Thursday, November 30, 2006

Have you seen this man?

He is of course the Cuban Leader, Fidel Castro, but although his hold on power hasn't faltered in fifty years, he hasn't been seen in public for quite some time either.

This coming Saturday sees the fiftieth anniversary of Castro's assumption of power but at the moment, its still unclear if the 80-year-old leader will make a public appearance. Castro Hasn't been seen in public since August.

Conspicuous by his absence, this has led many bloggers to ponder Mr Castro's current state of health or even if his status as that of a living individual is entirely accurate. In any case, its quite interesting to read some of the various blogs about what the future may hold for the Nation of Cuba.

Daniel Freedman writes that now is the time for democracy to strike while the nation exists in a rarely seen state of 'limbo'. While Parnell warns us not to bury Castro just yet as his death has been (incorrectly) reported on "more than one occasion". This seems quite logical to me as it is my understanding that generally speaking, we only get one shot at dying.

Whatever the state of the undoubtedly ailing leader is. I do find it interesting to see how different people are preparing for the future. Some want change, others do not. Some want to keep Castro's ideology alive and well, while others seem keener to assassinate it quickly, something that they failed to do 'in personam'.

Billie McCurrie Radio Interview

A few people have requested this interview so I will post it on my blog once again.

I first met Billy at a YL (young life) meeting in Southport. I found his story to be incredibly moving so I decided to arrange for Billy to be given an opportunity to talk about his experiences on a radio programme that I was producing at the time.

Religion is often a motivating factor for violence and terrorism in today's society, but Billy's story shows that this doesn't always have to be the end of the matter, The Bible's message is still bringing people to repentance, a place where they seek forgiveness and a place where they turn their lives around.

Click here to listen to the interview

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Manchester festive market

Christmas is close and with the Manchester festive market being in town, Santa must be taking the cover of his sleigh as I speak.

As I walked round (mulled wine in hand), I was amazed as aver at the variety of the various European food, art and crafts that were on display. I could have spent a fortune but instead limited my buying to a single bottle of Sasparilla. I had never tasted it before so I thought I'd give it a go.

It reminded me that often, its the simple little things which make life great fun. I really enjoyed walking around, drinking my 'winter warmer' and taking in all the different sights and sounds (and foods of course!)

If you in the area, or is theres a festive market near to you then please take my advice. Pay it a visit and try some of the foods on offer while you're there!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Showing off your pics, web 2.0 style!

Showing or sharing photographs via the internet certainly isn't new but a new web service is making it much easier to do, and sexier to look at as well.

'The big picture library' is a nifty web 2.0 app which allows you to dynamically upload your pictures (up to 25 at a time!) which are then displayed attractively for your viewers.

Yes, gone are the days of troublesome designing and programming. The service includes a good selection of templates for you to choose from and you can easily swap on a regular basis, no programming needed and completely hassle free.

This kind of service showcases the versatility of the latest breed of web 2.0 sites that are out there and more importantly, it helps us to glimpse how we will be using the internet in the not-too-distant future. Some websites are already toying with online organisers, web 2.0 video editing, and of course, the infamous 'wiki' which started the second generation of websites a few years ago.

The service is currently free for personal use but uptake has been swift so you may need to be patient with it until initial interest dies down or the servers are beefed up.

In any case, this is a wonderful website which will have photographers clicking away in order to create a free, high impact, readily available photographic portfolio.

If you'd like to see how I have used the service, click here.

Been out taking pics again on Sunday...

I was out and about on Sunday, taking pictues on a special 'Talk photography' forum photoshoot. The venue was Bolton abbey in North Yorkshire and as the weather steadily improved throughout the day, I had a great time snapping away. In fact it was my first photography 'day' for a few months what with work being busy and all that.

I also enjoyed my Sunday lunch too. Emma and myself dropped in to some posh gaffe called the 'Devonshire' and although I had my suspicions that it may be pricey (2 helicopters on the lawn), I was still quite shocked to pay 40-odd quid for lunch, just for the two-of-us.

The food was great, although the prices did leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

You can see the piccies here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More blogging evangelism from me!

I've been at it again! Chris Gaskell, a mate, performer and x-factor STAR! (honestly!) is now blogging... And I'm to blame...

Feel free to check out his new blog or the website.

The great thing about blogs is that you don't have to be (too) geeky to be good at it and it could actually earn you some cash if people like what they see. It won't be long before Chris gets some bookings directly as a result of his new blog.

Another feature that I'm keen to push is web 2.0 integration. Web 1.0 was personal homepages but 2.0 is blogs with Youtube embedded movies. Its NEVER been easier for people to share their experiences online and reach out to a wider audience.

May I formally wish Chris all the best for his blog and his gigs and I couldn't finish this post without including a youtube interview with the man himself.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Taken last year

As some of my regulars may know, last year I visited the Vatican and got chance to take a few snaps too.

On average, I can take a few thousand pictures during a photoshoot so it isn't that surprising that even though its a year ago, I'm still processing some of the pics.

I can't help feel a certain degree of pressure when photographing some of the greatest works of art in the world. It has to be spot on and maybe thats why I don't really want to rush into anything. So as I look at my finished picture (which has taken longer to produce than the statue itself!), can I honestly say I'm happy with the results?

This sculpture is called the Pieta by Michelangelo. It shows Christ after his crucifixion, his lifeless body is being cradled by his mother.

Michelangelo originally made this sculpture to cover someone's tomb but it was moved onto an elevated plinth in the 19th century. The sculpture employs some perspective 'trickery' too. At first glance, it may appear quite normal, however the figure of Christ has been made smaller in comparison in order to fit appropriately into the overall scene. The figure of Christ also includes a 'modest' depiction of the crucifixion wounds although bizarrely, there are no wounds on the soles of his feet. Some interpret this to be symbolic of the resurrection story. Either that, or he forgot.

Michelangelo also signed this work, his name is written on the sash of the Virgin Mary. Apparently this is the only piece of work that he signed and afterwards, he vowed never to do it again.

He also designed the colossal dome which covers the tomb of St Peter and also painted the ceiling in the famous Sistine chapel.

I hope my picture does some justice to a remarkable work of art by a remarkable artist although nothing can come close to seeing these things in person.

Make money from your camera snaps!

Once again, I received an email from fotolibra to advise me that someone has bought one of my pictures of Loch Ness for publication.

Fotolibra is just one of many web-based photo management services where you can sell your work automatically without having to program a website or worry about marketing. Now of course, you pay for the privilege, its a 50% split for any images sold and you need to pay to join up but I suspect that will soon change as more companies thart to offer similar services.

Its always nice to get an email saying that your pictures are selling and if you have a good eye for advertising photography then you could easily make a tidy sum from your picture sales too.

This is also a growing market, Getty Images have also introduced a similar service although it would appear that the sales figures aren't as exciting for the photographer and Getty also want exclusivity too. Although Fotolibra do take 50% comission, they don't demand exclusivity for your royalty free pics.

My thanks to all the good folks at Fotolibra and I look forward to hearing from you more often :-) Oh and here's my fotolibra galley page if you want to buy my pics :-) And finaly, if anyones wondering? Someone made £25,000 from one image via fotolibra for a picture which sold with worldwide 'billboard' usage rights... Not bad for a days work eh!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Al Jazeera - International news channel launches

Al Jazeera news has begun to broadcast internationally, in English. Its Arabic sister channel has often found itself in the middle of controversy and George Bush even threatened to bomb its headquarters, but what can it bring to the news table?

The channel has enjoyed a positive launch with many well known broadcasters swelling the ranks. Ex BBC, Ex CNN and other familiar names have relocated to work out of the channels HQ at Doha, making Al Jazeera the first International news channel to broadcast from the middle east.

As I watched the opening minutes of the very first broadcast, I was reminded what a large part the media plays in international affairs. There will be some who may question the impartiality of the channel but I think that its better to have more voices commenting on international affairs rather than fewer. I look forward to seeing how they choose to report some of the events that happen right on their very doorstep and which them all the best for the future and for their safety.

You can watch the opening few minutes from Al Jazeera's opening broadcast below.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A cathedral of consumerism

As we get closer to Christmas, its obvious where the faithful are meeting in order to get ready for the festive season.

Today, the Trafford Centre was HEAVING! it was positively bursting at the seams with people who were starting to do their bit to bump up the national debt.

The shops were packed and I felt quite out of my element amidst all of these, clearly professional shoppers.

Recently in the news, some faith groups complained that the western, capitalist culture is slowly choking the life out of our nations spirituality. I'm not too sure, but I do think thats its pretty obvious where our priorities lie...
Jesus once commented "where your treasure is: there also is your heart". I wouldn't be too surprised if mine is still stuck in the Trafford Centre somewhere.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Working with Wigan Athletic

Some of my freelance work involves teaming up with Wigan Athletic FC where I work as a Schools Co-ordinator.

The club has a big blue 'We Are Wigan' bus that's kitted out with state of the art media production gear and laptops. The bus then rolls up to the venue and we deliver media-based schools work which usually involves the students creating a radio programme.

Needless to say, the bus is very popular indeed in the community and within the schools. especially if we have a few players onboard or other special 'guests' for our visitors to interview.

This last month, the bus has been visiting a special needs school in Wigan and we've all been working hard to make a documentary style video/radio programme to tell people what kind of things go on in school and how people's individual needs are identified and catered for. The pupils have all worked very hard on this project and although I am still putting the finishing touches to the video, it looks great!

We've had some help along the way from a few of the Latics players, Neil Turner MP and other people of equal importance, and for me, its been a real privilege to have worked in a school with such a positive and forward-thinking ethos.

Pictured in this post is Peter who visited the bus to receive a signed team poster.

Photography Exhibition

Sunday was a busy day for me as I put the finishing touches to a special exhibition of photography which opens at the Wythenshawe Forum later on Monday.

The work will be on display for two weeks and the photographs have all been taken by my students who studied on a course which I developed (pardon the pun!) and delivered for Manchester city council.

The work started a number of months ago when another BBC freelancer and friend contacted me to ask if we could write a short course to introduce people to digital photography, so we got together and devised a four week course which was aimed at complete beginners, to show them the ropes and get to grips with some of the current crop of digital compacts.

I then tutored around sixty people from four different community centres around Manchester and we looked at the basics along with some of the more advanced techniques of how to get the best out of even the point-and-click digitals.

I suppose its a common mistake, but lots of people often think that you need to spend mega £££ to get equipment thats good enough to take an award winning photograph, and while it can help, I think most people found it refreshing to find out that its not a necessity. All thats really needed is a 'good eye' and a bit of luck by being in the right place at the right time.

Some of the group were just intrigued by what they could achieve with their new piece of kit whilst others wanted to incorporate photography with their own art-related hobbies and one lady (Janet) was learning how to take better pictures for her blog.

Whatever the reason for being on the course, I feel that digital photography has something to offer most people who give it a go and even as Damian and myself devised the course, I began to plan for a special exhibition which would be used to showcase some of the photos taken by those on the course. Its this exhibition which finally saw the light of day today and as we stood back from the pictures which had just been hung, I felt very proud of each and every photographer represented there.

It would be easy to finish my post be saying that the course went well and that I'd like to do another but I'm hoping we've achieved more than that. I'm hoping that we've inspired some people to take a closer look at the world around them and I hope that we've helped others to realise that they have the skills to learn and grow in areas that they never thought possible.

Sometimes, we may think that as we press the button down, we are showing people whats going on in the world outside of the camera lens, but quite often we are also allowing people a glimpse inside our minds and sometimes even our hearts too.

The photographs may be seen for two weeks at the Wythenshawe Forum, Manchester.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Can you spot the difference?

Most people who have been keeping up with things over the last few days will know roughly whats going on in the USA.

The story is still unfolding and with one state yet to declare but anyone who lives outside the USA (and there are one or two of us) may wonder what exactly has changed since yesterday?

The President may still be sat in the Oval Office and he still has the authority to push some pretty nasty buttons but apart from that, pretty much everything has changed.

The USA runs as a 'republic' whereas the UK runs as a 'constitutional sovereignty'. There are lots of differences, some subtle, some not-so-subtle and one of the main differences center around the offices of President and Prime minister.

Here in the UK, the head of the 'ruling' party holds the office of PM but in the states, the two entities are quite separate. The President holds office quite separately from the 'ruling party' and thats whats changed yesterday. The old ruling party (Republicans) are out and the Democrats are in. Thats a little bit like Tony Blair waking up tomorrow to find that the 'Tories' are now 'in' but he's still Prime minister.

Thats why this is very big news indeed. For the remaining two years of George Walker Bush's presidency, his party won't hold majority rule in overall government. The way in which the USA runs will change and this could affect the war, the economy and maybe the way the USA faces up to environmental issues too.

I've often thought that some bits of US politics seem better, not just the fact that they see a new President at least every 8 years but it may be a case of the grass being greener on the other side.

So as all the dust settles, there will be some changes stateside and you may not need to look too closely to see some of them either.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I had a nice little surprise last night when I found out that I'd won a photography competition that I'd entered.

The subject for the entries was 'movement' and I posted a picture that I took in Blackpool on my little Sony T9 digital compact. I think this goes to show that the main thing that counts with photography is spotting the right moment to capture and framing it well.

The world famous photographer Herni-Cartier-Bresson, called this the 'decisive moment' and in in this age where so much emphasis and importance is put onto the equipment, its nice to 'escape' from that and use a camera like the T9 which is refreashingly simple to use.

The competition was run by Talk Photography. An excellent resource for any snappers out there :-)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Vodcast news for this blog

Video news and reviews about this blog.

A free download... Honestly!

Get your fill of Frank here (Frank's MySpace) and don't forget your FREE DOWNLOAD!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Management speak from the journalists?

The BBC have been drawing our attention towards some of the common management sayings which many of us will have come across at some point or another.

If its not 'joined up thinking' or 'running it up the flagpole' then I'm sure most of us will have been encouraged to try 'thinking outside the box' or even somehwere up in the 'blue sky'.

A report from the CBI tells us that when we hear these (and other) sayings, we lose confidence in the speaker, it seems that clichés 'blight' us all and make us feel that maybe we aren't hearing anything new after all.

The BBC's article may be found here but as per usual, it got me thinking...

In the business of journalism, clichés are commonplace. Its a 'bid' for this or a 'mercy dash' for that, How many times have we been told of 'crisis talks' where deals are being 'hammered out' or about someone who 'sustains fatal injuries', surely they mean, die?

The BBC are certainly well aware how clichés generally make audiences 'tune out' and that most of us don't really hear past them at all.

They have commissioned a guide which you can download for yourself and it makes quite an amusing read too.

Most of us use clichés quite sparingly and will even apologise before using one, but certainly here in the UK, its clear to anyone who reads through the guide, the message hasn't got through to those who keep us up to date with the news, at all.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

It might be good to talk... But it can be expensive too!

As per usual, I spent some of my weekend at the Trafford Centre and I think I managed to find what must be the most overpriced product on sale, anywhere!

Yup, forget £85 sandwiches, in one of the Jewelers I stumbled across an extra small mobile phone with an extra large price tag. For those who think their eyes may be playing tricks on them, they aren't, it really is £20,450!

I did nip in and ask if the handset was free if I take a 12 month contract but unfortunately it isn't... My eye for a bargain was maybe, a little too keen.

Here's a pic... With that built in arial, I bet the signal reception is still crap!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Webcameron: Vodcasting now

The latest new media project from David Cameron has launched and who better to present it than: Boris Johnson.

Mr Cameron's blog/podcast has proved to be very popular, popularity which was only increased after some Labour MP's parodied it with disastrous PR fallout but without wandering too far from that theme, his new 'Vodcast' features the national treasure who is, Boris 'The Blogger' Johnson. In the first episode, Boris shows us around his office and explains why his office printer took so long to install (I won't spoil it for you).

I chose to feature Mr Cameron's blog on my page here, not for political reasons, but because I am desperate for those in public office to become more in touch with every day people like you and me. I am sick of faceless politicians telling me what I should or should not do or think and I'm sick of being lied to on just about every topic under the sun.

In this day and age of parliamentary committees set up to investigate parliamentary committees, I can't help but feel that Mr Cameron's blog/podcast/vodcast offers us a tiny touch of 'glasnost' in what is still the very private world of public politics.

Check out the site here.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Paul Hurst's blog revisited: Elevator hacking

Someone asked to see my blog article all about 'elevator hacking' so here it is.