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I have a strange fascination with the derelict,  wrecked and abandoned – be it the surrounding villages of Chernobyl or eerie theme parks in Germany left for nature to take over.

16794 10152980498906639 732870432531360495 nWhen I first read about the wreckage of a United States Navy plane crash in Southern Iceland, I knew I had to go there and explore it for myself. It seemed so eerie the way it had lay on a black sand beach for over 40 years, crashing just a few months after I was born.

The United States Navy DC-3 was on a routine domestic flight to Iceland's Keflavik Airport, which at the time was a US miliary base. Over the South-East of the island, the plane ran out of fuel when the pilot mistakingly switched fuel tanks. The plane made an emergency landing onto Sólheimasandur Beach; a beach of black sand. Fortunately, the passengers and crew were rescued by local farmers and there were no fatalities in the crash.

US Navy personell arrived within days to the crash site and stripped the plane of engines, seats, wings and anything that could be salvaged and used as spare parts. They assured locals that they would be back soon to collect the main fuselage, but never returned.

Now, over 40 years on, the plane is part of local myth and despite some people assuring you the wreck no longer exists it is most certainly still there.

We booked our trip to Iceland for December 2014 and I knew weather wouldn't be on our side. Driving to the crash site in anything other than a 4x4 is difficult in Summer, in Winter it's very dangerous due to the snow covering hidden valleys and dunes. Walking is out of the question, from the nearest road it's a 6 mile round trip and the weather is relentless; snow, rain and high winds are all common and the black beach extends for miles without landmarks. Without a GPS it would be plain stupid.

Our home under the stars...

We originally planned to hire quad bikes and a guide but as the days neared, it was obvious this wouldn't be possible due to heavy snow falls and storms. Even the main road connecting Reykyavik to Vik in the South had been closed, and we were snowed in at a very cosy unmanned hotel at the foot of the Eyjafjallajökull mountain, the one responsible for the 2010 ash cloud.

Extending our stay we phoned the guide on our last available morning. Despite the roads being shut due to thick ice, strong coastal winds and driving snow, he foolishly said that if we could make it from our accomodation to his farm, then he'd take us to the wreck. Nothing was stopping us and despite it taking over an hour for the 6 mile journey in our Skoda 4x4 estate rental car, we made it safely and in one piece.


We paid the agreed fee (about £150 for an hours hire of a monster truck and guide) and clothed up. The outside temperature with wind chill was around -28 and no matter how many layers of Gore-Tex and fleeces we put on, you could feel it through to your bones!


Climbing into the truck, it almost felt like we were floating. Our guide, Derk, explained that the huge tyres on the truck were inflated to just 5psi, 10868060 10152980498781639 1734616888478264428 nand once out on the beach we would let air out to take them down to just 3psi. The idea is that it increases the surface area, therefore spreading the weight and allowing the vehicle to 'hover' on top of the snow.


Derk threw the truck up and down canyons, the ride was very bumpy and we felt unstoppable. Until, we sat at the top of a small hill, he told us to hold tight. The truck careered down the hill, instead of hitting the bottom and riding the snow, we went bonnet first into a valley. The truck was well and truly stuck. The axles were resting on deep snow and the wheels weren't even touching the ground. It took over an hour, 2 shovels, 3 tow ropes (we snapped the first 2) and a rescue backup truck to get us going again.

The next obstacle was a fast flowing river but it was a great relief when Derk elected to drive back inland and cross it at the bridge!

From here were picked up a staked path. The wind was swirling the snow and we could barely see the next stake ahead of us but we now knew we were on the right track. Derk explained that the locals had staked out a path to the wreck only this year after people were driving recklessly round the beach, endangering themselves and damaaging the natural environment.

10882208 10152980496711639 6398055755970904473 n-3The plane eventually started to take shape through the fog, but we followed the path Derk knew, sometimes driving in the opposite direction; it was to avoid channels and deep valleys in the sand, the area truly was dangerous.

Getting out of the car we were greeted with a very strange experience. A half buried plane fuselage with the wind howling round and the sound of loose metal creaking in the storm. It was one of the eeriest things I've experienced and certainly on a par with other wierd Urbex sites I've been fortunate enough to visit. 

Everything felt wrong. Urbex sites are normally creepy because they are simply abandoned, life has moved on. This site messed with 10390521 10152980497826639 4867220176971674613 neverything you knew: A plane shouldn't be on a beach, a beach shouldn't be black, huge waves shouldn't be breaking metres from a large plane; and why the big secret on the exact location?

The plane was accessible from the rear, although all seats and instruments had been removed. Just the shell and wiring loom remained. It was a shame to see graffiti on the the body, but unavoidable I guess in this day and age. Bullet holes, were I'm told, caused by locals using the shell as target practise over the past 4 decades.

We spent a good 90 minutes at the site, I think Derk was embarressed for getting the vehicile stuck and told me to stay as long as I want (dangerous thing to tell me!). In the time we were there, just one other couple visited. The locals seemed to like keeping an aire of mystique about the site, some tell you it's long gone some will enthusiastically tell you about holes in fenches to reach it by foot.

The DC-3 plane wreck on Sólheimasandur Beach, Iceland.So, after I'd milked every angle I could think of, it was time to leave Sólheimasandur Beach. On the way back, Derk told us the main road passing the crash site was known by locals as 'Hell's Valley'. The coast around is very rough all year round and contains lots of rocks and hazards for vessels. There have been many, many shipwrecks over the centuries and in the slim case of survivors, they'd usually made their way inland and been found on the highway. He said there were many reports of strange things on the short valley stretch, including a bus driver at night who looked in his rear view mirror to see his previously empty bus full of men in historic navy dress. Even Derk himself had experienced his interior lights flashing uncontrollabley along that stretch at night. 

The full set of photos from the DC-3 wreck on Sólheimasandur Beach can be seen here, and you can see the exact location of the plane here (but please don't set out without proper equipment and a GPS!).

PLANNING A VISIT?
Return Flights (Manchester > Reykyavik) - £121 (Easyjet)
Car Hire (Reykyavik > Sólheimasandur) - £310/week (CarDelMar)
Welcome Guesthouse Edinborg - £38/night (hotels.com)
Monster Truck & Guide - From £75/person per hour (Arcanum)

 

Production Base. Like it or loathe it?

 

After a year on the site, I put forward some very valid criticisms to Joe Mahoney, the owner of Production Base and also some constructive ideas. It's been 10 months since we spoke and despite a promised follow up, no attempt to contact me has been received. If Mr. Maloney ever finds the time or inclination then I will of course update this blog but for now, here's my experience:

 


 

I subscribed in 2007 and paid just short of £120 for a years membership. I built a portfolio being clever to include keywords and stand out for the initial impression when found. And then I waited. And waited. Until July to be precise when ITV got in touch and booked me for a single days shoot. Not bad I thought, it paid for itself but was it great? Not in my opinion.

 

 

Today is 12th March 2014. Exactly 25 years ago, Tim Berners-Lee, now rightly so 'Sir' Tim Berners-Lee created the 'mesh', or 'world wide web' as it was renamed in 1990. Where would we be without it?

 

So, here's my little Information Super-highway timeline and the effects it's had on my little life:

 


I was recently fortunate enough to be selected as part of the team to photograph a Hotel Of Ice on behalf of Ciuc Beer. I was invited to the Hotel at the top of the Făgăraş Mountains in Romania. The images created over the 4 days and 3 nights would be used to market the Hotel and the Beer.

 

In very harsh environments I worked with 5 other photographers, below is my portfolio from the trip (click an image and use the left and right curser keys to move through):

 

Last week I wanted to upgrade my stills camera / timelapse camera to Nikon's latest flagship, the D800.

 

It's a £2k purchase and not an impulse buy for most people.

 

My ethos has always been 'Support the high street'; Mary Portas claims she's doing her best but it's not high profile TV faces that's going to save the high street, it's you and me spending there.

 

Empty shop in ManchesterSo, I started to get quotes for the camera body I wanted. To my disappointment, Currys/PC World were cheaper than anyone else by a significant amount; yet they didn't have the expertise to support it and didn't even sell any compatible lens! So, I contacted local independant camera shops and invited them to price match. None of them would (could?) so it was with great reluctance that I ordered with Currys/PC World. I was told the camera would arrive at the store the next day by 3pm.

 

At 3pm I called them to confirm it had arrived and was told "I'm not sure but it should have done." That didn't instill any confidence but off I went to the local superstore. The collection counter was poorly sign-posted, and after queueing at the wrong place for 25 minutes and asking various staff where to go I was eventually pointed to the correct desk. Here I was kept waiting over 45 minutes and eventually told that the camera hadn't arrived. I pointed to a box on the shop floor with a courier label on it. It didn't even have a security tag on, anyone could has disappeared it without the store knowing. It was my 2 grand camera. After a further 45 minutes waiting (as staff didn't know how to deal with special orders) I eventually got on my way. 2 hours of my day I'll never ever get back; it should have been a 5 minute pickup.

 

 

Someone asked me recently why they nearly always notice me check in on Facebook at a foreign city before travelling onto my ultimate destination.

 

The answer is simple. It's more cost effective.

 

In 1994 the British Government introduced 'Air Passenger Duty'. At the time, it was just £5 for European flights and £10 for rest of the world. Now it's £13 - £26 for Europe and up to £184 for other destinations. It's increased way beyond inflation. The UK's Air Passenger Tax is now well known to be the highest in the world.

 

KLM to Amsterdam from ManchesterSo, by stopping in Amsterdam for a few minutes (literally) last week on my way to Kiev, Ukraine I saved £35... next week I'm heading to Shanghai, China and by stopping in Helsinki, Finland for a few minutes. I'm saving myself a whopping £94. It all adds up. A family of 4 travelling to my villa in Florida would pay an additional £222 in taxes if they flew direct from the UK!

 

The airline industry has been battered and bruised in recent years and is suffering with ever-increasing fuel and insurance costs. The least the government could do is support them with a fair tax rather than an extorionate price - encourage people to fly via our airports and spend money on our little island!

 

We need to travel to build essential trade links, not to mention people needing holidays  to keep them productive at work and the morale up. Air Passenger Duty is bad for jobs, bad for growth and bad for families. Many countries (including Holland and hence me living in Amsterdam Airport so much) have abolished it completely.

 

For more information, visit the website A Fair Tax On Flying; you can send a letter FREE to your MP from the homepage. Also, like the Facebook page and help spread the word!

 

chernobil 1Today I fulfilled one of my life's ambitions.Entering the town of Chernobyl and Pripyat

 

Ever since I heard it on the news as a child on 26th April 1986 (well actually a few days later as the Soviets kept it secret for several days until the Swedish spotted the radiation increase!) I've wanted to visit this radioactive wasteland. It's officially the most contaminated place on Earth and has a whopping half life of 247,000 years... but most of the danger has been absorbed into the soil and if you're sensible, a days visit is only the equivalent radiation exposure of a long haul flight.

 

Although a trip into the 30Km and 10Km 'zones of alienation' is quite easy these days if you are prepared to pay the extortionate fees, it still takes 14 days of security and military paperwork. However, as always I was a little different....

 

Because I wanted to take quite a bit of camera kit in I had to jump through various hoops; nothing is allowed to touch the ground so I had to propose and agree to cover the feet of my tripods (with Sainbury's Mineral Water bottles!) and give assurances that my bags and extra equipment would always be in my van or on my shoulder.

 

 

Pick TV (ex Sky Three) have just started to show a re-run of Most Haunted Season 12, known to fans as 'The USA Series'.

 

It's nearly 4 years since I shot this series and it's brought memories flooding back to me; it was one of the most enjoyable jobs I've done. We started inMost Haunted Team at Waverly Hills, Kentucky, USA Boulder, Colarado (at the Stanley Hotel, inspiration for Stephen King's novel 'The Shining') and moved East before finishing in New York.

 

It was the second Most Haunted season I'd shot and the 3 1/2 weeks spent living and travelling with the rest of the crew and team for virtually 18 hours a day was an absolutely ball. Some days we stayed in hotels, some days on tour buses.

 

We visited some amazing locations and saw some sights that tourists would never be lucky enough to see. The highlight has to be the we day spent shooting the title sequence in a low flying helicopter over the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Buidling.

 

The first thing anyone asks when they know about my work with Most Haunted is the most obvious, 'Is it real?' to which I can safely reply for this series, 'There's certainly some things I can't explain'. Although I was behind the camera the things I witnessed (often off camera) leave me with no doubt that there are some things we just don't yet understand.

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Well after 5 months planning and hard work, it's finally here... my new site 'Race It Home'.


It combines my love of travel and photography and is an easy way to fill your friend's fridge doors with good old fashioned physical postcards.

 

I originally got the idea for this website after completing a video call while on location on a sleeper train in the arse end of China. I began to wonder if the power of the internet could be used to shorten the length of a postcards journey and make sending postcards not only quicker but also more convenient for the sender and cheaper.

 

The idea sat on the back burner for some time. I started to plan the site and how it would work in December 2011 and coding and design started in January 2012. We finally launched it in May 2012 and already our printing station is sending hundreds of postcards a day!

 

Visit the site and you can trial it for free. Simply upload a photo, type a message and enter a friends address and we'll do the rest. Within 3 minutes (yes I timed it!) the postcard is printing in a UK printing station and it's popped into the UK postal system the next evening.

 

You can visit the site at: http://www.RaceItHome.com/

 

Well here it is... and not before time. It's only been 5 years in the making: my new freelance website! Thanks so much to Andrew for all his patience and coding, We started work on this last August and it should have taken a fortnight but ended up taking 8 months... He has the patience of a Saint!

 

This site is to promote my work as a freelance Director Of Photography. On here you can check my recent work, my background, my diary and some examples of my work.

 

I took the descision to add some still images to this website, I've had many Commissions for my stills work this last few years and I shoot most images either RAW or HDR which gives some amazing results. A selection is viewable on my portfolio page.

 

I've also been told by my internet gurus that I have to have a 'Blog'. I've no idea what people write in them and words aren't my strong point (give me numbers any day!) but I'll try my best to keep this news type feature as up to date as possible with my work, life and travels.

 

I've also redesigned my 'logo' which you'll start to see on my new letterheads and business cards. I hope you like it and I welcome your comments and suggestions!

 

 


 Glass Block DreamsWhat a week. All I can see is glass blocks. Lots of them.

 

Kitchen becomes a studio for the week.

 

I was recently asked if I was able to photograph glass blocks for a new website and brochure as the owner was struggling with reflections and was unable to demonstrate the textures of the glass block (on his camera phone!).

 

Always wanting a challenge, we setup a 'studio' in my kitchen and I began the task of lighting each and every block. Each and every block had to be tweaked as the different textures and finishes each present their own issues.

 

The client also wanted to demonstate 'opacity'... how much you can see through each block. After a long hard think, I had the bright idea of shooting an option of each block with a rubber duck sat behind.

 

It worked great and the client was over the moon... but now I'm dreaming of glass blocks!

 

 

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