Author Archives: davecbannerman

About davecbannerman

Writer. Photographer. Techie. All round nice guy usually.

I’m Making A Change

I’ve been blogging on WordPress for a while now, and although I don’t have a problem with it (I really don’t – it’s served me quite well) I am moving over to my own website for blogging purposes.

So for the next few months – maybe permanently- go to http://www.davecbannerman.com for my blog.

Cheers all!

Dave C. Bannerman

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24 Hours Smoke Free!!!

This post covers my first smoke free day in almost 17 years: October 1st, 2015.

As the title suggests, I did it. I didn’t ever think I’d manage it, but ladies and gentlemen, I bloody well did it! I went a whole day without a cigarette, and that for me is a massive achievement!

Coming from thirty, yes thirty, a day to absolutely none? My sense of pride in this cannot be overestimated. Trust me, it really can’t.

It wasn’t an easy day though, ohhh no. Let’s go through it shall we?

The day started, as most days do, when I woke up. Once I’d gotten over the shock of being woken up by the shrill squealing of my alarm that is. Now, my first thought when I opened my eyes was never I need a cigarette, it was always more along the lines of oh god no! but my second thought, which I think is far more telling, was always this: If I get up I can have a smoke. It was no different this morning. So up I dragged myself, staggered into the bathroom and started my day.

Usually my second port of call in these not-so-wee-but-still-fairly-small-hours is the kitchen, where I noisily fill the kettle and put it on to boil. This is the first step to preparing half of my breakfast. Coffee.There’s usually a swear word or two thrown in around this point just because…well because I can. It makes me feel better. Usually once I’ve slapped the kettle on I’m out in the shed lighting my first cigarette before the electricity hits the element. Again, this morning was no different.

Before I know it I’m in the shed, the familiar feel of the cigarette between my lips, the comfortable feel of the lighter in my hand, that wonderful sound of the flint striking and the glorious sight of that little flame erupting from its hiding place. All I had to do was touch that flame to the end of the waiting cigarette, inhale deeply and…ahhhh, good morning world!

Not this morning though.

I was in the shed, just about to light the cigarette when suddenly I remembered I’m supposed to be quitting today. I won’t lie to you, I did consider sneaking that one. It was already out, near enough lit, and I wanted it! Boy oh boy, good lord and heavens above I wanted that smoke! Badly. I wrestled with my conscience, and somehow, I don’t know how so don’t ask, I managed to resist. I went back into the kitchen and just stood there, looking around. A little confused.

You have to understand that now I was out of my routine. A routine I’d been in my entire working life. Get up. Get washed and dressed. Put the kettle on. Have a smoke. The last part of my routine no longer existed. I honestly didn’t know what to do! As ridiculous as that sounds it’s the absolute truth.

I decided on some breakfast. I never eat breakfast, but at six o’clock on this morning the world seemed to have gone completely mad so why not? I made some porridge and had two spoonfuls before it went in the bin. Some habits won’t ever change I’m afraid.

It felt strange walking to work without having a smoke too. There’s a certain point along the route where I always stopped to light up, and I had it timed perfectly. I’d get that one finished in time to allow for one more before I reached work. See? A smokers logic.

It was even stranger throughout the day. My break is timed perfectly to three cigarettes. That’s how I know it’s time to get back to it. After my third cigarette I’ve been on my break roughly twenty-five minutes, which gives me five minutes to get through the building to where I actually do my job. See? Routines. Smokers build them around cigarettes. Today I was all out of sync and to be honest I was pretty rattled by it. I didn’t like it. I wasn’t comfortable and I was very nervous.

For a smoker, it’s not just the act of smoking that’s important. For a lot of us (because I haven’t kicked the habit yet) it’s the structure and routine smoking gives us. We understand it. We feel safe within it and we don’t like being taken out of it. It just seems all wrong.

Resisting the urge to smoke after my lunch was almost as difficult as fighting the urge to light up first thing in the morning. After a meal is when most smokers enjoy their habit most. It signals an end to the eating, and the start of whatever comes next. It’s an anchor point for the different stages of the day. I had no anchor point and I began to feel like I was starting to drift through the afternoon. My day had no ‘stages’. It was all very strange.

This might sound totally ridiculous to the non-smokers and the hardcore anti-tobacco league, but trust me, as a smoker for more than half of my life I’m telling you, this is how it is. It goes a lot deeper psychologically than just lighting a fag.

So I’d gotten through the morning and made it through lunch. Good times. But I still had a long way to go. and at 1p.m. the hill I had to climb might swell have been Mount Everest, because I didn’t think I stood a chance!

The rest of the afternoon passed slowly, and I desperately prayed to get through the next hour, and silently rejoiced when I did, because I do want to quit. I’m not being forced into this.

My mood throughout the day wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, but it wasn’t great. I was little impatient at times but I don’t think I was ever snappy or nasty. It helped that I was in work. I had a lot of good people around me giving me encouragement and egging me on. I had a lot to do to take my mind off smoking, and I had a nicotine patch as well and an electric cigarette the size of a small Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (seriously, it’s a whopper). Had I been sat at home, or even out and about I never would have made it, and you won’t convince me otherwise.

But I managed it. I don’t know how, but I did. So now it has to get easier…right? RIGHT???

Night All!

Dave C. Bannerman

So I’m Quitting Smoking

That’s right folks. It’s time to kick the habit, or at least have a good crack at it!

I’ve smoked since I was thirteen. Started out by sneaking them from my parents packs (sorry mum, sorry dad) and hanging out of my bedroom window puffing like there was no tomorrow. A friend of mine started smoking smoking because he wanted to now what it was like to ‘gasp’ for a cigarette.

In hindsight this was a ridiculous reason to take up the demon weed, but we were young, and rather stupid. Anyway, by by fifteen I was a full blown smoker, and my parents (I thought) didn’t know. Ha. Oh the naivety of youth. On the upside I had the whitest teeth you’ve ever seen, thanks to vigorously brushing them after every cigarette thinking it would hide the smell. Silly now I think back on it.

I got caught smoking more than once, and promised faithfully I’d stop more than once. But if you’ve never smoked then you have to understand that it’s a drug and I was very addicted. If you do smoke, or have in the past, you’ll know what I mean.

Ok, so I’m now 18 in my little tale. It’s Christmas day 2003. We had all the family round. Big Christmas dinner. Vey nice. Once we’d finished I slipped away up to my attic bedroom, as was now a fixed activity after most, if not every meal by this point. I had my smoke and came back downstairs. I sat down at the dining table, surrounded by my nearest and dearest, when my dad slid his box of cigarettes across the table to me and told me to light up.

As surprising as this was, and very unsettling, I’d just had one. I’d never tried two in a row. I’d never even thought about it. Now, I was going to have to do it. I couldn’t admit I’d just had one. So I picked up the packet and took one out. I could feel all the eyes on my as I lit it and it was the worst cigarette I think I’ve ever had. It almost choked me!

Fast forward to recently, and I’m smoking upwards of thirty a day with numerous failed attempts to quit behind me. Until now.

It’s time to kick the sticks. Aside from the financial gains, and obvious health benefits I won’t stink, I’ll be able to taste my food, and get through a movie without wanting to go outside.

Now, you’d think after watching my dad have a massive heart attack I’d have binned every cigarette and lighter in sight wouldn’t you? Nope. And I can’t explain why. I just didn’t quit. I kept smoking and my smoking actually increased! Ridiculous I know.

They say you can’t force a smoker to quit. It has to be their choice. Until now I hadn’t wanted to quit. No interest in it. Despite numerous appeals from member of my family, my partner and a few of my friends, I wasn’t giving up the coffin nails.

Then, after some convincing from my partner and a decision that appeared from somewhere that I can’t quite explain, I decided to go for it. It might’ve been the relentless badgering (that’s a joke) or my common sense might’ve finally kicked in. Whatever happened I decided to quit.

So loaded up with determination, a nicotine patch on my arm, an electric cigarette in one hand, and a pencil I fully expect to have eaten by October 2nd, I’m looking forward with some trepidation, but mainly curiosity, to my journey to the non-smoking side of the patio. Because apparently, that’s where all the cool people now hang out.

I’ll keep you all posted on my little journey, for better…or worse!

Night all!

Dave C. Bannerman

A Musical Relief

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog. It seems to be that way lately. I have every intention of writing at least once a week but things take over. Life takes over.

I worry about missing the next thing because I’m stuck at my laptop writing the about the last thing. Every once in a while though things slow down and I can shuffle all the thoughts bouncing around my head into some sort of order and get a blog written. I’m not sure if anyone reads them, but as I’ve said before it’s cathartic. So I’ll keep doing it. As er…often as I can!

This week boys and girls, I want to talk to you about my other passion in life, besides photography, which I do bang on about and for anyone I put to sleep, I apologise. No photography talk in this one. This one is about music (that’s the other passion).

What a lot of you reading may know is I’m a drummer. I have the long hair, the slightly mental temperament, and the tinnitus. What a lot, or even all of you may not know, is I’m also a Saxophonist.

Since February of this year I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in something pretty special. A band called Frontline. I’m the drummer. There was no place for a Saxophone!

I’m not going to sit here and tell you it’s been an easy road. It hasn’t. There’s been a lot of ‘settling in’ with each other. The frontman/rhythm guitarist – Mr. Allan Robb – and I do have some previous musical history (sidetone: we’re also family). I mention this because we were already used to each others ways. Allan has a particular style of play that while sounds great, is an absolute nightmare to try and synch with. Took me a long time and I’m still prone to difficulties even now. Eight years after we played our first notes together.

Let’s face it. Life can be a pain in the arse. It can be an unholy struggle and it can get you down and kick you while you’re on the floor. But in the studio, once you close that door, the troubles and trials, stresses and strains, worries and weariness of life fall away. They just don’t exist and for a few sacred hours you’re among friends, doing what you love, and stuff the outside world. We’ll deal with you tomorrow, because right now is our time. So leave your baggage at the door.

Since it’s inception in February, all four members of Frontline (Allan, myself, second rhythm guitarist Kiel Miller, and Bassist Dave Davies) have all worked really hard to ‘gel’. To lock in with each other and get onto each others wavelengths.

Initially there were problems. Differences of opinion, and a meeting of different styles and ideas did cause a little friction at the beginning.

As the drummer I have a unique perspective on how the dynamics have changed. I sit there watching. There’s an ebb and flow that maybe the others have noticed, maybe not. I have though, and things are definitely changing.

One thing I do think helped us all kind of fall into step with each other is that there were already some songs there for us to learn together. Songs from a previous venture Allan and I were involved in.

So we had that time to work on those tracks while we all found our feet with each other. For a while we played them straight. As written all that time ago. Then we began to feel comfortable around each other. Any awareness began to fall away. So much so that we began to put our own little flavours in, and those songs were given a new lease of life. We had a solid base to begin working from. To my mind it worked really well.

So well in fact that by the time this blog is published, we’ll have begun recording our first demo. Not of the updated tracks, but new stuff. Our stuff. Frontline!

There’s something special about it. Getting into a room with three other people and a bunch of instruments. Bringing together all that talent and beginning to weave a song together. Putting notes and beats together to lay a foundation for words that will (hopefully) stick in peoples heads and make them feel something. Whether it’s sad, chilled, or so pumped up and happy their head might explode. Making it all fit and flow together. That’s the magic. That’s exactly the right word to use: magic. Because it is magic.

Conjuring something from silence. Creating it from nothing. Nurturing it, bringing it to life, giving it a power all of its own. Ok, I might be waxing lyrical but that’s how it feels. At least to me. When you get it right, when it clicks, you don’t just play a song, the song takes over and plays you. You get lost in it, you’re not just sat behind a drum kit hitting it with sticks, or holding a guitar plucking the strings. As corny as it sounds you’re dancing. And there’s not much that can top the feeling of dancing your way through a brand new song for the very first time.

It’s not easy to explain and I guess not so easy to understand. You may be reading this thinking ‘yep, he’s finally flipped’ or ‘have you been sniffing the laundry softener again Dave?’ but trust me, finishing a song you’ve helped create is a special moment. Those last few beats as you approach the outro, the energy, the tension, the desire not to trip up in the last few seconds is intense, and it gets me every time!

However, playing through a new song is one thing. Hearing it played back after being recorded, mixed and professionally produced is something else entirely, and I don’t have the facility to explain how amazing that feels, but it’s better than any drug out there.

So long may this continue, and who knows, maybe one day I’ll be blogging from a tour bus, backstage at Wembley, or even a private jet. A dream needs chasing. And we’re chasing it hard!

Cheers all!

Crowd Stupidity

I don’t tend to lose my cool often. I try to just let things pass. Why get het up? There’s a few things in this world that do wind me up though.

Shop-keepers who’re too busy on their phones to give you the right change. Loquacious people who think everyone’s interested in their opinion, and mothers who think it’s perfectly acceptable to block passageways on public transport with empty pushchairs. I know you have the right to ride the bus, but the pram’s empty so why not fold it down then people don’t have to risk breaking their necks climbing over it do they?

These, and a few other things are small, and soon forgotten about once I’ve lit a cigarette and finished quietly swearing to myself. One of the big ones though, one of the few things that are likely to send me into a near-homicidal rage are crowds. I hate them.

Let me be clear, I don’t mean at a concert, or a football match, that’s a bit different, what I’m on about  are things like events, the Giants visit last year for example. Crowds in that context give me the red mist and my jaw starts to clench involuntarily. I can’t help it. Why? Because people are stupid!

Oh, and horrendously ill-mannered.

Over the Bank Holiday weekend I’d planned to go to Sunderland to a concert, but I’ve injured my back, so that was that out of the window. So not wanting to waste the Bank Holiday, I decided to go into Liverpool City Centre. This weekend commemorated the 175th anniversary of the Cunard shipping line (check out my Facebook stream – www.facebook.com/saysathousandwords for photos, or click the link above) and three of their largest cruise liners, the Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, collectively known as the ‘Three Queens’, were meeting on the River Mersey. It doesn’t happen often, might never happen again.

So, being the snap-happy shutter-bug I am, off I went with camera in hand, and my girlfriend beside me (to potentially carry me home – or to the hospital should that need arise) and we soon found the crowds. Didn’t we just.

We started on the Sunday afternoon, and to be fair the crowds weren’t too bad. Yes there were crowds all heading to see the QM2 berthed at the cruise terminal, but it was bearable. People milling about, taking photographs, the usual stuff, and I was there too, doing exactly the same. The weather was good, there was a fairground set up near the ship, happy days. So that was alright. No red mist.

Monday however, was a different tale entirely.

I’m not a rude person, most of the time. I’m genuinely not. I try to be polite and courteous, especially to the older generation or that poor woman with four kids, a pram, and a husband who isn’t helping. I step out of the way, I let them pass, I stand up and give my seat where I can, it doesn’t cost anything to be polite, smile, and we all get on. Not everyone thinks like this though.

We go to a vantage point near the Liverpool Museum on the Pier Head, and the crowd was huge, easily a few hundred thousand people, lots of children (fair enough) and people with cameras (like me).

One thing that struck me was a lot of the children didn’t seem to want to be there. I think they’d have much rather have been home on their iPads or X-Boxes. But I understand that if you’ve got a couple of kids you’re going to seize the chance for some free entertainment and get them some fresh air. At least if you care about your kids.

Another thing that didn’t so much strike me as annoy me (and here comes the first rant) was the idiot, buffoon, FOOL of a man pushing his was to the front with his, frankly not very good, camera. I’m sorry, I’m not a gear snob, a lot of my stuff at the moment is second hand, but I wouldn’t have even bothered bringing what he had. He wasn’t even polite about it, just barged through and almost knocked one little girl right off her dads shoulders. At leat I’m assuming it was her dad. But this goes back to what I was saying about people being stupid and rude.

I had enough gear on me that I could get some shots without being a dick. Would I have liked to get closer? Of course! Would I have shoved my way through and potentially hurt someone? Absolutely not! If I’d have been that child’s father I would not have been so restrained, so well done that man!

Now, I just want to pop things into perspective for anyone who hasn’t seen these ships. A cruise ship is inherently large. The Queen Mary 2 is definitely on the bigger side, at 1,130 feet long, that’s as long as 36 double decker buses, or nearly four football pitches. It’s 200 feet above the waterline, equal to the height of a 23 storey building. What I’m trying to say is, no matter where you stand you’re going to see this thing! You’d have to be an extra special, almost vintage brand of stupid to miss it! Even if you somehow did manage to miss this one, there were two more!!!

The other two ships were almost as big, almost as long, just as loud and right there on the river for you to look at! Why oh why was this idiot pushing to get through?

Ok, rant over. For now. But don’t worry, I have more.

Once we’d seen the ships do their manoeuvres on the river (a 360 degree turn and then move into something called a three-a-breast formation) it was time for coffee. We just missed the Red Arrows, wasn’t happy about that but I was craving caffeine and a seat. I’ve hurt my back remember? We began to pick our way through the crowds and move away from the river. Here comes the next rant, a bit quicker this time.

As we were picking our way through hordes of people, who can see us approaching, they continue to walk on their course, meaning that if I didn’t change my course, they’d have walked straight into me. This, to me at least, is confusing. If I’m walking towards someone and I sense there’s going to be a collision, I take a few easy steps to avoid it. I slow down or switch direction a little so I don’t walk into them.

AM I THE ONLY PERSON WHO DOES THIS??? Apparently I am!

After a few minutes of this my jaw was going good style and I gave up being polite. If you ain’t moving then neither am I! You want to play chicken? You’re on! I’ll win! I knocked into more than one person this way but I’d given up. I’d joined the rude race, the ‘I’m the only person on this street so fuck you’ crowd but I didn’t care. Older people and youngsters were off limits, I moved. Everyone else? Fair game! Walk into me I DARE YOU! I managed to bounce a few people out of my way by just not caring. A few people saw me coming and moved. A lot didn’t. Tough. I’d had enough by this point.

We found a coffee shop. Thank god! After a very swift (and by swift I do mean fast) table grab, the other couple just weren’t as quick as my girlfriend, we were settled down to a coffee and something to eat.

After we left we went into Liverpool One for a quick look at camera bags (I’m looking for a new one) and on the way over Beth made mention of people bringing little dogs out into crowds. It wasn’t the first time she’d mentioned this and if she mentions something more than once then it’s a legitimate gripe, my smoking is a most definite legitimate gripe of hers.

I began to notice that ridiculous amounts of people had brought there little dogs. So here comes rant number three. Sorry.

I’m a dog-lover. I have a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel and I love him to bits. He’s a cheeky little git with a fetish for socks and hair bobbles. I take him for long walks, nearly always share my meals with him, but never mushy peas. That’s a mistake I won’t ever repeat! I try not to be too soft with him but he’s spoilt rotten.

He’s not very big, so one thing I wouldn’t ever do is take him into a crowd of people where he could so very easily be trodden on and hurt. That would of course cause me to smack the snot out of whoever wasn’t looking where they were going and it’s just stress nobody needs. Yet everywhere I looked I saw these little dogs. Some were getting a little excitable with the crowds and one in particular looked downright distraught.

Why bring them?

You can’t leave kids, fair enough, but surely the dog doesn’t need to attend the event. Seriously, unless it’s Krufts the dog doesn’t need to go! Leave it at home! If it got hurt you’d have a fit! I know I would, and once I’d physically assaulted whoever stood on my little mate I’d come to realise that it was actually my fault for taking him. Responsible dog ownership isn’t hard.

After a crowded bus ride home we were out of the crowds and could breathe again, and this post makes me sound like a right nark, but seriously, I’m not that bad.

If people were a little more considerate, took a little more time to think of others and weren’t so ignorant then being in a crowd wouldn’t be so bad. People pushing and jostling to get five feet closer to something you can see from two miles away is massively infuriating, especially when I’m the one being pushed and jostled. It’s not necessary.

This post makes the day sound horrendous. t really wasn’t. Seeing the ships together like that was really impressive and I’m glad I went, but it was the attitudes of the people around me, the ignorance, the impatience and the general bad manners that took a little bit of the shine off it.

Sort your heads out people, and bloody well play nice!

Night all!

Dave C. Bannerman

Photography

Ok, so anyone who knows me had to know that at some point this blog was coming. So, here it is.

I’ve been taking photographs properly (almost obsessively) now for around six months now. So I figured it was a good time to think about where I’m at and kind of reflect on the er…story so far.

I’ve always liked taking pictures, but I’ve always only ever used my phone. I was given a 10 mega-pixel Kodak digital camera for Christmas about 10 years ago but didn’t really use it. I found it in a drawer a few days ago, and it inspired me to write this post.

As I said, I like taking photographs, but they were always of nights out, or me pulling stupid faces, or candids when my mates weren’t looking. My first camera phone was a Sagem MY-75 and it was second-hand when I got it. I’d take pictures of random things just because…well, I could. It had a two, three, or maybe a four mega-pixel camera, certainly no more than that, and a fifteen second video capacity. Fifteen seconds. Primitive by today’s standards, but back then? State of the art dahling!

Before I go on let’s hold our horses a minute. Some of you may not be familiar with the term ‘mega-pixel’, which is fine, because I’m going to explain it really quick. Ready? Here we go.

A digital image is made up of millions of tiny, microscopic coloured squares. These squares are the ‘pixels’ and are arranged into specific patterns to form the image, which our brains translate into  something we recognise as a picture. It’s like a giant jig-saw puzzle. I did say this was a basic explanation!

If an image is ‘pixellated’ these squares are really obvious to see.

The term ‘mega-pixel’ (MP) means a million pixels. So, for example, if your phone has an 8MP camera, that means your phone captures images at eight million pixels and uses them to build the photograph you see on the screen. A photograph taken with a 20MP camera will be a lot clearer, sharper and more detailed than a photograph taken on a 12MP camera, simply because there are more pixels to build the image. The image will be the same size as the one out of the 12MP camera, but they’ll be packed a lot closer together.

Still confused? Ok, let’s try another analogy.

Think of a computer. A computer stores information in ‘bytes’, terabytes (TB), gigabytes (GB), and megabytes (MB). Each byte is a small piece of information amongst millions of bytes. A byte is a single unit of computer memory, so a pixel can be likened to a single unit of a whole picture. Pixels are also how screen resolution is measured, but I’m not going into Pixels Per-Inch (ppi) or whether AmoLed is better than LCD because I’m really not that bothered.

Inevitably phones got better and the cameras improved with more and more mega-pixels, which just meant I was taking higher quality images of the same crap, pint glass, take away food, my mates drunk. I carry a phone with a 14MP camera now. Not that you care.

I still wasn’t really that bothered about photography though, as a hobby or maybe even a profession. It just wasn’t something I was into. All that started to change however, in June of 2014.

I was at home flicking around on YouTube, as you do when you can’t sleep – or is it just me? Anyway, I came across a video on something called ‘Smartphone Photography.’ What the hell is ‘Smartphone Photography’??? I clicked the video and stated to watch it. By the end of it I was even more curious. I remember looking at my phone thinking ‘the camera on my phone was better than his…and he got some nice pictures there.’ After about two hours or so I’d watched two short(ish) documentaries and loads of five-minute snippet videos on this ‘Smartphone Photography.’ My interest was aroused.

So feeling inspired I downloaded the app that this lot seemed to be using. It was free, but later I discovered my phone had virtually the same software already built-in, it just looked a bit different. Nice! I took a selfie and started to edit in inside the app.

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but it happened. I suddenly found myself wanting to take photographs. I was literally looking for things to take pictures of. My dog flees the room every time he sees my phone now, bless him.

As I was looking for better quality editing apps I discovered Photoshop (some say the pinnacle of image editing software) had an app for Android. I bought it and began to put the images of my poor, harassed dog through the wringer.

I needed to take more photographs. I had to find other things to shoot. I headed into Liverpool City Centre with my (long-suffering but ridiculously patient and supportive) girlfriend, and we wandered about all afternoon taking pictures, right up until it got dark.

And I loved it!

The pictures from that day were all processed through the Photoshop app on my tablet. I still use it, but not much anymore.

So it went on. I bought a notebook and began to make lists of places I wanted to go and take photographs. I asked people if they knew of anywhere. I shyly showed a few photographs to some trusted, honest people and their responses gave me the little bit of confidence I needed to stick my nose through this intriguing door. And it smelt good!

I began to watch tutorial videos on light, composition and editing. Suddenly I’d found videos on all kinds of different photography fields and styles. Landscape, portrait, product and macro photography. Street photography, cloudscape photography and something called ‘Bokeh” which is Japanese for ‘blur’…blur photography? What??? I soaked it all up and couldn’t stop. I scribbled page after page of notes in this little notebook I’d bought which has now become my bible, and I don’t go anywhere without it.

The last weeks of summer 2014 (which was an amazing year for me by the way) literally vanished as I sat at my computer transfixed by all of this.

My girlfriend and I were planning a trip to Rome around Christmas time. It wasn’t our original idea, but it sure beat the Isle Of Mann – not that there’s anything wrong with the Isle Of Mann.

I decided I didn’t want to be taking pictures of one of the worlds most ancient cities on a phone. I was getting serious now. I wanted a DSLR. I needed a proper camera! I found one too.

After agonising and arguing (with myself) for something like 20 minutes over a milkshake I strode across the street to the camera shop, slapped £130 on the table and got my trembling hands on my first DSLR, a Sony A300.

It didn’t have many bells and whistles but it looked like it had the basics to get me started. My child-like excitement was severely tempered when I got it home though. Looking at it on the table, all shiny and refurbished I realised that…I had NO CLUE how to work it!

Youtube!

I smashed through tutorial after tutorial. The controls of the camera, the best set up, lenses, triggers, lighting, flashes, soft boxes, diffusers, filters, reflectors oh good god! What had I been missing out on here?!?

I acquainted myself as much as I could with controls on the back of the camera. This was no Kodak point and Shoot. It’s a heavy, monster of a camera. I had to go and take photographs. It was the only thing to do. Off I went, alone this time.

I’d heard photographers in the videos I’d watched describe taking pictures alone as a zen-like, soothing experience. and it kind of was, I didn’t exactly become one with nature but it was relaxing, although the pictures I took were horrendous! Some were too dark, others were too light, most of them were out of focus and all of them were boring. I needed some more help. So I bought a book, and read it cover to cover.

I looked at cross-sections of cameras and learned how they actually worked. From the aperture blades to the shutter-doors, the lens cap to the pentaprism, and what the hell is a Diopter? I learned it all! Which mode was best to shoot in at what time? When did the best light occur during the day? What was hard light? Why was it hard? What was soft light? What made it soft? What was the difference? I chewed through all of this quicker, and with greater effect than I’ve ever disseminated anything. It was sticking! I could remember the tips, tricks and lessons I saw after just one run-through.

I’m sure you’ll appreciate how amazing this was for me when I tell you that I have to check my watch twice for the time, and I never know what the date is.

After I little while I was starting to see how the ‘golden triangle’ or the ‘photographers trinity’ worked and began to learn about apertures, shutter speeds and ISO numbers. I started to understand, recognise and appreciate how these three things were intricately connected, and how they all affected each other. I kept finding new things to study. F-stops, focal length, depth of field. every time I started to get a grip on one thing, I found three more things I needed to learn about.

No doubt about it now, I was well and truly hooked. I was waist-deep in photography quicksand and I was preparing to hold my breath.

I started to work on the pictures I’d taken (remember, Photoshop on my tablet?) I won’t try to hide it. I can’t. They were awful! They were shockingly bad, and you can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear, but it was practice. I forced myself not to care about the images so I wasn’t bothered if I lost them. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, I tried this, I had a crack at that, I give the other thing a go and whoops! image deleted. It was trial and error, and if was definitely a trail and there was a lot of error but I was starting to learn. Looking back now my first 100 or so attempts weren’t very good at all. Over-saturated, under-exposed, completely the wrong colours. They were like little mini accidents all in a row on my screen. Remember, this was all completely new to me, I’d never done this and I was trying to teach myself. My eye was getting better though. Slowly, but surely, I was getting better at it.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you I got it right first time. I didn’t. I nearly packed the whole thing in more than once. One particular evening, after I’d been out all day battling with the camera to get it to do as it was told, I came home, cold, tired and hungry – with a huge blister on my foot from all the walking I’d done – sat down, uploaded my images…and accidentally deleted the lot! I almost cried that night in anger and frustration. I think that was the closest I came to binning the camera and forgetting about the whole thing.

I kept at it though. I was determined I was going to get at least a basic understanding of how to do this no matter what, and for a few weeks everything else be damned! I didn’t want to eat, had to force myself to sleep and I hated leaving the house to go to work. I sat for hours and hours tinkering, fiddling with the settings in the Photoshop app, experimenting with every kind of alteration I could find. I was officially obsessed! The only other thing I remember making a conscious effort with during those few weeks was my relationship. Thankfully.

Then, by chance, I found a better camera. I was on now! I started using it and within a couple of days my New(ish) Nikon D3100 (yes, another entry-level one) became my primary camera. The Sony (which I do still use) was relegated to second place. I started accumulating gear after this. Lenses, flashes, tripods. I went into Liverpool City Centre for a haircut and a shave at a new gents’ barbers, and came back with a camera lens! After a while I bought a new laptop and the full Photoshop program, and a graphics tablet. I began to freak out at how complicated Lightroom seemed to be and I wasn’t getting anywhere with it.

Then I had a bit of a revelation. I realised I was trying to go too fast. I was trying to learn everything in a few months and it wasn’t going to happen. So I relaxed. I slowed right down and went back to basics. Taking photographs.

Now, when I go out to take photographs I take photographs. I try not to worry about the post-processing bit. Just get out, with the camera and capture what I see. Once I did that I found out what they were talking about in those videos. The ‘Zen’ of photography if you like.

So, with patience, practice, gritty (yes, gritty) determination and more focus (excuse the pun) than I’ve ever thrown at anything in my whole life, my photography is, hopefully, improving. Even if it’s only slightly. I’m under no illusions. I’ll probably never stop learning. I hope I don’t, because learning is half the fun right? People I’ve spoken to, people who’ve seen my work seem to like it, but then they may just be being kind. Either way I’ll be sticking with it.

The addition of a brand new editing suit, a Facebook page, this website, and hopefully a dedicated Twitter account, plus some personal projects I have planned will all, fingers crossed, spur me on to improve and learn.

It’s not often I’m gripped by a passion. If something’s too hard, or takes too long I tend to give up. Not a trait I’m proud of. Photography though, whether you like my images or not, has become an all-consuming obsession! And I’m not giving it up for anybody.

At the end of the day though, the gear doesn’t matter, it’s the photographs that count.

Ok, left a bit…chin up a little…lovely, look over there…beeeeaaaauuuuutiful!

CLICK!

Dave C. Bannerman

The Night Christmas Was Saved…

You might think this title is a little bit dramatic, and at first glance you could absolutely be forgiven for that. But read on dear reader, and you’ll discover how my dad and I really did save Christmas for our neighbours.

Ok, so it’s Christmas Eve. I’d finished my shopping, all the gifts were wrapped, the stress and headaches were slowly melting away as I sat on my sofa Xbox control pad in hand.

I was called out into the back yard by my dad with quite a sense of urgency. I dropped the game controller and went to see what was up. He asked if I could hear a noise. I became aware that I could hear something. It was a high-pitched, but fairly faint, beep-beep-beep-beep. Thinking back on it I think I became aware of the noise as I was making my way through the dining room, but my mind might just be adding that in, I can’t be sure.

I confirmed I heard the noise and we both began to look about. Just why we did this I’m not sure. Two blokes stood in a yard looking around for a beeping we could both barely hear.

I admit to having absolutely no idea what it was. Then my dad made a suggestion: “Do you think it could be next doors smoke alarm?”

I don’t know why I looked, but I’ll be forever glad I did.

As I peered over the shoulder-high wall separating the two back yards into next doors kitchen window I saw it. Smoke. Thick. Black. Smoke. It was starting to go quite dark out, but I could still see the smoke. The Christmas lights around the kitchen were in a kind of foggy haze. It took a couple of seconds for my brain to register what was going on:  

FIRE!!!

Within a second we were both running back through the house to the front door. My dad had the good sense to grab a spare set of keys to the neighbours he keeps for emergencies.

All of the fire training I’d sat through bored to tears came flooding back. I checked the handle of the front door with the back of my hand, it was cold. Good sign. I inserted the key and opened the door an inch. No rush of heat. Good sign. I pushed the door open and we headed down the hall.

The smoke detector was going bezerk! It was almost deafening this side of the wall. The hallway was filled with smoke and we were coughing within seconds. I pushed on through the dining room door, my dad right behind me. Scanning, searching for any indication of a fire. Archie, the family dog suddenly appeared through the smoke. Poor little thing was beside himself. My dad calmed him down and got him out of the room while I kept looking. I couldn’t find anything openly burning.

My eyes were starting to stream and my lungs were really starting to starting to complain. My dad was the same. I could hear him coughing and retching from somewhere behind me. I turned this way and that and saw the cause of all this noxious horrible smoke.

There, on the stove, a saucepan was smoking fitfully. Plumes were gushing up from whatever was inside, lit underneath by one of the gas rings. My dad had gotten the dog away from the worst of the smoke but I was really starting to suffer now. My mouth had dried out and I wasn’t so much coughing as dry-vomiting by this point. I switched the gas off and felt the dog knock into the bottom of my legs. He’d gotten away from my dad and had come back into the kitchen. By the time I’d grabbed his harness my dad was at the back door fumbling with the key to get it open. Once we’d opened it poor Archie, the beloved family guardian, was unceremoniously tossed into the yard and ordered to “Stay!” 

So the main danger was dealt with, but we were still choking in the smoke-filled house. At this point more neighbours had arrived and we set about opening windows and trying to clear some of the fumes. Every room was thick with the stuff, and I struggled for every breath as I opened every window possible upstairs. Coming back down the stairs I tried to switch the howling smoke detector off and couldn’t. I ended up punching it off the ceiling. Crude, but effective.

While this was happening my dad phoned the lady of the house, let’s call her Jo, who thought he was having a heart-attack due to the coughing and choking, and began to freak out herself.

Within a few minutes of every window and door being opened the smoke had dissipated and we tried to get our breath back. A few minutes after that Jo arrived with one of her sons. They’d been last-minute shopping.

It transpired that after being asked to put the slow cooker on while they finished the last of their shopping, Jo’s son had accidentally turned the hob on instead. 90 minutes earlier. Accidents happen.

So aside from a rather nasty smell and a huge laundry pile there was no real damage done. The saucepan was destroyed, as was the smoke alarm probably, but that was it. Archie the dog was no worse for the experience.

So the house was saved, and as I said, so was Christmas. At least for our neighbours…

Merry Christmas!

Dave C. Bannerman