October's roadtrip to South Africa with my old pal, videographer Jon Williams, was an enthralling chance to meet the friendly locals and spot the beastly action in the wilds of KwaZulu Natal.
COOPH magazine also ran a mini feature on the trip, so its a shout out to the team in Austria for that, nice work guys!
There is an old Zulu proverb that says “Plenty sits still, hunger is a wanderer”. In South Africa this is true from the wilderness to the ocean; and the further we traversed into our 700-mile road trip across KwaZulu Natal, the hungrier this new photographic experience made me to capture the surroundings.
Starting in the beach resort of Umhlanga, Iain and Ingrid welcomed us warmly at their guesthouse, its walls decorated with photos of Iain meeting Nelson Mandela and South African rugby heroes. Iain is a proud South African living on a striking coastline, but Iain told us his country was currently desperate; they really needed rain. A long winter drought was now encroaching into summer.
Those words resonated as we headed to the Drakensberg Mountains along dusty dirt roads and cattle scattered motorways. At the foot of these mountains, local communities welcomed us on the route to the Cathedral Peak hotel and displayed their warmth. School children walking long journeys on these roads met us with smiles and waves as we passed. It’s a charming corner of the world.
Once near the top, the mountains are spectacular. Rugged and earthy green, they dominate the skyline at every turn. We immediately signed up for the helicopter ride to really get a sense of their Jurassic grandeur. This was promptly followed by an awe-inspiring quad biking session on the weaving trails. The hotel (and its worldly buffet) is a highly recommended stay.
The next stop was Fugitive’s Drift hotel - a picturesque panorama near the battlegrounds of Rorke’s Drift. Here we mountain biked among giraffe and experienced a sombre but fascinating talk on the very grounds of the famous Anglo Zulu battle. The detail and intricate storytelling of suffering on both sides will linger long in our memories.
Along the routes in-between venues we would encounter many characters - often children - moving great distances on foot to get to school, home or the nearest supply store. I enjoyed the challenge of taking my street eye from the pavements of London to the speeding highways of South Africa.
When we arrived early evening at Phinda Mountain Lodge, we weren’t expecting to be driven straight to see leopards in the surrounding bush, but it summed up our time at this game reserve – full of surprises and delights.
The ‘big five’ were witnessed in one morning drive, with our excellent guides Sibu and Tom leading the way. Lion prides were seen hunting and devouring impala. Cheetah families feasted on prey. Sunrises and sunsets lit up the parched horizon. It was five star game viewing from a truly five star venue
Our final destination was Rocktail beach camp on the roaring Indian Ocean. Fizzing swirls were the backdrop for a relaxing end to a memorable trip. We had met some fascinating and resourceful people along the way, all set against stunningly chameleonic scenery.
I learned to adapt my street photography to motorway speeds and to be patient with wildlife captures at a standstill. I would love to return and see more of this huge country, and am very thankful for the opportunity to have enhanced my portfolio out there.
My local home town park provided some spectacular backdrops one misty autumn day to prove you don't need to go half the way round the world to take a nice photograph.
This one of the fog hovering on the lower fields is one of my more popular snaps on social media, and I hope you like it too.
The Mouse Leads To The Elephant
This month myself and safari expert Jon Williams head to South Africa's KwaZulu Natal to indulge our senses and lenses on an 11 night trip that I was lucky enough to win in December via the Guardian's Travel photography competition.
The 700 mile road trip should offer up some chances to see big animals, even bigger sunsets and some local culture among the tribes people there. It will be a huge contrast to my usual urbane adventures and that's exactly why I am looking forward to it.
Big thanks to Africa & Beyond for taking us there.
London, Me, Nikon, Fuji
In amongst a year of travels and all the ensuing post production that goes with it, I have been weaving in and out of London town when I get the chance to take in some urban scenery.
My new Tokina 11-16mm has been great fun to use on sprawling cityscapes - below was one of the first captures I took with it. It's a really freeing feeling to finally be able to fit more in the scene.
The Fuji also continues to be a trusty companion for street peeping. I've now finished my summer editing, and below are a choice few shots from the busiest walkabout period of the year.
Looking Street Snappy
This summer Streetwear Today magazine very kindly did a 12 page Q&A feature on my Carnival book High On The Hill.
Their magazine focuses on urban lifestyle and skater fashion, and they were compiling a London edition which sought various angles on the city's photography. It's always intriguing to see your photos come alive on the page over their usual e-screen homes.
It is available in print across Europe, so I hope it will turn out to be good exposure for the work I am doing in my hometown and beyond. Thanks to Jon Williams for making it happen.
A Stroll In The Park
Back from a trip with the family to Centre Parcs Woburn. It was a more sedate affair than my usual hustle and bustle city excursions, but a nice chance to see some nature. I busted a squirrel enjoying a hot date and considered some reflections on the local lake.
Barcelona. I've always loved this unique city. So when I realised the football team were on course to win all the trophies available by lifting the Champions League in June, I booked a Eurostar to Paris changing for the TGV to Barca, and then made a long weekend out of the occasion.
Check out the view from the train window through Perpignan below; a highly recommended travel option over the usual basic airlines, even if it does take a bit longer to get there...
It certainly doesn't take long in Catalonia to appreciate the fact they are nuts for the beautiful game here, and the team's eventual victory sent the locals wild in a flare filled night on Las Ramblas afterwards.
My new wide lens got plenty of use on the buildings, and the 210mm zoom came in particularly handy when i followed the FC Barcelona victory parade bus around town for a couple of hours, frantically snapping the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar partying hard as it moved through huge adoring crowds.
There is so much varied architecture, history and characters abound that I was happy to spend all day in the heat capturing the vibe.
La Sagrada Familia is of course one of finest examples of gothic design anywhere in the world, and that was a pleasure to walk around and work the fish eye and wide zoom in. It looks equally impressive in colour or monotones.
This was my third visit here, but my first chance to photograph the place, and I was glad for the opportunity to. Great atmosphere and weather combined to make it a memorable experience.
Ebay Lens A Hand
I have decided - after a fair amount of deliberation - to upgrade my camera kit via three lens additions rather than a full body splurge.
My Nikon D7000 has served me well as a workhorse and has plenty of life in it yet, so I have brought in a classic zoom (70-210mm Nikkor), my first wide angle (Tokina 11-16mm) and a portrait option (Nikkor 85mm).
I am heading to Barcelona in June to test them out on another euro jaunt via the train, so watch this space to see how they get on.
I found myself on a stag do/bachelor party in Prague this month, and decided to create a photography trip from the serene sight seeing opportunities in this part of the world.
Prague is a lovely history trip around old cobbles and castles, and after a long weekend there I hopped on the railway to visit my old pal and photographer friend Jon Williams in the mountains near Salzburg.
After visiting Jon's photo studio place of work for COOPH Austria, the rest of the day was a scenic journey through Germany en route to Paris, where I could really get into my raison d'etre of urban documenting.
Over five days in the Gallic capital, I would trudge through the rain at night to find the Eiffel reflecting off the streets, and get shouted at in French for papping a portrait of a grumpy truck driver...
Oui. Paris in the spring was indeed everything I'd hoped for.
If You Don't Have A Dream...
It was a grand Christmas this year after discovering my Times Square photo 'Mickey Mouse Dreams' (February winner in the Guardian Been There Travel competition) had won the overall prize for the year!
Exhibited alongside the other monthly winners and runners up at Guardian HQ in London over the festive period, the sponsored prize is a rather incredible 11 night stay in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, to enjoy and photograph the sights on safari and around the province's beauty spots.
There were some quality shots I found myself up against, so I was both surprised and excited at being granted the chance to photograph such a striking country later in 2015. I've never really gone off the beaten track like that before, and can't wait to swap the urban jungle for the real one.
I think what this experience has taught me is that patience with a scene can really reveal the best take on a subject.
Usually, I like to be on the march taking snaps of whatever chances in my direction as it helps me get in the 'zone', but in this case I saw the potential of the surroundings and waited for something else - or someone - to come into shot. It needed an extra layer to complete the scene's story.
There is also the lesson of entering competitions where you believe you might have a reasonable chance of doing well in, and picking the best one from your collection based on theme requirement and general instinct.
The majority of my photos are street based, but I had to pick one for a travel based competition, and it was this one that felt right in terms of fulfilling the brief.
I look forward to projects, trips and events in the new year after the perfect way to end this one, cheers!
Ps. Thanks to the now officially pro Chris Andreou for taking this one of me down there, I gave it some cheese for Mickey :-)
This month marked the one hundred year anniversary of WW1 and London duly responded with striking visuals around it's ancient Tower.
A couple of my shots from the ceremony are featured below.
The best month for capturing autumnal colours in London, I have enjoyed a few strolls around the parks looking to add to the leafy side of my collection.
This month the Guardian ran with my entered shot to advertise their magic themed competition for the Observer competition.
An Open Book
After last month's launch of my first photo book High On The Hill, I was pretty chuffed to hear that my old photographer friend Jon Williams had ordered a copy to his base in Salzburg, Austria, and shown it to his colleagues at COOPH.
They decided to run a feature on it in their projects section, and spent a few days deciding what shots worked best to represent the vibe of carnival for the resulting piece.
It's fantastic to get the exposure for my work and the book (thanks again Jon!), and I hope to use this as springboard for other publications to perhaps pick up on the collection.
One of the photos also featured as a runner up on the Guardian monthly competition for August.
High On The Hill
Carnival is my favourite event in London to take photos of, so I decided this year to put together my first photo book of the mayhem from my memory cards.
I've really enjoyed the process of a project like this from start to eventual finish, working on the fonts to the theme for each double spread (smoking, laughing, dancing etc) to create a tangible and electronic end product for the world to see.
This year's carnival will hopefully bring more additions for the collection... Stay tuned for another announcement on the book soon.
There was also a spectacular exhibition for the WW1 centenary in Westminster called Spectra in August.
A 15 mile high set of light beams were shone up to the sky every night for a week, and it was visible from the outskirts of London. It felt like a surreal Close Encounters experience when underneath the beams, with a constant stream of people gazing up around you in wonder to take photos.
Here is a selection I put up on my flickr.
Ring & Ring & Roses
My sister Joanna got hitched this month, and I was happy to do my bit on this occasion as her secondary photographer with the trusty Fuji x100S on my shoulder.
It didn't disappoint either - the camera or the day itself! The venue, weather, speeches and of course bride and groom combined for a memorable day and night. Although I occasionally could have done with a zoom, the candid nature of the Fuji allows you to really get some nice opportunities for shots without intrusion.
I then put together a wedding book using Albelli (who come highly recommended). Some of my favourites from the day are posted below.
Reflecting On Exposure
It was a nice surprise to have Practical Photography magazine ask me if I'd like to have one of my puddle shots used in their street section for the June edition. They'd found me via my 500px profile and, by chance, had also selected a fine street photographer friend of mine Chris Andreou to feature as well.
We were both delighted to share the pages with Matt Stuart, a kingpin in the street arena and one of the best snappers in the business doing what myself, Chris and many others like us set out to do in the urban jungle.
It's always a bonus to get national exposure of course, and it also highlights the good points of being involved in a photographic community like 500px, which is well respected by editors and snappers alike. If your work is tagged well it gives you a platform to be seen and maybe selected for opportunities like this.
The London Marathon came to town mid-April and its biggest attraction was local lad and Olympic gold winner, Mo Farah. He was running past my flat (mere metres away), so I felt obliged to hang out at the barriers and try and pap him on his way.
Considering I had a fair few spectators in front of me, I was pretty happy with it and I think the sun and shadows make it work best in Mo-no (sorry, couldn't resist).
I have marked this Spring with a purchase of a long awaited Fuji X100s.
The reviews are unanimously glowing and I have watched other street photographers produce excellent work with the 'best camera they've ever owned' - because it's small enough to usually be the camera you have to hand at any given moment.
Although there are advantages to being in the street with an SLR (wider, zoom, speed, lenses), the size and noise often makes the job harder in those situations. I already love the bokeh the Fuji displays for close ups and portraits, and look forward to using what I consider my first proper 'street camera' out and about soon.
My Times Square photo 'Mickey Mouse Dreams' has won the Guardian street life competition for February!
This means it will be exhibited at Guardian HQ in Kings Cross in 2015 with the other monthly category winners for the year (with a chance to be the annual winner and enjoy a trip to a South African safari park).
I enjoyed contributing to the reader's comments that can be found here. I think we have a front runner for the book cover from that trip now too...
The edit for my summer NYC street shoot is completed.
I had arrived in New York for the first time in June, following a week on the road from Chicago.
For the next fortnight, I stayed in Williamsburg with a good friend of mine Andy L (here he is, given the Coney Island treatment), and we had a blast discovering the city. I set out on a daily basis to find and photograph the fantastic places and faces around Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Thousands of snaps later, I'm glad I was shooting this magnificent mix of man and monument on memory cards instead of multitudes of film! And although it's never ideal to shoot street scenes on a conspicuous DSLR, the extra options those short lenses and fish-eye allowed me came in very handy.
I did the walking, New Yorkers did the unmistakable talking - badabing; it was and always will be one of my favourite places to take a camera.
I look forward to going back soon, but before then, the aim is to produce a book selected from the resulting photo series here. Stay tuned...