M4Photo – The end of the road.

Fractured Highway

I have finally finally reached the end of the road with my event photo journey and it is with the heaviest of heavy hearts that I’ll be saying goodbye to M4Photo.  I have thoroughly enjoyed making some lasting memories for many people and it has been a long and very heard decision, but the time to close has come, from both an economical and from a legislation point of view, to let it go.

With the advances in mobile phone and iPad cameras and low cost DSLR cameras, people have more and more access to capturing their own images for next to no cost.  People simply want to share those images online and fewer and fewer people want to pay for prints, quality is just of interest any longer for most parents.  With the rising costs of insurance and other business critical expenses, I find that the few clubs that I support are no longer buying enough images and it’s becoming a financial burden and too costly for the hobby business that it was designed to be.

Furthermore, with current changes to legislation (most notably GDPR), more and more clubs and schools are banning cameras from their venues.  Under GDPR, photographs are now being classed as Personal Data and therefore their use and storage is now also becoming more problematic with permissions being required and validation of those permissions for each image.  Something that is not overly easy when you don’t know the club or school members and therefore find it near impossible to marry permission slips to specific individual images.

In addition, it is now very difficult under GDPR to sell digital images to a parent where the image contains their child and another child.  This makes the nature of my photography very hard to deal with.  In acro gymnastics, children are usually paired with other family’s children.  In archery, there is always another person of child in the image, in team sports there is always one on one action, the list goes on and on.

Many photographers who rely on image sales to pay their mortgage and put food on the table, will have to battle around these burdensome regulations, or simply ignore them and apply the “Legitimate Business Use” rules.  For many of us non-profit making traders who are looking to simply capture memories for people and to cover our costs of doing-so, these regulations are one more thing to worry about.

Yes, I could have applied the “Legitimate Business Interest” rule and many professional photographers will do just that.  M4Photo has always been run professionally and with protection and privacy in mind.  But in the case of M4Photo, it’s just not worth me running the potential risk of the heavy fines and the personal time trying to stay one step of the regulations and ensuring compliance.  I’ll therefore be putting my time to use elsewhere.

A sad, sad day!!!


Eclipse Gymnastics Awards Evening.

2018_01_30_IMG_0020725So, last night was the Eclipse Gymnastics annual awards evening and I was invited along to take some photographs for the club and the gymnasts.  The even has traditionally been held in the clubs hall at the Pemberton Centre, but this year it was moved to the Rushden and Higham Rugby Club.

Now, I’m usually working with loads of room but very poor lighting, of the low light nature.  Tonight things would turn on their head with a very small and very crowded room but with very harsh light.  Let it not be said that things are never easy when you don’t have control of the light and conditions at these types of photo shoots.

Anyway, the gallery is now online and Eclipse parents and gymnasts can gain access to the password protected gallery using the usual login details.  Those details are available from the club officers only, so please don’t ask me for them.  It is against my child protection policy and my agreement with the club  to share the login details with anyone.

I hope that the members enjoy the images and that they remain a lasting reminder of the stars and rising stars of the club.

Eclipse Xmas Show 2017

Ismae playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz

Ismae playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz

Well the plan for the weekend was thrown out slightly on Friday and the usual Eclipse Xmas Show dress rehearsal was regretfully missed but I arrived bright and early at the Pemberton Centre in Rushden, East Northants on Saturday.  I’d been invited back to photograph their latest show and it would prove to be a massive hit.

Now that Ellie is not part of the Acro squad and only gets to the club when she can, and under her own steam (Dad’s taxi service is no longer required), I don’t get to see the practice sessions so learning that the format this year would be brand new was a surprise.

There would be no breaks between squads performing, no breaks in the audio track, just one track for part one and another for the second half of the show.  So, no chance to rethink camera settings, no chance to check memory cards, it was just a full on session x 3.

Anyway, the show was a massive success and congratulations to everyone that helped to prepare and stage the show and a huge well done to all of the gymnasts who put on a wonderful show yet again.  I only hope that I have done the club justice in the photographs captured during the three performances.

All of the photographs are now available on www.m4photo.co.uk in the Eclipse Gymnastics club photo gallery.  You’ll need the username and password which is only available from the club’s officials.  Sorry, but my own child protection policy does not  permit me to supply the login details to anyone.  If you are associated with the club, you’ll know who and where to ask for the details.

I hope that you all enjoy the images.

Bradgate Deer Park

1P7A8045-2To get up to Bradgate Park in Linton near Loughborough in Leicestershire, meant a fairly early start.  So, at 4.45 am my alarm sounded and I fell out of bed, hastily showered, dressed and hit the road.  My first stop would be to pick up friend and fellow photographer, Matthew, from Raunds and then we would head across the A14 and then up the M1 for a couple of junctions.

Looking up at the sky as I packed my camera gear in the car, I noticed that there was not one star visible in the sky, in fact the sky was just plain black and there was a dampness in the air.  Something that almost had me heading back to bed.  However, with a planned photo shoot already decided, I left the house and headed over to Raunds.

The drive up to the park was good, cruise control all of the way and thankfully the windscreen wipers remained off.  Before too long and still in darkness, we found ourselves looking for parking close to the park.  The park gates were closed owing to recent problems with trouble in the park overnight and all around the entrance and exit are double yellow lines.  To make life easier and a little more pleasant for the local residents, the double yellow lines even extend up the side roads, making life a little more difficult for Matthew and I.  Thankfully, we managed to park out on the main road, gathered our gear and we headed down into the park.

1P7A8024It is rutting season in the park and as we made our way through the car park and into the park itself, we were heartened to hear stags bellowing and several deer very close to the path along the small river that runs through the park and divides the public area with the deer sanctuary.

As we headed into the park, we saw a young deer up high on the side of the small valley and silhouetted against the early morning sky.  If it had been a stag with the classic antlers, we’d have pulled out our cameras quickly.  On this occasion, the opportunity passed and we headed deeper into the park.   A short way in and we decided to leave the main path which was now becoming very busy with photographers in the gathering light of the morning.

As we headed up and over one of the rocky outcrops and up the side of the valley the morning light grew brighter but my spirits dropped.  The air was now once again beginning to feel damp and the sky was very heavily overcast.  There would be no sunrise this morning and for the next four hours we would not even see the slightest glimpse of the sun, not even the usual round white glow of the sun trying to break through the low dense cloud, nothing, nada.

As we headed up over the hills towards one of the ruins, a tower set high above the park, we saw a pair of deer fighting on the large clearing in the valley floor.  Off to the right, a large group of photographers moved in for a better view.  It would have been nice to capture two deer going head to head, antlers locked in battle, but the image would have been fairly plain with no decent sky, no decent light and nothing of interest in the foreground or the background.  I felt that this was not an opportunity missed, but a sign that the timing of this trip was right.

As we headed higher, we rounded a corner and found an old deer taking shelter.  Remarkably calm, the stag allowed Matthew and I to take images from just 20-30 feet away and it only finally moved when a couple of dogs came bounding passed off their leads.  With the deer now spooked and alert to the dogs, we moved off leaving him in peace.

Climbing higher in the hope of finding some deer on the upper clearings, we felt the air getting more moist and I noticed the odd drop of mist on my camera and tripod.  The air was definitely getting heavier and the clearing blow us was becoming more and more obscured by the hazy mist.  The walk to be fruitless though and it quickly became clear that the deer were taking shelter in the valley floor and the deer sanctuary which is out of bounds to the public.


We headed back down and captured a few images along the river, but the light never improved and all of the images were flat and lacking in contrast.  Shots from any distance we compromised by the heavy air and then the damp misty air turned to light drizzle and it neared time to head off home.

Matthew and I plan to return in a couple of weeks time.  the river area gives some nice opportunities but one of the park wardens confirmed that most of the rutting deer remain in the deer sanctuary and well away from the public.  As we walked back to the exit of the car park, we noticed that the deer that had been along the river’s edge and above us on the ridge overlooking the path, had all moved on and there was now just a steady stream of people out for a Sunday walk, a R/C car off-rounding club who were having great fun driving their model cars over the rocks and through the river and a growing number of excitable and noisy children having fun.

Our next visit will therefore be mid-week and we’ll do a sunrise to sunset session all being well.  Let’s just hope for better weather and more photographic opportunities in this wonderful and very picturesque country park.


Jill and Dave’s 70th Birthday Party


Saturday evening, around 200 guests and double 70th Birthday Party for Jill and Dave Edwards saw me preparing and heading over to The Bedford Golf  Club and a remit to document the evening.

Finding the venue was easy and my first task was to find some suitable locations for the group shots that Jill had requested.  The course was surrounded on two sides by trees and I was lucky to find one where the grass was not too wet and not at all muddy or soggy.  With two locations chosen, I headed inside to capture some images of the birthday couple meeting some of their guests.

As always, the entrance doorway was cramped and busy and shrouded in deep shade, only a small amount of light from one window.  This was going to be fun trying to get faces and enough natural light falling on the gusts as they arrived.  This was one time when I did not want to use flash because it can be so imposing and I wanted to leave Jill and Dave to meet their guests without the usual flashes going off every two seconds.

Half an hour after the party start time, I caught up with Jill and we got the Bliss family together for their family shot on the grass outside.  The natural light was pretty nice but the clouds we gathering and there was moisture in the air already.  With one family shot in the bag we turned to the Edwards and the second of the four or five shots that Jill had lined up.

This is where things took a change because a few people were missing and getting people gathered together whilst still meeting late arrivals was always going to be troublesome.  Thankfully, Jill saw the logistical difficulties, especially getting two sets of 60 bowlers together and who were simply ready to party and she decided to call off the idea and concentrate on the party and enjoying herself.

So, with official shots done it was back to what I like best and seeking out the casual shots.  This started with me moving between four vantage points and picking up images of as many people as I could and some room wide shots for the record.  Following which the entertainment for the night was to be courtesy of Deja Vu, a three person group with a guitarist and two singers covering songs from the 1940’s right through to today.

As the dance floor began to fill, I turned my attention to capturing images of people dancing and also people enjoying themselves at the tables.  This filled my time up to the buffet opening and a few minutes to catch a few shots before putting the camera away for a quick bite to eat and a much needed Coke.

jill-edwards-70th-partyThe rest of the evening was spent in and around the dance floor with official shots of the speeches, the cake and then the cutting of the cake.  Soon after the band got a Conga train going, well one for the ladies and one for the gents and I just had enough time to reach my high vantage point before there were two growing in length trains threading their way through the hall.  The band then also helped with my final shot that I wanted to get.  Whilst Jill had been on the dance floor, Dave had been in the main hall.  The band brought the two together for a dance towards the end of the evening and my work was done.  Just a few last shots of Deja Vu and few people on the dance floor and I was done.

A little later than I had planned but just after midnight I was homeward bound and looking forward to processing and uploading the images.

With the images processed, I have published two galleries to www.m4photo.co.uk.  They include the images from the party and also some of the images of Deja Vu in a separate gallery.

If you are a family member or guest, I hope that you like the images and your comments are always most welcome.


Two Years and Still Going Strong

Mono Lake Rainstorm

Mono Lake Rainstorm – Rain teems down form the heavens over the mountains alongside Mono Lake, Mammouth Lakes, CA, USA – Copyright 2015 Martyn Phillips, M4Photo.

Two years ago, I was extremely fortunate to find myself in California for what was to be the photographic trip of my lifetime.  Under the guidance of professional landscape photographer Paul Reiffer, we visited a number of locations, with Mono Lake being one of my favorites.

Mono Lake Rainstorm has consistently been one of my most successful images.  Now two years old, I was amazed to see in my email that Gurushots have once again picked up one of my images.  This time Mono Lake Rainstorm has made number one in the list of 36 landscape images that will “knock your socks off”.

See the full list of 36 images here.


New Gallery Online


After a relatively quiet period, this week has seen my second outing to photograph a local club event.  Tonight I was back at Eclipse Gymnastics and this time for something a little different.

There is no doubt that the gymnasts are all very talented in their sport, but this evening proved that they also have talents in other areas and we were treated to singers, dancers, musicians and a comedy magic trick routine that had everyone in stitches.  Have you ever tried taking photographs in very low light whilst giggling – it’s hard.

All of the participants did really well but it was Henry playing the violin that stole the show and one the accolade for best performance.  His piece which was accompanied by backing music was wonderful and he played it entirely from memory.  It was a joy to listen to and watch. He was, in my mind, a very worthy winner.

As usual the light was atrocious in the club’s hall, in fact it was lower than usual.  This meant me pushing the camera and my skills to the absolute limit.  Some of the images are a little grainy and soft but the gallery is now being uploaded to www.m4photo.co.uk for all of the club members to view and purchase .jpg files and prints.  The usual commission will be paid to the club for all photographs bought over the next 90 days.

Finally, well done to everyone at Eclipse Gymnastics who were involved with organizing yet another flawless and great evening of entertainment.