London’s not so hidden history, Pt 1

There’s no point in making a New Years resolution if you know straight away that you won’t stick to it, so I’m not going to promise that I’ll be writing a monthly blog but at the very least I can guarantee this one today to cover January.  Not only that, but I also guarantee something a little different to usual.  No stunning Welsh mountain scenery or sweeping coastlines.  No dreamy sunsets or sunrises.  The images about to feature weren’t taken using fancy equipment, just the phone in my pocket.

Every year, during that mad time in between Christmas and New Year, I like to pop in to the city as early as I can and explore places before anyone wakes up.  In the past I’ve gone to Camden, Primrose Hill, Richmond Park, Greenwich, Oxford Street, Regent Street and more.  It’s so eerie walking around places where you know that thousands of people will be colliding and apologising to each other later that day, but you’re the only person there right now and the person operating CCTV has no one else to watch.

This year, I wanted something different.  I feel like I’ve covered most of the obvious spots in London in some form and didn’t want to be disappointed if the weather didn’t play ball.  I can’t remember how I found a particularly useful webpage, but I’m guessing it was probably something to do with Secret London or Timeout London as I find a lot of good stuff through them.  Anyway, I had a look and it was a map of places to check out for weird and wonderful nods to history that I bet most will pass every day and not acknowledge.

All I had to do was select which ones to visit and make a sensible walking route.  First stop: Barbican.

Problem – Barbican station was closed on that day.  No worries.  Go to Moorgate and walk a mile.  That route along Beech Street will take me to the last piece that Banksy did so it will be nice to revisit.


Coming out of the tunnel at the other end meant it was time to locate the first bit of treasure on the map – Mendelssohn’s tree.  Standing on the corner of a busy junction opposite Barbican station, there was no tree to be found.  Certainly not a special one.  The only possible place for it would be inside the Barbican estate so we went to find some steps and entered the maze of brutalism.  There in front of us, 1 level above the road, on the walkway, was the 500 year old tree that Felix Mendelssohn apparently loved to sit under when he would visit Burnham Beeches.  The tree was felled by a storm in the ’90s and brought to London where it now sits here.  It’s a slightly odd location but quirky, and I like quirky things.


From here it was time to go back down to street level and head towards Smithfield Market where a number of locations were waiting for us.  This must have been an incredibly busy area back in the olden days as we hit 5 historic spots in quick succession.

First up was the oldest house in the City of London – 41 Cloth Fair – that survived the Great Fire of London.  Coming at it from Smithfield meant cutting through an alleyway, and it was like stepping straight in to a time machine.  Add a little smoke or smog and dim the lights and you could easily be fooled in to thinking The Artful Dodger and Fagin were waiting to pounce on you.  Failing that, you could run in to Bert before he takes you up to the rooftops, step in time.  49316736538_637036f4b1_o49317446317_eed2ca0731_o

A short hop around the corner on to West Smithfield and Rotunda Gardens took us to the site where William Wallace was hung, drawn and quartered.  I don’t think he was the only one but he was a celebrity so he’s getting the mention.  Overlooking this scene is St Bartholomew’s Gatehouse, another building that has survived centuries.  Standing in this area should also feel familiar as it was where Sherlock (Benedryl Slumberhatch) faked his death and where Bond went underground to the MI5 HQ in Skyfall (might not have been Skyfall but it was definitely Daniel Craig).   The reality is that the secret underground HQ is just a car park.


As if this wasn’t exciting enough we then went to find the corner of the fabulously named Cock Lane.  Why?  To find a small, golden, naked boy of course.  This was a memorial to the Great Fire of London that started on Pudding Lane, and the boy was made a little fat on purpose to sort of illustrate the role that gluttony played in the fire.  I’m not 100% sure why he isn’t wearing pants though.  Seriously, who needs to bake cakes at 1am on a Sunday?  This is long before Sunday opening hours!  The Golden Boy of Pye Corner…


Now just a stone’s throw away from this beaut is London’s first drinking fountain.  It might not work any longer but drinking fountains are making a strong comeback in the city in 2020!  They aren’t quite as ornate as this one at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church.


Turning 180 degrees here means you are now facing the Old Bailey and can walk behind to find the old Newgate Prison wall.  It’s on private property and the signs clearly state this so I didn’t get any shots but took a wander down to St Paul’s Cathedral for this symmetrical snap at the modern Paternoster Row.


At this stage it was time for my mate to go for a wee and grab a coffee.  I took the opportunity to pop in to One New Change shopping centre and get some great images of the interior as well as the city skyline from the roof.

But you can’t see them right now cos this is about history and One New Change is a fancy new place.

Coming up in Part 2 of my London History walk will be St Dunstan’s in the East (the cover pic), a roman wall and Highgate Cemetery.  I might throw in some more graffiti and street art too for fun.  Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to get over to the brilliantly named Farting Lane to check out a lamp, and the tribute to a nazi dog near Buckingham Palace was just a bit too far out from our route.  Shame.


Cwm and see!

I can’t believe I ruined this website blog thing with a full post on a sandwich.

It’s not getting deleted though.  It’s staying cos the content – my thoughts – are totally valid and might be worth remembering in December 2019.  I tried a lot of sandwiches in the run up to Christmas, and Greggs was definitely the winner.

Anyway, I haven’t done of these in a while and I need to get the writing back on track, if only for another excuse to post more photos that I’m proud of.  These have already featured on instagram, and less so on Facebook, but now it’s time to share here too and give a bit more story.  That’s the thing with those other platforms is that it’s hard to get the story across.  Even if the story is boring, it’s still there to be shared, so I’m here to share.

As I often need to do, here’s the explanation of the blog title:

Cwm is pronounced like come, but spoken by a northerner calling his dog.  Coom, but not like boom.  The oo should be like cook rather than cool.  Cwm is the Welsh word for Valley, specifically a glacial valley.  Cwm Idwal (Idwal Valley) is the first place that I visited in Snowdonia (already mentioned this in a previous blog post that you can go and find) and over a year later I returned.  This time it was Autumn going in to Winter.  I wanted snow, but I didn’t get it.

This visit wasn’t quite as romantic as 2017’s trip, with the stay in the cottage.  This time “home” was a Premier Inn sharing a plot of land with KFC and Aldi.  There was a curry house a few doors along though, so ultimately that swung it.  Wifi was rubbish though.  Millennial nightmare.

We actually got there really early and the sun was still up so I grabbed the opportunity to get to the coast.  I’d seen photos of Point of Ayr lighthouse on Talacre beach but had never visited it.  Google maps (using my own data now, dammit) says that the beach was only 20 minutes away, so off we went.  Ever been to a beach in November?  One that tickles the Irish sea?  It’s windy.  Wasn’t too bad though.  The main thing about beaches in November is that no one else is daft enough to go there so you end up with images like this:

Point of Ayr Lighthouse, Talacre Beach

Point of Ayr Lighthouse, Talacre Beach

The sun was getting ready to set just off to the left of this shot, which is why we have that lovely soft light coming in.

I took another shot of this from the sand dunes, and it was picked up by Visit Wales’ instagram account, shared, and attracted over 30000 likes.  Unreal!

The next morning we got up way before the sun and headed down the North Wales Expressway towards Bangor, turning off to the A5.  We were hoping to get up to Cwm Idwal before sunrise to catch it rising and filling up the valley with light.  That didn’t really happen but it was a nice walk at least, and I got the drone out.  The cloud was quite low, it was a bit cold, there was a bit of rain, and the light was quite flat for some time.  We decided to walk a lap of the lake (Llyn Idwal) and just see what happens.  Along the way I spotted this waterfall and couldn’t resist it:


To get this sort of shot where the water has almost turned to milk, you need to slow your shutter speed down.  There are 2 key pieces of kit needed for this – a tripod and a filter.  You need a decent ND filter that makes the light work harder to get down the barrel of the lens.  I think for this I used a 6 stop ND filter by Hoya, which is kinda like wearing 6 pairs of sunglasses I guess.  Other than that, you just need to fiddle around with your camera settings to get the timings right.  I think this one must have been between 2 to 3 seconds long.

At this point we’re close to being halfway round the lake, and the weather is awful now.  Visibility doesn’t even stretch to the next path.  This is going to be a waste of time as far as photos go, but at least we’re out in the great outdoors.  Look at this poor lone tree, lost in the very odd green fog:


Getting closer down to the water, things improved a little and actually I think the tone of this one came out really nicely.  It’s a very calm and tranquil image:


Then this happened:

Pen Yr Ole Wen

Pen Yr Ole Wen reflecting in Llyn Idwal

The cloud just seemed to fall down in front of me to the Ogwen Valley and then roll across the nose of Pen Yr Ole Wen, seen above.  The water at Llyn Idwal was almost perfectly still and crystal clear giving amazing reflections, so it was time to run down to a decent spot in the water, set the tripod up and snap away quickly.  Moments like these usually come and go very quickly.

Turning back to face the Devil’s Kitchen, the cloud was still lingering and giving the place a really spooky feel.  I had to get a quick shot of what was behind me, and it wasn’t until I got home that I realised 2 other explorers had just snuck in to shot on the left.  It turned out to be the outdoor extraordinaires John and Hollie who saw the image on Instagram and identified themselves.  Small world!  Just look at that water though!


From here, there was only the slope back down to the car park left to navigate, and the area was filling up with people.  The world had woken up and were keen to explore.  I was keen to get a bacon and egg sandwich so took the A5 north to Bethesda to Fitzpatrick’s cafe.  That turned out be a great decision.

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Christmas Sarnies 2018 – Aldi Edition Pt 1

It doesn’t have to be all about photography does it?  I don’t know if there are rules on this sort of thing, but as I’ve not posted on here for about 5 months (as per usual) you should be chuffed with anything at all.

For shizzles and giggles, I’ve decided to review every Christmas or festive sandwich that enters me mush as we close out 2018.

This doesn’t mean I don’t have any photographic content worthy of coming on the blog!  In fact, I probably have more than ever, and especially now that I’ve got a drone, but that can wait.  Christmas only comes around once a year.  Let’s get started:

Retailer: Aldi

Name: Turkey Feast on Malted Bread

Price: £1.69

At first glance, this gives the appearance of a festive sangrich, in its red packaging, decorative holly print trim, and being on the shelf that says “Festive Sandwiches”.  My suspicions were later confirmed upon eating it.

Costing a mere £1.69, expectations would be low, but Aldi have succeeded in producing a sangrich that could easily demand retail prices of £1.80-£1.99, so you’re getting great value for money.

The malted bread holds the deep fillings well, without being at all soggy despite it currently pishing down with rain.  There is evidence of 2 meats here – turkey and bacon, but where is the sausage?  Absent.  This is doubly sad when you consider that it has come from the home of the bratwurst; Germanland.

Today though, we can overlook the overlooked wiener and instead appreciate the strong peppery punch of the pork and sage stuffing with a naughty slip of fried onion and slathering of cranberry chutney.

This tastes like Christmas in November and at close to half the price of the Marks and Spencer equivalent, I think this is some strong competition for the former lord of the lunches.  Combined with Aldi’s own brand of “Red” energy drink for 25p and their version of a chocolate, caramel and nut bar for 29p, you’ve a lot of change coming back from that dodgy 20 quid note in your back pocket.  It’s worth noting that Marks and Spencer have teamed up with Shelter again to help tackle homelessness, but of course there’s nothing stopping you buying other sandwiches are still donating a few quid.

There are rumours of a Specially Selected Aldi version of this sandwich which has received high ratings, but your reviewer was only able to find the brie sarnie from that range today, so as Arnold Schwarzenegger once said “I will return soon”.

In summary, very nice, affordable sangrich.

Score 7.8 out of 10.  A strong start from the seller of fishing rods, chainsaws, baby gates and fresh veg.

That there London, again

I’m basically an adopted plastic cockney now.  I know all the slang including “apples and pears”, “ruby murray”, “trouble and strife” and “i’m off for an Eartha Kitt”.  So it goes without saying that London is going to feature quite a lot in the blog, but I don’t want to tire the same places out all the time unless I find new angles or new themes.

New theme #1 that I came up with for 2018 was “the rat’s eye view”.  A simple enough concept: take photos from low down as if you were a rat.  Maybe it could give a different perspective on the world from what we usually see approximately 5 to 6 feet higher up in most cases.

I’ve only just started with this so I’ve only a few snaps to share, but here they are:


St Paul’s Cathedral at night


Classic Red London Bus


More London and Shard


On Tower Bridge


Shad Thames

Of course, spending 2 whole evenings on your knees in London without suitable payment would be ludicrous, so I did manage to take a few shots whilst stood upright.

Maybe it’s also worth pointing out that I was apparently walking through the place that’s recently been described as a “war zone” and has “no go areas”.  What a brave soul I am, or of course I could be being fucking sarcastic as neither of these things are true.  Nowhere in London is a “no-go zone”.  It is bullshitio.  The orange man and his supporters are full of shitio.

You’re more likely to have a hipster spill a mocha-choca-gluten-free-synthetic-hazelnut-fairtrade-parrot-friendly-soya-latte-espresso-combo-hybrid over you than you are to get stabbed or attacked in any way.  If you find yourself in London and being aggressively shouted at, the chances are some one is trying to sell fruit and veg to you.

Back to real life and photographs.

I took a cracking stroll from Tower Bridge all along the river to Tate Modern and then across to St Paul’s Cathedral as you have seen in the first rat eye view pics.  The lights of London really do shine brightly once the sun has gone down, and this is when I really like to have fun with the camera.  Street photography is fairly difficult during the day and an extra challenge at night, but when the neon lights are on it’s hard to resist.

First stop in Soho was the Windmill International, which used to be a theatre.  I thought it was still a theatre, but no, it’s a table dancing club.  Look closely below and you can see the bouncer on the door giving me a huge thumbs up and welcoming smile.  Aye.



Windmill Soho

Just around the corner, still in Soho, was this barber shop.  It was closed, obvz, but the neon lights at the back gave a very soft glow to the grooming chairs and were begging to be photographed.  I obliged.


Teds Grooming Soho

Mere feet away from there was this quaint record store.  I don’t know much about the place but the design and tiling on the building suggested to me it may have been something to do with the London Underground in a previous life.  It had that Underground station feel to it.


Soho Record Store

And if you’re going to photograph a bloke outside a record store you might as well do the same outside a book store, right?  Fifty Shades and Extra Strong Pills?  Suits you, sir.


Soho Original


The posh bit

If you’ve enjoyed this, you can find these snaps and a few more that didn’t make it to the blog, over on Instagram @iamtheinstadan or on facebook 

Cheers for reading.

Gogledd Cymru

Wondering what that title is about?  Phonetically, it’s “gog-lethh cum-ree”.  It’s Welsh for North Wales.

In 2017 I decided to celebrate turning 35 in style by spending a few nights in the most beautiful 17th Century Welsh cottage that you ever did plonk your eyes on.  Cross Keys is a Grade II listed building that sleeps 6 and was previously a late Georgian hostelry.  Now it’s an idyllic spot to get away from the big city lights and just chill in Welsh history.

This isn’t some subtle advertisement or sponsored post.  I was genuinely in love with the place as soon as we walked through the door.  The link is here if you fancy finding out for yourself.  Carol was a star, making sure that we had absolutely everything that we needed.  The only thing that Carol didn’t provide was our clothing and food.  We had to bring that ourselves.

Cross Keys cottage was, as you’ve already gathered in the first 2 paragraphs, a lovely base to have just south of the edge of Snowdonia National Park.  The plan of attack was to check out Bala, the local town, as well as Barmouth on the coast, Llangollen, Ruthin and to go deep in to the mountains.  Welsh weather doesn’t always allow your best laid plans to execute, but we did alright.

First up was Llyn Tegid, the local lake.  I like lakes.  Sometimes they are big, and sometimes they are small.  The very very small ones are usually called ponds or swimming pools.  Llyn Tegid is MASSIVE!

The weather forecast for morning #1 was looking average to alright, so I set the alarm early, way before the sun was ready to rise, ready for the whole house to wake up and join me at the lake with my camera.  Then I closed the front door alone, and made the 10 minute drive down to Llangower, alone.  On my own.  This either says that my friends and family hate me, or prefer the beds in the cottage to a cold morning at a lake.  Or both.

Llangower was a lovely little spot with its own mini train station right on the edge of the lake.  It also had its own jetty and this was where I got set up for some early morning long exposure work.  Unfortunately the sun wasn’t going to be making an appearance thanks to the clouds but the light actually helped me out a bit, to create this calm and tranquil image of the lake and the rolling hills in the distance.  The smoothness of the water was created by putting a 6 stop neutral density filter in front the lens and leaving the shutter open for a long time.  The filter is a bit like putting 6 pairs of dark sunglasses on your camera.  It takes a while for enough light to get through to create a decent image, and the water is passing by during that time, ending up looking like a sheet of ice.

Llyn Tegid - Bala

Llyn Tegid – Bala

After a bit of a wander and a few more shots at the lake and Llangower, I headed back up to Bala and then on to Llandderfel, where the others were still sleeping.

Llangower Railway Station

Llangower Railway Station

The next time the camera came out was when we hit the narrow, windy mountain road over to Pistyll Rhaeadr; Wales’ tallest waterfall.  When we first arrived at the cottage, Carol recommended visiting here, and it didn’t disappoint.  The initial drive over the mountains was incredible, but the final long lane up to the car park was quite a pain in August.  Worth it though:


Pistyll Rhaeadr

From there it was on to the A494 to Barmouth for a spot of grub, some souvenirs, some time in the amusement arcades and a stroll along the very beautiful and very windy beach:


Barmouth Beach


Barmouth Harbour


Barmouth Harbour

And then it was time to head home (the cottage felt like home by now) for curry.

Over the weekend we spent a nice amount of time in the towns and villages of Ruthin and Llangollen, and found 2 of the greatest shops in the whole world, in Bala – Stori and Aran Hufen.  Stori is a Welsh off license where you can buy local lagers and ciders poured from taps in to 1 litre plastic bottles to take home.  Aran Hufen creates and serves the smoothest, tastiest ice cream in the world.  If you’re in Swansea reading this, and there’s a good chance you are, please forget that Joe’s rubbish.  Verdi’s is fine, but nothing compares to Aran Hufen.

But what I really want to show you is the huge array of photographs that I took one evening as we ventured deeper in to Snowdonia National Park, along the A5 to Llyn Ogwen where we parked up and walked the Cwm Idwal route to Devil’s Kitchen.  The weather stayed dry for us on the walk, but the sun was a little shy and it was getting late in the day so I ended up with some pretty moody apertures.  The photos do the talking from this point onwards:

This wasn’t the most recent trip to North Wales for me.  The Snowdonia National Park was barely ventured in to and it looked like it needed more of an explore so I returned in November for an evening of astro photography, before catching sunrise over on Anglesey the next morning.  Those images will be saved for a future blog post so feel free to hit the follow button on here.  It should be in the bottom right hand corner of the screen.

Thanks to Sarah, Oliver, Caroline, Josh and Nanny Mumtaz for coming along for this brilliant birthday break.

Storm Brian

What a stupid name.  All storm names so far have been stupid.  If we have to go alphabetically, Storm names should be as follows:


Big Barry


Dan Davidson







King Louis









Uganda’n Policeman

Victor Meldrew

Wonder Woman


Yoga Extreme


Are you actually still reading this rubbish?

Here’s some pics I took last Autumn during Storm Brian.  If you’re a child reading this, please don’t try to take similar photos as it was pretty dangerous being on the seafront and by this particular bit of harbour wall.  If you’re an adult reading this; whatever, I’m not your mother.


Storm Brian Black and white


Storm Brian Porthcawl


Storm Brian Porthcawl


Storm Brian Porthcawl


Storm Brian Porthcawl

It’s quite rare that I get an opportunity to go back to Wales these days, but when I do I like to take advantage of the views and the good weather… or really bad weather in this case.

The advice that day really was to stay well away from the coast, and a webcam had been set up at Porthcawl lifeboat station so that we could view the storm from the safety of our own homes, but I wanted to go and see for myself.  My mate, Fil, came with me.  Stupid and reckless, maybe, but I never felt in any real danger.  For info, I can’t swim and have a fear of drowning, so would never have taken a massive risk anyway.

I think the results are decent here and really shows the power of nature, the sea, the weather, when it decides to put on a show.

My advice is stay indoors though.  My boxer shorts took a few hours to dry out after these were taken even with heated car seats.

In total contrast to this, I then headed to Cardiff 24 hours later and captured these lovely images of Bae Caerdydd, or Cardiff Bay.


Mermaid Quay and the Pierhead Building

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Wales Millennium Centre

If you’re still here and seeing these words then leave a like or a comment below, or maybe even share on social media for me.  Follow the blog if you really want to.  There’s an option on this page somewhere.  You’ll find it.  You’re clever.

If you have Facebook, be sure to follow my page and try and find me on instagram under whatever name I’ve decided to use this week.

Plenty more to come on the blog in 2018 including a recent visit to North Wales.  I think I’ve already blogged about Snowdonia last August, but I returned for a 24 hour road trip to cover astrophotography in them thar hills, and to explore the coast of Anglesey including South Stack Lighthouse and Ynys Llandwyn (there’s a chance I’ve not spelt that correctly).


Chernobyl Diary

For many landscape photographers, whether they are in to urban exploration or not, Chernobyl is a bit of a hot spot on the list of places to go.  The image that always seems to spring to mind when you think of Chernobyl is the abandoned ferris wheel.  It’s not actually in Chernobyl though.  The ferris wheel, the dodgems, the abandoned hotel and supermarkets, the school, the swimming pool… are all actually in the neighbouring town of Pripyat, or Prypiat, depending on your persuasion.

That was the first surprise when I visited here in 2016; just how many people are still living within the exclusion zone.  Not thousands, granted, but approximately 600-700 people reside in Chernobyl, including workers at the plant (3000 people still work there and many of them commute in from Slavutych, by train).  Our tour didn’t extend out to many of the other villages but I understand that a number of people returned to their homes after the disaster, ignoring or refusing the advice given.

Another surprising, but pleasant, fact, is the way that nature and wildlife have fought back since the disaster in 1986.  At one point during the tour we were taking a walk through Pripyat and crossed a small wall in to what can only really be described as woodland.  There was an odd path running through the trees in an oval shape, and a few artefacts that didn’t quite look right, and then a grandstand appeared out of nowhere.  A seated grandstand.  We were in a sports stadium and that weird curved path was indeed the running track, or at least it used to be.  If you want to see how it used to look, search online for Avanhard Stadium.  This is how it looks now:

I mentioned the wildlife, and although my experience on the day was limited to 1 cat and a pack of wild but friendly dogs, it’s believed that there are now more mammals living in the area than before the disaster.  Scientists have spotted wild boar, deer, wolves, moose, european bison, brown bears, and lynx in the zone.  There are actually believed to be up to 400 wolves roaming the abandoned villages, all surviving by consuming highly toxic prey.  Just in case you missed that – there are 400 highly radioactive grey wolves roaming freely.  Touching their carcass would be would be toxic to humans.

Pripyat Cat

Pripyat Cat

Wild dogs

Wild dogs

So back to the tour, and it started at a checkpoint on the edge of the exclusion zone which covers just over 1000 square miles.  Passports had to be shown when entering the zone, and names checked by a very strict looking uniformed man who looked like an extra from Goldeneye.  On exit, later that day, there were buildings on the side of the road where you were screened for levels of radiation.  No one failed, thankfully.

The main road to Chernobyl is long and straight and one of those places where you feel that if you scream no one will hear you.  We made a number of stops early on, at signs, at a kindergarten, a memorial, and a diversion off the main road to Duga Radar – an old soviet over-the-horizon radar system to warn of ballistic missiles.  The size of this thing was overwhelming.  My camera couldn’t fit it all in.  Here are some pics from the early stages of the tour:

We pushed onwards to Chernobyl town, then to the nuclear power plant and on in to Pripyat:

Now, the town of Pripyat is where it all happens.  I’ll state right now that the whole thing felt a bit stage managed, and you’ll see why in the photos, especially the ones from inside the school.  You might have already thought it from the earlier pictures of the kindergarten, but this is Dark Tourism, and you gotta give the public what they want to see.  Fans of S.T.A.L.K.E.R and Call of Duty will probably recognise some of the locations here:

Stage managed?  What are your thoughts?  Let me know below:


Television rules the nation


Abandoned small shoe


Doll and gas mask

Abandoned leisure centre and swimming pool.  As with some of the other stuff I’ve posted, I thoroughly recommend searching online for how it used to look.  The pool was called Azure, in Pripyat.  There’s even a video of the place on youtube:

So after taking all of these the sun quickly set and the light dropped.  The city of Pripyat plunged in to an eerie darkness and it was time to get out of there.  It was the most incredible pink and orange sunset I’ve ever seen but no photos of that unfortunately as we were already on the transport back to Kiev to get some grub and cheap local beer and rest ready for the flight home the next morning.

That about covers the day.  A huge thanks to Josh, Shane, Lee and Tony that came along with me for the day.

Dark Tourism certainly isn’t for everyone, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable day, most definitely educational, and heartbreaking.

There’s a few more pics on my instagram page, currently using the hangle @dndvdsn but by the time you read this I’ll probably have changed it again.

Don’t forget to follow on facebook if you’re still on that old place – Dan Davidson Photography in the search field will find it.  Like the page before you leave.

Til the next time…

Multistorey Moods

Hey hey and ahoy!

I feel like I start almost every blog post with “it’s been ages since my last post”, and that’s mainly because it has indeed been ages since my last post.

August was a damn good month where I got an annoying little bug inside me urging me to get out and do something cool with the camera and other people.  There have been more wanderings around the City of London as well as a trip back home to Wales and some snaps at the top of the highest peaks in the Brecon Beacons but I’m not gonna talk about that today.

A couple of weeks ago I arranged what I hoped would be an awesome edgey shoot in an urban setting.  Nothing over the top, nothing fancy, just a chance for me to get out with the camera, try out some portrait techniques, think up some ideas, get inspiration from other urban shoots that I like, and work on interaction with other people.  I honestly feel like out of all of the different aspects of photography, working with models or just asking people to pose must be my biggest weakness.  When I take photographs of people I like them to just do what they do and I’ll capture the moment.  That’s how my wedding style goes and I think it works well.  In reality, there are going to be lots of times when I need to be giving direction, so this urban shoot was going to be a step towards getting to be where I want to be.

So it’s Monday evening and I’ve arranged to catch Megan in town at the old bus station with the aim of getting about the last hour of light before looking for artificial light in the form of whatever Milton Keynes can provide for free.  I’d been watching quite a few Behind the Scenes videos of this kind of thing, from America and Australia, and really wanted to test myself.  So I did.

We started at 1830 as the sun was getting ready to dip behind the train station’s office block but actually put ourselves in the shade.  The light was still surprisingly good and as I was using a nifty fifty (50mm prime lens) with the aperture pretty wide open, I could keep the ISO on or close to 100.

We lifted off and warmed up with some nice simple shots near some railings and a mirrored part of the building.  There was also a long clean grey wall that we used for some fancy shallow focus shots with Megan a short distance away, and also for a wide flat shot to work on the rule of thirds.  The nearby fire exit was metal and surprisingly clean so we tried a few snaps around there and the best ones definitely contained attitude.


There’s a good amount of graffiti in just one corner of the area that we used but that area happens to be a skate park and was fairly busy that evening.  We decided to skip it and maybe come back to it later.  For now though the light was definitely dropping quickly so we’d have to find some artificial light.  The multistorey car park was the obvious first option.

We took 2 cars and looped round and up and round and up until we got to an eerily quiet level and parked up.  We needed more attitude, so the hood came up for most of our shots, I was shooting with black and white in mind so really thinking hard about the light, the shadows and leading lines.  I wasn’t carrying any fancy equipment because I don’t have any.  Gordon Ramsey only needs one pan to make his magic, right?  We just took advantage of whatever was available to us there and then.  We also kept the posing really simple because a) I’m not great at directing and thinking of poses yet, and b) I’m not great at directing and thinking of poses yet.  Most of my direction was to myself just thinking about angles that work and directions of light.  Megan did the rest.  At one point I just asked Megan to simply listen out for my click and change her pose slightly each click whether it be a hip movement or a hair flick or a hand gesture or the direction of her eyes.  The results are below!

Megan was absolutely fab to work with, very professional and easy going at the same time.  If you’re a photographer and would like to work with her, just hunt her down on instagram @meganastasiaa and I’m sure you won’t regret it.  Tell her I sent you!  Megan is new to modeling and pushing herself towards a career in fitness but you can see here she can create some fantastic looks with the right photographer.  If you’re looking for a model for your sports brand, you don’t need to look any further.

With that, if you are looking for a photographer to help capture some cool images of your brand, or maybe you just fancy a funky photoshoot for yourself or want to get started in modeling, or a family portrait with a difference, or whatever it might be, get in touch and find out what my very decent rates are.  We can chuck some ideas around.  I have a smoke grenade that I really want to use soon!

Oh and while I remember, I have a new instagram handle  @iamtheinstadan

Be sure to say hi!

PokemonGo and Geocaching

How do you get Pikachu and his mates on an already crowded bus?


That there is my full knowledge of what a Pokemon thing is.  I’ve never really watched it, never played it.  Anime and Manga looks pretty cool of course, and as a big time Daft Punk fan I know the works of Leiji Matsumoto who helped them out with the Interstella 5555 movie.  Other than that, zero interest.  That’s changed slightly this week.

A few weeks ago someone suggested that I might be interested in Geocaching.  A few of my friends will confirm, with a face that says “never again” that I like to wander until the body hurts, mostly around London streets.  At this point I’d like to apologise to Jon, Sarah, Simon, Phil and anyone else who’s had the fortune of following me from a few paces behind while I get excited about a sticker or some street art that I’ve spotted and have to speedwalk to.  I’d also like to apologise in advance to Shane and Josh who have this to come when we got to Chernobyl in October.

Back to Geocaching!  If you’ve not heard of it, it comes from Geography and Caching.  It’s an outdoorsy thing kinda like orienteering or treasure hunting, but of course it’s the 21st Century so uses GPS on mobile phones.  I downloaded the Geocaching app to my phone and was amazed how many geocaches were in the area.  Literally hundreds.  I don’t use the word literally unless I literally mean literally.  Literally hundreds.  The first night I popped out to the local lake with a smaller version of an adult, formally known as a child.  We searched high but mainly low and followed the GPS and hints available but to no avail.  The problem was, we had no idea what we were looking for.  What on earth do these things look like?  Geocaches come in a few different shapes and sizes, from tiny magnetic tabs or bolts, through to 35mm film cassettes, tupperware boxes, ration boxes, up to suitcase size!  Some are obvious, some are less so.  Thanks camouflage!

I tried again a few nights later at the Milton Keynes National Bowl.  It looked easy on the phone, but nope.  Even with 2 small versions of adults with me this time, we had no luck. As lovely as the weather is at the moment, it doesn’t help when trying to look behind bushes.  Thorns, nettles and brambles suck (not literally).

Attempt 3 was today and…. SUCCESS!  A tiny little thing near one of our offices in Kent, that I went to find on a lunch break.  It took no more than 4 minutes to find, and I had some help in a full size adult manchild this time (thanks Kam).  We unscrewed the device and completed the log with names and the date, then put it back for someone else to find; job done.

But not quite.  Kam had just that morning downloaded PokemonGo which is practically the same thing but there’s no physical treasure this time.  It’s all about wandering and looking for virtual Pokemon but using the same technology – GPS.  We didn’t have to walk far to find some Pokestops and stocked up on Pokeballs and eggs.  I think I have an egg in an incubator at the moment which would appear to only want to do anything if I walk at least 2km.  I thought this was a game for kids but no, it’s actually a secret fitness app for adults.  Clever Japanese bar stewards!

And that takes me on to another point.  It seems that people want to revert to deciding that anything they don’t understand is worth mocking and belittling.  So many grumpy people on Facebook telling others that they have better things to do than play that silly game.  Erm… you’re on Facebook telling others you have better things to do.  That equates to you having nothing better to do.  Let’s not even start on the idea of grown adults spending time watching “professional sports”, Harry Potter, or Star Wars, then knocking those who play PokemonGo.  Really what I want to say it let’s not knock it til you’ve tried it.

I read the mad stories when PokemonGo was first released in the US and it made little sense but we don’t judge a whole community on the actions of a minority now will we?  It appeared to be some weird craze that stupid people were playing in an attempt to win this year’s Darwin Awards.  But they aren’t stupid.  These are kids, teens, young adults, parents, families, elders, all getting involved in something new and revolutionary (even though Geocaching was invented in 2000) and enjoying spending time out and about with each other.  Just last Saturday I took my better half to her friend’s house 6 miles away and was amazed at the hoards of people roaming the streets and parks looking for small animated creatures.  It was fantastic to see!  Who are these people then who are making this what it is?  I’d imagine a large chunk of the gaming community are heavily involved in this.  I’m not suggesting that gamers don’t go out, but computer games are typically played indoors, right?  If PokemonGo is getting these guys and girls out for some Vitamin D, then GREAT!  I hear stories of people with depression and anxiety who are benefiting from this game and are more comfortable with the world immediately around them. There’s a real buzz about this game right now and I can genuinely see why.

After work tonight I took a stroll of roughly 2km (ssshhh) to find another Geocache but it was in a very busy path on the Kent coastline, surrounded by people who would probably be calling the police to report the weird Welsh dude rummaging around bushes, walls, benches, poles and bins looking for something.  I’ll leave that until another time.  It’s not going anywhere.

Neither is Pokemon.  Time to embrace it fully!





Paws what you’re doing

Alright cocker (spaniel)?  This week’s post is short and sweet just like my model for the morning – Poppy.

Poppy is a very cool, very happy and content English Cocker Spaniel pooch, that belongs to my friend, Val, and I was booked in to do a portrait shoot for Poppy way back but finding time where we were both free and the weather was good proved really difficult but we finally got round to it this month.

The setting for our shoot was to be Furzton Lake early on a Sunday morning before anyone wakes up so that we had plenty of space and peace.  That didn’t happen.  The place was rammed with people running, walking their dogs, and a very large group of people playing with model boats on the water.  We still found a good spot though and the freshly shampooed Poppy got straight to work!

First of all we found some slightly long grass with wild flowers and made her run around chasing a ball which resulted in a hilarious image that you can see below and above.  There was no way I could not put that one as the headline image.  Poppy was equally happy sitting and posing as running around having fun, and we got some great close up head and shoulder shots.

Once she got bored of that stretch we moved a little further round the lake and tried some black and white images using some leading lines and I got down low to the ground to get a better angle.

The whole shoot took no more than an hour but the final images look fab, I’d say.

Who ever says never work with kids or animals really is talking out of their back bottoms.

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