Andrew Hobbs Photography: Blog http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog en-us (C) Andrew Hobbs Photography info@andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk (Andrew Hobbs Photography) Mon, 29 Jun 2015 10:47:00 GMT Mon, 29 Jun 2015 10:47:00 GMT http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/img/s5/v127/u121526015-o528296790-50.jpg Andrew Hobbs Photography: Blog http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog 120 80 Wedding Photography http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2015/6/weddings-photography  

 

Naomi and Pete's wedding June 2015You really only need to take one good photo on the day, the money shot. Like with all shoots, it's knowing what your client will want.

In the past photography was one of the dark arts, along with plumbing, car mechanics and for me, hanging wallpaper. It was something a professional did, something you expected to pay for and something in which you gave your total trust to the person you had chosen to carry out the work. With the explosion in access to cameras, particularly those on phones, where any knowledge of shutter speed, aperture or focusing is simply not required, the value of the professional photographer has been eroded. 

"Everyone's a photographer now" is something I hear a lot these days. And it's true, for just about everyone at every event I go to has a camera pointed at the subject I'm there to photograph. However, I don't think the cheap wedding photographer is anything new. Thinking back to my wedding in the early 90s we saw a variety of photographers ranging in price and quality. There were the £200 photographers who were showing photos from the 70s which were of a quality that today would be what you'd expect from quick snaps on Facebook. But we went for someone who cost us £900 - you really do get what you pay for. So, cheap wedding snappers have been around since wedding photography was invented. The problem today is that there are many more of them now, and with the internet it's easy to find them.

A moment away from the crowd.

So, what is the role of the wedding photographer and who is their customer? These are just my opinions.  The bride and groom with their parents.

All photographers record history. They record a moment in time that will never happen again, or rarely happen again. Even landscapes change. I recently read something by a Scottish photographer who was worried about the increase in the construction of wind turbines, and how it might affect photographers going to Scotland to shoot landscapes. Those images of the landscape before the turbines went up are historically important, as will those be that are taken afterwards, and of course those taken during the construction period.

Photos are fundamentally about memories and telling stories. In the past the story to be told for weddings was the day itself.  This was what people wanted photographing, and in many instances, still do. But today the wedding day is photographed by just about everyone, from the arrival of the guests to the last person leaving the reception and the lights going out.

The wedding paparazzi!

The last two weddings I have covered haven't really been about the day. I was asked by the mother of the groom to cover the day before, when the marquee was being set up and then on the morning of the wedding, photos of her son, family and friends getting ready. The proper wedding photographer was doing their thing at the brides, ceremony and reception. With the latest wedding I’ve done, again the brief was more about the setting up, the key parts of the wedding that most of the guests don't see. I was of course responsible for capturing the day, the key moments and the family groups as well but in many ways, it’s the behind the scene images that I feel most proud of.

Pips and Ian's WeddingThe morning of the wedding.

Pips and Ian's WeddingThe groom and groom's father bring the cake in on the morning of the wedding.

If this is the future of wedding photography then I might become more of a wedding photographer. I like the set up days. I like capturing those moments I know won't be plastered all over social media and those moments which I think will become the real memories of the couple's wedding.
 

Groom and his two best men.The evening before the wedding.

The bride.The morning of the wedding.

So I won't shoot your wedding day for £300, because your wedding day is worth more than that, but I will shoot your pre-wedding set up day for £300.

For a traditional quality wedding photographer couples should pay for the professional services of a wedding professional like Mark Palmer: http://www.allaboutcapture.co.uk

And let's not forget the wedding video...

Timelapse of the marquee going up.

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info@andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk (Andrew Hobbs Photography) Exmoor Somerset photography wedding weddings http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2015/6/weddings-photography Mon, 29 Jun 2015 10:47:27 GMT
Open Wide http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2015/6/open-wide Let me take you back 43 years to 1972. Little Jimmy Osmond, Slade, T-Rex, Alice Cooper and Rod Stewart all had number one hits. Mastermind was first broadcast, protesters burnt down the British embassy in Dublin, Leeds won the FA Cup, the final stretch of the M6 was opened and of course America was still fighting the Vietnam war. But for me, aged 5, the only concern I had was a visit to the dentist.

In many ways that visit was to define my relationship with the medical profession for the next 43 years, though there were benefits to the visit - half a day off school and a toy tractor.

Dentist Alan BairstowDentist Alan Bairstow

My mother didn't like dentists; later in life she would prefer almost daily painkillers rather than have her wisdom teeth removed. She would accompany me to the dentist and sit in the waiting room or sometimes at the end of the dentist's chair to give me moral support. Looking back, that was probably hard for her to do. I remember on one occasion lying on the chair with three or maybe four people looking down on me and one of them lowering a rubber mask over my nose and mouth. The smell of the mask stays with me today and when I can think of it, I can still feel the world slowing around me and becoming blurred. When I woke up, my mother wasn't at the end of the chair and I was stood up and pointed towards the door by the nurse. I wandered out dazed and unsteady, like an old drunk making their way from the pub door to the car door (this being 1972 when driving home from the pub was normal). I found my way to my mother, though whether she was in the waiting room or the car across the road I can't remember.

Later that year and still aged 5, I remember opening the large white door that led off St Peter Street into what seemed like a confusing warren of corridors and doors. My mother had gone shopping and left me to the mercy of the dentist again, and here I should tell you his name, Dr Wilde. Anyhow, I sat in the chair and he poked and prodded and then told me I needed to have nine teeth removed. Nine! I was only 5. And it wasn't that they were rotten or anything, he just felt my mouth would become crowded as I got older. "You should go and tell your mum and get her to come in and book you in."

Now, I think this is where self preservation kicked in and when I crossed the road and climbed into the front passenger seat of the car, my mother asked if everything was ok. "Any work needed?"she said. My reply was a lie and I knew it, "No, everything is ok." She drove off and took me to school. Later she was of course rung by the dentist. I didn't hear that conversation but I didn't see Dr Wilde ever again.

Dentist Alan BairstowDentist Alan Bairstow My next memorable experience was about five years later when, at boarding school, aged 9, I decided to use the curtain rail in the school hall as a monkey bar. I slipped and hit the deck, and smashed my two front teeth. My trip to the dentist that day had me in the chair with the dentist dangling something that looked like a small worm in front of my face happily telling me it was a nerve he'd just taken out. I'm sure this was meant to be educational and in a way, it was, for it confirmed to me that all dentists were sadistic torturers.

New capped teeth fitted during my trips to the dentist after that were reduced to a pain-driven, needs only basis. By the time I was 15, the front teeth caps needed replacing after falling flat on my face on the way back from the pub. Well, it was 1982. I don't remember much about the fall or the dentist.

Skip forward to 1996 and after weeks of pain, real pain, I was persuaded to visit a dentist who was my then wife's family dentist. It turned out I had an abscess that had formed under one of my front teeth caps. Something in the metal used for the pins in 1982 had oxidised and was causing major problems. This resulted in what I can only truly describe as the most painful dental work I've ever experienced. Despite multiple injections I still ended up having near complete feeling during the procedure. With the work complete and painkillers given, I went home and later that night the dentist phoned to see how I was doing. This was the first act that led to me having total trust in my new dentist, Dr Alan Bairstow.

Dentist Alan Bairstow.Dentist Alan Bairstow.

We now skip on nineteen years, during which time my visits to see Alan weren't what you'd call frequent. On one visit he told me he'd had to go into his garage archive to find my records as it has been eight years since my last visit! But after that the visits became more frequent and the trust built. Last year (2014) Alan told me one of my front teeth really needed to come out, something to do with those old pins again. He suggested an implant. I, to be honest, couldn't afford one so ended up with a temporary denture. I lived with that for about 12 months before I just couldn't take it anymore and booked in to see Alan. "I've decided to have that implant" I said. He looked a little surprised, and this I think was because he knew what it involved. He started explaining the procedure. "We'll meet here and go to the hospital together....."

"Wait a minute, the hospital?" I thought I must have heard it wrong. I hadn't.

When the day arrived, I met Alan and he gave me some injections and we walked to the hospital. Sitting in the waiting area while he met the surgeon, (that's right, surgeon) I was having to use all my strength not to act like it was 1972 and do a runner. The door opened and I walked towards the awaiting chair with all the glee of a condemned man on death row walking to his fate.

Why dentist and doctors have to explain in detail what they are about to do I have no idea. They show you the tools and tell you what they are going to do with them, in much the same way as I imagine the Spanish Inquisition might have done. Alan had happily shown me photos of previous patients but I really didn't need to see them.

"Then finally I will use this ratchet to tighten the implant before fitting the tooth." The ratchet looked to me like something I would have used on my car,  back when cars had things you could use tools and not computers to fix of course.

But a few months on and I have my implant and I have to say it was all worthwhile. Alan is retiring soon and I will miss him. Thanks to him, trips to the dentist have transformed from something to be feared to something that, while not looked forward to, is relatively painless. I know Alan only does work that is needed, and that he really cares about his work and preventing problems for me in the future. I only wish my first experiences of dentists had been with someone like Alan. He has given me the confidence to continue seeing a dentist regularly and I look forward to building a relationship with his replacement...who has been warned that I am not an easy patient!    

My last visit was a simple check up that also allowed me the opportunity to take these photos. Images I had pictured and wanted to take for the past couple of years. I hope to see Alan after his retirement as he has some interesting projects in mind and I would like to photograph the results of this work.

I don't know how many people Alan has helped over his long career but I am sure I am not alone in wishing him a very happy retirement.

Dentist Alan Bairstow.Dentist Alan Bairstow.

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info@andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk (Andrew Hobbs Photography) Andrew Hobbs Dentist Devon Photography doctor medical teeth http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2015/6/open-wide Mon, 01 Jun 2015 07:32:05 GMT
Somerset coastline hits rock bottom http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2015/4/super-moon Friday 20th March 2015 was special for a number of reasons. Early that morning saw everyone gathering outside their office buildings or schools with bits of cardboard boxes, strange glasses or at the more technological end of things, cameras and telescopes. 

It was a total solar eclipse, and though unfortunately shrouded by cloud in many areas of the UK, it was still a momentous event that is not due to be repeated for almost 80 years. It also occurred on the spring equinox - the day that the sun is directly overhead the Earth's equator and which marks the beginning of spring. 

But alongside the solar eclipse and the spring equinox, was another, perhaps less talked about, phenomenon. These two astronomical events also happened to coincide with a super moon - an event that occurs when either a new moon or full moon happens at the same time as it makes its closest approach to Earth.

There are actually several super moons every year, but in tandem with the solar eclipse, the pull of the moon on the Earth's tides has been exceptionally strong and resulted in the lowest tides on the Somerset coastline in over 200 years.

Stretches of beach that have not been uncovered by the sea for two centuries were now going to be revealed, along with strange and unusual marine life that never normally sees the light of day. So on Saturday morning, I picked up my cameras and went down to Minehead Beach to see it for myself. 

Somerset's Lowest Tide 200 years 009Somerset's lowest tide for 200 years, Minehead.

Already present and waiting for the key moment was Coastal Wildlife Officer Ben Bryant of the Somerset Wildlife Trust.

Somerset's Lowest Tide 200 years 019Ben Bryant, Coastal Wildlife Officer for the Somerset Wildlife Trust.

Ben was aiming to lead people out to the low tide mark to search for some of the marine life that could only be seen at this unique point in time. 

Somerset's Lowest Tide 200 years 010Ben Bryant, Coastal Wildlife Officer, leads the group to explore the rock pools that haven't been seen for 200 years.

The group, which covered individuals of all ages, scrambled out across the rock pools and, identification charts in hand, started searching for their first sight of these rare creatures. 

Somerset's Lowest Tide 200 years 028Searching under rocks in the hope of finding hidden wildlife treasures.

Somerset's Lowest Tide 200 years 018Ben Bryant, Coastal Wildlife Officer, helps identify a find using the marine life identification chart.

Success came speedily and all manner of unusual marine life was spotted. 

Somerset's Lowest Tide 200 years 040Whelk eggs revealed at the low tide line.

Somerset's Lowest Tide 200 years 037Sun Starfish, not seen on Minehead beach for 200 years, now revealed at the low tide line.

Somerset's Lowest Tide 200 years 045The tide starts to race back in to cover a Painted Top shell again for maybe another 200 years.

It was quite an amazing feeling, both to be standing somewhere that had not been accessible for 200 years but also to be viewing these fantastic creatures firsthand that normally could only be seen in books or on the internet. 

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info@andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk (Andrew Hobbs Photography) Minehead Somerset beach lowest tide marine life photojournalism sea super moon http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2015/4/super-moon Mon, 13 Apr 2015 19:58:20 GMT
Down the Deep Lanes http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2014/9/down-the-deep-lanes-badger-cull-2014 On the night of the 10th September, I take a drive around the cull zone again, returning to the place I had been previously for testing Stop the Cull's thermal imaging equipment, and retracing the regular route I devised last year. I'm heading towards home when I decide to take a minute's break and pull in at location A on the map below. I turn the engine off and sit, it's another full moon and a clear chilly night. All is quiet, no cars going by. It's peaceful. But then suddenly I hear two shots coming from the direction of location B.

Location 10 Sep 14Location 10 Sep 14

start my engine and instinctively head that way. I know the shots came from somewhere near the lane called Galloping Bottom. I arrive at location C on the map and park, turn the engine off and wait. It's pitch dark. Not a sound is in the air. After about twenty minutes I decided to drive further down the lane. When I reach location B, I meet two 4x4s. They stop and so do I. I reverse back to a slightly wider part of this single lane road. The first 4x4 inches past, tooting his horn. It's a new 4x4 and has dark glass, I can't see in. The second 4x4 passes but not as slowly, the driver's window is down and the man driving looks to be about 50, wearing a big coat and a woolly hat.  I start off again but it seems an odd pair to meet out on these roads so late. I begin to think they have to be more than just locals on their way home so I find a gateway and turn round. Somewhere between location B and C, I meet the first 4x4 again, coming back the way it had just come. He, like me had turned around. We pass each other once more.

I return to location C and park. A moment or so later my car is lit up by headlights on full beam. It's the 4x4 - I can't see it but I know it is. I have no idea who is in it though, protesters, police, a farmer? Well, I have all night so I decide to wait and just see what happens. I'm not going anywhere. After what seems like a long time but which might just have been a few minutes the 4x4 pulls alongside me. My windows are down and I look out of my passenger window into a bright torch being shone into my face. "Are you ok?" I ask.

"Don't worry, your friends will be back soon" the person holding the torch replies.

"Sorry, what do you mean?"

"Your friends, they'll be back soon."

"I am not waiting for anyone."

"What are you doing then?"

This person has yet to say who he is, but I feel the time has come for me to explain who I am.

"I'm a freelance photographer, I have a press card if you'd like to check."

"You lot need to report on the death threats and intimidation the locals are getting."

"I'm more than happy to report on that, I'd be happy to interview you now, here in my car."

"I'm not talking to you here."

His car door opens and the interior light comes on, his torch drops a little as he gets out and I see he's wearing a high viz vest and, rather surprisingly a full ski mask. Who the hell is this guy I wonder, not a sab surely, they wouldn't stop and chat.

He leans into my car through the passenger window. "Give me your card then."

A memory flits through my head from the EDL march in Exeter, of talking to another photographer who said to keep my press card safe and not to show it to anyone other than the police as the EDL often steal them. I pass the masked man a business card, not my press card.

He takes it, shines his torch on it. "Okay, I'll call you."

He jumps back in his 4x4 and is gone at speed up the lane.

Who was he? I'm not sure. I am 99.9% sure it wasn't a sab or anyone connected with the protestors. I don't think it was a farmer, just didn't sound like one. Someone has suggested it might have been a Natural England observer, a shooter or the police. He hasn't called of course. But then I wasn't expecting him to.

There's so much hearsay and rumour about what each side of the badger cull is doing and I would like to know what it's really like on a farm at night. There are videos of sabs destroying badger traps and I know of one farm that has 24 hour monitored CCTV running for the duration of the cull but it's hard to really tell what is happening on the cull front line. You drive around the lanes and meet police doing the same. Neither of you are going to see anything, unless you happen to bump into someone like I did. The real activity happens out of view in the fields and woods...and then occasionally ends up on YouTube.

I exchanged texts with Jay Tiernan, Stop the Cull's main spokesman, a few days ago and he reported that more trapping is taking place this year compared to 2013. Exact figures on how many of these traps the sabs have destroyed aren't available but Jay's "guesstimate" is three dozen, which is about six a night.

With another four weeks to go there's plenty of time for things to change but the 2014 cull seems to be a quieter affair. I haven't been out every night, but when I have been out there are less cars moving around this year.  There's still visible police around and still a fair few cars parked in gateways but I suspect both sides have improved their tactics this year and so are spending less time travelling around the roads. 

Brian May Badger Cull 2014Brian May joins the Somerset Badger Patrol. Photo : Andrew Hobbs

On the 15th September, Brian May came to visit the Somerset Cull zone and met with the local badger patrol group as they returned from their evening rounds. Mr May and the Save the Badger Group both support vaccination as their preferred method of controlling TB, and given that Stop the Cull are finding more evidence of badger trapping this year, it would seem as easy to vaccinate the captured badgers and release them as shoot them.

However, vaccination isn't a cure so there are of course inherent problems with this, if you vaccinate a healthy badger all well and good but vaccinating an infected badger wouldn't stop it from spreading TB. The number of vaccinated animals also needs to hit a critical mass point, usually thought to be around 80% of the badger population, in order to reach the herd immunity threshold - the point where the infection becomes unsustainable because the number of protected animals far outweighs the number of unprotected and the chances of an infected badger coming into contact with a non-vaccinated badger is extremely low. 

Brian May Badger Cull 2014Brian May joins the Somerset Badger Patrol and thanks them for their help while listening to stories of what it's like patrolling the cull zone. Photo : Andrew Hobbs Brian May Badger Cull 2014 012Brian May Badger Cull 2014 012Brian May joins the Somerset Badger Patrol and thanks them for their help in fighting the badger cull.

In support of vaccination, the government, in the shape of the new Environment Secretary Liz Truss, has also announced a Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS) which aims to vaccinate badgers on the edges of the high risk areas.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/badger-vaccination-scheme-launched-to-curb-bovine-tb-spread

Up to 50% of the long-term costs of vaccination, along with free equipment loans and free vaccine supply, is being offered to projects in the areas bordering the cull zones, in the hopes of creating a buffer zone of vaccinated badger populations that will help curb TB transmission. 

But while I am sure this was welcome news to all involved in this debate, it falls short of addressing the immediate issue of finding an alternative solution to the badger cull for controlling bovine TB in the high risk areas. This week Labour pledged to stop the culling of badgers if they win the next general election, demonstrating that they are well aware the culling of badgers is not popular. In fact, 'some 54% of Conservative and Labour MPs surveyed identified the divisive issue as one of the major sources of letters and queries through constituency clinics.'

(Source: Western Morning News. Read more here: http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Cull-critics-target-MPs-Labour-pledges-scrap/story-22932968-detail/story.html#ixzz3Dq0XIijp)

What's interesting too is that during the cull of 2013, West Somerset probably had more London based photographers and writers present than cull marksmen. You almost couldn't move for people from the Press Association, Getty and staff reporters from the Telegraph and other national papers. This year, I haven't seen any, and the national press agency I submit images to hasn't taken one photo of mine, or anyone else's,  and have said they are only interested in photos of the cull if 'something happens'. It feels odd considering the amount of anti-cull feeling there seems to be in the country, but not even Brian May's visit sparked any interest in the papers - save for the Western Morning News, who have covered this year's cull and rightly so. It affects many, if not all, of their readers in some way or another. Of course West Somerset has never been as well covered as the Gloucestershire cull, it's harder for protesters and journalists to reach.  And then the start of this year's cull coincided with the announcement of a royal baby and a referendum on Scottish independence, two massive press stories. Now a conspiracy theorist might claim that this wasn't a coincidence, but whilst I love a good conspiracy, I don't for a moment believe the two stories were planned by a bloodthirsty government intent on killing badgers as quickly and quietly as possible.

So the 2014 cull will of course continue, quieter than last year, less obvious to the public eye, but whether the marksmen will be back in 2015 is less assured. Labour may win the election and keep their promise to stop the cull. The Conservatives could claim they have shot enough badgers over the previous two years and with Liz Truss's new vaccination scheme, announce that there is no need to have a cull in 2015. The government surprised me this year by continuing with the cull despite the protestation and the low results from last year but still, my bet is that whoever wins the election, the next few weeks will see the last of the badger cull. The last of protesters and marksmen chasing their 4x4s around the narrow lanes of Somerset, the last of Brian May visiting this part of the world, the last of masked men shining their torches on innocent photographers, and the last instances of badgers being killed in the dead of night. We can only hope it sees the last of badger-related TB infection in cattle as well.

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info@andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk (Andrew Hobbs Photography) Brian May Jay Tiernan Somerset Stop the Cull badger cull badgers photojournalism http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2014/9/down-the-deep-lanes-badger-cull-2014 Sat, 20 Sep 2014 16:20:03 GMT
Protesters get thermals in battle against the cull http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2014/9/protesters-get-thermals-in-battle-against-the-cull Badger Cull 2014 Waiting to be collected.

Sitting in the pub car park, it could be any regular night of the week. People arrive, park their cars, glance at me and walk into the pub for their evening meals and a pint. But tonight their glances seem to linger a little longer than usual. There's an air of suspicion already building in West Somerset and it's only the first night of the 6 week badger cull.

When you live in a small community you get to know the cars people drive; you may not know the person but you know the car, truck, Landrover etc. so out of town vehicles stick out. We're used to holidaymakers of course, but it's not really the holiday season. And of course the big give-away that something is not of the norm, that something might happen, is happening, is the number of police cars in the area. We are not blessed by a large police presence in West Somerset, thankfully we don't really need one. But even by the standards set by last year's cull, there are a lot of police in the area now.

Jay Tiernan Badger Cull 2014Jay Tiernen at the entrance of new Camp Badger in Somerset. Jay says the big difference in this year's cull will be the equipment the Stop the Cull group have. With the addition of thermal imaging sights, they can see trapped badgers and shooters up to 1km away.

One of the cars that I am sure will receive many long glances over the weeks to come pulls into the car park and I see Jay Tiernan, spokesman for Stop the Cull, in the passenger seat.

Jay and I had met the evening before at Camp Badger and after we put the difficulties of last year's meeting behind us, shook hands and agreed to start again, we got chatting. Jay told me about the new thermal imaging scopes they have this year and how they give the group a big jump forward from last year's equipment.  I am of course keen to see the scopes in action and ask if he can arrange for me to go out with someone the following night. We swap numbers and agree I'll call the next day at lunchtime.

The following day I call and Jay says he'll meet me at 6pm in the car park of a local pub. I'd made arrangements last year to meet with the protesters but for whatever reason the meetings never happened so I wasn't convinced Jay would show up, and when a text came in saying he'd need to make it 7 as he was going to be on ITV news at 6.15, I began to wonder if this was going to happen.

But then, at 7:04pm, Jay arrives.

We set off for our location and Jay says, "I bet you don't smoke, and I'll have to go without one while we're out". To be honest, I was surprised he'd asked, I had the misguided impression that if he wanted to smoke, he would. But as the evening went on, I find that Jay isn't really like the man I've read about. I'm not saying he's an angel, but he is a thoughtful, intelligent and polite man. 

We're not long into our drive when we see a 4x4 turning into a field. Jay looks at me and says, "It's got to be them [the cull marksmen] surely?". We stop a little past the gateway and walk quietly back down the road. Jay has one advantage over me when it comes to looking into fields, he's very tall. "Nope, he's picking something up, potatoes?". We leave.

Jay explains that in the first few nights it's about getting to know the cars, that 'you soon learn who's who.' They make lists, in the same way the police do during the cull, registration numbers, locations etc. I guess the only difference is that the police check their computer databases to see who owns the car and where it's from, and that leads to a tap on the car window and the inevitable question of 'Evening sir, what are you up to tonight?'. It's something I was asked a few times last year, but already, in just this first night, I have been approached by police three times. I suppose they, like the protesters, are making their lists early.

The light is fading by the time we arrive at our location. It's high up and even at dusk you can see for miles. Jay tells me, "this is a good spot, we used it last year, you can see and hear for miles up here." We are overlooking farms and fields with cows blissfully unaware of all the fuss going on around them, and indeed because of them in many ways.

Thermal Imaging Badger Cull 2014One of the 16 Pulsar Quantum Thermal Imaging scopes that the Stop the Cull group are now armed with in the fight against the badger cull in both Gloucestershire and Somerset.

Jay unboxes the Palsar HT38s thermal imaging scope. It's brand new and the group have 16 now. That's nearly £45,000 worth of kit. Paid for by donations from the public and as Jay tells me, "two have just been donated for our use, paid for by one person. I've been hassling the guy for a year now." I suggest the word hassling might not be the best word to use, given the high court injunction Jay still has placed on him after last year's cull. "Sweet talking" Jay corrects himself. I don't ask who donated the 2 scopes but I wonder if it's Brian May. Should have asked.

Jay quickly reads the manual and we are up and running. When I get to have a go with the scope, my first thought is that it's like playing Call of Duty. The landscape before me is gloomy, even with the rising full moon. It's possible to see the cows which are standing in the middle of fields but it's not until you put the scope to your eye that you can see the ones standing along the hedgerows.  

Thermal Imaging Badger Cull 2014 This is what the Somerset cull zone looks like in total darkness when using a Pulsar HT 38s thermal imaging scope.

We spend some time playing with the scope, trying to identify what the distant shapes are - water troughs? Sheep? Even the base of a tree gives off a strong glow though the scope. It’s obvious using it takes some practice but I have no doubt that the people using the scopes will soon get to grips with them. For us, it’s not long before we are pretty comfortable at not only knowing what we are looking at but also understanding where it is in relation to the landscape on a map. Viewing the landscape in daylight is important, that way you know what you are looking at in the dark, or at least that the movement ahead is three fields past a particular farm, junction, etc…

Thermal Imaging Badger Cull 2014High on a hill, Jay Tiernan uses one of the thermal imaging scopes to scan the landscape for marksmen.

Jay and I talk for a while longer and explore a few more areas using the scope. Jay is on the phone when I see some lights in a field. It’s a vehicle, and Jay spots it too and ends the call. He's not expecting it to be anything cull related, pointing out, "they wouldn’t have their lights on, I expect they are lamping.” We watch as the vehicle, now with lights on the roof switched on as well, sweeps the field. Whether they are lamping (i.e. hunting at night), searching for protesters, or cull marksmen hiding in full view, we will never know. This is one of the problems both sides face, trying to figure out who’s who in the dark. A marksmen could easily think someone stopping on the way home for a pee in a field is a protestor and abandon that area. A protestor seeing the same thing could waste time investigating who that person is and what they are up to.  

Thermal Imaging Badger Cull 2014Jay Tiernan using the Pulsar HT 38s thermal imaging equipment that all sab groups working in the Somerset cull zone now have.

We walk back to the car and talk about the lowering of the targets this year. The government has considerably dropped them from last year, even to the point where the target is below the number of badgers killed in the previous year's cull. “Is this because they shot so many last year already or is it just a target they can’t fail to achieve?” Jay asks. My instinctive inclination is that it's a target they can’t fail, and that it may have been set that low for precisely that reason. The government simply can’t afford not to hit their target this year.

But if Stop the Cull do manage to use their new technology to put into practice the lessons already learnt, it could be another embarrassing result for the government. Jay and I also talk about the photos I’d like to get to illustrate the cull. Shooters, hunt sabs at work - the newspapers I feel want to see more action, arrests even. I ask why there hasn’t been photos or footage of badgers being shot, as his group must get close enough for that surely. Jay replies, “we are here to save badgers' lives, not film them getting shot. We could have filmed it last year but that would have meant not saving the badger. Saving the badgers is what it’s all about.”

Thermal Imaging Badger Cull 2014 006Thermal Imaging Badger Cull 2014 006Even in total darkness the Stop the Cull activists are able to spot marksmen from over a mile away using their Pulsar HT 38s thermal imaging scopes. TI image-AHP_6840TI image-AHP_6840Sheep are clearly visible in a totally dark field when using the thermal imaging equipment.

Driving back, I ask Jay if he could only use one method to disrupt the cull what it would be: night patrols, sett sitting, hunt sabs, badger army demo marches. He thinks for a while before answering, then concludes, “you can’t pick one above the other, they all have their merits and all are effective. Our strength is in numbers and the diversity of tactics. A sett sitter might protect that sett all through the cull; people get attached to the setts and that’s fine, they do good work. Night patrols might come across one shooter a night and stop them from working in the area, while the sabs might come across 5 shooters in a night and stop shooting in all those areas.  And the badger army demonstrations keep the issue in the public eye when the cull isn’t happening.  They are all important." My next question has to be whether all the different groups coordinate their actions but the answer is “no, we talk, but there’s no coordination, more a sharing of information”.

We are nearly back at the car park now and I ask if Jay will text me if he hears of anything happening. “Why would I do that?” he says. It’s a good question to which I don’t instantly have an answer to. “Because you want the story out there” is the best I can do. As we shake hands and say goodbye, Jay asks how long it would take me to get somewhere if something happened. I explain that it depends where I am, but I live around 15 mins away from the camp. When Jay's reply of “so, if I text at 1am, that’s ok?” comes, I don't even hesitate. “Of course.”

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info@andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk (Andrew Hobbs Photography) Jay Tiernan Somerset Stop the Cull badger cull badger cull protest photography thermal imaging http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2014/9/protesters-get-thermals-in-battle-against-the-cull Tue, 09 Sep 2014 20:15:00 GMT
100 years of flowers http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2014/7/100-years-of-flowers One of the things I like most about freelance work is that you just never know what you will be shooting next or who you will meet.

On a cold, windy and wet day in November 2013, I found myself in an exposed field sharing some meagre shelter from the rain with two ladies, Sue and Karen. We were waiting for Martin Clunes to arrive to open a racehorse rescue centre and as we waited, conversation turned to where Mr Clunes lived and then to the fact that Sue was the Chairman of the Wambrook Flower Festival. We chatted about the history of the festival and she mentioned that 2014 was the Flower Festival's centenary year. My mind darted back to 2012 and my coverage of Dolton's celebrations of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and I decided I wanted to cover the flower festival. I gave Sue my card and she promised to contact me nearer the time.

Then in May this year, an email dropped into my inbox with an invite to attend the flower festival, along with some additional information sent to me by Marjie Dorling who has just published a book about the history of the Wambrook Flower Festival.

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 091Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 091Wambrook Flower Show Centenary July 2014. 95 entrants and 605 entries. The highest number of entries since 1933 which had 755 entries.

In the words of Marjie, here’s a little history of the flower festival :

“Originally called the Bewley Down Flower, Vegetable and Dairy Show, it was held in a large marquee on a field in Bewley Down just south of the Somerset border.  World War One intervened a few weeks later postponing the second show until 1919.   The local ‘show area’ was initially restricted to those who lived, were employed or owned land in Bewley Down (which straddles Wambrook, Chardstock and Membury), but grew over the years to include 11 parishes:  Wambrook, Chardstock, Membury, Yarcombe, Stockland, Whitestaunton, Combe St Nicholas, All Saints, Churchill, Chard Borough and Chard Parish and boasted that it was the 'best flower show between Taunton and Exeter.'

In 1944, the decision was taken to hold a flower show and fete in aid of the Red Cross at The Berea in Wambrook and call it Wambrook Flower Show.  This show went back to its roots and, as it was organised on a much smaller scale, the ‘local show area’ was once again restricted to Wambrook and Bewley Down.   Many of the same people were involved in its organisation as officers, committee members, judges and businesses e.g. Jarman & Co., Chard seed merchants and nurserymen, which donated a large not-for-competition display of flowers and vegetables to be auctioned off at the show’s conclusion.  Since 1944, the show has continued, unabated, until the present day and is currently held at the Cotley Tithe Barn, Cotley, Wambrook.”

Bewley Down Flower Show 1914 – 1939 is available from the publisher, Beechwood Books, and retails for £10.00. Please contact marjied@btinternet.com to order a copy.  All proceeds from book sales will be given to the show’s direct descendent, the Wambrook Flower Show, in celebration of 100 years of flower shows in the parish.

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 009Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 009The Tithe Barn, venue for the centenary flower show.

Despite my Sat Nav trying to get me slightly lost, I arrived at the Tithe Barn on Friday morning and I fell in love with the place instantly. It's located on a farm and it was so nice to see that the temptation to turn the barn complex into holiday accommodation hadn't been taken and what had been done instead was the creation of a fantastic event location. I don't really do weddings but this would be an amazing place to shoot one. 

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 001Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 001Before anyone arrives on Friday.

The barn itself has lighting that's very tricky to photograph in but the pale walls and floor mean that where the sunshine does flood in through the windows and massive double doors, it creates a lovely soft light.  Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 010Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 010The Tithe Barn, venue for the centenary flower show.

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 087Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 087Everyone who helped set-up the flower show on Friday: Anne Asquith, Marjie Dorling, Rachael Asquith, Sue Logan, Elfride Vaughan, Karen Bayley, Sue and David Stocks, Penny Luther and Cathy Jones.

Clearly an event like a flower show takes a lot of planning but when you are planning a centenary flower show, the pressure to get it right must be even more intense. However, when Sue and her team turned up at 10am on Friday they slipped into their working routine like a well oiled machine. Everyone knew what they were doing and got straight on with it. Tables were papered, chairs arranged, the tea stall (more of a cafe than a stall) was set up, bunting was strung and signs re-erected. 

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 019Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 019Sue Logan and Marjie Dorling prepare the tables for the flower show. Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 043Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 043Penny Luther, Sue Stocks and Karen Bayley hang bunting in the marquee. Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 071Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 071Elfride Vaughan and Anne Asquith prepare the tea stall.

By 3pm on Friday the barn was ready. All it needed now was for the tables to be filled with flowers and more.....

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 095Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 0958am Saturday morning and the tables that will soon be laden with flowers, veg, jam, breads and a host of other entries.

Now, for me, the flower show signs were the first evidence of just how seriously flower shows are taken. Signs had been placed in strategic places on road junctions to help out of town photographers find their way to the Tithe Barn. Well, ok, maybe not photographers per se but they were there to help people find their way to the flower show. However, it appears that these signs were erected on the Thursday night and by early Friday morning they'd gone. I'm not casting aspersions around but apparently the neighbouring village was also having a flower show on Saturday. I'll leave you all to draw your own conclusions! But rather than start an inter village war that would require a UN intervention, the good folk of Wambrook simply put more signs up and sure enough, when I returned on the Saturday morning, the route was clearly signposted. It was a good thing too as the flower show was very well attended, with I'd estimate, a couple of hundred people turning up to show their support and enjoy the day.      

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 092Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 092The signs that mysteriously disappeared on Thursday night had reappeared on Saturday morning.

At 8am on Saturday, it was already clear that it was going to be a lovely warm day and it wasn't long before people started arriving to prepare their entries. Great care was taken in arranging them, making sure everything was just right, all ready for the arrival of the judges - the men and women who could make or break hard earned reputations.  The competition between entrants was clear, but good natured with a lot of banter between friends and neighbours.  

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 117Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 117 Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 155Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 155 Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 133Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 133 Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 125Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 125 Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 102Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 102Some of the first flowers to arrive and on this hot day plenty of water is needed to keep them fresh for judging. Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 098Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 098Some of the first flowers to arrive. Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 113Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 113Friends, neighbors and bitter rivals Peter Barber (front) and Philip Jackson.

In the above photo, Philip Jackson keeps a careful eye on his rival, Peter Barber. They live just 3 doors apart and tease each other about who's going to win. Philip isn't entering the string of tomatoes class this year - he jokes that it's because Peter had stolen his tomatoes and that's why Peter's tomatoes look so good. 

Although called a flower show, it was more like a fete really, a true celebration of the past hundred years of flower shows. You didn't need to be a gardener to enter something, there were also classes for children's paintings and handwriting, crafts and even photography.

95 people entered 605 entries into the different classes and really set a high standard.  Vegetables and fruit judge Margaret Excell commented that, "the standard was very high and more in line with a bigger show." Clearly the residents of Wambrook had worked hard to make this a show to remember. In fact this was the highest number of entries since 1933 when 755 entries were received. 

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 162Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 162 Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 198Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 198 Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 199Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 199

When it was time for the judging to begin, the well oiled machine became a military operation. The Chard Army Cadets arrived and acted as runners between the front line judges and the command centre - in this case based in the Cider Room! As the judges scored the entries, the cadets collected the cards and ran them to the senior officers in the Cider Room where the scores were collated and entered onto computer before the cadets took the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and highly commended cards back to be placed by their respective entries.  It was when I saw this part of the day that I really understood just how much work and organisation was needed to make it work.

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 171Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 171Judging.

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 176Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 176Judging. Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 190Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 190Chard Army Cadets run the judges score cards to the command centre where the scores are tallied. Pictured new recruit Cadet O'Byrne. Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 173Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 173The Chard Army Cadets run the judges scoring cards to the command centre in the cider house where Marjie Dorling (flower show president), Penny Luther and Sue Logan (flower show chairman) collate scores before the cadets run the first, second, third and highly commended cards back to the entry tables.

The flower show officially opened to the public at 2.30pm and after the show's President gave a brief opening speech to the gathered crowd, the Chard Concert Brass (I was told not to say brass band) played the National Anthem, the show's traditional method for opening proceedings. 

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 204Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 204Marjie Dorling, president of the flower show, opens the 2014 centenary show. Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 205Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 205The Wambrook flower show traditionally opens with the playing of the National anthem and this year the Chard Concert Brass performed it. Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 207Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 207The Wambrook flower show traditionally opens with the playing of the National anthem and this year the Chard Concert Brass performed it.

With the show officially open, people were able to enjoy the displays and the exceptionally tasty and well priced tea and cakes, whilst all the while being serenaded by the Chard Brass Concert and then by the local group, The Window Trees.

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 230Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 230 Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 232Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 232The Window Trees: David Billing (left), Deb Geraghty (centre) and Mick Whitworth (right).

Meanwhile away from the main barn, there were lots of stalls to browse around and of course a raffle. Keeping children entertained at events like this isn't always the easiest thing to do but the committee had catered very well for them with lots of fun and games for them to enjoy, including a magician, an assault course that a few of the adults couldn't resist, face painting and a skittle alley. 

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 225Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 225The assault course.

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 228Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 228Children are entertained by a magician.
Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 237Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 237 Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 220Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 220

The afternoon passed quickly but I did find time to sit and enjoy some of the tea and cake, and to chat to some of the people I had been photographing for the past two days. One of the people I met and talked to was Elisabeth Jackson who has lived in Wambrook for 40 years and attended the flower show for every one of those 40 years. This year she was very pleased to have won 1st prize for her roses. 

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 246Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 246Elisabeth Jackson has lived in Wambrook for 40 years and is the 3rd oldest in the village. This year she won 1st prize for her roses.

But before I knew it, the cups were being presented, the raffle winners drawn and things were beginning to wind down.

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 194Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 194The highly sort after cups.

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 272Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 272Prize giving. Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 277Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 277

As the day came to a close, thoughts turned towards the evening party at The Cotley Inn where there was more music and a hog roast on offer. 

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 278Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 278The day ends. I headed home to start processing the images and to think about how important these types of project are. This is what photography is all about for me and I need to remember it and not get lost in hustle and bustle of making money.

Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 122Wambrook Flower Show Centenary 122Photograph taken at the very first flower festival in 1914. As the image above shows, photographers need to capture the everyday, the ordinary. This photo was taken a hundred years ago at the first Wambrook flower show (or as it was then, the Bewley Down Flower, Vegetable and Dairy Show). I stood and chatted to someone about the photo and it raised questions for us, such as, were they getting hot wearing their hats and coats, or was it a cold July? How did they get home? Did some share a horse and cart, or did most people walk? Is that a tea urn or a cup at the end of the table?

Photographs don't always tell us the story but they do offer an insight into the times in which they were captured. What is ordinary today will, before we know it, have changed completely and recording it is important. I can only hope that in a hundred years time, one of my photographs from the 2014 Wambrook flower show will be hung above the tea table with bailer twine and will generate some questions and memories of its own.  

Thank you very much to everyone in Wambrook who made me feel very welcome and helped me to remember what it is I love about photography.

The complete set of photographs from the two days can be seen in my gallery - click here

 

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info@andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk (Andrew Hobbs Photography) Somerset Wambrook flower festival flower show flowers people photography rural life http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2014/7/100-years-of-flowers Mon, 28 Jul 2014 19:19:54 GMT
2014 badger cull - yes or no? http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2014/3/2014-badger-cull  

I suppose I am naive. I thought that considering the badger cull last summer was, to be polite, not very effective, that that would be an end to it. Other methods of controlling bovine TB would be explored, like vaccination. A trial is, after all, a process of seeing if something works and then rolling it out only when you have the data to prove that it’s been successful. So I almost missed the fact that the Badger Army were meeting in Exeter to protest against the re-starting of the cull - surely no one in government was going to pick up such a political hot potato and run with it.

I imagine that the reason the government feels the need to press forward with the cull is that they can’t be seen to lose, especially with an general election maybe 12 months away. Last summer, battle lines were drawn and the badger army mobilised. Two sides took to the countryside. Clear objectives had been set, the government were aiming to kill 4000 badgers in 6 weeks, the badger army to stop them.

 

Exeter_march_ against_the_badger_cull 058Exeter_march_ against_the_badger_cull 058Members of the Badger Army parade with banners through Exeter city centre

 

Grace in victory and grace in defeat are things most warring parties should learn across the world and the same is so here. The government were unable at the end of the cull to come forward and say; “Hey, you know what, we tried culling, and the trial proved that shooting badgers wasn’t the most efficient way of controlling TB.” If they had, perhaps they could have then worked with farmers and the anti-cull groups to explore vaccination options.

With the decision regarding the re-starting of the cull this summer in the balance, and the battle of words heating up in the press with leaks from the independent badger cull enquiry and stories about TB infecting cats and passing it to humans, the badger army came to Exeter yesterday.  People from across the country met in Belmont Park to air their views about the badger cull and to peacefully march through the city centre in demonstration of their opposition to the government’s policy.

 

Exeter_march_ against_the_badger_cull 031Exeter_march_ against_the_badger_cull 031Members of the Badger Army parade with banners through Exeter city centre

 

All those speaking yesterday were, as always, passionate about stopping the cull and were intent on disputing government claims while making their own about farming methods being the cause of the spread of TB, rather than the badgers. Pete Martin, from Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (GABS), explained to the gathered crowd that farmers spray unpasteurised milk on their fields which is ingested by earthworms and then, ‘who eats the worms? The badgers.’ . Mr Martin went on to suggest that the transportation of cattle between farms is possibly another way TB can be spread. It seems that it is possible for a farmer to own two farms, one in, say, Somerset and one in, maybe, Yorkshire. The two farms are technically classed as one, allowing cattle to be moved between the two areas without restriction, even when a transportation ban is in place.

 

Exeter_march_ against_the_badger_cull 062Exeter_march_ against_the_badger_cull 062Pete Martin, from Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (GABS), addresses the badger army in Belmont Park, Exeter.

 

Now while the two sides fight this out, it is easy to forget the people stuck in the middle - the farmers. I can hear fuses being blown, angry shouts at screens and my name being turned to mud as some of you read that but stay with me. I have grown up around farmers, not the big super farms that to me are not farms but factories, but the farms which are small, family owned affairs. These are the farms I know, and these are the farms that worry about the countryside and manage it well. I spent some time on a farm in Devon a couple of years ago during haymaking. The farmer had contractors in to make the hay and while I was riding in his tractor he became very angry when talking to the other drivers over the radio. I won’t write the exact words here as this is a family blog, but suffice to say he wasn’t very happy that they were driving repeatedly over the same tracks. This compresses the earth, affecting the drainage and can cause problems with erosion. On another farm I saw a farmer nearing tears as a ewe gave birth right at the end of the lambing season. This wasn’t to do with profit, it was because that ewe had lost lambs earlier in the year and the farmer was genuinely happy she’d finally got her own lamb.

 

HOB_2736HOB_2736

 

Farming is a hard business, and not just in terms of making money from it. It’s a hard business because crops and grazing land can be destroyed by mother nature, as we have seen in Somerset with the recent floods. Animals are vulnerable, not only to diseases like TB and natural predators like foxes, but also to us, well meaning human beings. While lambing, I heard a story last year about a couple of walkers who turned up at a farm proudly carrying a lamb wrapped in a coat. “We found this poor lamb under a hedge, all alone, so we brought it here” they said. I am sure they thought they were helping a small lamb survive but their well meaning actions meant that the lamb became an orphan and needed to be hand reared by the farmer, as the ewe rejected the lamb when the farmer tried to reunite them.

Last year I visited Richard Reed on his farm in Devon. He’d recently lost 80 cattle to TB and his obvious sadness at this loss was evident when talking to him. But it went beyond the loss of income; his family had taken years to build up a herd and although many protestors would have people believe that farmers only see cattle as inventory to be bought and sold, my experience, and my knowledge from talking to Richard, is that farmers do care for and look after their animals very well. To them, yes, the cull requires the killing of some animals, but it means the saving of some as well.

 

Farmer Richard Reed, whose farm has been badly hit by bovine TB.

 

I am not a vet or a countryside expert at all but to me vaccination seems a good starting point for peace talks between the opposing sides. @spartacus303, a regular commentator on the cull, tweeted earlier this week that: ‘If I had my way every Farmer would have to train someone on Farm to vaccinate Badgers on and around his own farm’  and this seems to me like an idea worth looking into. Perhaps this training could even be linked into agricultural apprenticeships in some way, along with instruction on traditional rural skills such as hedge laying and river management.

 

Exeter_march_ against_the_badger_cull 032Exeter_march_ against_the_badger_cull 032Members of the Badger Army parade with banners through Exeter city centre

 

Exeter_march_ against_the_badger_cull 050Exeter_march_ against_the_badger_cull 050Members of the Badger Army parade with banners through Exeter city centre

 

A vaccination plan of this type would help the farmers, protect the badgers and give the government a face-saving way out, particularly as if the cull starts up again this summer, there are the practicalities of carrying it out to consider too. Speaking to police officers on the ground last year, patrolling the cull areas was an obvious strain on their resources. Will they be able to maintain the level of presence in the cull zones this year?

The march yesterday was policed by Police Liaison officers rather than regular police and one explained to me that this is their new approach to policing this type of demonstration. On the run up to the march the liaison officers build up relationships with the event organisers and then help to marshal the crowd. Yesterday there were just six officers present to help direct the hundreds of protesters. So if the cull starts up again it is very likely that it won’t be regular officers patrolling the cull zones, and while the Liaison Officers are very capable and will have backup available, as they did yesterday, the cull zones will be undoubtedly much harder to police with fewer officers to call on.

 

Exeter_march_ against_the_badger_cull 059Exeter_march_ against_the_badger_cull 059One of only six police liaison officers on duty to help marshal the march through Exeter.

 

But in the end, whether you believe that the cull’s apparent lack of success was down to the dedication of anti-cull protesters and the interference tactics they carried out last summer, or whether it was because you simply can’t hide in the woods and shoot badgers on the scale that the government thought you could, it seems clear from the leaked information reaching the press from the Independent Expert Panel’s report that ‘the culls were not effective and that they failed to meet the humaneness criteria’.

 

Exeter_march_ against_the_badger_cull 030Exeter_march_ against_the_badger_cull 030Members of the Badger Army parade with banners through Exeter city centre

 

It is clear too from the march in Exeter yesterday, that supporters of the many anti-cull protest groups are 100% determined to stop any attempts by the British government to restart the cull in the South West this year. Emotions were running high as the lead speaker, Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust, joined in with the crowd’s chant of ‘Paterson, out, out, out’.

 

Exeter_march_ against_the_badger_cull 038Exeter_march_ against_the_badger_cull 038Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust and policy advisor to Care for the Wild, joins the crowd in chanting "Paterson, out, out, out.

 

So given the strength of the opposition, and the mounting evidence of previous failure, the likelihood of the cull starting up again this summer doesn’t seem high. Owen Paterson, (Secretary of State for Environment and the Exeter protesters’ least favourite person) is said to be considering his options, and it’s thought that David Cameron is also thinking of ending the cull. With an election only about 12 months away you can understand why the PM might not be keen on re-implementing such an unpopular policy. And if the cull is abandoned, its hard to see how Owen Paterson can keep his job in the upcoming government reshuffle.

 

Exeter_march_ against_the_badger_cull 056Exeter_march_ against_the_badger_cull 056Members of the Badger Army parade with banners through Exeter city centre

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info@andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk (Andrew Hobbs Photography) Devon Exeter Somerset badger cull photography photojournalism protest http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2014/3/2014-badger-cull Sun, 30 Mar 2014 22:02:44 GMT
Combat Art exhibition http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2014/3/Combat-Art-Exhibition In a week when media coverage of the Royal Marines has shown graphically  how the stresses of living and working in a war zone can overflow into uncontrolled emotion, it is appropriate that the Combat Art exhibition opens in Taunton.  Former Commanding Officer of 40 Commando Col Alan Hooper, who himself kept a diary while on operational duty, feels that this type of project is important as a way of releasing the ‘emotional build up’ service men and women face when at war.  

It doesn’t surprise me it’s come from the Royal Marines. They have an ability to do the unusual, do the unexpected and they show great initiative and this actually links with the sort of itch they have to scratchAs an artistic exhibition I think it’s unique, but I also applaud what it does to help deal with the emotions that can build up under the extreme tensions of battle.’

 

Eddie Conway, a serving Royal Marine, is one of the artists exhibiting their work at the Combat Art exhibition in Taunton. Pictured here with his favourite of the works he

Eddie Conway, a serving Royal Marine, is one of the artists exhibiting their work at the Combat Art exhibition in Taunton. Pictured here with his favourite of the works he’s created.

 

The idea for the Combat Art project was conceived by Royal Marine widow Anita St John Gray and became a reality with the help and support of a variety of people from the Royal Marines, including the former Commanding Officers at 40 Commando, Col M.J.A Jackson RM, who was recently awarded the DSO, and Col Alan Hooper RM, who acted as military advisors, with artistic advice coming from artists Jon England, Tim Martin and Stuart Rosamond, who also acted as the exhibition curators.

 

Pictured; Anita St John Gray who had the original idea for Combat Art, former Commanding Officer at 40 Commando, Col Alan Hooper, who along with Royal Marine Col M.J.A Jackson advised on the project, and artist Jon England who worked with his former lecturers at Somerset College, Stuart Rosamond and Tim Martin to curate and develop the project.

Pictured: Anita St John Gray who had the original idea for Combat Art, former Commanding Officer at 40 Commando, Col Alan Hooper, who along with Royal Marine, Col M.J.A Jackson, advised on the project, and artist Jon England who worked with his former lecturers from Somerset College, Stuart Rosamond and Tim Martin, to curate and develop the project.

 

500 Marines based in Taunton were given art kits to take on their last tour of Afghanistan that were specially created for the project. The kits are made from camouflaged material, fit into a trouser pocket and contain a variety of high quality art materials. Anita St John Gray says ‘we are not sure if all the kits were used, we do know that some of the work created was too personal for some of the marines to want to show’.

 

Combat Art Kit - border

 

This exhibition is indeed a brave exhibition to take part in. Many of us who show our work regularly are used to the critique, the rejection that often comes from putting our work on public display. We are used to thinking of Marines as brave people, but this is a bravery they will not have had training for and which may not come easily. But by allowing the public to see this work they are allowing us into their world at a level we rarely, if ever, get to see.

 

Artist

 

Artists' sketchbooks and notebooks are always of interest to me and this exhibition gives visitors an opportunity to look through some of the Marines’ books. The paper cups that became someone’s canvas are a favourite of mine.

 

Combat Art works by Royal Marines on their last tour of Afghanistan.

Combat Art works by Royal Marines on their last tour of Afghanistan.

 

The exhibition can be seen at the West Wing of the Market House Building in the centre of Taunton from 9th – 23rd Nov, Wed to Sat, 11am – 5pm.

I would encourage you to take the time to visit the exhibition and spend some time with this extraordinary work.

 

Visitors to the Combart Art exhibition look at some of the artworks created in Afghanistan by Royal Marines.

Visitors to the Combart Art exhibition look at some of the artworks created in Afghanistan by the Royal Marines.

 

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info@andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk (Andrew Hobbs Photography) Afghanistan Royal Marines art combat combat art people photography war art http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2014/3/Combat-Art-Exhibition Sun, 10 Nov 2013 10:30:00 GMT
Somerset Badger Cull http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2014/4/somerset-badger-cull The badger cull is not a new story, it's been talked about for over a year. When West Somerset was first mentioned as being one of the pilot areas there were very quickly reports that farmers were getting death threats and that they were at risk of having their farms burnt down by protesters. Farmers I have known for years stopped talking. They were polite but they didn't want anything leaking out. Locations of farms suspected of involvement in the cull were rapidly put up on the net and just as quickly taken down. Everything in the cull zone was geared up and ready for an influx of animal rights activists. Then the Government postponed the cull and things returned to normal.

Then a couple of weeks ago, anti-cull groups were reporting that the cull would start on the August 27. Local badger groups, some of whom I'd met the year before at a gathering in Dunster, started their night walks again and it began to seem as if the shooting would begin soon. I was driving home one evening when I heard on the BBC news confirmation from the government that the cull had started and that was when life got busy.

 

Cull protester in Dunster October 2012

Cull protester in Dunster, October 2012

 

Somerset Badger Group night walk Carhampton August 2013

Somerset Badger Group night walk in Carhampton, August 2013.

 

News was scarce about where the cull would begin and Twitter and Facebook became the source of all knowledge. The Stop the Cull pages reported that a camp had been set up for protesters near Watchet and I headed over there only to be met by ITV and BBC TV news crews. There were more people from the media than protesters, though those protesters that were there were very welcoming and chatty.

 

TV crews outnumber the protesters at the first Camp Badger

TV crews outnumber the protesters at the first Camp Badger.

 

Everyone is waiting for something to happen.

Everyone is waiting for something to happen. 

 

Later that night, the local badger group had arranged a candlelight vigil in Minehead, their plan being to march through the town and raise awareness about the cull. I had stationed myself on the edge of Minehead ready to cover the story and I was quickly joined by press snappers from the Press Association (PA) and South West News Service (SWNS), and again BBC and ITV.

 

  250 protesters meet in Minehead for a candlelight walk through the town.

250 protesters meet in Minehead for a candlelight walk through the town.

 

Each candle represents a badger. At the end of the march candles were in turn blown out to symbolise the death of a badger

Each candle represents a badger. At the end of the march the candles were blown out in turn to symbolise the death of a badger. 

 

This was the start of a very long night that ended with Tim Ireland from PA and myself standing in a pub carpark at 4am waiting to be taken out by the badger group to see a badger being vaccinated.

At 4.15am a Land Rover drove up and a young lady jumped out. She explained that the farm they were due to visit had decided that they didn't want the press there – they were scared of possible reprisals from locals. They left, and Tim and I did what you have to do at times like this, we laughed. Up all night for nothing.

Vaccination is the policy advocated by the Somerset Badger Group who feel this is the right way to control TB. Somerset Badger Group chairman Adrian Coward says 'Vaccination is the key – it is probably the only option, and what we would like to see is Owen Paterson putting pressure on Europe so a vaccine can be developed in less than the ten years he says it will take. Farmers deserve that too, instead of the Government remaining determined to kill badgers at any cost.'

 

Adrian Coward, chairman of Somerset Badger Group address a group of protesters.

Adrian Coward, chairman of Somerset Badger Group, addresses a group of protesters.

 

Vaccination is the Somerset Badger Groups  preferred method of control of TB.

Vaccination is the Somerset Badger Group's preferred method of control for TB.

 

Over the next few days and nights, I joined the other press photographers and journalists on badger patrols, our numbers now swelled by staffers from the Daily Mail, the Sun and the Telegraph. There aren't many photos taken on these walks, but the excursions seem to be the main activity for protesters. On Thursday, Camp Badger is closed at the request of the landowner and the residents agree to leave by 4pm, which they do peacefully. There is no word from the people there about where they are going but Jay Tiernan, the main man behind the protest group Stop the Cull, is there helping them to locate a new site.

Mr Tiernan was named in an injunction brought by the National Farmers' Union to stop protesters intimidating or harassing' farmers. Mr Tiernan, who was arrested a few days ago in Gloucestershire for an alleged attempt to break into a Defra site, though since released without charge, is at first friendly enough, requesting I keep a distance while the protesters talk. I do so, as after all I have no interest in annoying them. However, after about half an hour they seem to have stopped talking and I go closer again to get some general shots. It's then that Mr Tiernan decides I am 'taking the p***' and suggests that I 'f*** off'.

 

Jay Tiernan at Camp Badger trying to find a new location for the camp.

Jay Tiernan at Camp Badger trying to find a new location for the camp.

 

The first protester leaves Camp Badger at 4pm

The first protester leaves Camp Badger at 4pm.

 

The same night that Camp Badger is evicted, the Bristol hunt sabs (saboteurs) post on Facebook that they have had to cancel their minibus to Somerset because of a lack of numbers.

One of the most vocal people at Camp Badger said, when asked where she was heading as she drove out, "I'm going home." When asked on a previous night about the numbers involved, she said "It's been really hard to get people interested."

 

Camp Badger Watchet. Camp organisers plan the night activities.

Camp Badger at Watchet. Camp organisers plan the night's activities.

 

The nights that follow this are taken up with reading Twitter and Facebook and scouting around the cull zones, tracking police and protesters' movements wherever possible. I have someone back at base researching the new camp, the location of which is being kept a secret.

Friday August 30 did see an increase in activity – more cars and vans from both sides, most likely a result of the weekend freeing up more people from their day jobs and the police response to that. I ran into a group of sabs clearly from out of the area (maybe the Bristol sabs found some more people that night!) driving around looking lost. I offered to help them with directions and was again told to "f*** off." On the other side, the police were friendly but obviously checking people out. I was stopped by Bristol police who took my details.

Over the course of the night I saw the sabs' van again and again. They were just driving round and I feel sure they were aiming to distract the police, who had told me they'd stopped the van several times and were filmed by the sabs doing so. This was the night after the building site of a police firearms training centre near Bristol was set on fire by a group who, in their statement claiming responsibility for the incident, said in reference to the cull, "we hope this will be one of many rebellions against this slaughter".

 

There are many Sab stickers on fence posts and gates in the cull zone.

There are many Sab stickers on fence posts and gates in the cull zone.

 

However, if you believed the tweets and Facebook posts being put out by the Stop the Cull people, you'd think the hills of Exmoor are full of the sounds of screaming badgers and gunfire. They are not. They are full of the sound of cars and are only occasionally lit up by the odd torch flash in the woods.

I have been out every night, pretty much all night. I was, in fact, in two of the named locations at the time the protesters were saying there were badger screams, barking dogs and gunfire there. There wasn't. There were however some people talking in the woods, followed by what sounded like poor attempts at making a screaming noise.

Last Saturday night there were claims on Facebook that voices could be heard and smoke seen at the place rumoured to be cull central, Combe Sydenham. It was suspected that the badger carcasses were, are, being taken there for disposal, most likely through burning. I was right there at the time the person posted this, on the same bit of road and I saw and heard nothing.

This isn't to say that the shooting isn't happening, of course. I have heard shots and a group of protesters were having a "stand-off" with a team of shooters in Blue Anchor at about 1.30am on Friday night. But it's not a war zone, and when the protesters are asked for evidence, they can't produce it. I am not sure how many protesters there are on the ground in Somerset, but it feels like very few. Their online support is very large, but then, it's easy to be an online supporter.

Finally, after a day of researching online and scouting around the area, I found the location of the new camp and I parked up near the meeting point given for collection. I wasn't planning on going in, I just wanted to see how it all works.

I had been sitting at the spot for about an hour when a girl with a backpack about the same size as her turned up. She looked a little lost and dug her phone out of her bag to make a call. Minutes later, a car arrived with two men in it, one very heavily tattooed. She got in and they went, though not before spotting me and driving past slowly to take a good look. I attracted the attention of locals too and was obviously out of place so I left, but in the two hours that I was there, I saw only that one girl arriving at the camp and I think this is the protesters' real problem – they lack the numbers on the ground to enable them to make a real difference to the cull.

This seemed to be confirmed when, about an hour after I left the pick-up point, the camp organisers posted the formerly secret address of the camp on Facebook to help get more people there. Along with the online activity reports and camp location, the protesters posted a set of camp rules of which one, number 4, is "no press." This has baffled me from the start with the hard-core protesters, why advocate no press when you also claim there's a media blackout? It makes people wonder if in fact protest numbers are very low and activity is not as high as claimed. Last Sunday it seems that maybe the group has recognised this fact with queries about the rule being posted on Facebook. The reply – that interviews can still happen out on patrol at night and in a nearby village during the day – is probably correct but still fails to address the basic underlying issue of lack of evidence.

Though I am sympathetic of the inherent difficulties for the protesters in providing evidence of secret activity, in today's media-aware society a word of mouth report online is not enough, people are just too wary of internet scams and exaggerations to believe everything they read. The lack is particularly glaring when the reverse side, the losses caused to British farmers by TB, has been very well documented.

I was commissioned by the Western Morning News to take the images for one such news story – a visit to farmer Richard Reed who has lost over 30 cattle in the last year to TB and who stands to lose much more if the disease is not controlled or contained somehow.

 

Farmer Richard Reed who lost 30 of his cows to TB in 2013.

Farmer Richard Reed, who lost 30 of his cows to TB in 2013.

 

Though his animals were insured, the cost of replacing pedigree cows is so expensive that it has left him with a deficit which could only be made up by breeding other stock that should by rights have been sold. It’s a struggle that has been reflected in other press stories all over the UK and means that anyone searching for information regarding the cost of bovine TB does not have far to look.

Farmer Richard Reed who lost 30 cows to TB in 2013.

Farmer Richard Reed.

 

So would those who are busy channelling money to help support activities against the badger cull consider raising money to assist farmers who are suffering from the ravages of TB?

Particularly those farmers who have declared themselves to be against the cull? It would be interesting to hear the responses to this question from those who have currently supplied over £3,000 to various gofundme campaigns set up by Stop the Cull in order to provide fuel and supplies to the protesters.There is also the equally interesting question of where any excess donations will go, given the scarce numbers involved currently and the fact that many protesters are providing their own transportation or offering supplies directly to the camp.

 

Protesters at Camp Badger

Protesters at Camp Badger.

 

Camp Badger kitchen - Watchet

Camp Badger kitchen - Watchet.

 

But having said all of this, that doesn't mean I am against the badger cull protests or negative about the protesters involved. On the contrary, I do think they are asking some very valid questions that have yet to be answered by the government and those in control of the cull zones. For example, why have Defra decided that only 240 of the thousands of badgers due to be killed will be given post-mortem examinations? And why are only a small percentage of shootings due to be independently monitored to check for humaneness?

I was also interested to hear from anti-cull protesters that the mass movement of cattle following the foot and mouth outbreak was potentially a greater factor in the spread of TB around the country than the badgers, and that the slackness of government controls on the testing and moving of cattle at this time could only have contributed to it. However, information is rarely forthcoming from Defra, and that which has been provided regarding the cull has usually needed to be forced to the surface by a Freedom of Information request.

So what remains to be seen still, is whether the pressure that can be brought to bear on the Government by protesters at all levels – whether locally in the field or by online petitions or by celebrities speaking out against the cull – can possibly be enough to force the politicians to think again. From my experiences in the last week or so, on a local level at least, it just doesn't seem as if the numbers needed are really there.

Badger Cull poster left on a tree in the cull zone.

Badger cull poster left on a tree in the cull zone.

 

(NB. This blog was subsequently published by the Western Morning News)

 
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info@andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk (Andrew Hobbs Photography) Camp Badger Somerset badger cull badgers march protest http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2014/4/somerset-badger-cull Sun, 01 Sep 2013 14:45:00 GMT
Here come the girls… http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2013/8/Here-come-the-girls Crazy, mad, daring, intrepid – just four words you might use to describe what seven of the ladies from Appledore Pilot Gig Club are planning to do in October this year to celebrate the club’s 10th anniversary.

The magnificent seven will attempt to row an adapted gig boat across the channel to help raise money for a much needed new training boat that will help more people to take up this fantastic sport. The team aim to raise over £10,000 which will cover the cost of the trip, buy the new gig (plus six oars) and give a sizeable donation to the charity Brain Tumour Research.

When you first hear the idea, you think it must have been one of those conversations that got out of control while sat in a bar. This idea might have been hatched in a bar (I don’t know if it was) but it has been planned with military precision and knowing the team, I am absolutely certain they will succeed in their goals of rowing the channel and raising the money.

Appledore ladies rowing at the recent Port Isacc regatta.

Appledore ladies rowing at the recent Port Isaac regatta. (Pictured team not the channel team)

The team is made up from regular Appledore team rowers and consists of Natasha Acres, Zoe Sims, Yvette Parkin, Jan McLean, Linda Stella, Naomi Cudmore and Emily Campbell Jones (plus an extra reserve lady!). This row will require a skilled cox who can not only steer the boat safely through the shipping channels, but also keep motivation and spirits high during the gruelling row, and Len White is just the man for the job.  They estimate that the row will take between 6000 and 10,000 strokes, which in anyone’s book is a lot of rowing.

So what are pilot gig boats? The gigs are 32’ x 4’6”, crewed by 6 people and a cox. Traditionally the gigs were used to take pilots out to ships; the first gig to reach the ship would win the ‘prize’ of piloting the ship into harbour and this is how gig racing was born. Gigs have also historically been used as lifeboats.

Appledore mens crew at Port Issac 2013.

Appledore men’s crew at Port Isaac 2013.

But to make this challenge a real success, it is of course going to need more than hours of training, more than hundreds of blisters and a lot more than a pallet of Jelly Babies (a favourite of the Appledore crew!). It’s going to need you.

The crew will row the channel, that’s in no doubt, but to buy the new boat, the oars and make the donation to the Brain Tumour Research charity, they are going to need your kindness and generosity.

So far (as of 06/08/13) they have raised over £1000 with sponsorship coming from companies including Fatyak Kayaks, The Seagate Hotel, First Design and Singer Instruments, as well as many personal donations; for instance three sisters who are donating £250 to buy an oar named in memory of their mother. Smaller but equally important donations ranging from £10 to £100 are building up fast.

If you would like to help too, making a donation is easy :

  • Donate however much you like as a private sponsor – online at http://www.appledoregigclub.com/pledges.php.
  • Donate in person: pop into The Quay Cafe in Appledore (I’d stop and have some lunch too, the food is amazing!)
  • Buy a kayak square at just £2 per square from one of the crew or from The Quay Cafe, Appledore – you could win a fabulous Fatyak Kayak!
  • Become the title sponsor and name the new boat!
  • Donate £250 or more and have your name on the new boat or one of its oars.

If you have any fundraising questions or would like to send your donation by cheque, please contact the team’s fundraising lead Naomi Cudmore on 01984 641359, or email naomi@lighthousecommunications.co.uk

Please support the Appledore ladies on their quest for France.

Please support the Appledore ladies on their quest for France.

If you would like to see more photos of pilot gig racing, I have more in my online galleries here

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info@andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk (Andrew Hobbs Photography) Appledore Devon gig boat racing photography pilot gig boats rowing http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2013/8/Here-come-the-girls Tue, 06 Aug 2013 09:45:00 GMT
X100s review update http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2013/8/X100s-Review-Update I’ve had my Fuji X100s for about 5 months now, so thought it was a good time to do a small update.

My original post about the X100s was written just a few days after buying the camera and I hope this update will give a little more insight into what the camera is like to use. It’s not going to be an in depth user review as I will leave that to the people who are good at looking at every feature and function and accessing them. This is more about how I use the camera, what I like and what I don’t like, and I’ll also talk about a few accessories I have now obtained to make life easier and to protect the camera.

x100s

We all know that the Fuji X100s is beautiful. And there are thousands of photos out there that show it can take amazing images, which, considering this camera is priced at around £1000, it bloody well should!

However, if, like me, you are used to handling a DSLR like the D700 or the D4, then you will find that the camera feels small when you first start using it. I felt very clumsy, all fingers and thumbs, and I still find it hard to adjust the shutter speed and aperture at the same time. Mostly because I’ve just gotten used to the dials on the aforementioned Nikons.

I also have to admit, again, because I am more used to the speed of the Nikons, I find the X100s slow. Yes, it focuses pretty fast but sometimes, and more often than I feel it should, there is nothing in the viewfinder when you look through. Switching the camera off and on again seems to clear this, but by then you have missed the shot. Is this me? Is this something a firmware update will sort? Time will tell.

Okay, so now I sound very negative about a camera I love. But sometimes we are harder on those we love, right?

I didn’t buy the camera to replace my D700, I bought a D4 for that. I bought the X100s to be my carry-about camera. I bought it  to replace my iPhone in fact. I take it with me when walking on the hills or out with my daughters – basically if I am going anywhere where I will want a camera but don’t want to feel like I’m at work. The X100s fits nicely into a small walker’s bum bag or even a winter coat pocket. It’s light enough to forget you even have it around your neck.

D4 next to Fuji X100s

The D4 is a barbarian, whereas the X100s is a thinker.

X100s Accessories

There are two main reasons for buying a camera accessory; to protect the camera or to make using the camera better. Let’s start with protection.

I think it’s fair to say that I don’t treat my cameras very well. Only last weekend my D4 took a covering of seawater and my D700 has been rolling round the boot of my car for weeks. But the X100s isn’t a work tool. It’s not a pair of overalls, it’s more your favourite pair of jeans and a t-shirt. So, knowing that I couldn’t change my ways and that I would end up knocking it as I walked around and dumping it in the back of the car, I wanted to try and prevent it getting damaged.

I looked at a few cases, including a really nice looking handmade leather case made by a guy in Italy. However, after trying to contact him and failing, I decided I would plump for Fuji’s own case made for the X100. I wasn’t really thinking this would be the case that I would keep but rather that it would get me over the initial hump of not having one. But it turned out to be a great case. The photos of it on the net don’t do it justice – it has that lovely retro look to it but still works brilliantly with the camera.

Fuji

Fuji’s X100s has a retro design with modern functionality.

As you can see from the last image in the mini set above, the screen is clearly visible when the camera is wearing the Fuji case – you’d expect it to be of course. But that does leave the screen vulnerable to scratches and dirt which, over time, will affect how well you can review your images on the camera. So while protecting the body is important, protecting the screen is equally essential.

I intend this camera to be handed down to my daughters one day, for it to become a family heirloom. My Nikons will tell a story in their own right of course, they will speak of all the places I have been for work and so will have many good tales to tell. But the X100s will, I hope, inspire memories for my daughters as much as the photos I take with it will do.

How to protect the screen then? I have never looked into screen protection before, so I started where all research now starts, not at the local library but with Google. The name that kept popping up in my searches was Expert Shield. The claims for their products are impressive, and include a demonstration where they run a belt sander over an iPhone fitted with one of their screen protectors.

I’m a bit old fashioned and still like to talk to people before buying if I can, so I called Expert Shield and spoke to Ed Tyson (whose card says he’s an Office Astronaut!). Ed is a really nice guy and he assured me I would be very pleased with his product. He was so confident that he said he would send me a protector for the X100s for free and that if I wrote a little bit about it I could keep it. “Well, okay” I said “but what if I hate it, can I still write about it?”, “Sure, of course” he replied, “but you will like it”.

Okay Ed, here’s the deal. I think you are psychic. You must have known I wouldn’t read the instructions because you sent me two protectors and yep, I messed the first one up because I didn’t read them! After reading them, it was a breeze to fit the second protector and I really can’t tell it’s on the camera.

The instructions are simple to follow - read them. Expert Shield think of everything and even include a cleaning cloth!

The instructions are simple to follow – read them. Expert Shield think of everything and even include a cleaning cloth!

So now the protector was on I had to be brave. Taking my trusty sheriff’s badge I put my trust in Ed’s word and scratched the screen. After all, it’s only a £1000 camera that means quite a lot to me!

Before and after Expert Shield scratch test.

On the left, the Expert Shield screen protector on the x100s having been scratched with the pin of my badge.
On the right, the screen after the protector was removed. Not a mark in sight.

Well, Ed was true to his word, and I can very happily say that I would 100% recommend the Expert Shield screen protectors. I think I will be wanting ones for my D700 and D4 now too. So if you are looking for a new screen protector for your camera or phone I would start your search by visiting the Expert Shield website.

So that’s protection sorted out. Now, what have I bought to make using the X100s better?

Well, as I said before, the camera feels small in your hand so I took the advice of a friend on an well known photography website – ePhotozine - and bought a thumb grip and a soft release button. The thumb grip fits on the hot-shoe and enables you to hold the camera more steadily. The downside of this is that you can’t close the Fuji case when it’s fitted so I soon ditched it. But I would say that if you aren’t using the Fuji case I recommend getting a thumb grip, they really help. The soft release button is still fitted and I am not sure how anyone takes a photo on a camera like this without having one. In fact, I think Fuji should just make the shutter button come as standard with a soft release fitted.

X100s with soft release button

The soft release button is a must have addition to the X100s in my opinion.

So in conclusion, the X100s is a fantastic camera – it not only looks great but handles well, and aside from a few minor problems I am having with speed, I am very happy with it. And the speed issue shouldn’t put you off owning this camera, it’s not a DSLR and won’t ever compete with one but then it’s not meant to.

Does it fill the gap between my iPhone and the bigger workhorse of the D700 and D4? Yes, and perfectly. The world is full of cameras and some stand out from a technical point of view but few stand out from a design point of view. The design is what makes the X100s an iconic camera and one we will look back on with affection in years to come.

Some images shot with the X100s:

DSCF1086 copy

DSCF1074 copy

DSCF1049 copy

DSCF1038 copy

DSCF0979 copy

DSCF1009 copy

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info@andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk (Andrew Hobbs Photography) Expert Shield Screen Protector Fuji Nikon D4 Nikon D700 X100s X100s review photography http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2013/8/X100s-Review-Update Thu, 01 Aug 2013 10:30:00 GMT
Exmoor villages http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2013/4/Exmoor-Villages Today, I found myself in the somewhat unusual position of having nothing planned. The sun was out, I didn’t want to be inside and I wanted to play with my X100s. So I decided to take a drive over the moor and visit some of the villages on Exmoor. The idea was to take photos in each village of their notice boards, something I have been pondering doing for a while. As it turned out, the boards weren’t as interesting as I’d hoped, so I decided to just take a photo of whatever jumped out at me. This then left me with the question of what to do with the photos, so I have decided to give you a brief history lesson for each village. So, in no other order than the order I visited them, here they are:

Simonsbath Exmoor Somerset

The church at Simonsbath is a striking building but today this shed stood out for me.

The village of Simonsbath began life in the mid 19th century with the purchase of land by the Knight family who wanted to convert the Exmoor forest land into a vast agricultural centre. Their vision was sadly not to be fully realised but the building of St Luke’s Church in 1856, along with the opening of a nearby mine, meant that residential houses swiftly followed and a small hamlet began to take shape. Here too, is a sawmill, built by John Knight in the early 19th century, which ran on water power from the nearby River Barle right up until the 1950s. Lottery funding has since enabled the sawmill to be restored into working order and a group of volunteers provide regular access to the public so visitors can see a Victorian sawmill in action once more.

The shop at Withypool

The shop at Withypool

Withypool takes its name from the willow trees, or withies, that grow alongside the nearby River Barle. The village surroundings have a long history behind them with settlements stretching back to the Bronze Age. Withypool itself is mentioned in the Domesday book and during the 14th century, it had the honour of being looked after by Geoffrey Chaucer in his role as forester for the North Petherton estate. The local public house, the Royal Oak Inn, also has a few claims to fame – R.D Blackmore wrote Lorna Doona whilst staying here, and artist Alfred Munnings had a studio in the attic. Prince William also dined in the Royal Oak in 2006 after attending a nearby Tetrathlon.

The village shop in Exford

The Village shop in Exford (very nice pies) – the shop was closed but all the veg and papers were happily left out.

Locally grown veg for sale

Locally grown veg for sale

News papers on sale at the Exford village shop.

Newspapers on sale at the Exford village shop.

Exford village is located on the River Exe in the heart of Exmoor. Described almost universally as a very beautiful and picturesque place, Exford is built around a central village green and dates back to the middle ages. The village church, originally the  Church of St Salvyn, now the Church of St Mary Magdalene, is a grade 2 listed building and was built around about the 16th century. The Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales, written in 1870-72, described it simply as having ‘a lofty tower, and is good’. Exford is also known for being the home of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds kennels since their construction by Montague Bissett in 1875.

The ford ar Exford

The ford at Winsford

A sign on the Winsford village green advertising a village sale

Sign on the Winsford village green advertising a village sale

Winsford, though sharing its name with the larger town in Cheshire, is in this case a small village located near Dulverton in Somerset. The local area around Winsford offers much in the way of interesting history – the nearby Winsford Hill has three Bronze Age burial mounds, known collectively as the Wambarrows, that date back to around 1500BC. Legend has it that they are haunted by a big black hound with ‘glowing saucer eyes’ that guards the treasures within. The Caratacus Stone, a standing stone inscribed with a Roman dedication, is also on Winsford Hill and Winsford village is, none too surprisingly, to be found in the Domesday Book, though today’s inhabitants may be slightly disturbed to hear that the population at the time included 9 slaves. In more recent times, Winsford became the home of the Exmoor Community Computer Centre which aimed to provide more educational opportunities and greater access to social and recreation services for local people. Sadly due to a lack of funding, the centre has since closed.

The Recreation Ground at Wheddon Corss

The Recreation Ground at Wheddon Cross

The Recreation Ground at Wheddon Corss

The Recreation Ground at Wheddon Cross

Wheddon Cross is the youngest of the villages that I have visited today, though it’s the second highest on Exmoor at 980 feet above sea level, only just below Simonsbath. It’s also only three miles away from the highest point on Exmoor, Dunkery Beacon, which reaches the dizzying heights of 1704 feet above sea level. The village itself though came into being with the construction of the Minehead to Bampton turnpike in the early 1800s and not too surprisingly, is named after the crossroads on which it sits. Along with its sister village of Cutcombe, it’s probably best known today for Snowdrop Valley, a nearby privately owned valley that opens to the public in February each year so that visitors can enjoy viewing the thousands of small white flowers that make up a carpet of snowdrops and give the valley its name.

(thanks to my research assistant once again.)

 

My website : www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk

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info@andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk (Andrew Hobbs Photography) Exford Exmoor Simonsbath Somerset Wheddon Cross Winsford Withypool photography http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2013/4/Exmoor-Villages Wed, 03 Apr 2013 10:45:00 GMT
Fuji X100S http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2013/3/Fuji-X100S The new Fuji x100s digital camera arrived in the UK at the end of last week after many weeks, or months, of build-up by Fuji and keen anticipation from those of us who wanted to buy one. I have been a loyal user of Nikon cameras for many years and am currently using a Nikon D700 and a D300. Both of these are fine cameras and meet my needs well. I use them for my commercial photography, events photography, press and documentary work too. So why did I want another camera, one that was going to cost me as much as a good Nikon lens?

The x100s offers me something in between my D700 and my iPhone. Yes, my iPhone. Both my Nikon bodies have become work tools, like a mechanic’s spanner or a builder’s hammer. I love using them but I have found that I am using my iPhone more and more when I’m not working; when I am on the beach with my kids, or walking around London, or just sat talking with friends.

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Using the iPhone is fine and I have a lot of fun with it. However, what I find is that I take a photo on the iPhone using one of the great camera apps, I might do a little processing with another app and then I upload the better ones to EyeEm. I don’t use Instagram anymore, not since they changed their terms and conditions to no longer respect the photographer’s copyright. I have had some printed but iPhone photography is very much of the moment. It’s a bit like instant coffee, it does the job and can be very rewarding, but for full pleasure you need to take the time to use a stove top pot.

Sledding

The x100s will give me a camera – note, I am not saying a tool – a camera that will always be with me. It will allow me to take print quality photos and give me time to get to know those photos while I process them.

I drove to Clifton Cameras in Dursley early on Saturday morning to collect my x100s. I had put a deposit down on one about 4 weeks ago so I was lucky enough to get one of the first cameras, though I am sure there are many more out there in the UK now as Clifton Cameras presold all their stock. Although Clifton would have posted the x100s to me, I can’t buy a camera without holding it. Everything on paper can be right about a camera but when you hold it, you can find it’s not the right camera for you. Feel is one of the most, maybe even the most, important thing in buying a camera. If it isn’t comfy, doesn’t become part of you, then you won’t take such good photos with it. It’s like shoes, if you have badly fitting ones you won’t want to wear them all day.

When I opened the box and saw the x100s, I wasn’t disappointed with the looks and when I picked it up, it was love at first feel – as AC/DC would say!

x100s

Using the x100s is pretty intuitive. Yes, I have flipped through the manual and I am sure I will flip through it again from time to time but it’s a camera, and mostly they work in pretty similar ways. At the end of the day, light is light and shutter speed and aperture control it.

There are, as with all digital cameras, lots of menus, custom settings and words of which I have no idea what they mean and never will, contained in the manual. I am sure someone else will write a comprehensive blog on them and one day, I might read it.

In the meantime though, what is the x100s like to use? Well, great.

Firstly it’s heavier than I was expecting. I don’t mean it’s heavy in the way the D700 with a 70-200mm lens is heavy, no, but it’s substantial, solid feeling. It feels like a proper camera in your hand but it’s small enough to pop around your neck and inside your coat and you can forget it’s there. I drove home yesterday with it still around my neck under my coat.

It does feel small when you are using it though. I found working in full manual mode pretty tricky, which I am sure is partly due to not knowing the camera properly yet. With the D700 I can pick it up, manually set it and take the photo very quickly. I am sure I will get better and quicker with the x100s the more I use it but for now, I am finding that I have it set up so I can adjust the aperture and let the camera deal with the shutter speed. If I need to use an auto setting, I would rather it be the shutter speed and keep control over the aperture as I feel this gives you more artistic control of the light. On the whole though, I think you should shoot in manual whenever possible.

The x100s has excellent flexibility when it comes to shooting in auto, semi-auto or full manual modes. All work well and I am sure everyone will find one to suit them. I do like what Fuji have done with the manual focus options – these might not be new but they were to me.

You can have manual focus set in one of three different modes. Firstly you have the settings on the side of the camera, manual focus (MF), Auto focus continuous (AF-C) and my normal setting on the Nikon, Auto focus single (AF-S). I like what Fuji have done with this switch; it’s a small thing but a good one. With the Nikon cameras, I find that the thumb on my left hand hits the focus switch and moves it from AF-S to AF-C. It’s really annoying.  But Fuji have recognised that the two most commonly used focus modes are MF and AF-S and have put MF at the top and AF-S at the bottom allowing you to flip between them very easily and skip the AF-C mode. It’s inside the viewfinder that Fuji’s manual focus really works nicely though.

There are three options when manual focusing; you can just turn the focus ring and see when the frame is in focus, whilst also being able to zoom in and see the main subject very close for focusing purposes – this is called MF Assist. The other two options are both clever, one takes you back to the old days of split focusing and the other does some weird stuff! The split image focusing works really well, it breaks the centre of the frame up into 3 bits and you turn the focus ring until they are all in line. If you have ever used film I am sure you will know what I mean. The other is pretty Star Trek. It’s called Focus Peak Highlight and okay, I might be getting on in years, but I have never seen this before. When you look through the viewfinder, you see a glow around the main subject of the frame, a chair, a person etc……as you bring the frame into focus, the glow gets brighter until you just know it’s in focus. It’s slightly odd, but it works and in low light I can see it being pretty useful.

There are other nice built in features that I see as being useful. The ND filter works very well, giving that “sunglasses” effect and stopping the image down by about 1 or 2 f-stops. I haven’t really used filters on my D700 even though I have a couple, it’s just too much of a pain to carry and put them on. But with this electronic filter I am sure I will be using it. The Function button is nicely positioned by the shutter release allowing for quick access to your function of choice – I have mine set for ISO and can quickly change the ISO without taking my eye away from the viewfinder.

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You have three options you can use when composing an image; the Electronic viewfinder (EVF), the Optical viewfinder (OVF) and the LCD.

In simple terms the EVF shows what the LCD shows on the back of the camera. The manual has the EVF and the LCD as different display options and I suppose they are but I am not 100% sure what that difference is, I think there’s just more information shown on the LCD. The more I use the camera the more I find myself switching to the OVF though. The EVF gives the feeling you are “looking through the lens” but of course you are not so it’s a little slow to frame and when panning, the frame is blurred.

With the OVF there is no drag but of course you have to remember you are not “looking through the lens” so framing, particularly on closer subjects, will be off and you need to compensate.  Whichever you use will be down to your own personal preference of course and it’s easy to change between the two using the switch on the front of the camera, just under the shutter release.

There are many things I am sure I could talk about, the camera is loaded with features and nice touches. One of my favourite touches is how Fuji has used film names for the different shooting effects. In fact they call it film simulation.

The last main feature I am going to mention is the Q button on the back of the camera. This allows quick access to the main shooting options, like ISO, film effect, ND filter, image quality, white balance, image size etc.  There are 16 items you can easily flick between and change without taking your eye away from the viewfinder. The Q button also has 3 custom menus associated with it which allow you to pre-set any of the 16 items for different shooting environments. You could setup one for landscape, one for low light and one for portraits for instance.

Fuji say in their advertising for the x100s that it will “reignite the joy of photography” and that is just what the x100s does in my opinion. It provides a perfect combination of retro film camera style with the latest technology. This is a camera that screams at you to be picked up and used.

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info@andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk (Andrew Hobbs Photography) Fuji Nikon X100s cameras iPhone photography photos review x100s review http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2013/3/Fuji-X100S Mon, 18 Mar 2013 11:45:00 GMT
We three heads…of Taunton schools http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2012/12/We-three-heads-of-Taunton-schools I used to go out and just take photos. I never really talked to the people I was photographing, mostly I don’t even think they knew I was there. In fact, that was the idea. Blend in and you will get the candid shots.

However, the more work I do for publications like the Western Morning News the more I find myself talking to people. I have to at least get their names! But more and more I find my notebook coming out, notes being taken with a nagging wish in the back of my mind that I had taken my dictaphone.

Being freelance I don’t always get the press release which means I have no background information prior to the event I am attending. So while the local staff photographers turn up and take one or two pictures and then move on to the next booking, I hang around and chat and try to find out as much as I can.

Last Friday was one such time and although the Head of Marketing at King's College (Taunton) had been very helpful and given me some background information I got drawn into a conversation with John Shipley, Chief Exec of Taunton Association for the Homeless.

“Homelessness is forgotten by January” John tells me. In fact thinking about it the only story I remember about the homeless this year is that of Michael who died in Totnes in November. I only heard about this because of the 48 hour sleep out street vigil by Graham Walker, who himself was once homeless. It seems the weather has pushed the homeless from our pages this year too.

I ask John how many people are living on the streets in Taunton and am a little surprised when John says 15. I thought it might be more. But on reflection Taunton is a small town and 15 is not such a small number. John may have noticed my slight look of surprise, or with my news head on, was it disappointment, the bigger the number the more the newsdesk might like it. John quickly follows this number up with 'and another 130 living in our shelters.' All these people are from Somerset, John explains they travel to Taunton from all over the county as this is where the shelters are.

John also told me that the age of the homeless appears to be dropping, now many are under 25. Men are losing their jobs which causes financial problems and puts pressure on marriages, often leading to divorce and the men living rough. This information makes me realise that out of those three steps to homelessness I have completed two of them. I have a sudden desire to put some more chance in the collection tin.

What had taken me to Taunton last Friday? I’d heard that the three heads of the Taunton independent schools had the week before met for a Christmas lunch. This had led to it being agreed, or maybe it was a dare, that the three would busk in the centre of Taunton to raise money for Shelter Care, a charity that works for the homeless.

As I walked through Castle Green I could hear carols being played and spotted through the arch outside Brazz a crowd of people and three musicians in Santa hats. I’d found my heads.

Chris Alcock ,Richard Biggs, Dr John Newton

Chris Alcock, Richard Biggs, Dr John Newton

In case you’ve missed the weather reports, it’s rained for what seems like 40 days and 40 nights. Friday saw a break in the rain and the sun shone. The streets where full of shoppers who were being serenaded by the sometimes slightly out of tune carols. There was a fun atmosphere with plenty of laughing and jokes. It felt like Christmas had arrived in Taunton.

Richard Biggs, Headmaster of King

Richard Biggs, Headmaster of King’s College in Taunton.

Richard Biggs, Headmaster of King’s College in Taunton is perhaps the most experienced musician, having last year passed his grade 8 on the French horn, but has expressed doubts over whether he has enough stamina to last a full hour of playing.

Dr John Newton, Headmaster of Taunton School

Dr John Newton, Headmaster of Taunton School

Dr John Newton,  Headmaster of Taunton School, is a pretty decent tuba player, well able to hold down a bass line.

Chris Alcock ,Headmaster of Queen

Chris Alcock, Headmaster of Queen’s College.

Headmaster of Queen’s College, Chris Alcock, is perhaps the most nervous of the trio, having only been learning the tenor saxophone for a few months now.

Chris Alcock, Richard Biggs, Dr John Newton.

Chris Alcock, Richard Biggs, Dr John Newton.

Students form Queens College college collect money.

Students from Queen's College collect money.

Students from all three schools were politely collecting money from passers-by as well as those who stayed to listen. In all £350 was raised and I feel a tradition has been born and we will see the return of the Busking Heads next Christmas.

John tells me the money raised will go towards helping the homeless back to work, whether by helping to by clothing for job interviews or boots to enable them to work on building sites etc. Money raised also helps buy furniture for those lucky enough to have found work and accommodation. If you would like to donate please click here for information.

Unfortunately the rain returned overnight and in the words of the newsdesk editor, “sorry Andy, your pictures got flooded out.” 

Queen's College Taunton
King's College Taunton
Taunton School

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info@andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk (Andrew Hobbs Photography) King's College Queen's College Shelter Somerset Taunton Taunton Association for the Homeless Taunton School busking documentary homeless photography http://www.andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk/blog/2012/12/We-three-heads-of-Taunton-schools Tue, 25 Dec 2012 11:45:00 GMT