Goodbye Bosco

Bosco has been part of my life for around 8 years.

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I’m next to him on the sofa with certain knowledge that this will be our last night together.

Around six months ago Bosco developed some small lumps on his leg. I thought that they were nettle stings at first but when they got bigger I took him to the vet.  The diagnosis was a tumour of some sort.  More information could be gained by general anaesthetic and a bit of scalpel work but the diagnosis would likely be the same if Bosco came through the operation ok.

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Soon after this Bosco started peeing blood and slowly became less active.  He seemed to go from being a puppy to an old man in a few months.

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We are down in the lounge tonight because Bosco can no longer make it up the stairs without considerable effort.  So he has half the sofa and I have the other.  His bed remains unused on the floor.

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Somehow grief has hit me particularly hard.  The bond between us and a mutual reliance has become unmeasurably strong  and the loss I feel is choking me and forcing me to cry like a child.

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Bosco loved camping either in a tent or in the van. On the hottest days he’d be snuggled with a nest of cushions, sleeping bags and mattresses.

Bosco has tumours all over his body and the most irritating one is in his eye socket slowly applying painful and sore pressure on his eyeball.  He has been losing his sight for a while now but this is too much for him to cope with.

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He always had a muscly bum but this has now wasted to skin and bones.  His lack of strength has made walking painful and sprinting has now stopped all together.

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We touched all night and in the morning had a short walk which Bosco wanted to be longer.  The vet had a free appointment at 09:20 so home for a last breakfast of kibbles and roast beef.  He wolfed this down so I quickly cut up some more beef for him. A handful of treats nibbled out of my palm and an adoring look of thanks.

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He then had a drink out of the rain water filled celebrations tub in the garden.  He preferred this to the bowl of fresh water in the house. Muddy puddles were his all time favourite tipple.

Bosco First Coat (1)

We jumped into the van and set off.  I drove slowly and carefully seeing the road ahead through moist eyes.  Bosco has always loved riding in the van and quickly settled down in the back.

Bosco Looking

A true sight hound. Often finding a better view to satisfy his inquisitive nature.

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Usual trips to the vet involve a bit of a struggle getting him through the double doors but today he showed no resistance.

Whilst waiting we hugged and he was calm.

The appointment was relatively quick.  A form was signed and injection administered. Right up until the end he cuddled into the crook of my arm.

The effect of injection was fast.   Bosco was first asleep and then with all his other dog friends. As he was lying on the floor not breathing but still warm he looked content.. His eyes were still open but the spark had faded and gone.

Bosco’s last big walk was at Burnham beach. He ran around and was inquisitive and active. When we got home he slept for a day.

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The drive home was empty and felt pointless. A purpose was needed so all his things were collected and taken to the tip. Remaining food and treats were dropped off at the animal sanctuary.

The hardest to throw away were his toys especially “Mr Quackers” a life sized duck which would be taken downstairs every morning and brought up each evening.

Bosco’s last Christmas. He was happy, content, active, a little lumpy and full of Turkey, Beef and Lamb.

We have kept his collar and tag which he hardly wore but everything else needed to go. It is surprising how much stuff a dog ends up having. No less than four beds and at least four variations of Mr Quackers.

I had a long work to do list but couldn’t bring myself to any form of jovial chit chat. So off to bed and this morning I look to the foot of the bed and there are no adoring brown eyes staring back at me. No persistent nagging for a walk and no purpose. Strangely I have a real need to stroke a head and tickle ears which over the eight years must have become a ritual.

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Why use a dog bed when there is a  sofa in the lounge. A master of being comfortable.

Bosco Looking Back

I am considering taking a walk around the village but seeing another dog might just spark my leaky eyes again.

Goodbye dear friend.

Bosco High Key

This is by far my favourite of the many photographs taken. It is not technically brilliant but shows his true character.

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There must be an easier way.

I’ve just spent an hour or more deleting spammy comments from my web pages.  One of the vagaries of WordPress I’m yet to get to grips with are the random ticks or crosses required to avoid unwelcome comments.  The next thing is each time I tried to bulk delete the system told me that the bulk action was too large.

There is probably a plugin to assist with all this but the very action of deleting and then emptying the trash is quite satisfying.

My mind began to wander and as I read some of the comments I couldn’t gather what these expected to achieve other than a pingback of some sort.

I am sure that within the thousands of spammy comments there will be some that were genuine but these have also been deleted with the rest.

So the new year starts with a clean website and a long to do list of information and articles I plan to add.

 

Here’s to 2015

Is there such a thing as the perfect camera bag ?

My loft, I discovered the other day has become an elephants graveyard for photographic luggage leading me to conclude that there actually isn’t a perfect bag suitable for any occasion or assignment.  Lot’s of women I know feel the same about shoes and handbags.  For my many activities I have specific needs in a bag.

When shooting landscapes I need a bag where everything is accessable quickly including my tripod and filters but where things will remain dry.

If walking is involved a rucksack is essential but it needs sufficient space for non photographic gear, to keep me warm, dry, hydrated and fed.  The Lowepro Sport or Dakine Mission have proved to be the best for this.

For travel things get strange.  Billinghams are stylish and elegant and look better with age.  The Hadley Pro is my firm favourite.  The downside is that small stuff could fall out of pockets.  Lenses also need to be stacked as the pockets are deep.

Think Tank Retrospectives hold loads of gear but when packed have a fatter profile than the Billingham Hadley Pro.

Tenba Messengers are great bags with strength, zips and really thought out accessibility.

I own and have owned quite a considerable amount of camera bags from various manufacturers:

Lowepro

Billingham

Peli

Tamrac

Cheap Chinese Canvas Bags

Tenba

Dakine

Kata

Domke

Thinktank

Calumet

Ona

CCS

Crumpler

Being very proud to be English I love to support English Manufacturers so Billingham bags have been a firm favourite.  I have owned a 445, 335 and Hadley Pro.

I love carrying the Hadley Pro whilst wearing a Barbour wax jacket and Hunter Wellington Boots.  This always makes me feel very English.

I have a beige 335 which is over 30 years old.  The leather is now cracked and the canvas worn out.  Although pretty much useless now I cannot bring myself to chuck it away.

I have a couple of black Hadley Pro’s which have been used mostly as briefcases.  One has worn considerably at the back and I chopped off the shoulder strap years ago as it just got in the way.  The other one is 5 years old and although it has had regular use and abuse it is still like new.

By far the most versatile bag I have owned is the Tenba Messenger.  I have a medium and large versions of this both in black.  The medium one has travelled with me all round the world and its multitudinous pockets and removable camera insert make this a very versatile bag.

I remember leaving a short review of the bag on the Tenba website and being pleasantly surprised to receive a personal email thanking me for my comments.  It felt like I was dealing with a business that really cared.

The Tenba is no way near as stylish as the Billingham but for travel it is more comfortable and everything is secure.  Like the Billingham it doesn’t look anything like a camera bag and holds laptop, ipad, notebooks and a full camera kit with ease.

The shoulder strap is nicely padded and wide and even when full the pad moulds itself comfortably to my shoulder whilst the bag sits snugly at my hip.

Kata is my least favourite bag brand.  I love the yellow lining which helps me find the contents easily.  The external styling is clumsy and when wearing the rucksack I felt that I looked like a Teenage mutant ninja turtle.  Protection wise, I could not fault the brand.  If the styling is to your liking these might just be the bags for you.

Lowepro

I have owned many and varied Lowepro bags: Classified, reporter, Pro Sport, Flipside, Passport Sling.  And a huge backpack of which I cannot remember the name.

All good bags but the only one I wouldn’t want to lose is the Passport Sling.  It is simple, comfortable, versatile, discreet and holds a lot of gear.

Most Lowepro bags are designed around DSLR kits and sometimes CSC’s get lost in them.

ThinkTank

Streetwalker Pro and Streetwalker Hard Drive, Retrospective 10 and 30 have been owned.

All solid bags with great features,  Comfortable but designed around pro DSLR kits.  All quite deep and CSC’s get lost in  them.

Domke

My main worry about Domke bags is the lack of zips, waterproofing , padding and dust protection.  I constantly worry that memory, batteries, filters etc will wall out of the pockets and become a very expensive replacement.

The earlier Domke bags did not accommodate a pro dslr kit very well.  The new range of CSC’s fit much nicer into the bags.

Tamrac

A bit like Kata, you will either love or hate the styling of these bags.  The build is bomb proof and the built in storage for memory cards and batteries are great.  I particularly like the sewn in tabs that you can use to identify whether a card is full or not.

Dakine

I have three Mission Photo backpacks.  These onsist of a really great daypack and a removable photographic padded bag which can hold a full pro kit:

Nikon D800 with Grip

Nikon D700 with Grip

14-24 2.8 Lens

24-27 2.8 Lens

70-200 2.8 Lens

Assorted Accessories

I will not part with these bags and use the inserts for storage or as a lighting kit.

Peli 1510

This bag was bought in the US from B&H primarily because it was 50% cheaper than the UK price.

It has a full padded divider insert and a sortation top compartment.  As a bag it has been used mostly for storage.  I bought it as robust carry on luggage but its empty weight almost takes me to certain baggage allowances. Perfect for expeditions.

CCS

It’s a great shame that these guys went under.  The classic blue padded camera and lens cases are still the most robust protection you can own.

The styles and sizing didn’t keep up with modern DSLR sizes but with the advent of CSC’s I can see these making a comeback and being worth more on Ebay.

I will often snap them up at boot sales and charity shops.  I once read that the reason CCS are no more is that they brought out the Heritage range of bags which went head to head with Billingham who sued them and won.  This forced CCS out of business.  CCS bags were made in Britain.  Maybe they couldn’t  compete with far east imports.

Ona

Looking for a stylish bag to house my X100s travel kit I ended up with the Ona Bowery.  It’s a little like a handbag and on balance better suited for a woman to carry.  I was going to buy a leather Brooklyn and then heard about an Indian manufacturer who made similar bags for a third of the price.  It is made with goatskin which is waterproof and supple.

 

 

Arthurian Legend

I’m not sure what a legend is other than a way of squeezing lots of money out of unsuspecting tourists.

I recently visited Glastonbury Abbey.  The monks that ran this place perfected the art of squeezing every available coin out of its clientele by fabricating stories about King Arthur.

 

The abbey is basically a massive ruin set in a very large open space that should be a public park right in the centre of Glastonbury.  Image

As with most places like this, professional photography is not permitted so to avoid any arguments I travelled very light just taking my Fuji X100s with its wide angle adapter attached.  This turned out to be the perfect tool to capture some of the majesty of the place.

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Places in the South West associated with King Arthur include Cadbury Castle, Tintagel, Chard and Glastonbury.  It would appear that this guy got around or that he ran an ancient money making franchise renting out his fame to any historical tourist attraction.

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He was apparently buried in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey then dug up and moved inside the abbey so that pilgrims had a focal point to visit.  Then during Henry the Eight’s reign the remains were dug up and moved again.

Glastonbury is a great place for casual people watching.  I often walk around the town in my clothes from M&S and feel very weird and out of place almost tempted to rush into a wizard shop and purchase some hemp clothing and a cape, throwing away my Clarks comfy walkers in favour of some open toed sandals.  So far I have resisted.

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Sometimes the tourists can’t resist and spend their money on crystals, wands or funny hats.  Each to their own and may the tourist money keep on flowing in to the area not just in the summer months either.

There is a thorn in Glastonbury said to have been planted by Joseph and each year a cutting is taken and sent to the Queen for her Christmas dining table.  A cynical and slightly twisted part of me wonders what she makes of this gnarled old twig that turns up every year.  Does it even get to to her line of vision or does it become a rather elaborate piece of kindling.

 

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I will spend parts of this year seeing what other mythical tourist attractions I can dig up.  I may revisit Corfe Castle and learn some more of its history.  It is by far the most impressive castle ruin in the country.  I wonder if King Arthur ever popped in for a cream tea.

 

Tips for Stunning Property Photography and selling your home

If you really want to sell your house.

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The above picture will get 30% more clicks on property websites than the picture below.  Good camera angles, vibrant skies, lush and uncluttered lawn are what buyers are hoping to find.

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Our society has become increasingly more visual.  With so many bits of information constantly vying for our attention having a great set of images to showcase your home will guarantee more interest and this equals more offers.

When we trawl through Rightmove or equivalent we are deep down hoping to find our ideal home and one of the ways we determine what is right for us is to subconsciously imagine ourselves living there by scrolling through the available sales images.  These are the hook to encourage us to find out more by reading the particulars then arranging a viewing then writing a cheque.

So here is a quick bullet list of the main things I look for  when photographing clients homes.

1- A great external shot is where everything starts. It needs to be bright with no distractions.  Sky needs to be contrasty and blue but not so artificially blue that the picture looks unbelievable.  Distractions could be cars, people, refuse and recycling bins, bicycles, toys, dead plants, signage, rubbish, clutter, open doors or windows, evidence of pets, junk mail, milk bottles.  Hide all this out of shot.

2 – The garden shot should be devoid of washing lines, washing, gardening stuff i.e. wheelbarrows, hoses etc. Gnomes, old bits of wood, toys, broken furniture, rusty bbq’s etc.  Again it should have a contrasty and realistic sky.

The lounge should have rugs removed, these feel homely but in a two dimensional photograph they make the room look smaller.  General clutter should be hidden including remote control’s, newspapers, extension leads, board games,

Most people have a list of ranked priorities when finding their new home:

1 – Price

2 – Number of Bedrooms

3 – Size of Garden

4 – Parking

5 – Kitchen Size

6 – En Suite

Once these ranked piorities are determined there then comes more ethereal  questions including:

– Could I visualise myself living there

– Will my furniture look right

– Is the current decor to my taste

– could I make the decor to my taste

Then there are some human basic needs that we look out for:

– warm

– safe

– comfortable

– light

– space

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Boutique bedroom or bomb site.  An oasis of calm, a retreat, somewhere to relax and unwind.

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Most estate agents photograph your home with a compact camera.  Whilst in some circumstances the resultant pictures are adequate they do not make your home stand out from the others for sale.

Compact cameras have tiny lenses that cannot allow sufficient light to make your home look bright and airy.  Neither do these cameras have wide angle capability so your rooms often look cramped and small.

The sensors in compact cameras are often much less than a quarter of the size of a professional camera and detail is lost and pictures can look fuzzy.

To summarise, the pictures that often end up on rightmove do not do your property justice and your litsing sits with all the other adequate listings on the site

If you really want to sell your home there are things that you can do to help you get more viewings and these mean more likelihood of offers being received and then a sale being agreed.

We are professional property photographers.  We have perfected techniques to show off your home to its best.  Here is a look into our technique to make your home stand out.

We aim to get to your home as quickly as possible when you decide to sell.  We are recommended by estate agents and work with you directly.

There are six key elements in ensuring the best pictures of your home.

1 – Equipment.  The best photographic equipment to really capture your home.  Large wide angle lenses with wide light gathering apertures and the biggest available sensors.

2 – Qualified and experienced photographers.  With the knowledge and skill to bring your home to life in a photograph.

3 – Room dressing.  Preparing each room to be photographed so people can imagine themselves living there.

4 – Balanced internal and external lighting ensuring each room looks as bright as possible and each window shows off the best available views.  We also carry a range of additional lighting and reflectors to really make your rooms stand out.

5 – Fast and responsive post production ensuring a strong neutral colour balance, even lighting, blue skies and emphasis on your homes key features and selling points.

6 – Availability and speed.  We are fast to photograph, fast to edit and fast to get your images over to your agent so they can begin the process of producing a stunning and compelling listing.

7 – After Sales Service, should we find that your home images are not the best they could be to sell your home we will come back and re-take shots to ensure you have the best chance of selling.

Photographing homes is a lot about subtraction.  The typical things in pictures of your home that do not assist in the sale:

–       Bins

–       Rugs

–       Remote Controls

–       Anything on kitchen worktops

–       Toys

–       Pet bed, bowl, toys, paraphernalia

–       Washing lines

–       Washing hanging out

–       Rotary Driers

–       Clothes over radiators

–       Dirty Windows

–       General Clutter

–       Cars on drive

–       Wheelie Bin

–       Bathroom Products

Features of your home that do sell it:

–       Light

–       Space

–       Warmth

–       Security

–       Cosiness

–       Cleanliness

–       Good Decoration

–       Spotless bathroom and kitchen

–       Landscaping

Key Photographic Techniques we will employ:

–       Use of a tripod to ensure that all images are sharp

–       Use of a full frame professional camera so that images are light

–       A distortion free wide angle lens so that straight edges are straight

–       Use of filters to remove or minimize distracting reflections

–       Use of additional lighting where required

–       Photographing from angles and planes that show your rooms to their best

 

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Oasis for entertaining or man cave.

 

 

 

 

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Cadbury Castle

An unfortunate name in that there is nothing on top of this hill made of wood, stone or even chocolate.  Just an iron age hill fortification with commanding views across Somerset and into Dorset.

The sky was quite overcast and the low bank of cloud threatens to curtail my photography earlier than originally expected.  For the 4th day in a row however, it is not raining which hopefully signals that the weather is on the turn.

I have been experimenting with four bits of gear today: the WCL 100 wide angle converter for the Fuji X100s, an 850IR infrared filter and a Hahnel compact C4 Triad travel aluminium tripod.  These accessories and more have been snug inside my Ona Bowery canvas and leather shoulder bag.  The tripod has been slung over the strap when not in use.Image

The Bowery bag is smaller than most girls handbags but holds all the accessories I need for a landscape of travel shoot.  My only criticism would be the seatbelt like shoulder strap which has little friction and slips off my shoulder with alarming regularity.  Most people probably wear this bag across their bodies but this feels slightly constricting and I don’t like the feeling.  Next time out I will attach the Billingham Shoulder Pad and see if this helps.  A really small bag encourages me to travel light and not lug unnecessary gear up the hill.

I was led to believe that the IR850 infrared filter turns skies black and green foliage white.   Either the one I have is not fit for purpose or I have been misinformed.  All it would appear that this filter does is act as an 8 stop neutral density filter turning everything red unless you are set to  Black and White.  I was also told that these filters cut through the haze as infrared light is everywhere.  This didn’t work either.

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The WCL100 wide angle converter will probable live permanently on the front of my X100s.  It improves camera handling giving a solid grip for the supporting hand to hold.  Taking the view from 35mm to 28mm which is more similar to my favourite vision focal length.

The Hahnel Triad tripod feels better made than the Velbon UT43D.  It doesn’t stand as high but packs down as small and light  as the Velbon.  The rubber leg turns don’t rip at your skin like the Velbon either which is a bonus.  I particularly like the head with quick release plate which is perfectly weighted and balanced for Fuji X Series cameras.

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A pleasant walk and overall I was impressed by the kit.  The filter was about as underwhelming as the lack of a chocolate castle.  Maybe it  is in the pub.

 

A simple way to make your pictures zing

Changing your perspective changes everyone’s perspective.

It seems like 92% of pictures posted online by photographers are taken at eye level.

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Height for the average westerner is 5’10”.  I’m 5’8″ so eye level is roughly 6″!below this.  My personal aim is to ensure that less than 20% of my shots are either significantly higher or lower than this.

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Present images offering your viewers a whole new view of the world.  Maybe a lower perspective is why kids learn so fast and look at things with wonder and intrigue.

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Landscapes shot from 3ft high give your images an amazing and instant foreground interest.  Focus a third into the picture at a relatively small aperture and you have yourself awesome depth of field.

Change the plane of your lens from vertical to downwards and emphasise a unique and skewed perspective.

Street photographs shot from the hip or sitting down just look intriguing and give your viewer a voyeuristic tingle.  Shot from height especially with strong shadows creates amazing abstract composition especially when rendered in contrasts black and white.

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Macro flowers, birds, family dogs shot from the same height create absolutely stunning imagery.

Putting strong diagonals in your composition draw the eye.

Whatever you shoot, however you shoot it don’t too often join the 92% club.

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This technique combined with effective use of aperture will go towards keeping your viewers wanting more.

Look out for further photographic thoughts coming soon.  Feel free to offer your thoughts or ask questions, maybe recommend another technique you would like me to cover.

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