It Happened at the County Fair

Summer in Indiana and I got to experience that colourful cultural experience – the County Fair. We have, of course, fairs in Ireland – it’s usually cold and wet, they’re often like outdoor shopping malls, and they’re a bit… two dimensional. Now whether it’s the novelty of travelling or enjoying a trip to somewhere like parts of Indiana that are well off the tourist trail, there are things you just don’t get at home.

Forget Healthy Eating
There was a serious diet and a gym membership organised after this trip. It wasn’t just the grilled/fried everything – it was the sheer size and volume of portions.  All delicious, of course.

Corn Dogs.  Wrong on every level.. I ate loads
Make sure you have an up to date dental plan
Porky’s.  Ate here as well….
Satisfied customers from the Big Dog Diner
Something for the little ones..
Are we in Scotland???

We The People
With the fine weather and good food, everyone seemed chilled.

The Fire Department – ready for action
I think it’s a Nikon
Competition time
Love it when a Bass Player Smiles.  And nice Gretsch.

Bit of Politics
I have to say that these guys had considerably less attention than the food, agricultural shows, sports and entertainment. The Tea Party strangely had no tea.

Democrat casual.
Down with this sort of thing. Careful now.
A military presence

Tractors we have at home. Horses at agricultural shows, ditto.
Demolition derbies and pig wrestling, not so much.

John Cougar….   …. John 3:16
They actually did play ZZ Top for this
Driving without lights.  and windows
One careful owner
a fine display of horses and hats
ZZ Top tribute band and pig wrestlers
Ladies and Gentlemen., we have a winner

And finally..
Sorry about this Dave, but we were on the lookout for you the whole time.

most wanted
Lock up your daughters.. Dave’s skipped bail

Hancock, Grant and Delaware County Fairs, I salute you. Every conceivable type of food and entertainment, everyone enjoying themselves and so, so much to photograph.

Tech note:
ColorEfex Pro was used to punch the Raw files taken off the Olympus E450.  It’s a great free tool.

the Fuji 160 film emulation



Fairmount, IN.

Understated James-Dean-free welcome

It was while watching a recent documentary about Magnum Photos,  a segment on Dennis Stock’s photos of James Dean reminded me I’d been to his home town of Fairmount on a trip to Indiana.  Due to lack of time, I ended up in Fairmount early on a Sunday morning, had a walk, took some shots of the town and some James Dean related sights with the Olympus E450, and in the absence of any other souls or open cafes, headed on to my next stop.

I then forgot about Fairmount and the photos sat on a hard drive for a few years.  Looking at them now and running them through a quick Color Efex filter, Fairmount looks to these European eyes exactly like how a mid west US town should look.  with added James Dean.

An ornate 19th Century bank and stop sign.  Main Street, Fairmount


Fairmount Post Office.  Closed on Sundays
Wall based nostalgia
no MP3s
I’m sure a Beth Grant lookalike librarian works here

It doesn’t take long to find visual sightings related to Fairmount’s most famous son, and it’s all reasonably tasteful.

The Giant Bar and Grill.  
Fairmount Record Store
Rebel wall art

I never got to the James Dean gallery, museum or his grave site – it was a fleeting visit at an early unsociable hour  – but I’d love to go back.  I’d orginally had a look at these shots in black and white but a town like Fairmount deserves colour – and Kodachrome would have been wonderful.  Sadly like Fairmount’s most famous resident it’s another much missed Amercian cultural icon.

Olympus Tripped.

When the meter finally goes….

Trippy.  Meter no more
Meter no more

The inherent risk of bringing your 40 year old film camera on holiday is of course that it decides to call it a day.  Before loading the Trip, I always give it a quick check to ensure that it responds reasonably appropriately to light – particularly that the wee red underexposed marker appears in the viewfinder.  Day 2 of a trip to Tokyo and before the Fomapan was loaded, it was clear that the Trip meter had finally given up the ghost.  However, before putting it back in the suitcase and relying on the Nikon F60, I remembered the manual aperture settings – a quick check showed these to be responding.

So, a pretty useless 1/40th constant shutter speed in a bright summer Tokyo day and it was Sunny 22 to see how the Trip would go on manual only.  F22 for the bright outdoors and guess for the shade and indoors.

And…  it went ok.  Fomapan 100 is pretty forgiving anyway and with the bright harsh sunlight and deep shadows, I couldn’t really complain with the results from a 40 year old malfunctioning compact and a £3.50 roll of budget Czech film.

asakusa girls1
Kimonos, Asakusa – a great range of detail captured by the Trippy

It would have been a challenge getting any sort of shadow detail here given the contrast between the umbrella and background.

asakusa posing

Of course, with an aperture setting now to consider on the Trip,  there was the added risk to forget about adjusting the zone focussing from “mountains” to “2 blokes“.

tokyo books
Bookstore.  Blur unintentional..
orange street
Orange Street. In black and white
asakusa incense


asakusa lady
Simultaneously shot on her own phone and my dodgy Trippy

The Trip of course, is a great street camera, all you have to remember is to set the zone focus.  My immediate reaction when the meter went was to retire the Trip and have a look on The Bay for a replacement.  But doing a quick Sunny 16 setting of the Aperture is no problem, and you can learn to live with the constant 1/40th shutter.  The lens is as sharp as ever (after remembering to check the focus) and frankly there is no better looking 35mm compact out there.  My meter-less Trip hasn’t had its last holiday just yet.

More Trip/Foma100 photos on the Flickr.

Me and Tennessee

Then that ol’ song comes on…  Together we’re singin’..

Any trip to the USA should include a visit to the music heartlands of Tennessee – Memphis and Nashville.

For taking photographs in the middle of summer however, it gets hot  – 100F hot – and has the harshest of harsh sunlight, so glare and shadow are going to be a problem.  I’d the trusty bog standard Olympus E450 with it’s 2 kit zooms which were fine as with the extreme brightness, wide open apertures weren’t going to be much use. And with a lot of colour being washed out with the bright light, black and white was the way to go.
So – a tale of two cities.

Music City

Ernest Tubb’s record shop, South Broadway, Nashville

Nashville’s South Broadway is exactly as you would imagine it  – all guitars, boots and beer, and it doesn’t disappoint.  Everywhere you look there’s neon signs offering all you can eat and drink to the soundtrack of country music.  It’s a friendly city, accessible and has a laid back charm.  There’s a lot more downtown than SoBo – there’s loads of walks by the river, countless music venues, Tennesse State Museum and many country music museums.  However you’ll invariably end up back on Broadway with a beer in your hand and wearing a new hat.

Tequila Cowboy, South Broadway
Honky Tonk Central, South Broadway
Boots – one of many offers
more than boots
Wasted away again in….

For the big music venues, there’s the Bridgestone Arena on South Broadway but for the ultimate in country experience, there’s the Opry – a few miles out of town, and for $35 you can get an unforgettable country music experience.

The wonderful Grand Ole Opry
Bridgestone Arena, Nashville

For sports, there’s the NFL (Tennessee Titans) , AAA Baseball (Nashville Sounds) or the Nashville Speedway – it’s about $10 for an evening’s racing.

When you’ve had enough music, there’s cars


About three hours away, Memphis is a very different experience.  Where Nashville has a folksy touristy charm, Memphis has a wee bit of an atmosphere – a bit more tense, a much harder rock, blues and soul soundtrack and its central attraction Beale Street has an edge that’s great to experience but with a completely different feel.  Still it’s well worth a visit – there’s Gibson Guitars, Rock n Soul and Stax Museums, loads of music venues and in like Nashville you’ll not go hungry or thirsty.

Gibson Guitars – a great visit and you get to play some
street bar, Beale Street
Beale Street, Hard Rock Cafe
Reassuring – no guns in this bar..
Blues singer, Beale Street
Sullivan’s Bar, Beale Street

Out of the cities, there’s a lot of Irish Heritage sites – this was the Rogan family homestead, 19th Century immigrants from Co Down.


Finally, no matter where you go you’ll be in the presence of Elvis Presley.  Just don’t stand on the King.


More Tennesse pics on the Flickr

Chiang Rai Utd v Big Bang Chula FC

When you’re travelling around the world, you often experience things that are so different from your normal day to day life  – food, language, culture and customs – while other things are pretty much universal.  Football, with its globally consistent rules and multinational structures, transcends location and culture.
Turn up at a match and you could be anywhere.


Chiang Rai is the northernmost city in Thailand – a delightful, quirky place about 16 hours by train/bus from Bangkok – and hosts a top division league side – Chiang Rai United.  The Thai T1 league has 18 sides from around the country and all have badges, logos and designations in English as opposed to Thai, with many “Uniteds” and “FC’s”.  The opposition on this hot July evening was the splendidly named Big Bang Chula FC.


The Singha Stadium is beside the airport about 15 minutes drive from the city centre (taxi is the best way to get there – and make sure you book one for after the match..) and it’s a fine modern stadium.  Outside there are the usual hordes of fans in replica kits and a number of stalls selling them – naturally I bought one.

Food is one big difference from the Irish or English leagues. In the absence of cheesey chips, there’s an array of spicy kebabs from 10 baht (0.20 GBP) each.

no manky pies or Bovril
cold drinks are essential in the 30 plus temperatures

Inside it’s open, largely uncovered and all-seater with the stands tight to the pitch.


Before kick-off there was the formality of the Thai National Anthem.  This seems to have largely disappeared from European sporting events (excepting internationals) but like the States, where the anthem is sung everywhere from MLB and NFL down to local Friday night speedways, in Thailand they like to do the anthem at most public gatherings.  And as is common, it’s accompanied by a royal video clip.

be upstanding and screen-facing, for the National Anthem


5000 miles from the UK and there’s always a Man United fan..
the Chiang Rai United rhythm section

On the pitch, there was a mix of players from Thailand and around the world including a few Brazilians.  A home team ex-pat favourite is Mark Bridge, an Australian and leading goalscorer.  The match itself was exciting affair resulting in a 2-2 draw, the crowd was noisy, the food was good and our taxi turned up on time after the match.  A perfect evening.

Mark Bridge 21
He makes it 1-0
mark bridge
Mark Bridge, Chiang Rai United
final score
Final score 2 – 2.

Canon 5D, 70-300 and 50mm lenses;
iPod (6th gen)

more Thai footie photos on the Flickr

Grand Prix. On Poundland 200.

I’ve been to a number of Grand Prix over the years – in Spain and Germany – and normally turn up with full frame DSLR, and a backpack of lenses, headed up by a monopodded 150-500 zoom.  However, for the 2017 trip to the Barcelona circuit, I decided to travel light.


The Mju was a £3 purchase off the eBay a few years back before the current over-inflated prices appeared and the Praktica was a rebadged MTL3 bought from Argos in the mid-80s.  Both filled with Poundland 200 (in an Agfa box).

When armed with the digital setup on my previous visits, it ended up being an ongoing search for the sharpest panning shot for the weekend.  Pan-click-chimp-repeat.  And getting hundreds of panned racing car shots  that never saw the light of day.

So this year it was to be film only ( bar the phone) and shooting around the F1 village, the stands – but with the odd panning shot – see if an creaky manual Praktica and an old Vivitar zoom lens out of Boots could cut it.

Barcelona circuit tower.  Praktica Nova II

And this was a liberating experience – I had a weekend to enjoy the racing and soak in the atmosphere, with no heavy gear to lug about and chimp-free snapping.

It was also interesting to watch the guys in the stands with the monopods and DSLR/big zoom kit and reflecting that despite all this gear, you were still just a punter in the stands.  I’ve shot some low level motorsport events and had press-photo access to Irish League football and to get the sort of shots that type of access allows, you really need exactly that  – access.  And when you’re a punter – it’s easier to take punter shots.

The kit itself?  Well the Mju is a wee delight.  Totally auto, good sharp autofocus (most of the time) and it’s a genuine pocket camera, quick and easy to snap and it’s easily one of the best point & shoots I’ve used. The flash is on by default, so you’ve to remember to knock it off if you don’t want flash. Apart from that, it’s quick and accurate.

team Max
Team Verstappen
Timing by Rolex
Williams F1 truck
senna store
Setting up the Ayrton Senna store
The view from stand C

As for the Praktica, there’s no doubt it slows you down.  This particular one (of my many Prakticas) had a bit of a dirty viewfinder and together with manually focussing at 200mm, those panning shots were going to be a challenge.

This one of Daniel Ricciardo was only one of very view panning shots taken, as there were other uses for the long lens.

daniel ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo.  Legend.

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen in the Red Bull pit


Stylish Spectator
2 Fans
Stand G – seats remaining

So some nice snaps to take home from a great weekend.  I’d a lot more time to enjoy the event, no worries about batteries needing charged and the £1 film rolls held up well.  If I’m in the press area for a County Down Racing club meet or pitchside at Crusaders v Glentoran in the Irish League, then it’s full digital and the big lens.  Otherwise, I’ll enjoy being a punter with some old gear.

Films developed at
Scanned on Epson V370

Ho Chi Minh City

me and students
One of these Vietnamese students is a bald middle aged Irish bloke. Can you spot him?

6 days in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  Or Saigon as everyone still seems to call it.
And it’s shorter to say.  And type.
It was my first visit to Vietnam and won’t be my last.  Very friendly people, great food and yoga and fitness in the public parks with pensioners at 6am.   It’s hot, noisy but fun.  And a delight to photograph.

Kit:  Canon 5D, 50mm 85mm and 70-300mm lenses


This girl was intent on selling me a hat.  She succeeded.
Market seller, Mekong river
Fish Heads.

Definite motorcycle culture here. When crossing the road it should be noted that traffic never stops,  it just seems to avoid hitting you. There is a definite knack to crossing roads – I just always got close to a local. Seemed to work.

Lights, lanes and yellow boxes seem so… European
The last parking space in Saigon
More Motorcycles
Family Moped

Messin’ on the Mekong

The Lonesome Boatman
My boat lady
View from the river

Nice Vietnamese People

A Quality Smile
Folk Musician
seller nice
Buy some food and ask nicely for a photo
sad alien
Coffee Shop Sad Alien


Also – when in Asia, take a selfie.

More photos on the Flickr.