Well…not really. If you had been a fly on our wall over the last few days, you would have seen Sian and I desperately trying to get on top of things…tidying the house; building barbeques, catching up with holiday laundry, stressing a lot about work and generally getting a little tiddly at the excitement of my parents coming out to see us over Christmas.
But yesterday was fantastic. We started the day with a cup of tea, looking out from our balcony and drinking in that wonderful view…when all of a sudden this little guy landed on the table by my laptop. Ok, he’s not a fly on the wall, but ‘fly on the desk’ doesn’t sound right…does it? He was ever so patient as I blinded him with two speedlights and intrusive macro lens and the end result was definitely worth it.
Not even 9:30 am, and I had bagged an amazing image…things were shaping up nicely.
By about 10 our garden was teaming with the hit squad our landlady has bestowed upon us. Over the next few hours the garden was transformed from the shaggy, overgrown jungle, to the well kept, primped and preened glory we know and love. It is a lovely place to be. And as we wandered around our newly reclaimed paradise, Sian spotted the coconuts in the tree, and asked me (for the 999999th time) if we could finally get that machete and cut them down…promises of coconut run punches, breads and cakes were made. So a trip to the hardware store was promptly arranged.
Now, as many readers of this blog will know, Barbados is not a cheap place to live. Far from it. So imagine my surprise when I asked the nice lady behind the counter ‘how much that machete was – no, the huge one that looks like it could cut a tiger in two’, and she replied a mere ‘thirty bucks.’
That is how much Sian and I famously paid for a parsnip this time last year for Christmas…and here she was holding an 18inch blade, designed to last for years complete with rubberised grip and holster for the same price? This was surely the bargain of the century.
Before she could realise her obvious mistake and tell me the real price, I handed over the cash, strapped the holster to my belt, and drove home feeling like Crocodile Dundee…the coconuts had no idea what was going to hit them when I got back.
Or so I thought.
Turns out coconuts are incredibly hardy, and the guys at the side of the road who chop them up with the deftness of soft-handed masseus’ are clearly a very skilled bunch…I could not get the bloody things open. I tried brute force, hacking, slashing, sawing…they would not play ball. Even getting them out of the tree was stressful in itself…I developed a next level technique for this though. I call this photo ‘fat and clueless man swings hopelessly at nuts with a metal rod.’
When I finally knocked a few down, the frustration began…but after a few attacks, we discovered that if you did exactly the opposite to what the road-side vendors do, that is cut down the coconut, not across the top of it, they bust right open…and that water inside is soooo good when you’ve been swinging metal poles and a sword around in the 34 degree heat.
And as I type this, the aches and pains in my shoulders, along with the callouses and blisters on my hands are utterly worth it. Sian is currently dicing all the coconut flesh we were able to harvest meaning the spoils shall definitely be enjoyed! (perhaps a food blog next? Messages below if you would like to see?!)
In the evening we sat down at our newly built barbeque, congratulating each other on the days’ endeavours, and we were treated to one of Barbados’ hilarious blackouts. Usually a problem for most people, but not us – not on this the day of dreams, far from it. We wandered out into the front garden, slapped the camera on a tripod, and enjoyed Nature’s light show.
I never thought I would say it…but it’s good to be home 🙂
Thanks for reading guys x
When you tell people you live in Barbados, they usually go ‘wow’, and have this picture perfect vision of sandy beaches and cobalt blue seas. Barbados is a beautiful country, and it is always crazy, crazy hot. But it is not always picture perfect. In fact, it is very rare (especially in our new house) to go a week without at least one torrential downpour. When it rains here, it rains. And recently it has been raining a lot. The temperatures have easily been hitting the 35 mark (95 Fahrenheit for my friends across the pond) making the humidity almost unbearable this summer. I can’t wait for December, when it drops down to around 30 degrees and life is a lot more bearable.
Anyway, the other day we had some friends over for dinner, and Billy called us over to witness this amazing phenomenon.
It was one of those wierd-weather moments that looked amazing to the naked eye, but pants on my camera. Basically, we could see a single column of rain pouring from a very angry looking cloud, but the rest of the sky remained rain-free.
I have had to pop the contrast an insane amount on this image, so apologies for the instagram-look, I hope you can appreciate how big this column was, and how the cloud looks almost like a sugar bowl ‘pouring’ the water out beneath it 🙂
Last night was our friend Kate’s birthday. She manages an uber-chic, turbo cool club here in Barbados…so Sian and I stick out like sore thumbs. Whenever we go there, we have a fabulous time, but it is one of those places people go to party and be seen to do so, which is not really our thing. However it was her birthday and as we don’t go that often it was all very exciting 🙂
We got a call from the lovely Rob and Penny who were organising a few cheeky pre-party-put aways, and so we headed to their beautiful new house beforehand.
Now, obviously, going to a party, we had to bring our camera. But being that our wonderful Nikon D700 weighs approximately 950 tonnes alone, we couldn’t take the full bag with our vast array of lenses. So I packed the normal party kit. Our super sharp, uber wide angle 14mm-24mm, a flash gun and some cheap radio triggers. We take the wide angle for several reasons. First up – it looks cool. The edges of the photos bend and distort with the barrel of the lens. Secondly – you get a lot more things in focus (more on this later). And thirdly, you are able to take much longer shots handheld and not get that horrid blur that every point and shoot camera in ‘night mode’ gives you. There is a lot less camera shake at 14mm, because the lens is physically closer to the sensor. Please post a comment below if you want any more on this – but that’s it for now on camera stuff – promise!
So anyway, we headed out of the door with our patented ‘party kit’. We got to Rob and Penny’s house and my heart leapt when we met the new members of their family. It then quickly sank again when I remembered what kit we had with us, and all of the wonderful lenses and gels and other sexy paraphernalia we’d left safely tucked away at home.
Rob and Penny have recently had a litter of seven of these critters to mum, ‘Bo’.
And they are utterly, utterly adorable. Being a responsible couple, they have been meticulous in finding homes for the new pups – making sure the people are right, taking them all to dog training classes, and securing each little bundle of fluff the best home possible. But until next week they have all of them, mum and all, in their new house.
And I am going to do a proper shoot with them before they go.
But last night I had to make do with what we had. Ideally, I would use a much longer portrait lens for these guys, but as we had the crazy-ass wide angle lens I had to just to make it work.
I love this shot – with little pooch looking out at me, nibbling on Sian’s ‘Caribbean Blue’ necklace, and Rob and Penny chuckling in the background. But here you see one of the problems with the wide angle lens. With a long portrait lens you get what is called ‘bokeh’. This is the blurring effect of the background that in turn helps make your subject pop out and appear more striking. With a wider lens you lose this effect – more of the scene remains in focus – which is why we take it out as our party lens in the first place (see first paragraph!). In this photo you can clearly make out Rob and Penny in the background. But if I were shooting at 200mm with a wide aperture, Rob and Penny would be turned into a beautiful swirl of buttery-bokeh, all colours and indistinguishable shapes.
So what to do with these beautiful pups? How to make them stand out against their backgrounds without that lovely portraited blur?
That’s right – you guessed it. Flash.
Nice narrow aperture, powerful flash, 200th of a second.
Now, these pictures aren’t perfect – the light is hard, the shadows very pronounced, and the ambient light is non existent…but I am really pleased with them none the less. It was a down and dirty 5 minute shoot, and I love this part of photography. You know what you want to achieve but your kit is not ‘the right stuff’ at the time. Despite this, with some quick thinking and light trickery I was still able to get the shots I wanted.
After the puppies, some more friends, a trip to another house and some (yummy) jelly shots, we headed out to the nightclub – which was what this blog was initially meant to be about!
It was a great night – everyone was in top form, there was a HUGE turnout and Kate seemed to be utterly happy with it all.
Hopefully you can see and agree why I think the 14-24 is the best lens for a night out like this. When in a cramped club with little room to breathe, it captures the whole goings on. Unlike the puppy shots, which were shot deliberately fast to kill the ambient light, these were shot at a much slower shutter speed – a 5th of a second. This lets the sensor soak up all those lurid reds and greens and other luminescent colours the d.i.s.c.o lights throw up. I love it.
At about 3am, the uber – cool – retro – house – funk that we had been strutting to was quickly replaced with what can only be described as “Bondage Rap”. Clearly “Ganster Rap” is oh-so-passe nowadays…
I love hip hop, but cannot fathom why anyone wants to listen to tripe like “face down, eyes up, that’s the way we like to f” – you get the idea. I adore my music, and like to think I am ‘down’ with the kids…but seriously, who benefits from this horrificness? Who enjoys listening to a guy rapping (to a FAT beat, I admit) about having violent intercourse with a girl half his age ‘cos that’s how we do it in my hood’? Does anyone even care about the lyrics of music anymore?…I don’t know – that’s a blog for another time. Point is, we had an awesome night, and called it quits before I stopped the music and lectured everyone on the finer points of hip hop and sent them all home with no supper.
The only thing I regret is not getting a shot of the birthday girl herself, but Priva have their own photographer (who is very good). Being in the game I know how annoying it is when someone starts getting in the way and shooting stuff you are being paid to capture. It usually ends up being a “my camera’s bigger than yours’ scenario and no one likes it.
And that brings us up to this morning.
Bleary eyed and fuzzy headed, (becoming a bit of a theme of late since work has quietened down so much) Sian – somehow – woke up full of beans and convinced me to go to Hunter’s market. I was promised coffee, and pastries and all manner of things, not to mention a chance to see our good friends Ally and Billy there too…but when we got there, the weather was not on our side.
I felt a bit like the girl in the song from last night:
But a hearty lunch with our friends later and a lazy Sunday has left us in great stead for the week ahead.
Hope you all have an awesome one too.
Thanks for reading guys
Maybe it’s because it’s our Nephew’s birthday this weekend. Maybe it’s because of the Olympics. Maybe it’s because Andy Murray is doing terribly well at Wimbledon and no one at the BBC will shut up about it. Maybe it’s because my machine has broken and I feel like I have achieved nothing at all today.
Whatever the reason is, we are missing home. Big time.
They say the grass is always greener, but I would trade anything with anyone right now for the cold and grey tinge of Blighty. If anyone fancies a crap load of stress, 31 degrees and (fairly) blue skies, please do message me. Because nothing is better than home.
Not even all the rum punches in the world.
Less melancholy, more photography to come this weekend 😉