Nikon Photo School – Racehorses

I went on a course a few weeks ago. It was being run by the Nikon Photo School, hosted by (famous) Sports Photographer and Nikon Ambassador Mark Pain and it was right here in Newmarket. Figured I could happily get there for sunrise!

The night before we all met up in one of the restaurants in town and it was great to get to know people and share stories. As it turns out, many years ago Mark worked at the same branch of Jessops I did. Small world!

On the day of the shoot, we all met at the B&B everyone else stayed at and then headed up to the gallops. I started out taking a few photos with my D5000 but the light was really bad and my camera wasn’t coping. Anything over ISO400 looks like crap and my zoom lens is f5.6 fully zoomed I think so it was a disaster. Luckily, being run by Nikon, they had loads of cool equipment, like a Nikon D4s and the 70-200 f2.8 VRII telephoto lens. So I bagged myself those for the day. Not too shoddy! The D4s was a brilliant camera. Pros: Sturdy, fast, responsive, awesome. Cons: Bit noisy. Didn’t know how to use it so I ended up shooting in JPG for the whole day which wasn’t great. As for the lens it was awesome but again, in full amateur mode I changed the VR setting to Active. Only when I got home and noticed nearly all my photos were blurry and I googled why did I realise that this setting is if you’re on a moving platform e.g. a boat, not if the subject is moving fast. What a dick!

So between the JPG and the VR problems I salvaged 44 of the 900 photos I took. The rest were mostly action burst shots and then a few were exposure problems I fixed in the next shot or too blurry to recover. But for usability, this gear was nice to use and I’m seriously considering the lens and maybe upgrading to the new D7200, especially given that a day at the beach broke the AF on my 55-200 lens and I’m in serious need of a replacement. We’ll see what the commission fairy brings me in the next few months.

So first up is the shots from the gallops:


Then we went up to the heath:


Then we went back to the gallops:


Then we went to Pegasus stables:


I developed a whole new level of respect for these beautiful animals and the riders.

Yongnuo 560 Mark III Test Shots

I bought some new toys!

For ever such a long time now, I’ve been coveting the Nikon SB-910 speedlite. It’s £400!! I have some news about photography which I’ll share in the new year but in the meantime, I’ve been getting back into it and spending far too much time watching YouTube videos about lighting and other techniques. I watched a video by a chap called Alex Koloskov who runs It looks like a pretty decent online school and I probably should try out one of his courses.

In one of his videos, he did a review of using speedlites instead of “proper” studio lighting. He mentioned that in a studio environment, you don’t need all the extra features that you get with the expensive Nikon/Canon speedlites because it’s a much slower approach and you can take multiple shots and tweak settings as you require. So he recommended using the Yongnuo range of speedlites. They’re only £50! The trade off is that they’re fully manual. But that said, they’re still pretty badass!

So I bought one. And then after being blown away by the results on camera, I bought the wireless transmitter so I can use it off camera. Next I’m going to buy a second gun. And a third and a fourth. These things are incredible! There are plenty of reviews and tech geekery online so I’ll spare you all that (in the new year, I’m restarting Tech Tuesdays where I’ll be doing some in depth photo blogs) and just jump to some test shots I’ve been doing.

So first up, we have the first off camera shot I took. I need to work on exposure as you lose all the TTL communication but the moody effect is pretty cool.


Next up, my favourite thing to photograph, Aurora, flashgun on the floor, to the side, off camera.


I’ve done a ton of other stuff, most of it unusable but I have been working on portraits, mostly of cats which you can see on my flickr page and then I was out at the missus’ parents house and took some shots of her and her dad. I shot in RAW and tweaked in Lightroom (also my new favourite toy).



I think these have come out pretty well and with a bit more practice and exposure control, I’m going to really improve with shots like this. I have an (informal) gig to do a wedding next year so I’m putting some effort into people photography and lighting control over the next few months.

I’ve totally got my photo mojo back and I have lots to change around here but until then, check out my Instagram and flickr pages while I get my portfolio sorted.

Bond In Motion

Final picture post. On the Saturday, we went to see the Bond In Motion exhibition. It was probably the coolest exhibition I have ever seen!! They had cars, choppers, bikes, boats, planes, storyboards, miniatures, memorabilia and everything. It was totally awesome and I spent way too much in the gift shop including buying a badass Live And Let Die film poster for the living room!

South Bank Noir

Blog post 3, getting more recent now. Last weekend we went to London to see Black Stone Cherry at Wembley Arena. We decided to make a weekend out of it and spent Friday through til Sunday there. Gig was Saturday so Friday we went to Las Iguanas on the South Bank for dinner. Love that place. Then we went for a walk down the riverside, past the skaters, down to Tower Bridge and on to St Paul’s and back up through Cannon Street. I decided to shoot in black and white for the hell of it. Impressed with the results.

Shepreth Wildlife Park

Blog number 2. We went to Shepreth Wildlife Park and for once it wasn’t raining so I got some good pictures. I shared most of these over on my Instagram at the time. I got an SD card reader for my tablet which allowed me to copy from camera to tablet to Instagram super quick. It’s no wonder blogging falls behind so much is it?!

Instagram feed is here:

Wimpole At War

Time for a mammoth update. Four blog posts. So I’ll keep the wordsmithery to a minimum.

A couple of months ago we went to Wimpole. They had an “At War” event on. Everyone dressed in 40s gear, they had hairstylists, a market and some army re-enactment guys there. It was cool. The army guys showed off their guns (!) and fired some (fake) bullets. Dead loud. Then they did a cool Dad’s Army sketch. It was a lot of fun.


Tarragona July 2014

We went to Spain again this year. The place we went to last year was so lovely that we booked it again. And it was still so lovely that I’m booking it again next month for next year. Haha!

We stayed at the Villa Romana in Salou. It really is a lovely place. Completely random pick that paid off. The food is great, the atmosphere is great, the town itself is great, as is the beach. It’s also incredibly close to Tarragona which you may recall from last year was once a Roman capital settlement in Spain. As a result there are lots of Roman ruins everywhere. We did a mini tour last year.

We didn’t do any touristy things this year in Tarragona, just went for lunch and then a mooch on the beach. After a bit of a disaster at the train station, we ended up catching a cab. So much for trying to be a bit more local!! I started learning Spanish at the beginning of the year and then I got really busy and then I forgot everything I had learned. Must try harder for next year.

Here are some photos:

Town hall being cleaned.

Town hall, other side.

Lovely corner apartment.

Narrow streets, love these!

Gorgeous apartments over the square.

Airing your laundry in public?!

Very small cars and bikes only!

Everything was in bloom this year.


This apartment was right down by the beach, what a great view.

Colourful posts.

Make a nest anywhere!

After lunch in the square, we walked down to the beach. Very happy to report that it was a nudist beach!! We had ice cream and then went for a walk down to the marina during which time an insane wind picked up and I nearly lost my hat. Very cool locals only beach, will definitely go back there next year and spend a bit longer there.

Overall it was another great holiday. It was possibly a bit too busy for my liking. We went in the first week of July thinking we would avoid school holidays which is fine for the UK but it seems like the rest of Europe start holidays in July so it was pretty busy everywhere. So we’ll go back in June again like last year and hope the weather starts early. They had a long spring last year and it averaged around 26 degrees rather than the 30-32 we had this year.

Looking at the bookings we can get a good deal on 10 nights making it cheaper than 7 nights. We’ll do that then! Adios!

I bought a house!

Another long delay between updates. Insanely busy. I’ve been taking photos though so I’ll be doing a bunch of updates in the next few days.

First up, as the title says, I bought a house! After getting back from Aus and figuring we probably wouldn’t be able to go for another five years (at least!), we decided to move into the centre of Cambridge. While looking at houses we pretty quickly came to the conclusion that everything in Cambridge is a piece of shit and about 5% of those accept pets. Rentals! We also realised that our existing lettings agent would be a massive pain in the tits and we’d probably lose our deposit and/or reference.

So we said enough was enough and decided to buy a house. We’d already looked at this last year when thinking about Aus and had considered moving to York or Newmarket. After an unsuccessful visit to York, we decided to look at Newmarket. Property in Cambridge is ridiculously over priced. Newmarket is about half the price and only about 12 miles out. Every time we have visited Newmarket, we have felt a really good vibe here. It reminds me of home and of the seaside. It also has cracking broadband!! So we made our decision to move here.

Buying a house is super boring so I’ll spare you the monotony but we looked at 6 houses. 2 were shit, 2 needed work, 1 was too small and the other we bought. An old lady lived here, then she died, then her family gutted it and did it up. It’s gorgeous!

It has a super private walled garden too, small and manageable. The best bits are that it’s clean, everything works, everything is modern. It’s like being in housing heaven! And I say this nearly two months after moving in! The cats are confused over the lack of stairs!

In other personal news, I started a new exercise regime and I’m in the best shape of my life. It’s 25 minutes every day of high intensity workouts. I have before pictures and at some point I’ll get round to taking some after pictures of my ripped abs! Seriously!

While in Aus I decided to grow my hair out. I’ve been shaving my head for about 7 years. Felt like a change. Tada!

The only problem I’m finding is that good barbers are hard to find and it’s almost impossible to get the same haircut each time. The missus has bought me a brilliant luxury male grooming voucher at a barbers that deals with all the jockeys in town for my birthday so I’ll go there in a couple of weeks and see what they can do. They use steam on your face and everything!

Finally, continuing my lifestyle of super international travelling consultant, I went to Milton Keynes on the bus. Rock and fucking roll! Currently trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. RSI will prevent me from doing IT for too much longer. I’m currently thinking about playing bowls professionally and representing England at the next Commonwealth Games in Queensland. That’d be awesome but I’m not entirely sure it’s a realistic goal!!

I went to Germany again!

Still living the “jetset” lifestyle! International travelling consultant extraordinaire! Or some such bollocks. I hate travelling for work. Staying in cheap places, flying on cheap planes, operating to cheap per diems. It’s all a bit shit really. Where’s my fucking champagne?!

Had a super early flight out to Nuremberg on Monday so I had a hotel booked at Stansted airport. Radisson. Not too shabby. The missus drove me there and stayed over so we had dinner. Good choice of restaurants and good food. Up at 3am. Bloody freezing outside. Hot as balls inside. Ryanair were not observing the Priority Q on the baggage check in but it wasn’t too busy. Bag scanning was quick too but inside the departures lounge was heaving. Got breakfast and then it was time to head over to my gate.

Arrived in Nuremberg 1h20m later. Super convenient. Very efficient German airport! Out with my bag in about 10 minutes then straight into a cab (Herzogenaurauch bitte? Danke!) and off to the client HQ. Met everyone, was told I had lost weight and not in a good way, had meetings for 3 days, came home. They observed the priority Q and I was first on the plane!! Customs on the way back was quicker but only because it was a small flight and the only one going through. Any more than one flight and the idiots on the desk have a meltdown and take forever. Then the inevitable delay on the train to get home before a final taxi taking its time through the crappy roads of Cambridge.

Yup, work travel is awesome!

On the plus side, it was a very light hearted trip. There was lots of time for recreation. Monday night we went to a Mexican restaurant were my cohorts played my dick is bigger than yours with the hot sauce, proving they both had tiny dicks! Crying is not a good look boys!

Tuesday night we went to Nuremberg to a festival (Volksfest) and a World Cup Hockey friendly between Germany and USA. USA won. The game was awesome. Incredible atmosphere and so noisy!

Prior to the game, we were shown around the exhibition centre area. This is the place that Hitler used for all his rallys. Here is a collosseum he built:

Here is where he stood to give all his speeches:

I found it a little too creepy and couldn’t even stand on it. Back then it would’ve looked over 200,00 angry soldiers. Now it looks over playing fields:

Apparently the modern day government had to decide whether this area should go to ruin and risk being used by far right groups to hold their own rallys or if they should take ownership and turn it into something nice to be used for recreation and as a memorial. I’m glad they chose the latter.

Here is his meeting room:

This is how big he wanted it to become but never got that far:

We walked around the lake at the bottom. Took about 20 mins at a good brisk pace to get around. Massive!

Here is the Congress Hall:

They are currently finalising the Documentation Centre which I will try and go to next time I’m there:

What I did find interesting was the way the Germans get taught about the war these days. Far less jingoistic than the crap we force down our kids throats!

Over at the Volksfest we had dinner in the beer garden. I had two massive steaks with onions and chips. Very nice they were too. Then we had a wander round and I wish I’d had a bag for all the sweets and chocolates!! Saw a couple of minions lying around:

Then we saw the game:

At half time, children from each side played each other in replica uniforms which was brilliant:

On Wednesday we had pizza at the place I went to last time where the pizzas are absolutely massive! Almost inedible in one sitting. Almost.

So that’s it for Germany for a while. Next up is a business trip to Denver in the Summer. Let’s see how shit that turns out!

Shepreth Wildlife Park (Again!)

I’m on holiday!!!! Well, for an extra day either side of Easter weekend. It started out such a lovely day so we headed off to Shepreth Wildlife Park. Unfortunately, in typical Cambridge fashion, the sky turned grey and it started to rain. But it didn’t ruin the fun, just reduced the quantity of pictures. Probably a good thing.

First we had lunch, we were ravenous. I had a burger. They do good burgers there. No peas so I had to have beans, which was a bit weird. It’s Easter holidays, screaming kids everywhere!

Then we headed to the tiger pen. I love how they just sit there being EXACTLY like domestic cats! I’m sure it would’ve preferred to be off slaughtering a springbok or something but it seemed relatively content playing with a rubber ball and then spending 20 minutes cleaning:

Then we went to see the otters! These are may favourite, they’re such attention whores:


Feeding time at the otter pen:

One day I’ll go there on a warm, bright, sunny day and remember to take my camera. I forgot it last time!

Once we were done, we went to the hedgehog hospital. It wasn’t open to the public but they did accept my donation of cat food. They wanted the meat one, not the fish one. I will remember this next time when I take a huge pile of food!

Drew Irons