Saturday, April 24, 2010

Week 18 & 19

As my flight had gotten cancelled and I was in Madrid, I thought I may as well make the most of it.  So armed with my trusty camera I went on a mission to capture buildings and monuments for the next two week's challenges.

One of the most famous buildings in Madrid is Plaza de Toros, Las Ventas (the bullring).  Now I'm not a fan of bullfighting so I never went inside although I do hear it is quite impressive, the bullring that is not the fighting.  Bulfighting is still popular here in Spain, although it is losing favour; especially with the younger crowd.

Churches are also very common in Spain and each town or village will lay claim that their church is the most important in the area.  You really can throw a stick and hit a church in most places (please do NOT go around throwing sticks at churches!)
Madrid does have some wonderful architecture in and around it - I could probably fill a month with different shots of weird and wonderful buildings.
On the way home we found some abandoned buildings so they got in on the act too.
To see the chosen shot click HERE

At this point I am going to get a week ahead of myself, as I should be back in the UK when this week is due to be done and I still don't know about internet connections there. 
So as for week 19, sculptures were the subjects. 

Looking for interesting statues is not difficult they too are everywhere as are the many fountains.  Spain is a great place to capture on film.  What I tried to do with this subject was to capture what encapsulated Spain: religion, pilgrims, and or course bulls.
This helped me keep a clear view of what I was looking for, rather than just random statues.
Below is the selection that I have chosen, of course like the buildings I did take more but opted for the more interesting and unusual shots.
To see the chosen shot click HERE

On top of those shots I also squeezed in some beautiful (in my opinion) pictures of Ariadna in a pretty dress she has for someone's Communion.  Those shots can be found by going to my Flickr page and seeing them there, again feel free to leave comments on ANY of my photos ;) 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Home and Away

Hey folks just want to give you a heads up.  If you are shipping large items (ie suitcases) back to UK from your destination or even within the UK I can highly recommend FREIGHTQUOTE.

I checked out several options due to the fact my case was too heavy to allow on the flight with Easyjet or Ryanair.  So I sought out other options, after choosing one I thought was OK a little researched proved invaluable as they feedbacks were awful.  I then looked around for alternatives and found freightquote.

The service was simple to use, highly professional, in fact whilst I was filling in the form they rang me to see if they could assist further!  I had one operative that worked with me from start to finish; which was nice rather than being passed around.  I had one hiccup a shipping document they sent via email didnt arrive?  But when I contacted they immediately resolved this and the shipment went ahead.
The price was acceptable and package arrived to UK with no problems in only 5 days - given the fact no one could fly for nearly a week I was surprised!!!

I know it is easy to say negative things about a company but when they do well they should also be praised - so a big thumbs up from me for FREIGHTQUOTE.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lost in transit

So I was due to be returning to the UK, today.  Notice the word 'was'! 
Due to eruption of Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland, I and 149,999 other Britons are stranded in and around Spain and neighbouring countries.

There has been a no-fly ban for the past 5 days and promises that at any minute it will be lifted and normal flights resumed.  Obviously this is not the case.

Aid was due to be coming from the UK in way of HMS Navy ships, 4 of them.  However one of them picked up UK soldiers and left, as for the others they have been sent to 'undisclosed ports', so much for the UK helping its citizens!!

In fact had it not been for SKY News I would be pretty much in the dark as to what was going on, the airports staff claim they know nothing and can only give you the same information they have on their websites.  They are unaware of where the coaches, ferries and trains can be taken, only to say that you have to make your own travel arrangements with them not the airport.  Call me naive, but after all the natural and man made disasters we have had, shouldn't the aid be ready to go at a moments notice, then get it to the people that need it.  
Not make the people have to fend for themselves, fearing or costing them far money than they have to spend unnecessarily.

It would make sense (and perhaps the problem) - for a help desk to be setup at the airport where people can book tickets or better, exchange their tickets, for alternate travel arrangements.
Then from the airport get on a coach to the train station or ferry port.
According to reports Gordon Brown and Mr Zapatero have been working together to help stranded people get home and are using Madrid airport as a 'hub' for them to make other arrangements, this is not true from what I saw.

Well I have re-booked my flight now for next Wednesday 28th the first available flight out!
I must say I am fortunate that I have Sandra and somewhere to go back to, had I given it all up to leave Spain I really would be stuck right now, like the MANY people I saw at the airport today.  More could and should be done to help those that need it.
What annoys people the most is being treated like mushrooms, we know there is a problem and we can accept that, but aid should be more readily available.

The images used are from Reuters website, I claim no ownership of them.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Week 17 of 52

Having had the extra week to play with I took lots of images to remind me of Spain, as well as the wildlife shots I took.  You see thinking ahead ;)

So this weeks theme is Up Close, so mainly close up and macro shots used here. 
Speaking of small details, as I mentioned before a few small changes have been made to my photography website - now you can browse with the arrow keys and I have cleaned up the site a little more.  I may still change the layout of the gallery for something more...   ...interesting.  I was tempted to add a slideshow (perhaps I still will) but I really want it clean, simple and user friendly.

I have also been working on designing and adding a watermark to my images, as someone suggested they are likely to be stolen or used without permission.  I too believe they are now of a standard worth protecting.  So please let me know what you think about the new watermark.
Whilst improving one site I started playing with my blog site as well.  I have now unified the posts a little more; My ramblings & musings, Interesting info, My 52 project, Random stuff, hopefully this will help you navigate the posts a little better ;)

Having just watched the new keynote update due for the iPhone - Steve Jobs previewed HTML5 which will basically replace Flash (at least on the Mac front), so all those who are afraid to buy the iPad for fear your site wont show up, not long to wait now ;)
I must also add they really are setting the bar high for their mobile competitors, the iPhone now has multitasking.

On another note: it may turn out that I have even more time available in Spain, as a volcano has erupted and grounded all flights until further notice - initial feedback says until Monday others say for further week.  My suitcase on the other hand finally got sent off, so that may arrive before I do!! 
There was a small hiccup with the company, but that's sorted now (nothings ever simple). 
Really you couldn't make this stuff up!

Anyway back to the shots I took...    ...the chosen one is HERE as for the rest see below

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Week 16 of 52

I managed to squeeze in another weeks project before I leave for the land of no internet.

Whilst out and about in Valladolid we went to a park and saw lots of wildlife, peacocks, birds and even red squirrels - thats a big thing in the UK the grey squirrel has almost eradicated the red squirrel.
So I snapped off some shots, quick tip small creatures move fast, be ready!!

Shooting in natural light and trying to find suitable shade yet still in shot of the creatures was my first challenge, then getting them close enough was my next, following that was dealing with the public that flocked around like pigeons fighting over crumbs of bread.  My final challenge was looking for a good sharp shot, I had lots of blurred scurrying away shots, if anyone needs them let me know ;)

I have 2 favs of the shots I took one of the squirrel and one of the Great tit, on this occasion though Sandra and I differ on which shots are best, so at this point I dont have a fav to post to my website.
I have uploaded them to Flickr and which ever gets the most views/comments will get posted.

So I guess its time to see the shots, and dont forget please go to Flickr and let me know which YOU prefer ;)


OK, finally it was a close call between 2 of the squirrel shots but this one pipped it - THE CHOSEN SHOT

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The waiting game

Its been a while since I stopped work and I'M BORED!!!  I don't do bored well.  

I have sorted out my flight and sourced a shipping company for my case, the one I was going to go with - I don't know something was amiss.  So with the joys of internet I checked them out and I'm so glad I did, not one positive comment!  Research people, it pays in the end.
That's not to say of course the company I have gone with is any better but I shall soon know. 
What I will say is whilst I was online filling out the request shipping form I received a call, not initially recognising the name of the company I asked him to repeat where he was from, it turns out it was the company I was filling out the online form with (they are either VERY efficient or desperate!?). 
Either way he was courteous and said he would call me back if he saw I was having any problems at all, now thats service.

One thing that drove me crazy is the UK for all its wonderful public transport systems doesnt seem to be user friendly in terms of purchasing suitable timed tickets or suitable connection from A to B.
The train ticket for example, I wanted to book it online so it was all taken care of.
Checked availability, good, checked times, good, checked prices, excellent (if booked early) all was going so well (which should have been a clue) - that was until I went to buy the ticket, I couldn't.
The system wouldn't accept a card outside of UK?!  OK, plan B, use my mates card to buy the ticket, can't I have to have the card when collecting said ticket!  WTF!?!?!
Seriously people you are destroying the tourism industry for people wanting to visit the UK.
I could book a coach, but it took 6 and half hours when the train too 2 and half - why it stopped over for 2 hours in Birmingham.
I couldn't get connections from certain airports and if I could the coach service only ran after 1 pm, I was due to arrive at 9am?  I don't get it I just don't!
Now it seems I cant pre-book my train and will have to get my ticket when I arrive and pay 50 pounds instead of 10!

For now though it's a waiting game; waiting to be paid (tomorrow all being well), to have my suitcase picked up (Friday), to exchange my money (Monday), to fly 'home' (Tuesday) to arrive 'home' 2pm Tuesday.
To pass some time we went out and about to a park in Valladolid and I got to photography some wildlife there (Week 16) and we will spend a day or so in Madrid before I go to the airport for my early flight.

I know it sounds bad, but I don't like that 'limbo' feeling, I prefer to know where I am, what I'm doing and where I'm heading.  Once back in the UK of course I have A LOT to sort and arrange there.
The aim is that Sandra and Pitu will join me in 6 months, so I have my work cut out - not only trying to secure work but also building a life and home for the to come to.

On a personal note I have been looking through my photos, and although I can still pick fault with them and still dont understand all I need to and I'm lacking some required skills, I am actually happy with my progress.  I can actually see it; which is nice.  
I have gone through my site and deleted 'filler' images and trying to maintain good solid images.
I still dont think I have a 'style' to speak of, or for that matter a preferred subject matter, and at this point I dont think I need to, how else will I find out what I like if I don't try all options.
But a years practise has indeed paid off.  It will be interesting to see how much more improvement will be made by next year, having a colleague work along side of.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

F^&K em and their law!

The sneaky SOB's in Government are rapidly pushing through a bill which could radically change the internet and freedom of information as it stands.  Its called the ''Digital Economy Bill''  (could it sound any vaguer?)
And the clauses within this bill are even worse: clause 43 also introduces “Extended Collective Licensing”.  This effectively means that anyone can use your photographs if they cannot 'find' you, does this mean ALL your work has to be watermarked or ran through some ownership process and by what means to they try to find the owners?
update: clause 43 has been removed.  But that may not be the end of it as they inserted a modified clause 8: The new clause allows the secretary of state for business to order the blocking of "a location on the internet which the court is satisfied has been, is being or is likely to be used for or in connection with an activity that infringes copyright".  So beware of what you say online!!!

Now dont get me wrong I'm actually in favour of the internet being policed to some degree - there is some really scary depraved sh*t out there.  And also a lot of dead sites which no longer exist only to clog up the net space - surprisingly enough it is not infinite!

However my issue with this bill is its is being controlled by assholes who are not even in touch with the world outside their front door let alone a virtual one.  Most MP's are old and dont get it anyway.
(now im not saying old people dont use/understand the internet, but in general it moves to fast for them to keep up with). 
The reason for this bill is NOT to protect us, the public, but to protect big corporate businesses!
Obviously the record companies are backing this bill as it suits their own agendas, I wonder do the artist feel the same, I doubt it.
I prefer the approach Radiohead took when they released an album and said "pay us what you think its worth" - this is a free market and one I'm sure people will subscribe too.

There is always going to be piracy lets face it - can it be monitored and controlled sure to some degree, but even back in the 80's I was copying games on tape for my Spectrum and recording music off the radio - did it really hurt the big companies?!

To be honest I would prefer 'rip off Britain' stop taxing the hell out of everything we buy and let us have it at a reasonable tax free price - that will help. 
I would prefer that they stop telling us how to live our lives and definitely stop eroding our civil liberties.
Bit by bit George Orwell's horror of 1984 is coming true:
War is peace
Ignorance is strength
Freedom is slavery

And as for those of you that say - "If you're not doing anything wrong you don't have anything to worry about".  Well that all depends on the definition of "wrong" - a definition that is usually defined by those who control the information.  It could be "wrong" to hold a certain political view.  It could be "wrong" to have a certain sexual orientation.  Perhaps it's "wrong" to hold a certain religious belief.
This is a dangerous road and one once travelled we will never return from.

This was sent to me by a friend EMMA - it may enlighten you as to what the DEBill is and how it will affect you CLICK ME

Week 15 of 52

Life moves at such a fast pace, if you dont stop and look around you just might miss it ;)
With that in mind my topic for this week was SPRING.

My flight back to UK is now in 10 days so I have more time than initially thought, so I could take a breath. Which also meant going and taking some photos - great way to relax

So off I went with Sandra and Pitu to see what Spring had to offer, sadly where I live in Spain there isnt much in terms of wildlife or flowers - sure there are some things, but not alot.

I also watched as the sun went down and tried to capture the moments as it did.

The problem I have coming up is my place in the UK doesn't have internet, so I need to find a way to access the net, or sadly you wont see more photos!
Im sure I will find a way, just may mean uploading 2 weeks at a time, but we shall see ;)

anyway on with the shots I took, the one I thought most encapsulated Spring is HERE

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Living la vida loca

Well my life here in Spain is very close to being at an end, so what did I learn?

Work - here in Spain work has gotten much harder to find, but I think thats a global thing TBH, however at this point they still need English teachers but I feel that will change with original language options appearing everywhere. 
If possible dont pay 15% tax on your earnings, after paying that much for 3 years all I ever got back was 250 euros!!!  Should have been nearer 2,000 euros. 
If you have the chance to pay 7% take it and pay the difference at the end of the year.  It isnt like the UK where they send you back the overpayment.

Holidays - Spain is full of holidays, global, national and regional.  If they're not on holiday there is a good chance they are having a siesta.  Either way the things you want at that time forget it, I always run out of milk or bread or something I need urgently just at siesta time; no, I never learnt or understood it.  Most holidays are religious based and Spain has many saints.  Some such as Semana Santa are great spectacles to behold, whereas others like the Tomatina are fun and San Fermines is plain crazy!!!!!

Food - the food here is good, to be honest.  If you like fish and tomatoes I am sure you will love it here, as I cant eat either I had to dodge around certain foods.  It is a nightmare for vegetarians and heaven forbid you have a more restricted diet (for whatever reason) - Spain doesn't get it, vegetarian to them simply means less meat!

Wine - they have some great wines here and for a country that drinks so often, they have a good approach to alcohol, unlike the UK's binge culture.  They love to party and have a good time and ANY excuse is worth celebrating.  However drink driving is still a huge issue here; for that matter driving in general is a huge issue here!! (they drive on the wrong side, I think thats the problem)

Family - Spaniards have great family bonds.  They consider family to be very important and kids stay home until they are 30+.  The Italians have this culture too, but the UK doesn't, we should adopt this more.  Family is important - just a shame you cant pick your family ;)

Cost - Spain can be pretty expensive when you look around and consider prices, mainly games and electronic stuff, it is TOO expensive.  But in general I found it cheap enough to live and not on par with France which is very expensive; for almost everything.

People - Spanish women are fiery and generally very attractive.  Downside is they shout alot they call it 'talking', but really its SHOUTING!!!
Spain is very open and adjusts to new things quite quickly and as a country developing rapidly.  
Sadly their bureaucracy side is still slow and behind the times.
Travel - Spain has some amazing places to visit and explore such as Granada, Seville, Barcelona, Asturias and a huge diverse mix of landscapes - great for a photographer.
It also has a good infrastructure for getting around the cities and countryside - but book in advance for tickets though.  The one thing to watch for mainly in bigger cities is pickpockets and bag snatchers, we could pretend they dont exist but its not true - keep your eyes open and be street smart, do not walk around with a large map unfolded and a gormless look on your face.
Luckily now with cheap airlines there is little excuse not to visit Spain. 
You wont regret it ;)

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Week 14 of 52

OK, I am falling behind with this project and still have a lot to do for my move so not sure if/when I will get more shots done.  So to ensure I don't fall too far behind I have decided that this week I am playing a wildcard!
What does that mean?  Well, I can use ANY photos I have taken since beginning my 52 week challenge that have not used in any other weeks sets.
I have taken lots of shots of many different things, some I submitted some I didn't for various reasons: not as strong as the ones I did submit or simply too similar; however still good photos in their own right.

In this set you will see an eclectic bunch of shots with no determined theme, but should still be enjoyable and interesting shots nonetheless.
The chosen shot as usual can be found by clicking HERE


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Week 13 of 52

Life seems to have a habit of getting in the way, no more so than when you have things to do.
My subject for week 13 was Lunch Time, so I took the opportunity to find typical authentic Spanish cuisine and make myself varied lunches to enjoy and photograph.
I had three shots I really liked this week but the chosen one pipped it for me.  Sandra also agreed it was a stronger shot.

Whilst on my last Vaughan program I went around collecting wine corks - I had an idea in mind for what I wanted to do, so collected them when possible and when I returned home played around with the ideas a bit more and below you can see the result, well worth it I think. 
I am currently a week behind and will need to try to complete week 14 and 15 as soon as possible for within 2 weeks I will be back in the UK and will have no internet access, booooooo!

Tomorrow I go to collect my passport and whilst in Madrid I will try to take advantage of Sandra, Pitu and the Retiro park.
I also have a few shots I am happy with in the bag for upcoming weekly projects too.
As per usual the chosen shot is HERE


Saturday, April 03, 2010

Moving, all the people moving

With Vaughan now finished time to look for new pastures. 
We have moved out of our nice home and currently staying at Sandra's parents.  Sandra and Pitu will stay here for about 6 months whilst I get a business and life together back in the UK, then they will come to join me.  It will be hard not seeing Pitu and Sandra for all that time, but I know in the end it will be worth it - there is a lot to sort out.

I am excited about working with one of my best friends and the adventure that lies before me, but also aware that this is going to be a challenge and could well test of friendship to the limits. 
I am sure however it can and will survive.
The reason I am sure of this is we both have very different strengths which will be invaluable in our photography business and also we know each so well.

Sadly I left my passport until the last minute to get renewed - but it is now in Madrid awaiting collection.  However it is a holiday here in Spain; Semana Santa (Holy Week) so I cannot collect it until next week, without that I cannot book my flight ticket. 
Sometimes it seems that Spain is permanently on holiday.

I am eager to return and get things going, but I also need to wrap things up here too.
After deciding all the things I 'need' to take leaving behind half of my clothes, I realised I was way over my weight allowance for any airlines!  This means I will now have to send a suitcase alone with a courier service due to excess weight, at least it means I don't have to go without the things I want to take.  I did offer to go naked to save weight but for some reason my friends on Facebook didn't like that idea!??

So within 2 weeks or so I will be back in UK - you have been warned!
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