A photo from Bruges.

Monday 03 August 2015 – Bruges, Belgium

El and I went to the beautiful Belgian city of Bruges for a long weekend trip away. I took a lot of photos and will not get time to edit them and write a post before I head off on my mega walk on Wednesday.

So here is a taster – the most photographed part of Bruges – and probably the most photographed part of Belgium as well.

Did we love Bruges ? Oh yes…..

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Long Live South Bank skate park, – BMX action

I took another trip back up to Southbank yesterday evening to see what was happening and hoping to see some of the BMXers who also use the skate park in action, and for a change I was lucky!

I will confess to being way out of touch with who is who in the biking and skating world, but this sole BMXer who was using the park was damn good, pretty much pulling off every trick seamlessly.  He was great to watch.

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I need to learn some leasons shooting both skaters and BMXer’s, I missed the important part of the tale whip, getting the bike 180 degrees out from the rider.

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But I got most of them right….

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Maybe not this one….

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or this whip again 🙂

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I will end on a positive note though.

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I really enjoyed watching this guy ride and aim to go back tonight and see if there is a repeat, now that I know what I need to sort out photographically. I was pretty happy with my images, pretty well in focus, pretty well exposed, as sharp as I would expect shooting a moving object without flash from sunlight into shade against a confusing backdrop. So yeah, happy.

I am enjoying my photography for a change!

If you are reading my blog for the first time, The Southbank Centre have proposed an expansion of the Southbank site to allow more space for art and music, which I do agree with…. What I do NOT agree with is the taking of the undercroft skate park to turn into it retail space to help pay for the expansion. The skate park is one of the oldest existing skate parks in the world and has existed here since 1976. Its is wrong in so many ways to close it.

To read more about it and support those fighting the change read more here. LLSB!

http://www.llsb.com/

Street Art – Sydney

Some of the street art I spotted on a quick trip to Sydney, Australia.

Most of the art was found in and around the main street of Newtown, though the first three are from Manly.

I am not entirely sure of the order that WordPress uploads photos, the bulk were inserted into the post in one go, and the order seems entirely random to me, I guess there is some science to it !

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This mural is the most well known and has been here since 1991. I really like the next image as well, which was painted on the next wall, they go so nicely together and I really like the message.

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I really liked how this door had been hung upside down 🙂

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There were a whole series of large monochrome photos on some walls as part of an old exhibition, though most had been badly torn – I kinda liked the effect though.

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Yes I was here, I was never her though!

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Please wait here until you are useful. Thank you.

Saturday 05 January 2013 – Hackney, Shoreditch, Spitalfields, Brick Lane – London

London’s run of not too awful weather continued for a few more days so Saturday afternoon I met a friend up in Hackney to go hunt for some of the great street art that has been made in the area.

My friend knows the area quite well so it was more like a guided walk for me and it was a lot of fun – though I will never find some of the places we visited again, I should have paid more attention 🙂

We started in Hackney Central and walked down through London Fields to Broadway Market. The market is open on a Saturday and mainly sells food and drink, I had a nice risotto for lunch followed by a really nice proper Vietnamese coffee – complete with condensed milk, yum. The market and surrounding area is hipster central. Loads of skinny jeans, short beards and checked shirts, single speed bikes all over the place. Book shops and second hand shops lined the street around the market. I loved it here, in fact I was pretty much in love with all the places we passed, I could easily live here!

Now I have described it as hipster central, my photos show other wise, always happens.

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There was a Stik next to the Vietnamese coffee stall.

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The next stop was Regents Canal, there is a lot art and plain old graf along the tow path, it was a nice walk down to Victoria Park, the area has a kind of post-commercial bleakness to it, maybe bleakness is a bit strong, but it is a bit run down in parts, just my sort of thing. There were an awful lot of house barges as well, which will be a whole photo essay by itself one day.

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I really like these small pieces by Bortusk Leer, there are loads of them all around here. IMG 6301

There was also an old Eric Monopoly as well.

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After stopping for more coffee at another very hipster cafe we strolled down and around Bethnal Green, Spitalfields, Brick Lane and Shoreditch – I will confess to having no idea where one bit started and another stopped as I was too busy chatting and looking around at the sights – and spotting things to photograph.

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I had one of lifes weird little experiences as we walked. A couple of years ago Sam, a friend of my daughter from Bristol came and stayed at my place in NZ while he was on his travels. He has been living in London for a while now and we have talked about catching up one day. I ran into him on the street. Very nice to see him and totally weird !!

There is some really good street art here, the area around Brick Lane is especially vibrant, I liked that some of the new boutiques have not cleaned up their walls.

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Unfortunately we ran out of daylight so I didn’t get to photograph a ton of good stuff, but it does mean I get to go back sooner rather than later. It was a good afternoon !

After a quite delicious Vietnamese meal we went to look at a couple of Banksy’s and saw a guy painting on a wall outside a shop. We stopped to watch and say hello and it was Paul Don Smith, I said I had seen some of his work in Portobello Rd and we chatted for a while. He had recently been doing graffiti on a movie set for a coming Brad Pitt zombie movie – World War Z and was doing a small stencil for it. It was interesting to watch him at work.

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I will be back for sure. A few of my favourite pieces.

This is my favourite ! Jana and JS

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Ben Eine – according to a graffiti tour guide we overheard as he was leading a tour in Brick Lane he is the only British artist to ever have work hung in the White House…

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Jimmy C, there was one amazing Jimmy C that was too dark to photograph – I just need to be able to find it again. His pictures are very detailed.

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More street art.  [edit] Hmmm, seems WordPress has changed and I cannot do a slide show any more. I don’t like the “gallery” mode, oh well. m[end edit]

One of life’s magic hours.

Day 330 – Gorilla Day, Volcanoes National Park, Ruhengeri, Rwanda

Once the singing and dancing group had finished the nine of us from the truck were split into two groups. Only five groups are allowed in to the forest each day and each group has a maximum allowable size of eight people plus guides. The five of us in our group were joined by an American couple, who were doing three trips into the forest, lucky buggers!

Each group goes to visit a different gorilla family and are only allowed one hour with the family. There is only one trip per day to the gorillas so their exposure to humans is minimised. At $750 USD per visit it is a very expensive hour !!! Fortunately the hour only starts when the gorilla group is found, some of the groups can be a three or four hour walk away from where the vehicles can access.

We were joined by two guides who introduced us to the forest and the family group we were going to visit.

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Our trip is in the Volcanoes National Park which is located in the Virunga mountains and part of a massive national park with areas in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is the only place on the planet where mountain gorillas live. The park has an altitude range of 2400 – 4500 metres, so all walking is tough going !

There are eighteen family groups commonly found in the Rwanda part of the park and eleven are visited on a regular basis, the others are just monitored by researchers. We were going to visit the Agashya (The news) group, which is twenty three strong and like all the groups, is named after the dominant silver back.

The gorillas in the park face numerous threats, however their numbers are growing steadily since Dian Fossey first took a stand on protecting them back in the late 1960’s. All the families are tracked 24/7 by armed guards. The gorillas have no natural predator and are rarely directly hunted, however they do get caught in traps and snares set by the local villagers who trap antelope and other mammals for food. Like their human cousins the gorillas are also susceptible to disease and colds. In fact if you are sick you are not allowed to go and see the gorillas.

Once we given the run down on the day we jumped back into our vehicle and drove for about twenty minutes to a small village near where our family was currently located. We were all given walking sticks to use as the way is slippery, steep and FULL of stinging nettles, and the nettles are head high in places. We were all told to wear long pants, long sleeved jackets and everyone except me were told to bring gloves ! oh well !

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We met our armed guard here, there are still illegal poachers working in the forest who do not take kindly to meeting strangers and there is always the potential for danger from some of the other wildlife living in the forest,such as buffalo and elephant – however rare they are. We are also very close to the border with the Congo and much as no one likes to talk about it there is armed conflict between the Congo’n government and Rwandan backed insurgents.

The first fifteen minutes walking was through farm land. No longer a danger to the forest fortunately, the forest area is marked by a stone wall now, partly to clearly define the boundary but mainly to prevent grazing forest wildlife from raiding crops. The farms look to be very productive and the soil looks amazingly fertile.

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We soon crossed the stone boundary wall and were immediately into thick forest.

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As the gorillas roam around we were not entering via a defined path into the forest, so there was a bit of hacking of undergrowth for a while until we hit a buffalo path that we followed before heading up a hill through some heavy nettle infested foliage. Our guides were on the radio to the gorilla trackers and after about forty minutes of clambering around we caught up with them near the gorillas, I was soooooooooo excited !! We were told to drop our bags, water bottles, walking sticks, any food from pockets and just take cameras as we were going to move up towards the family.

I hummed and hahhed about camera lenses and decided I would take a punt and just take the 50mm lens for the Canon 5d Mk1 as well as my little Panasonic point and shoot as I wanted to do some video – though I had never done it before ! I didn’t want to have to change lenses in the forest and the wide angle zoom may have been too wide.

We were given clear guidelines by the guide.
– Not to go within seven metres of the gorillas, unless they come to you.
– If you are in the way, move slowly out of the way, they may want to eat the tree you are under.
– Keep low down so you appear subservient – especially to the dominant male !
– Don’t look them in the eye as it may be seen as a challenge.
-If they are walking down a path, get off it

And then we were off up the hill for our first glimpse of the real thing in the real wild… and this was the first photo, crap I know but it was the first one, and with a 50mm lens – we were close…

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We seemed to have arrived in the middle of a family walk as we only found three smaller gorillas. We watched them for a couple of minutes while they munched on things before they headed off to join the rest of the group – in our direction ! We moved out of the way to make a gap and two of them passed through the gap , the last one however decided on a different route and went between the legs of the American woman, it was a massive wow moment for all… They really don’t pay us any mind at all, completely unconcerned by our presence,  amazing.

Over the course of the hour we probably only saw ten or so of the group, we assumed the others were about but we didn’t see them. It was good and bad that the group moved around a lot, it was very hard to take photos as the jungle was dense in places and they and we were constantly on the move. It was also quite dim, so high ISO’s and wide open apertures were essential to get any chance of capturing a motionless face. However, I would rather this than watch them sitting in a sunny clearing doing very little like the group our American friends saw the previous day. Plus, those who know me, know there is nothing I like more than scrambling around in the mud in the bush. The thought of snakes and spiders and sharp thorns just never came into my head – for a change !

We followed this small group up through the nettles for a while until we came across a dense patch of bamboo near a path and low and behold there he was – Agashya himself. Wow, he is just so magnificent, you could feel his strength – not just the physical, you could feel his strength of character, that he was the dominant character in this group, incredibly powerful. Yet, watching him later interacting with the young members of the family, you can see how gentle he is as well.

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I spent most of the hour observing rather than taking pictures, as I said it was tough photographic conditions so rather than take hundreds of rubbish pictures I elected to watch and wonder instead, I think that was the right option.

We followed the group down the trail for a bit and then ohhhhhh, the baby, Iwacu !! I really didn’t expect to see Iwacu, and though we saw it a few times, I only managed to get one shot worth keeping.

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We then stopped to watch the next oldest male stop and eat for a bit.

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The group spent a bit of time on the move after this, at times they crashed through the dense (for us humans) bamboo forest and other times they were on the more open buffalo trails. Our guide managed to short cut a section of forest and we were on a piece of path as they were coming down, we crouched down low to the side and for once, I decided to shoot some video.

[edit] Just learnt a lesson. I cannot upload video using the free version of WordPress 😦 I have just created my first YouTube video. lets see if it works 🙂 [/edit]

Wow, they came so close, one of the others said in the group said he saw the silver back brush me as he walked, so regally, past me. I did not notice a thing. It was very very cool and I was so glad I chose to video, not the best video ever, but they were so close I would not have got photos anyway. I love the two young ones at the back having a bit of a play, though I was bummed to have not quite got the baby on mothers back very clearly.

We followed them through a thick section of vegetation, where again they stopped for a feed.

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And then they were off again, we managed to get ahead of the last couple.

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We were following the guide down this section of path when he stopped dead in his tracks and started backing up. “Elephant” he whispered. I was third in line behind Martina and Chantil and just around a bend in the track. As they came slowly back I got a glimpse of an ear and what appeared to be a large tusk through the bush. Even though our guide was saying they are perfectly safe, we beat a rather rapid retreat straight up hill !

Once we were safely a few metres away, our guide said that though we had five more minutes of our hour left we would have to leave, the gorillas had taken off once they had gotten wind of the elephant and the elephant would be agitated after smelling the gorillas. We all concurred – it had been a magic fifty five minutes anyway.

We spent a further twenty or so minutes crashing around in the jungle, with the guide on the radio to the others and then we came across them by the wall, with all our belongings.

We bade farewell to the trackers and followed our guide back down over the farmland to the vehicles.

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For a rough rock and roll ride down the worst road I have ever been on !!!

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It was a magic morning, a wonderful experience and one I will never forget. The mountain gorillas are the most wonderful animals, lets make sure we protect them. There are only a few hundred left.

All the gorilla photos were shot on a 50mm lens and are, in the main, uncropped. that is how close they came to us.

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Gallery – Gorillas !!

I am about three weeks behind in photo editing, writing and posting again and aim to catch up completely over the next week. It is the last full day of my Africa tours today so I will have some time soon – before reality,  and hopefully a job, finally catch up with me.

I couldn’t wait to look at my gorilla photos from the walk yesterday and after a quick scan here are the best of them. I will do a proper blog on the trip in a few days time.  needless to say it was very very cool!

These were all shot using the Canon 5d mk1 with the 50mm lens.  Only the second and last photos have been cropped, we were that close!

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A place to bury strangers @ Komedia in Brighton

A place to bury strangers are a band from New York and have been a favourite for a while now. It was great their UK tour coincided with my birthday week so I nipped down to Brighton to see their show at Komedia.

The venue holds about 400 but disappointingly it was only half full, but I did get to take my camera in and as I was not really getting in anyone’s way I shot off and on through the set. The lighting was really no friend to any photographer, totally back and side lit and for virtually all the show it was strobing. Very hard conditions, I took a lot of photos, deleted loads and kept the rest, this is the best of a bad bunch.

The show was great, sound was good for the first three quarters and then for some reason vocals were dropped so low in the mix as to be virtually inaudible. They did play a bunch of my favourite tracks including a great version of “I live my life to stand in the shadow of your heart”, though not the full 20 minute noise fest version which I was hoping for !

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The support band was Sealings,  I had never heard of them but liked their set.

Gallery – Street art in Barcelona

There is a huge amount of graffiti in Barcelona, most of it is just scribbled tagging,  though  I am sure there is some pithy political statements in among the scrawl, sadly it is all Spanish to me, so you my eager audience, do not get to see it either ! Anyway, statements are not always art and art is what I am in to, whether you agree with my tastes or not.Most doorways have something sprayed, brushed, inked or stuck on them so there was a variety of things to look at.

Here are some of the ones that caught my eye – BTW, I am a huge sucker for anarchy symbols. Less so for real anarchy!

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Gallery – Mataro street art

I had a trip up to Mataro  today. (or down or sideways – not entirely sure where Mataro sits on the compass in relation to Barcelona. ! )

I will cover the visit in a separate post, but there was some cool street art 🙂 The faces are awesome.

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