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Over the years, as my experience has grown and I have got better at taking pictures, the old camera bag has also umm…grown.  I am ridiculously lucky to now have in my possession (amongst several other pieces of glass) what is widely regarded as ‘The Holy Trinity’ amongst Nikon users.  In an effort not to bore you with it all, I have three lenses which focus from 14mm (very wide indeed) all the way to 200mm (very close indeed) all at a nice fast aperture of 2.8, and all crazy, crazy sharp.

So when Sian’s absolutely delightful friend and old uni room mate, Jen came to stay last week, she naturally wanted to go and see some of the sites.  I, naturally, picked up the wrong lens for the day.

This is down to sheer laziness – my lenses all weigh a ton, and the thought of carrying the 24-70 and the 70-200 was a little too much for our little excursion around the island and visit to the Barbados Wildlife Sanctuary.  I knew that I would regret leaving it behind, but hey, I left it at home and had to make do with what I had.

Our first stop, and I was already cursing under my breath.

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The 24-70 was great for this holiday snap of the lovely (smiley) Jen in front of the awesome East Coast…and indeed this close up of some washed up coral we found.

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But then this guy came running out at us, claws raised, fighting us for his territory, and I knew the lens I had decided to bring out today was a poor choice.

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This guy was ever so patient as I blundered around in front of him for ten minutes – getting as close as my focus would allow, and trying my best not to scare him off.  To his credit, he stood his ground astonishingly well, but I am a little disappointed with these shots.  I have had to crop in significantly, and they have that ‘digital’ grit to them…they are not sharp through optics, but through post processing…which isn’t my favourite! 🙁

Despite having the wrong lens and intermissions of random curse words from a particular male photographer in Barbados,  we were having an absolute blast.  We drove all the way up the rugged East Coast, heading north, and as we got higher up, we stopped off at the ever-awesome Barbados Wildlife Resort.  They have monkies and tortoises and deer and peacocks and snakes…it really is a wonderful place to visit…but again – despite all the fun we were having, I was mutttering about the glass I had decided to bring.  (Again, look for the noise in the images!)

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I think my favourite shot of the day was of these two little monkeys having a drink together – I love the tortoise on the right of the frame just chilling with them, happy to share.

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After this, we headed on up into the terraniums – they have the most enormous snake there (he must be about 30 feet long) and his skin is the most amazing colour.

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Luckily I was able to get close enough to this guy to get a decent close up shot of his skin…this is genuinely how colourful it was – no photoshoppery here!

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We soon decided that we had seen enough animals for the day, and headed West for a spot of lunch and some sea views from one of our favourite bars, the Ramshackle.  Fish and chicken was had by all – along with a few beers, and after soaking in the sun and sea, we headed further north, to our favourite visitor spot, the Animal Flower Cave.

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This was, thankfully, the right lens for a shot like this…and ultimately the day was about spending time with one of Sian’s very best friends, having some fun and seeing some sites together…so ultimately, it was this shot that was most important…and ultimately that is why (I am sure) I decided to pack my 24-70.

And in hindsite, I don’t think the pictures came out nearly as bad as I had worried 😉

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Thanks for an awesome week Jen – and a safe flight home!!!

x

As you all know, I love shooting weddings.  It’s the best part of the job out here in Barbados.

When I can get away from boring things like staff wages, VAT returns and fixing the never ending tirade of computer malfunctions and machine errors, there is nothing I like more than shooting a happy couple out in the sun.  And the only thing better than that is when we get to go somewhere new.

The business we are in relies heavily on Hotel world, and so we shoot 99.9% of our weddings in the same locations.  Don’t get me wrong – the locations are always gorgeous, and we are spoilt for choice when we shoot.  With gardens, water features, sugar mills and, of course those beaches to choose from, couples are always staggered with the shots and videos they receive.  But when we get a bride enquire about a wedding somewhere new, we all get a bit giddy at the thought of some new locations and the escape from our (idyllic) norm.

So imagine our delight when Sian received an email from an expectant bride asking about us shooting her wedding at the famous Hunte’s Gardens?  It is a well known spot, tucked away in the hilly area of St Joseph and without a doubt the best sign posted attraction in Barbados.  It always tickles me whenever we embark on an adventure like this – as we invariably get lost on the bumpy back roads when signs we have been religiously following for hours suddenly disappear…but fair play to Hunte’s – they are consistently dotted around the island, leading the horticultural-hungry tourists directly to the beautiful wrought iron gates.

A narrow pathway and greeted by a nice young man, and this is the site that awaits you.

It is beautiful.

Of course, being that we are professional photographers, and that we were coming to see the site namely for the sake of research, we picked the absolute worst time to go to the gardens.  As you will see from the ridiculously hard light, we got there at about 1pm – when the sun is at both its highest and hottest in Barbados…so you will have to forgive me with the crazy contrast and reflective palm trees – but it was our day off and we wanted to make the most of it…so I just gave it my best shot.

As we wandered down the narrow, steep path, you could literally feel the trees ‘breathing’ around us.  By the time we got to the bottom of the sink hole the garden lives in, the air was heavy with humidity, and the smells were all encompassing.

Sian’s hair was glad to soak up some of the moisture too, and within five minutes it had expanded a third in volume…which gave me something to chuckle about as the sweat began pouring off my face like a scene from Airplane.

And so for the next half an hour or so, we wandered around the beautiful gardens, nattering away about the endless possibilities, accompanied only by the songs of the nesting birds above, and the wind blowing through the palms.

It really is quite a place.

Despite the crazy-hard light we had given ourselves to work with, I am fairly happy with the shots we got on the day.  But one of the hardest things I found was conveying the sheer size of the gardens.  Although the grounds are not enormous in acreage, the site is so steep, and Mr Hunte has ingeniously used every available inch to maximum effect.  I am not a fan of this shot, but Sian is, and she is my harshest critic – so if it’s good enough for her then, well, it goes up on the blog:

After a while, we started to wander back up to the old plantation house that overlooks the epic gardens, safe in the knowledge that there would be a rum punch for us at the top of the hill.  That was what the literature said, and that was how Sian had convinced me to leave the cosy AC of home to embark on this little adventure in the first place.

Sian spotted this half munched leaf – obviously a hungry caterpillar – but clearly not a Frangipanni, as the leaf has barely been touched! I love how uniform the nibbles are:

As we approached the building, we were met with the most fabulous site – a fully dressed dining table that looked like something straight out of Narnia.  The whole thing was littered with dried flowers and palm leaves – I have never seen anything quite like it.

After a lengthy discussion of just how ever-awesome this venue would be for weddings, we finally got to the top of the hill, and were met by the wonderfully welcoming Anthony Hunte – the man himself.   Comfortably reclined in a huge sofa, Anthony was deep in conversation with two other visitors – Simon and Christine.  He invited us to sit and have a rum punch, and soon we began chewing the fat.  It was a fantastic afternoon.

And just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, Anthony unleashed his jewel in the crown – the cherry on the cake for this wonderful venue.

Flora.

Oh. My. God. This dog is awesome.  So awesome that even Sian: champion of Cats – resenter of the canine and slayer of all that drool, fell for her:

Flora did what all good dogs do for the rest of the afternoon.  She did the rounds and made sure everyone was where they should be – made sure her dad Anthony was being looked after by these strangers in her house, and then when satisfied all was well, would come and demand a cuddle from her master.

I am sure I am not the first visitor, and I certainly won’t be the last to Hunte’s that has thought about kidnapping that wonderful pooch.  She really is a corker.  And my camera loved her.

By the end of the evening, we had drunk far too many rum punches, taken far too many pictures of the dog, and had been eaten alive by the pesky sand flies.  At about 8pm we finally left our wonderful host and two new friends, a quick call for a lift home and the adventure sadly came to an end.

But we WILL return!

 

 

Thanks for reading guys x

The last few weeks have been pretty awesome.  We have made some friends, (Big blog to come!)  have had some great news in the family, and some not so great, but all in all we are very happy.

The other day, we had to visit Virgin HQ, and being Barbados, it was in the back end of nowhere.  As we negotiated the twists and turns of the fabled ‘highway 3’, we stumbled across a massive factory.  And I got a little excited.  As my frequent readers may well know, I have, unfortunately, inhereted my father’s penchant for the industrial tech. Trains, planes, boats – anything man made that can rust slightly and I get a little weak at the knees.  Very sad, I know, but that’s me.

I have a really vivid memory from about age 9.  We were on a family narrow boat holiday and we chugged through the heart of this massive, massive factory.  It was one of the most fascinating and eerie moments of my life.  Being 9, it felt enormous – there was steam and smells and noises, a thick film of foam scudded across the murky green of the canal, but despite all of the activity and bustle – there was not a sole in site.  It reminded me of the cover of Michael Jackson’s Dangerous which I actually had in my discman at the time…I was a very spoilt child…

But I digress.

Desperate to take a snap of this new found wonder in otherwise picturesque Barbados, I waited for dusk, bundled my exhuasted wife into the car, and headed to the factory.

I fired off a few frames, and think this is the best one.  Unfortunately there is a massive fence (obviously) around the factory, so I couldn’t get too close, but I like this wide shot, and it is soooo very different to what we normally see him in Bimshire!

As I was standing there, snapping away, Sian called out from the car that she could see millions of fireflies.  I turned to see what she was talking about, and all I could see was the glow of the car’s headlights:

I crossed the road to see what she was talking about, and was amazed by what I saw.  The entire meadow was alive with fire flies.  It really was a sight to behold.  As we stood and gazed out, the grass flashed and sparked with these amazing little creatures.

Being English, I have never seen Fire flies before, and was shocked at just how much they glow.  I tried my best t get a shot of the scene, but unfortunately I think this is one of those moments that you can see with your eyes, and not your camera.  I think a video of the meadow would have worked brilliantly, but the amazing D700 is a photo camera, nothing else.

As I say, I don’t think the photo does the scene justice, but if you look in the lower third, you will see the little yellow spots dotted between the blades of grass.  We stood and watched the field glow like a massive Christmas tree set, and very quickly, the factory seemed boring and pointless.

We enjoyed nature’s lightshow for a good while, got back into the car and headed home.

And once again, we had experienced yet another natural beauty of our new home land all because of the engineers at Nikon that built our wonderful, wonderful camera.

Thank for reading guys

x

Following from my previous post, you all know that Sian and I stayed with two of my best buds Will and Eddie in Will’s house out in Carlisle a few weeks back.   And, while we were there, we fell in love.

Not with each other – I have ensnared Sian for over 11 years now and am fairly confident she has done all the falling she can for the time being.  But we met Will’s dog, Lois.

And she is all kinds of awesome.

Although only with her for a few days, it was very obvious to us how this (let’s be honest, beautiful) Labrador has made our dear friend Will’s life so, so much better over the last few months.

Poor Will has had a tough time of late, and seeing him in his new home with his new dog, Sian and I were both utterly relieved and immensely happy.  She truly is man’s best friend.

And she adores Will.

We had a late train home on the Saturday night, so Will kindly offered to take us out to Corbridge via a rather splendid butchers.  With the car heavily laden with a ridiculous slab 0f fresh silver side, camera gear and a dog, we set out along a fantastic Roman Road that ran parallel with Hadrian’s wall.  And what a day it was.

Upon arrival in Corbridge, Lois leapt to attention, only to drop her smiling eyes at the site of a famous kitchen shop that Sian and Will found fascinating.  After the obligatory walk around, we fetched the intrepid traveller from the boot of the car, and to her disgust, put her on the make shift lead Will had fashioned from a strap he uses to attach his canoes to the roof of the car.  Lois doesn’t need a lead, but the general public do tend to get a bit antsy when they see a pooch roaming free on the pavements.

We bumbled around the beautiful town of Corbridge for a few hours, and then headed down to the river bank to let Lois (and Will) have a play in the river and stretch the legs.

There is a beautiful bridge in the town, which Sian later quipped was probably how the town got it’s name.  She imagined the Scots seeing it from afar and saying ‘Cor! Bridge’…you may have had to have been there, but I found this hilarious.  Anyway, I felt obliged to get a snap of the said monument, but I’m afraid I rather let the squad down on this one with an average at best attempt – but I had to share it none the less in order for the narrative to make sense.

There were some ducks chilling out in the fast moving water, and in an homage to my dear mum who reads this blog religiously, I thought I would give her a snap of one…she freaking loves ducks.

And then Will found a stick which Lois quickly became very fond of.  Casually throwing it into the running river, Lois had no qualms jumping in to rescue her beloved piece of dead wood.  It was amazing how strong she is, and how well she fought the fast moving current.

We then retired for some ginger ale and olives whilst Lois ran around the trees, like the middle class tourists we are.  Watching the river run by, and enjoying the sun on our backs…it really was a lovely, lovely day.

At this point, I already knew that I would be writing a blog about the day, and the sheer awesomeness of Lois doting on Will – and I knew I needed a portrait of them together to tie the whole thing up.

They say that you should never work with children or animals…but I was working with a soggy dog and Will.

Believe me, this is much, much harder.

But I think I got there in the end:

I love these two shots.  Lois dotes on Will in a way I have never seen in a mutt before.  He looks left, she looks left.  He shows interest – she shows interest.  He laughs, she wags her tail.  They really are inseparable…and both are happier for having each other.

Even Sian started to see why people like dogs so much – which is a big step in the right direction for this canine lover.

So we headed back to Carlisle station to catch some fish and chips and the train, but not before we stopped off at the local paper mill (factory?!)  to capure this magnificent site:

Thanks Will.  And thanks Lois.

We had a great time

x

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As you will no doubt see from the majority of the work I post on this blog, I am a sucker for rich, saturated colours.

My all time favourite accessory, which breathed life into the aging D80, is the polariser that my dear mum bought me for Chrismas last year.

It’s amazing.

A twenty quid piece of glass you screw onto the end of your lens, and through a series of ingeniousness and marvel, it helps give deep blue skies and vivid greens.  Essentially, it is like having a million little ‘venetian blinds’ on the end of your lens, so as you turn the filter around, it allows light through the gaps in one direction…this means that green leaves that normally reflect the sunlight back into your lens, can have the reflective light ‘removed’ and only the green of the leaves is captured.

It truly is a magic device, and anyone with a DSLR should buy one.  Quickly.

I took this photo when Sian and I were on Honeymoon in the states – I used my polariser with a cheeky Grad filter over the top to get that beautiful blue sky and the vivid colours of the buildings in the background…it really is an awesome bit of kit…

But black and white has its place; and that’s what this whole post is about – when, why, and where.

As far as I can tell, there are two types of photographers out there -‘the cerebral’ and ‘the feeler’.  Neither is necessarily better than the other, but they do approach photography in vastly different ways…my sister and I are wonderful examples of the two extremes.

Felicity, Felix, or Zincy to those that really matter, is my big sister and she is frighteningly artistic. I mean, seriously.

It’s terryfying…

But on the other hand, she is also terrifically academic.  She recently got her PHD at Oxford Brooks, of which we are so proud, and of which I am relieved that we finally have a real doctor in the family, and not just a couple of clown shoes GPs 😉 (Love you daddy and big bro Ed) But anyway – I digress…despite her awesome academic background, and love and want to read every and any article,book or manuscript that has even the faintest whiff of interest to her, she approaches photography in a much more ‘feely’ way than I do.

She is the first to admit that she is not an authority on f-stops and shutter speeds, yet with her donated Pentax, she wanders around with her eyes wide open, and takes astonishing pictures like this:

My sister, Zincy's shot of Linahall - a concert hall in Talin

I love this picture – the exposure, the colours the composition…everything just works.  Now, I am sure that if I had been there with her, I would have captured a similarly striking image, but I dread to think how long I would have toiled with myself before taking the frame.  I would have instantly thought:

  1. Want a lot in focus – shoot narrow – maybe f13-ish
  2. Want to bring in that industrial ‘blue tinge’ to hit the concrete, hit the tungsten White Balance
  3. Need a slowish shutter to blow out those windows and light up the inside – but not too slow to overexpose and lose the windows all together – all depends on my –
  4. – ISO? Want it high enough to allow for a handheld shot, but don’t want any unecessary grain…better keep it safe in the 1,000ish range
  5. Should I chuck it into RAW in case I get it wrong with the white balance and need to correct later?
  6. Oh hang on – maybe I want to highlight the contrast of that concrete next to those (bottles?) in left of frame – should I use a single flash off camera, close to the wall which I will shop out later to bring out that texture?

And by this point, Zincy has alrady seen her shot, snapped it (in P mode?) is happy that she recorded what she wanted, and has moved on through the hall…and is enjoying her visit to Linahall an awful lot more than me, who by this point is having an aneurism  from the possibilities that this scene throws up.

But that’s me – I am a bonified ‘cerebral’ photographer, and it drives me nuts.  Lots of people, like my sister, can see an image and just make it happen – their view of the world is what makes them awesome with a camera.  I see things well too – but training the eye is a lot harder than training the hands.  Within a month (if she wanted to) Flick could have a comprehensive knowledge of her camera’s functions and foibles, a good grasp of the theory that backs it all up, and a better understanding of how to go about taking ‘that shot’.

I, on the other hand, can read every blog, every manual, every book that there is on photography, but training my eye to see things like Flick does…I don’t know if you can learn that…But this is not about ‘woe is me’ as a photographer – far from it, I am very proud of my work, and I know I get great results – the point that I am trying to make (and it has been a long time coming, I know!) is that when I take a picture, I normally know how it is going to look, and when I open a file in photoshop I ALWAYS know how it is going to end up.

And this is vital for black and white photography.

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When  you’re shooting for black and white, you have to know what you’re looking for, and what will work in the frame.  Seeing as you lose colour as your number one language, you rely solely on contrast to convey your image.  And contrast means texture in the game of black and white.

To prove this point – here are a few black and white pictures from the engine room of one of the cruise ships I worked on once upon a time:

As you can see – I have gone crazy with the contrast to bring out all of those wonderful, man made textures that are present in the Engine Room.  If I had left these images in colour, your eyes would be bleeding from the putrid colours that would be visible on the screen.  The green paint of the engine parts would clash horribly with the red checker plate floor, and I would be the first blogger to induce so much vomiting from a single post.

By making the images black and white, I am able to emphasise the different textures of the various metals.  The shiny, smooth metals of the exhaust pipes, for example, are very, very different to the beaten and tired piston heads. (Yes, they are pistons – from memory there were sixteen in total, and each one was bigger than me.)


Textures are rife in industrial settings, like this, but they are also very prevelant in the great outdoors.  Sian has very helpfully been going through the old harddrive with me to find good examples of black and whites, and she spotted this corker that she took in Nolos – one of the thousands of tiny islands in Greece:

This was a great example for Sian to pick out – it has all the classic features of a strong black and white – the cobbled street is brought out in the contrast, and I love the way that she has silhouetted the chairs against that washed out horizon.   The sign, made of metal, almost looks super-imposed as it stands out against the white background…this is a cracking shot – all credit of which goes to Sian 🙂

And next, we jump back to Gunhill – the very photographs that inspired this post:

I simply love that texture coming through from the wooden slats of the roof, and then you have the harsh stone of the chimney juxtaposed next to the velvet skyline…this is one of my favourite black and whites to date…

This was taken in a shipyard in Morrocco.  I knew it was to be a black and white the moment I shot it.  The sky was a horrible dull grey, and I wanted to emphasise the gnarled wood and the rusty iron on the floor.  The boats’ hulls also offer a nice slab of wooden texture, and as the contrast has been increased every plank and rivet becomes more obvious.

This was taken on the same day, with much the same in mind.  I like the rock in the foreground – it throws in an extra texture to this very busy scene.  Coincidentally, when in black and white, it is amazing how much more crowded the yard looks.  In colour, your mind automatically distinguishes one boat from the next, but here, where only contrast is available, it becomes very difficult to discern where one boat ends and another begins…I must confess, this was not at the forefront of the shot at all…but I love the effect it has.

And finally:

Don’t forget to look for textures in nature!  This bird’s feathers are screaming for a black and whitening, and once you take those colours back, you can really push the contrast to emphasise each and every one…

So, in conclusion – the moral of the story is THINK before you shoot.  Or, if you’re like my sister and have an annoying gift of being able to get incredible photographs from just ‘feeling them’ (bloody amateurs) then think before you process.  I cannot tell you how many times I have seen my guys, sat in front of a computer flicking from black and white to colour asking themselves ‘which looks better?’  The easy answer to that is should it be in black and white at all?  To justify black and white, you need texture – you need some reference for the contrast in order that your brain can work out what is going on with the image.  If there is no texture, there is no contrast…and as such, there is no black and white photo.

Keen eyed spotters may notice I had this very problem with a portrait of Sian in my last post…but just look at the left of the frame – see the palm leaves, see the TEXTURE, and see why it works so well in black and white…

I hope that this has been helpful – as always, if you have any questions, or you want to tear me apart – my deets are below 🙂

Thanks for reading guys – subscribe if you like – I will have a lovely special present for my subscribers once I hit 25…tell your friends!

Ferg xxx

Due to various members being sick over the weekend, Sian, James and myself were roped into a last minute day’s work on Saturday.  I am currently suffering from a cold, and therefore believe that the world is ending (who can blame me – I’m a man after all) and in my grumpy state I walked to  the lab to fire up the Fuji and start getting on with printing.

On my way in, I couldn’t help but enjoy the beautiful blue sky that Barbados was treating us to…it was fantastic…so much so that I rang Sian and told her to leave whatever she was doing to get outside and admire the cobalt blue we were being blessed with.  As I wandered down through the resort, grumpy and with my neck cocked back to admire the stratosphere, I couldn’t help but notice that our Frangipani tree on the golf course was looking a little under the weather.  It normally has bright green leaves and lovely white, four petaled flowers…but in this beautiful, post hurricane system sky, it looked dowdy and almost dead.

On closer inspection, it was not actually the tree’s fault, nor the weather’s.  It was being set upon by the only animal I have encountered that makes my old man look like a calorie counter.   It was teaming with Frangipani Caterpillars.

There were about twenty we could spot in total.  They are awesome.  the biggest ones were about 12cm long, and 2 cm wide, and they just chow down mercilessly on the leaves.  I was mesmerised by them.

Having seen the tree teaming with life, I ran to the lab and got things going, pinched the work camera (D7000 for those that care) and came to grab some snaps.

In the short time I was there, the bigger guys at the bottom of the tree quickly polished off a leaf each in the morning sun.  They were very wary of me though, and whenever I got too close, they would wag their heads angrily.  From what I have read, they will nip you if in a pinch, but they are completely harmless otherwise.  Their bright colouring is a warning to birds and other predators that they are poisonous….this is somewhat of a ruse – they themselves have no poison or venom, but the sap of the Frangipani tree is poisonous to predators without the digestive system of the caterpillars, and so their food provides them with all the protection they need from our feathered friends here on the island.

We use the D7000 at work solely for its incredible video performance, and I am training the guys how to get the most from it…needless to say, I felt obliged to film a little of what was going on, and thought I would bring the D700 and the tripod along later on in the day for some more time-lapse action.

Needless to say, all just a bit of fun, and many apologies about the camera shake, I didn’t have time to grab the tripod and longer lenses – I was covering people calling in sick after all.

At the end of the time lapse shoot (trust me to pick the one caterpillar that couldn’t polish off an entire leaf) the sun had come around beautifully, and just hit the caterpillars with that golden light.  These were taken with no flash, if you’ll believe it 😉

Overall I was pretty pleased with the shots…but I got increasingly frustrated with not being able to focus closer (Cue the wide eyed: “Baaaaa – bbbbyyyy, we need to get  a Nikon 105mm macro lens”)….but that’s for another day…

And yet again, my camera has led me to learn a bit more about the wildlife of this alien island…not too sure how often the Frangipani Caterpillars will come up in the local pub quiz, but every tid-bit we gleam, every fact we learn, makes being here feel a little less alien, and a little more like home.

Thanks for reading, and keep on snapping.

Ferg x