Category: Events

The Photography Show

I’ve never visited a Photography trade show before, in previous years there has been one at the NEC called Focus on Imaging but that was replaced this year with The Photography Show, and I decided to head along and see what was happening. A four-day event in two halls of the NEC vying with such other conferences as the Santander Convention and most prestigious of all The Concrete Show, the Photography Show promised stands and stages and all sorts to see and do.

Armed with our tickets a couple of friends and myself caught the train from Milton Keynes to the NEC in Birmingham. Not as straight-forward as it sounds that, the moral of the story is to double-check which train you are getting on just in case you end up at the wrong end of the country – but hey we made it, and had a scenic tour of the platforms at Rugby station as well while we waited for the correct train to catch up with us.  Whoops.

Hall 12

The Nikon stand dominates the entrance to Hall 12 at the NEC, home to The Photography Show.

The Show was certainly large, halls 11 and 12 at the NEC are a fair old size and were fully utilised. All the major manufacturers were there with Canon, Nikon, Fuji and Olympus having some of the biggest stands. Lots of stands had displays with demonstration areas and Nikon in particular had it’s Nikon School doing demos and talks from various Nikon users – Joe McNally spoke on the Nikon Stage, as well as doing a 90min show on the Super Stage which was very interesting as he described some of his work for National Geographic and other magazines over the years. The Super Stage talks were additional charges, but for a tenner it was pretty good value – if somewhat cramped seating!

There were many good deals to be had, but my aim on the Sunday was to look around and absorb as much of the talks and demos as I could. This proved to be a problem because the show was probably a little too crowded to be honest. Manfrotto had a stage with demos on lighting and reflectors amongst other things, and the two that we saw were very interesting. The problem with it was that you were standing in the walkway and it got crowded very quickly. Taking a shot of the model was tricky for example, and it wasn’t helped that just behind us the Hasselblad stand were doing equally good demonstrations so bottle-necks quickly formed. Similarly the Live Stage and Catwalk had interesting features and talks too, but again while I wanted to try and take shots of the Karate demonstration the crowd was 4 or 5 deep so hearing what was happening was tricky enough, let alone photographing it.

The one area you could photograph in relative space and peace was the garden section, a small corner with live plants to practice macro photography, an interesting idea which worked well. I’ve seen some great shots of the photographers at work there, crouched down with lenses close to the flowers.

And what were the show offers like? There were so many stands selling everything from printers to camera straps, and everything in between. My target for the show was NOT to look at the lenses. I don’t need a new lens, they are expensive. But oh so shiny. So yes I did look – although not at the price tag! Having checked out the offers – and comparing them with the internet back home – I drove back on the Monday armed with a shopping list and acquired myself some new studio lights, which will make the studio far more versatile and a couple of other small bits and pieces.  I personally think I was very restrained…

So was the show worth the visit? Definitely. It was the first year, it was very well attended – ridiculously so on Monday it was so crowded and hopefully next year they’ll make some more space to allow better interaction with the live demonstrations – that was probably the only downer on the show this year. The 2015 dates are already announced, keep the 21st-24th March free…and the wallet loaded!

Party Season

A little over three years ago we met six other couples in the same boat as us – about to crash headlong into parenthood. The NCT course helped a bit with the impending arrivals, but more useful was the friendships formed. To this day those friendships have stood and the kids are all friends too, which is great news. The original seven children have also been added to in some cases, so now we have an NCT group of eleven with a twelfth on the way.

NCT in their course-planning wisdom arrange for the courses with all the parents-to-be at the same stage of pregnancy more-or-less, which made perfect sense at the time as we could support each other and know what was happening etc. Of our group Joshua was the first to arrive on 4th September and our Megan was the last arrival on 12th October – and she should have been later than this – but we were caught between two courses so obviously had the earlier one (it would have been embarrassing for NCT had they booked us a course on how to be parents which happened after the birth).

Joshua at his party

Joshua playing Pass the Parcel with his Daddy

Now a bigger nightmare is manifesting itself: party season. Four weeks, seven parties – soon to be eight parties. The kids love it, lots of party time and food and games and time with their friends but boy is it hard work for the parents!

So far I’ve been able to attend two of the parties – my work roster has prevented the rest – and obviously the camera has gone along with me. Photographing children and parties is obviously an art form, and probably one I’m I’ll equipped for. Kids just don’t stand still!!! You can’t really use flash as its too intrusive and there are just too many people around so I’ve been experimenting with high ISO settings and using the 70-200 f/2.8 lens with the VR turned firmly ON!

I’m lucky in a way really. Having upgraded from the Nikon D7000 to the D600 a year ago I gained a feature on the camera called “Auto ISO”. It does exactly what it says on the tin, boosts the ISO to meet the shutter speed set. On the 70-200 it is generally 1/200th which has meant in a village hall the ISO has been as high as 5000, very occasionally at the top whack of 6400. And the noise is impressively low on the D600, with very little post-editing the pictures are usable. Not competition quality maybe, but some nice little gems have come out of the two parties I’ve done.

Of course the other way of guaranteeing a good shot is to take flipping hundreds of them. Generally if you squeeze off five or six shots quickly of a running child you’ll get one good one, so setting the camera shutter to “Continuous High-Speed” mode gives you six frames per second, and the possibility with the D600 to shoot upto 15 shots before it starts buffering. At both parties I found I got a hit rate of about 15% keepers. The rest were trashed.

Thinking back to how people used to use cameras, I have no idea how they managed. Stick one roll of film at a specific ISO in and then take just 36 shots and have to wait a couple of days for them to be processed.  Mad.

I’ve got one party left to attend – that of our own pint-sized terrorist in early October. The camera will be with me, but I can’t help but think I’ll be a bit busier at this one so will hopefully have some support there too… Then the presents and parties can go quiet for a while. At least until Christmas.

Hiroshima Memorial

August 6th sees the anniversary of the WWII bombings of Hiroshima in Japan, and the day is marked by a memorial service in Milton Keynes. Run by the monks from the Buddhist Temple on Willen Lake this is an annual event which sees a service at the foot of the Peace Pagoda and then the floating of lanterns into the North Lake.

Now, every year I say “ooh must put that in the calendar” and every year I forget. Yesterday was no different and it was only when scrolling through Twitter at 7:30pm that I realised the service was starting. At 7:30pm. D’oh. Anyway, camera bag was loaded and ready so I headed out to the Lake to see what was occurring. The first rude shock was that the North Lake car park is now pay and display – until 10pm. Really?! No cash, hmmmm. Best sneak off round to the play area near Willen Church and hope I can park there. Yep, one space left. Phew.

Click on the image to view the Hiroshima Memorial gallery

A chanting monk beats the drum as the crowd moves to the lake.

Last year the memorial service was held inside the Temple because of possible showers, this year the weather was set fair so was held under the shadow of the Peace Pagoda on the low stage there. A variety of speakers from a whole raft of faiths made speeches, and there was some music as well. Lots of people turned out to watch the service and it all went off rather well. It was sombre, quiet, reflective, but at the same time people seemed to enjoy themselves there.

As the sun set the Monks led people from the Pagoda down to the waters edge and the lanterns were passed down to volunteers and floated in the lake. I was surprised how shallow the lake is – people familiar with Willen will no doubt remember the posts in the water near the pagoda – well, you can walk out there at the moment up to your thighs only, a far cry from the winter when the water was lapping at the pub door.

The only failing of the evening was the weather – not rain, but lack of wind. The lanterns bobbed merrily on the water but unlike previous years when I’ve visited they did not drift across the lake rapidly but meandered slowly in the opposite direction close to the bank, so the sight of the lanterns wasn’t quite as spectacular as previously.

Still, a very pleasant evening remembering something very unpleasant from the past.