Images by John 'K'

Life as seen through my lens…

Category Archives: About Me

May The Fourth Be With You, Always


35 years ago today I was in my first year of teenage life, and having been brought up on a diet of Doctor Who (yes, it’s been going that long), Star Trek (original series), and stories by Issac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, I watched with interest as news of a new epic science fiction movie, soon to be released, made its way over the Atlantic Ocean to the UK. I quickly latched onto the seemingly simple yet compelling story of “farm hand discovers his inner strength and saves the galaxy” and went out and got the comic books of the story, the photo novel, all the “special behind the scenes” magazines about the film and even without seeing the film became a huge fan.

Move forward a few months to September of 1977 and my mother and I traveled to the west coast of America for a three week coach tour of the western states, taking in many sights that went on to shape my desire to live here as an adult. During that trip I was to turn 14, and on the day of my 14th birthday we had a “free day” in San Francisco with no scheduled activities, so my mum asked me what I wanted to do. My first thought was to see if Star Wars was still playing anywhere, as it had yet to open in the UK (that wouldn’t come until later – this was in the days before digital projection and world-wide simultaneous releases). Sure enough it was still showing at the Coronet Theater (where it had opened in San Francisco back on May 25th) so I almost begged her to let me go see it.

I got my birthday wish, so we walked down Geary Boulevard from our hotel to where the theater stood (it’s not there any more), got tickets for the next showing, and we had some lunch while I eagerly waited to see “THE movie”. As we drew close to the show time, I couldn’t get back to the Coronet quick enough. I handed over “the ticket” at the kiosk and rushed in to pick a seat. Now keep in mind that by now the movie had been showing for 4 months, so the theater that could seat almost 1,500 people was pretty much empty – there were three other people in the place to share this experience with me!

So I took position in what I thought to be the best seat, towards the front and in the center of the row so the screen filled my field of view, and waited for the show to start while my mum went off to kill a couple of hours (as she didn’t want to watch the film – it wasn’t ‘her thing’!).


The lights dimmed, the curtains opened, the screen burst into life, and that now instantly recognizable music started booming through the many speakers. The preface to the story scrolled across the screen, faded to a spectacular view of stars that panned to pick up a beautiful alien planet, and then WOOSH – sounding like they were flying over the tops of our heads the space ships almost had us ducking in our seats. I was immediately sucked into the story, and sat riveted for the next two hours, not wanting to move as the final notes of the closing music faded to silence.

Thus began my love for the Star Wars story, which may have faded a little over the years (helped in no small part by the appearance of Jar Jar Binks in Episode 1) but has never gone away.

So, on the day that has become known internationally as “Star Wars Day” through a fun play on words, may the Force be with you, always!


The freedom to soar comes at a price…

Red-tailed Hawk, originally uploaded by Images by John ‘K’.

Despite what others might think, and despite being in a position to actually make a little bit of money from it, photography is just my hobby. Like most hobbies that involve specialized equipment, once you start getting heavily into it you start to realize that it’s also very expensive if you want to see any sort of progression or want to further explore where your hobby can take you. Thanks to my job and my wonderfully understanding wife I already have a pretty good selection of tools to help me explore my hobby, but as always, the more you explore the more you want the freedom to go further and push that exploration as far as you can… and that freedom comes with an even bigger price-tag.

For me there are currently ‘just’ three big-ticket items left on the “wish list”, and because of the cost involved I’m going to have to spread these out over the next couple of years. One is a telephoto zoom lens with more range than the ones I have now. I had the opportunity to try one out at the weekend (this shot was taken with it) – it was 2-generations older than the model currently available, and was lacking some features that are important to me, but the current model has those, and so that one comes off the list this year.

The next is a good general-purpose “fast” lens for shooting in lower lights without the need to resort to either high ISO (some loss of quality) or use of flash (annoying for those in the area and can result in harsh lighting). There are a few offerings that are available that when looked at as a single purchase doesn’t appear to be too expensive, but when looked at with the purchase of the afore-mentioned telephoto lens is pushing the boundaries of budgetary “acceptability” for the year and so I am likely to defer this unless I get a pleasant surprise or two later during the year.

The last I am really debating, as it involves upgrading the camera body itself. I am pushing the technical limits of what can be done with a camera that does not have a full-frame 35mm sensor. The size and density of the camera’s image sensor makes an incredible difference to the technical quality of an image, which you’ll likely not see for “typical” shooting but makes one heck of a difference when doing some of the more technically challenging photography that I seem to be drawn to (just because it’s more challenging). Were I not in a position where I now have some commercial opportunities opening up for my photography I’d be looking to carry on with what I have, but in order to maximize my potential opportunity for earnings I need to move to a more “professional” camera to get the benefits of a full-frame sensor. Nikon are refreshing their whole pro-level range, and by the time I am ready to take that next step they will hopefully have worked out all of the initial post-launch kinks, so assuming things next year are still looking as they are now in terms of career and income, I’m contemplating moving to a full-frame camera from Nikon.

The current theory is that once these are off my list I’ll be happy for a while, but we all know how that goes, don’t we!! 🙂

Separation anxiety

As if all the cr*p with our two youngest daughters isn’t enough to deal with (see last post), we find out today that our eldest daughter is separating from her husband, saying “we just don’t work as a couple”.

Being stuck the other side of the Atlantic Ocean makes it difficult to talk with them real-time, and while we don’t want to be trying to take control of their lives, we also don’t want to see them go through this without the ability to get the support from their parents if they feel they need it.

The good thing about distance is it stops you from meddling in the lives of your adult children… they are adults after all, and they need to sort out their own issues. The bad thing about distance though is that you can’t be there when they need you.

So as parents separated from our children (two of them at least), we have anxiety about their pending separation, and hope that they are able to “do the right thing” for all concerned.

Where is my parachute?

This has been wearing me down for some time now – I’m not one to moan about stuff like this, but I need to vent, so here goes…

I love my children, and my grandchildren, but as I approach my 50s faster than I would like, the last thing I expected to be doing at this time in my life was to be still living with, supporting, and helping to raise them!
Our youngest two daughters are both at an age where they ought to be out on their own – supporting themselves, and living in their own place. Our eldest two managed it – my wife and I managed it (with a kid in tow), and yet for some reason (love, fear of change, not wanting to upset the apple-cart?) we continue to provide somewhere to stay, something to eat, support for life’s mistakes, and the luxuries of a modern life for them, all for free.

I know it’s hard out there, but it’s no harder than when our two eldest daughters made the transition to being self-sustained, and it’s no harder than when my wife and I did it, and yet we don’t seem able to push these last two fledglings from the nest. What makes matters worse is that they seem to sense this, and they are taking advantage of us. They don’t pay for anything they are getting – they live rent free, they don’t need to pay for food, heating or electricity, they are still using phones that are a part of a family plan that I pay for. They get use of our internet and TV services. The only things they need to provide for are things they want as ”luxuries”.

They seem to think that because they have rich friends who have parents who give their kids everything that we should be doing the same, and act like they begrudge us when we spend some of what we earn on ourselves or take some time out to do the things we want to do without them tagging along… My wife and I have worked hard to get where we are now. We’re a lot more comfortable than we used to be, but we’re not rich either, and because of the continued drain of supporting our two youngest daughters (and our two youngest grandkids) we’ve not been able to invest in our own futures the way we really should be at this time in our lives. They don’t seem to see this though, and they continue to take advantage of us and our support.

What they don’t seem to realize is that because of the ongoing strain they place on our resources. Were I to lose my job we would have probably enough to be able to live as we do for a scant few months before our way of life would change significantly for the worse.

It’s not just the money though… they don’t look after what they have (or what WE have). They don’t make any effort to do things around the house to help unless we have guilt-tripped them into it (and then it usually doesn’t last long). They don’t clean up after themselves, their rooms are messes, they leave trash abandoned around the house, they don’t put away thing s they’ve used. They continue to expect us to help them out of the messes they have made, showing no efforts to change their behavior and help themselves.

For our youngest daughter that all boils down to money management – I’ve lost track of the amount of times (or the amount of money) we’ve bailed her out – she spends more than she earns – spending on luxuries she could do without rather than paying the things she needs to pay, getting into situations that require us to provide bail-out after bail-out because she can’t act like a sensible member of the public when behind the wheel of a car (either paying for fines she can’t afford, or for repairs that she has needed because she wants to drive as if she were a racing car driver). We’ve paid for books and college tuition for classes that she says she wants to succeed in because of the career she wants to pursue, and yet she does the bare minimum in class, doesn’t make an effort to complete homework, and has as a result flunked out on many of her classes and finds herself on a final probation because she can’t be bothered to make a sustained effort to study. Her academic record is such that she’d likely never be accepted into any of the colleges she’d like to go to, and all because she seems to think the world owes her an education. Well – the world is not like that – you need to work for that education. You need to study. You need to make an EFFORT, and you need to do so consistently – not just when things have slipped so much that you are in trouble! You have demonstrated in your approach to your education that it isn’t really that important to you. I’m at the end of my tether with providing ongoing financial assistance to support you if you can’t be bothered to make an effort to achieve the things you say you want in a responsible way…

For the elder of the two here with us we find ourselves acting as free childcare and as surrogate parents because she wanted all the fun of sexual relationships without considering the consequences… and because she couldn’t bring herself to act like a decent human being to the people involved she’s found her as a single parent with two young children… except she’s not acting like a single parent. She spends much of her day sat around – doing as little as possible with her kids, and instead plays on her laptop with stupid games or chatting to people she’s never met on Facebook (or other chat services). She seems to think it’s OK to have her very impressionable and inquisitive 2-year old daughter sit and watch TV all the time rather than interact with her in a way that will help her develop. She is constantly leaving things around the house – trash, partly eaten food, partly drunk drinks, clothes (clean and dirty), she uses her kids as an excuse to not make an effort to do things, and in the times where she is clearly not burdened by them she’d rather sit and watch TV or prat around on the internet than deal with the things she needs to deal with. Because she only seems to treat people nicely when things are going well for her she’s alienated a number of the friends she had made since we all moved to California. She makes no effort to go and meet people in real life – instead she retreats into a fantasy-land of internet chat-rooms, interactive on-line games, and social media sites, and gets upset at us (her parents) when we suggest she needs to be playing a more active role in the upbringing of her own children.

The stresses of all of this have built up to a point where I find myself conflicted. I don’t want to put members of my family into harm’s way, but at the same time keeping them at home is doing nothing to help them learn to live without parental support. The stresses that are being put on the lives of my wife and I are such that we risk health problems if we continue to live with them as things are, and it is straining our own relationship into the bargain. We are at a point where on the one hand we want them out of our house, but at the same time we fear for what will happen, as neither has demonstrated the good sense they need to make it on their own. More than anything we worry about what it would do to our grandchildren’s lives. Were the underlying economy not in such a screwed-up state we’d be less worried, but as things are while we are struggling to live with them in our home, we wouldn’t be able to live with ourselves were something to happen to them if we pushed them out.

What should I do… ? I’m damned if I know. I can help guide a multi-billion dollar company to ‘do the right thing’ as it ‘grows up’, but I don’t know what to do for the best with my own family. Where is the parachute that will save me from this free-fall of a life?

Remembering the day our world changed…

Light a candle…, originally uploaded by Images by John ‘K’.

10 years ago today I was driving away from a building in Liverpool after having successfully completed a visit to a customer. I had the radio on listening to my usual afternoon station when I heard the news that a plane had flown into one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York.

I stayed listening to the radio as they switched from their normal broadcast to reporting the events as they happened, and I continued to drive home in shock as that day’s events played out.

Still not entirely believing what I was hearing, as soon as I got home I turned on the TV, and there was no escaping the reality of the situation – on every channel there were clips of the attack, showing in shocking clarity. It was like watching some disaster movie where running through your head as you watch is the thought “but surely no-one would actually do that”, but this was real and someone had, and our world began to transform as a result.

10 years on our world has changed. It is arguably safer, but not without cost. The free world became less free as everyone came to the stark realization that the determined actions of a handful of people could cause such death and destruction.

Recently the world also watched in horror as the earthquake and tsunami caused death and destruction on an even greater greater scale, but that was mother nature at work showing us that we all live on a fragile planet. It didn’t deliberately choose its target because of fundamental differences between cultures and beliefs. It didn’t act because of a deeply felt hatred for people that followed a different way of life to its own. Natural forces shaped that disaster, and so while the victims of that disaster also deserve to be remembered, they will not be remembered in quite the same way as the victims of the attack that took place 10 years ago today.

When I originally posted this picture, it was on Remembrance Day 2009, and I accompanied it with a poem that I found on the Internet, which seems to fit today’s mood as much as it did on that day…

Light a Candle

Light a candle for those we mourn.
Into a new life they will be born.
Do not look for them at the gravesite.
They are somewhere else radiating their beautiful light.
They have gone to a new world where there is no darkness, no pain.
Their light and essence will always remain.
Light a candle for those who have left this mortal place.
They are free to travel through time and space.
When we think of them, they are near.
When we sit in a beautiful garden. Their voices we hear.
When we listen to a divine symphony,
We close our eyes, their faces we see.
Light a candle for they have not really gone.
With each flickering flame, in your hearts they will always belong.

Poem © A.Pell 24/08/2005

May we never forget!