Once is happenstance…

…twice coincidence, three times is enemy action.

I can’t be entirely sure of the quote, but these words are used by Auric Goldfinger on encountering James Bond for the third time in Ian Fleming‘s novel.  There have been a couple of times this year when I’ve spotted a likely candidate for a portrait and made my way over to them, only for he or she to recognise me as “the man who took my photograph for his website”.  Luckily in each case the penny has dropped before I made my request and I’ve been able to wave and smile in belated recognition.

It’s a situation I’m familiar from my role as a trainer and presenter.  If you’re talking to large groups they only have to remember one of you whereas there may be dozens of them, so it’s not uncommon to find yourself in that embarrassing position of holding conversation with someone who knows who you are, while you remain completely in the dark!

I’d been doing some pet portraiture all morning so whilst these setters looked magnificent I was ready to let them and their owner go by, and finding nothing more interesting than an arrangement of stones on driftwood tree stump I abandoned the beach in favour of the marina. 

The Sunderland skyline has been dominated by an enormous crane all weekend, and so I went to learn more about the leviathan MPI Adventurer which I had spotted at sea off South Shields last week.

This highly specialised vessel is designed for the installation of offshore wind turbines and features half a dozen huge (72m) legs with which it stabilises itself on the seabed when working.  At sea it looked impressive; up close it was even more so.

It was as I returned to my car that I spotted today’s portrait subject, Amanda.  With her easy laugh and flaming hair she was a great choice, but as I processed the picture I was troubled.  Had I approached her before?  She didn’t mention it, and I didn’t think I remembered the name, but she did look familiar.

A search through my previous posts reassured me.  There were no Amanda’s so far this year, and I put it down to her resemblance to a former colleague called Val.  Wonder if she has a sister? Incidentally, I nearly called this post “Deja Vu“, except that I have definitely used that already!

Both sides now

The mouth of the River Wear is a place of contrasts.  On the south bank; the docks and quays of the Port of Sunderland, a commercial port providing berthing, loading and repair services for a variety of vessels like this Japanese multi-purpose heavy-load transport ship Kurobe.

The north bank is a more relaxed place, home to a campus of the University, an Anglo-Saxon church, the National Glass Centre and the marina with its Marine Activities Centre.I love to stroll around here and enjoy the sights and sounds, though I am puzzled as to who owns the dozens of boats; trawlers, inflatables, yachts, canoes etc., that are moored here, because I only seem to ever see a very small number of them in use, by which I mean actually leaving the marina.  I’m sure some  are like floating garden sheds, a male drinking refuge, rather than actively functioning vessels.

Here there are always possibilities; abstract patterns of light and water waiting to be photographed.

Here art imitates life imitates art.

And alongside the boats?  (Apart from an anamorphically projected door carved out of a wall of rock)

Well what else would you expect to find here but a hairdresser and an aromatherapy studio – just what every seafarer needs!  The coffee shop does well too, especially on such a fine August morning.  I wonder if Fiona was headed there after walking her dog?

Joni Mitchell – Both Sides Now


I worked hard yesterday to free myself up to “break eggs with sticks” today (as my mother-in-law would say), and yet come this morning it just didn’t materialise.  My get up and go had certainly got up and gone!

Crest of HMS Ocean
Crest of HMS Ocean (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I planned to put that right this afternoon by cycling into town to shoot some images at the parade marking the visit of HMS Ocean to the Port of Sunderland.  I formatted a memory card, packed the camera into a small bag (I’ve discovered over the last couple of days how uncomfortable a quick release plate is when sticking in your back) and gave myself time to thread my way through the throng of sun worshippers along the sea front.  With the wind at my back I made it into town 15 minutes before the parade was due to start, and so had time to recce a good spot for pictures.

As I fastened my bike to a roadside barrier, I struck up a conversation with Tom, a Londoner by birth who had lived in the North East for the last four years, having been persuaded by his wife to get away from it all (she is local).  Naturally I thought he’d made a good picture and so with his agreement I raised the lens, got him into focus, pressed the shutter release and…  nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  The battery, which was showing 3 bars when last checked was completely dead.  What was worse was because I wanted to travel light on the bike I didn’t have my usual spares.

No point waiting for a parade that you can’t photograph so I hopped back onto the bike and headed for home, this time with the wind against me of course.  A few miles later and I was there, ruefully inserting a new battery and wondering about today’s image.  Shame about Tom.

I decided to jump in my car and head for the end of the Wear Bridge, on of my usual haunts for finding interesting portraits.  There were few people about so I headed over the river and back into town, seeing the warship dwarfing the buildings of the university campus downstream.  Checking my watch, I realised that I might still see some of the parade; they were due to attend a Service of Remembrance at the war memorial, so I might still catch them marching somewhere in town.

As luck would have it, the service was still underway and I made it back almost to my original spot.  There across the road was Tom and his wife (sorry I didn’t get your name!) so I got my portrait too.

I’ve put a gallery together today, showing just a few of those taking part.  Last year they saw action off the coast of Libya, this year, in common with all of the armed forces the threats come from cuts imposed in Whitehall.  They were applauded as they passed through the town.  Rightly so.

Not sure who the woman with the newly coiffed red hair is, but  she reminded me of the younger sister of a girl I really fancied… when I was 11!  Enjoy the slide show.