Babies, Personal, Photography

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!

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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

Personal, Photography

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!

Photography

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!

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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!

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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!

Parenting, Personal, Photography

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!