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Photos from London 2012 Olympics: Day 3 – Olympic Park


The big gig is here. Despite many weeks and months of hand-wringing about expected meltdowns in London’s transport system, fears of a security catastrophe, and the shambolic ticketing website – of which your author has been a vocal critic – in the end, the twin factors of Mitt Romney sticking his foot in it, together with Danny Boyle’s bonkers and brilliant Opening Ceremony meant that most of London collectively decided to park the cynicism for a while and get behind the Games.

Speaking personally, we did reasonably well on ticket allocation. We were allocated Men’s Boxing Final in the initial lottery last year, got given Men’s Basketball Final tickets by a very considerate but absent friend in the last week, and managed to score, by persistent refreshing and the occasional head smacked against the desk, both Men’s Preliminary Round Hockey tickets and ground pass tickets to the Olympic Park.

It was those last Park tickets that actually came first chronologically, which was handy as it allowed us to have a look around the site without any pressure to be in any of the venues at a particular time. Photographing the Park was a funny beast; it’s all so massive that you are tempted to just do panoramas the whole time – but the volume of people in-shot all the time makes this a complicated prospect. So I mostly settled for detail shots rather than sweeping landscapes. We are back in the Park this Friday for the hockey so I hope to revisit some of these.

Olympic Stadium and ArcelorMittal Orbit
Olympic Stadium and ArcelorMittal Orbit

ArcelorMittal Orbit, Olympic Park
ArcelorMittal Orbit, Olympic Park

Wildflowers along the canal, Olympic Park
Wildflowers along the canal, Olympic Park

Nicole Cooke MBE being interviewed by the BBC, Olympic Park
Nicole Cooke MBE being interviewed by the BBC, Olympic Park

R U N, Copper Box, Olympic Park
R U N, Copper Box, Olympic Park

Norway Fans, Olympic Park
Norway Fans, Olympic Park

Storm Gathering over the Basketball Arena, Olympic Park
Storm Gathering over the Basketball Arena, Olympic Park

Park Live East Screen, Olympic Park
Park Live East Screen, Olympic Park

Wind Turbines at Sunset, Olympic Park
Wind Turbines at Sunset, Olympic Park

Sunset reflected on the Water Polo Arena, Olympic Park
Sunset reflected on the Water Polo Arena, Olympic Park

More to come…

A Winter Trip to the Isle of Skye

February 1, 2012 7 comments

Last weekend I flew up to Scotland for a jaunt out to the Isle of Skye, accompanied by my trusty pal Corin and our able guide, David Langan, who escorted us out to the Isle of Skye for a full long weekend of trekking around Skye in search of the perfect landscapes. We braved 300m+ vertical hikes and gale-force winds in pursuit of our photos. I am happy to say that one or two of them came out.

Glen Shiel Reflection

Elgol Sunset

The Old Man of Storr, Sunrise

Glen Brittle Fairy Pools

Talisker Bay

Breakish Beach looking out over Applecross

Ord Beach - Rock Detail

Ord Beach (View of Loch Eishort)

The photo below may be somewhat pedestrian, but I had to shimmy out on to a ledge over a giant cliff to get it, which was the only way to shield the camera / tripod from the gale-force winds on the clifftop. The winds were so fierce, a waterfall nearby was blown back over the top of the cliff before any water actually fell. So this photo gets included, no matter the quality!

Neist Point Lighthouse

Duisdale Beach

Duisdale Beach, Sunrise

Torrin Beach - View of Loch Slapin and Blaven

These and more photos can also be seen over on my Flickr feed.

Open Letter to the UK Home Office about the Imminent Closure of the IRIS E-Gate System

December 12, 2011 2 comments

Forgive me for a temporary diversion into non-photographic territory.

For those of you aren’t one of the nearly 400,000 UK-based frequent travellers who use the IRIS system, it is a rare case of something that takes a good deal of pain out of travelling internationally. It is an automated system installed at several UK airports which allows registered users to gain entry to the UK merely by looking into an iris scanner. If you are like me and are A) a frequent business traveller or B) a non-EU citizen, this is a life saver. IRIS lets me breeze past hour-long queues and I am often at the baggage carousel before the bags have started coming out.

However, for one reason or another, the system has never quite taken off. I have an inkling that it’s down to the fact that the need for pre-registration has put a lot of would-be users off, especially when the registration offices within Heathrow and Gatwick have been keeping increasingly erratic opening hours, and unfortunately with the austerity measures it now means that these offices have largely been closed. Word has been seeping out that the programme’s days are over, and that the machines will only be run until such time as they malfunction or start to need maintenance, at which point the system will be shut down.

I was upset enough about hearing this that I have written to the appropriate address within the Home Office. If you are upset about this as well, I would urge you to do the same.

To: irisinfo@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

To whom it may concern:

I write to express my displeasure at the imminent closure or retirement of the IRIS e-gate system.

I am an expat US citizen who has lived in London for many years. I will not be eligible for a UK passport until late 2012, but I have an Indefinite Leave to Remain visa and a US passport. I am a frequent business traveller, and because of the IRIS system, I have saved countless hours I would have otherwise stood in a queue.

With the staff reductions underway at UKBA, and the resulting pressures on the remaining border agents, surely this is not the time to be adding to the numbers of people having to queue for inefficient manual checks?

However, if the retirement of IRIS is a fait accompli, and it is only a matter of time until the system is decommissioned, then may I enquire what are the planned alternatives for frequent non-EU national travellers such as me?

I am thinking along the lines of one of the following suggestions:

  • Addition of non-EU expats to the e-passport system – This would seem to make sense considering the sizeable investment in the e-passport infrastructure throughout the UK airports
  • Alternative automated biometric e-gate system – I have heard rumours of a facial recognition technology, and again I would suggest that this be extended to cover non-EU nationals
  • Separate queue for longterm visa holders / resident expats – In past times when the IRIS machines have been malfunctioning, I have occasionally seen an “IRIS queue” spring up at an adjacent border desk, for people who would normally use the IRIS machine. Surely this could be a low-cost alternative solution in which you have a dedicated queue for long-term residents (people on ILR or work permits) who simply needed identity verification rather than the lengthy entry interrogation posed to tourists and other temporary non-EU visitors?

Lacking any of the solutions above being put into practice, the prospect of once again joining the non-EU passport queues fill me with dread, and make me re-think my need to travel at all.

Thank you for your time and consideration,
Luke Robinson

Photos from Bestival 2011

September 17, 2011 2 comments

This year’s Bestival (my third visit) had potential to be a washout as the weather forecasts leading up to it were less-than-encouraging (one site saying that Sunday was going to see extended periods of “torrential rain” and 50+ mph wind gusts). In the event it was not quite as bad as all that, and the worst of the weather was saved for the early hours of the last morning, with high winds and rain providing a suitable finale to the festival. We did experience the amusing sight of empty tents blowing and scraping along through the fields, and not a few gazebos flew away into the night.

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We were lucky with the weather, then, and so managed to catch the Cure, Bjork, Public Enemy, Grandmaster Flash (epic set), Brian Wilson, the Urban Voodoo Machine, Toots and the Maytals, SBTRKT, Health, and a host of smaller acts dotted around tiny stages that we enjoyed despite not having a clue who they were.

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This year’s fancy dress theme was Rock Stars and Divas, and there were plenty on show beyond the expected Slashes and Beastie Boys crews.

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Bestival2011 (60 and 61 of 95 combined)

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As usual there were a few quite random acts to see as well, from the “Wall of Death” motorcycle spectacular to the “Lords of Lightning” show featuring two men in chain mail, standing on two huge Tesla coils and fighting – with lightning.

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As usual, there are a few more photos to see over on my Bestival 2011 Flickr set

Photos from Notting Hill Carnival 2011 – Day 2

August 30, 2011 3 comments

After our abridged visit to Carnival on Day 1, we walked down from Queens Park to Notting Hill on Monday psyched up for a full session at Day 2. The mood was slightly subdued by grey skies and unseasonably low temperatures (think 17C) and, I suspect, quite a few hangovers from Day 1. But you can’t stay subdued for long once you get sucked into a mas parade full of exhuberant, brightly attired dancers with ear-to-ear grins. This time we mostly hung around Kensal Road, Golborn Road, Portobello, Westbourne Park and, to finish the day off, Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues where we were treated to a somewhat ramshackle ska set by his band, The Trojans. As usual Day 2 was a bit more crowded and edgy than Day 1, but aside from a handbags-at-dawn flareup at one of the soundsystems we didn’t see any trouble to speak of. Biggest drama of the day was, as usual, where the shortest toilet queues could be found.

Mas Explosion, Golborn Road

Cheeky Mas Dancer, Golborn Road

Gaz Mayall, Gaz's Rockin' Blues

Dude and Dudette

Mas Dancer, Kensal Road

The photo below might be my favourite from Day 2 – two pirates from one of the mas crews did a double-daggering on a giggling bystander right in front of one of London’s finest – and the cop couldn’t help a fit of the giggles as well. (Generally daggering at Carnival is good-natured but I could see how it would get mightily annoying from a female perspective…)

Double-Dagger and Laughing Cop, Kensal Road

That’s enough of Carnival for now, but if you’d like to check out the rest of my photos then head on over to my Notting Hill Carnival 2011 Flickr set.

A walk in the Cotswolds

August 26, 2011 3 comments

Earlier in August I had the opportunity to join some friends on a walk around the Cotswolds, a lovely area of rolling green hills and chocolate box villages over towards Gloucestershire. While it was a lovely walk, the rolling green hills were a bit of a photographic challenge, it being the middle of the day when we had our walk. But I managed to snag one or two shots I was happy with.

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A sunny winter’s walk along the South Bank

February 22, 2011 1 comment

The weekend before last contained that rarest of things: a sunny, mild day in the midst of a London February. It would have been rude not to start the day with a chorizo sandwich in Borough Market and ruder still not to continue on the time-honoured South Bank stroll up to the Hungerford Bridge. I have done this walk so many times I could do it in my sleep, but I never get tired of it. Any excuse, as they say, and I usually bring a camera along because there are always interesting subjects, from the market, the river activity, the South Bank buildings, the other strollers, to street performers, the kids in the Undercroft and always a bit of randomness at some point in the trip.

 

These, without further ado, were some of the sights I saw that day…. more in my January/February 2011 Set on Flickr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And of course I have many more South Bank shots from years gone by…