Young Parisians

Posted on 10th April 2012

Did I mention I went to Paris to take part in the 2012 QA Hackathon? Did I remember to mention all the cool stuff I got done? Well if you've been hiding for the past few weeks, have a look at the last couple of posts :)

As per usual, while there I took my camera along. However, unlike many previous visits to Paris, I didn't do any sight-seeing. And that includes failing to wander around the venue we were in and discovering the real submarine among other things, that others found while taking a breath of fresh air.

Instead I spent my time hacking away, and only occasionly coming up for air for food, drink and some camera action.

With over 40 people in attendance, it was going to be difficult to capture everyone, but I think I managed it. If I did miss you, my apologies. It was great to meet so many friends old and new, and a real pleasure to finally put faces to names that I've known for a while, but not had the opportunity to meet in person.

So many great things happened in Paris, and I'm really looking forward to see what we can achieve in London for the 2013 QA Hackathon. See you there.

File Under: community / hackathon / opensource / paris / photography / qa / testing
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Things Don't Mean What They Used To

Posted on 26th March 2012

Back in the '90s a young band touted themselves round the Midlands and sometimes further afield. Unfortunately I never got to see them, but did acquire a cassette tape at some point and remember being impressed. I was later told that the keyboard player was my mate Pete Spoz, who I'd got to know as one of the Jellyheads, who used to come along to many of the early Ark gigs. The tape is now somewhere in the loft in one of many boxes og hidden gems.

A few months ago, Pete told me that Giovanni (Pete's brother) was reforming The Sordid Details with Mick Couch, Rick Cox and himself. Here was my chance.

Sadly due to other commitments, of the three Re-Onion dates, Bromsgrove is the only one I could make. So on the 18th March, over to The Hop Pole in Bromsgrove I went for my first Sordid Details gig. Full of friends and family, the night was set for a top gig.

The band began as The Sordid Details, with a great selection of their own classics, along with a couple of covers, the first of which, Wish Away, they were joined by their good friend Ash on vocals. After about an hour they closed the first set with The Stranglers classic No More Heroes.

The second set began with a selection of songs from their days as Stereogram, when they played as a three-piece after Pete left. Pete rejoined them on stage for a run through a selection of covers, and a few more of The Sordid Details classics, before Dave from Jam DRC peformed some guest vocals with the band.

The night ended all too quickly, even though the band had been playing for over two hours! A fantastic night and I'm only sad that I won't be able to see them play The Flapper & Firkin in Birmingham on Saturday 31st March. If you happened to be in town on Saturday and fancy a great night out, you'll not be disappointed with The Sordid Details. Hopefully they'll come out retirement again some day, so I see if my bootleg tape recorder still works!

File Under: bromsgrove / gigs / music / photography
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Sold On You

Posted on 27th November 2011

Two weekends ago, The Paul Menel Band played their first gig with their new line-up. Debbie Saunders joins the band on sax, and adds that soulful sound back into the mix.

The venue, The Marr's Bar in Worcester was a great little club, and I hope I get to see more gigs there. It's only downside was the fact that it is typically an 18s and over type venue, due to licensing, and as a consequence there is a large young audience in the town that aren't able to get in to see gigs. This is a shame as I think we should be encouraging a younger audience to live gigs, as so many venues have closed due to lack of attendance. Hopefully The Marr's Bar doesn't suffer the same fate.

The gig itself was brilliant as always. Due to a late cancellation of the support act, Paul's son Luke Menel stepped in and provided us with a stunning performance of various acoustic indie tracks. Considering his age, Luke is truly a star in the making, and it will be great to see his musical career progress.

Being a small venue, the band's energy was bursting at the seems, and you could tell everyone was enjoying themselves. Several times during the set, Steve Harris looked lost in his only little world with licks flying along the fret board. Steve Swift, Bill Devey and Ian Diment all deftly locked the band into the groove and allowed Debbie, Dr Steve and Paul to soar, as they did often.

During Under Your Wing, Paul brought Luke back on stage to add backing vocals as he does on the forthcoming album, Three Sides to Every Story. The song itself is a very personal song for both Paul and Luke, so it was great to see them both taking centre stage. Tonight was a great showcase for the band, and hopefully some videos from tonight will eventually surface on YouTube as we had several different camera angles on the go.

In the meantime, collating my photos of the night we have the soundcheck, Luke's performance as well as the headliners.

Date: 12th November 2011
Venue: The Marr's Bar, Worcester

File Under: gigs / menel / photography
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Dreams (Keep Me Alive)

Posted on 21st April 2011

On Saturday, 2nd April 2011, the Superficials played their first gig at The Hawthorns Social Club in Rubery. After being stuck in the studio recording their debut album for several months, it was great to actually hear the songs that Pete had been telling everyone about.

Attended by friends and family, the gig was primarily a private gig in celebration of fellow Jellyhead Craig's 40th birthday. As such, it was a very supportive audience, not that it was hard to win anyone over. The songs are very infecious, the playing was top notch and the performance from the whole band was solid.

The band consist of Martyn Terry on vocals & sax, Trevor Flowers on lead guitar, dB on drums, Cheese on rhythm guitar and Pete Spoz on bass, keyboards & backing vocals. Despite being a new band, the collective members have a wealth of previous experience under their belts, and although it might have been their first gig, you could easily be forgiven for thinking they've been playing together for several years.

Running through the complete album, as well as several unrecorded songs, the band settled into a groove quickly, and took us on a tour of aural delights. Their sound, although very indie/rock in nature has some mod and classic rock influences too, which suits the current climate of interest for indie bands at the moment. Songs like Emergency and The Truth highlight the band's foot-tapping rythmic grooves, Pushing Daises and Futureday bring out a more jangly-pop sound, while songs such as Dreams (Keep Me Alive) show off the band's more soulful side. Although I can't hear specific influences, there are parts that remind me of bands like The Mighty Lemon Drops or The Trashcan Sinatras, and even The Jam. All in all a great mix of tunes and well worth checking out.

My thanks to Pete for the setlist:

Emergency
Superficial
Eye Of The Storm
Spinning Song
Pushing Daises
Dreams (Keep Me Alive)
The Truth
Nostalgia Lies
If You Think About It
Futureday
All The People
Two Thousand Days
Generation
America
28000 Miles

For more details on the band, visit the Superficials page on Reverbnation or follow the Superficials on Facebook. The album, Surface, is out now, and with more gigs lined up, you'd be wise to see them now before the NIA and world wide tours beckon.

Check out more photos from the gig:

This is part one of Craig's 40th Birthday Bash. Part two with The Festival Experience will appear soon.

File Under: gigs / music / photography / superficials
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A Letter to Elise

Posted on 28th September 2010

The Jewellery Quarter has always held a lot of history within its streets and buildings, but having worked around the area for a few years, I completely missed some of that history. Although I knew of Warstone Lane Cemetery, The Agent Centre, The Chamerlain Clock and of the older buildings, I'd never really looked up their history. Last week I discovered that Birmingham had catacombs, and they had been right under my nose in Warstone Cemetery all this time. As such, I thought it might be interesting to take some time to look up some more history of the area.

After only a few minutes, I decided that Dan and I should take a photo tour of The Jewellery Quarter, and pick out some highlights. Our first stop was at Northwood Street, which was once home to tw2, the web design company I started working at in 1999. We then went around the corner into Regent Place, along to the building now occupied by D&F. From 1777-1790 there stood a large house where James Watt once lived. Not only did he live here, but in partnership with Matthew Boulton, he also worked here too, and produce many of his most famous inventions here. Around the corner is the school that is now part of Birmingham University, but still today concentrates on teaching pupils the art of sliversmith and jewellery making.

Although many of the factories have been replaced over the years, many still hold the history of the trades of a bygone era. One such trade was the making of pen nibs for fountain pens. Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter was once the highest producer of pen nibs in the world, and its decline only came more recently, due to the mass production of László Bíró's invention by Bic. However, The Pen Room in the Argent Centre still exists to preserve the history. As you enter, you walk into a room instantly full of history. Around the walls on the left are various packages and pens, with the centre given way to cases of exhibits. On the right are some of the old machines used to make the pen nibs. On a quiet day the staff are more than happy to give you a demostration, although they can only perform 5 steps of the process, as the other 12 require machines too large to fit in the room, as well as time to perform them. Dan got to punch out the metal and stamp it to begin the process, and got to keep the results. He was quite impressed to realise that all those years ago, children the same age as himself were producing all these nibs. Of the stamping process 28,000 per worker were cut from the sheet metal.

Next we were shown some of the braille machines that were also produced in Birmingham, with Dan getting to spell his name in braille on the ticker type machines. After the demonstrations, we were lead into the second room, full of typewriters, pen nibs and other exhibits, with the opportunity to try some of the typewriters, as well as try writing with some of the pens. A member of staff took out an old German typewriter that was very unique as the characters were all on a single barrel, and the letters chosen via a metal pointer attached to the barrel, and pointing at the letters on a curved pad. A very unusual typewriter, and I should have taken a photo, as I can't find anything like it online. Looking at some of the other exhibits, it is surprising to discover just how much an impact the pen industry had on Birmingham (as well as the world), with many pioneers having been since commorated with street names, mounments and buildings. Josiah Mason, John Baskerville and Joseph Gillott to name a few.

Across from The Pen Room was Joseph Gillott's Victoria Works, and is one of a few factories that can still be seen, the Argent Centre itself (previously the Albert Works) being one too. Incidentally the Argent Centre at one point was also a Turkish Baths. Another bit of history I discovered, is that the stories of 'Rip Van Winkle' and 'The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow' were actually written in a house, whose grounds covered the corner of Legge Lane and Frederick Street. The house survived even after the Argent Centre was built in front of it, to occupy the corner itself. Further up Frederick Street is the factory of Thomas Fattorini Ltd, who moved to Birmingham from Italy, via Skipton, and was renowned for making medals and badges. I used to walk past these buildings every day when I worked at The Big Peg, and although I often took the time to take in the grand designs of the buildings, I really wished I'd taken more interest at the time. I'd have probably spent most lunchtimes walking around with a camera :)

We then entered the central part of the Jewellery Quarter, by the Chamberlain Clock and Aquinas House. From here we walked across the road to the Warstone Lane Cemetery Lodge, and to The War Stone. The former is not something I'd really paid attention to before, and the latter I never knew was there. From here we walked into the cemetery. In the central part of the cemetery are the catacombs. Above them originally stood St Michael's Church, which has long since gone. From images and drawings the cemetery was meant to be viewed from the Icknield Street entrance, with the catacombs appearing to be leading into the church. However, the abundance of trees these days hides a large part of this viw now. The catacombs were once used from protection in WWII, but have now all been boarded up, although some had already been closed with upright headstones. A link to our visit to The Pen Room is John Baskerville who is buried here. Although I didn't find his gravestone, there is a sort of memorial to him.

As we were planning to spend all day wandering around, we walked back and drove around some of the other places, such as Icknield Street School. Next time we'll take some time to visit the Key Hill Cemetery, which is just the otherside of the train station, and holds many famous Birmingham history makers, including Alfred Bird the inventory of egg-free custard, of which the Custard Factory is named (and perhaps another tour some day). Another place we'll visit is the Jewellery Museum at the top end of Vyse Street, as well as taking in more of the buildings in and around St Paul's Square, including The Assay Office, the biggest in the world.

One of Dan's fascinations of the day was the BT Tower. So as we headed back home, I stopped at the base so he could take a picture. Opposite we discovered the building that is St John's Ambulance Headquarters, which I've probably walked past several hundred times and never really noticed. Just goes to show what you can be missing when just walking through the streets of the town where you live.

It was a great dayout, and a good reminder that discovering history is only a short step away from your own doorstep. And it doesn't need to cost a fortune either.

If you're interested in the area, and perhaps doing a similar walking tour, I thoroughly recommend reading The Walk by Bob Miles, as well as the additional material Bob has assembled over the years. I wished I'd read more of it before setting out on our trip, and I'll definitely be using it for the bits we missed when we visit the area next time.

File Under: birmingham / museum / photography / sightseeing / structures / walks
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Living In The Past

Posted on 2nd September 2010

For a day out during the summer holidays, Nicole and I looked at places to visit that where children friendly, as well as interesting. I was surprised to discover that The Lunt Roman Fort was somewhere we had passed so often, but had never noticed. Although you can see the A45 from the fort, it isn't as easy to see the fort from the road, due to the trees all around now. All those years ago the fort would have had a very good vantage point across the landscape.

The fort itself is in the village of Baginton, which is south of Coventry City Centre and about a mile north of Coventry Airport (hence why its former name is Baginton Airport). However, the fort's biggest failing is advertising itself via road signs. There were very few, and had I not already seen the map of how to get there online, I could quite easily made a wrong turn. I wonder how many more visitors they might get if only they could direct people, as road signs would also help promote the fort to those who drive along the A45 or A46 fairly often. In all the times I've passed by in the last 20 or so years, I only found out about the place because of the internet! Getting there aside, the place is well worth a visit.

The original fort, being primarily wood based, has long since gone, and the buildings there today have been reconstructed based on the original drawings and layout from the roman times. There are stone and earthworks on the ground, so you can still see where many of the buildings would have been, but The Main Gate, Granary Building and Gyrus have all been careful reconstructed, and give a great impression of what the whole layout of buildings might have looked like. The Granary Building is the central museum full of artifacts, replica outfits and games, together with a 3D model of what the whole fort would have looked like. For the kids they have a little booklet to use to search for things around the site. It's well worth using as your guide, as it gave us a reason to have a closer look at the site.

The Main Gate to the south is the main entrance to the site, and on the approach you can see the ditches either side of you that were dug around the fort. The gate itself has a lookout tower, which unfortunately isn't accessible to the public, but it would provide a commanding view of the area. I wouldn't be surprised to be able to see some of the landmarks of Coventry and even Warwick on a clear day. You can climb up to the initial battlements level, and that still provides a great view, although apart from the airport nothing noteworthy is visible from this height, due to the nearby trees.

Next we headed over to the Gyrus. It's essentially a training area, both for horses and men. The ground is extremely sandy, to avoid injuries from falls. There were stables here, which are now only visible by their foundations. There would have been several hundred men posted here too, centurions and officers. The difference between the two clearly marked by the types of foundations of the buildings they would have lived in. The officers quarters looking rather more grand is space, while the centurions would have lived in long buildings that are probably the same as barracks we know of today.

The site was originally discovered in the 1930s when several pieces of Roman pottery were found. Then in the 1960s further excavations uncovered all the foundations to the various buildings. The buildings were reconstructed in the 1970s, when the site was finally opened tothe public.

Although it is a small site to visit, we spent roughly 90 minutes wandering around, there is a lot to discover and understand about the site. The kids loved dressing up in the replica outfits, as did Nicole, and they also enjoyed playing the ancient games. Dan completed the competition in the booklet and won himself an ancient coin. We had a great time exploring the fort, and would definitely recommend a visit. If you wanted to spend a full day out, then there is also the Midland Air Museum about half a mile down the road. We were hungry and heading for pizza, so we didn't get the chance. Combe Abbey Country Park is also very close by too, so taking an hour or so out to visit The Lunt Roman Fort too, is well worth it.

For the full set of photos, click here.

File Under: castles / photography / sightseeing
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In The Court Of The Crimson King

Posted on 31st October 2008

This week is half term, so the plan was to visit a few places locally. On Monday DanDan and I had been left to our own devices, so we headed off to see more castles. This time we ventured into Wales, or at least just across the border. Unfortunately it seems I wasn't checking the settings correctly on the camera, and some of the photos came out a little too over exposed. I was quite impressed with Raglan Castle, aside from being a very reasonable entrance fee, the castle although not huge, is full of hidey holes and cellars to explore. The keep, like many we've visited recently, still has most of it's stairs up to the tower intact, and you are allowed up to look at the view.

Following the visit to Raglan Castle our plan was to visit Symonds Yat Rock then onto Goodrich Castle. Unfortunately we were too late getting to Goodrich Castle so we'll have to leave that for another time. Just a short way back over the border back into England, near Ross-on-Wye, is Symonds Yat. Now there are two Symonds Yat villages, which confused DanDan and I while we tried to find Symonds Yat Rock. We first visited Symonds Yat West, which resides in Herefordshire on the eastern bank of the River Wye. Then upon realising our mistake, we turned around and headed for Symonds Yat East in Gloucestershire, finally finding Symonds Yat Rock. The view across each side of the peak is impressive, though the eastern side is mostly of interest for ornithologists, due to the Peregrine Falcons that have returned to the area. It's a shame you can't quite see the original hill fort any more, although driving out of the car park you do follow between two of the mounds and trenches.

On Tuesday morning we had glorious sunshine, so the plan to go to Dudley Castle & Zoo seemed quite a good idea at the time. By the time we got there it was a little overcast and a bit drizzly, but we figured it would blow over. Having paid quite a substantial amount of money for want amounts to an out-of-season visit, the rain started to get a little heavier. As it was lunchtime we headed for food first, but afterwards it was still raining. We attempted to do some indoor activities, as much as we could, but the rain wasn't giving up. After a few hours of perseverance we admitted defeat and decided to walk back down to exit and the car. At this point the rain turned into snow! Had we known how the weather was going to turn, I doubt we'd have gone for a day out. The castle and the zoo themselves do look like they would be a good day out during better weather, but many of the animals were inside and trying to take photos in the rain is not the brightest of ideas when you have a decent camera. I was considering not include photos here, due to the drops of rain and snow on the lens, but then it was all part of a memorable day out :)

Enjoy the photos.

File Under: castles / photography / sightseeing
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Dancin' in the Ruins

Posted on 21st October 2008

A few weeks back, I took DanDan to visit Ludlow Castle. Unusually for the weather we've been having, it was a fantastic sunny day. On the trip over there were a few view points that we really should have stopped at, as the view looking West as we came over the hills, was much better than those looking East. However, it was easier to stop and look East. At one point where we stopped, the area allows for sheep to run free, as cattle grids either side of the hilltop stop them straying too far. One decided to investigate DanDan further :)

When we finally arrived in Ludlow, we headed towards Castle Square, hoping to find a nearby car park. Our luck was in, as an on street parking spot was free right outside the castle entrance. It also turned out to be market day, but being a Sunday was more or the car-boot kind of market day, than a regular one. As we were here to see the castle, we didn't spend too much time in the town itself. Hopefully we'll get the chance to do that another time, as there looks to be some great buildings around the network of streets.

Ludlow Castle itself is an old medieval castle, that has gone through a few transformations and was once a Royal Castle. Not quite as grand as Windsor Castle maybe, but I can imagine the place was a sight to behold in its day. Much of the stone work has seen better days, but there is enough standing for you to get a good idea of what the castle must have looked like. You explore up the towers and down into the cubby holes, and discover some fantastic views.

I haven't looked at DanDan's photos yet, but he did seem to have a lot of fun with the camera. After we'd been up the first tower, that stands outside of the main fortress, DanDan handed me the camera. He then proceeded to run round the entire outer wall and buildings. I shgould have filmed him, as there were a few other visitors completely bemused by his mad dash! Once inside the main fortress, I took lots of photo opportunities. With the light being so bright outside, those shots have unsurprisingly come out the best. The more darkened pictures I struggled with. It was a shame as some of the hidden rooms tell some interesting stories.

Seeing as it was just DanDan and I, we're hoping to go back again with Nicole and Ethne at some point, so hopefully by then I'll have got the hang of photographing in subdued light. Will also take more time to take photos of other parts of the town. If you're ever stuck for somewhere to go for the day, Ludlow comes highly recommended.

File Under: castles / photography / sightseeing
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Castles and Dreams

Posted on 29th September 2008

Discovering local history can be quite fun at times. I've lived in and around Birmingham for the past 12 years, and there is certainly a lot history I've discovered already. However, there has been one part I never knew existed until recently. While planning the trip to Ludlow Castle and Richards Castle last weekend with DanDan, I came across a page listing Weoley Castle. Now Weoley Castle is an area of South Birmingham, that is slightly North of where I live now, and slightly south of where I used to live when I first moved to Birmingham. I've driven through the area many times between Northfield and Harborne, but never knew that the remains of the castle ruins still existed. Although to be fair it isn't a castle in the grand sense, but a fortified manor house. Not that that should deter you from visiting it.

So on Saturday, DanDan and I took a drive over to the Weoley Castle Ruins. Having read the web page, we were prepared to only see the ruins from the viewing area. But seeing as it's a bit of local history I wasn't too bothered about that. As it turned out, our arrival at the site couldn't have been better timed. We'd just started taking pictures, when a woman walked passed the other side of fence, in medieval attire befitting of the lady of the house. She and the guy walking with her, walked up on to the ruins, where she posed for a photo. As they walked back, the woman paused and told us that if we wanted to come back later at either 2pm or 3pm, there would be a storytelling and we would be allowed into the ruins to have a look round. Not wanting to miss a golden opportunity, DanDan and I headed home for lunch and picked up Nicole and Ethne.

We arrived in time for the 3pm event, and walked with about 40 others up into the ruins by the last surviving apple tree, of those that had originally stood there. Then the show began. The woman we had seen earlier announced herself as Joan de Botetourt, lady of the castle. Over the course of about half an hour or more, she took us around the rooms of the castle, telling us about each room, the history of the castle and the de Botetourt family history. All completely in character. The show and storytelling were fantastic and I was so glad we had happened to come and visit the ruins in the morning. The storyteller turned out to be Anna O'Brien of Annamation, one of a troupe who frequently do this kind of storytelling, particularly at the Barber Institute by Birmingham University, where they re-enact paintings.

I took the opportunity to take LOTS of photos, and it was a wonderful day to take them too. I spoke with one of the organisers, who had come over to ask if I was a professional photographer or did it as a hobby. Reassuring her I was most definbitely an amateur, she told me about their plans for the site. Unfortunately they had been turned down to open a visitors centre, but they now have plans to open a school room. Although some local schools do take advantage of the opportunities to have the children taken around the ruins, not too many do, and occasionally rain means tours get cancelled. A dedicated school room means more schools can plan visits regardless of the weather, and much more planned activities.

It was a brilliant afternoon, and I'm so glad that Birmingham Museums And Galleries put on these sorts of events every so often. If you ever spot the chance to go and tour the ruins, especially if Annamation are doing the storytelling, then go. You will be thoroughly entertained.

File Under: birmingham / castles / museum / photography / sightseeing
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In The Clouds

Posted on 1st July 2008

My photos are finally online from the YAPC::NA Conference in Chicago. Although many of the outdoor photos have come out well, many of the indoor ones haven't. For the conference itself, the main room was too dark on stage to really catch the speakers well, and all though the other two rooms were well lit, the speakers always seemed to move at the wrong moment. I think it might have helped if I';d have used my tripod a bit more, but I really do need a good digital SLR.

I did want to add lots of tags and things to all the photos, but that's just going to have to wait until I have more time. In the mean time, enjoy.

For those that only want to see the conference related photos, these are they:

For those who just want to see the sights of Chicago, then you'll more likely want to see these:

As an added bonus I'm piecing together some of the photos I took during the Speakers Party, where we were able to get a grand view of the city. At the moment I have only uploaded 1, but hope to get the other two sorted soon.

File Under: chicago / community / conference / opensource / people / photography / sightseeing / yapc
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Not Fade Away

Posted on 17th May 2008

The Cadbury Cricket Pavilion (as it is often referred to these days), is quite a grand building. It was originally opened in June 1902, and was a gift to the Bournville Cricket Club to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII, hence its other name of The Coronation Cricket Pavilion. The black & white photo shown here is taken from The Food of the Gods, by Brandon Head (available thanks to Project Gutenberg), although alas it doesn't recall when it was taken.

Earlier this year, Dan's team Callowbrook Swifts, played a match against Cadbury Athletic on the Sports Field, so I took the opportunity to take a few photos of the Pavilion as it is today. I assume it is still used by the Bournville Cricket Club, as they still hold cricket matches here during the summer months. One of many Bournville treasures.

File Under: birmingham / photography / sightseeing
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So Glad 2B Alive

Posted on 12th May 2008

Back in February we went to see Bleeding Hearts as The Adam & Eve in Digbeth, Birmingham. It was also Gel's 40th birthday, and a great gig to celebrate it. It was also great to see Paul Rogers at the gig too, who I hadn't seen since my days with Ark, in fact since 1994. There were quite a few old faces in the audience, as well as plenty of new ones too. The was a complete mixture of old and new songs, with more emphasis on the newer songs. I did mean to make a note of the setlist, but got complete caught up in taking photos.

The Adam & Eve is quite a small pub, though long, so although you can't necessarily see well at the back, you could definitely hear the band. In fact most of Digbeth could probably hear them, and undoubtly would have said they deserved all the encores asked of them. After the live album I was quite eager to see the band again, but unfortunately it ended up being a little longer than intended. Since The Adam & Eve gig, they've done a couple of German tours now, and are set up to do a few UK gigs around the Midlands, so hopefully we'll be catching up with them soon. Expect more photos then, and hopefully a setlist next time around.

File Under: birmingham / bleedinghearts / gigs / music / photography
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That's Entertainment

Posted on 13th March 2008

Last weekend The Coopers played at the last (for now) Scooter Do event. The night was a great finish to what has been a great couple of years. With Kev now back playing drums again, with The Coopers, his weekends are taken up more and more by either work or gigs, and there doesn't seem to be much time for The Scooter Do. Kev has said it probably won't be the last ever Scooter Do, but it will be the last one for quite some time. Perhaps once a year or on a special occasion when nothing else is happening.

I knew a few faces from previous events and The Ship Ashore days, but it was also good to see so many people I didn't know there. Congrats to Kev for making this such a success over the last few years.

The Coopers played a great set, featuring a variety of Mod associated songs from the 60s up to present day, including Time For Action, All Or Nothing and ending with a great version of I Predict A Riot. However, the part of the set that I quite enjoyed was with just Rob and Jeff, with Rob on vocals and acoustic guitar and Jeff on bass, playing That's Entertainment.

After a chat with Kev a while back they've managed to aquire some other coloured lights, although they still have a preference for red, which means it can be very difficult for a photographer. Still I think I did rather well and managed to capture them suitably well on stage. Next time, I've suggested they use a peach or amber instead of the red, as that will give them a much better warmth of colour both live and on film. It would be good to see them on a bigger stage too, as the band didn't have a lot of space to move at the weekend.

We'll have to keep an eye for forthcoming local gigs ... or just get Kev to text us :)

 

File Under: coopers / gigs / music / photography
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Are 'Friends' Electric?

Posted on 11th March 2008

Opening with Replicas

Opening with Replicas

JJ and I went to see Gary Numan last night at The Wulfren Hall in Wolverhampton. After a succesful tour in 2006 playing the Telekon album, which alas I missed, this time around it was the turn of Replicas. Playing the complete album, with b-sides and even a couple of the out-takes it was almost like being there back in 1979. He'd even recreated the same stage set, with the bands of lights behind the keyboard players. Replicas, like most of my generation, was the first album I heard by Gary Numan, albeit as Tubeway Army, and seeing him on Top Of The Pops performing Down In The Park and later Are 'Friends' Electric?, was captivating for an impressionable 14 year-old. It really does seem odd to think I've been a fan for nearly 30 years.

Last week Gary celebrated his 50th birthday at the gig in Manchester, apparently announcing that he was born at 10.30pm, so on the stroke of the half hour, his wife brought out a cake and the audience wished him happy birthday. It must have been quite a strange moment to be on stage, celebrating your 50th birthday, while playing songs that are over 30 years old and still as cherished as they were all those years ago.

The gig last night began with support act, Daggers, who never really impressed me. They sounded too much like so many other bands, and in places their intros even made me think they were about to play a cover by OMD, Ultravox or even Gary Numan. They played well, but they definitely need to strive to carve their own identity instead of chasing the tails of their inspirations.

The audience tape for the night featured Nine Inch Nails and just before the band took to the stage we got to hear Trent's version of Metal. Some of the crowd joined in, and the cries for "Nu-man" died down for a few minutes. The signal came from a stage hand and the lights went out. The bands of lights and backing lights fading up to bright red as the band sauntered on stage. Launching into Replicas, the band showed a very different style to the songs that can be heard on the record. The live sound was much more guitar orientated, understandably seeing as Gary was also playing guitar for many of the songs. It created a very stark sound rather than the big synth sounds that are heard on the album.

Unfortunately, I can't remember the order of songs, but they did play every track off Replicas, the b-sides We Are So Fragile and Do You Need The Service?, together with the later released out-takes The Crazies and We Have A Technical. Ending the main set with Are Friends Electric?, ended the Replicas era songs. returning for the encores the band actually seemed to step up a gear, both Cars and Everyday I Die sounded a lot more like the band were enjoying themselves. The closing song of the night was from the album Pure, A Prayer For The Unborn. Over the last three albums (Exile, Pure and Jagged) I think numan has recorded some of his best stuff. Listening to the band playing A Prayer For The Unborn, it was noticeable that there was a dramatic difference between it and all the other songs of the night. With A Prayer For The Unborn the sound seemed to invade every corner of the room and get inside you, drawing you deeper into the music. This was JJ's first Numan gig, and I wasn't too surprised to discovered that the last song was the one that caught his attention.

There's talk of the next tour featuring The Pleasure Principal. As much as I like the album, I do think I would prefer to hear him playing some new material instead. Last night was a trip down memory lane, and meant I got to hear several songs that I've never heard him play before, and while that's great for a couple of tours, doing a third would just be a bit too much. Still I'll probably go, as I've never yet come out of a Numan gig and felt like I didn't have a great night.

I used my camera phone again, and while some of the shots are a good memory of the gig, I am getting far too frustrated by the ability of the camera for these kinds of pictures. Looking at other pictures on the web, and the fact that several people had camera phones and seemed to be taking far better photos than I was, I'm rather disappointed with the N95. Despite being a 5MP camera, even in daylight unless you are closeup to the subject that pictures just aren't that good. At JJ's suggestion I tried playing with all the settings to see whether it was an improvement. In most cases it was worse. However, I have picked a selection to share here. I also took some videos, but even though we weren't right in front of the speakers the inbuilt microphone just isn't up to the job of recording gigs. I think I'll be doing a little more research later in the year when I get the chance to upgrade my phone again.

File Under: gigs / music / numan / photography / wolverhampton
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Standing (still)

Posted on 9th January 2008

VNV Nation at Barfly, Birmingham

VNV Nation at Barfly, Birmingham

Just before Christmas, JJ and I went to see VNV Nation at The Barfly (downstairs at The Institute for those that remember that instead) in Birmingham. The gig itself was great and you can see my photos online. However, I was a little disappointed with the photos. A woman near the front looked like she had a camera similar to my Fujifilm FinePix 5100, and I wished I taken mine along now, but seeing as I had my Nokia N95 camera phone with me, at 5MP I thought it would be enough to get some decent pictures. Alas no. I haven't looked into the technical data too well, but I have a feeling that the problem stems from the sensor, as in dark settings the picture pixelates far too much and has difficulty focusing. It seems to work well in bright light, except for camera shake, but for gigs it just doesn't match the quality of my Fuji camera.

With so many people having camera phones, and there were plenty of people taking photos at VNV Nation, I wonder how much effort is being made to stop people walking into gigs with cameras. When I first started going to gigs, walking in with cameras and tape recorders wasn't a problem. The during the late 80s and 90s most larger venues insisted on searching you and confiscating any recording equipment. It meant bootleggers got very good a walking in with tape recorders very cleverly concealed, although that wasn't too difficult with some of the profession recorders as they were quite small.

I haven't done any recording of gigs for a long time, and although I still have my recorder and mic, it is currently awaiting hibernation in the attic. I would have loved to have recorded VNV Nation, and in retrospect I wished I'd recorded KMFDM at Dudley JB's back in October 2005 (my first KMFDM gig). I don't go to that many gigs these days, but one aspect of not having the recording equipment strapped to me is that I can jump around, shout and sing without worry that I'm ruining the recording.

I'm well out of the tape trading scene these days, so if there are any recordings of the tour, whether or not Birmingham is among them, I don't hold out much hope of finding a copy.

The band looked like they really enjoyed the gig, and for their first time playing Brum it went down very well, so fingers crossed they'll return next time around. There has always been a big goth scene in Brum, so hopefully the likes Apoptygma Beserk and Front 242 can be tempted this way. And while we're at it, a visit from Fields Of The Nephilim and/or Last Rights wouldn't go unappreciated. Although most of all I'm hoping to finally get to see Ministry on their final tour. Oh and KMFDM can come back too :)

File Under: gigs / music / photography / vnvnation
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Snow

Posted on 19th November 2007

It's snowing!

It's snowing!

Early this morning, just before going to bed, we happened to look out into the back garden and noticed a rather large abundance of white. It had been trying to snow earlier in the day, but it hadn't been settling. After it had gone dark it would seem the snow had fallen a little more heavily. I tried taking some photos through the kitchen window, using a night setting, but I think it would have been better had I been outside. Seeing as I was too tired to go out (it was 2am) and it was far too cold, I had to make do. Hopefully this won't be the last snow, as I'd like to get some with Ethne playing in the snow :)

File Under: birmingham / brum / life / photography / rubery / weather
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Kings of Evermore

Posted on 17th October 2007

Bleeding Hearts @ The Boarshead Taphouse, Kidderminster

Bleeding Hearts @ The Boarshead Taphouse, Kidderminster

A couple of weekends ago, I went along to The Boarshead Taphouse in Kidderminster to witness the live recording of the new Bleeding Hearts live album. After playing for around 2 hours, and considering it was free entry, I would call that value for money. I told Nicole's brother that I'd got him in on the guest list, which he thought was great until he saw the poster advertising free entry :) The boys played a great selection of old, new and unreleased songs and ripped up a storm. The live album is only likely to feature around 10 songs from the 20+ set, so hopefully they'll be able to include a few classics in there.

As previously, I took my camera along. The first 30 minutes of the set I tried to record on video. Unfortunately several people kept wandering in front of the camera, so although none of the tracks are suitable for professional airing, Nick was thinking of adding one or two to Bleeding Hearts's own website. I now have a new 5"+ tripod, so hopefully I can get a better viewpoint for recording video in the future. I ended up taking over 1,000 photos, which worked out at roughly 16 shots a minute, and whittled it down to 175 for my selection. I've given the boys over 300 to choose from for their own purposes and have already asked whether they can use them on the inner sleeve of the album, which will be nice.

However, the venue wasn't the best for lighting, so I had some problems with some of the shots. I haven't got a top of the range camera, so lighting is important. Despite trying several settings to get the best out of the camera, the shutter speed still isn't fast enough for my liking. There were some great shots I would have liked to have got of Gel and Nick, but the light from the PAR cans was just too weak to capture them mid-movement. The Roadhouse photos came out much better simply because of the professional lighting rig the venue has, so I hope this set doesn't prove too disappointing for them.

A while ago I considered buying a small lighting rig, so that when I take photos of Nicole or her band, Slim Pickins, I can focus the lights and use the colour gels, just as I want them. Then I can bring them along to gigs for friends like Bleeding Hearts, and give them a much better stage lighting, and thus take much better photos. Unfortunately these sort of small rigs don't usually turn up on eBay, so I'll have to put the feelers out to my music industry contacts to see if anyone is selling off some old equipment. They'd be great for house parties for the kids in the summer too. DanDan and Ethne can pretend they're doing a real gig :)

For my selection of photos from the Bleeding Hearts gigs, see the links below:

File Under: bleedinghearts / gigs / music / photography / roadie
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Top Of The World

Posted on 26th August 2007

Day Six: So that was it, our holiday in Torquay. We headed home, and Nicole once again took photos as we crossed the bridge over the River Avon. It's quite amazing the difference a week made. As Phil from Malvern LUG had mentioned that we ought to call in on the way home for a cup of tea, I decided to take him up on the offer. However, Nicole wanted to the opportunity to see part of The Malvern Hills. We weren't planning to walk up the whole way, but the path up zig-zagged in such a way as to be quite easy to leisurely stroll up. Even DanDan and Ethne walked virtually all the way there themselves. I only carried Ethne the last few feet on my shoulders.

It really is a lovely view up there and I think we'll be going back to climb The Worcestershire Beacon, the highest point of The Malverns. But today we managed to make it to the top of Sugarloaf Hill, and that was just about enough. It took a while to get up the energy to walk down, but it was quite pleasant just watching the world pass by, even if the wind was a bit too much for me.

Once we got back to the car, we finally headed off round the corner to visit Phil. we spent a couple of hours chatting and finally the kids were getting a little too restless and we left Phil to walk Pepsi (their dog), and made the final leg back home. A great holiday, and I think we all enjoyed the break. Definitely thinking of going back again.

File Under: family / holiday / malvern / photography / walks
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Caught Somewhere In Time

Posted on 26th August 2007

Day Five: The holiday was coming to an end, but there was still far too much to see. We opted for Kents Caverns and Bygones Victorian Museum.

Kents Caverns was actually Nicole's favourite sight of the whole holiday. There is so much history there it really is quite staggering. Dave, our guide, was brilliant. A great sense of humour and a good rapport with his audience made for an excellent tour. At the end of the tour I asked him if he was studying archeology, but it seems not, he's a Sociology student :) The Caverns themselves are huge and very impressive. It was a shame that my camera work wasn't up to much as there were points when I failed to capture some of the awesomeness of the rock formations and patterns. The light in the caverns is all artificial, and at one point in the tour, the lights are switched off to show how dark it really is. It's probably the first time I've ever been in complete pitch darkness and you really can't see anything in front of your face, even a few millimetres away.

After coming out we discovered that due to the weather, the Caverns had become quite popular today. It seems we had arrived at just about the right time. They also have a kids discovery area, which both DanDan and Ethne enjoy being archelogists and uncovering fossils. They they got to draw on the chalk boards.

After lunch we headed back to Babbacombe and to the Bygones Victorian Museum. We had passed the museum earlier in the week and it looked like it was worth a visit. It's quite amazing just how much they have crammed into the building. They even have a small full size engine, which you get to walk onto the footplate. Although it is very much centred on the Victorian era, it does also feature a small section on the World War I. DanDan was a bit too unnerved by it, but Ethne didn't bat an eyelid. It is probably the only part of the museum that is potentially frightening for kids, as it is quite dark. It's quite amazing just how much memorabillia they have managed to accummulate or recreate about the era. However, I think DanDan and I would have to agree the traditional cream soda was the defining moment of the visit :)

File Under: caverns / devon / family / holiday / museum / photography / torquay
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Another Journey By Train

Posted on 26th August 2007

Day Four: Like my Dad, or more likely because of my Dad, I've liked steam trains from a young age. My grandparents had the Gwili Railway at the bottom of the garden from 198?, and as I was growing up from about the age of 8 I had watched them clear the old track, lay new ones and construct the station and line from Bronwydd Arms. I also got to ride on it while they were making it too. Since then, riding on steam trains has always been fun. In Torquay we had a choice. The Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway or The South Devon Railway (running steam trains from Totnes to Buckfastleigh). We opted for the latter.

I had mistakenly thought that there was a train connection between Paignton and Totnes and thought getting a train from Torquay would be a good idea. The train station was only a few minutes walk from the hotel, but after buying the tickets and looking at the map on the wall, I suddenly realised my mistake. In order to get to Totnes we had to go back up the line to Newton Abbot and then down again to Totnes. Had I realised this I would have driven there in about 20 minutes. As it was it took 2 hours with all the waiting and connections and delays. It was frustrating as I felt we had lost half a day, but as Nicole pointed out, the kids enjoyed it and Ethne did keep us entertained with her dancing and singing on the platform.

We just made it to the train for The South Devon Railway, otherwise we would have had to wait around 45 minutes for the next one. Although there were other things we could have done at the Totnes station, most of the things to see were at the Buckfastleigh station. The journey was lovely and once again the kids really enjoyed watching the scenery fly by. A brief stop at Staverton station was a good photo opportunity too.

Once we finally reach Buckfastleigh, we had a wander around part of the museum there. We then took an old double-decker red london bus to Buckfast Abbey. It's been a while since I was here last, and it's actually smaller than I remembered. Thankfully the sun was just right and I was really please with some of the pictures I got to take. We had a wander around the Abbey itself and the gardens, and had a lot of fun trying to pose DanDan and Ethne. It didn't always work, but it was great fun trying :)

We took the bus back again, this time through Buckfastleigh village, where we could eaisly reached out of the bus and touched the walls of the buildings. The last steam train for the day was just about to arrive, so while they took the time to change ends, we wander further around the site and got to look in the repair sheds. Unfortunately the minature railway wasn't working as I would have liked to have taken the kids on that. It was probably just as well as by the time we got back to the platform, the train was just about to leave. After reaching Totnes station we walked back to the mainline station. It was then that I'd noticed that there were sigs for the castle. We hadn't eaten and it was getting towards tea time, so it seemed a good idea to find a cafe somewhere. I managed to persuade Nicole that walking up the hill to the castle would be a good idea. Unfortunately when we got to the entrance, although we had an hour left to wander around, it was perhaps a little too expensive for just an hour, especially for 4 of us. We decided that it would be better to plan to come another time and take more time wandering around. In fact we'd missed a few things at each end of The South Devon Railway, so a return trip is definitely on the cards.

The return trip on the mainline was less eventful, but it was nice to just relax and let someone else take me where we were going :)

File Under: abbey / buckfast / devon / family / holiday / photography / torquay / totnes / trains
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The Beach

Posted on 26th August 2007

Day Three: Our first proper day on the beach. Oddicombe Beach and Babbacombe are on the far side of Torquay, so we had to drive there. However, in the write up for the hotel, it mentioned we were only 5 minutes from the beach. Each time we had passed Abbey Sands Beach in the car, the tide had been in and it hadn't looked like it was very big. However, in the morning we took a stroll down, passing the Torre Abbey, and watched the tide slowly drift out. A portion of the beach was already uncovered and we set up camp. As the day wore on more and more of the beach revealed itself and it really was a good beach. Apparently the sand on this beach is considered to be the best in Torquay for making sand castles. We all spent time digging holes, burying each other, buidling sand castles and generally have a lovely time. It was such a good day we complete forgot to take photos after the first few in the morning!

Nicole and I did make one mistake though. We covered the kids in sun lotion and sun block to protect them from the sun, but complete forgot to do the same for ourselves. I managed to burn my feet, my knees and my forehead didn't look too great. Thankfully it wasn't too bad and after a trip to a local supermarket we did rubbed in some of the after-sun lotion to soothe the itchiness.

As we were on holiday we had decided to eat out somewhere nice. Being a fan of curries I manage to persuade everyone that the ? was a great idea. And indeed it was. The kids shared a korma and both Nicole and I were absolutely stuffed after ours. Although DanDan had been complaining earlier about his neck and he didn't eat too much. We got a bit worried and got him some medicine to help relieve some of the pain. The night before DanDan had fallen out of bed and woken up in a very confused state, so we weren't sure whether he hurt himself as he fell out. It wasn't until the following day that Nicole suddenly realised why he was complaining of his neck. The TV in the room was mounted quite high and he'd been straining his neck trying to watch it! After a good night's sleep he seemed to be much better.

File Under: beach / devon / family / holiday / photography / torquay
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Back In The Village

Posted on 26th August 2007

Day Two: The following day we headed to Babbacombe and in particular The Model Village. I've always liked model villages, but Nicole has mostly tolerated them. We took the kids to see the one at Bekonscot last year (I'll have to get around to putting those pictures online too), and they seemed to enjoy it. Babbacombe seems to be bigger than Bekonscot, but that may just have been perception. There certainly seems to be a lot more going on, not just for the model village, but also the "behind the scenes" workshop, the model film sets, the model circus, trainset and the 4D cinema experience. Many of the models are moving models, from lorrys, trams and trains to fire breathing dragons, the Loch Ness monster and a wind farm. The 4D cinema had a 15 minute film showing, which in addition to the 3D presentation also had the physical experience of things like the chair shaking or fine water droplets sprayed at you. I thought it was well worth the £1 entrance fee, but DanDan was quite scared. He held my hand in a vice like grip on several occasions. I tried to make light of it for him, but he kept taking the 3D glasses off so he couldn't see the images so close to him.

After lunch we headed round the corner towards the local beach. To get there we had to ride on the Cliff Railway. Both DanDan and Ethne loved it, as they both got to sit at the front and watch the other carriage come up and pass us as we went down. Once off we got to spend our first day on the beach. Oddicombe Beach has more shale than sand, so it wasn't exactly sand castle material, but we did try. Ethne experience her first paddle in the sea and kept wanting to go back for more. It was a hard job persuading them to come out and dry off at the end of the afternoon. We managed it by tempting them with ice cream ;) In fact it was delicious ice cream, and I'm not really one for buying a cone. I prefer iced lollies. But the choices on offer were just too tempting.

We walked back to the Cliff Railway and rode back up to the top. There is a nice little cafe at the top, and being shattered we decided to have tea there. I'm glad we did as by the time we got back to the hotel, all I wanted to do was flake out. The weather reports promised much better weather for the rest of the week, so tomorrow was looking good.

File Under: beach / devon / family / holiday / model / photography / torquay / trains
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Heart Of Glass

Posted on 26th August 2007

A couple of weeks ago, the family and I went on holiday down to Torquay. It was a great holiday and we got to see and do lots of things while we were there. I took lots of photos too. Over the next few posts I plan to unveil a few galleries of pictures highlighting some of things to see and do in and around Torquay and Devon. In fact there is so much we missed out, we thinking about planning ahead and going again next year :)

On the way down, we drove over a stretch of The River Avon that is notorious for flooding. However, I've never seen it this bad. I'd spent the previous week working from home due to the results of the floods across Gloucestershire, but this was the first time I'd got to see any of it first hand. Nicole took photos as we crossed the bridge and I was staggered to see what ressembled a lake in place of fields and the normal course of the river. One the way back she took some more after the flooding had subsided. Quite a difference.

Due to all the stop/starting of the traffic, it took us 5 hours to get from Birmingham to Torquay, although that did include a half hour break. As such we checked in and headed for a local restaurant for food. The weather wasn't great and with the tide being in, the sea looked decidedly unsuitable for a holiday. Hoping that the weather would pick up, we decided to visit some of the sights first.

Day One: The following morning we sorted through the flyers for the various places to visit and picked on two that were further north of the town. The weather was overcast, but didn't look like it would rain too much, if at all.

Our first sight was The House Of Marbles. It's partly a Marble museum and partly a glassworks. Both are free and you can just wander around at your leisure and watch glass blowing, see some amazing marble-runs or play outside with the kids. The big marble-run in the shop was fascinating, and I could easily have watched it for hours. DanDan and Ethne enjoyed playing in the garden with the building blocks and skittles. By lunchtime the sun had come out and it was quickly turning into a very pleasant day. We had lunch and headed a little further north.

Our afternoon trip was to The Original Miniature Pony Centre. If you have kids and are not too far away, this is well worth the trip. You can go inside the enclosures and see the sheep, goats and ponys up close. It's great for kids and Ethne seemed to love it, especially during her interesting conversations with the sheep! Ethne also got to ride around the paddock, while DanDan headed off to the adventure playground. As we walked around, both DanDan and Ethne took a shine to some of the Shetland ponys. Come the end of the day, Ethne even got to feed them too.

It was a long day and we were all tired by the evening, but it had been a great start to the holiday. And even the sun looked like it was going to stay.

File Under: devon / family / floods / gloucester / holiday / photography / torquay
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The Gnome

Posted on 25th July 2007

Last week I attended GUADEC. This year it was hosted in Birmingham, so it made it rather easy for me to get to. There was a lot of good talks, and it was nice to be able to put names to faces that I've heard mentioned for so long. I'm not a Gnome Developer, so this was definitely very much a user experience, but having said that, there were several applications that looked interesting enough to make me wonder about seeing whether I could add Perl bindings. I plan to get a full write-up soon, but first off here are all the photos:

File Under: conference / guadec / opensource / photography
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I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide

Posted on 5th July 2007

The 2007 YAPC::NA Organisers

The 2007 YAPC::NA Organisers

Finally got the time to sort through my photos from last week. From over 2,000 photos, I've got them down to just over 700. There are still a few in there that aren't quite as good as I'd like, but then until I can freeze people in time before taking the shot, I'm going to struggle with the current camera. I'm looking at to getting a DSLR at some point, so hopefully I won't get so many blurred pictures then. Still I'm pleased I managed to get quite a selection that I did like.

For those who discover this entry by searching for YAPC::NA, here are all the photos I have online:

I also took some videos of Luke Closs and the Lightning Talks, so once I've converted them I'll get those online too.

Last week was a lot of fun, and I'm glad I got to go. Looking forward to YAPC::Europe now :)

File Under: conference / houston / opensource / perl / photography / space / technology / yapc
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My Generation

Posted on 17th June 2007

The Coopers

The Coopers

Nicole and I went to see The Coopers last weekend, as our friend Kev is the drummer. The gig was an open rehearsal, but could really be considered as their first gig. They invited friends and family and as such quite a number of regulars from The Scooter Do turn up. They play a variety of Mod songs dating from the late sizties to the early eighties, with The Who's My Generation and I Can't Explain, and The Small Faces' All Or Nothing, getting a great response from the audience.

I think the singer did get his eras mixed up as when he said they were going to do something from the 80s, then played Teenage Kicks ... from 1978. However, they did redeem themselves with a great version of Time For Action. I haven't heard that in years. I used to prefer The Lambrettas myself, but I thought My World by Secret Affair was better than Time For Action, but apparently that is one of Kev's favourite songs.

File Under: gigs / mod / music / photography
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In The City

Posted on 12th June 2007

Centennary Square, Birmingham

Centennary Square, Birmingham

Last year DanDan and I made several trips around the city of Birmingham in preparation for the 2006 YAPC::Europe Perl Conference. The plan was to take lots of photos, so that attendees would both already know some of the landmarks before they got here, and to encourage those teetering on the edge, that Birmingham is actually a decent place to explore. I've just uploaded five galleries of photos that we both took during June and July 2006. We managed to pick our days very well, as we had glorious sunshine to help bring out the colours of the buildings and plants. It was fun explaining Perrott's Folly to DanDan as that's part of his heritage.

I say we, as some of the photos I've included are taken by DanDan, using my old camera. He's not done too badly in some of them :)

File Under: birmingham / brum / photography
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Fly Like An Eagle

Posted on 2nd May 2007

I've been a long time fan of space photography, partly fueled by watching the movements of Jodrell Bank's Lovell Radio Telecope from my bedroom window when I lived in Holmes Chapel. Although I have never been moved enough to become an astronomer, I did used to enjoy looking at the stars in the night sky of an evening sitting on the nearby hills and watching Patrick Moore telling what to look for on The Sky At Night. These days I seem to keep meeting people who are astronomers in their spare time, and some have managed to get some amazing photographs, even though they are earth bound.

Recently I came across a site that features the Top 100 photographs taken from the ESA/NASA Hubble Telescope. All the photos are absolutely amazing, but the one that really impressed me was the one pictured on the right. There is something rather majestic about that photograph, and the colours are stunning. If I ever become the next Mark Shuttleworth and become a space passenger, I'd probably spend my whole time glued to the window .... with my trusty camera of course ;)

File Under: photography / space
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