11 September 2011

Ten Years On...

They say the world has changed over the last ten years, and I suppose it has, however my own world has changed much more.

I remember the afternoon of 11th September 2001 in vivid detail.  When the story broke I was working at a college, and was stuck in a tiny room photographing students (for their student ID cards) using an awful quality video camera capture system.  A colleague told me a plane had crashed into the tower.  My first vision was that of a small 2 seater plane crashing into the tower by accident and causing almost no damage.

The internet was a little bit broken, all I could get from the BBC site was a single line news story.  Towards the end of my shift I was told that one of the towers had fallen.  I felt numb.  I did no work for the last two hours of the day, just sat there in disbelief watching the telly.

New stories always seem more real when you’ve been to the place, and I’d done just that some years earlier.  The observation deck at the top of the tower had outdoor access, and you were able to walk around the very top of the tower.

I cycled the 5 miles home from work that evening in a daze, and sat in front of the telly all evening still not quite believing what I was seeing.

A week or so after I found myself at Heathrow airport taking a flight to Germany.  The flight was half empty, and everything was very subdued.

10 years ago I was in a dead end job that I hated, working with people that for the most part I had little or no respect for (and I believe the feeling was mutual).  I was getting myself into stupid debts that I had no idea how I’d ever repay by constantly booking holidays in far off places, just because I was so unhappy and had nothing else in my life.

10 years on and I’m in a much happier place.  I said goodbye to that hated job 4 years ago when I took redundancy, and made the leap into self employment.  I’m very nearly debt free now, quite a bit poorer, but oh so much happier!

One of my favourite Sting albums “...All This Time” was recorded live on the evening of 11th September 2001.  It was a small concert, just for friends of Sting, but you can almost here the emotion in the music.  The opening song, “Fragile” could have almost been written for the day.


If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one
Drying in the colour of the evening sun
Tomorrow's rain will wash the stains away
But something in our minds will always stay
Perhaps this final act was meant
To clinch a lifetime's argument
That nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could
For all those born beneath an angry star
Lest we forget how fragile we are

On and on the rain will fall
Like tears from a star like tears from a star
On and on the rain will say
How fragile we are how fragile we are

On and on the rain will fall
Like tears from a star like tears from a star
On and on the rain will say
How fragile we are how fragile we are
How fragile we are how fragile we are

NB.  A few words about the photos.  1st photo taken from Liberty Island, 2nd from the top of one of the towers, 3rd is a view looking north over Manhattan from the top of the tower, and the final two are taken around Ground Zero I believe a couple of years after the attacks.

06 September 2011

Fitness Britain 2011

Just a mini review of Sunday's Fitness Britain & Musclemania event in St Albans.

Normally I'd include a few photos of the winners, but I was informed a couple of days prior to the event that due to the Discovery Channel filming z-lister Jodie Marsh at the event that media passes had been revoked.  So even though audience members were on a free reign to photograph and video the whole day (as several were doing because no one from Fitness Britain appeared to care), I wasn't allowed to take any pictures throughout the day.  Yep, you might have guessed I was more than a bit p'ed off with this decision.  I wouldn't have even recognised Jodie Marsh, and I was only interested in photographing the athletes on stage.  It's history now, and this is the last time I'll comment on it, but in my view it was a short sighted decision by the organisers, who could have easily found a way around it if they'd wanted.  The athletes deserve all the publicity they can get for their work in what is an extremely tough industry to do well in.

Enough of my ranting, onto my review.

Looking back over the 2 days it's hard to find any real fault with the way the show was run.  Okay registration started 90 minutes late, but that just gave everyone a bit more time to network and make friends.

The venue, the Albans Arena couldn't be faulted, with plentiful and free parking just a few steps away.  I don't know what conditions were like backstage and in the changing areas, but I'm assuming they were good as it was a proper theatre.  Stage lighting is something I've discussed with Fitness Britain on several occasions, as its vital for quality stage photos, appeared to be great.  I'm sure Matt Marsh's photos will reflect that (feel free to post a link in the comments Matt!).

Maybe there were more, but I only noticed one "blip" on stage where some of the competitors were called forward to do turns, while the final 4 in the line up were left in the background and then all were walked off stage.

I noticed a couple of rookie mistakes where competitors made the wrong outfit choices during the sportswear round.  If you wear an outfit that covers up your body that you're being scored upon, expect to be marked down...  if you walk on stage covered up, to make it work you have to do the big reveal and show the judges what they want to see.

I was chatting with a  friend in the lobby while Morris Mendez & Ulysses Junior were doing their seminar, so can't comment on that.

Entertainment was provided by the amazing (for very different reasons) Escape Reality & MEM Gym Boys.  Both put on great acts.

Judging is always subjective, but for the most part I thought the judges were spot on.  There were a couple of results where I might have swapped around first and second places, but that's just my opinion and maybe I'm looking for something a little different to the judges.

Highlight of the evening for me was the reaction of Adis Jakic upon willing the European Model.  Having spent some hours with him on a shoot the following day, he clearly didn't expect to win, and his tears on stage were very real.  I've never seen anyone jump of stage before and kiss the judges!  Good on you Adis!

Roundup - It's great to finally see some good quality shows (yes I include this years FAME event in that) here in the UK, maybe in another couple of years the shows will be big enough for a proper weekend long fitness festival.  A show takes on a different quality / atmosphere when everyone is staying in the same host hotel for 2 or 3 nights as normally happens with the North American shows.

Results (if I've got any wrong or spelled a name incorrectly, please let me know in the comments).

Model - Britain Open Women

  1. Sian Toal

  2. Nyisha Jordan

  3. Karen Lanson

Model - Britain Open Men

  1. Duquaine Brooks

  2. Ru Wikmann

  3. Matt Dunford

Model - Europe Open Women

  1. Amanda Castelo Branco

Model - Europe Open Men

  1. Adis Jakic

  2. Dean Connor

  3. Ben Noy

Fitness - Britain Open Women

  1. Emmalouise

  2. Helen Collins

  3. Brenda Mhembere

Figure - Britain Open Women

  1. Nyisha Jordan

  2. Renata Sulekaite

  3. Janet Malinowski

Figure - Europe Open Women

  1. Renata Sulekaite

  2. Janet Malinowski

  3. Cindy Gaillard

Musclemania - Britain Masters Men

  1. Rick Waters

Musclemania - Europe Masters Men

  1. Jerry Man

  2. Rick Waters

  3. Nerio Arecco

Musclemania - Britain Teenage Men

  1. Connor Rudelhoff

Musclemania - Europe Junior Men

  1. Rico Van Huizen

  2. David Leonard

  3. Rakesh Singh

Musclemania - Europe Open Women

  1. Laura Franceschini

Musclemania - Britain Open Men Lightweight

  1. Sergiy Topchiy

  2. Duquaine Brooks

Musclemania - Britain Open Men Middleweight

  1. Derrick Twum

  2. Jason Fofana

  3. Lex Griffin

Musclemania - Britain Open Men Heavyweight

  1. Roger Snipes (also overall winner)

  2. Jerry Man

  3. Drew Fisher

Musclemania - Europe Open Men

  1. Otto Szanto

  2. Sandor Nagy

  3. Dan Corbett

Musclemania - Europe Open Men Heavyweight

  1. Rabe Abadom

Miss Bikini - Britain Short Class

  1. Sian Toals (also overall champion)

  2. Emma Burrows

  3. Madina Dowling

Miss Bikini - Britain Tall Class

  1. Brenda Mhembere

  2. Debbie Tyrell

  3. Svetlana Pavlova

Miss Bikini - Europe Open

  1. Sian Toal

  2. Gabriala Alliston

  3. Natasha Daniel- Gantz