Shredding the gnar…

Well, we’re right in the middle of the Winter Olympics, surrounded by slopestylers pretzeling, corking and double japanning. I can’t do any of this stuff,  barely even understand it! But I can appreciate a good downhill skier, and Charles is certainly that. I can only just keep up with him…

Ah, to be 18 again, and have the cojones to go this fast without fearing the consequences. He’s regularly 90/100+ kph, and has no sense of mortality – he’s just shredding the gnar…

Off the corduroy is where he’s at, but not me – I just catch an edge and face plant. Charles? Hits the apex and runs the white room…

I must admit when Charles finally alley-oops, tastes powder, & loses a ski, I do laugh my head off… It’s only natural, and I can see he’s ok. He’s has to climb back up the hill – steep, through the powder mash,… But then within a nano-second he’s back up to ridic-speed….

 

I want to be 18 again and ride for fun! What am I talking about,… I can still do this! Wait until next year and I’ll show you my switch right lip 270 pretzel out of the top rail, 450 on the down rail, butter pad, then cork 450 out, double cork 12, double japan, switch right, double cork 10 safety and finish with a double cork 10 tail. Believe it! Basta!!!

 

(PS – apologies to any true slopestylers out there, I know I have taken the vocab in vain, and don’t really know what I’m talking about…)


Enjoying the craic!

When I was a student I was good at doing this. Large quantities of beer were the norm, and recovery time was minimal. Nowadays a great evening out takes about 2 weeks to recover…

 

I guess the best way not to suffer is to stick to one particular drink, and in Dublin that can only mean one thing, and try to drink slowly over a long period of time. Perhaps I didn’t quite achieve that (drinking slowly…) but at least I stuck to the black stuff, and mighty delicious it was too…

The other way to forget that you can’t quite be a student anymore, is to surround yourself with your student pals and just relive the old days. And that’s what we did, to great effect. Enjoying the craic! Inside I still feel like I’m in my younger 20s anyway…

And at no stage did I give up the ghost, put my head in my hands and drown all my sorrows. This pic isn’t me!


Next year: Galway!!!


Champagne, in the snow…

How do you keep your spirits up when the weather is grim and grey? Drink bubbles of course! And the best bubbles are from the Côte des Blancs in Champagne, where chardonnay rules and the dosage sugar is kept low. So that’s where we go early December…

And blimey it was blanc, très blanc. We beat the snow by a day, but it caught us up. Not that it stopped us drinking the stuff, copious quantities, all in the name of research (to get our tastiest bargain…)

Épernay has a little festival first week in December – Les Habit de Lumière – well worth a visit if you want to see how the locals consumer their fizz…

Ahem…, several of the drinkers in these shots may well not be from Épernay at all… I shall not give their identities away…

Gimonnet and Bouquin Dupont came out top in our dedicated and fastidious research, so we stocked up (Mrs P cannot go a week without at least one glass of blanc de blanc); the car was loaded up and off we headed home, into the teeth of a storm and a slightly anxious ferry crossing. Didn’t spill a drop or pop a bubble. That’s the way to do it!

(Duchies – we missed you this year. Don’t go missing this again!)


Intimations of mortality

Looking at oneself is always an odd experience. Not in the fleeting way you glance at yourself in the mirror early morning when you’re brushing your teeth, but more when you really look, stare at yourself… You see things you know are there. And of course a camera makes you look in the most excoriating way. As a photographer, I quite dislike seeing myself in photographs. Too uncomfortable. Intimations of mortality and all that. Better to photograph the next generation, the youngsters. They might dislike being photographed (in Charles’s case, rather intensely), but at least they look good!

 

 


Zombies in Loughton

If you fancy a bit of trick or treating, then Loughton is definitely the place to go. And specifically the ghoulish, macabre, fiendish house of Wendy and David Greenhalgh, who are Halloweened up to the hilt. Every part of the house, and garden, and garage, and tree, and driveway, has turned into hell on earth for a weekend. Heaven knows what the lodger thinks….

When I was a kid, we did apple bobbing. Jeez – now it’s kids in the pot, corpses in the garden, and a trio of witches in the shed! Mind you, I checked out the kitchen and I could see some delicious looking toffee, so Thank God that hasn’t changed!

If you’re going to go over the top then do it properly, or improperly but extravagantly. “Extravaganza” might not actually quite be strong enough to capture the effect. Queens Road will ever quite recover, the Dementors have taken over…

Good luck for the party tomorrow. It’s going to be wicked!!!

For more on David and Wendy’s Halloween Extraordinaire, see Instagram: Halloweenwerewolf


Northumberland Castles, Seascapes, Big Skies and Roman Walls

Northumberland is a fantastic windswept rugged landscape. Big beaches, huge sky, imposing castles. A great area for photography, which is why I’m running a workshop there next year. I’ve just been on a quick recce to check out the locations. Here are a few resulting images.

Bamburgh Castle, a classic dawn and dusk location. Great for big land, and seascapes, beach reflections and rocky lead-in lines…

Alnwick Castle, home to much Harry Potter castle filming…

 

Holy Island and its famous boat sheds. Normally this is a great shot with Lindisfarne in the background, but scaffolding on the castle put paid to that this time (scaffolding that will be removed before the workshop thank heavens!)

Pilgrim’s Way across the mud flats of the estuary to Holy Island. I kept my feet dry and resisted splashing around in the mud…

Abstracts and long exposure in Berwick upon Tweed…

A day away from the seaside checking out Roughting Linn waterfall

No trip to Northumberland should be without a visit to Hadrian’s Wall. The Roman soldiers must have shivered and longed for return to the continent when they were posted here…

And finally, the famous Sycamore Gap on Hadrian’s Wall. Much photographed, but stunning nevertheless. Great location!

If you are interested in a trip to Northumberland, the workshop is 6th – 10th September 2018. Contact me at thomaspeck1@mac.com for more details or to request a brochure.  Stunning landscapes guaranteed.


Is Marseille really French…?

Is Marseille really French I wonder…? It’s such a brilliant hotchpotch of different styles, cultures and colours. Really it’s a bit of everything. Maybe the old greek Massalia-polis attitude lives on? Origins aren’t important, attitudes are. And Marseille has such a fantastic mixture of old and new. It’s a great city no doubt, and a couple of days work on the south coast of France never hurt anyone…

Here’s the old city, the Vieux Port, still looking good in spite of the stains on the mirror:

The basilica looks Moroccan, or a bit Eastern…., slightly Turkish…

 

The combination of old and new is very French, and in Marseille it’s done with great style. Here’s the single metal strip walkway bridge juxtaposed with the old port watch-tower.

 

The stunning Museum of the Mediterranean, closed on Tuesdays, because we are after all in France, so I couldn’t actually visit it…

 

 

 

There’s even a Brit influence in Marseille. Every French town has a covered market, but Marseille has a Norman Foster glossy mirrored-ceiling version.. Take a look, this is the right way up…

And so, back to the hotel for a very French breakfast with my traductrice, Jo Hair: animal artist extraordinary If you like a penguin, you’ll love this, check the link

(And finally, why did the Brits stick an “-s” on the end of Marseille…, Marseilles? Typical Brit sort of thing to do of course…)


Sri Lankan Faces

Sri Lanka is a wonderful country, full of colour, vibrancy and beautiful scenery. Here are some faces of the people we met over our 10 days in this fascinating country…

A young Tamil tea picker

 

A fire eater…

 

Ladies by the roadside

 

A gardener

 

The local butcher

 

A monk and his Mercedes

 

Tea picker in Ella


Birds on Sticks – the Judge’s favourite…

At the camera club we get to see a fair share of bird photographs – usually a bird perched on a stick. Easy to focus because it doesn’t move… Judges seem to love them. I don’t get it myself. This is one area of photography that flies straight over my head (ahem…)

 

But hold on! Before I get all snooty about avian snaps, maybe I should have another go myself…? So I did. And bloody hell, it’s hard. Especially if the damn blighter has taken off and started flying. Above is a Harris Hawk, and as you can see I haven’t managed to keep him very sharp in the image. A “fail” in the eyes of the judge.

The Peregrine is even harder (faster, a lot faster…), and that wall doesn’t do anything for the picture – nothing to set the bird apart from the background. Another fail…

What about some bird portraiture? A bit better this one (Lanner Falcon). Interesting face on shot, but what’s that blur in the bottom right? (It’s the handler’s shoulder…) Another fail.

Ooooh, getting better now with the owls (European and Tawny) In the eye of the Euro Owl you can even see my reflection… But hang on, this is bird on a stick territory. I’m trying to get away from that! (Self: Fail!)

Close up and semi abstract – now that’s more satisfying. And don’t those claws look sharp…

Here’s perhaps the most dramatic image. Great pose, half way between flight and stick (glove…) And the bird looks suitably Bird Of Prey-ish. Mmm, quite happy. But it’s not good enough for competition entry. I’m just going to have to leave that to the experts….

 

 


MoonWalk 2017: I wore my bra with pride…

Breast Cancer, it’s horrible, so how could I refuse to do my bit, get my moobs, along with my spare socks, stuffed into a bra , and walk a marathon overnight to raise some dosh for charity? Plus Mrs P has already done 3 (marathons that is, including a running one – she’s a toughie…). Time to man up, stick my chest out and get marching…

I’m not quite sure what black fur bras indicates about my predilections for sexy lingerie, and damned itchy it was too. How do the girls do it every day…? But here we are at the beginning, full of positive energy and slight nerves, given that I had done no training whatsoever apart from walking the dog…

15,000 women on the night (plus some men – not many, but a few plucky ones) Many, many, many bras on show and all of them decorated but functional. That’s a lady queue below – you know what for – one of the distinct advantages I had on the night being a bloke…

 

And we’re off! Decent pace and no rain. All smiles and chatter for the first few miles… (girls gossiping whilst walking, it comes naturally). Lovely support from good friends – Great to see you Sus and Jenny, “wooohoo!” (that was the tone of the evening…)!!! And we are still going strong by mile 10.

 

By mile 16 blisters are arriving, chit chat has faded, and trudge-drudgery has set in. Thank heavens for hot chocolate at Sloane Square plus a few swigs from my hip flask. The restorative powers of Brandy mixed with Grand Marnier are remarkable…

OK, I look a bit knackered at mile 25. But full of joy at mile 26! The end in sight, and an overwhelming feeling of relief… that I could get that damned itchy bra off at last!

So that was my first marathon: 8 hours of blister inducing walking, trussed up in a bra, surrounded by gaggles of women who didn’t stop chattering until the dawn chorus took over. Not bad for a Saturday night!

(I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who sponsored Mrs P and me. Your generosity helped push us over the line. If you read this and you would like to contribute – we all know someone who’s suffered from this cancer – then don’t hesitate to click on the link and do your bit. Thank you!)