Shad’s update on the Cystic Fibrosis walkers

These are the times that restore my faith in humanity and remind me that empathy and kindness are the cornerstones of a truly civilised society.  When someone is willing to endure hardship on behalf of another person it’s a reminder of the goodness that drives many people to do crazy things like walking 28 miles along a concrete promenade in the searing heat to raise money for a good cause.  The sun feels scorching as it reflects off the shimmering water that’s looks perfectly still, ideal conditions for the paddle-boarders and jet skiers enjoying their workouts on the tranquil water of the Sussex coastline.  There are no trees or hills to cast a cool shadow, just a few beach huts and Victorian shelters dotted along the esplanade.  A light sea breeze and a chilled bottle of water are the only things to provide relief from the heat on their glistening brows and red faces.

 

Scott, Dean and Kayleigh worked unbelievably hard to honour the commitment they had made to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and raise as much money as they could to support people who live with cystic fibrosis.  It was 24ºC on the sea front and even the most well-worn pair of trainers is going to rub like billio when you march 60,000 steps and you’re sweating buckets!  Talking of buckets, the whacky walkers carried their collecting buckets all the way along their planned route which started at Bognor Regis pier and took them along the A259.  The guys working on the improvements to the A259 deserve a special thank you for encouraging our intrepid trio and digging deep into their pockets.  The footpath along that road leads to a bridge that crosses the River Arun and took our team to a pretty part of the coastline characterised by shingle beaches and sandy dunes spotted with spiky tufts of Marram grass.  Sounds like an ideal napping spot for a cat who likes to roll around in sand and hide in long grass.

 

Lots of yachts and small boats were moored at Littlehampton Marina, bobbing up and down gently in the sheltered bay waiting for their owners to take them out to sea for a taste of freedom.  Our charity walkers mostly tasted the salty air and it was time for a rest and a top up of fluids.  The next landmark was a picturesque portion of coastline called Goring Gap which consists of hedgerows and dry grassland but has a hidden secret, a concealed World War II bunker tucked behind a dense patch of trees.  As our walkers continued their challenge, the dehydration and burning blisters began to take its toll.  Shoreham RNLI lifeboat station was a welcome sight as it marked a major milestone and meant they were only 7 miles from their final destination.  As the summer sun started to dip lower in the sky, the Shoreham Lighthouse became a symbol of inspiration to guide them on the final leg of their long journey.  And wearily but with determination, our plucky gang finally hit the finish line exhausted but happy.  They should be very proud of themselves and despite the aching limbs and bandaged feet, John says they are planning to do something similar next year for another charity.  Well done guys and thank you to everyone who supported them financially or emotionally for their trek along the entire promenade from Bognor to Brighton.

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Shad storms the Aston Hill Mountain Bike Mash Up

I have no idea what a mash-up is but I can tell you that mountain biking is not for the faint-hearted and certainly not for a cat of my delicate disposition.  I got my first clue when the organisers rounded us up for a safety lecture before the event began and I got my second clue when we walked along one of the tracks that the bikers would be descending later and I counted 5 vertical drops along the way.  When John asked me the previous night if I’d like to head up to Buckinghamshire for a mountain biking event in the beautiful woodland of the Chiltern Hills I thought it was an opportunity not to be missed.  At no point during this conversation did he say that great valour would be required.  I think it was the speed with which the riders came down the hill coupled with their proximity to the photographers that set my feline senses on edge.  But I’m a daring black cat with bravado (plus I’ve always got John to rescue me) and I’m plucky enough to rise to any challenge (as long I’ve got John to rescue me)!

Aston Hill Bike Park is a dedicated site for mountain biking located in Wendover Woods on the ridge of the Chiltern Hills, a designated area of outstanding natural beauty.  It features a number of cross-country and downhill runs for beginners through to advanced riders, the more difficult routes being named ‘black run’, ‘root canal’ and ‘ricochet’.  (This was my third clue)!  The tracks are regularly changed to keep things interesting for the riders and the trail designers work closely with the Forestry Commission to ensure that the nature of this beautiful wooded landscape is not compromised by this bizarre human fondness for a burst of adrenaline.

The photographers took their positions as someone blew a loud horn (my fourth clue) and I took a few steps backwards when the sound of tyres bouncing across loose gravel crackled through the forest.  As the noise got louder, riders emerged from the dense canopy of trees down the narrow sloping trails and my nerves were soon forgotten as the riders tore past looking euphoric, some waving madly, others gripping on to their handlebars for dear life.  Then the RAF team cruised past us with apparent ease, twisting their wheels in the air as they flew off the ramps and skidding around bends with their knees scraping the ground in what they call a ‘bar dragger’.  Now I know why one of the trails is called ‘surface to air’.  It was all very high-energy and far more exhilarating than I could have anticipated.  John and I wandered back down the hill to the finish area to talk to the riders as the dust settled and they got their breath back and some of them were as young as 8 years old.  Audacious little tykes looked tired but happy and I was overcome with an urge to nap.  While John carried me back to the car, I planned my marathon napping session for the journey home to the finest detail including position, timing and dream cycles.

Shad takes a look at beach huts

Many of the shorelines along the south coast are lined with rows of beach huts Worthing and Bognor Regis sea fronts are no exception.  Beach huts are a quintessential characteristic of British seaside life and their beginnings can be traced back some 250 years to a time when no trip to the seaside was complete without a ‘bathing machine’.  Apparently these vehicles were like beach huts on wheels drawn by horses who pulled them towards the sea so that the bather could step directly into the water without risking their modesty.  By the 1890’s it became more acceptable to walk across the beach in a bathing costume and share the beach with members of the opposite sex and before long villages of stripy changing tents were erected on the Edwardian sands.  Eventually bathing machines lost their wheels and our modern day purpose-built huts began to appear, constructed in a similar style and painted in bright colours.

Judging by my walk along the seafront with John, there are plenty of beach hut fans out there because all but one of the beach huts we saw were well maintained.  A crowd of crows gathered on the top of their favourite hut and squawked their approval as we ambled past.  When John and I stopped to sit on a bench, we got chatting to a nice mature couple resting in deckchairs on the patio of their own beach hut, all too happy to regale us with the joys of beach hut life.  They offered us a cup of tea and a biscuit while we watched the jet skiers zooming around on the water and I gazed out to sea, wondering what kind of life lay beneath the shimmering surface.

There are some wondrous creatures in the sea like the Thornback Ray found in shallow waters all around England or the dolphin, a highly intelligent and social marine mammal located across the world.  I looked at the fishing gear sitting on the shingle close by and wondered how many of the ocean’s dolphins and sharks were caught right at that moment in discarded fishing line or huge commercial fishing nets.  These nets are often left behind by irresponsible trawlers and travel many miles across the deep, risking the lives of marine animals that become trapped in them.  John showed me a video the other day of some kindly humans relaxing in their cruise boat somewhere near the equator when they spotted a sea turtle in distress and stopped to free it from its ropey tangles.  Sea turtles are one of the earth’s most ancient creatures having been around since the time of the dinosaurs so I was pleased to see this little guy rescued to continue its legacy.  Scientists estimate that around 26 million pounds of plastic travels from land to the sea every year contributing to massive floating patches of rubbish that kill one million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals.

The two Minute Beach Clean

As John and I stood up to take our leave and head home, we thanked our generous beach hut hosts for their hospitality and made our way back along the dried grass pathway adjacent to the beach.  John stooped down to pick up an empty plastic water bottle that someone had left on the ground and I contemplated the lovely afternoon we had enjoyed with this couple who represented a time of trust and simplicity which I liked.  I also liked them because they gave me tea and biscuits and they clearly had taste, having spent a considerable portion of time stroking my fluffy black cheeks and admiring my plucky personality!  Next time I go to the beach with John, I must remind him to pack a little picnic.

Shad takes a walk around the garden

I’ve got ‘the wild’ right on my doorstep in the form of a rather overgrown back garden.  John says he’s let it get back to nature, but I suspect this noble sentiment is an excuse for not mowing the lawn!  Nevertheless, we both enjoy looking at the garden and all the treasures it holds which is why I like to take a stroll around it from time to time, admiring Mother Nature while I think about my work.  In the 2 ½ years that John and I have been running Shadow Photography, I’ve been involved with happy couples planning their wedding day, excited exhausted mothers eager to have pictures of their young baby for the mantelpiece, highly strung horses next to shiny horse boxes and wily creatures who shy away from the camera. You can find stories about my experiences and examples of the colourful and dynamic images I have produced during my work if you look back at https://shadthecat.wordpress.com/.

 

Weddings are great because people are always happy and the atmosphere is one of romance and optimism.  A bit like the mood created by these adorable garden birds who decided to have a splash together in the bath while I was crouching under the shrubbery with my camera.  Some of the birds in the garden (like the sparrows, blue tits and great tits featured in the photos) are so small I’m amazed they don’t get blown away by the wind.  Don’t worry, I’m not tempted to chase them, I’m far too busy analysing the light and shade in the frame, judging depth of field and generally perfecting my photography skills to be dashing around after my feathered friends.  I was really lucky to catch a glimpse of a green woodpecker as you can see from the picture and I would have taken more shots only this worker bee kept buzzing around the flowers right next to me and it really put me off!

 

I like to take pictures of the flowers because I can play with the focus and emphasise the colour to create some striking shots, like these views of the cherry blossom and bluebell-type plants in the garden.  I have produced a number of beautiful prints from these shots as well as more abstract images from the magnificent architecture that lies at the heart of history in this country.   They make a lovely gift to yourself or someone you care about so if you’re tempted, check out http://www.shadow-photography.com/.  On the website you’ll also discover the portfolio of work that John and I have developed over the last couple of years which gives you a flavour of our style.  Please remember us if you want a professional portrait at a preferential rate, or if you have a friend who plays in a band or a family member getting married and you want to capture the fun on film.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to share my thoughts and snapshots with you in this blog while I beaver away at building the business.  Shadow Photography is there for all your photographic needs and John and I only require a cup of coffee and a saucer of cat milk to keep us happy and working hard!

 

Shad does a Selfie

Who is this mysterious character strolling along the beach with a camera?  It’s none other than my good friend and business partner, John.  This is a rare sighting indeed because John normally prefers to be behind the camera.  But John’s daughter Natasha cleverly caught him in the frame the other day when we were at the beach on the Isle of Wight.  Twilight was fast approaching and as the sun disappeared I could feel the drop in temperature and the quiet that follows as people head home and the nourishing warmth of day is gone.  As John walked ahead, I felt proud to live and work alongside him, hard-working and honourable man that he is.  But boy does he have big feet!  I had great fun jumping in the footprints he left in the sand.

 

Check out the selfie!  I like the purple shirt John is wearing.  It’s both mine and John’s favourite colour, very chic and a purrfect match for my shiny black fur.  There have been a few cheeky comments about the similarity between us and Ernest Blofeld (the James Bond supervillain) stroking his cat in this picture!  I think it’s the way John’s hand is touching my back.  But I can assure you that John is no evil genius with aspirations of world domination.  Although I can’t promise you that I’m not a secret service agent posing as a photographer with a covert agenda to destroy the arch-enemies of the free world!

Shad & John

Shad Interviews John

I recently decided it was time to put Mr John Jefferies on the couch, under the spotlight, if you like.  Let’s find out a bit more about the mastermind behind Shadow Photography, and ask John a few questions too!

 

  1. What’s it like to live with a cat like me?

Its challenging, but they say creative types can be eccentric and you certainly have your idiosyncrasies!!

A little cheeky, but I can’t deny it!!

  1. Do you have any brothers or sisters?

Two brothers, both younger than me

                Colin is a lead singer in a band called the Saga Louts

                Paul is married and emigrated to Perth in Australia

 

  1. Have you always been a photographer?

I’ve always enjoyed photography and have owned a camera since my first home-made pin-hole camera at the age of 10.  Over the years it has been a hobby and my main job involved working in the airline industry.  However, in recent years photography has become a real passion and is now my second job.

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  1. What’s your favourite thing to photograph?

I wouldn’t say I have a favourite subject to shoot, however I enjoy wildlife and the challenge that taking pictures of animals brings.  They don’t pose for you and they always look away at the wrong moment, but with patience and a bit of luck, the results can be very rewarding.  I also love to work with people, watching them enjoy each other’s company and knowing that the special moments they share can be captured on film to be remembered forever.

 

  1. Where is your favourite place to relax?

I love sitting on a beach watching the sunset, listening to the calm sway of the waves and breathing the salty air, enjoying the peace and quiet.

  1. Which picture are you most proud of?

Good question.  I have many big cat pictures that I love and some lovely landscapes hanging in my wall-gallery.  I think my proudest moment is my first wedding as the primary shooter where I had all the responsibility of getting the wedding photos and albums together and seeing the smile on the bride’s face when she saw the finished product.

Oh so nothing with me in it then?!

  1. Are you inspired by any other photographers or famous icons?

There are a quite few photographers from history like Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson that I admire.  I have also learned a great deal from more modern photographers like Ted Forbes and Zack Arias. In terms of artists, I enjoy the work of Monet and De Vinci.  I also have the greatest respect for humanitarians like Paul Newman, the Hollywood actor who donated millions of dollars in profits to charities all over the world.

I never knew you had such a philosophical side.  It appears there’s more to you than meets the eye.

  1. What music do you like?

Rock and heavy metal are my favourite genres but I listen to anything from classical to country.  I’ve driven passengers in my car crazy crooning to the likes of Singing Doll and Yellow Submarine, as well as the deep notes of M People and Seal.  My music tastes have been described as eclectic.

John seriously, that Dolly Parton album I had to endure the other day was taking the biscuit.

  1. What’s your favourite big cat and why?

The tiger – power, agility and beauty, all in one cat

Stick a few orange stripes on me and we’d be identical!

10. Why do you like trains so much?

As a kid I loved to travel on trains and collect their numbers (and no I did not wear an anorak!).  There’s something magnificent about a steam engine though, it’s might and the way the moving parts work in synergy have always fascinated me.

I just enjoy the chuffing.

11. What 3 words would you use to describe me?

Charismatic / playful / lovable

That’s very kind.  I’d describe you as determined, compassionate and honourable.  Bet that surprised you!

12. What is the most challenging aspect of being official photographer at weddings?

Time management, making sure you get that shot but not holding up the proceedings, and being in the right place at the right time

13. Next time you have crispy duck pancakes, can you please leave a bit more for me?

Of course, I know how you like it.

Shad’s Ode to Spring

With all the rain that’s poured from on high
This winter has been soggy
So listen to these jolly words
written by favourite moggy

This little poem designed to rhyme
Was penned to cheer you up
So you can feel the coming of spring
As all the rain dries up

Puffy clouds in pale blue skies
Are a sign that winter is going
Spring is round the corner I feel
And soon the sun will be glowing

The butterflies and bumble bees
The sight of pretty flowers
The sound of starlings singing
And refreshing April showers

Spring is round the corner
And winter in the past
The joys of spring are looming
And the warm breeze comes at last

So pack up all your troubles
There’s excitement in the air
Celebrate the things you treasure
And a smile we will all share