Fuji X-T1

Helen and Rob - 100 Strangers project

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So  the 100 strangers project started in 2014 it was about time I met and photographed someone new in 2015. It turned out to be two strangers in Helen and Rob. We met when I quickly nipped out to take Tilly for a short walk, which never happens if I pick up the camera on the way out of the door! It was a dark and misty day on Sunday and the last day before returning to some work after the festive period. There is something about the mist that makes everything ethereal and mysterious that always works great for landscapes shots and I wasn't expecting to come back with anything more than landscapes.

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On the way down the lane that leads to the local woods and open fields I noticed a old country LandRover pull up beside the church but I didn't really pay it much attention. I walk along the field boundaries and onto the woods where on the other side I had stopped to try and get some shots of Tilly. As usual trying to photograph a Springer has its own unique problems (she is not a patient Model) and trying to get her to stop running around for more than a second proved difficult.

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I had just walked into the open field when Helen and Rob appeared from the woods behind me. So at this point it will become obvious that Rob is not Rob the boyfriend husband etc but Rob the dog.  

Helen had warned me that he was friendly but was a rescue dog who had a tendency to be a bit nervous. She told me that she was not confident enough to let him off his long training lead just yet as he could be a little temperamental with other dogs. He had been rescued from a shelter recently and Helen was working hard to settle him into his new home and do some training with him. It was then it occurred to me that this was an opportunity to get some portraits of them both and I have to say Helen wrapped up against the cold arriving in a classic green LandRover looked like the your archetypal English farmers daughter with sheep dog in tow. She was happy to have her portrait done with Rob and I hope she gets in touch so I can send her the images (once again I had forgot business cards). In terms of things learnt our conversation was brief and I suppose it may often be the case with such a project. I know she lives nearby but that's about it. In hindsight it would have been good to have had a phone or notebook to take some details from her to flesh out the story but hey lesson learnt for next time. It was lovely to meet them both and I suppose that's the one great thing about having a dog is that it's so easy to strike up a conversation with other dog owners. You know you already share one interest and it's surprising when you are talking to people how much you often have in common. So Helen if you are reading this, get in touch and I will send you the high res files. These images have been edited for the blog the way I like them. If you go on the people's page of the web site you will see the more classic digital look which you may prefer. So there it is stranger No 2 of the project and 1 of 2015.

"There are no strangers only friends you haven't met yet" 

Rob the sheep dog

Rob the sheep dog

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New year new challenge - 100 Strangers

"There are no strangers just people you haven't met yet" 

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The 100 stranger project is something I heard about earlier this year and as soon as I realized what it was I felt it wasn't for me. The concept is to photograph 100 people that you don't know and have never met before. The whole idea is to get you to step out of your comfort zone and find the nerve to walk up to someone and ask them for their portrait. Even now I don't know if I can do it. Whether it's a fear of looking silly, fear of rejection or just starting something then not having the conviction to see it through. I know the benefits and I have no doubt I will learn a lot from it. It will improve my photography but there will be much that I will learn outside of photography as well. If I managed to photograph one stranger a month it would take  8 years and three months. Who will I be at the end of this, how will it change me and my photography, will the people I meet and photograph change me, what will I learn from them, where will I meet them under what circumstances. What I do know is the thought of it excites me and its a challenge that at the moment I feel very uncomfortable about. So like everything in my life when something scares me, I have to do it.  So here we go and as a way of entering it to this gradually here is stranger No 1, Randolph Allan Dobier (the third).

Rudy is from Texas well San Antonio to be precise. As we boarded our flight to Hamburg for new year Rudy happened to be sat in our row. To be fair Carmen starting talking to him first as I put our bags into a overhead locker. I joined the conversation having worked out this Rudy had left the states in his early 20s to work for Abercrombie and Fitch in London. He opened a number of new stores before moving to Hamburg in Germany to open more Hollister stores. He also fell In love with Hamburg and the German ladies (reading between the lines) while working and partying hard. Rudy realized that he loved to travel and in a few short years had travelled to nearly every country in Europe barring Turkey and France.  Having to spend a lot of his time recruiting models to work in the stores and mainly being surrounded by beautiful women the stress of the job had taken its toll ( it must have been awful) and it was time to move on. He left Europe for the states and a job in a IT company in Austin. The lure of Europe is still strong however and he had just flown from Austin to Hamburg (via Heathrow) to spend a week over New Year in Hamburg. Everyone you meet has something to teach you and for me Rudy had a few valuable takeaways to pass on.

First even though Rudy worked in Gravesend he decided that he didn't  want to live someone convenient for work but wanted to live somewhere convenient for living and enjoying the city. So he lived in Camden and commuted a hour every day. Takeaway No 1 live somewhere you enjoy living and take the pain of a commute. I'm sure 2 years in Gravesend would be nothing to write home about, while 2 years in Camden for someone from Texas, say no more!

I also learnt that Texas is worth a visit. Austin is a fantastic city full of life and culture with a number of big music festivals every year. The city is scattered with cool bars and cafes, a variety of foods and an eclectic music scene. During one of the festival in March they have live music in the bars all over the city. He also talked about opening a beach club in Austin. Essentially in Hamburg during the summer they import tons of sand and create beach clubs along the harbour. The name for Texas's first ever roof top beach bar. Well I proposed Club Dobier but Rudy had the name down already "Rad 3" 

As we stepped off the plane at Hamburg I quickly explained my New Years project 100 strangers and our new friend Rudy was happy to oblige. So finally the first lesson of one hundred strangers: there is no strangers just friends you haven't met yet ;-)

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Images of Italy

After getting married in June this year a new house and a wedding meant that we had to put the honeymoon back a few months. Where to go was also an issue as we knew that we wanted to find somewhere we could get away from it all. Somewhere we could sit back relax and take in the fact that after 9 years as "girlfriend and boyfriend" we were now husband and wife. 

I often spend time looking at other photographers work and blogs and one that particularly took my interest was a blog by a photographer called Johnny Patience (ye I know what a cool name). Johnny blog entitled "Italy in September" was not only a blog about his wedding anniversary around Tuscany but also contained some beautiful images of the area that immediately grabbed my attention. Carmen and I discussed the blog, I knew that Italy was a place that we would like to explore and photograph but it was soon forgotten as life got back to post wedding normality.

About a month later we spent a weekend in Swanage with our friends Joe and Kate. We had a great weekend and on the final day while having dinner  at a  local Italian restaurant Joe ordered a bottle of Montepulciano.  During the course of the evening we discovered that Montepulciano is their favorite wine. They had discovered it whilst exploring this  old Italian town, famous for its wine and cheeses during their honeymoon. Once again Italy was back in our thoughts as Joe and Kate told us how they had spent their honeymoon in a  old Italian farm house situated high on a hill top.  Surrounded by stunning views of the Umbrian countryside the farm was a haven of tranquility, complete with swimming pool and Hammocks. Our minds were made up, Italy here we come!

We stayed at the La Cassetta nel Bosco near Perugia, Umbria.  Accessed by a steep farm track which our little fiat 500 struggled daily to negotiate, it was everything Joe and Kate described and a beautiful and peaceful location close to the regional capital of Perugia. Our daily excursions took us to Assisi and Perugia before venturing over to Tuscany where we had a day visiting Montepulciano and Pienza. The towns and the countryside around Tuscany were everything we had envisaged.

 Although not originally in our schedule  we decided to spend our last two days in Florence. Having said goodbye to our lovely hosts Bianca and Gerhard we left later than planned on Saturday morning.. As we headed north we could see the shimmering waters of a large lake in the distance. Low on fuel we exited the motorway and stopped in a small village on the lake named Passignano sul Trasimeno.  It was a stunning day, the sun was shimmering off the water of the Lake as a number of local people  drifted back and forward along the shoreline.. The views across the lake to the rolling Tuscan hills on the horizon were breathtaking and we immediately fell in love with this little town. What we hadn't realised was that we had only scratched the surface.. As we strolled deeper into  the town we slowly began to wind our way up hill  along the narrow cobbled streets of Passignano  We eventually arrived at the Church overlooking the town where we climbed to the top of the tower. It was worth the effort as we were rewarded with the most amazing views over the blue heart (local name for lake Trasimeno).

We stayed far to long having pulled in to get some fuel this captivating lakeside idle had delayed our arrival in Florence and we needed to get going. We arrived at our hotel on the outskirts of Florence a lot later than planned. After a quick bit of research we decided to drive into Florence and park up at the Piazza de Michelangelo. The journey there on a Saturday night  along the  narrow high walled streets was great fun. Caught in a convoy of fast driving Italians eager to get into Florence, the journey was a mixture of  Monte Carlo GP meets the Italian job, as we raced along in our Fiat 500!

Having arrived in the Piazza , the views from here over Florence are not to be missed. The piazza had such a cool vibe. A cosmopolitan mix of young and old alike, all enjoying a Saturday evening overlooking this beautifully lit city.  We made our way down along the south bank of the river before finally enjoying a typical Italian meal at bar Bevo Vino.

We returned again on Sunday morning and spent most of the day exploring the piazzas, churches and museums while refueling often with plenty of Gelato Italian Ice cream. Before we knew it the day was over and we headed back towards Pisa and our flight home without even time to see the leaning tower. 

Italy was everything and more than we expected. The  laid back, and relaxed life seems to so much less frantic than here in the UK. From the beautiful countryside of Umbria and Tuscany to the magnificence of  Florence it was a wonderful place to visit and photograph. I hope we will visit again one day but the world is a big place and theres so much more we want to see.  So for now its Ciao, and to Joe and Kate thanks for the tip, we loved it!

The Extraordinary ordinary moments

That’s what life is - this collection of extraordinarily ordinary moments. We just need to pay attention to them all. Wake up and pay attention to how beautiful it all is.
— Alexander Payne

The chance to pay a flying visit to stay with Jack and Rhianna meant that we could spend some time with them and with their son Harry. We would never leave home for the weekend without a camera however the intention was not to do any photography as such but just enjoy the weekend.  With all the adults still a little fragile from the night before (especially me) Sunday morning was warm and sunny. Jack and Rhi had spent weeks working on the back garden so it seemed as good a place as anywhere to recover.  As the morning unfolded I grabbed the camera out of the bag to capture some candid moments of Harry and his play mates, he was the only child but not the biggest kid! It was only when I got home and reviewed the images on my computer I realised that what I had captured was those extraordinary ordinary moments. Carmen is currently reading Ruby Wax new book on "Mindfulness". Although no expert my interpretation of this is being in the moment, of appreciating the here and now. So often we only get the camera out for a birthday or on holiday but its these times that will always remain in the memory.  Its the ordinary moments we forget the time we take for granted with family or friends is what we need to appreciate and document.. "So wake up, pay attention or you might miss it how beautiful it all is."