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Day 230 – I feel like I’ve earned this!

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Day 230 – Nov 3rd

It feels like we’ve only just gone back to and yet Friday is here again already. I’m giving myself Monday and Friday to use my motorbike, so I don’t get carried away and end up not cycling and putting a load of weight back on. This makes today my motorbike day. Yayyy!

It was looking like a dry day, and the weather was fairly pleasant for the time of year, so the ride home was a rather pleasant one, especially with the roads being a little quieter for being able to get out of work a little earlier in the afternoon. 

The ride home was even more pleasant knowing that we were off to see a fireworks display this evening. The wife isn’t very keen on them, and was additionally concerned about Chloe being scared by the loud bangs, as she doesn’t do well with loud noises. I personally thought it was worth a gamble and knew Olivia would enjoy it. 

We managed to miss a lot of rush hour traffic on the way over there and even got a parking space without too much stress. Our local cricket club put on a bonfire and firework display each year, and it is always very popular, but thankfully they are thoughtful enough to put on two firework displays, an earlier one so that young children don’t miss out, and the main one about an hour later, generally when most of the young children have gone home. 

The fire itself was immense, and even though the heat stopped you from getting too close, the crowds around it were difficult to negotiate, so we didn’t spend long there. We hadn’t planned to stay too long tonight, but there was still time for the girls to go on a few of the fairground rides that had been set up, before the fireworks were due to start. 

Bedtime for the girls was a little later than usual, but they’d enjoyed it. Hopefully next year they’ll enjoy it a little bit more. 

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Day 217 – My favourite bubbles are in a drink!

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Day 217 – Oct 21st

We’ve made it, the half way point through the first term of the year, and Friday marks the beginning of a week off. There is a wonderful feeling with arriving home on a Friday after work, but it feels a bit more special when its the Friday before a week off work.

A week off with the family is always lovely, a chance to spend some time together, but I am making the most of Friday night before I even think about next week!

Once the girls have been through the bath and are in bed its a chance for the wife and me to relax a little bit. We are very lucky that they both go down so well at bed time, not all parents are so lucky, Since they’ve both been born we’ve worked hard at establishing a strong bedtime routine for each of them, and the fruits of our labour are beginning to pay off now. I really do feel sorry for parents who struggle to get their little ones to sleep in the evening, I think it is so important as parents to have time when you are not parenting, when you can be yourself and relax. I consider the time that the wife and I spend together or doing our own thing once the girls are in bed as equally important as the time that we do spend with the girls while they’re awake.

Time to switch off means you can recharge your batteries and do the things you wanted to do during the day, such as playing with your phone, checking up on facebook or catching up on some photos on the computer… exactly the sort of stuff we want to try and avoid while they are awake so that we are giving them the attention they deserve.

Ironically I am writing this while the girls are up, but in my defence we’re having a bit of a slow start to the day and they are enjoying a bit of cbeebies time!

So todays photo is actually another macro shot, as I continue with my close-up theme, taken of my Jack and Coke while I enjoy a bit of Friday evening TV viewing.

Day 205 – Time flies when you’re having fun

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Day 205 – Oct 8th

Its not often you’ll find me setting an alarm on a Sunday morning, and its particularly you will see that alarm set for a ridiculous time like 5am, but today was the Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix, and I always try to be up on time for it. Even though the race itself begins at 6am, I still like be up early to to put the kettle on, make myself a slice of toast and give myself time to wake up a bit while I watch the warm up coverage. Anyone with no interest or understanding of F1 would see this behaviour as nothing less than absolutely crazy… but then I can still imagine a number of F1 fans who are just thinking “It’s 5am on a Sunday morning… what on earth are you thinking??!!”.

Getting up at that hour, I was setting myself up for a long day for me today, after the race was over there was just enough time together ready to head out and meet some friends at the park before going for lunch with them. The Sun was out, and although it was October, it was still pleasant out. We took a walk, fed the ducks, and the kids took the bikes and scooters around the park before heading to the play area. We could have stayed here longer, it’s a big park, but we needed to get lunch sorted before Chloe had a meltdown for missing her lunchtime nap, she’d already turned up at the park in full on whinge mode!

Thankfully, after we left the park, she managed to at least grab a little mini nap in the car on the way to the restaurant, which wasn’t far away, and ask I sat in the car for a few minutes longer to let her sleep a bit in case that was all she got, but at some point I had to call it, I was going to brave it and try to get her from car seat to buggy without waking her. To my surprise it seemed to work initially, but inside the restaurant it seemed especially noisy and there was no keeping a light sleeper like Chloe asleep.

Still, the nap seemed sufficient for now, and we all enjoyed the afternoon, and I even treated myself to a few afternoon beers!

Day 204 – It’s worth the sacrifice

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Day 204 – Oct 7th

A slow start to the day meant that I had time to indulge myself in the Grand Prix qualifying while the wife took the eldest out to dance class. Just a shame I can’t do this every Saturday! 

Once she was home and qualifying had finished it was time for us to visit one of my sisters, we don’t go over very often, so it was nice to head over for a change, as they usually come to us when we see them. My sister loves collecting vintage trinkets and ornaments, and this made today’s photo fairly easy, there was an assortment of things I could have chosen. 

It might be Saturday night, but no staying up late and drinking tonight, it’s an early start in the morning for the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix! Yes, that’s right, alarm set for 4:55am on a Sunday morning… out of choice!

Day 198 – Just a little peace and quiet?

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Day 198 – Oct 1st

Is it bad parenting to give little ones an iPad to keep them quiet for a while? 

I was up early to watch the Formula 1 Malaysia Grand Prix, and its fair to say that I don’t watch a lot of tv, if I am home alone I will generally turn it off and put the radio on, but the Formula 1 is one thing I will always make time for. Today’s race was an 8am start in the UK, but I was up much earlier than that to watch all the pre-race coverage. It came as no surprise to me that both of the girls woke up at the usual time, and so being the good husband that I like to imagine I am (although the wife may often disagree), I took them both downstairs with me so that she could sleep in a bit, in the hope that I’d still be able to watch the race. 

Now I am not a fan of the idea of using an electronic device as a babysitter, and we do heavily regulate how much time Olivia gets to use the iPad for, and Chloe only gets to watch a bit of Peppa Pig here and there on the iPhone when she needs to be distracted for a nappy change or something. I think its fair to say that I do try to encourage the girls, wherever possible, to do anything else other than use iPads, getting outside if its dry, or some colouring, play-doh or a bit of painting if its wet, even a bit of Disney on the TV if they’ve run out of steam.

This morning though, I’d made an extra effort to get up especially early for the race, and figured that just for an hour or so, that if the girls were up at the same time as me and the wife was staying in bed, a little time on the iPad wouldn’t hurt.

With the race out of the way, we allowed ourself a bit of a slow start to the day once the wife was up. The plan was to go out for lunch with the family, but not until the afternoon, so we could take our time and relax, making the most of a Sunday morning. It gave us plenty of time to shower and get dressed, and we even made it to our carvery on time, a rare treat when you have young children.

Day 191 – It won’t always go to plan

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Day 191 – Sep 24th

What better way is there to start a sunny Sunday morning in September than with a trip to the farm for a birthday party? Well for many there was the excitement of the Birmingham Velo, which I was a bit gutted to be missing out on, but there is always next year for that. The Velo was passing close by our house, walking distance, but I didn’t have time to go and watch it as we needed to jump on the motorway to get to the farm.

The girls had a great time at the farm, there was horse riding, animal feeding, tractor rides, party food, small animals to stroke, ferrets to walk… and the weather was glorious to top it off. 

As we weren’t too far from my moms house, we decided to stop in on the way back, as they love to see the girls, and we hadn’t made it over last weekend. It wasn’t exactly a hectic day, and from here it should have been quite simple, head home, get dinner for girls and put them to bed… that wasn’t quite what happened though. I’d planned the morning, getting to the party making sure to miss the Velo road closures, but I’d not even given it a thought for the journey home, and some of the major roads were still closed off. 

Due to my lack of planning for our journey home, we got stuck in some horrendous traffic trying to get across the Hagley Rd, which we had to do to get home. The side roads were backed up and hundreds of cars were queuing to find a way across, and then desperately trying to turn around only to find out that they’d been blocked in bya long line of other cars queuing behind them also desperately trying to find a way home!

It became quickly obvious that even if a route home was avail able, there was too many cars to fight with, we were spending more time stationary in queues than anything else, and the girls were sat in the back of the car getting hungry.

There was only one simple decision to make, abort mission! Turn around, stop fighting the traffic, and go find somewhere to eat. Tonight, it was a table for four, and we weren’t going to be cooking after all, so the least we could do was to relax and enjoy the opportunity, and we did exactly that. Pizza Express had us sat down and fed in no time, and by the time we had finished, all the roads had been reopened and the traffic had gone! 

What a way to finish a day! 

Day 190 – Just take it easy

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Day 190 – Sep 23rd

The weeks can all tend to fly by so fast, and sometimes its good to slow down and take it easy. Saturday was a day that we did not want to do a great deal, with the only exception being our visit to the local fire station open day. The girls enjoyed seeing the fire engine, police van and ambulance, as well as the dance troupe that were putting on a demonstration. Which got us thinking about something we had only discussed recently anyway, the prospect of Olivia joining some kind of dance school or gymnastics thing. I know she’d love either one of those, but we can’t seem to work out which one will be best suited, or even what is on offer in our local area, so we still need to do our research and find out what there is for a four year old. We can’t rule out other options too, a friend of mine has recently enrolled her daughter into girls rugby, I’d naturally be quite happy for Olivia to do that if its what she really wanted, although the truth is that she’s just not that kind of girl… her sister, however, different story!

Our only other commitment for the day was one of my sisters coming for dinner that evening. It’s always nice to have my sisters over, although tricky trying to find a weekend where they’re both free at the same time. We ate, drank wine and had a pleasant evening, and even the wife managed to stay up a little later than normal, although thankfully it wasn’t too late, as our girls are pretty unforgiving in the morning! 

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!

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