At the start of 2015, I gave myself a membership to the RPS. I wanted to find out if joining such a big and venerable organisation would give me a much-needed push to further my photography skills. In short, the answer was no. Over the whole of last year, I ashamedly admit that I only managed to join them for one (1!) event and then made a write-up which I didn’t post. It was a field trip to Wicken Fen, a nature reserve maintained by the National Trust.
Well, as last year has been quite terrible for me photography-wise (I was too busy with other stuff, honest!) I might as well post this blog anyway to get rid of that horrendous back-log and start 2016 semi-afresh.
The day was grey and only full of the promise of rain. At the Wicken Fen reserve, we were greeted by Ann and it was very soon thereafter that everyone had gone their own way, spread out over a vast area. So far for meeting new people… For the day, I had brought my Canon 50D with a telezoom and wideangle lens, my Praktica Super TL-2 35 mm camera with a 82-200mm zoom lens, a 28mm wide angle and a 135mm, which was completely unnecessary and a Toy camera. The roll in the Toy Camera will not be developed till the roll is full, so I’m sorry there won’t be any images of that (yet).
The day was grey and dreary and even though there were a few rays of sunshine peeping through the clouds – it remained overcast and dull throughout. I followed the boardwalk for a while, ending up in one of the hides where a rat was busy pilfering the content of a peanut stuffed bird feeder. Every 2-3 minutes or so he would scuttle up, jump over, maneuvered a nut out of the feeder and jumped away with it’s mouth full. What a clever little thing! I believe most of the RPS photographers present on that day will have a few photos of this little bugger – he / she was the talk of the event!
As the day was so grey, the wildlife failed to make an appearance – or so I was told afterwards. I do not possess the correct equipment, nor the wish to stake out a spot for hours to photograph a species of bird I would not be able to identify. Instead, I stuck to landscape images / sceneries.
The one ‘trouble’ I had was the lack of normal daylight film in my fridge. Hopelessly devoid of stock, I made do with 400 ISO Black and white film (Ilford Hp5) and I have to say, I might actually like the results! Next time I might be able to actually USE the tripod I brought and not have the horrendous unintentional shake in the image….. until then, here’s my best efforts.
My apologies for the site having been down for the last week. I moved hosting servers and with my limited knowledge on wordpress sites it took me quite long to get things back up again!
Everything should e working as normal, if you run into any glitches, just let me know
I will add the research pages I made whilst running classic-photographers.com to the site in case anyone feels the need to access them at some point. They should appear within the next few days.
Last weekend of the 7th, 8th and 9th of August myself and a bunch of other wet plate photographers gathered ourselves in a field just besides the gorgeous ruins of the Llanthony Priory in Wales, UK. We met up on the Friday afternoon, or rather in the evening for those of us that needed to come from far flung corners of the UK and Scotland (and Geralt from the USA) and we would start our wet plating on the Saturday morning. Getting there almost proved too much of a challenge as my satnav decided to give up 30 miles before reaching the final destination. Lucky for me, I found someone with a map!
Brilliantly arranged once again by Tony Richards (you can find his blog here), there was an easily accessible field for our dark tents, running water and a pub on site. I brought along my newly purchased and blacked out Eskimo 3 quickfish tent, a gift for my birthday this year, but still opted to shoot with my small half-plate camera as I know the camera are silverbath are in good working order and the plate holder is light tight. The amount of space in the Eskimo tent now means I can go up in plate sizes as I’ll finally have space for that silver bath I still mean to build!
We started our Friday in the pub, catching up with old and new friends. The camp site was fine, the grass wet and dewwy and the night just a bit cold. Ahhhh Camping in the UK, always a joy!
On the Saturday morning, we get started. The first few plates seem to be ok. Not without their faults, but acceptable. The first few go into the bin or on the recycling pile. I get a couple of good plates, but I also see some issues that I’ve not had to this extent. On the plus side, I’ve had a lot less problems with crepe lines. Some plates work fine, and I’ll be proud to add them to my permanent collection.
I had gone to bed a bit earlier this time and set my alarm at stupid-o-clock in the morning, to start shooting around 6.45. Since most of us will be packing up and driving back home today, we won’t have the entire day. Starting with a view on the priory that was popular with my fellow wetplaters the day before, I tried to catch the early morning sun as it passes onto the ruins. After a test plate on glass (which was an utter failure) I tried another, which I messed up in my plate holder, hence the damage in the center. This was 40 seconds on f22. I have no idea why I got that watery crap on the edge of my plate though. My best guess at this moment is that I may not have developed as well as I could have, or rinsed as well as I should have.
Giving up on that view as the sun had now gone behind a large stack of clouds, I moved my camera a little closer to my darkroom. The rest of this day would be overcast but also less hot, providing us with less contrast and less fogging issues.
The whole weekend has been an absolute joy – the location, the company, the activities, the food and drink at the bar…. even the weather. Good luck to Tony for trying to top this one next year, I know I’ll be looking forward to it!
On the weekend of the 11th of July, my husband Sean (I still have to get used to that!) had a 1-day karate seminar with his sensei Brett. They asked me to shoot some images during the day and even to bring my wet-plating things for a few images.
We set off early and headed to their normal training location just outside Bury St Edmunds. They put the mats out in the hall, waited for everyone to arrive and started their warming up. In the meanwhile, I had set up my darkroom and chemicals and snapped some images of their group, on film and with my digital camera. I do still own a digital camera and what better use than a full-day sporting event?
They then went for a jog and workout sessions in the park next to the training hall. I had no idea in advance that I was supposed to run with them and I had not prepared for it; my leather shoes were soon biting into my feet, my arms weirdly clamped to my sides whilst trying to keep my 2 cameras in check – and that’s without mentioning my absolute lack of any sort of physical fitness! Huffing and puffing in the heat of the day I managed to get some nice shots of everyone in action and when they had their lunch break they gave me just enough time to shoot 1 wet plate of the full group. Luckily I had tested my chemicals the day before and I was only a little bit off on the timing! Yes!!
The afternoon program would take place at a friendly nearby gym where they would do bag work, so we packed my chemicals away in a speed-checked military drill and rode to the gym in convoy where I shot more film and digital images till quitting time around 16.30. I can honestly say this was the most intense shooting session I had had in a while, perhaps I should pick up a sport and build up some stamina!
Earlier this month our Etsy Cambridge team had another pop-up event on the calendar: a mixed shop at the Babylon Gallery in Ely on the 4th and 5th of July. The Sunday would coincide with Ely’s aquafest, and we were all looking forward to enjoying some sunshine on the river and cheering on the brave souls on their home made rafts.
We’ve had 23 of our sellers come together and over the space of 2 days (not accounting for the days and days of preparation – folding those boats did not happen overnight!) we built ourselves a beautiful shop in this luscious white space. The Saturday proved to be a fine and warm day, but unfortunately we did have plenty of summer showers on the Sunday. We did not even get to see many of the boats, it was just way too busy in the shop to leave! Thank goodness we had put up our own drinks stand….!
At the end of the event, the visitor counter hit 4275. After taking a guesstimate amount off for our own team members going in and out, the estimated visitor number lies around 2000. Not bad indeed, although I have to admit that Sasha’s gorgeous flyer design might have had something to do with this!
Monday, May 4th
We take our own car to Heathrow, as parking there for 2 weeks turns out to be about the same price as taking the train. No hauling suitcases for us and we arrive well on time. The moment we try to check in, it turns out that I made a stupid little mistake on Sean’s Esta, putting in an o instead of an 0, and he cannot be cleared to fly until we book another one on my mobile. This is super stressful but I am very glad that for the first time in a long while my phone just does what it’s asked to do.
About 12 hours later we are in the USA, collect our upgraded rental car and drive to the hotel. I am happy we brought out own satnav as I wouldn’t have wanted to navigate the streets of LA by map at night. Or by map at all! We arrive around 22:00 at the hotel.
Tuesday, May 5th
After a rough and restless night we wake up silly early and cannot seem to go back to sleep. We get up at 6.30, have breakfast at the hotel around 7.30 and off for Hollywood. We see the walk of fame and sunset boulevard (which is a bit of a…dump) but we’re too early for most thing to even be open! After a much-needed coffee and a view of the Hollywood sign through a tourist binocular, we are off to see the sign closer-up.
We drive to the observatory through an amazing neighbourhood to a fantastic view over the city and hills. In the afternoon we go to the Citadel outlet shopping centre where we spend money on things we don’t really need; apart from my wetsuit ofcourse!
We have out dinner at a diner, which was a poor choice and more for convenience sake than anything else. Sean is hoping to join a local Kyukushin Dojo for their Tuesday training session tonight. He can, and does, and I for one am very impressed as I sit on the side trying really hard not to fall asleep….
Wednesday, May 6th
We’re going to Disneyland!!! The ride over is smooth and after putting down $17 for parking we take the little tram to the entrance. The day start off great; The bobsled ride (Matterhorn) that Sean wants to go into, is closed for maintenance. We head into Toontown and get stuck in a ride that’s breaking down! Then we find out that pretty much all the big rides are closed – in all fairness, there was a list at the entrance, but we were way too excited to get in to look at it properly. We still have fun in several silly rides, have a blast with the great purchase of a pair of Malificent horns (small children are easily convinced you are a villain on a day off) and going on Splash Mountain was a baaaad choice. The Indiana Jones ride, as well as the Finding Nemo submarines were an unexpected success. Then, as a final stroke of genius, the park shuts early!!!! At 19:00 things start shutting down, restaurants closing and everyone gets kicked out at 19:30…..Boooo!
Thursday, May 7th
After a broken night due to an alarm going off, we get up, pack our bags and have breakfast. We fail to find the address to ‘It’s a wrap’ vintage shop on the satnav, so we point it toward Jack’s Surf outlet instead. We find it (disappointing), we find a secondhand bookshop nearby (also disappointing) and finally and most wonderful antique shop, filled with goodies. Ellie, the owner of Gramma’s Attic is lovely (and also went to the early-closing Disneyland yesterday) and we end up taking away a gorgeous black dress and a 1920’s-1930’s ice cream scoop. We then continue to Huntington beach where we have a great lunch at a ‘good food’ place and shop somewhat for bikini’s and surfboards. The weather is cloudy and a little chilly and there is no waves.
Later in the afternoon we take the I-5 south to San Diego. Along the way we managed to slow puncture the front tire, which we keep filling up and after checking into the hotel we exchange the car at Dollar rental. Since we’re already in that area we go into Old Town for some Mexican food.
Friday, May 8th
Tonight, and this morning in San Diego it doesn’t just rain – it pours! Bad news for us is that this means that we cannot go surfing, unless we’d like to risk infections and/ or becoming very ill. Apparently, when it rains after a dry spell, all the crap from the city washes into the sea. Not only that, they get the rubbish from Mexico on top of that! Needless to say, we stay on dry land today. We talk a while with a surf dude at ‘the Surf Bunker’ named Travis, who recommends going to the Wavehouse further down the road. With our luck though, its closed! Closed!!
Thank goodness there is an arcade next door that is open and we throw some quarters at our misery. Afterwards, we drive to San Diego antique district where we have beautiful burritos for lunch / early dinner and shop around a little. Sean even manages to find some retro games to take home. We then ask the satnav to take us to a cinema, to have a look if there is anything we want to see perhaps, it guides us to Sea World… which is closed….and after resetting the directions to another cinema it doesn’t have anything we’d like to see.
Back at the hotel, we walk to a pizza place for cake and margaritas and quickly jump into the hotel pool before it shuts for the night.
Saturday, May 9th
We check out of our hotel in the morning, drive to the same Japanese-run fruit-and-crepe place we had breakfast yesterday and then go on to a secondhand board shop we passed yesterday (you may have guessed by now that it was closed at that time). Sean finds himself a great board, just what he was looking for. Across the road there is a kite festival going on and we decide to join in by getting ourselves a dragon kite. We have ice creams, enjoy the show and the great weather for today the sun is out in force!
At around 13:00 we set our satnav back to LA, first to the Anaheim center of photography. We arrive around 16:30 – it looks abandoned and it’s… CLOSED! When the machine wants to charge us $14 for the privilege of undergoing this nonsense, I throw a little fit and get back in the car without paying the ticket. Lucky for me, a kind lady actually lets us out of the complex. We try the Getty instead. The satnav guides us to the rear of the building and after some cursing, swearing and honking by my fellow road users, we arrive at the Getty. Which is open!
We view their photography collection on display and after being thoroughly disappointed with the (second half of the) day, we pay for parking and head towards our hotel.
Sunday, May 10th
Today, we’re off to the Rosebowl, a giant monthly fleamarket held in Pasadena, LA. We get up at 6:30, enjoy our complimentary breakfast, pack up and we’re on our way. We get there nice and early around 7:30 and dang! They did not lie when they said it was big! We decide to skip all the new stuff as we won’t have time for that and focus on the antiques and vintage clothing sections as those will be hard enough to cover as-is. There is some amazing stuff for sale on this market – some cheap, some bizar, some wonderful and everything suited for every budget. We manage to find some amazing things: I get a short dress with apple print, a small musical box with a dancing man, a flight suit and a full leather sports / weekend bag. Sean finds a retro skateboard deck, fully made of wood and a bunch of retro games.
With pain in my heart, we leave around 13:00 to head for Vegas.
Driving through the Mojave desert is not as I imagined it. It’s not actually very desolate with petrol stations around every other corner – and what’s up with those little fences next to the Motorway? Are they afraid people will wander off into nowhere? We stop a few times and reach Vegas around 18:00. We booked a room at the Luxor (the pyramid) and after refreshing ourselves, I change into my old new black Cinderella dress for dinner and we take a walk on the strip.
Monday, May 11th
We agree that Vegas is a little like Disneyland meets Times Square; the buildings are mad and everything is expensive around here. Even though we are – I am – happy to have seen it, we’re also happy to have been here at night time. It looks so …. dead… during the day! We drive towards the North side of the strip to try and find the ‘World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop’ from the TV show. It’s a lot smaller than we thought it would be and after checking out the other shops as well, just across the street we set off for Death Valley.
Today’s drive will be out longest, according to our planning so wanting a fairly early start we leave Vegas at 11:00. Within the hour, there are plains with Joshua trees, mountain ranges and vast open spaces of hostile rocky terrain. We see sand dunes, salt flats, gravel pits, dust plain, dust devils and snowy hilltops. This is amazing and I am a little sad that I ‘only’ brought my medium format camera with me, instead of a proper proper old big one.
We get to our destination, a hotel at a half-way point at around 20:30, half an hour before reception closes for the night. We settle in with some store-bought cheesecake and a B horror movie. And I can tell you that watching a B-horror movie, set in a small town in the middle of nowhere is NOT a good thing to watch when staying overnight in a small town in the middle of nowhere!
Tuesday, May 12th
After a restless night we pack up and go find breakfast in the nearest town. We have a look around some small shops, get a drink in the saloon (it has horse ties and swinging doors and everything!) and set course for the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park. Our hotel keeper advised us a different route than satnav wanted us to take, so we drove for many a mile through orange growing country before going off into the hills again. Along the way we stop at a lovely antiques shop where I manage to find a few stereo cards to add to my ever growing collection.
Going through Sequoia National Park is tough – an hours of slowly winding upwards, fortunately with stunning views to easy my pain. We reach the old man around 17:00, have a good look around – but not too good as it’s freezing cold up here – and then go find food and out hotel for the night.
Wednesday, May 13th
We leave the hotel early in the morning, after some amazing complimentary self-cooked waffles. Today we’ll be setting course for Yosemite National Park. We drive a while and stop along the way at some random antique shops and I manage to find myself a beast of an X-ray lens. I don’t yet know how I should be using it – let’s just say it won’t be for original purposes. We reach Yosemite proper at around 13:00, drive a little further in but do not really have time to do a walk as we had planned as we’ll need to reach San Fran by the end of today. We also managed to miss inspiration point, but I suppose the Tunnel view vantage point more than made up for that. We also have our lunch there, on a log next to a stream….ahhh. Relaxation! It’s out first ‘normal’ sandwiches we have had here and the desert we got – a cake/custard vanilla/ banana whatever sort of pudding mix – is utterly delicious!
Then, we drive another 3+ hours to San Francisco, arriving at around 19:30. We check online for tickets to Alcatraz, but as it turns out, May is not a slow season around here and everything is sold out! The night tours are even sold out for the next 2 months! Oh well, we head out for a slice of pizza and dive into a book shop that’s open late.
Thursday, May 14th
Today we’ll be spending the day in San Fransisco. Going up Polk street, we have breakfast at a ‘French’ Boulangerie place, having coffee from a cereal bowl (honestly, these Americans! ;-)) Visiting the Fisherman’s Wharf, we quickly determine this is NOT for us as the area is overly touristy and walking onwards to the Alcatraz landing dock we see that normal tours are booked up till Tuesday. Sean does receive some kind compliments on his wooden skateboard deck from the local bums, which is nice. We take a street tram towards Mission street – we are hoping to find a skate shop that can fit Sean’s deck with some trucks and wheels. We find one and he gets the work done.
We carry on a few blocks to a bunch of Antique and thrift stores before going towards Chinatown. Chinatown, like Fisherman’s wharf is unfortunately yet another tourist trap. We do sit in at a great teashop, having a full-on taster session with the salesgirl. We opted for dinner at the ‘Great Eastern Restaurant’, a place where apparently Barack Obama once had a Dim Sum take-away, or so the proudly displayed newspaper clipping tells us. We walk back to the Hotel UP the giant sloping hills, wandering what it would be like to live here (and having to carry shopping bags up this hill….and what if you forgot the butter….?)
Friday, May 15th
We walk over to Lombard street ‘the crookedest street in the world’ – which was yet again, disappointing. We walk back to our hotel to check out and head over to Santa Cruz instead. Sadly for us, there’s not much surf going on. The winds are fierce (and a bit chilly). We park at the hotel, take a walk on the pier where we spot a group of sea lions chilling out, go over the boardwalk and have some hotdogs for lunch. The place we decided to sit down at, the picnic basket also does these amazing wild flavours of ice cream, most of them from local farms.
We take the car for a drive round some other beaches in the area and to a local surfshop to get Sean a boardbag. We visit the museum of surfing at the lighthouse and then lo and behold! There’s waves!! Sean heads out on his new board, we meet a new surfer in the area and help him out a bit. Afterwards, we head into the Santa Cruz main street for dinner and some late night shopping. I could get used to shops being open till 22:00!
Saturday, May 16th
We have some complimentary waffles and head out to the beach. Again, no waves! Instead, we check out some of the sample sales advertised along the roads and make several unplanned stops for yard sales in between. At a local surfshop, Sean finds some tiny fins to go with his board and I find some vintage clothing to put on Etsy. Win!
We then drive South along the Coastal Highway, stopping countless times to take photos. When we arrive at our hotel for tonight, the historic Santa Maria Inn, it turns out that it played host to the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Eva Gardner, Judy Garland, etc etc. No=one famous stayed in our room, however. We take it easy for the night as there is nothing to do or see in this area.
Sunday, May 17th
We get up quite late and re-pack all of our stuff. My hand luggage now has a killer weight due to that massive ‘radioactive’ lens I just ‘had’ to buy. We enjoy a continental breakfast and set off to Venice beach, where we booked the last hotel of this trip. We are hoping to meet up with James Cooper, one of Sean’s former colleagues who lives somewhere in the area. We arrive fairly early and after a bit of faff parking the car, we walk up to Santa Monica Boulevard, play a few games in the arcade and end up at ‘Hama Sushi’ in Venice for food. They are not the cheapest place, I’m sure, but their dishes seem quite original and sure were tasty!
Monday, May 18th
It is our final morning and again, there are no waves! We have been unlucky on this trip with quite a few things, but thank goodness there was also plenty fun stuff and more than enough to make us want to come back!
We have out breakfast at a nearby cafe, complete with building site ambience. We grab the car, check out a few shops on the South side of Venice and then drive towards Santa Monica. There, we get bored real quick with the dime-a-dozen up-scale shops, but we do manage to find a massive charity shop. We have crepes for lunch and head back to the car. The car!! Where did that car go!!!!
PANIC STATIONS EVERYONE!!! WHERE DID THAT CAR GO!?!?!
Turns out we were looking in the wrong building…..sigh….
The rest of the day runs smoothly, dropping off the car, getting to the airport and faking my hand luggage really isn’t that heavy at all. Bye bye California! We hope to visit again soon!
On Friday the 1st of May 2015 Sean and I got married. After all that had happened, we decided to push on, not in the least because my mother had urged us to keep the date before she passed away. After a bit of an organising flurry – My Ebay sourced dress hadn’t been altered yet, the rings not bought, the cake not ordered, guests not invited, the Fort St George not reserved, flowers not sourced, a hair/ make-up artist not found – and the day was there!
I got ready at Hotel Felix in Cambridge. Our own house would be filled with guests from abroad and frankly, it’s not a very photogenic place. My hair-and- make-up artist for the day, the very talented Izzy Wild, knocked on my door at 7:45 sharp. Around 7:50 our photographer Hannah Duffy arrived to start recording the events as they unfolded on both digital and film camera.
My friend Debbie collected my mother-in-law Irene and my best friend (and witness) Elke from my house and brought them over to the hotel. I asked Elke to finish my hairpiece and bouquet arrangements and Debbie to tie the handle on the bouquet. Irene had already helped me gather the flowers and leaves for both pieces so she could sit back and relax.
Izzy finished up around 10:00, well on time for Hannah and myself to make best use of the hotel’s massive garden and take some photos. I was collected by Steve just after 10:30 and arrived at the wedding venue on time.
Our ceremony started at 11:00 at the UK Cambridge registry office at Castle hill and it went fairly smooth – apart from the bit where I forgot my own name and we were a little confused when Sean’s witness Martijn turned out NOT to have the rings. Afterwards, we took some photos at Castle Hill itself before walking over to the Fort St George on the River Cam. There, we spent the afternoon in chilled leisure, had a lovely lunch and plenty of Pimms. As we anticipated a half-day wedding program, it was quite surprising (if not utterly lovely) to see everyone stick around for the entire day and join us for a casual Japanese dinner at Teri-Aki.
Sean and I went back to Hotel Felix for the night where we had some bubbly at the bar, a good night’s rest (haha!) and an utterly delicious breakfast in the morning.
We were especially thankful to everyone that just dropped everything to be in Cambridge on our special day – We know that you all lead busy lives and on top of that, most people had to travel quite far. Thank you guys! It wouldn’t nearly have been as much fun without you! X