Photographer of weddings and people around Birmingham and the Midlands

Lets use this power for good…

Well, as usual, I am falling further and further behind with the blog, but it has been a busy week at Vokes HQ and I’m trying to catch up with myself. In the last week, there have been drinks, mountains and birthdays… well, one birthday specifically… mine!

The rather busy weekend started with our long awaited date night on Friday, with one of my sisters being very kind in agreeing to babysitting for us for a couple of hours. We couldn’t really go out until Olivia was in bed, as we like to keep her bedtime routine the same each night. Its no secret that children thrive on routine, and the bedtime routine we have in place for Olivia seems to work very well for us, so why change it if we don’t need too? No matter how energetic she seems to be before bedtime, she always goes down at the same time. The curtains close, the lights go down, we have some milk and read a book t her, and she gets starts to calm down and become quieter, and once she is down, she’s often asleep within ten minutes or so! So rather than complicate things, we figured that we’d just wait until she was in bed before we headed out, and then made our way round to the local indian restaurant, before moving on to a new “micro bar” that’s opened up a few doors down. I do like the idea of it, but I feel they could have executed the idea a bit better. Still, the few beers I’d had by this point, had really gone to my head, so I was in no place to be judging people. We soon headed off for the walk home, and had a lovely night all the same.

Saturday was one where we hadn’t really made any plans, and with me planning to head up Snowdon the following day, I had to take the opportunity to purchase a few extra bits for my walk from the local outdoor shop. When I got back Olivia was already in bed, so Clare took the opportunity to get our weekly food shop in, and we are still loving the Aldi, saving a small fortune on our normal weekly shop from Asda! Their own brands are easily as good, and we’re pretty much converted now. The afternoon seemed to roll around quite quickly considering we didn’t do much, and soon it was time for me to tidy myself up and head out (courtesy of a lift from my very kind wife!) into town to meet some old school buddies for a few beers. They’re a great bunch, and I definitely don’t get to see them often enough, our nights up town seem to be over so quickly! Hopefully if we cant catch up for another beer soon, we can at least meet up with the families!

As it wasn’t a late night, and I was home at a sensible time, this meant I was able to get up with a fairly fresh head on the Sunday morning ready for my Snowdon walk. I had offered to drive the minibus for the day, and had to meet everyone at work to pick them up. It was a slightly late start and a longer drive down than we’d planned for, so we were late starting, and due to a triathlon that was taking place in the area that day, all the parking places were full! The nearest place we could park was a layby over a mile away, and so another 30 minutes added to our start time! The promise I’d made to my wife of getting home early and taking her out for a carvery was looking extremely unlikely at this point! From our planned start time of 10am, it was now 12pm and we’d only just set off! Still, we made it up to the summit, via the Pyg track, in just 1 hour and 50 minutes, which I was pretty impressed with. I had taken my new cycling helmet camera with me to video clips from the ascent, which can be seen here, the whole climb condensed down to 39 minutes…

It has been about 8 years since I last went up there and the cafe at the top has had a major overhaul, from the little wooden hut that I was last in, it now looked more like an airport terminal! We waited for the couple of people that had fallen behind and headed down on a different path, which although much easier, sadly took us the wrong way and left us 6 miles from the minibus once we were down! Thankfully the cafe at the bottom allowed us to grab some drinks, use the toilet and call a taxi to take us back to the bus. By this point I’d given up all hope of getting home in time for a carvery and just wanted to get home to see my little girl before she went to bed!

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It was too wet to get my camera out, but I managed to grab a selection of photos on my iPhone. Even though I was late home, the day had been a success, and our climb and descent were well within our allotted time to complete our challenge. We are aiming to get up and down all three of Britains highest mountains, Snowdon, Scafell Pike, and Ben Nevis in under 15 hours (driving time excluded), and raise money for Resources For Autism whilst doing it. If anybody is feeling generous, please make your donations online (it saves me going to the bank and handing over lots of coins!) at https://www.justgiving.com/calthorpeacademybirmingham/

Then came Monday… my birthday. My final year in my 30s, and not a thought that excites me greatly. I have kind of accepted that this 40 thing is going to happen to me soon, and its not like I am in a bad place in my life for it to happen. I have a house, a wonderful wife, and a gorgeous daughter, on top of which I am fitter than I have ever been and also have my own photography business (even if it is small and part time!)… its more than some of my friends have, so I must be grateful. I just don’t feel old enough to be 40. It kinda creeps up on you while you’re not looking, pretty much exactly like this…

So I still get to call myself a 30something for one more final year, and have to finally accept the inevitable, I have gone way beyond having to get my head around the idea of “being a grown up” that seems so alien to us when we enter our 20s, and now have to really engage my brain with the fact that I’m actually “a bit old”!! So, I guess the first thing on my list of “stuff to do before I am 40″ is look at the financial aspect and feasibility of a brother or sister for Olivia. If money wasn’t a concern than this wouldn’t even be a talking point, but nursery doesn’t come free and these bills won’t pay for themselves, we have to be realistic about how we’re going to cope with it!

Man, where is that lottery win when you need it?

I am sure that if I put my mind to it, there is a whole bunch of things I could add to a list of “things to do before I am 40″, but the likelihood is that by this point, most of them are just going to stay on that list and never see the light of day!

A lot of my friends are also in the same position as me, and some of them have already hit 40, they don’t seem too fussed by it all, or maybe they’re just not saying anything. I mean I know nothing actually changes, its just another day, and yes age is but a number… but we all know that the big 4-0 at least bothers us a little bit… doesn’t it”?! So the next question is how do I actually celebrate it? It certainly won’t be Vegas like I hoped it might be! Do I just put my head under the pillow and let the day slide past without being noticed?

My 39th birthday was a very low-key affair, and obviously spent at work as I couldnt take the day off.  At least I came home to a beautiful dinner cooked by the wife, and both sets of parents to join us. It was a lovely evening, and my sister in law even showed up to drop off a card and present, and just when I thought the day was done my friend knocked on the door to drop off a card and a bottle of red wine! Even facebook had gone crazy today, I was definitely feeling the love, even if it wasn’t exactly a crazy day!

As I am running behind with this blog, I can even catch up on Tuesday. I decided to miss a week of Jujitsu, and although I felt a bit guilty, I didn’t really have the time without rushing, and my legs were still aching from our rapid ascent of Snowdon on Sunday, so I stayed at home and made some good use of the time. In between working on a wedding album, I somehow made the decision to have a bit of a catch up with some old school friends. It has been over 20 years since we left school, and with the magic of facebook bringing us back in touch with one another, it seemed a shame to waste the opportunity, so I put the word out to try and see if I could get a dozen or so of us to meet up for a few hours one sunday afternoon over the summer. Suddenly a whole bunch of people have jumped on board, and this thing looks like it could be growing bigger than I’d ever imagined! I guess we’ll see who actually turns up though, people are very quick to say yes to things like this and then just go silent on you!

Anyway, thats my week caught up on and I should be in bed by now!


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Photographing a new life is a privilege

Yet another week has flown by again, the weekend has pretty much been and gone, and I find myself here on a Sunday night wondering how I totally failed to get a mid-week blog typed up yet again. So what has been taking up all my time? Sometimes I just don’t even know. We did onlly have four days at work, as Monday was a bank holiday and with the weather being kind to us, we headed down to the local park to see the funfair. DSC03552

Olivia loved going on the rides, although she was still too small for the majority of them, but she was certainly all about the cars this weekend! The funfair is essentially a way for people to empty your pockets of cash for you in a very short space of time. I made sure that we only went with a small budget and weren’t tempted to blow large amounts of cash to win cheap teddy bears or a goldfish! I had committed myself, as a father, to win at least one bear for my daughter, I kind of see it as a fathers duty, its in the job description! I decided that the Hook-A-Duck would be my first game of choice, especially as “every go wins a prize”, although I didn’t expect each go to cost £3! It came as no shock that I hooked a duck pretty quickly, but my heart quickly sank when my gaze was directed, by the clearly disinterested woman behind the counter, away from the teddy bears on display towards the cheap plastic toys on the floor which was all my duck apparently qualified for! I was welcomed to take another go and trade in for a teddy bear, but could see that this could soon get expensive and I’d end up spending £6 or £9 on a bear that clearly cost them a small percentage of that. I’d rather go out and buy a nice looking bear than throw money at the cheap looking tat that was on offer, still, I’d come here with a purpose and found a fluffy unicorn doll amongst the cheap toys I’d been told to choose from. Not quite the teddy I’d hoped for, but close enough! The rides, on the other hand, were far better value, as each one was only £1 per person per go, and far from being over after 30 seconds, they all seemed to last quite a while and Olivia had a great time.

I’d heard about the pickpockets at events like this, and so we all held onto our phones, keys and money for dear life, although trying not to make it too obvious, but I did feel a sense of relief when we walked out of their and headed back to the car with everything that we’d taken with us! It was a nice afternoon, and lovely that one of my sisters had met us there with her boyfriend for a couple of hours. After the funfair, we went to visit my mom for a couple of hours, and stopped off at Clare’s parents on the way home, as requested, as they had bought her a ride on car that weekend, which she got to take for a little test drive and refused to get out of until she’d been pushed about in it for over half an hour!

It was a lovely way to spend a bank holiday, and I’d really been looking forward to it! It didn’t disappoint!

The rest of the week passed by in a blur and suddenly its Friday night again, and I have few things planned for the weekend, starting with my friend arriving on Saturday morning for me to photograph her newborn baby. The session goes quite well, and getting the baby off to sleep is a little tricky, as is keeping them that way whilst they are being posed. The whole thing is a very slow, relaxed process which a) keeps the baby asleep, and b) relaxes mom so that she isn’t worried about me handling her most valued possession in the world!


Baby Chloé was a fantastic model, and so super cute that I almost didn’t want to give her back at the end! This was it though, my first successful shoot since the training, and while there was still a lot of improvements to be made, I felt much better than the previous attempt where baby Sebastian flatly refused to go to sleep!

After the shoot we had an afternoon to fill, and toyed with the idea of jumping in the car and heading out to the park, but both agreed that we really couldn’t be bothered. Instead, we took the opportunity of a bit of down time to just play in the garden and not have to worry about going anywhere, or putting coats on, or parking, or if it would rain. Just getting silly and playing in the garden.

I had a 10km run planned for Sunday morning, so didn’t want Saturday to be a particularly late night, although at the last minute got a pub call text from my friend who I hadn’t seen since he’d moved into his new flat. At this point I knew I wouldn’t be in bed early, but sometimes you just have to give in and spend a bit of time with your friends!

Sunday morning proved to be a challenge, not only was I still feeling bloated from the chip shop dinner we’d had the night before, but I had also woken up on the sofa at 6:30am, which wasn’t the greatest nights sleep I’d ever had. I was a bit puzzled by it, as the tv was off when I woke up, so its not like I had fallen asleep watching the tv or anything, I’d somehow just not quite made it to bed! So, tired, bloated, and slightly hungover, I headed out to meet my friend for our run, and I have to say that it really is quite a good hangover cure! 10km later and I felt much better, cleaner inside, and bright and awake!



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It’s decision time…

the eve of the general election, and I won’t lie, I’ve never really taken as much interest in it previously, as I am at the moment. 

Why? Because I am now a parent, and thinking of my child’s future and not just my own? Because as I approach 40 I’m suddenly paying more attention to the things that actually really matter finally? Because it’s about time I grew who and started to take this kind of thing seriously? All of the above? Who knows!! All I know is that this time around they are not making it any easier for us to decide. The two main big parties in the lead have very passionate followers, and each of them screaming for why people should in their wildest dreams consider voting for the other guy. All this misplaced loyalty is very admirable, but is it necessarily what’s best for the country? I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing that the differences between the parties was much more black and white, and we’d instantly know which side to pick, but it isn’t and I don’t!

I did, however, enjoy the company of a knowledgable friend who also had no allegiances to any one particular party,  but did argue the different merits of each one, and gave me something to think about which I think may actually help in my decision tomorrow, or technically today as we’ve gone past midnight!

I don’t want to get too political on here, discussing each party and why I have picked the one that I have, the debates are already currently raging all over Facebook and it can all get a little bit “my dad is bigger than your dad!”, and I certainly don’t intend to attempt to sway anyone’s decision, my views are my own, as are yours! I just hope that whatever the outcome, we don’t start rolling our eyes and wishing we’d voted for the other guy in six months time!

So yeah, while I say I’m approaching 40, it’s still actually a little while off yet. My next birthday still allows me one last final year in my 30s, hardly a reason for a monumental celebration, but still an excuse to treat myself to a few drinks and an evening out for a meal with the wife. Ideally I’d love to be putting the BBQ on and inviting lots of friends and family over, but the current weather situation isn’t hugely encouraging. Traditionally, my birthday has always been a dry day as far back as I can remember, except for one year when there was a shower in the morning, but then it stopped and dried up! As it stands at the moment, the long term forecast for my actual birthday is suggesting a temperature of around 12°c and a couple of showers, not what I’d got in mind and certainly not what I’d hope for if planning a BBQ! In fact it’s fair to say that the current weather is pretty miserable, and the rain and high winds make for some fairly tough, if not a little scary, rides to and from work! Hopefully this will all settle down and we can start to enjoy a proper summer soon, it’s the one time cyclists actually look forward to where we can forget about the waterproof clothing, so much rain and spray that not only can we not see where we’re going, but even if we could the road had become one giant mirror and all the potholes have suddenly vanished! Riding blindly with no idea of where the potholes lie is essentially the cyclists version of Russian roulette!

Anyway, this post was only ever meant to be a short one, so here’s a photo of my beautiful daughter, enjoying colouring at her new table whilst playing with her dolly.


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One person can make a difference, and every person should try

Yeah, another week has gone by, and this whole bi-weekly thing on the blog has fallen by the wayside a bit. Still, I’m here and back on it for a recap of this week. On a big plus point, I am now done with editing the two easter weddings, so I have a little more free time on my hands. This alone has been a major contributor in not blogging much for the last couple of weeks.

Another plus point is that this is a bank holiday weekend, so after what has felt like a long week at work, we have three days at home with the family. People kept mentioning the bank holiday, but I kept forgetting about it, which is a good thing, as waiting for something can make it feel like its never going to arrive. I didn’t want to make too many plans, as I know how much the wife hates it when we try to cram too much in. There were a few things I had arranged to do, and it started on Saturday morning with our friends coming to visit. These were the friends I had been to see last weekend, trying to get photographs of their newborn baby. The shoot didn’t quite work out then as he wouldn’t go to sleep, and this weekend it was much of the same. A disappointment, but one of those things. I can only set so much up, and the baby is in charge after that. I will endeavour to get them some nice photos however, but it probably won’t be the posed shots I had been hoping for. It was still lovely to see them, and of course for the wife to meet the little one as well. Their daughter is almost the same age as Olivia, and it was nice to see them starting to learn to play together.

After they’d left and headed home I had to head out on my own to look after my friends little boy, J again. I haven’t seen him for a few weeks, as they’d recently been away on holiday, but now it was time to start getting a few more hours in. It can be said that I don’t make a huge amount of money out of doing this, its certainly not going to be taking us on holiday, but it does help out a bit, especially at the end of the month when things are starting to get a little tight, and its nice to be doing something good, knowing they appreciate the respite that my looking after him provides. His autism is no real challenge for me, as I am already used to similar behaviours from the pupils I have been working with for the last 18 months anyway. So it has been quite easy for me to just walk into this role and provide the help they need, and things have got off to a good start so far, which we’re all very happy about. Initially I was a little concerned that this could really tie up my weekends and get in the way, and I was wondering if I had perhaps agreed to it too quickly without realising I’d lose a chunk of time with Olivia each weekend. Thankfully they have been very understanding of this, and they also have things they want to do as a family, so we are keeping this very relaxed and flexible, which seems to be suiting everyone. If it becomes a problem, of course we will review it, but for now it seems to be working.

I was home with enough time left for us to squeeze in a quick food shop for the week, so we all jumped in the car and headed out to Aldi, as we are now fully converted from mainstream shopping to budget shopping. There are a couple of things Aldi don’t seem to sell and we can only get from Asda, but we are saving a small fortune from getting everything else from Aldi. Their own branded products have actually really impressed us, and we certainly don’t feel like we are losing out on quality just because we are spending less! We are trying to switch to as much of their own stuff as we can, we are certainly not brand name snobs, if it tastes good and we’re happy with it, then there seems little point in just throwing money away at brand names.

Sunday I woke up feeling a bit delicate, I had decided to give Aldi’s own version of Jack Daniels a try, as it was less than half the price that Jack Daniels sells for in Asda, and still less than the cheaper alternative of Jim Beam. The verdict? Suitably impressed! So much so that I put away over half a bottle of it while I was watching a film and didn’t even realise! Although I don’t think it was the drink that left me feeling rough on the Sunday morning, my poor stomach was gurgling and spinning like a washing machine, telling me it was the Chinese takeaway I had thoroughly overindulged in! I had ordered far too much food, and knew I had, and yet still decided to do as much damage to it as possible… but in the end it beat me! I had little choice but to cancel the Sunday morning run, and postpone it to the Monday morning, which thankfully my running partner was very understanding about. The only other plan we had for the day was to visit our friends who had just moved house, they were now much closer to us, and the new house was lovely, so much space, but they’d totally earned it after spending so long in their previous house which was tiny, even smaller than ours! We spent the whole afternoon there, and Olivia plays so well with their son, who is a year older. We were even fed before we headed home, its so nice to spend time with them and see things actually start to work out for them. Its good to see friends happy, and lovely to be a part of it. This was originally one friend who I had managed to keep from my days of bar work, many years ago. Now we are both married and all four of us get on really well. Its funny how some friendships last while others just seem to fade away! I have always been proud of the fact that I am one of those people who always strives to stay in touch with others, but the trick is knowing when to give up. Its a fact of life that some people are only destined to stay in your life for a short period of time. It can be a bit of a balancing act, as you can find yourself being spread a bit thinly around everyone if you do manage to keep in touch with a lot of people though. Still, the weather was good and we had a great afternoon. We even got to put Olivia’s hair in a little pony tail to keep it out of her eyes and off her neck, which is still a little dry and flaky at the moment.







I did want to brush on another topic, and while I don’t like to get particularly political in my blog, normally I’d try to avoid it completely, there is no escaping the fact that the UK’s general election is fast approaching and I am still totally sitting on the fence about what I am going to do with my vote.

I certainly don’t want to just waste my vote, I believe it is very important to get out there and use it to make a difference, but I clearly still need to do a bit more research into each of the parties before I commit and make a decision. I don’t have any kind of loyalty to any one party, unlike some of my friends and family, although I am very aware of the strong feelings for and against some of the parties, from some of those around me. I am trying not to be influenced just on the opinions of my friends, but I haven’t seen enough from any one party to sway me in their favour. In fact, its no secret that politicians are generally a bunch of lying creeps that no-one trusts anyway, so even if I DID see something from them that interested me, there’s no saying that they’d keep their promise and see it through anyway, which makes me wonder why we even bother sometimes. Why don’t we just roll a dice and put an X next to the corresponding number?! I was actually reading an article recently about what was promised at the last general election, from the party who actually won, and how little of it was actually delivered. It was frightening, these people we trusted and voted in, yet totally failed to keep their word on not just one point, but numerous points!

How are you deciding on who to vote for? Informed decision? Misguided loyalty? Taking a punt on a gut feeling? Lack of options?

Follow me on Twitter @andrewvokes to keep updated about future posts.

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New challenges

Monday morning lands with a bang yet again, and another weekend is over in a flash! It has been a bit of a blur since Friday, and I haven’t seen nearly enough of the family, but there was lots to do and that’s how it goes sometimes! Thankfully not every weekend is like that, but this particular weekend saw me finally starting to move my photography business forward in a new direction. I decided, after a couple of slow years getting married myself, having a baby and making a home, that it was time to get the business back on track.

I did look at a new venture last year, something completely different that a friend had recommended to me, but in the end I felt like a square peg trying to squeeze myself into a round hole. It wasn’t for me, and even though I was told I could “fit it around my current commitments” it just seemed to be eating away at all my spare time. I didn’t have the passion for it either, not like the hunger I had for my photography. Building my own business and my own personal brand has been something I know I can feel truly proud of, and to actually go out and see my work on a friends wall is fantastic! So this year I have decided to relight the fire and reinvest in a new website (www.andyvokes.com in case you were wondering), and have also invested in some new equipment and some training to move things forward. I have a lot more to think about this year, and a lot of work ahead of me, but one of the things I have come to realise in the last 12 months is that if I want this business to success I should actually be treating it like a business… rather than just treating it like a hobby and hoping for some magic to happen!

Thats the thing with photographers, we’re artists, not business people, and its that lack of business skills that can often let us down. I have relied too much on just trying to take better and better photos to get me through, and as important as that is for a reputation, it is not necessarily a business building skill. One of the simplest things someone running a business can do, is to create a simple plan and stick to it! Some of the greatest businesses often just have a very simple goal, and they stick to it. I need to start setting myself some proper goals and targets for 2015 and ensure I make a plan to achieve them, and try my best to stick to it!

This weekend was actually taken up by the first part of my plan, and that is to get some training under my belt. When Joey Photographer gets fed up of his office job and wants to make some money at the weekend, he’ll probably head to Argos, buy an SLR and go shoot a friends wedding for free. He may well do an awful job of it, but it seems like the default environment for anyone with a camera to head for, there’s always someone getting married and who wouldn’t want their photos done for free, or next to nothing at the very least?! In an already oversaturated market, this just makes things harder for the guys who are charging a normal price and trying to make a living from it.This is why I have decided to set my targets towards newborn photography. I need to expand my horizon a bit and start doing something different. Being a wedding photographer is great fun, and I have been to some amazing weddings where I’ve even ended up feeling a bit emotional myself, but the competition in trying to book couples is so fierce now, that it can sometimes feel a little overwhelming.

But back to the weekend though, and Friday evening, where we both sat down in front of the tv with drinks and snacks to watch a film, and our Friday evening choice of hollywood blockbuster was A Million Ways To Die In The West, which I’d put off watching for a while as I thought it looked rubbish and was going to be a great big disappointment, but actually really enjoyed, although clearly the wife didn’t find it quite as funny, as she was asleep before we were even half way through. Pretty much a typical Friday night in the Vokes household then! With an early start needed on Saturday for the big drive down to Bournemouth for my training, it was going to be an early night for me too!

Saturday didn’t start as planned with me sneaking out before the wife and daughter woke up, oh no, Olivia decided it was the right day to wake up early, which slowed down my getting ready as I had to look after her while the wife got showered and dressed. There used to be a time when all that was done while Olivia had her morning nap, although now Olivia has since done away with that and only naps once during the afternoon now!

Eventually I was on my way, and had a good day, and here are a couple of shots from the shoot. We had a wonderfully calm and happy baby, who was so good!



It did all look way too easy and the real challenge is going to be in replicating the shoots, although I have a few expectant ladies signed up for a free shoot when they have had their babies. It takes the pressure off slightly when they’re getting something for nothing! At least I came away from the training session with a dvd to remind me of some of the stuff that was talked about. After an epic 6 hour round trip I could finally put my feet up with a pizza and a few beers!

Sunday morning didn’t allow me much of a lie in to recover, as I was soon up and off to try and capture some shots of our friends little newborn boy, he was super cute, but totally refused to go to sleep making things a bit tricky. I had my kit all set up and ready to go, but really needed him to be asleep to get the poses. At some point, when a baby doesn’t sleep, you have to eventually accept defeat, as the baby is in control of the session, you can’t force a baby to do something they don’t want to! So we called it a day and are going to try again instead this weekend! It meant I was out longer than I intended on Sunday, and consequently couldn’t wait to get home to see the wife and daughter, who were out in the garden playing with bubbles. It was such a nice sight to come back to! Missing a bit of family time is a sad consequence of trying to run a business on top of a full time job, but sometimes you have to make these sacrifices to get somewhere! Thankfully I don’t miss out too much, as I am well aware that time missed now is time I just can’t get back later! That’s a lesson that can only be learned the hard way, but that story is for another day!


So if you haven’t already, go check out my new website and give me some feedback… what are your thoughts/impressions? What would you change? What is it missing? All your feedback/comments/bitching/snide remarks/sarcasm is always appreciated!

Don’t forget you can get updated about new blog posts on twitter @andrewvokes or on facebook www.facebook.com/lifeinthemiddlelane

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Falling behind

This blog, with all best intentions, was always intended to be put out twice a week, sadly the reality has meant that this has been quite difficult to actually achieve recently.

The important thing about falling down is picking yourself back up again. I’m aware that this blog has a small number of regular readers, and I don’t like to disappoint, even if the truth is that I do write this for no-one else but myself. If I wrote it for anyone else then I’d probably given up long ago, especially if I thought no-one was actually reading. I’m aware that some people may read this and be wondering why I bother to keep this up, and there are a few reasons, the first and most important being the memories. When I do finally give this up, I’d like to make sure I have access to what was going on in my life at the time. As a photographer, quite obviously memories are important to me, its what I do, capturing them and preserving them to be looked back on in times to come when people have grown up, changed, passed away, moved away, whatever. Likewise, what I do and what I think are equally important to preserve. Its not exactly like a teenage diary hidden under my pillow, but a record of this time in my life, a point where exciting things are happening as my little girl grows up and learns new things. Each day is like a mini adventure where she can learn to do a new thing and learn to say a new word, and we have new problems to face such as dealing with illnesses and temper tantrums and other associated parenting problems. Becoming a parent has been the best thing ever for me, and I want to make sure I can remember this time when my little girl is all grown up and has her own house.

Yes, that is a long way away, I am quite aware… but I am also acutely aware of how fast the last 19 months have flown by. Its almost like time seems to accelerate as you get older, and then goes into light speed when you become a parent. I remember thinking about wanting to have had all my children before I was 40, and now I am suddenly doing the maths to make sure I can still fit the second one in… and its a close call, the clock is ticking louder and louder!

One of the things that does make the time seem as if its going even faster is when you fill in the gaps with things you actually enjoy doing, rather than just sitting around trying to find something to watch on tv. Its no secret that I always like to make the most of my weekends and the holidays, especially I’ve wasted so many of them before now, and its time you just can’t get back. I know I can’t change my past, and if what I’ve done and the choices I’ve made bring me to where I am now then I wouldn’t want to anyway, my wife and my daughter are amazing! I do still look back sometimes and wish I hadn’t wasted so much of the time I had at my disposal, but if nothing else I have learnt from it!

Now that Olivia is at an age where she is fully interacting with everyone and becoming an endless source of amusement, these opportunities aren’t so much about being productive and filling time just for the sake of it, they’re about making memories. Going out walking, exploring, seeing friends and family, and also just relaxing and finding time for the three of us to spend together being able to do things spontaneously if we want to. The wife grumbles at me often for not doing enough of this… I am trying to get better at it. Its difficult when a part of me wants to catch up with so many people all the time, even now we still don’t see as much of some of our friends as I’d like, and often it takes just one person to send a text or make a phone call to get people together, and I’d rather just be that person than wait for someone else. I am just hoping we have a good enough summer to get the bbq out lots and actually have everyone come to us so that we can see lots of our friends and family in one go, rather than try and spread ourselves thinly! I guess with my birthday coming up in a few weeks (the last one in my 30s too!) its a good enough excuse to get those coals burning and cook some meat, my birthday has been traditionally good for weather, so I am keeping my fingers crossed! I’m still having mixed feelings about what I am going to do for my 40th, so I at least want to make the most of this one!

So what has been going on recently? What has keep me from updating this blog as often as I wanted to? Easter was a lovely two week break, lots of friends, lots of time with Olivia, although I am now back to work and tied up with working through two weddings worth of photos from the Easter weekend. Hopefully I will have these photos finished and delivered sooner, rather than later, as a) I hate to keep people waiting, and b) I have other projects I need to be focusing on. Last weekend saw me photographing some childrens portraits, although it didnt go entirely to plan, and straight after we were off to visit my nephew for his birthday, and Sunday saw us at christening of our friends little boy, who is only a couple of months younger than Olivia. There were a number of toddlers and small children there, so they were all entertaining each other, and playing on the thoughtfully provided soft play equipment. I was kicking myself as I’d walked out the door without picking up the spare battery for my camera, which I knew was running low as the battery indicator had been flashing at me for some time. I’d never have done this on a paid job, but this was a freebie as it was a friend, and I’d been asked just to capture a couple of photos, which I managed to do successfully before the battery indicator stopped flashing and this particular battery gave up the ghost! In my defence, we had been quite rushed getting ready that morning, our plans were all looking good until we got a last minute text from another friend to look after their little boy for a couple of hours while they tried to sort out some issues at the new house they’d just bought and moved into. They promised they’d be back in time to pick him up so we could go out (which they did), but it left us with not as much time as we’d planned to get ready. Still, we made it to the church on time, and we’d done a good deed for the day at the same time. They’d already babysat for us, so it was the least we could do to help! The wife was very happy that we got to show off our super cute daughter in her new dress and new shoes!

Right, so its getting late and I need to get this post out before I go to bed, as its took me long enough anyway.

Bed calls!


All good things must come to an end

Easter holidays are now officially over, I really dont know where two weeks has gone, it only feels like a week! Sunday evening has landed again, and while I don’t think I will finish this post tonight, I have at least made a start.

Yes, two weeks have flown by in a blur, and I have had some lovely time with Olivia on the days it has just been me and her, some great family time on the few days that Clare had booked off work, and even a couple of days to myself where Clare was working and Olivia was in nursery. Its not compulsory that we send her to nursery while one of us is off work, but the fact is that regardless of whether she is there or not, we still have to pay for the day. So if we pay for it, we may as well use it, especially as she enjoys nursery anyway. It also gives us the chance to get jobs done around the house that we can’t whilst trying to entertain a toddler. I had a couple of things I wanted to tackle while I had the chance, one of which being the garage, which needed to be sorted out and tidied up. The other was the garden, as I haven’t had chance to do much with it since the winter has passed. Now the warmer spring months are here, the weeds are starting to go crazy, and I am refusing to let them take over, as it will only mean that if I do, the job ends up taking twice as long when I do finally get around to it.

Thankfully I crossed the garage off the list and made a good start on the garden, even managing to get some vegetables planted, as well as squeezing in time with the family. This last week has been extra busy as I have been trying to sort through all of the weekends wedding photos too, two weddings and over two thousand photos between them to go through! The days just haven’t been long enough, and when its like that they seem to go so much faster.

The weather was really starting to feel like spring on the second week, with the sunshine making a regular appearance and the temperature beginning to go up. We took the opportunity to put one of Olivia’s christmas presents together, it was a garden sand pit which we’d asked for with the intention of saving it for the better weather, not for making our daughter play out in the ice with blue fingers!








The sand pit was a hit, but also playing out in the back garden was too, she loves being outside! One of my big concerns when we moved into this house was the steps up from the back door to the lawn, they are big steps and pose a serious threat if she falls down them, certainly a trip to A&E with something broken! Having a friend who is a builder means I at least know where to turn for help. There won’t be any mates rates or discounts, I’ll pay full price, but a lot of us use him because we know he does a good job, especially in a tradeter where its easy to get conned and ripped off! He has been round to look at the steps and work out a price to replace them, I just hope that when the quote comes back, its at the very least affordable. I’d love Olivia to be out more in the garden over the summer, especially without the fear of her hurting herself trying to get up and down the steps as she seems to love going up and down them repeatedly for no reason at all!

The one other thing we managed to do was get Olivia measured up for some new shoes.  At this age they grow out of them so quickly, they barely last eight weeks and often aren’t even showing signs of wear. Still, even with this obvious gap in the market for some stiff competition, we are left with little option but to pay for the extortionally priced shoes, that are a quarter of the size of mine, yet still more expensive! the girl is growing fast and needs new shoes. This time we actually treated her to two pairs, a normal pair, and a lighter, more breathable pair for warmer days. In theory, with two pairs, there will be less wear on each and it will be easy to resell them. For me, it seems a shame we can’t keep these cute little shoes, but really, thats just the hoarder in me coming out, we’d have absolutely no use for them, and they’d just end up taking up space somewhere, probably in the loft where we wouldn’t look at them again. At least if these end up on ebay we can recover some of the cost of her next pair! Clarks have literally dominated the market in childrens first shoes and there is little competition in this area, which is reflected in the ridiculous costs for something this small! Still, they do look quite cute though!


After her few days off, Clare sadly had to return to work, leaving me with the little one once again. I was very grateful that the weather was at least on our side this year, and we weren’t restricted to sitting around the house. I had arranged to meet up with a friend and her little girl at the local park so they could play together, and while we were chatting found out that they were also taking her swimming at the weekend at a local pool. This was a perfect opportunity for me to get Olivia back into the pool again, which I’d been wanting to do for a number of weeks. I was always keen to take Olivia swimming regularly, but for various reasons it hasn’t ended up being very regular at all. Much like my running, of course, there is the extra incentive if you happen to be meeting someone there, it gets you off your backside and out of the house! After getting up early to watch the Chinese Grand Prix, we jumped in the car and made our way down to the pool, and it was definitely an hour well spent, she loved it! It has been a few months since we last went and the one thing that became immediately obvious when we were in there was how snug my swimming shorts had suddenly become! I have definitely fallen off the diet wagon over the easter holidays and those extra creme eggs have become a bit of an issue apparently, along with a couple of take aways and the odd beer here and there! It looks like it’s time to start getting strict again, time to get back on the myfitnesspal app. I just need to cut out the crap and make sure I keep my exercise up. I know myfitnesspal works, I’ve used it before and lost a whole lot of weight, I can do it again, I just need a bit of encouragement!

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If Carlsberg made weekends…

What a weekend! Easter weekend means two banks holidays, which means that the wife gets two days off work for free, and on top of which I had the weddings of two friends to photograph, which I was quite excited about, one on Good Friday, and the other on Easter Sunday, separated by the Saturday where we had arranged to meet up with some friends. The first wedding, on the Friday was based at a hotel that I used to go to as a child, when it was known as a leisure centre. There was a golf driving range, and a bowling alley… but it is a very different place now, much more upmarket. It was a nice venue for a wedding, although the weather didn’t want to give me much of a break. The day started, as it often does, at the house of the brides parents for the getting ready photos, I then moved on to the hotel to meet the groom and discuss what I was allowed to photograph with the registrars, who can often be sticklers, but on this occasion were pretty relaxed and allowed me to get plenty of shots during the ceremony. The group photos after the ceremony were a little slow due to the layout of the hotel and people disappearing, which sadly meant that the outdoor photos were cut short as the rain set in and stayed with us for the duration. This means getting a little creative with indoor photos, and puts a photographer to the test. I managed to get a good selection of photos and after the first dance I headed home. The photos can be seen here.

Saturday was a day for the family and we had arranged to meet friends in the quiet little Cotswold village of Bourton-On-The-Water. Very popular with tourists, but still quiet enough to enjoy a day out. When we arrived after 1hr 10min of driving, it was dry, but a little colder than we’d expected and so we decided to take lunch at one of the pubs on the high street while we thought about what to do with the rest of the afternoon.

We took a walk around the local church, checked out a few shops on the high street including a traditional sweet shop and then headed for the model village. It was a lovely afternoon, and we were lucky to make it through as Olivia had missed out on her usual 2hr nap, and had only got half hour of sleep in the car on the way down. She powered through and we managed to get her back in the car for the journey home just before she ran out of steam and slept for most of the drive back.

Sunday marked the wedding of a friend I had worked with a few years back, who also happened to have gone to school with my wife when they were kids. As part of the planning, we had them over for dinner and I also went to visit the venue last week with them. It was beginning to become clear that a lot of thought had gone into this day… but even I wasn’t prepared for exactly HOW MUCH planning had gone in, although I was about to find out. I started the day with the bridal preparations, although everything was all based at the hotel today, the preparations, the ceremony and the reception, so once I was there I had nowhere else to go. This worked out well for me and Clare, as she only had to drop me off and the car was hers for the day, which worked out perfectly as she’d been invited back for the evening reception. The preparations were fun and relaxed, and with the weather fast becoming warm and sunny, much to everyones surprise, the mood was fantastic! The ceremony was fantastic with two very relaxed registrars again, allowing me to capture lots of shots of the ceremony. The day itself was filled with so much energy and enthusiasm that it was hard not to get caught up in all the excitement. The weather was perfect with just enough cloud cover to allow me to get all the photos I needed without people squinting. The couple were very relaxed in front of the camera, and just seemed to pose naturally and comfortably, and the venue offered plenty of opportunities for some great shots. I was fast filling up my memory card, and even burnt through a set of batteries… its a good job I always come prepared and had plenty more memory cards and batteries on hand to keep me going! The day was flying by and soon we were onto the meal and speeches, although I have to say that after all the weddings I’ve ever been to, these particular speeches were nothing less than epic and possibly the longest I’ve ever heard, although even the sheer length of time that people were sat listening didn’t detract from the content and the fact that everyone was captivated, and the laughs were followed by tears, which were followed by laughs… and so on. Eventually the night was over for me in terms of photography, allowing me to become a guest, and when Clare had turned up I could relax and enjoy a drink with her before we said our goodbyes, wished the couple well and headed home to relieve the in-laws of their babysitting duties. The photos are not on my new website yet, but can be found here on my facebook page.

Monday was a chance for us to slow down a little, with no real plans other than heading out to the park and then popping round to see our friends on the way home.

We stopped at the park to give Olivia lunch and grab ourselves an ice cream while she sat on the swing. It was also a chance for Olivia to do a bit of walking outdoors on an uneven surface, as I figure its good for her balance and building her leg muscles up a bit. The flat of the pavement when she’s walking outside the house is good, but its not the same as walking up and down hills on the grass. She was captivated by the dogs in the park and the daisies growing on the ground, and it was lovely to see her exploring her environment… although we did have to try to make sure she didn’t explore the duck pond!

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Where does the time go?

Sundays blog should have been posted by now, it clearly hasn’t been!

The weekend was pretty hectic, and there was very little time to actually sit down and just type.

Friday was certainly a day to look forward to, the simple fact that it was payday alone is always a good start, and then on top of that a staff training day means no kids at work. Finally the end of the day rolls around and it means that my easter holiday and two weeks off work have now started! Boom! Sadly my Friday night celebrations soon became a one-man affair as the wife promptly fell asleep (yet again) almost as soon as we put a film on! In fairness, anything even remotely sci-fi related was always going to be a bit of a gamble.

Saturday started early, the day began by heading over to see my friends, as I was looking after their son J again for a couple of hours. When we initially began discussing this arrangement and how it would work out, I thought that it may end up being every weekend, which I was hoping to avoid. Thankfully the whole arrangement has been fairly relaxed and flexible so that it suits both them and me, as anyone who knows me knows that my weekends and my family time are very precious. This particular weekend the weather wasn’t great, but as I only had a couple of hours and J seemed quite lively, I thought I’d take him for a walk and give them a quiet half hour. While we were out I managed to quickly snap this shot along the canals and was quite impressed with how the phone handled it! I don’t take the camera out much any more now I have given up on this years 365 project, but still can’t resist grabbing a quick shot now and again.

After a couple of hours at home, I was dropped off at the pub by the wife as that afternoon I had been invited along on a stag party, the groom from one of next weekends weddings. He is an old friend, a nice guy that I used to work with a number of years ago, and so even though I didn’t know anyone else there I figured it would be a fun night out anyway. Starting with a few ales in a local pub, we soon moved on to some greyhound racing, and then finishing off with a curry… although by that time there was only a handful of us left and the groom had already been carried home! I even got home myself at a sensible time and without being ridiculously drunk, and managed to make it to bed quietly without waking anyone up. It may not sound like the most exciting way to get home from a stag party, not be staggering from one wall to another, but I had a 10km run arranged for Sunday morning with my friend and that level of hangover could only have meant a solid hour of pain and the rest of the day in bed!

As it happened, I got home feeling fine, and was able to make a start on watching the recording of the F1 Malaysian Grand Prix that I’d missed whilst out running, this is of course before Clare headed out for afternoon tea with friends leaving me in charge of the little person who sees no importance of the afore mentioned race, and apparently has other ideas on ways to spend a Sunday afternoon. So we decide to head out for a walk, although with no car it means a bit of a walk to the nearest park, time to get the trike out! The buggy seems to be an unpopular choice these days, and its much too far for Olivia to be walking yet, so the trike saved the day, and she was happy to be pushed all the way there in it.
Things soon changed when we got there though, it was clearly too late in the day, someone was needing her afternoon nap, and now I was nowhere near home with a little girl who was starting to get upset. All she wanted was to be picked up and was too tired to even go back in the trike, which resulted in screaming each time I tried it, and I didn’t exactly want to look like the guy who was trying to kidnap a child or something, and have some do-gooder call the police. So I had to carry her, and it made for a very long walk home, and there were tears anyway, even though I still hadn’t put her down at any point, and could no longer feel my arm any more! Eventually, after what felt like an eternity, I had finally made it, and was at least greeted by the wife who was now home and could take over toddler duty to let me regain my sanity, and our friend as well, who had popped over with her little boy for a short visit. Eventually the feeling came back in my arm, and I’d stopped sweating from the speed walking home, and could relax. I thought I had this parenting malarky nailed, apparently not, I can already hear the “Dad, you just don’t understand!” in my head, well in advance of her actually being able to say it! Oh well, they do say you live and learn, and I have learnt that with two weeks of being responsible for a little person, my forward planning needs to be a bit more effective than that! The wife seems to have this inbuilt knack of remembering everything and covering all eventualities… whereas I only have the knack of going out and making sure I bring the correct child home with me!

And so, as we ended Sunday night with a child now thankfully peacefully sleeping, we can relax and enjoy some time together that we missed out on Saturday night!

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Stop starting over, begin again

Its no lie that I am often easily distracted by things, and starting a project doesn’t necessarily mean I will finish it, at least not all in one sitting, so to speak.

One thing I did do recently was to review my photography business and decide that my website was no longer up to scratch. It wasn’t terrible, but it definitely needed a facelift, and if I was going to move forward then it needed to look at bit more polished than it currently was.

I reviewed many options and had to consider numerous features, such as cost of setting up, the time it would take, how much time it would take to make changes, how it worked on mobile devices, whether I could sell prints through it, and whether I could get the site running on my own or if I’d need a designer to get involved (expensive!).

So far I have a free 14 day trial on a provider that has caught my eye, and seems to tick a lot of the boxes, so I am going to run with it for a while, and if it fits the bill then I even have the use of a discount code to make it cost effective! Should anyone be interested in taking a look, I even have a new website address and consequently a new email to go with it, and the new site can be found at www.andyvokes.com with emails going to hello@andyvokes.com If you have any thoughts or comments on it, why don’t you drop me an email and let me know?! I’d love to hear from you, and its always good to know who actually reads this!

The site itself is currently quite basic, and there is much room for customisation, although that will require some investment of time, although I should be able to do much of what I want on my own with the help of a few online tutorials, rather than forking out a four figure some for someone to design something for me. Granted, it would be an awesome five star site if I paid a designer handsomely for the job, but thats not the kind of budget I’m working on at the moment!

As I add more to the site I will be singing my own praises no doubt, and if anyone reading this happens to be on twitter, you can follow me there @andrewvokes where I will be posting the updates and you can also get notifications about new blog posts at the same time! Winner!

Of course the irony is that focusing on the website has distracted me from finishing this blog post, and yet again it is getting late and I am still up typing. The good news is that tomorrow is the last day at work for a couple of weeks, and although I don’t get much of a lie in with the little organic alarm clock in the next room that gets us up each morning (and still in the middle of the night sometimes!), at least I don’t have to set my own alarm clock. Sadly the wife will still be at work for a lot of it though, so I will still get an alarm clock waking me up at some point!

So what else has this week offered us? Well our little girl is unwell again, more pesky germs circulating at nursery, and yet another cold, only this time it brings with it a temperature. I decided that as I’d caught the cold too, I wanted to take a day off cycling and rest a bit, so we all got in the car this morning, dropped Olivia at nursery, and I then dropped Clare close to work and carried on. I’d been at work a matter of minutes before the nursery called and informed me of her temperature and asked me if they could give her calpol to bring the temperature down a bit. Ah yes calpol, the magic elixir for parents of sick and grumpy toddlers everywhere… I was only too happy for them to give her some, the stuff works wonders and has often been the only reason we’ve got a grumpy baby back to sleep in the middle of the night! Sadly this temperature didn’t disappear and so Olivia had to be collected from nursery where she then proceeded to take a giant 3 hour nap, clearly in need of some sleep! Thankfully by the time I got home after enduring the nightmare that was rush hour traffic! Tonight simply highlighted the exact reason I cycle to work and back every day… it took me just shy of an hour to get home, whereas I am often home within 25 minutes of getting on my bike, regardless of traffic! I just can’t do rush hour traffic any more, it makes me want to hurt people! IMG_4630
Getting home is always great, but even more so after being stuck in so much traffic and doubly so when your wife and daughter are waiting at home for you, even if I was greeted by a snotty, grumpy, hot little girl who just wanted to be picked up and cuddled until bed time!

The cuddles are great, and often the best part of my day, but they aren’t quite as much fun when they are the result of a poorly little girl who doesn’t understand why she’s feeling like this and just wants some reassurance. Still, this is the life of being a parent, and there is no magic wand for making them better, and the cuddles are about as good as it gets sometimes!

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