Cholsey Balloon Festival 2014

It had been ages since Béa and I did any ballooning, so it was great when we learnt that Mike was organising a charity fundraiser in Cholsey, just south of Wallingford last Saturday.

We weren’t too sure if we’d do much flying and how many people would turn up. A good friend of Béa’s was very keen to see balloons up close and get a flight if possible so we couldn’t say no and just hoped the weather would hold out.

In the end, it was a fabulous afternoon. There were far more people that turned up than I had expected, and it’s great to see such a popular fundraising event bring such a crowd.

The afternoon started off with some tethering and a few launches. Josh and Mike organised two tethers (where the balloons are attached to vehicles to prevent them flying off) but with enough slack in the ropes to get a few metres airborne.

We arranged it for kids to get free flights and what an overwhelming success.

In the end, we did launch around 10 balloons in the air, and I helped the retrieve of Josh Taylor’s balloon – we didn’t go very far as the wind had dropped by the time we got up in the air.

As night fell, we packed up the retrieve and came back for more festivities and had a night glow going with a few balloons.

A big thanks and round of applause to Michael’s event. It was a great success, covered in the news here, and an all round superb afternoon where over £1500 was raised.

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Guide Dogs Training Centre


This post is long overdue as it was following on from the Guide Dogs’ National Breeding Centre photoshoot from last year.

Just up the road from the breeding centre is their main training complex for those who are to become guide dogs as well as other kinds of dogs who end up on the Alternative Working Career assessments – more on that later.

The training centre takes the youngs dogs on shortly after they’ve left the breeding centre and are looked after in homes.

Part of the training process involves getting the dogs used to their surroundings (firstly just taking them for walks on a normal lead). This is Orca who’s already well into her training with Jenny. She’s already getting used to the full harness and learning to navigate around obstacles.

Here, we have a younger dog on a normal lead, getting accustomed to the dos and don’ts of becoming a guide dog.A lot of the training is reward-based and when things start going well, out come the treats 🙂Now we’re indoors where we start training with obstacles. First up is the typical slalom around comes and it’s rather tricky when you’re starting out!Now not all dogs end up being guide dogs for various reasons. One of the principle assessments is done on their character. Dogs who are too lively or energetic can’t become guide dogs and are then assessed into other possibilities such as police dogs and search and rescue dogs.

This is rehoming officer Kirsten working with Benki, a lovely lab just too lively.

Step 1 – “this is what I want you to find”.Step 2 – I’ve found it!On another attempt, this time a bit less obvious. After a few seconds, Benki quickly homes in on the tennis ball.Now we’re back at the early stages of training, and this is adorable puppy Falstaff having a quick checkup with Welfare Advisor, Karen.Part of the process involves a lot of socialising.Give us a kiss!

A quick break from the training to show (off!) gorgeous Curly Coat Retriever puppy Rookie. Curly Coats are an endagered breed and Rookie pulled out all the stops including his tongue for that extra cuteness factor. One day, he may well become a stud dog and I can see why!Back to the training now, and this is Doris being trained by Helen. Part of the process is getting them used to the environment, and they have “environment enrichment activies” to get them familiar with playing, people and their surroundings.After a bit of playing, it was “what? No more playing?”Once the dogs are ready, it’s time to start training them with the full harness. Here, Doris is having one of her first times with the harness. It generally goes very smoothly, especially when treats are involved!Back indoors now with more obstacle training. I didn’t know plumbing waste pipes were used for training guide dogs!As well as guiding, dogs must be taught to stay put when required. Here, they learn to stay on the mat whilst the trainer walks away.Final bit of obstacle training for the day!Here we have another Doris 🙂 She belongs to Senior Puppy Training Supervisor, Helen and as you might expect, she won’t become a guide dog, but I found her too cute to leave out.Towards the end of the training, the dogs are taught to do demonstrations to the public. Getting the public’s awareness is very important in raising money for their efforts.

This is Mark, a Senior Guide Dog Trainer with demonstration dog Dudley.And finally, a few more shots. Peter is a rather proud boarder looking after training dog Austin.As well as labradors, German Shepherds are often used and this is Zip, a stud dog who has sired many guide dog puppies. He is cared for by Mandy.Can I have a treat please?This is a Toby, a retired Guide Dog who’s being cared for at Leamington whilst his medication for Cushing’s disease is being stabilised. Rather proud looking, and so he should be whilst he recovers.Finally, here’s Liam who’s owned by Jackie. You cannot underestimate the joy and happiness Guide Dogs give to the blind, and I can’t quite remember why, but we all had the giggles at this point!I do want to say a big thank you to Lynn for her time and guidance around the Training Centre. After the cuteness of the NBC, it was just as rewarding to see how the training process takes place. I might have to come back and pinch Falstaff for a few weeks, although he will have grown up quite a bit by now!


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Orla, greyhound photoshoot

Although I’ve taken many photos of dogs in the past, I’ve never really attempted to take photos of running dogs. OK, that’s a small lie, I did once take a nice shot of a friend’s Labs running in water. But greyhounds, even when retired, run at a hell of a rate of knots!

Alex and Nicola fell in love with Orla, a greyhound (part greyhound – I think she has some Staff in her too), and gave her a new home, and after some time regaining trust in us human folk, has turned into a lovely adorable pooch. The only thing to watch out really is her tail which, when happy, can turn an accidental cause of pain, and she’s nicknaked “whippy” 🙂

Here she is

However, once “launched”, it’s quite something to try to take photos of. Also, as she’s getting on a bit, we can’t keep her sprinting for minutes, so this was very much a first trial.

Here are a few of the good ones.

In full flight

Some of the expressions you get on a fast freeze frame are a bit scary!

But you do get to see her incredibly muscular physiology. I was amazed when Alex said she topped the scales at around 33kg.

However, after the minute of running, she’s quite contempt and rather happy – if a little out of breath.

This reminds me that I never posted a report of my trip to the Guide Dogs Training School after visint ghte Guide Dogs’ National Breeding Centre. I really must get round to doing that and so apologies if you’ve been patiently waiting. I’ll get round to it in the next week or two.

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Crystal Palace Triathlon Pink 2014

I’ve been behind in posting my recent photography shoots, so it seems fitting that the third I’m posting today is for the Triathlon Pink charity race that took place at Crystal Palace in London organised by Breakthrough Cancer.

Béa and a few of her work colleagues have been sweating it out litterally over the last 6 months with intense “boot camp” fitness training sessions twice, sometimes three times a week. They opted for the longest option which is 300m swim, 9km cycling and 3km running. I was pretty exhausted just thinking about it!

It was a very early start this morning, loading up the bike on the car at around 6am, driving into London to beat the Sunday morning traffic.

Here are our little champions just before the pool event.

Here’s Lynn tasting the success of the finish line.

Lynn and Béa on the finish podium

This was my first big event that I went to primarily to support the girls, but it turned out to be far more than just that. Everyone (runners and spectators) had a great fun time (no really!), and the motivation to get through it as a team brings that great reward of satisfaction as they all crossed the finish line.

In fact a few others who came along with us are apparently signing up to do it next year 🙂

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Bec’s new “Henley Bakes” home-made breads and cakes

A couple of weeks ago, Bec got in touch as she was starting her small tasty home-made baking business and wanted some product shots. Her kitchen is great, aery, bright and super clean, with lots of lovely natural light so we did pretty much the entire photo shoot with just natural light. A tiny bit of fill light was added on some shots, but in the end, the natural light was fine and I just had to tweak the colour balance a couple of times in post.

A few photos 🙂

Macaroon mountain 🙂

Some lovely cinnamon swirls. They are very tasty and I normally really hate cinammon!

I’ve always had a soft spot for flapjacks, and these are super tasty!

And no baking would be complete without pacman biscuits. We thought we might as well have some fun in the layout! The little pills are meringue.

Chef Bec at work with fresh batch of cinnamon swirls.

Thanks Bec, not only did I really enjoy the shoot, but the “goody-bag” went down a treat!

Her website is here:


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