Tag Archives: photography

I don’t need your consent

I’ve been taking photographs in public places (often called Street Photography) for around three years.  I’m as surprised as anyone that I’ve discovered an interest in documentary, social, street, urban whatever you want to call it photography.  I truly thought I’d take up photography and spend my time pointing expensive long lenses at wildlife, and expensive macro lenses at other kinds of wildlife.  I even blogged about it here.  I’m no good at it mind you, but I’m still putting in the effort and practice and hopefully over time I’ll improve.  I don’t feel that I have a very artistic eye, and so a lot of my photography is workmanlike, technically okay quality (focus, exposure, framing) but not necessarily always very interesting.

Anyway, that’s mostly an introduction.  In the three or so years I’ve been doing it, I’ve not had any trouble.  I even took photographs of armed police officers, and had some conversations with them, and never had any trouble.  It can be daunting, pointing your camera directly at strangers in the street.  Of course we don’t think twice about taking a photograph of friends or family and getting a few straggling strangers in the background, or taking snaps of attractions or tourist views, and again, catching a few strangers in the frame.  It’s different though when you know you’re pointing your camera at someone you don’t know, and they don’t necessarily know you’re taking a picture.

I try and be socially aware.  I avoid taking photographs of people I consider vulnerable, the definition of which is mine and mine alone.  I work hard not to take photographs of people ‘just because they’re attractive’.  I don’t take photographs for the most part of isolated children.  I take a lot of photographs in Old Market Square, and there are often kids playing in the water and fountains in the summer months, and I am aware of that and it informs where I point my camera and what I shoot.

However, I also know my rights as a photographer in the UK (but I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice).  They boil down to this – and I’m going to state them quite coldly.  I don’t need your consent.  If I’m in a public place, and you’re in a public place, then in general I don’t need permission to take your photograph, or a photograph of your children, or anyone elses children for that matter.  There’s a right to privacy within UK law, and that means that in some situations a photograph could be inappropriate despite the notion of it being a public place.  For example, photographing someone entering or leaving a family planning clinic could ultimately be an invasion of privacy.  But, within the bounds of decency and privacy, I don’t need your permission.  I do need your permission to use the images for ‘commercial’ purposes, but again, that’s actually a limited range of uses applied to advertising a product or service, or similar use.  I can take photographs all day of people in the street and publish books full of them and never need a model release form.

So I’ve never had any trouble.

Until today.

The Nottingham Beach is on again this year.  The council and am event company work together to turn the Old Market Square into the seaside.  There’s sand, water, rides, arcade machines, fish and chips, donuts, slushies, ice cream, it’s great.  The kids love it, families love it, and it’s always busy.  This year is no exception.  I went into the city today hoping it was going to be very sunny with heavy downpours.  I definitely get my best shots when people are surprised by sudden rain and go running.  Sadly for me it stayed dry, although I guess the families preferred it that way.  I hadn’t taken any shots of the sand area because there weren’t any interesting compositions and it was mainly just families having a good time.

I was speaking to Greté on Facebook messenger while eating a sandwich, telling her about the rides and the food stalls, and I said I’d grab her a few shots so she could see what the place was like.  So I took some of the fish and chip stand, the donut stand, the slushy stall (including a security/event management guy, and the lady running the stall since that were standing in front of it).  I turned, took a couple of the sandy beach, two of the water, and a couple of those inflatable ball things you can stand inside.  I was, as ever, conscious of the kids, and so I took wide angle shots showing the whole area.  I then wandered around a corner, decided not to take a shot of the surf machine (wasn’t running) and was about to leave, when I heard someone shout ‘oy’ behind me.

The guy from the slushy stall strode towards me, shouting, “You can’t take photographs here”.  I told him I could because it was a public space.  He switched immediately to, “You can’t take photographs of kids without their parent’s permission”.  I said sorry again, but I could do exactly that, although I hadn’t been.  By now he was beside me and made his first grab for my camera.  I stayed calm, held my ground, and said that once again, I knew my rights, this was a public space and so I was within my rights to take photographs.  We exchanged those views a couple more times, with him forcefully telling me I wasn’t allowed to take photographs of kids without their parent’s permission.  He made at least one more grab for my camera during this period.  After a couple of minutes, and me once again saying that I could, he said, “Let’s see what the police think then”?  I said I was more than happy for them to be involved.  I think that might have been the first moment where he wondered if he was on the right side of the conversation.

He picked up his radio, but before he could say anything, he caught the eye of an older member of staff who came over.  The first guy explained what had happened, I explained that it was a public space and I was within my rights to take photographs.  The first guy went off on his tirade about me taking pictures of the kids without permission, to which I said I didn’t need it but hadn’t been anyway.  I then tried to explain four times why I was taking the pictures, that my wife had said she wanted to see what the place looked like.  Each time I got three words into that, the first guy talked over me saying, “What are you, a nonce”?  Eventually, I just held the gaze of the second guy, and he got the first guy to stop talking.

The second guy then asked if I would show him the photographs I’d taken.  I know my rights, he can ask that, but he’s got no power to force me to do it.  However, it made no sense not to comply unless I wanted this to escalate further which I didn’t.  So I showed him the shots – about 10 of the Nottingham Beach, and then as we went further back doors, doorways, manhole covers, graffiti, you know, the normal kind of holiday snap.  Eventually he said something, I can’t remember exactly, but it was clear he’d seen enough and wasn’t worried.  The first guy was still unhappy, so I offered to delete the two images I’d taken with him in, I showed him me deleting them, and then I left.

My adrenaline was through the roof, and I was pretty fucking angry.  There are a number of reasons for being angry.  Firstly, 99% of the people in that location are taking photographs non-stop on their mobile phones.  Themselves, their kids, other kids, other people, without a thought in the world, and then posting them straight to Facebook or Instagram or Twitter.  I review every shot I take, and if I’m not comfortable with the content, or think that it paints people in a bad light, I don’t post it anywhere.  People with mobile phones sometimes automatically post everything to social media without even a second glance.  Secondly, and related to that, the only reason I got stopped is because my camera is large.  It’s not a long lens focally, but it’s a physically big camera and lens.  If I’d been using a smaller camera he wouldn’t have even blinked.

Street photography is important.  Even in an age where everyone has a camera with them, those cameras are increasingly turned towards the owners.  Even if street photography isn’t important, even if my photographs are worthless artistically and historically, they’re still mine, and I still have the right to take them.

Amusingly, I had completely forgotten that at the start of last week I changed the shooting mode on my camera.  My camera supports two cards, a CF and an SD.  For a long time, I’ve been using the CF card and running into the SD card only when the first is full, to give me a buffer in case I’m taking a lot of shots.  The SD cards are slower, so I don’t want to shoot to them constantly.  However, last week, after watching yet another YouTube video with someone saying ‘my CF card died’, I switched to dual card mode, where the camera writes a RAW file to the CF card, and a JPG to the SD card.  I had utterly forgotten this as I deleted the JPGs in front of the security guard.  Leaving the RAW files intact on the CF card.  Oh well.

When I got home I did some digging, and I can find no reference to the Old Market Square Nottingham Beach not being public access.  It’s possible I’m wrong, and that it’s designated as something else during the event.  I can certainly imagine the ‘bar area’ counts as something special, since it has to be licensed, but I believe I’m in the right about the other areas.  There’s unfettered access and no signage to suggest otherwise.  I also went looking for photographs of the beach online, and there are plenty, all of them including plenty of kids in the shots – because of course, the beach is full of kids.

I don’t need your consent, but I do have empathy, and I behave in a socially responsible manner.  But I’ll defend my right to take photographs in public.

For more information and advice about your rights – check out these links.

Lastly, here’s a few links to other photographs of The Nottingham Beach (none of these are mine).  I’ve avoided including ones taken by parents and then posted publicly to Instagram with close up identifiable shots of their children and other people’s children.

This is Notts summer 2017. #oldmarketsquare #nottingham #thebeachnottingham #nofilter #libertypointnottingham

A post shared by Liberty Point Nottingham (@libertypointnottingham) on

You get the idea.

The Exposure Triangle


I’m no expert.  This is my understanding of the topic, but I’ve had no formal education and only a very limited amount of practice.  Hopefully it’s useful, but you should definitely use it with the above caveat in mind and do a lot more research!

I did draw some pictures, including one of the exposure triangle, but then I remembered this is the internet.  If you google for ‘exposure triangle image’ you’ll get loads of them and they’re better than I could create.  Also, if you just search for exposure triangle you’ll find loads of videos and web pages, which probably explain it better than I do.


Photography is about many things – but one of them is getting a properly exposed image.   I’ve written properly in italics because before I even start going into my little intro, it’s important to remember that as the photographer you’re the person who chooses what exposure you want.  Exposure is an artistic choice.  You can expose in a way that reflects what you saw, but also, in a way which reflects a mood or some intent that wasn’t there at the time.  So while people will often talk about the correct exposure, remember that correct is an artistic choice.

That aside, there are four things that affect the exposure of an image.

  1. The amount of light
  2. The shutter speed
  3. The lens aperture
  4. The film or sensor sensitivity (ISO)

While you are sometimes in control of the amount of light and sometimes not, you are always in control of the other three.  Those three control points have a tightly coupled relationship, and since changing any one impacts the exposure of the image, to retain the same exposure you must modify one or two of the others.  This is why it’s called the triangle.


More light, means brighter exposures.  Wider apertures, slower shutter speeds and higher ISO all result in more light.  Narrower apertures, faster shutter speeds and lower ISO all result in less light.

If we assume for now that the amount of light you have is either intentional or fixed (i.e. it’s not something you can or want to change) then you need to understand how the other three controls affect the exposure, and the secondary effects each of them has.

Before we do that though, a very quick reminder of what exposure is.  Essentially, it’s how much light is absorbed or recorded by the film or sensor; the more absolute light the brighter the resulting image, where-as less light results in a darker image.

With that in mind, let’s look at how the three controls directly impact the exposure of the image.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed directly controls how long the camera shutter is open for, and hence, how much light streams in and hits the sensor.  The long the shutter is open, the more light the sensor or film is exposed to and so with everything else the same, the brighter the image will be.  This is true regardless of how much overall light there is, so in dark situations, longer shutter speeds (i.e. slower shutter speeds) still allow the film or sensor to gather more light.


The lens aperture is literally a measure of how wide the aperture (or iris) of the lens is.  Apertures are referred to in f-stops, and written like f/2, f/2.8, f/4.  How they’re calculated and what they really mean is enough material for a full post, what’s important here is that f/1.4 is wider than f/2, f/2 is wider than f/2.8, f/2.8 is wider than f/4 etc.  So smaller f-stop numbers are wider apertures and hence let in more light.  With all other settings static, wider apertures (e.g. f/4) will allow in more light and lead to brighter exposures than narrower (e.g. f/22) apertures.


Lastly, we have ISO (it’s not an acronym).  ISO describes how sensitive to light the film or sensor is.  The higher the ISO rating, the more sensitive the sensor is, and hence less light is needed for any given exposure than for a lower ISO.  At ISO 100, you need more light to give the same exposure as you do at ISO 200.  At ISO 6400 you need hardly any light compared to ISO 100 to get the same resulting image.  As ISO increases, with all other settings the same, the resulting exposure will be brighter.

Secondary Effects

Shutter speed affects motion blur (slower shutter speeds give more blur), aperture affects depth of field (how much of the image is in focus), and ISO affects noise (pixels which are too bright, dark or the wrong colour).

You might ask, why then do these things matter if you can change them in various combinations to get the amount of exposure you want?  You’d be right, you can.  ISO 100, f/2.8 and a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second, will give you an overall exposure the same as ISO 100, f/4 and 1/125th of a second.  By narrowing the aperture (from f/2.8 to f/4) we reduced the light entering the lens, so we had to decrease the shutter speed to compensate (from 1/250th of a second to 1/125th of a second).  Likewise, if we expose an image at ISO 800, f/5.6 with a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second, and then increase the ISO to 1600, we double the amount of light hitting the sensor.  In order to keep the same exposure, we have to either speed up the shutter (from 1/60th to 1/125th) or we have to narrow the aperture (from f/5.6 to f/8).

We worry because each of the controls also has at least one secondary effect.

  • Shutter speed also affects how much the subject of the photograph will be blurred (either caused by the camera or the subjects moving).
  • Aperture also affects the depth of field, or how much of the image is acceptably in focus (or out of focus, if you want that effect).
  • ISO also affects the amount of noise in the image.

Motion Blur

While the camera shutter is open, light streams in from the scene in front of it.  If the camera moves, or the subjects in the scene move before the shutter closes again, then they will be smeared or blurred in the resulting image.  How much movement blur you want of the subject is an artistic choice (again).  If you take photographs of a fast moving car with a very fast shutter speed (to remove all blur), you’ll end up with a picture of a car that looks like it was stationary.  Our brain needs to see some of the blur to feel the movement.  That’s why pictures of fast cars often include some blur of the wheels, for example, to give us that sense of motion.  However, if you want to freeze the action, maybe a picture of your dog catching a ball, then high shutter speeds are the way to go.  Also, when taking pictures, the camera is often supported by only our hands, and so is prone to moving a little (camera shake).  Reducing shake means speeding up the shutter so it’s open and closed before the camera can move very far.  Therefore choosing a shutter speed to give you the artistic effect you want or prevent hand shake determines one part of the exposure triangle, which means you have to manage aperture and ISO to get the image exposed as you wish.

Depth of Field

Apertures affect depth of field, which again, deserves a full post of its own.  But essentially depth of field can be thought of as the area inside which your content is sharp and in focus, and outside of which it isn’t.  The effect is gradual, so the centre of the area (the spot your camera has focussed on) is fully sharp and the edges are still acceptably sharp, but only just.  Beyond that, the subjects will be less sharp, eventually blurred beyond recognition.  Several things affect the depth of field (i.e. how deep the acceptably in focus parts are), and it’s important to remember aperture is only one of them.  However, keeping the other depth of field factors the same, aperture has a large impact.  The wider the aperture is, the shallower the depth of field is as a result.  At very wide apertures the depth of field might be very shallow; taking a close-up portrait at f/1.4 and focussing on the person’s eye might mean their ears are already starting to get out of focus, switching to f/2 or f/4 might result in their whole head being in focus.  Depth of field is useful for several artistic reasons, one of which is blurring backgrounds such that the primary subject of your photograph is much more obvious.  Landscape photographers usually want as much as possible in their photos to be crisp and in focus, and so tend to work at narrower apertures, such as f/11 or f/16 to get a deeper depth of field.


Last, but absolutely by no means least is ISO and noise.  Some people describe noise as the digital equivalent of film grain, but they’re not absolutely identical.  Film grain was caused by the chemical composition of the materials used to make up the film and for many people, it had a pleasing quality even when it was visible.  Digital noise is more random and affects the image in a different way and rarely looks pleasant.  However, it is true to say that higher ISO values result in either more noise or more visible grain, and if it’s not wanted then that’s a problem.  In digital photography, higher ISO ratings effectively mean the sensor is prepared to say ‘yes this pixel is lit’ with a lower level of certainty than in lower ISO ratings.  This means that it is prone to saying ‘yes’ when in fact, no photons landed on the pixel and instead it was triggered by nearby electrical noise.  It is, as always, more complex than that, but the summary stands.  If you use high ISO ratings, there will be lit pixels that don’t actually reflect the true colour or luminosity of the subject and so will show up as noise, and the higher the ISO, the worse this will be.

Early digital sensors were very noisy even at relatively low ISO ratings (like 800), these days, high end DSLR sensors can produce reasonably noise free pictures at much higher ISO ratings like 6400 or above.  While noise can be reduced in post processing, the effect of noise is to distort colours and to reduce sharpness in the resulting image.

How much noise you can deal with is a personal choice, and is also impacted by how large you view the images (or whether you print them).  Most photographers have a primary aim of keeping noise (and hence ISO) as low as possible.  So, while picking apertures or shutter speeds to provide an artistic effect, the ISO is usually picked to be as low as possible while still achieving the desired exposure.

Choosing a low ISO to avoid noise (and so reducing the brightness of the image), and hence forcing yourself to use a slower shutter speed to properly expose it, might introduce blur that you don’t want.  ISO therefore is a constant compromise of artistic look vs. digital noise.

Camera Exposure Control

All camera modes are valuable.  Each offer different levels of control and hence different levels of support for the photographer.  Which mode to use depends on the situation in which you are taking the photographer, the photographer’s preferences, and the desired creative result.

So now we know that to control the exposure of an image, we have to pick a combination of the available light, aperture, shutter speed and ISO.  We have to make those choices with the desired creative look in mind and to control the light arriving on the sensor to properly expose the image.  How then, do we get the camera to support us in doing that?

Most modern cameras (other than point-and-shoot) offer different modes for controlling the exposure.  The common ones are fully automatic, programme AE (often marked as P), aperture priority (A or Av), shutter priority (S or Tv) and fully manual (M).

Fully Automatic

In this mode, the camera picks shutter speed, aperture and ISO to expose the image properly (outside of creative choice of exposure, what the camera thinks is a proper exposure is enough for another post).  The photographer has no control of any of the exposure related settings.  On some cameras, this mode also includes other features like face recognition, automatic flash, automatic low light exposure, etc.

Pick this mode when you want to grab pictures in a range of lighting situations, and you’re interested in just pointing the camera and clicking, and then getting back to your beer.

Programme AE

In this mode, the camera if left alone will behave like automatic.  However, the photographer can if they want override some of the choices (e.g. shutter speed) and the camera will then manipulate the other settings to expose properly, if it can.  For many, this is a first step into controlling the exposure.  This mode usually includes the option to dial in exposure compensation, which I’ll cover later.

Pick programme AE when you want an element of control sometimes, but you’re not worried about the creative content so much as you are about capturing a moment quickly without having to think about exposure.

Aperture Priority

In this mode, the photographer always has to choose an aperture.  The camera will never override that setting, and instead will change shutter speed and potentially ISO to properly expose the image.  This setting also usually allows for exposure compensation.

Use aperture priority when you want to pick a specific aperture for creative reasons (depth of field, primarily), but the lighting conditions are variable and you want the camera to quickly work out shutter speed and ISO to properly expose the image.  Or you just don’t want to have to think about shutter speed and ISO.

Shutter Priority

The partner to aperture priority, in this mode, the photographer chooses the shutter speed they need for the creative look they want to achieve, and the camera changes aperture and ISO to then expose the image.  Again, exposure compensation can be applied if desired.

Shutter priority is useful when you know you want to freeze or blur movement for creative reasons and that is more important than the depth of field of the resulting image.  This is often the case with sports or action photography, but is equally important in other situations where movement blur is a creative choice.


In manual, the camera software does not change any of the settings.  The photographer must pick aperture, shutter speed and ISO and the camera will then simply use them.  If that results in too much or too little light reaching the sensor, the image will be over or under-exposed.  Contrary to some views, fully manual isn’t always the best option used by professional or proper camera users.  Fully manual has its place, but so do the other modes.

Use manual when you want complete control over the exposure of each image.  This is especially useful in situations where you are in control of the light (such as a studio, or inside a building with a regular lighting situation).

Auto ISO

Many cameras offer automatic ISO in combination with aperture and shutter priority – the descriptions above assumed fixed ISO chosen by the photographer.  Some cameras also offer auto-ISO with manual (you could argue, it’s not fully manual in this instance).  The ability to set the ISO, or allow the camera to vary it within another mode doesn’t significantly change the purpose of that mode, but gives the camera more flexibility to expose the image accurately.  Often, automatic ISO is ideal in situations where the lighting conditions are changing rapidly and are extreme enough that just changing aperture or shutter speed might not give you the ability to cope.  For example outdoors on a bright day with some clouds; as the clouds pass in front of the sun the lighting change can be dramatic potentially preventing the camera from exposing the image correctly by just changing aperture of shutter speed.  Allowing it to also change the ISO provides more flexibility.

Ultimately the choice of automatic of fixed ISO is again about deciding how much control to give to the camera.  If you find that the range of light you’re dealing with is so variable that it results in dramatic shifts of aperture or shutter speed, you might introduce automatic ISO to allow the camera more subtle control.

Additional Points

It’s important to remember that in automatic, programme AE, aperture priority and shutter priority that the camera’s primary goal is to expose the image in a way it considers acceptable.  To do that it will pick apertures, shutter speeds and ISOs and it doesn’t know what you had in mind creatively.  It won’t know that you wanted or didn’t want movement blur, it won’t know that you wanted or didn’t want a large depth of field, etc.  The only difference in the settings is how much the photographer controls versus how much the camera controls.

In manual, the camera is no longer trying to expose the image, it will report the exposure (based on the built in metering), but the camera will trust the photographer that the resulting image is what they want.

Exposure Compensation

Cameras think the whole world is 18% grey.  Sometimes they get it wrong.

A camera has no idea what is in front of it, nor what your artistic intent was.  When the camera exposes the image in any mode other than fully manual, it has made some decisions about how bright the overall image should be (i.e. how bright the highlights should be, and how dark the shadows should be).  It doesn’t always get it right.  If you photograph a building outside on a bright day, you might find the building looks quite dark, or if you photograph people against a dark background it might over expose the people you’re trying to take pictures of.  You’ve got three choices in situations like that.

  1. You can change one or more of the control points you’re already managing (for example, you could change the aperture if you’re in aperture priority mode), but you may have to accept compromise on your creative choice
  2. You can switch to manual and change any of the control points (this allows you to retain your creative intent, but negates the benefit of using semi-automatic modes).
  3. You can dial in exposure compensation if you are in a mode which supports it (fully automatic modes do not tend to support this feature).

Exposure compensation tells the camera that it needs to make the image brighter (expose it more) or make it darker (expose it less) than the metering suggests.  It achieves that in various ways depending on which mode it is in.  If the camera is in shutter priority mode (so you have selected a shutter speed), but you want to add exposure compensation (to brighten the image), the camera will widen the aperture, letting in more light and making it brighter.  If you are in aperture priority and the image is too bright, adding negative exposure compensation will shorten the shutter speed, resulting in a darker image.

Obviously, if you’re already at the limits of the control points, for example in shutter priority mode, you want the picture to be brighter but the camera is already at the widest aperture, then the image still won’t be exposed in the way you want it, and you’ll need to switch to another mode or use manual to get the exposure you desire.

Exposure compensation allows you to override the cameras chosen exposure without having to switch to a fully manual mode, and lets you quickly change between lighting situations without giving up the creative elements you have chosen.

Other Stuff

There’s clearly a ton of stuff I’ve not covered.  Adding your own lights, flash or strobes allows you to change the amount of light yourself, impacting how you choose the other controlling factors.  Your camera meters the light in front of you in different ways (phrases like spot, evaluative, weighted, matrix, etc.) and that in turn affects the elements of the image that are exposed at different levels.  Your camera has no real clue what is in front of it, and so is generally trying to expose the overall image as if it was grey (middle grey, reflecting about 18% of the light landing on it); that’s okay in many cases, but equally not okay in many others.  I’ve not covered dynamic range (the range of light from the deepest shadow to the brightest highlight), nor colour balance or any number of other elements that will affect the overall image.  I’ve also not covered stops or exposure value (EV), how to know what changes to make to shutter speed to compensate for changing aperture from f/1.4 to f/8 and vice versa.

Summary (tl;dr)

  • Aperture – wider gives more light and shallower depth of field.  Narrower gives less light and deeper depth of field.  Smaller numbers are wider (f/1.4 is wider than f/2, and f/22 is narrower than f/8).
  • Shutter Speed – slower gives more light and more motion blur, faster gives less light and less motion blur (frozen action).  Shutter speeds are given in seconds or fractions of a second.  Most cameras show 60, 125, 250, 500 etc. when they mean 1/60th, 1/125th, 1/250th.  So bigger numbers usually means faster (shorter) shutter speeds and hence less light.
  • ISO – lower is less sensitive and needs more light to expose but has less noise, and higher is more sensitive, needs less light to expose, but is noisier.
  • Exposure – it’s a creative choice, affected by the amount of light present, and the combination of aperture, shutter speed and ISO.
  • Camera modes – every mode has a purpose, and there’s plenty of overlap.  The more control you give the camera, the less control you have over the creative elements of the picture, the more control you take from the camera, the more you have to think about exposure yourself.
  • Exposure Compensation – the world is 22% grey, but only when you blend it all together.  Sometimes you want parts of your image exposed differently, and exposure compensation allows you to quickly add or remove light from the overall exposure (the camera will have to change one or more of ISO, Aperture or Shutter Speed to achieve it).
  • Lastly – this is only an overview, it’s a summary or approximation, and there’s a lot more depth.

Other Resources

MCM Comic Con – Birmingham – March 2016

Picture of a Raider and Moxxi from Borderlands
This is not us.

We went to the MCM Comic Con, in Birmingham on Saturday just gone (19th March).  Here are some various random observations.

Getting to the NEC Birmingham is quite easy for us – we drive over, it’s between 45 and 55 minutes depending on traffic and this time it was pretty good.  There was a queue leaving the M42, which took up about 10 minutes of the journey, but it was always flowing.  On the way back however, we noticed a pretty bad car fire on the A42, which looks like it had closed that road for some time.  Not sure by how long we missed that, but glad we did, and hope everyone involved was okay.

We parked in East 5, having pre-paid for our parking the night before.  I can’t stress enough how useful this is if you intend to go to an event at the NEC.  The queue for car parking tickets was about 100 meters long, and I suspect was roughly a 10-20 minute wait in temperatures hovering around 4C.  Car parking was £12, which is high, but it’s a captive audience.  We couldn’t book reserved / priority parking which puts you outside the event halls, I guess there wasn’t any close enough for the Comic Con event, but we’ll check again next time.

We had priority tickets for the event, it’s £5 more, but you can go in from 9am rather than 11am.  We never intended to get there for 9am (and if you do, you’ll queue even with a priority ticket), but we got there around 10:15am-ish, and walked straight in, past the 11am queuers.  I recommend this approach!

The event was in an L shaped hall and quite big; bigger than November last year which felt very cramped.  It was a little more open this time, although still quite cramped in the main section.  There were the usual selection of vendors and guests, but since that’s not why I went, I won’t comment.  We didn’t go to any of the events either, although there was an inflatable theatre in which they were taking place.  Greté was there to shop, and I was there to take photographs.

There were some really good things.Picture of Stormtroopers behind a Comic Con sign

  • There were a lot of Rey’s.  It’s great to see another interesting and dynamic character for female cosplayers to play.  Of course, gender is irrelevant (I saw at least one female Kylo Ren), but for women who want to play women, it’s great that there’s more choice, and with costumes that aren’t revealing or sexualised.  There were, as always, the usual collection of Lara Crofts, Harley Quinns, female manga characters I never recognise and Black Widows (among lots of other female characters, don’t get me wrong).  I just thought it was nice that popular media has presented another strong female role model, with any-age appropriate dress, and hope we get many more in future.  Which reminds me, there were quite a few Dana Scully’s as well come to think of it – always handy to break out a smart suit and wear an ID badge.
  • There were a lot of families all in costume, many of them with very young kids who seemed to be having a great time.  I don’t remember previous Comic Cons being quite so kid friendly.  I guess for the kids it’s normal – get dressed up as your favourite character, it’s just as we get older it becomes more nerdy and weird.  We should learn from that – nothing wrong with it at all.  I think it’s great that people felt comfortable enough to bring their kids along.
  • Lots of excellent costumes in general and clearly a lot of effort had gone into them.  There’s always the regular semi-pros, the 501st Legion, that company who pays cosplayers to dress up (can’t remember what they’re called), the guys in the Batman suits that look like they just walked off the set, etc.  I do wonder if they can be off-putting at times.  But then there were the regular broad range of almost-semi-pros, amateurs, last-minuters, threw-on-a-fezzers, wore-my-tardis-dressers, and came-dressed-as-Jessica-Rabbit-in-my-7-inch-heels-and-bearders.  It was really a great collection of people.

The not so great.

  • There was an unnecessary amount of body odour.  I know, everyone’s wearing Lycra, or vinyl, or rubber, or fur, or leather, or whatever.  But if you know you’re going to be in close proximity to a lot of people just use some antiperspirant or deodorant that day, even if you don’t normally.  I know, some folk have medical conditions, and I respect that, and I absolutely have no desire to stop those folk attending or having fun, but there are just some guys who can not be bothered to make the basic effort of wearing deodorant, and there’s no excuse for it.
  • I go to the convention to take photographs of costumes.  There are people wearing those costumes, and the costumes range in quality.  I want to capture people who’ve put in some effort and are enjoying themselves, and I work hard mentally not to judge the people I’m looking at outside of those parameters.  Clearly, I’m also human, so I naturally find some people more attractive than others, or more interesting, or whatever.  I work hard to ensure I’m not just there taking pictures of attractive women in revealing outfits – that’s not why I or they are there.  However, there are clearly some people only taking pictures of people they fancy.  I stopped a pair of ladies and asked if I could take a picture, and one of the pair stepped sideways out of the shot.  They were both in costume (the lady who stepped sideways was in a less revealing outfit than her friend).  I had to drop the camera and ask her to step back in to the frame, at the same time as her friend was encouraging her back in as well.  I don’t know if she was just shy and didn’t want to be in the shot, but I got the feeling they’d been stopped by other people who just wanted a picture of the lady in the more revealing outfit and it made me a little bit sad and somewhat angry.
  • I felt a bit sad for the two of three rows of signing tables.  Pairs of people behind a desk – ageing actor + agent, all the way along, waiting for someone to turn up so they could earn another bit of cash.  I know, it must be lucrative, and I’m being hugely hugely disrespectful.  Fans love to meet their heroes, their heroes love to meet their fans, and if you’ve got a fan base then you should turn up and everyone’s a winner, but the two times I walked through that area it just felt devoid of soul.  Sorry.

Other things

  • May the tiny kitten of joy vomit forth happiness upon you
    GenkiGear t-shirt

    Lots of vendors, the usual range of stuff, not really why I go, but it kept my wife occupied for the four hours we were there.  Shout out to GenkiGear which is where my wife spent the bulk of her cash.  She does love their stuff.  There seemed to be about a thousand versions of Monopoly on sale, one for every fandom and universe, including Firefly.  There was quite a nice little Steampunk area, although it didn’t seem to be getting a lot of attention, one guy with some amazing art there though (who’s name I didn’t take down – aha, just remembered, I think it was this guy).

  • Getting into the venue from the car park was amusing.  If you’ve been to the NEC you know they run a shuttle bus service from the car parks.  We were on a side of the NEC we’ve not been to before, and we walked from the car park down towards the road (past all the people queueing for car parking tickets, see above).  As we got to the road, we could see the bus stop to our left, but everyone was streaming over the road crossing and not far in front of us we could see some buildings.  So, sheep-like, we just followed.  Sadly, those folk were more optimistic and younger than we were – the buildings we could see weren’t the exhibition halls, and so it was the feared long walk from the car park to the entrance.  We got the bus back.  Next time, we’ll be much less sheep-like.
  • There was a mock fight between a Rey, a Kylo Ren and a Finn.  I’m pretty sure if you’ve never seen the film it counted as a spoiler – they didn’t spoil the other thing though.
  • I saw the worst Han Solo ‘look-alike’ ever, even if his costume was authentic looking, he looked like an accountant.

Overall it was a good day out – not the cheapest way to spend four hours if you’re not interested in the events or the star signings, but not the most expensive day out either, and great to see so many excellent costumes and folk enjoying themselves.

Slowing Down Time

So it’s 2016, which is as much a surprise to me as it is to anyone.  Where does the time go?  A few years ago now, David Gemmell told me about a friend of his, an elderly gentleman, who suggested that we feel time passing more quickly as we age, because we experience less new stuff each day.  As children, everything around us is new, or we’re doing new things, exploring and discovering new knowledge.  As we age, in general, our days are filled with very similar things, and there’s little new or surprising in each of them.  So our experience of time is based on the density of our memories for any given period.  More memories of different things and the passage of time feels slow, fewer memories and the passage of time feels quick.  The aim then, is to keep doing new things, discovering new things, experiencing new things, and thus, slow down the passage of time.

I don’t know how true it is, but I don’t see the harm in trying.

I pay lip service to new years resolutions usually, if I go that far, and although I’d like to think this year is different it probably won’t be.  However, even in the face of obvious failure it’s usually still worth having a shot, so here are my new years resolutions for 2016.

  • Drink more.
  • Eat more.
  • Photograph more.
  • Watch more films.
  • Be happier.

I know that being happy is not really something you can choose (others might disagree), but you can take steps to increase the chance of it working that way – if you have the energy (there’s the kicker).  I don’t drink much alcohol any more, partly because we’re not in the situation where alcohol is often consumed very often, and partly because of the diabetes.  There’s a lot of sugar in beer, and alcohol screws with your blood sugar on top.  However, I do like a bit of whiskey and people keep buying it for me.  So I really should drink it.  I resolve, within reason and within sensible measures, to drink the whiskey I have in the cupboard and to bloody enjoy it.

I already eat too much so the second one might seem odd, but I tend to eat too much low quality food.  What I want to do, is eat too much high quality food (or, a more sensible amount of high quality food, as an alternative).  I want to eat more exciting things and less boring things.

I’ve struggled with getting out to take photographs in the last few months.  Part of this is because my sister died in the latter part of 2015, after a short and devastating battle with cancer.  I was on the road a lot visiting her, and while my battle wasn’t anywhere near as hard as hers (clearly), I pretty much expended all of my energy and had nothing left over.  Most of that travelling took place at weekends, which was the only time I really had for photography, so it took a back seat.  Then Christmas was upon us faster than we could imagine, we had a lot of work to do helping Greté’s mum and step-dad move house, and now it’s the new year.  So, in 2016, I will take more photographs (and I will try and be less negative about the output).

I love films, I should watch more of them.  I will watch more of them.  You can’t stop me!

Part of being happier means expressing myself again, writing, and that means blog posts.  I like writing them, because they help me understand how I feel, even when they’re about nothing more than how my day has gone.  So, I intend to overhaul the blog, replace the template with something a) cleaner, b) less black, and c) easier to maintain.  And I intend to blog, to alleviate stress, to ramble, to solidify my thoughts and to share (maybe) my photographs.

Here’s a funny picture of some cats.