I’ve never been to Paris before, even though I’ve been to France several times in the (distant) past. Because of this, I decided I would go to Paris in a weekend. In order to maximise the time there and to minimise the cost, I took an overnight coach with Ouibus. I left London on Friday night and left Paris on Sunday night, arriving home on Monday morning. It was tiring to say the least. For such a short stay, overnight on the coach is probably not recommended unless you are confident you can sleep on the coach. I didn’t.

It was definitely worth the trip because I’ve already decided I love Paris and now I want to live there. All I need to do is get a job, and to do that, all I need to do is learn to speak French properly.

This time round was a bit of a flying visit, but it gave me the opportunity to see the famous sights. I also managed to familiarise myself with how the Metro works and how to get by in bars, cafés and restaurants. Furthermore, I got a good feel for the general layout of the city and built up a kind of map in my mind of where everything is. This has been very useful, and next time I visit it will probably be for a few days. I’d recommend booking travel far in advance, because you can take advantage of cheap deals on either flights or Eurostar for a much shorter journey.

I stayed in a great hotel; Hotel Magenta 38, in the 10th Arrondissement, which is quite a lively area since it is a very short walk from Canal Saint-Martin, famous for its bars and nightlife. I found a great deal on booking.com and it cost €35 for the night. It’s also only about 100m from a Metro station. The staff are friendly, the rooms are very clean and comfortable, and you can leave luggage there before checkin if you arrive early.

Visitor tips

No one wants to read everything that I did, so I’m not going to write it, but as a result of my visit, here are a few things that I would point out to anyone who hasn’t been to Paris before:

  • Don’t look like a tourist. I know it’s difficult because you’re likely to be carrying a backpack and a camera around your neck.
  • You are a prime target for thieves, pickpockets and scammers, whether you are tourist-like or not. There are plenty of them in the key tourist spots. They are very insistent so this can be very intimidating. Be assertive, don’t engage in conversation with them, don’t let them try to sell you anything, don’t let them convince you to sign a piece of paper because these are all distraction techniques.
  • Learn some basic French phrases. This is important because you will earn respect from people there, and they will be far more inclined to assist you, and help you if you get into difficulty etc. Usually they will recognise that you are English, and will respond in English.
  • Go on the Metro to Trocadero after dark, and view the Eiffel Tower from Palais de Chaillot (Google map here).
  • Remember that all accommodation has to charge a city tax, so expect to pay another couple of euros per person per night at the end of your stay.
  • As awkward as it may seem, if you want to go to a bar or café, just take a table and sit down. A waiter will see you and will come and take your order, whether it is just for beer or coffee, or for food. You don’t need to go to the bar, you don’t need to ask for a table.
  • For any table service, I like to leave a tip, but I understand that you don’t have to. Search Google for advice on leaving tips before you go.
  • Install Google Translate on your phone. This is very useful app, and you can even download chosen languages for offline translation, so download English and French before you travel. Remember that Google Translate is really not very good at translating sentences, but is great for single words or two word phrases. If you can’t pronounce a word, at least you can get the translation and show the screen!
  • Install the app ‘Paris Metro’ (iOS | Android). You can search for stations, search for landmarks and get route guidance. By the way, their London Tube Map is great too.



For a few years now I’ve been contemplating doing a degree through the Open University. At first I couldn’t decide what subject to study; several subjects interested me, and I was often thinking about studying either French or photography. The more I thought about it this year, less sense it made to choose anything other than computing, having worked in IT for 15 years.

Having finally made a decision that I would do a BSc (Hons) in Computing and IT, I’ve now committed to it, and I start on 1st October 2016. As for the reasoning, it’s mainly for my own interest; the need to get a more in depth knowledge of IT. I also hope that it will develop my career further, but I guess that’s expected.

Let’s see how it goes.

Let’s see how it goes. It’s a long time since I’ve done any formal study, and I didn’t exactly work well school, but in my mid twenties I did A Level photography in evening classes.

When I was leaving school fifteen or so years ago, I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to go to university. I was lucky when I left school, and managed to get a job straight away and that sparked my interest in computers. Since then, I have gained skills by my determination to solve problems.

So I’m starting with the module TU100, My Digital Life; an all round introduction to IT, which consists of tutor marked assessments, and fortunately, no exams.

Greenwich Park, London - taken with iPhone 5s

So often I see, hear and read about people who always have to have the best and latest camera, or always need to upgrade their camera; in some ways I’m a culprit of this too…having upgraded digital SLRs twice in about twelve months, but now I’m going to stick with what I’ve got, which is what I believe to be a happy balance between performance and value. I believed would be a sensible next step after much consideration and research.

The camera industry is massive, even if you only consider two of the big brand competitors like Canon and Nikon. It is easy to get sucked in to the marketing ploys used to encourage the average consumer as well as professional photographers to part with their money. I’ve been quite happy with older, second hand cameras, and it was only because of a particularly good part exchange deal that I even made this latest upgrade in the first place.

But my question here though is, do we even need all this?

Taking a look on Google for some compilations of the most the ‘most iconic images’ shows a real emphasis on the message that the photographer is portraying, and I notice that the vast majority of these are from a long time before digital cameras were even invented. Dare I say it, there are photographers from the 1920s and 1930s who took much better pictures than the vast majority of photographers today (I use the term ‘photographers’ fairly loosely here, before anyone gets offended). There’s no denying that cameras are getting better and cheaper, but how do we define ‘better’? Largely, it is more megapixels and better performance in low light. Better quality optics mean lenses are improving too, although professional grade lenses would often tend to outlive the camera bodies in terms of their useful life. Cameras’ abilities to make decisions on aperture and shutter speed, autofocus and to follow moving subjects are constantly improving, but really we don’t have to go back very far in the timeline of photography to when there was no such thing as a camera that could do any one of these things.

There are some great examples of work where basic equipment has been used, and everything I’ve said here has been said before by other people time and time again, but I think it needs to be. One great demonstration to prove that the camera doesn’t matter is this series of images by Wilson Tsoi. Even at the time of shooting in 2008, the Canon Powershot A620 that he used was a three year old, basic point and shoot camera.

Another great example I’ve found, and I realise that there is a lot of additional equipment involved with this one, but I really want to emphasise the camera itself. Lee Morris is a cofounder of Fstoppers.com, and he did an entire fashion shoot using an iPhone 3GS. It’s worth a read, and the video embedded in the article is well worth watching too.

Blue sky and clouds taken with iPhone 5s

Blue sky and clouds taken with iPhone 5s. Headline image also taken on iPhone 5s.

I’m certainly not wanting to say don’t go and upgrade your camera, or to buy the cheapest one you can find, because you may find yourself disappointed with the results, but I think it’s important to realise that owning the best camera and carrying it around with you does not make you a photographer. Yes, the camera can do a lot of calculations for you, and yes you can do a lot with presets in post production, but a photographer understands the limitations of what the camera is able to do and how the camera makes its decisions. But most importantly, a photographer has the creative eye, the patience, the timing and the foresight to use whatever camera they have available to them to capture something they have seen in order to tell a story.

If you’re wanting to get started in photography, start with something cheap; probably a used entry-level Digital SLR (make sure it has manual controls, and learn to use them), and then upgrade only when you really feel that you have outgrown what the camera can do for you.

After a somewhat unsuccessful attempt with the Kodak Brownie as described in my previous post, I’ve decided to park that one for the moment. I have now moved on to the 1959 Kodak Retina II S, which I previously wrote about here: Vintage Camera #2, and has been my carry-around camera for the last three weeks. The first thing that struck me after I processed the first film from this camera is that I actually had 36 decent, usable negatives.

This is a really nice camera to use; it is very solidly built, and actions are confirmed with a positive mechanical feel. It seems that the shutter speeds are still operating at more or less what they say they’re meant to be, and the inbuilt light meter is still accurate (unless of course both have deteriorated in performance by the same relative amount, and now just happen to cancel each other out to give the same result!), so I think the images are pretty much what I expected in terms of exposure.
One thing I have noticed with this camera though, is that any exposure slower than 1/30s seems to cause the shutter to stick. There is some sort of clockwork device, which doubles up as a self-timer, that appears to have to be cocked beforehand, and seems to delay the shutter closing. I would imagine that the coil in this spring has suffered some fatigue over the years. Even with this restriction though, there is plenty of flexibility, with apertures from f2.8 to f22, and a fastest speed of 1/500s.

The stegosaurus photo in the gallery below (last image) is the best example to show off the shallow depth of field of f2.8. The Retina II S is a Rangefinder camera, which many might say is very easy to focus; simply align the overlaid image in the centre circle with the main image behind. That’s all well and good, but my eyesight for things like this is, frankly, not the best, and when I shoot in digital, auto focus is really the only thing that I let the camera do; beyond that, I tend to shoot in manual mode.

Overall I’m really enjoying using this camera and I’m going to stick with it for a bit longer before I move on to another. I’ve put a few of my favourite examples from the first two films in the gallery below:

Camden Bridge, 1924 Kodak Brownie

I’ve been intending to get back into film photography for a long time. After completing an A Level in photography eight years ago, I rewarded myself with a second hand Digital SLR, and never picked up a film camera again. That has all changed now though. I couldn’t warrant the cost of paying £10-odd a time to get films processed without even getting prints or a CD of them, and especially not knowing whether Continue reading

Is photography Art?

1. the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be app

On The Guardian’s website today, I read an article, obviously by a regular columnist, talking about the most expensive photograph ever to be sold, at $6.5m (somewhere north of £4million). The columnist states Continue reading

Horsham Piazza Italia, in its eighth year in 2014, and billed as one of the biggest free events in the South (well maybe West Sussex), is a three-day event over Easter weekend celebrating all things Italian, including markets, music and cars.

Good Friday saw in the region of 140 Ferraris in a rally through town, then parked up for many thousands of visitors to enjoy. You will find my pictures in various places online, but a selection of my favourite images are in an album on my Facebook Page.

It wasn’t all Italian though, Saturday saw a day of Minis and BMW ‘Minis’, and Monday showed an eclectic mix of supercars and many classic Fiat 500s and Alfa Romeos.

Despite everything else going on, I was somewhat blinkered by the supercars. I’ve never been a massive fan of Ferraris, but seeing many of them so close and in such immaculate condition has certainly changed that for me. My highlights were probably some of the other supercars on Monday…and the noise of each of the cars arriving and leaving.

Here are some of my favourite images from supercar day on Easter Monday. You’re more than welcome to add your comments to the post as everyone else can identify these cars much better than I can.

If you’ve enjoyed these, please share this post with your friends using the sharing buttons below.

Looking across the platforms and trackbeds

The old railway station at Christ’s Hospital, known as ‘West Horsham Christ’s Hospital’, was opened at the start of the 20th Century, at the time the Christ’s Hospital school relocated from London because they wanted more rural surroundings. The school contributed to the cost of constructing the station, which consisted of seven platforms when it originally opened.

The size of the station in such a rural area owes itself to planned development of a large town for which it could serve, however Christ’s Hospital had already bought much of the surrounding land, probably to prevent too much building around them…precisely why they wanted to move out of London. As such, the town never materialised, and although the extra lines, heading directly to Guildford, were well used, the ticket sales at the station remained low (due also in part to the school pupils boarding, thus not needing to travel every day) and the Horsham to Guildford line was closed in 1965.

Trackbed with platforms either side

Trackbed with platforms

The station was subsequently reduced, and the grand station building was demolished in 1972, at the same time the number of platforms was reduced to two. Some of the railway beds remain in place and form part of the Downs Link and other public footpaths, the buildings have long since been demolished, and all that remains beyond the two existing Christ’s Hospital platforms are a number of overgrown platforms and track beds. A bricked up arch at the end of the subway is the only trace visible in the current station.

You can’t get to the disused platforms via the station, though there is a footpath just before you enter the car park, and they are easily accessible this way.

When I went it was early dusk, I had quite a trek back home but it was still light when I got back. That’s not to say it wasn’t slightly eerie being there on my own. It was incredibly quiet. The photos are deceiving…every picture included here was taken with a 5-25 second exposure on a tripod so it looks like daylight. I did take videos but they’re even poorer quality than the Blair Witch Project (although probably more atmospheric), so I’m not going to include them here. Also nearby are a pair of derelict cottages which were inhabited by dairy workers whose job it was to load milk from the dairy onto the trains. Exploration of these, though, is for another day.

Yesterday I went exploring near Horsham, and discovered further World War II defences on the Arun-Ouse Stop Line; a small bridge crossing the river Arun west of Horsham was defended by two tank traps or ‘coffins’, designed to stop tanks from getting through and crossing the bridge. Another little experiment with off-camera flash, although I wasn’t well equipped with tripods and diffusers so I was a bit limited with what I could do.

There is a large pillbox very nearby, located in a private garden. Until recently it was heavily overgrown, but has been cleared and I believe it is being used as a garden shed (note that it’s easy to see but there is no access to this pillbox at all).

So I have never really done any portrait photography, aside from a module in my A Level studies when I was in my mid-twenties, oh, and a couple of wedding shoots. I Had never really liked the idea of it before, and always focused on landscapes or inanimate objects, and occasionally animals. But it’s something I’d really like to get into a bit now, I’ve spent a lot of time looking on 500px.com at portrait images, head shots, HDR portraits, urban exploration images including people, and it’s a whole field that I feel I’m missing out on.

Over the last year or so I’ve invested in an external flashgun, and more recently a wireless remote flash trigger, which enables me to use the flash off-camera. This has already given me a lot more control over lighting an image, but I’m looking to get more equipment in the near future. I’ve discovered that a lot of this stuff is very cheap, and that I can get additional flashguns for about £40, which it turns out are actually used by quite a lot of top professionals. The only form of diffuser I currently have is a Primark laundry basket, but it seemed to do the trick for my first experimentation, and has gone to prove that it is worthwhile investing in a soft box or diffusing umbrella or the like.

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

So I don’t have a willing model, and I’ve always avoided having my own picture taken, and was therefore a bit stuck, but decided to experiment using a remote shutter release taking pictures of myself. I know it’s slower, but there’s no expectation then!

I know I’m not smiling; if I do have to have my picture taken, I will try to avoid a forced smile. So here is my first attempt, plenty more to come hopefully.