united kingdom

Ale in a day's work.

It's not often you get to combine two excellent things in one place, but luckily on Thursday evening, I managed to get photography and beer together in a giant boozy snappathon.

Now in its fourth year, the Beer and Cider Marketing Awards celebrates the best marketers and campaigns in the industry and is held in the ever hipstery Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane.

The great and the good from the world of British cheeky beers both large and small were there, and they were treated to several million kegs of craft ales and ciders, plus some proper delicious street food.

My simple brief for the evening was to capture a) the winners in usual awards grip and grin stylee and b) people enjoying themselves, which is remarkably simple once the beer started flowing.

Whilst I was pretty busy snapping away, it was clear the dedication and passion for the products that people were representing - these guys really love their beer (and cider). Among the many winners were Thatchers, Beavertown, Big Drop Brewing Co and the overall winners: St Austell.

I should mention the product packaging while i’m here - some of it is top class nowadays - you could say the industry has really raised the bar on that one (sorry)

One thing in would also note is the venue itself - The Old Truman Brewery is really fun for a photographer - lots of urban decay, interesting light and two different levels so you can lean over and get shots from above.

So ceremony done, weighty silver pint glass awards lifted and DJ's in full spin, I ducked out before it got too out of control, only to realise - ironies of ironies - that I'd not touched a drop all evening and was as sober as the proverbial.

Which reminds me - mine's a pint if anyone's asking...

Tech Corner:
No manual for this shindig - it was all quick-fire AF. That meant lashings of Zeiss Loxia 85 for the candids, some 25mm for the wide ceremony shots and the 35mm f1.4 for wandering around and product shots.

Feeling Gravity's Pull.

Ok. Sunday. A day for lounging around, mowing the lawn and slamming in the lamb.

Or, if you live near Cookham like we do, it's also the opportunity to watch some insane locals take part in the Gravity Grand Prix - basically, a build-your-own kart time trail down a steep-ish hill in which one attempts to not die horribly in front of ones neighbours.

Run since 2007, the Grand Prix is driven only by gravity (huh) meaning a quick push and that's it. This means some karts with a little more, shall we say, 'engineering' get much better times down the course. For instance, the low profile handmade by yer actual Jaguar cars team did a significantly better time than the two naked blokes in a trolley surrounded by some cardboard.

It figures.

Still, none of this really matters as most of the fun is watching to see if anyone comes a cropper around the chicane (they did) and if any carts break halfway down (they do). Awards are given for fastest time obviously, but they're also handed out for Best Novelty Kart as well so everyone can be a winner.

It was our second year watching the Grand Prix and it seemed busier this time around. I also noted the appearance of a Costa van and a National Trust tent amongst the bar and the bbq indicating it's becoming a 'thing' on the circuit. Hope it doesn't spoil it.

My favourite kart this year was the John Player Special one (memories of the 70's and 80's Lotus cars I guess) but special mention to the little VW van you'll see in the pictures below, not least because post-race some idiot local kids nicked and trashed it. This is why we're not allowed to have nice things...

So, the perennial fun day out for all the family (including plenty of dogs for some reason) with thousands of quid being raised for Thames Valley Air Ambulance and other local causes at the same time.

Check out some of the karts below and let me know your favourite...

Tech corner:

It was all about a quick telephoto - step forward Batis 85!

The eyes have it.

I've never felt more observed than when I'm taking photos.

That's a bit of a strange thing to say, but once you make a commitment to get out there and do some street photography you become hyper-aware of eyes.

There are two sorts. The first in London is obvious - the 'surveillance state' of Britain is everywhere. You can throw in as many Big Brother cliches as you like, but until you're out there taking photos you don't really notice the number of cameras pointing at you - big or small - at every major crossroad or outside every big department store. I suppose in the current climate of Russian spy tomfoolery and chronic distrust of the population, in general, it's not a great surprise. 

Getting over this element of it (and I've yet to be thrown in the back of a van and my passport removed in central London), the second element of being observed is people themselves - and the area they're inhabiting.

This may seem a bit ironic seeing as lots of the time someone like me is sticking a lens in their face, but I was struck yesterday how contextual the attitude to this is depending what part of the capital you're in.

I wasn't really in London for a shoot day but had two meetings in distinct parts of town. Firstly a cafe stop just off Oxford Street and the second at an agency in Old Street. As there was time in between, I took the opportunity to get the camera out.

What struck me was the attitude. In the hyper-busy, relentlessly noisy Oxford Street, I was constantly eyed with suspicion as if I was up to no good - people actively turn away or shift if there's a camera near them - but in the slightly more relaxed Hoxton and Shoreditch borders nobody noticed me, and if they did they didn't seem bothered. It's almost like I disappeared a little.

I've been pondering this a little and I've yet to come up with a rationale, apart from perhaps a small theory that people around the more 'media' type areas of the East End are used to people waving cameras around at them as it's quite urban and street, but apart from that I'm at a loss. Answers on a digital postcard, please.

The other slight oddity I've noticed is the difference in attitude between a phone camera and a 'proper' camera - I've seen people looking very uneasy - like the old soul is being stolen -  when a reasonably sized lens is out and about but if someone is taking a picture with an iPhone? Not a ruffle.

Obviously, both objects take a picture, just one of a higher quality, but I can only put this down to the ubiquitous nature of phone ownership - people are desensitised. Bit odd though.

Anyway, enough Tinker Tailor Solider Photographer here's some of the images from yesterday - try to spot your author. 10 points for the first who sees me.

Eyes down.

Tech Corner:
Batis 85 and Zeiss Sony 55 - the latter mostly used for the Oxford Street shots.