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Day 189 – The first day of Autumn is here

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Day 189 – Sep 22nd

Autumn is finally here, the weather is changing and you can feel in the air that Summer has left us.

I love this time of year, as well as the environment and weather it also means changes at work as we enter a new school year. Some people will know me as a photographer, some people will have known me for years and probably can’t even remember what I do, other s will know that I have spent many years working in a special needs school with some pupils that need a lot of help.

One of the things that has been passing the time this week is the baking and selling of cakes in our class, trying to raise some money to allow the pupils to get out into the community, visiting places like Morrisons, McDonalds and Pizza Express to gain some independence. Working in a special needs school can be as much rewarding as it is hard work, and over the years I have seen many changes. Helping to build up some life skills has been the biggest jump forward recently, as we try to move slightly away from more academic subjects. If we can have a little money to take with us for the pupils to spend, this can only help to empower them more. 

It’s fair to say the cake sale went well and the pupils will soon be enjoying their first trip out.

I was really hoping to get a more seasonal photo today, but as is normal when you’re  working full time and being a parent while working on a 365 project, sometimes you just don’t get a chance.

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Day 188 – How do other parents do it?

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Day 188 – Sep 21st

Tonight was a big event for us, the first open evening of a potential new school for Olivia for when she starts this September. We have finally had to start looking into schools as we need to have registered our choices by christmas, and so finally we have to admit that our little girl is growing up fast. School is the next big stage in her life, the point where we have to let go and watch her fly. Its going to be an emotional time. 

We still have at least one more school to check, and it’s tough working out which is the right one, this is going to massively affect their lives, who they become, what friends they make, maybe even what they want to become one day. 

Still, once that decision is made there’s the realistic prospect that we have literally no idea how we’re going to do the school run every day. When both me and the wife were growing up our mothers used to stay at home, and they’d walk us to and from school each day, and be there if we had to take a day off sick. It seemed normal. 

Modern life is quite different to this, both parents quite often work full time and usually develop a lifestyle that makes it hard for one of the parents to give up work. Grandparents have become heavily relied on in recent years, doing a lot of the childcare for small children while the parents work, and I’d imagine that a lot of them are doing the school run too. 

Realistically our only hope is breakfast and after school clubs to provide that wraparound care making drop off and pick up just a little bit easier. My job working in a school is totally inflexible, I can’t go in late or leave early, as that’s just not how it works, and the wife will also be working in a 9-5 environment when she finally goes back to work.

How do other parents cope??

Day 187 – Why did you do it then?

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Day 187 – Sep 20th

Ah yes, hump day is here, we are now closer to Friday afternoon than Monday morning, its all downhill to the weekend from here. I had treated myself to a cruise into work on the motorbike, and even the weather was treating me to a dry day while on two wheels. I have committed myself to at least three days a week cycling as I need to make sure I keep up a regular amount of exercise each week, and although  I am already feeling the benefits, its nice to have a break in the middle and use a bit of horse power rather than leg power.

It is much nicer to get home not feeling all hot and sweaty and being able to pick the girls up without having to change out of a soggy top first… although today it seems that neither of them were especially interested in daddy getting home anyway. Olivia was burnt out from a shopping trip out on the bus with nanny and had collapsed on the sofa in front of the to before falling asleep shortly after I got back, and Chloe had only managed a 45 minute afternoon nap instead of her usual 2-3 hours and didn’t quite know what to do with herself, leaving her a little bit cranky in between smiles. 

Chloe loves to play and can get a bit rough at times, and has taken to head butting things lately, so today when she bumped her head on mommys knee it clearly hurt a bit. She got over it pretty quickly, but I still had to grab a photo as it was quite funny. She’ll soon learn to make the connection between head butting things and it hurting! 

Back out to the gym this evening, needing to keep up the exercise even though I didn’t cycle today. Feeling a little nervous about how much my foot is going to hurt in the morning if I run tonight, may need look into booking an appointment with a physio soon!

Day 186 – The day I remembered that I’d forgot

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Day 186 – Sep 19th

Back on track, and at least I’d made it half way through before I missed a day, although I can’t believe I just totally forgot, usually just before bed I’ll remember and at least make an effort. 

The project begins to get a bit more difficult from here onwards as we head into Autumn and the days get shorter and shorter giving me less daylight to shoot in after work. Sure there are other options, using the flash at home, long exposure shots at night, or taking the camera to work and shooting during the day, although the latter is brings its own challenges as I don’t get a huge dinner break to both go out and find some and also eat, plus when you’re cycling, the added weight of carrying a big camera in your bag is something you really don’t need. I tend to carry quite a bit in my rucksack at times and each little thing adds extra weight. It might not seem much as you pack each item, but it adds up and there are some days when you first pick the bag up that you begin to wonder how you’re going to cycle with that load on your back at all. There is also the fact I can’t shoot anything within my work environment as cameras and camera phones are generally not allowed in a school setting, especially in this era of heightened safeguarding. So although not impossible, photos during the day are tricky to say the least.

Autumn does bring with it some beauty though, and it is a season I love. The colours in the trees, the leaves on the ground, the way the sky seems to turn so blue. I was looking for a shot and managed to capture this pigeon as it flew overhead, contrasted against the sky. I knew that was my picture for the day.

Day 185 – The day I forgot

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Day 185 – Sep 18th

Okay, I am human, I completely and utterly forgot to pick up my camera today! Can you blame me after taking around 1000 shots yesterday??

For day 185 we’ll have to make do with a photo that is essentially a day late. The wife doesn’t think it should count and said I should have no photo for that day, like there are some unwritten rules somewhere. I disagree, this is my project and therefore I make the rules, so if a photo a day late is to be included then I am happy with that. This one is a bit of an abstract shot, so as to not represent a significant event on a particular day. I still like it!

One a journal note, I hate rain! Sometimes it sucks not having a car to take to work, traffic drives me mental, but at least you don’t get soaked through to the skin like you do on two wheels!! Grr!

Come on Autumn, don’t you let us down now… summer was an absolute wash out, and we need a bit of sunshine to cheer us up!

Day 184 – A day in the life of a wedding photographer

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Day 184 – Sep 17th

A lot of people probably have the idea that the life of a wedding photographer is a glamorous and easy one, they just turn up on the morning, take some photos for a couple of hours after bossing everyone around, charge a small fortune and go home. If only it was really like that.

My wedding preparations have started well in advance of the day, meeting the couple to discuss the details of the day, sometimes at the wedding venue, and continue for many weeks after it, editing photos and putting albums together. The price may seem expensive, but when you consider the cost of the equipment I need, the cost of travelling brides house > church > reception venue > home (and don’t forget the meetings with the couple too), buying software, running my website, the cost of the albums, new memory cards and batteries, and then finally making a profit on top, its not quite the money pit people imagine.

On the actual day itself, I often begin with an early start, filling the car up with all my gear once I’m showered and dressed. I have to be pretty strict on leaving the house to ensure I meet the bride on time, as I’ll be starting with the bride and bridesmaids hair and make up photos and can’t miss the bride getting hers done if she’s first. This is generally a fairly relaxed part of the day, with an opportunity to get some lovely shots for the album. 

The stress really begins as soon as the bride is getting ready to leave for the church. I need to be hot footing it over to the church myself well in advance to meet the groom and speak to the vicar about what I’m allowed and not allowed to photograph during to service. Each vicar can have very different views about what is acceptable, some of them are really cool about it and will pretty much let you shoot anything, some of them don’t mind too much  providing you don’t move around, and to the rest… well, you’re pretty much just the devil to them, and they’d just rather you weren’t in there at all, you bloody nuisance!

I’ll need to capture shots of guests arriving at the church, the groom waiting anxiously inside, orders of service being handed out, bridesmaids arriving… then finally it’s time, the brides car has arrived… at this point you hope that you’ve made it to the toilet recently, because the next few hours are going to be chaos, there’s no time for toilet breaks or looking at mobile phones or snacks, as no-one wants to be waiting around for an absent photographer, the service is happening whether I’m ready or not, and if I miss a shot, well, there’s no going back and reshooting it, you have to deal with the consequences. As the bride gets out of the car and heads down the aisle, experience will tell me where I need to be and when so that I can capture everything I need to, for the next hour or so.

Throughout the service there are random moments to grab, people hugging, touching, looks between two people, but essentially there are also a number of key shots that I must grab, the ring exchange, the first kiss, the signing of the register, walking back down the aisle and being in the wrong place will simply mean missing the shot!

After the service there will be a number of photos outside of the church to take, the couple, their parents, the bridesmaids etc, but first you have to remember to let the church empty as there are a lot of people inside waiting to get out, and they will ALL want to speak to the couple. I always give it a few minutes so that people aren’t butting in when I try to take my shots. This part is tricky and needs some direction as people tend to wander around like lost sheep. Once the essential shots are done, I am often the first to leave for the reception venue (my car is often parked tactically so I can get out quickly!) so I can be ready and waiting for the couple to arrive and capture them in the back of the car, and as they get out of it. If they are taking a while to arrive once I am there I will head into the reception room with a few spare minutes to capture some detail shots of the tables, the cake, and decorations.

The next step is group shots and these can really eat into your time if you’re not careful, especially if there isn’t much of a gap between arriving at the venue and everyone sitting down to eat, but once everyone is sat down ready for food, it is a chance for me to slow down and relax for a little while, rest my feet which will be feeling tender by this point, and hopefully grab a bite to eat myself. Most of the time the couple will think to feed me, and this is massively appreciated, as it can be a really long day, 12 hours almost without a break is not unusual. Even when I am sat down I will be reviewing the shots I have taken!

Traditionally speeches will follow either the main course or dessert, and I’ll need to get a good spot, but without blocking the view of people behind me. Typically at least one of these shots will end up in the album, so I need to get a good one of everyone talking.

The cake cutting is often next, although some wait for the evening guests to arrive, but mostly it happens soon after the speeches. Some venues often request a mock cutting of the cake for the sake of a photo, but I rarely do this as I prefer the natural expressions and focus of a couple actually cutting into the most expensive cake they have ever paid for!

The last event I will often stay to capture is the first dance, it can often be resented by the groom (us men aren’t natural dancers!), sometimes even the bride as well, but usually most couples embrace it for what it is… the start of the evenings celebrations and time to party! I need to utilise my lighting skills by using my flash guns, sometimes aiming them at the ceiling, sometimes placing them around the room and firing them remotely, but at least one, sometimes two of these images will always go in the album, these are essential. Its not uncommon for the first dance to end up running late, but my promise is to stay until its done, and so thats what I do. If it is going in the album, then I need to be there to capture it! I certainly don’t want to be remembered as the photographer who couldn’t be bothered to wait.

Todays wedding did run over a bit, but it was a fun day, a very relaxed couple and a lovely family. After getting home later than expected, I decided to treat myself to a glass of red wine or two! Finally, I can put my feet up and relax!

Day 183 – Its the halfway point

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Day 183 – Sep 16th

So this is it, the official half way point of the 365 project. Six months has gone so fast, I’ve produced some lovely photos, and some absolutely duff ones, but it has been fun.

Todays photo was taken in Sandwell Valley Country Park, a venue so close to where we live, yet somewhere that I’ve never been to before. It was a lovely little place, and somewhere we’ll definitely be going to again. We met some friends there in the morning with their two little ones, one of them being Olivia’s best friend at nursery, for a fun few hours. The kids played on the play area for a while, before we took them around the farm to feed the animals, and then finally stopped off for a spot of lunch in the cafe.it wasn’t quite as cheap as you’d hope for a trip to the park, but we enjoyed ourselves.

After we got home I still had time to pop into the city centre for this years Chilli Festival, as I’d sadly missed out on last years due to photographing a wedding on that day. It felt smaller this year than previously, although I’d been assure it as the, and due to the rain it was definitely considerably quieter too. On my own I was pretty much done in half an hour or so, but I had picked up some new chilli sauces. I was tempted to try som of the delicious food on offer, but I’d already had lunch at the park and knew we wouldn’t be eating late tonight. 

Before any films or putting my feet up this evening I had the task of putting all my camera batteries on charge and making sure all my memory cards, cameras and lenses were ready and packed. Early start in the morning. It’s an essential job to make sure I am fully prepared for any eventuality, including a smashed camera or a battery totally failing on me. I still have to get all the shots I need regardless. It can be a stressful day, and there is a lot of pressure, particularly around moments that will only happen just the once and can’t be repeated, and definitely can’t be missed. Once I’m happy everything is ready, I can relax. 

Day 182 – It never rains but it pours

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Day 182 – Sep 15th

Ah Friday, the superhero of the working week! 

I’m looking forward to a bit of a quiet Friday and Saturday as my Sunday is going to be pretty hectic, my first wedding for a while. For one reason or another it has been a bit of a quiet year on the wedding photography front, which is fine as it means more time at home at the weekend with my girls, but Sunday I am back into it, and the wedding weekend starts tonight with the wedding rehearsal. Normally I don’t attend these, but I wanted to make sure I could find the church and check out the parking situation.

The church isn’t too far away, and so I decide to hop on the motorbike, its cheaper to run than the car, and more fun too!

Cue the rain!!

I had to hang around a bit longer with the rehearsal than I wanted to, but it was worth it as I found out I was entitled to a limited spot outside the church, reserved for photographers! This news takes a huge amount of stress out of the wedding day!

So now its time to head home, put my feet up and relax with a film and a drink. On the way home I manage to pull the bike over and grab todays lovely photo… right before it started raining again! I seem to be cursed on two wheels at the moment, every time I climb onto my motorbike or bicycle I get drenched!! Oh well, a few beers and a good comedy film will soon take my mind off that! At least I got home in time to put the girls to bed!

Day 181 – Tomorrow is a new day

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Day 181 – Sep 14th

When your previous evening hasn’t gone to plan and you start the next day still feeling grumpy about it you have to give some consideration to the fact that most of your problems are generally going to be trivial ones that you just need to let go of, and it’s only you that can change whether you’re going to let yourself be happy or not. Take a reality check on the situation, if you have a house, a job, hopefully people around you that you love, food in the cupboards… you’re already better off than half the people on the planet. 

So that’s what I had to do. I can’t take my grumpy mood to work, as it certainly won’t help thing. When I get home my girls don’t deserve the grumpy version of me either, they should have the best version of me that I can be. Sometimes it’s not that easy to arrive home after a day at work with the enthusiasm of a childrens tv presenter, especially when you’re tired, hungry, and inevitably annoyed with some idiots driving on the commute home. Riding home on two wheels frequently means that someone will have had me swearing at some point, whether they can hear me or not, and so when I get home I’ll put the bike in the garage, take a deep breath and give myself a second to let all of the days frustration just drain away. As soon as you walk in the door and see those two little smiling faces looking up at you, everything else just melts away. You can close the door and shut the big bad world out.

Mindset is a big thing, and a while back at work we had a training day, which was called The Art Of Being Brilliant. Presented by a particularly enthusiastic and motivating guy, it was all about positivity and making the choice to be happy. There were mixed feelings about it afterwards, some found it ridiculous and patronising, some found it an utter waste of time, but like myself a lot of people remained open minded and found it interesting and inspirational, enough so to pick up a free copy of the book that had been offered with it. It was very much about this “better version of you” mindset. I never did read the book in the end, as I have many books at home still waiting to be read, although a lot of what was said on the day did stick with me, I just need to remember to put it into practise a bit more often. Maybe I should go back and pick the book up after all. 

How do you pick yourself up when the day isn’t going your way?

Day 180 – Don’t leave it too late

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Day 180 – Sep 13th

One thing I’d had on my mind today was about making a bit more effort to take a photo, I was keen to capture some traffic trails, as I always think these look lovely. I knew the spot I wanted to use, a big traffic light junction near home, that is nearly always busy.

The weather forecast had suggested a bit of a rough day, I’d even taken the motorbike to work, to avoid the high winds and heavy rain that never ended up appearing anyway, but I was still aware that the long exposure shot I wanted to take could have been ruined if it got too windy and the camera moved while I was trying to take the shot. Thankfully the weather remained calm that evening, but because I’d left it too late to go out, I had literally missed the bulk of the traffic, and the resulting shot was not exactly what I’d had in mind. 

Stil, it wasn’t a bad shot, especially as I’d technically only gone out to get milk  for work the next day and failed because the shop had changed their hours and shut early, so at least it wasn’t a wasted journey.

Not the first time I’d had to make do with something because I’d yet again left it until the last minute. You’d think at my age it would be a lesson I’d learnt by now!

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