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Sunday
Apr152012

Teddington Weir

I didn't get to Teddington Lock at 6am last Sunday as I'd hoped, but I did get to wander down this weekend with camera in in hand.

Sunday
Apr082012

Devizes to Westminster

Talk to someone in the UK about a famous rowing race on the river Thames over Easter and they're likely to assume you're referring to the Cambridge vs Oxford University boat race. Very few will have heard of the Devizes to Westminster canon marathon, or 'The DW' to those few in the know. While referring to the DW as the Everest of rowing might seem like hyperbolae, people start to understand the magnitude of the undertaking once you explain that it takes most crews 24 hours to complete the race and that to negotiate the locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal and River Thames the crew have to haul themselves and their kayak out of the water on 76 separate occasions. The real realisation of just how much effort is involved in this marathon probably doesn't dawn on you until you realise that the 24 hour canoe marathon requires two separate support crews to support each rowing crew. The two Kayakers, Nick and Rory, spent months training, and even the support crews spent weeks working with the kayak crew understanding and planning what needed to happen before even contemplating attempting the DW.

Devizes, 7am, the support crew pose for a photo - Anna, James, Kat, Missy, Conor and Marina

So at 6:30am on Easter Saturday I found myself arriving in Devizes, Wiltshire with a 6.5 metre two man racing Kayak on the roof of the Land Rover. At 7:45am on Saturday, exactly as planned, Nick & Rory's Kayak crossed the start line. Over the next 24 hours we planned to meet them at 24 meeting places at various locks and portages over the length of the course.

4.5 hours into the race, Nick & Rory negotiate Cobbler's Lock near Hungerford, Berkshire

There is a longer story here that deserves to be told, but having had had just four hours sleep in the last forty, this is not the time to tell it. Suffice to say that due to an injury picked up early on Saturday, Nick and Rory's adventure came to an end 90 miles into the race. Despite arriving at about 3am on Sunday morning at Old Windsor lock with just enough time to make it to the crucial Teddington Lock at high tide, it was clear that injury and exhaustion meant that Kayak number 316 couldn't continue to Westminster.

About half an hour before Nick & Rory were forced to retire, Sir Steve Redgrave retired from the race, also at Old Windsor Lock. Nick & Rory may not have finished, but they had covered the same distance as the five time Olympic gold medal winner.

You only have to look at the number of crew who retire from the race each year to appreciate that the DW really is a marathon. While we were of course disappointed, the sense of disappointment wasn't as great as I had expected. We had supported our crew for 20 hours over 90 miles during day and night, and even as we drove along the river back into London at 4am on Easter Sunday morning with the Kayak on the roof rather than in the Thames, what I was feeling was far from a sense of failure, it was most definitely a sense of achievement.

 

Sunday
Apr012012

The best camera for the job

In a corner of my spare room lives a bag, a large black rucksack to be exact, and in this bag live my cameras. Not normal sized compact or mobile phone sized cameras. That large rucksack contains full size cameras, with grips, lens, flash guns, cables and the assorted bit and pieces that can accumulate when you have an interest in photography.

Over the years I've used this collection of cameras to take some photographs that I'm proud of, but the problem with big cameras is that they need big bags to carry them, and that size is pretty much the main reason why those big cameras tend to stay in that bag in the spare room at home. They're just too big to carry with me every day.
What you can do with a big camera
Until recently you had to make a conscious decision to have a cameras with, but all that had changed in the last few years. While the first cameras fitted to phones were of particularly poor quality, the cameras fitted to the latest phones aren't just good by phone standards, they're good by camera standards.

But as great as the cameras in our phones are now, I believe that the real shift in photography is that those great cameras are now attached to surprisingly powerful computers. The photograph above was taken with an expensive digital SLR with an expensive lens and post processed on a desktop computer. The photograph below was taken and processed on my smartphone.

Shot, processed and published with an iPhone
The capability of the modern phone should not be underestimated. We now have the ability to take high quality photographs, post-process them and then publish them to the world, and all this in a device that many of us were already carrying in our pockets. While the move from chemical to digital photography had a profound effect on process of taking photographs, the ability to publish photos in a instant will have a greater effect.

When US Airways flight 1549 ditched in the Hudson river in January 2009, the first reports of the incident did not come from the established media organisations, it was reported on Twitter by Janis Krums, a New York commuter who happened to be on one of the first ferries that responded to the ditched aircraft. Using just his mobile phone he was able to take and publish a photo that was seen by millions round the world within minutes of pressing the shutter on his iPhone

There's a famous adage in photography that the best camera for the job is the one you have with. Now that we can process and publish those photos using the same camera that adage was never truer.
Tuesday
Jan102012

"but what's my Total total?"

I was speaking to friend over the weekend about booking flights, and specifically the penny pinching method of adding multiple additional charges once you have picked your flights. After Christmas I booked a flight to Ireland for February this year. Aer Lingus were one of the worst offenders for additional charges, despite booking many flights that appear to cost 99 pence I have never paid less than £70 for a return flight.

All prices include taxes and charges (but not fees!)

I was therefore surprised and pleased to notice that Are Lingus now use a 'total price' for booking a flight. If the flights you chose cost £50 then that 'flight total' of £50 now includes all taxes and charges. The only flaw in the system is that when you get to the fare summary stage your 'TOTAL total' includes an additional £12 handling fee. It seems that Aer Lingus' concept of 'Total price' includes taxes and charges but not fees, which to me at least seems a little sleazy, and completely misses the point of what the average individual assumes the total price is.

Sunday
Jan082012

Rugby's tipple, drink or drugs?

Despite numerous expensive campaigns to educate the public to the dangers of drunk driving, drunk people still get behind the wheel believing they either know better, won't get caught or are convinced that their particular situation warrants the danger they place us all in. On new years eve Danny Care, the England and Harlequins scrum half, was arrested for drink driving. This is hardly the first example of a Rugby player being caught behind the wheel when he shouldn't have been. In January 2009 Mike Tindle was arrested for drink driving, he was stopped on his way to commentate for the BBC on a Six Nations match at Twickenham. Ironically he was unable to play in the game thay he due to commentate on as a result of a bruised liver.

While Tindle received a three year driving ban – this was the second time he been arrested for drink driving – his England playing career was unaffected. While I don't believe athletes should generally be held to a higher standard than members of the public, I do believe that those who represent their country should be mindful that they have significant public profiles and are frequently held up as an example to others, and in this particular case, perhaps English Rugby should be mindful of the fact that a current England player and former Captain of England had now received drink driving bans totalling over four years, yet was still considered worthy to represent his country.

In December 2008, Less than a month before Tindle was arrested for the second time, the England and Bath prop Matt Stevens failed a drug test following a Heineken Cup match against Glasgow. Stevens admitted to having taken cocaine and while there are those who would argue whether Stevens' use of cocaine was recreational or performance enhancing, the International Rugby Board clearly lists cocaine as a banned substance. As a result of his sample testing positive for cocaine Matt Stevens received a two year ban from Rugby.

At the time of Stevens' ban Martin Johnson, the England manager, publicly stated "I have said all through this episode that there is no place in sport or society for illegal drug use" and added that he would support Stevens who was receiving help with his problem. But Johnson made no similar statement about driving on public roads while under the influence of an intoxicant when Mike Tindle received his driving ban. It wasn't too difficult to draw the conclusion that taking a banned substance was viewed as a more serious professional offence then endangering the public while being drunk behind the wheel of a two ton vehicle.

It's interesting therefore to note that following Danny Care's arrest for drink driving on new year's Eve he has been dropped from the England Rugby squad for this year's Six Nations competition. While I would like to think that this was the RFU setting an example that it is unacceptable for an England player to endanger the public by drink driving, given that just three weeks earlier Care was arrested for drunk and disorderly behaviour after Harlequins' Heineken Cup match against Toulouse, I suspect that his being dropped has less to do with setting an example for all players, and more about trying to get one player under control.

Rugby has always had a drinking culture attached to it and I frequently enjoy drinking while watching or attending Rugby matches, but it disappoints me that players who have such low regard for the public can continue to represent the public at international level.