The Day in the life of Tony Cliffe

The blog that's full of discussion, advice, travel and ramblings!

Category: Photography

Editing Northern Lights Pictures: How do i do it?

So you’ve been out in the cold, you’ve followed my tips and hopefully you’ve got some great shots of the Northern Lights or the Stars! I hope you enjoyed it! Now it’s time to turn those good pictures into great ones! Using one of my own pictures I’m going to show you how to turn your RAW image from this…

Original Image

Original Image

To this…

blog image

Edited Image

This tutorial is for Photoshop Elements which is a cheaper version of the full blown Photoshop. I’ve used elements for years as I find it easier and more user friendly to use than Photoshop and I find it brilliant for editing pictures.

  1. So firstly you’re going to want to go ahead and open up your image in your photo editing software. If you’ve shot in RAW then you’re probably going to be faced with something like this, with numerous sliders. These tools are what we’re going to use to enhance our image. While some may say its cheating I never think it is. Your eyes are far better seeing colour and definition than a camera is so all you’re doing is bringing that information from the camera up to the quality that your eyes see it. Plus i see photography as a form of Art and editing is like a painter painting! This image is straight from the camera unedited. It’s a pretty good photograph in its own right. However I want that reflection to really stand out, I want some colour and lightness in the shrubs and foreground and I want those stars and Northern Lights to really pop and show its beauty as i see it. So let’s go about doing that!

    Photo1

    Editing in Raw

  2. Exposure: The first step I always do with any night time shot is higher the exposure up. This brightens up the image and as you can see already the greens of the Northern Lights appear brighter and so do the stars.

    Photo2 exposure

    Adding Exposure

  3. Contrast and Highlights: For this I’ve lowered my contrast a little making the shrubs less black. If I plus my contrast that would make the shrubs blacker almost making a silhouette look. If you want that look then go ahead but for the purpose of mine I want them to be in colour. The highlight scale does as it says, it makes the brighter colours brighter or darker depending if you plus or minus it. I pulsed my highlights but not too much. The green really stands out now and still holds some important detail such as the swirl and the pillars of light from them. If I heightened the highlights all the way up the green would be really bright but there would be no detail in them so it’s a real fine line to walk!

    Photo3 contrasthighlights

    Adding Contrast and Highlights

  4. Shadows: Shadow slider is the opposite of highlights, it will make your dark areas lighter or darker depending if you plus or minus. As before, we want those shrubs to have detail and not be a black silhouette so I’ve plus it and as you can see now there is detail and some colour in those grasses!

    Photo4 shadow

    Brighten those shadows

  5. White balance: Increasing the white slider makes the image brighter and has the effect of making those stars and northern lights pop.

    Photo5 white

    Increasing the white slider

  6. Clarity and vibrancy: Clarity changes the contrast and makes the image sharper at the expense of some noise. The shape of the Northern Lights is now more refined than before and the whole image looks better for it. Vibrancy increases the vibrancy of the colours in the image to make them stronger. Once that is done click open image. That image now looks much better than the raw image and that should make any image of the stars looking good!

    photo6 Clarity

    Clarity and Vibrance increase

I go one step further and get a little more technical for my final step. While I’m happy with that image as it is I still want to make that reflection look a little stronger and add a bit of light to that foreground.

  1. To achieve this I duplicate the layer, then add a new adjustment layer and crank up the brightness of the image along with reducing some contrast. The problem this causes is the whole image becomes brighter but you lose the detail as discussed before. So to stop this I open a mask layer, invert it and paint back in the brightness in the areas I want it. Such as the reflection of the lights, the top left Northern Lights and the red car light in the distance. Once all of that is done I collapse my layers, add my name and my final image is produced!
    photo7 duplicate layer

    Duplicating the layers

    photo8 brightness

    Adding brightness before masking

    photo9 layers

    Masking in brightness

    And there we have it! A final edit picture!

    blog image

    Edited Image

 

Night Sky and Northern Lights Photography tips

So I thought I’d do a quick little photography blog tonight! Barb my awesome cousin in Canada is lucky enough to be off to the Yukon soon to hopefully see the Northern Lights and she asked me about what camera settings I used to photograph them in the heart of Iceland. A few people have asked me this exact same question, so I thought I’d do a little tutorial about how to photograph the Northern Lights or if you’re not lucky enough to go to a place to see them, then these tips will work for any starry night sky shot. Sure there are tons of other online tutorials on how to do this but I thought I’d offer an insight to what I did and what I found works for me. I hope this tutorial is easy to follow because while I like my photography I’m certainly no expert or speak much in expert speak!

What do I need?

Well firstly and well obviously you’re going to need a Camera! While any camera is capable to some extent of taking star or Northern Light pictures, yes even your smartphone is capable! Although they won’t be anywhere near as good as a proper camera. DSLR type cameras are the best for this kind of job. I’m a Canon guy although Nikon etc. are just as good. This tutorial will follow an outline for Canon cameras and although Nikon use different symbols, the process is the same. You can also use a compact camera providing you have the option to manually change the settings. The camera I use is a Canon 1200D which is a pretty solid but entry level DSLR and I bought that a few years ago for around £300. So you have yourself a camera? That’s a good start!

IMG_20180111_204453

My camera gear minus the tripod

Next you’re going to want a lens that has a wide focal length or field of view. Imagine that as a lens that can grab as wide a picture as possible. Most DSLR or compact cameras zoomed all the way out will have quite wide fields of view. The lens I use for night time shots is this stock 18mm to 35mm lens that came with my Canon 1200D.

IMG_20180111_204528

My Canon 1200D with a small lens on. Any DSLR or compact will do the job providing the lens is up to the job.

Most importantly though you’re going to want these two inexpensive items, without them it doesn’t matter if your camera costs that of a small car, you ain’t going to get any good shots! Those two items are a Tripod and a remote shutter. The first is essential! While I highly recommend you buy a remote shutter (£10 if that) you can get away with not using one proving your camera has a timer but I’ll explain why you should use a remote shutter later on. A Tripod though is fundamental! I have a good one from Amazon for around £15 that folds up neatly into my camera bag and that’s been on countless trips. They’re great for normal photography too! So invest!

If you have all those items then we’re good to go! Before you venture out into the wilds of Iceland you’re going to want to practice in your back garden and you’re going to want to use these settings! If you just want the basics without the explanation then here they are, below that is a more detailed explanation!

  • Manual Mode
  • Manual Focus
  • Lens zoomed out
  • F-Stop 3.5 or lower
  • ISO 800
  • Shutter Speed 10-25 seconds
  • Shoot in RAW

Settings

If you have a DSLR or a compact camera you’ll often have a little twist dial with different letters and pictures. On my Canon it is as shown below. Whatever camera system you use (read the manual if you have too!) you’re going to want to put the camera into Manual Mode. If you’re an avid photographer already then you’re probably well used to this mode however if you’re not then this mode can feel a little daunting. It allows you 100% control over whatever the camera does which is both scary but ultimately rewarding as it’s all about your skill to get the picture rather than the camera’s brain. It’s really important that you get familiar with this mode and not rely on other settings as in the dark the camera’s brain will work overtime and won’t produce what you want in your image! For me, my Manual Mode is designated by the letter M.

IMG_20180111_204607

Putting the camera into Manual Mode via the dial.

Now that you’re in Manual Mode firstly you’re going to want to zoom your lens all the way out for example mine goes all the way out to 18mm. Make your lens go as far as possible to the lowest setting. The second thing I want you to do and this may be a button on the camera or you may need to go into the camera settings once it’s switched on and turn your Focus to Manual Focus.

IMG_20180111_204548

Lens zoomed all the way out to 18mm. My auto/manual focus button is on the side of my lens.

Turning the camera on now it’s time to navigate the settings to get it set up for some night sky photography. There are certain things you’re going to want to change.

IMG_20180111_204623

Manual Mode Settings page. Here is where you’ll change the following settings.

Aperture

Aperture is a setting which tells the camera how much light the lens will take in, for night time photography when its well… dark you’re going to want as much light hitting those tiny camera sensors at the back of the lens as much as possible. In order to do that you’re going to want the lens to open as wide as possible. Imagine you’ve woken up at night and you’re trying to find the light switch. Your eyes will open as wide as possible to gain as much light as possible, that’s what the camera needs to do. On the flip side in bright sunlight your eyes squint because it doesn’t need as much light for example. Some lens and cameras can go lower than F3.5 but 3.5 is a good setting to use. Any higher and it doesn’t really work. If you look on your screen you’ll see a number with an F on it. Use your navigation buttons, highlight the F number and lower it to as low as it will go.

Shutter Speed

One of the most important things for night time photography is not only the eye to be as wide as possible to collect light but it needs to be open for a long time to capture as much light as possible. Between 10 and 25 seconds I find perfect for night time sky photography. Any longer than 30 seconds then due to the earth’s rotation the stars will begin to move and have a streaky effect across the sky. While that can be cool, we want nice sharp stars!

IMG_9014

You don’t need to head out to the countryside to photograph sharp stars! This was taken from my back garden in a town last summer.

If you’re unsure where to change your shutter speed settings then it’s usually next to your F stop and is a number with a / in it for example 1/1000th (Which means the lens will stay open for 1000th of a second. Of course that’s too quick we want 10 seconds at least! So change that until it reads 10. Usually it will go up in 5 second blocks). You may notice that mine says Bulb instead of a number. On my camera the bulb setting means the lens will stay open for as long as I let it until I tell it to close. This is one reason your remote shutter comes in handy. You may find 10 seconds is too dark, 15 seconds too light but 13 seconds perfect. So you have that control.

ISO

Out of all of the items so far you’re probably most familiar with the terms ISO and then seeing some numbers after it. I won’t explain the complexities of ISO numbers but set it as 800!

RAW over JPEG

Your smartphone and your cameras default shoots in JPEG. JPEG is an image were your cameras brain takes the information from the sensors and produces a picture. While this is perfectly fine, you’re very limited to what editing options you can do to it once you put it on your PC. I always shoot in RAW. RAW is an unedited version of what the camera sees so you have complete control over all aspects of the image in the editing phase. As you can tell us photographers are a controlling bunch! If you don’t want the hassle of editing in a software editor then use JPEG but be warned you can’t make your images really pop! You can set your camera to shoot in both however if you want to.

Other settings

If you change those three settings then you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a decent star or Northern Lights shot! So start out with those. However if you really want to go the extra mile, your camera may have a white balance setting. I usually use Cloudy to enhance colours of the Northern Lights but if you’re just shooting stars I recommend the florescent white balance.

Why use a remote shutter or a timer and a tripod?
So that question you ask yourself, why do I need a tripod and a remote shutter or timer? Well as mentioned above the camera will have the lens open for a long time. It’s impossible even for top Snipers to hold a camera for 15 seconds completely still! Any movement within those 15 seconds will make the image blurred and the light source streak across the image, ruining it. Tripods are excellent to make the camera nice and stable and free from movement. Even if you have a tripod, the very act of you physically pressing the camera shutter will move the camera body slightly, introducing movement. Even though it is brief it can cause that issue. That is were a timer or a remote shutter takes that movement away but with a remote shutter you have that finer control over the time.

Okay so you’ve survived that complicated set up…I hope you’re still following with me! Now it’s time to go outdoors and put all of this into action. Get the gloves, hat and coat on oh and your shoes and lets head outside.

So we’re outside, the camera is on the tripod and all your settings are in place, don’t forget to take that lens cap off! (I can’t begin to tell you the amount of times I thought my camera lens was broken only to realise I left the lens cap on). Doh!

With the camera switched on you’re going to want to manually focus your camera on an object. Be that a tree, a bush, a lamp anything! I always try to have something in the shot as it gives it a sense of scale and looks better.

IMG_9017

Night Sky is good to capture

IMG_8955edit

Night Sky Photography is far better with a landscape in the photograph or a foreground.

Take a few pictures and keep manually focusing until your images look sharp and in focus. Once you find that sweet spot do not touch the focus or the lens. Leave it as is and move the tripod around and snap away! You’ll want to change the shutter speeds each time to see what you get. On a night shoot I may take over 400 pictures and maybe 20 will be any good. It’s all about practice, changing things and keep trying! You have to keep trying and you will find at least one brilliant picture in there!

So good luck! I hope you get some cracking pictures of the northern lights or the wonders of the night sky! If you’re shooting in RAW and want some editing tips then follow this link to my editing blog post here: Editing Northern Lights Pictures: How do i do it?

 

Look back on 2017 via Instagram: Part Two July to December

Okay so we finished the last post at the end of June, let’s dive in and see what other gems i can find for the back end of 2017!

Let’s start off with a little fun shall we? Laura was one of the first people i met while doing a PhD and since then i like to think we’ve grown pretty close as friends and by time July came i thought we knew each other well enough for me to do this and get away with it!

In July after four years of having the same glasses it was finally time for some new ones! Glasses if you wear them all of the time become a part of you. I loved my old glasses but it was time for a subtle change and improvement and i’m glad i did! I now love my glasses!

I was honoured to be a Best Man for my Brother from another mother Luke and even more so to be the Master of Ceremony at his Wedding! It meant a lot and such a thoughtful gift to receive from him on the eve of the wedding! Plenty of whiskey will be drank from this i can assure you!

Wedding day finally arrived and it was a wonderful day and everything worked out great! Luke and Amy deffo win my couple of 2017 award! They also win the wedding of 2017 award too but i only went to theirs in 2017 but even if i went to others i’m sure they would have won too. Stunning venue, great organisation and just a lovely day and night filled with love and laughter!

View this post on Instagram

Last night 😂

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

Wedding night with the family though…oh that crazy wonderful family of mine! I like this picture because it sums up how bonkers we really are!

View this post on Instagram

50 shades of pug 🤣

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

This picture was taken the day after the wedding and is still probably one of my favourite days of 2017. It was one of those perfect days full of laughter! I love these two and there was nothing but laughing and goofing around in the sun. We were the three that were most often in the office together and a little trio formed, we’re all very different and we each have our quirks but one thing we have in common is having a laugh. It was one of those days were if you had the ability to replay it, if you were ever feeling down you’d whack that episode on and watch it time and time again and you’d cry with laughter. That weekend was such a good weekend with nothing but love, laughter and memories. I can still hear the sound of the pug now :D. I had bigged Formby Pinewoods up to these two and it didn’t disappoint!

View this post on Instagram

"Act naturally you two!" So we did. 😂

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

If a picture summed up our friendship i think it would be this one!

View this post on Instagram

Romantic meal with Quayle. 😉

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

After using my excellent fashion skills and hours of shopping with Laura and after trying to find a place to eat i stumbled upon an old Italian restaurant i used to go to. A nice romantic meal for the most coupley non couple of 2017 ;)!

After weeks of literally hitting my head against the desk to get my models to work i did something (i still haven’t figured out what i did!) and it worked and it was a wahoo finally moment! Sometimes you just have to take the credit even if you have no idea what you did. I was happy as this formed a huge part of the PhD and was a breakthrough for me! Plus they cool right?

Another of my favourite images of 2017! Another day full of laughing! Despite our paint war i think us PhD students did a cracking job of painting!

View this post on Instagram

#PhDfamily

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

PhD family is always more than just the PhD! We weren’t painting any old room it was for Vics wonderful new house! She has done an astounding job decorating her house, i mean it is seriously good! If the PhD ever falls through or you get sick of academia Vic then you most certainly have a career in interior design!!

View this post on Instagram

#Nnnnneeeerrrrfff

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

The moment Katie became an official honorary Scouser by getting a selfie with an actual scouser and the Iron Men! That was a fun day out and quite possibly the biggest steak i’ve ever had! I’m sure it was half of an actual cow.

In August we ended up in Prague for a brilliant five day trip! This picture was taken on arrival for our adventure despite the delay! That was a really good trip that had many funny moments in as always with these two. Prague itself was a stunning city and one i’d love to go back to one day!

View this post on Instagram

Coolest selfie yet 😂😂

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

Still by far the coolest selfie i’ve ever been in!

If you wanted to know the dynamics of this group here is a taster…they both just gang up on me and bully me but i wouldn’t have it any other way 😛

In September it was great to present at the EFL conference and having a catch up with my old boss! Never did i think 7 years ago when we first met that we’d become friends and eventually become office buddies together! Dr The Most Scouse Plastic Scouser there is 😉

I just love this picture! The sunrise manages to light up the rainstorm giving a whole new meaning to there is always a silverlining. Special moment and great to capture it on camera. Walking through the park on my way to work is always a pleasure for moments like this. Nature is beautiful, you just have to keep your eyes open for it so that you don’t miss it!

At the end of September my Operations Manual was approved and my licence became official! 2017 achievement award!

At the end of September i started that epic solo adventure. My first stop Iceland was breathtaking and i so long to go back there!

It felt so good to be back in Canada especially for their 150th birthday! Naaaw i always forget how young Canada is compared to its big brother the UK! This was my first day in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Later that day i would travel to Peggy’s cove the most photographed Lighthouse in the world!

View this post on Instagram

Trying some local food, moose stew! 😊

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

After travelling on the plane for 2hrs 30 up to the frozen North East of Canada to St John’s i settled down in a cosy pub to escape the -5c wind chill to try some local food. Moose stew was pretty decent and i just loved the pastry!

The next day i travelled to the most Easterly point of North America! Pretty special to say i’ve stepped foot on the most Easterly piece of North America. Amazingly rugged place and today was the day that i would fall in love with St. John’s and Newfoundland.

I had an amazing time solo travelling so far and nothing i love more than hiking up a mountain alone thousands of mile from home! I loved this place and the caption sums up my feelings perfectly as the sun set!

Even if that solo hike was fucking scary at times!!

Charlotte town completely stole my heart of this trip. There is not a day i don’t wish i was back on this wonderful Island of Prince Edward Island. It was just amazing from start to finish!

View this post on Instagram

😍

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

The 2017 most amazing sunset award goes to my first night on Prince Edward Island!

What happens on travels stays on travels hey?  Hahah.

My most serine moment of 2017 has to be my last night on Prince Edward Island listening to the most beautiful music with another stunning sunset with the birds flying home to roost. God i miss that place!

View this post on Instagram

The awesome Canadian Cliffe's! 😚

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

It was great to end my trip with my first Canadian thanksgiving and again what amazing hospitality they gave me! As the caption states oceans between us but the bond is as strong as ever! As much as i miss Prince Edward Island i miss these guys so much more, family is family no matter where we are in the world!

View this post on Instagram

Business class upgrade 👌

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

One last gift from this trip was a lovely upgrade to Business class home! Sometimes i am just lucky!!

View this post on Instagram

Great evening at the fireworks! 💥🔥

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

November it was back home and back to work but it was great to watch an amazing free firework show on Liverpool’s waterfront with these guys!

One of my fav pictures of me and Em taken on a very cold November beach! We did however see many squirrels for the first time in like forever have i ever seen that many squirrels in the woods! It was almost as if they were following me…

That moment that you both turn up to work wearing pretty much the same thing! I still don’t know if that is a good thing or not!? #Twinning

Maybe the Squirrels were following me? The award for WTF!? moment of 2017 goes to this little buddy climbing up my leg in Chester!

View this post on Instagram

Great yearly catch up with Han and Dan!

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

Always a pleasure catching up with Han and Dan and even better in Chester where it all began 7 years ago when me and Han struck up a conversation about Muse because i had a Muse T-shirt on in the first few days of undergrad then the rest is as they say, history!

My luck continued into December where Em had got free tickets for Kasabian and invited me along. Not only did i get a free ticket, i got upgraded on said free ticket and we both got closer to the stage! Awwww yeah! Cracking gig and my first in 7 years!!

It wouldn’t be a review blog if i didn’t mention my favourite ginger! An interesting year for the both of us its safe to say but as always and as per the last few years i know that we will always try to get each other through the madness that is life! We get one selfie every year and i quite like 2017! At least this time we’re not being photobombed by 2016’s giant LED reindeer!

View this post on Instagram

Happy Christmas from the PhD office!

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

But 2017 has been dominated by the PhD and these guys as i spent nearly all of my time with them and in the office so its only fitting to leave 2017 with this image of this crazy lot! I hope 2018 is full of adventure and fun and i look forward to more fun and pictures. Have a great New Year everyone!!

Look back on my year via Instagram: Part one January to June

 

As 2017 is coming to a close i thought i’d take a step back from writing my travel blogs and dive into my Instagram to find some of my favourite shots of 2017 that i’ve taken. Each picture i’ll explain why i like it so much, it may be the story behind it or the subject to just the colours and setting. I’m writing this as i go though my Instagram in chronological order so i have no idea what i will find! What i do know is i suspect plenty of landscapes and friend selfies that’s for sure! This first blog is January to June So here we go…

Ah yeah what a nice start to the year it was in the world of the PhD office! We all hit rough patches while doing a PhD and mine was definitely between the months of January and May. This post in particular was a culmination of nothing but crap for like three weeks and on that Monday morning i had an email which just topped the lot! But sweets made everything better :D. I like this picture because it sums up those who i share this journey with, they always pick you up when the PhD knocks you down.

It was nice to have my first trip of the year to see the Irish family and on the way back on a particularly cold February morning the frozen Welsh mountains gave a lovely sight on the flight home! I never get tire of taking pictures of landscapes from the air.

View this post on Instagram

His and hers 😂 #cycling #roadcycling

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

I gained a new cycling partner in Laura in 2017, i just think the size difference and looks in our bikes is just cute and therefore worthy of a mention! It is super cute tho.

This was an odd day, sitting in front of TV cameras giving a speech about your PhD research! Was really cool to do and kind of felt like i was on the news!

A video this time! Storm Doris hit Merseyside with 90 mph winds…of course me and Rosie thought it would be a good idea to leave the relative safe confines of the office to walk in it! At least now i have proof that i’ve walked in nearly hurricane winds!

Had such a good time with Em in March for our little trip away. We did indeed feel like a King and Queen looking out onto the sprawl of Amsterdam at midnight. It was a great trip with a long and well loved friend and sometimes you get those perfect nights. It was a pretty cool view that’s for sure! What i love most about this photograph though is a definition of our friendship, no matter what we’re always at each other side.

This picture and the caption makes me laugh as it pretty much sums up our expressions 90% of the time that we’ve hung out for 12 years! 😀

Not long after i arrived back from Amsterdam did i go ahead and book the 2 week solo adventure to Iceland and Canada for September and October! Here it was jotted down in my notebook. I like this picture because having done this trip its crazy to see it written down at the time of booking on one piece of paper. A few months later that page would travel thousands of miles with me!

View this post on Instagram

Packing the bike up for Ireland

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

In April it was time to grab the passport out again and head to Ireland for a few days cycling! This was to be the first time i’d ever taken my bike outside of the UK and my travel bag worked a treat!

View this post on Instagram

First time faster than a plane!

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

This was pretty cool cycling away from Dublin on stage one of the tour of Ireland! That turned out to be the easiest ride of them all and that route is something i’ve wanted to do for ages!

By far one of my favourite personal moments of 2017 captured in this photograph. Of all of the years i’ve been cycling and been travelling to Ireland i’ve always wanted to cycle up the Iconic Howth Head climb. I finally got the chance and not only did i get up without stopping, i smashed it with 2nd quickest of the day! This moment proved to me that all hard work on the bike over the winter paid off, it showed that mind over matter always works and that sometimes goals are only achievable if you work for them. Despite the 30mph winds and brutal 16% incline i was chuffed and still am!

Sticking with the cycling theme, this is one of my favourite shots of my bike. This was at around 7 a.m on a spring morning training ride and the sun was just perfect. As a photographer i couldn’t just pass this bridge without taking a picture!

View this post on Instagram

Gulp. First assessment day.

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

Still get sweaty palms just looking at this picture! After months of revision and online modules it was the first day of three days of Civil Aviation Authority RPAS Pilots licencing exams. Still one of the hardest things i have ever done and certainly the most pressured thing. If i didn’t pass these exams i would have no PhD…So no pressure at all.

3 days later and right after a touch and go practical exam i became the UK’s newest qualified RPAS pilot. A dream and a goal i’ve had since i was 5 years old was to have a pilots licence and i finally achieved that. What better way to celebrate than a pint before my three hour train ride home. Deffo 2017’s “You finally did it!” moments. That never tasted so good!

By time May came around i was having another of my Birthday’s outside of the country! This time i spent it in Berlin in a bar full of monkey’s while being beat at Darts by Wolfgang and his bitches. Quite a surreal way to spend your 25th birthday if i’m honest!

View this post on Instagram

Brandenburg gate! #travels #Berlin

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

Berlin was a lovely city and i recommend you visit it at least once! Luke’s stag do was a brilliant few days away in Germany, with cars, bratwursts and a football game!

View this post on Instagram

My RPAS pilot wings came today! 🛩

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

My RPAS Pilots wings came and within that small metal pin badge is a lifetime of trying and goals achieved. Means a lot to me that does getting that and i wear it with pride while flying.

PhD life summed up in one picture…Coffee and Computers. PhD at this point was heavy going with having to create from scratch a 20,000 word Operations Manual for my UAV. It was one of the longest and most frusrating things i’ve ever had the displeasure of doing but as with all PhD’s there are hurdles like this that you have to plough on with and win. I got there in the end…

View this post on Instagram

Cya work hello three day weekend.

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

Following on from that Operations Manual it reached a point by June where i ran out of fucks to give with the PhD and everything in between. Logging out for the weekend like…

Probably 2017’s most random thing award has to go to the man who was standing in a field playing the bagpipes. I mean as you do right?

It still amazes me the rollercoaster of emotions you get on a PhD. Only 9 days before this post i was at the point of no fucks having been worn down by writing the ops manual and i was in need of a win. It came with the news that a paper i submitted in March had been accepted for publication! My first ever journal article! Another goal achieved this year and i was very proud to have got my first one under my belt. 😀

This things you do for your bro…i get a call asking if i’m free. I didn’t expect it to end up lugging a 60kg log through the woods for his back garden! In his defence it’s now a lovely plant holder in his garden and i’m proud that i didn’t die doing log PT for a mile!

View this post on Instagram

Hiking!

A post shared by Anthony Cliffe (@ac2348) on

June i was off to the Isle of Man for the British National Road Race Championships. It was my first time on the Island and what a beautiful part of the world it is! I greatly enjoyed my time on the island and especially Snaefell!

What a great way to cap off the first half of the year surrounded by beautiful Isle of Man scenery!

Part Two July to December coming up next!

Canada Travels: Blog 2 – Airport escort and Toronto Islands

In this blog I visit an A380, the CN tower and explore the Toronto islands following on from my first blog about my travels to Canada Canada Trip Blog 1: The long trip west.

What a way to start a holiday…

Taxying to the gate, I feel pretty refreshed and the flight went surprisingly quick. I felt a surge of relief that I’m finally on Canadian soil and after starting my journey here over a day ago, I’m glad to have arrived. A quick catch up on texts and before I know it we’re pulling onto the stand and the engines are whining down. I always love the multiple sounds of the seatbelts clicking and the chatter starting. Before I left, Barb and Betsey two of my cousins in Toronto had been in touch about arranging to meet up when I was in Toronto and to go to places like Niagara Falls. Barb even offered me a place to stay which was incredibly kind of her but I’d already booked my hotel for the few days! I’ve only ever really met them once and that was as a very young kid. My memories are sketchy at best, I remember a huge house, pool and a basement. Basements are alien to us British folk and having a pool in your back garden is too. I mean, we’d get like what? Two days of summer to use it and even then it would feel like an ice bath! I remember playing star wars with my cousins in there but I think I was about 6? I do remember how welcoming they were and how kind they were and upon evidence of our Facebook chats before arriving that kindness and welcoming certainly hadn’t disappeared. Before I left England, Barb’s Husband, Dave, works as a police officer in Pearson International. He’s known colloquially as the Mayor of the airport because he’s been there so long! There isn’t an inch of the airport he doesn’t know, not a staff member who doesn’t know him. There was a possibility that if he was free he would meet me off the plane. That would be cool I thought.

I was one of the first off the plane and I walked up the air bridge and into the terminal, I had a big smile to see he had indeed greeted me off the plane, in full uniform. I can only imagine what the passengers must have thought! Maybe I was British royalty with an escort or maybe I was being extradited, I do vaguely look like Edward Snowdon after all ! From the first handshake, it was like I had known Dave for ages. What a guy! So incredibly funny, friendly and welcoming. We walked towards immigration, catching up with how the family was doing on both sides of the pond and before I knew it I was through immigration and customs quicker than I am in my own country! While waiting for my bags, he tells me stories about the celebs he’s met and wow, if only he was into blogging because some of them are best sellers!

I placed my bags into his police cruiser outside and he says…

“Fancy a look around the A380? Private tour I have a pass for you? “

Jesus Christ! What an opportunity! As an avgeek this is right up there with one of the best things to do. Especially as it’s a working aircraft, in a working airport. The A380 is the world’s biggest passenger jet and now I’m going to go on-board and sit in the cockpit. What a way to start a holiday! After going through security again but this time the one the aircrew use and walking through back passages I didn’t even know existed and having the pleasure to walk on the ‘world’s fastest travellator’, I was waiting at the gate to board the A380. It had just arrived from Dubai and we were met by the dispatcher who would take us on board. While waiting outside of the door, we had to wait until all of the crew members were off. It was almost like those comedy sketches where people just keep coming out of a car. There are so many crew members! I also wonder what they thought, seeing an English man in a tweed jacket, standing with an armed police officer waiting to go on-board for a private tour! The wait was just ramping up the excitement for me. After a few minutes I was let on board and given a tour by Dave and the engineer who let me sit in the co-pilot and pilot seat! Dream come true.

A380, Aircraft, Emirates

A380’s Newest Captain

20160429_155953

A380 cockpit after arrival onto stand.

 

I was amazed at how small the cockpit actually was for such a massive aircraft. I’ve read countless magazines and followed the A380’s development and I knew the cockpit is the same as the smallest Airbus, the A318, bar two extra handles on the throttle column and some screens but wow. The dream of being a commercial pilot never took off but damn I am so jealous of pilots and the job they have. Plus I’m very much an Airbus guy over Boeing so win, win! After that and hanging out of the window, I was given a further tour of the aircraft. Absolutely amazing and I’ll outline a little more in my aviation blogs of this trip.

20160429_160255

Who else starts their holiday’s hanging outside the captains window of the A380?

Now on a complete high and after many thank you’s I was back inside the terminal. Can I just say a massive thank you to Dave and to Emirates airlines for giving me such access to your aircraft when on ops. Truly wonderful experience! Dave took me to the Union Express station. Basically a high speed train that takes 20 minutes to get into downtown Toronto from the airport. We exchanged numbers, had a few more laughs and said we’d meet up for a meal tomorrow evening. I couldn’t thank Dave enough for this experience, what a great way to start an adventure!

The train was busy on the way into Toronto but with free Wi-Fi and aircon I couldn’t complain. A mixture of dehydration and excitement I was really thirsty by this point and warm. Really warm! It didn’t help lugging around a giant suitcase much, despite it only being 15c outside. The hotel was in downtown Toronto about a 15 minute walk from the station. I never like getting cabs in cities if I can avoid it, I prefer to walk and explore that way, even with a heavy suitcase! I didn’t have a window on the train so when I finally exited the train station and out onto the street, I had to stop and take it all in for a few minutes.

When you’re from England, our cities are like 5 stories max high, usually three at best. Looking up at this giant concrete canyon above you is quite amazing when you’re in North America! You feel so incredibly small, the concrete, the glass, and the logos. So cool.  Then the noise of the city hits you, the traffic, the horns, the smells, the chatter, it’s a real slap in the face to the senses. Especially as it was rush hour, there were just streams of people walking towards me to get on their trains and I had to fight my way upstream like a salmon to my hotel! I’m not a city person at all, I much prefer the countryside due to its peace and quiet and relaxed way of life. I can understand those on the go loving the rushed vibe of the city and I do like that for a few days until it grates on me. As this was me just arriving, I got a real buzz from the walk to the hotel.

20160429_173446.jpg

Hotel room, 5/5

 

I was finally glad to check in to the Double Tree Hilton and lie on my king sized deluxe bed on the 20th floor. What a great room! For £200 for three nights I got a top class hotel room, with breakfast and a welcome cookie. In the UK for the Geography formal I spent £60 for one night in a Travelodge, no breakfast and the bed didn’t even have a duvet on it! Just goes to show you how ripped off we are in the UK.

I jumped straight into the shower to wash away the travelling, got myself some food, watched some god awful TV and before I knew it I was fighting a losing battle. 8pm Canadian time and I was out like a light.

20160430_054940

Welcome to the concrete canyon

 

FFIRST FULL DAY IN TORONTO

DAY THREE (DAY ONE (part I) IN CANADA): EXPLORING TORONTO

Rolling over in the huge king size bed, I rustle my head into the pillow. I don’t want to open my eyes yet but I can feel my body waking up, yearning to jump out of bed and explore. With a stretch I take off my eye mask fully expecting it to be daylight of sorts. It was a real struggle to stay awake until 8pm last night, I’ve slept like a log after being up for nearly a day straight with the travel yesterday, not to mention the time difference. However nothing but the dim glow from under the bathroom door across the other side of the room provided any light. It was still pitch black outside, 4 a.m. to precise. Of course my body clock thought it was 9 a.m. As far as my body was concerned I went to bed at 2a.m now I’m awake at 9, perfect amount of sleep. It is probably the only time and the last, that I’ll ever feel that awake at 4 a.m. as this morning. As it was a Saturday here in Canada breakfast in the hotel isn’t served until 7 am. I thought about going back to sleep for a bit but I knew that was a futile task and I doubted TV would be any good either in the wee small hours of the morning. After catching up with text messages and Facebook and watching all the videos I’ve taken from the flights over here, the first signs of my first morning in Canada appeared.

20160430_074141

Ready to explore

 

Opening the curtains looking down from the 20th floor into the heart of the concrete canyon, the deep black of the night had turned into a shade a deep blue, getting lighter by the second. I’ve always loved civil twilight. In the morning it feels like the world is waking up but isn’t quite there yet. As a photographer too, I love the way everything looks, silhouetted against a brightening sky. I like early morning’s in cities too. It’s quiet and peaceful before the storm of the people arrive for rush hour and the city comes to life.

20160430_082354.jpg

8 a.m Welcome to Toronto

 

After another very long shower and a check of the weather I headed down for breakfast. Canadians have a lot of things right in their country. Breakfast is certainly one of them! A quick scoot back to the room and to collect my camera and coat and by 7.25 a.m. I was out walking in the city.

CN Tower

I still was taken aback by the size of the skyscrapers as I walked towards the harbour front. My plan today was to explore the Islands. Despite being to Toronto a few times, I’ve never got a chance to explore it with family. Now I’m on my own it was a perfect chance to explore them for the first time before meeting up with my Canadian cousins in the evening. On my way to the harbour it’s hard not to miss the CN Tower. I’ve been up the CN tower at different times of day and in all seasons but as soon as I saw it I knew I had to go up it again. The view never really changes but I just absolutely love it. Weird for someone who doesn’t do heights particularly well!

IMG_6319.jpg

CN tower to the top of the world

 

I was the first in the queue as I waited for them to open up. Spring hadn’t really taken full hold in Toronto yet, so at 10 degrees it felt cool and crisp and a lovely blue sky above I knew I’d see some great views. After a quick stop through the airport style security, I was racing up the lift to the observation deck. I spent a good hour and a bit walking outside, inside, on the glass floor, just enjoying the views and taking way too many selfies. I took one that looked like I was about to skydive and couldn’t resist posting it to Facebook to scare friends and family!

IMG_6296.jpg

Toronto

 

 

IMG_6297.jpg

Standing on the glass floor

 

After coming down I finally felt like all the stresses of the past few weeks had gone. I was really enjoying myself and the sense of adventure was rippling through me. I was so made up to finally be away and exploring on my own!

20160430_094043.jpg

Ready for my base jump!

 

 

 

Toronto Islands

I carried on after the CN tower towards the harbour, stopping every five minutes to take pictures. Toronto is such a picturesque city and the fact it sits on Lake Ontario makes it a great place to explore.

IMG_6323.jpg

Railroads passing through the city

 

For $7 dollars you get a return ticket to any one of the three Islands. Ward, Central and Hanlan. They’re all linked by bridges and walk ways, central being the main one. I decided to take a trip to Ward island first and planned to walk the 13 miles from there right the way around to the final Island of Hanlan point. I’m glad I did! Ward Island was a lovely quiet idea. People live on the Island and Ward is where they live. As a countryside person I could think of no better way to live than on the beach on this tiny island! It was so incredibly quiet and peaceful. Walking along the boardwalks with nothing but the chirps of the birds and the gentle lap of the waves. So beautiful.

20160430_104447.jpg

On the ferry to Ward island

 

IMG_6363

Ward Island Boardwalk

 

I walked and walked for miles, going down different paths, exploring things, the beauty of single travel. I knew the city was on my right somewhere and I noticed a small trail through the woods over a bridge over a small inlet called Snake Island. Why not? So I bush whack through the woods, after three minutes of pushing bushes out of my face and contemplating turning back, the woods gave way to the best bench I have ever seen. What a view! I sat on that bench for a good 30 minutes, taking photographs and just relaxing, watching the world go by. I was disturbed by a German couple who stumbled upon this little piece of paradise too. I took some pictures for them and then left them to enjoy the serenity of it all. It was weird to have such a beautiful spot of nature and then across the water was sprawling metropolis of Toronto city.

IMG_6410

What a bench

 

IMG_6391

Stayed here for ages

 

20160430_114516

Thanks to the German couple for this photo!

 

I carried on walking for miles, more and more people appeared as I got closer to Central Island. I decided my feet needed a rest, grateful for bringing my hiking gear, so I decided to stop in a small restaurant. Chicken fingers and Plum sauce are the best combination ever created and plum sauce in Canada is, well I can’t describe it. Me and my family adore it. I ordered 15 chicken fingers with plum sauce and fries and I don’t even think they touched the sides at all!

After a rest, I continued walking down trails, stumbling upon untouched beaches, wildlife and scenery. It felt weird to be so far from home, at times completely alone on an island but a good weird! It’s a Saturday. Back home I might watch the match and go on my bike other than that, not a great deal. Here I am this Saturday, exploring a wonderful island.

 

20160430_132805.jpg

Hanlan Point

IMG_6429.jpg

Central Island

IMG_6474.jpg

Gibraltar point

IMG_6453.jpg

 

I ended up doing some plane spotting at the local airport on the island and waiting for the next ferry to take me back into the city. I had been on the island since 10.30pm and it was not 3.30pm and I’d walked 15 miles so far today. Even though it was cool I could feel that my face was sunburnt already!

IMG_6531.jpg

Walking back into the vibe of the city to my hotel felt a world away from where I had been. I finally got back to my hotel room and put my feet up, got a shower and got ready to meet my Canadian cousins for the first time in over a decade!

Next blog will be all about family and Niagara Falls.

Ireland Trip Part 2:Change of views, family and coastal walks

After a good night’s sleep in a bedroom that has barely changed in all the time I’ve been coming here, I felt refreshed and ready for the day ahead. Nan’s full Irish breakfast is always a good way to start the day. My Grandad often says I should come over more often as it’s the only time Nan will make his breakfast for him! There is something about Irish White pudding that just goes so incredibly well with bacon in a sandwich. Delicious!

However today was not about me revelling in the delights of Irish cooking (to which there are many delights I assure you!) today was about spending some quality time with my grandparents. Let’s not pull any punches here, they’re getting old. They’re into their 80’s now, not long had some major back surgery and the recovery hasn’t been as quick as they’d hoped. They’re both in pain and it’s showing and one of the reasons I make the effort to come over a couple of times a year is because I know I have much less visits left on the cards than I used to have. I want to make the most of my time with them while I can. Many people are very fortunate to pop down to their grandparents every week. I never got that luxury. Not when they live in another country. So your relationship consists of phone calls and then short visits. So I’m always mindful to maximise my time with them, share my life with them as much as they share theirs with me. I love all of their stories, they’ve visited over 40 countries, they’ve seen the world, and they offer great support and advice.

Even though I’ve heard some of the stories a billion times I still sit and listen as something new always comes up, another layer to the story that wasn’t there before. I’m still fascinated by my grandad’s stories of the war. Despite thinking that watching Spitfires dogfighting over Liverpool with German Me109’s with stray bullets flying around you while you watch is awesome in your head. They very much come across as quite terrifying and his stories of his service for the army in Jungle warfare are as exciting, scary and detailed as the best action thriller. The Gurkhas he is forever in debt for, for their protection in the jungle.

So today, with them both not as active as they once were due to their backs, it was nice to be invited along to the “men’s shed” with my grandad. It’s a new initiative in the village, where retired men can get together to build things, have a place to chat and meet up. I think it’s a wonderful idea and to come along to such a place was very rewarding. The amount of knowledge and expertise in the room is amazing and despite all being later on in life, in their eyes they’re teenagers. I found it very funny too, as typical Irish some of the things they would come out with deserves a blog in its own right! It did feel like I was in an episode of Father Ted! Yes I was every five minutes asked would I like more tea…

One thing I took away from that visit to the men’s shed was a young man called Aaron. He was only a few years older than me, at a push, has learning difficulties, not much family around, some say he was in an accident as a child, others say he was born with it. The men’s shed invited him in as one of their own, to be a friend to him and give him a place to fit in. The men’s shed were given the task this winter of building the crib for the local church and on the day that I visited they were planning how to make it and what it would look like. Aaron was instantly, and I could see it in his face, pride beaming away, instantly took me through all of their plans. He took me on a tour of the facilities, took me on a tour around the Church, explaining in very accurate details how he pictured this crib would play out from his ideas in his head, to how they would look in real life. There was a real pride from him in the way he spoke about the project and the men’s shed. Almost akin to an artist pitching his ideas to prospective buyers. To me, when I arrived it was just a meeting place for older dudes to hang out and to build a crib for the church for Christmas. Nothing mind-blowing, at least not to me. Yet, this project and place was this guys home, he felt for once like he has responsibility, for once people here treated him as an equal. He has learning difficulties but it doesn’t make him any less of a human than anyone else. Why people think that is beyond me. He told me with such pride how he had finally been given a job “washing the big pans” in a local takeaway. His smile was a wide as the river Liffy. For me because I’m a dick wouldn’t even bother myself to do that, at a push I certainly wouldn’t be smiling about it. For him it was as if he had won the lottery.

20151106_115836

Me and Aaron. Very proud of the Men’s shed.

It amazed me, it humbled me and I went away that night lying awake in bed and had to re-evaluate my outlook on things. To not take things for granted and to be grateful for the little things. His passion he showed I can only describe as a child before Christmas or me when I talk about my research or cycling. That’s almost frowned upon in everyday life now. It’s a real shame, I think we can all go back to being enthused by the little things. With a very firm handshake and thank you from him to me for showing me around (despite me repeatedly telling him it is me who is thanking him for the tour! Again that struck a cord with me. He was so thankful for someone listening to him to give him the time of day. That to him should be the norm, not a rare gift) I left with my grandad after a few more hours with the guys there having spent a lovely day with my grandad and his friends. I may have left one mark on the project and that was my suggestion of using modelling artificial grass for the roof of the crib. Something they hadn’t thought of, so it is nice to know a little piece of Tony Cliffe’s idea is a part of the Men’s Shed 2015 Ashbourne church Christmas crib!

20151106_110511

The cribs outline and instructions

 

I was very touched by the day’s events and some very enlightening conversations and stories with my grandparents and before long it was 11pm and it was time for bed.

The next day I woke up with both my grandparents still asleep. The snores from both of them rattling through the wall of my bedroom as if a jackhammer was digging up the road outside. I elected to skip a shower that morning. A, as I didn’t want to wake them and B. climbing up a very large hill I was going to get pretty smelly anyway!

After Jam on toast I waiting for my Aunt Susan and Uncle Dave to come pick me up. I was really looking forward to today for a few reasons. Howth head, is a stunningly beautiful place in Ireland and the pictures throughout this blog will show that. I’m a Geographer, I love nature and the outdoors and walking in those environments is very recharging for the soul. Especially after a very stressful and busy few months in work it’s nice to cut yourself off from the busy world of deadlines and emails and just drink in nature’s beauty. More than that, I was really looking forward to spending a quality day with my Aunt and Uncle. Something I don’t think I’ve ever had a day on my own with them, I’m either with family or over with my dad, so to just spend a day with the two of them was really really nice!

 

2015-11-08 07.36.40.jpg

Stunning Howth head © Anthony Cliffe

 

Susan and Dave have the best sense of humour, extremely down to earth and are two people who work incredibly hard and have their heads screwed on. So despite the amazing scenery, it was really nice to spend a day getting closer to them both and laughing an awful lot! To have two locals as a tour guide on this walk was invaluable and I just about kept up with the pair!  Howth head is a stunning place and a brilliant walk if you ever get the chance. From sweeping Cliffs that drop into a deep emerald waters of the Irish Sea, to dense and colourful forests that suddenly give way to shimmering marbled outcrops that overlook the city of Dublin and the bay, to the popping greens of the fields. It’s amazing! A Geographer and a photographers dream.

IMG_20151107_151142.jpg

Amazing scenery © Anthony Cliffe

 

Even the typical Irish weather couldn’t dampen the spirits and made it feel even more like an adventure and blimey it was some walk! Close to 10 miles we walked and up some bloody steep climbs and some scary cliff walks! I loved it. I’ve been going to Ireland for many many years and I have to say that day was right up there with the best.

IMG_20151107_152237.jpg

©Anthony Cliffe

 

 

Just when I think the day couldn’t get any more awesome they took me to the quirkiest pub I have ever been to for tea and soup after the walk. It’s almost impossible to describe it. In fact I can’t! It’s called the Dog House and well you could be a traveller anywhere in the world when you were in there. Such a cool place!

I finished the day off with my nans famous Steak and Guinness pie. What more can you ask for!?

My final full day was spent driving through horrendous weather to head up to the boarder of Northern Ireland to see my great Aunt Essie. I always muse to myself at all of the glacial features there, so many drumlins! It’s only then that i realise how much being a Geography academic turns you into a nerd but ah well, I digress! She’s my Dad’s favourite Aunt and he would spend all of his summers on the farm with them all. In fact the Grays have been on that plot of land for hundreds of years. I love going “up country” because it really is like going back in time. SO remote and I mean remote! It was only a few years ago they stopped washing in the well because well (pardon the pun) modern civilisation just didn’t reach this part of the world. It still amazes me how basic it is there in a developed country. Crazy. It was the first time back since my great Uncle Tommy died. I wrote a blog about him when he did pass and it still felt like his presence was in the house, I certainly couldn’t sit in his chair where he always would sit.  As we backed out of the driveway after a few hours with her, I could picture in my mind Tommy backing us out, with that full head of hair and rosy cheeks, puffing away on his pipe or cigarette and waving like he always has done. My dad has recently come back from Ireland and it was nice to know he thought the same as he was backing out of the driveway too. The biggest thing about those who live there is they haven’t been corrupted by the modern world or celeb culture. They’re just real down to earth genuine people who cook THE BEST food around. Seriously if you want home, traditional cooking, where everything you eat has been grown within sight. That is the place to go. Still makes me laugh of the story when they said to my dad, “Fancy some chicken tonight?”
“Yeah sure”
“Okay, pick one”…You can’t get much fresher than that! Despite on that trip eating my own body weight in potatoes at every meal, Irish spuds are the best.

How long they have left there I don’t know? What will happen to the site that my family have been on for hundreds of years now there is no one really to take it on and up keep it? I don’t know and it’s a worry. The house that has been there for centuries is falling down, the forest was sold off, and farming in rural Ireland doesn’t support those who worked it for years anymore. I’m a proud family man and to see such heritage be lost is quite sobering. In the future i want to hopefully take a partner and our kids there one day and say, “Look part of your family grew up here, your granddad spent his summers here and so did I”. I want them to be apart of that and not look at a new estate or a pile of rubble. I genuinely fear i’ll never get to share that. Sadly modern day life has arrived and it has hit hard. Each time I come here I notice new builds of the rich city folk who’ve built mansions and large second homes on the surrounding land. Sure, the roads are still full of cattle and tractors who think they’re on a race track but there are more and more cars, more and higher end cars at that, appearing. It’s a real shame. That one place that was untouched by modern life is sadly dying away with each passing of those who live there.

IMG_20151108_145325.jpg

View from her garden © Anthony Cliffe

 

Despite that being quite a sobering thought it is one of positive, at least for me this trip was. It was a trip were I could switch off and spend some quality time with family. To reconnect with the simplistic beauty of nature and to remember a life outside of social media and my smartphone. Strengthening bonds between family members is important and above all cherishing those moments you have with them. Although I hope they all have many years left in them and I’m sure they will have, you do have that horrible thought in your head that as you step on the plane and you whisper goodbye to Ireland for a few months as you climb into the clouds back home. Is that the last time you’ll see them? Despite how sad that is, it makes those memories and the moments even more special and I hope I have many many more memories and moments to share with them. Especially my grandparents who have supported me through everything and without them I certainly wouldn’t be in the position I am in today.

I’m back over in a couple of months where I’ll start a brilliant solo adventure to Canada. To see family in Toronto and then to travel right across the country to see Robbie my cousin, one of my best friends growing up and when he moved out to Canada from Ireland a few years ago I’ve been dying to go see him, Nicky, Luke and now baby Oliver. Yes I am so jealous he lives there! I’ll get over there one time but for now a week and a bit will have to do!

So remember always cherish time with family and go visit Ireland! You won’t regret it! Please click on the thumbnails below for full size images of some of the shots I took on this trip! Please comment too if you want to 🙂

Until next time.

Toe