the media. Then as the cortege arrive the whole town falls silent.



The two images above require no words. What is amazing is the hundreds gathered  there visually share the grief. I had tears streaming. The silence goes on, it is humbling and haunting. Once the hurses have had every last wreath and flower put on their rooves they very slowly proceed. They dont accelerate until they are right out of the town. The silence continues and the public do not move or speak until the relatives have adjourned to their cars or the pub.It's an age before the town returns to any form of normality

Legion Riders

What I hadn't realised is the whole Wootton Bassett repatriation is organised by the British Legion Riders, again I'd never heard of them. Visually they are like any other gang of bikers, big hairy guys dressed in leather and with a variety of shiny motorbikes. The difference is these are all ex servicemen and they are one of the most active and fund generating arms of the Royal British Legion. On the day they appear to co-ordinate things, liaise with families and friends and generally add to the occasion. Talking to them it is clear that they attract interest in the Legion from currently serving troops as they can identify with biking a lot more than the traditional fuddy duddy impression or the British Legion. As ever the media seem to ignore good news about a gang of bikers doing so much good.

Whe RAF Lynham closes next year and Brize Norton airport is used the route to Oxford will no longer pass through Wootton Bassett. It will be the end of an era in our history. 

I am pleased I attended the repatriation of Marine Adam Brown and Lance Sergeant Dale McCullum, it opened my eyes to many things. I have no great interest in the military or the current conflicts but the day gave me an insight to generations of people for whom service and conflict is their life - and in some cases death. It also gave me the chance to experience a spectacle that is so quitessentially British.


Kilto Take

28 March 11

Posted at 6:50

I thought I'd keep the music photography theme going today by including some images from a shoot I did last night. Kilto Take are a local band Three talented musicians who appear to be getting a well deserved break. Last night they headlined a media showcase at the O2 Islington. Fortunately for me they were on quite late - the gig started at 1830 and featured about nine bands. Early yesterday morning I set off for Brighton to take part in a Brighton Rocked photo shoot - a series of shoots covereing the forties, fifties, sixties and some Film Noir all based around the movie Brighton Rock. More on that in the future, my point is I started the day getting up at 0500, catching a train (well initially a bus, engineering works!) at 0610 and arriving in Brighton at about 0930. I left Brighton about 1300 for home, chilled for a while and then set off on the train again for Islington. 

Around 2300 Kilto Take started their set. I had shot one or two of the previous bands and spent a little time on Upper Street observing the many remaining Scottish football supporters many of who were not surprisingly, shall we say, intoxicated by the occasion or maybe by alcohol! Anyway this was my first live music shoot since last weeks workshop so I was eager to put in place the new ideas in my head. I've posted the first three images I processed today, they along with quite a few more are now winging their way to the band,their PR company and record label. Some will no doubt make my website when I get around to updating it!

You can get a feel for Kilto Take last night from this independant blogger

I got back home around 0200, a most enjoyable 21 hour day!

Kilto Take

Jon Crosby

Karl Grant


A Music Photography Workshop with Steve Gerrard

26 March 11

Posted at 1:09

Article Thieves 2

On 23rd February I attended a Music Photography Workshop run by Steve Gerrard What a fantasic experience it was. It was so enjoyable.

Steve is laid back and really open and add to that he's a top geezer. He really knows his stuff and shares his knowledge in a really friendly way. We went through the history, theory

and realities of music photography with loads of anecdotes and experiences from Steve. After lunch we did a promo shoot for a local unsigned band Article Thieves. Then Steve took

us through how he would edit and process such a shoot. Above and below are my attempts at putting into practice what I learnt on the day. Whatever standard they might be one

thing for sure is that they would have been far worse had I not attended the workshop. Thanks Steve.

Article Thieves 3

Article Thieves 4

Article Thieves 5

Article Thieves 1


I'm A Person Too !

25 March 11

Posted at 1:00

I'm A Person Too

Last Friday I spent the day photographing people involved in the charity I'm A Person Too (IP2). They are a group within the charity Stand Up For Selef Advocacy. The purpose of the shoot was to create a library of images that will be used on the new IP2 website, used in promotional material etc. The charity is moving into new premises in Rotherham from what I gather is a small and rundown location at present. We used the new location for the shoot. The charity is populated by a broad cross section of people all with learning difficulties. 'Learning difficulties' is something of a catch all phrase and covers people with very small difficulties right across the spectrum to some people with a lot of challenges. Before meeting the folk on Friday, together with the people who organise and run the charity, I hadn't really grasped what it was all about. The penny very soon dropped though. It is clear that 'we' people without learning difficulties don't recognise how we should act to be sure we don't further disadvantage those who face challenges that we do not. This particularly applies if we are in a position of public service of any kind - doctors, policemen, shop assistants etc. etc.

Well the guys and girls at I'm A Person Too offer training for us by sharing with us their personal experiences. The 'training' is so powerful. When it's delivered you soon realise these folk who one would assume are somewhat disadvantaged actually have abilities often matching or superior to a lot of us who do not suffer. In delivering their message the folk from I'm A person Too had such confidence and passion and they were so motivated and rewarded by successfully getting their message across. For me it was a humbling experience - to see the pride, fun and happiness oozing from people who are explaining to us how we can avoid making their tough lives even harder was really an eye opener.

I for one, have heard and used the term 'learning difficulties' without really understanding what it means. Sometimes you can't recognise someone has a problem and sometimes they appear obviously 'different'. But when any individual is given the opportunity to explain to us. learning difficulties or not, that they are A Person Too, it's a really powerful message. A message we all, especially those in public service, would benefit from being aware of.

I really had a great time time last Friday, I learnt a hell of a lot and revised some of my own prejudices.  But that's not why I was there - my job was to take photos - I delivered 110 images to the charity last Tuesday.


Super Moon

21 March 11

Posted at 3:42

Perigree Moon

This is Saturday night's Supermoon or Perigree Moon. It's the closest the moon's been to Earth for twenty years. I remember around last February shooting the Wolf Moon and to be honest there's not a lot of difference as far as I can see. I wasn't going to post about this moon as I've seen loads of images of it on the web but then I had such nice comments about my own effort I thought I'd share it here. It's taken using a Nikon D700 and a Sigma 150mm -500mm lens f5-6.3. Shot at ISO200 f13 1/125sec ev -2. I processed using my favourite mono overlay layer trick at about 50% opacity - just gives it some ooomph! I have to say of all the images of the perigree moon I have seen this takes the biscuit from one of my Flickr friends Rob. It's the humour I like and admire someone who thinks further than just capturing the image. Nice one Rob!


Tortoise in The Elephant

20 March 11

Posted at 2:05

Tamiola the Tortoise Tamiola and Family

I worked in West Yorkshire last Thursday and Friday. As I had an hour to kill before my train home I popped into The Elephant and Castle opposite Wakefield Westgate station. I was keen to have yet another really decent pint for the amazing price of £2.20 !! I sat down next to some friendly looking souls, said hello and then noticed what I first thought was a little clockwork tortoise scooting round the table. I was soon advised that it was in fact a real baby tortoise just three weeks old. Her name I believe was Tamiola. I learnt that we know she's a female due to her non indented under belly shell (although having done a little further research I understand the length of tail is a better indicator). I don't think I've ever come across someone taking their tortoise to the pub before. Being up North I may not have been surprised to see the odd whippet or even a homing pigeon but would never have banked on a tortoise. I enquired why Tamiola had been brought to the pub on a Friday afternoon and was advised that you wouldn't leave a three week old tortoise at home alone with nobody to talk to, would you? Fair point!I felt obliged to get my camera out and record the occasion which lead on to requests for a few shots of Tamiola's 'family'. Well I passed a jolly hour in the Elephant before catching my train home which rounded of a very enjoyable day. More on that in a future post.


The Travelling Band

16 March 11

Posted at 9:31

Adam Gorman - The Travelling Band Jo Dudderidge The Travelling Band

The Travelling Band. A couple of images from the last time I shot the band a couple of weks ago. As I write this the Travelling Band are in Austin Texas for SXSW and tonight will be doing sets at two locations. I have followed the band for about three years shooting them on many occasions. I applied to SXSW for a photo pass but was not able to get a magazine sponsor even though I was willing to fund myself. I left it too late and don't really have enough contacts yet. On the positive side I do have passes for a couple of festivals The Travelling Band are doing in the summer so I am making progress. If you do not know the band I recommend you take a look/listen. They are really talented musicians and really nice lads. I am off up North tomorrow to shoot for Speak Up For Self Advocacy - really looking forward to it. Watch this space for an update.


One Toothed Wildcat

16 March 11

Posted at 6:30


One Toothed Wildcat

This old fella was shot at the British Wildlife Centre a couple of weeks ago. I visited with a couple of friends on what was called a photographers day. The idea is the centre is closed to the public and photographers can pay (£80 for the day) and go behind the scenes in the anilmals enclosures accopmanied by a keeper. My perception of the centre and of the day turned out to be a rose tinted interpretation of the marketing blurb. I expected massive open enclosures where you would catch glimpses of the British wildlife there mainly due to the skilled keeper who accompanied you.

We were somewhat disappointed that it is really more like a pets corner - a zoo! The 'wild' animals are actually tame so yes you can capture some amazing shots (you do have to be careful about background) but this can hardly qualify for natural history or wildlife photography in my book. The day of the visit was 28th February, a bitterly cold day, which added insult to injury. The staff at the BWC sensed we were not exactly overjoyed (though they were not responsibe for the weather) and gave us 50% of our fee back without us asking. My learning point from this experience is to read promotional material more cautiously in future - I of all people should not need to tell myself that!

I won't be returning to the BWC, I would get more pleasure waiting all day in an hide to catch a shot of a fox, otter or even aging wildcat in the wild than have them line up to be fed in front of me - however good the resulting image may be. 


Circles and Curves

14 March 11

Posted at 5:30




I need to produce some prints depicting Circles and Curves by the end of the month. I was talking with a friend and mentioned I wanted to shoot a spiral staircase leadng up to a skylight. My friend told me she knew of just a staircase in the Queens House Greewich, she assured me entry was free and it was open to the public. So last week I made my way to Greenwich and found the Queens House. As I entered I was asked to hand my bag in, which I duly did keeping my D700 on my shoulder. I was then advised photography was prohibited in the Queens House. Never the less I ventured in with my camera. There are a lot of 'officials' in the Queens House. Three of whom advised me quite assertively that photography was prohibited in the house within two minutes of me entering. I found the said spiral staircase and it was exactly what I had in mind. Clean white walls, black wrought iron staircase and bright skylight with some blue around it. One of the 'jobs worth' officials seemed to be positioned to ensure the staircase was not photographed. I approached him and he eyed my camera. I put it to him casually that of course photography was prohibited beacuse they did not want people shooting the many artifacts that were in the rooms and things like the priceless portraits of Captain Cook. I realised that and I also postured that the prohibition was not inteneded for things like the old staircase I had just walked past? So, if it was alright with him I'd just click a couple of the staircase and be on my way. Rules is rules sir, photography is prohibited throughout the building. I'm sorry but I'm not allowed to make any exceptions. He then appeared to fix his feet firmly in a position where he could see the said staircase and wait for me to move on. Well eventually I did. On my way out I did manage a sneaky couple of shots but could not take them from the position I wanted.

I walked across the green up to the Old Royal Observatory and had a nose around the free bits (they started charging a tenner to get in last Tuesday, prior to that it was free). So the few remaining free areas were crammed with school trips and tourist groups all, like me, unwilling to part with an unexpected tenner. (Why didn't they charge £2 - I'm sure everyone there would have paid that and they would have generated some revenue). Well my luck was in beacuse I happened across a spiral staircase. Not exactly what I had in mind, a broad, modern, grey set of spiral stairs. I shot a few images. Some overlayed images and some film grain resulted in the above. Well it is a circle and curves!

I finished my visit to Greenwich with a pint and a burger in the Greenwich Union. A pub I can thoroughly recommened for outstanding beer (it's owned by Meantime Brewery and has their full range) and really scrummy burgers.