All posts by Christopher Hughes

Writer, Director, Producer and Chief Bottle-Washer for Shining Tor, ably assisted by my wife Clare Hughes. After many years thinking about becoming a filmmaker we finally decided to jump onto the learning curve and get started.

Farewell to the Bees

Over the last few months Manchester has been invaded by bees. To be precise, over three  hundred painted sculptured bees, dotted around the city, each one uniquely decorated by artists, schools and various charities.

For those of you that don’t know, the bee is the symbol of Manchester. It’s on the coat of arms and took on special significance after the Manchester bomb when hundreds of people had bee tattoos to show solidarity with the city and the people.

The sculptures have been a special treat, and it’s been great watching people engage with them, hunting them, admiring them and having their photos taken with them – shame to see them go really.

But, the project has now come to a close and the bees have all been collected in and put on display at the National Velodrome before they are auctioned off for charity. Lady Hughes and myself only managed to find 162 of them in the city so we popped along today to see them all for one last time.

The main challenge though seemed to be getting there. We had tickets but so did everyone else and the roads were rammed. Once in though, we strolled around and enjoyed the sights. Photographing the bees was more difficult than I had expected as every time I focussed on one someone would jump in front to have their picture taken – not at all frustrating. Honest!

Anyway, they’re obviously very popular and I think the whole idea has worked wonderfully. I hope you get a flavour from the piccies.

Chris

 

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Battling Art and Planes

Short blog today to recount this weeks mini-adventure. Lady Hughes and myself ventured into Manchester to see the Royal Air Force display outside the Town Hall.

We parked at our usual spot and were surprised to discover an event in full swing just behind Piccadilly Station. This was a graffiti art battle with various artists creating beautiful designs in competition with each other.

We didn’t want to miss the RAF but we could allow ourselves a quick diversion, so we headed in. The atmosphere was intoxicating, mainly due to the heavy smell of aerosol paint cans hanging in the air. Watching the artists at work you could see the level of skill involved. These weren’t like the rubbish you see on the side of bus shelters, these were really good.

I also took the opportunity to try out the camera on my Huawei smartphone. I’ve recently moved over to Adobe to edit my photos and the package came with Lightroom CC which works on my phone, so I thought I’d give it a test drive – all these photos were shot on my phone and edited on Lightroom CC.

Once at the Town Hall, we were surprised to see a collection of RAF planes from every era, including a Sopwith biplane, a Spitfire, Lancaster Bomber (cockpit), a Harrier Jump Jet and a Typhoon.

There was plenty to do, lot of other things to look at, and lots of people there to talk to. Also another good opportunity to try out my camera phone – what do you think?

I think they’ve come out quite well, but I don’t think I’ll be ditching my DSLR just yet.

Chris.

Hobbiting in Ullswater

It’s now officially Autumn but Lady Hughes an myself were not deterred as we set off to the Lake District last Monday, We had booked a couple of days ‘glamping‘ in a Hobbit Hole at the beautiful ‘Quiet Site‘ looking down on Ullswater, in the north-eastern fells.

A Hobbit Hole is camping, but instead of a tent you have a heated room with en-suite toilet, lights, patio, wi-fi and even usb charging points. You still sleep in sleeping bags, button a padded platform – probably the most comfortable camping I’ve ever done.

The day we arrived, the weather was overcast, grey and drizzly, but we were comfortable, especially when we found the camp pub.

Evening meals were courtesy of our little BBQ, but the charcoal I had was of a very special non-flammable variety which meant it took an hour to get it going. Once it had sparked into life however, sat in deckchairs, watching the sun set over the lake while we tucked into our food,was beautiful.

Day two and three were stunning with great weather. We woke to see the low cloud burning off into blue skies.

We took our inflatable canoe to Derwentwater but we’d lent it to someone and when we pumped it up we found it had a puncture so that was a bit a disappointment but we were not downhearted. Instead we drove back to our Hobbit Hole and set off on hike to Gowbarrow.

At the summit we carried on to Aira Falls and around by the lake back to the site.

We’ve been to the Lakes many times over the years, but it’s always (usually) stunning, especially when you get the right conditions.

On a technical note, I’ve finally moved from Aperture for editing my photos to Adobe Lightroom and these are the first efforts – I’m really impressed with the software, I hope you like the pictures.

Chris

Photoshoot: John Rogers

Shining Tor

John Rogers is an old friend, we used to work together, and he’s a genuinely lovely bloke (even though he is a City supporter!).

So, it was great to meet up with him this weekend for a quick photoshoot and try to capture a little bit of him in the birthplace of industry, Castlefield, before we retired for a dignified debrief in the Wharf pub.

I arrived a bit early and found a great little spot by the canal. Quiet, with a great backdrop of the viaducts, canals, bridges, etc. By the time John arrived and we’d walked back to it, there was a bus load of photographers there, all with the same idea – but much flashier kit than me.

Anyway, they weren’t around for long, so we quickly had the place to ourselves again.

I used a variety of lenses and tried to refresh my knowledge…

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Manchester Parade

Last minute dash to Manchester to watch the annual Manchester Parade.

Weather was good and we thought it would be a good opportunity to catch some colour and a bit of party atmosphere not long after the one-year anniversary of the Manchester bomb.

Running late after a few technical issues with the car, we hurried across town to Deansgate, where we squeezed into a spot to watch the parade which had just reached us.

The atmosphere was great, the crowds not too pressing and the parade was beautiful with lots of local communities, groups and charities represented. Though my view was a bit obscured I still managed to catch a few good shots, here’s a selection.

Chris

 

Rome

One week now since we returned from Rome and I’ve finally managed to work my way through all the photos and write a post. This was a special trip for us as it was to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary.

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We flew away from a gorgeous, sunny day in Manchester to a rather grey, overcast day in Rome (talk about irony) and stayed till late on Friday. In those five brief days we packed a lot in and probably walked more than if we’d gone on a hiking trip.

I won’t bore you with every detail, but here’s the list of sights we squeezed in; Coliseum, Vatican, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, River Tiber, Appian Way, Catacombs, Palazzo Colonna, Palazzo Nuovo, Trajan’s Column, Vittoriano Ala Brasini, the Roman Forum and more.

Lady Hughes managed to find tours of the Coliseum and Vatican that started an hour before they opened to the public so we could avoid the crowds. The day before we left however, the tour company called to say the Coliseum had cancelled. Obviously disappointed we agreed to a standard ticket to the Coliseum and the Forum and an evening tour of the Coliseum on its own. This was a blessing as the evening tour was brilliant. There were probably less than 50 people in the whole place, the atmosphere was beautiful with the sun setting, the stunning lighting inside and a brilliant guide.

Our early tour of the Vatican meant we had to leave the hotel before 7am but it was worth it as we managed to spend 15 minutes in the Sistine Chapel before the crowds arrived. Again we had another brilliant guide – both tours were booked through The Roman Guy.

Random highlights and memories from the trip include; dicing with death crossing the street (you just have to go for it and hope for the best), getting scammed for photo at the Trevi Fountain, watching two nuns weighing up the plainest black shoes in a shoe shop, the waiter at a pizzeria itemising the bill directly onto the paper tablecloth and finishing with a big arrow pointing to me, getting blank looks from the american members of our catacombs tour when I asked where the Balrog lived, the stunning Sistine Chapel, the beautiful Caravaggio in the Palazzo Colonna Museum, the friendly people and walking, lots and lots of walking.

Rome was great. We had a great time and we would heartily recommend it to anyone with a love for city breaks, history, art, food or maybe you just like a good walk.

Chris

 

Whitworth Park Photography with Elliott

I’ve not posted anything for a while as I’m working on some bigger projects, but this weekend I got the chance to do a bit of photography with my son Elliott.

Elliott is already a talented photographer but he’s keen to develop his skills, and I have more kit than he does, so we thought it would be good to go somewhere interesting but not too challenging and try a few things out.

Whitworth Park is next to Whitworth Art Gallery and it has a few contemporary sculptures, so I thought it would be an interesting spot. It’s also close to home and we even got the chance to pop into the gallery afterwards for a quick look around, so it was a great couple of hours.

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One interesting fact about the park, a meteorite landed/hit there in 2015 – but they never found it.

We tried various lenses and techniques and then reviewed them back at mine, to practise  Elliott’s editing skills.

He’s taken his shots away to work on them separately, but here are mine to give you a taste of what we were up to.

Elliott has moved away while he completes his college course so it was great to spend some time together, doing something we both love.

I hope you like the photographs.

Chris

Berlin 2017

I went to Berlin in 2014, and had a great time, but Lady Hughes had never been and we were looking for an opportunity to go. So when my brother invited us to join him and his partner Ger, on his birthday trip, we jumped at the chance.

Berlin is a very cool city, it’s relaxed, modern, relatively cheap and there’s lots to see and do. If you’re a bit of a history buff, like me, then there’s a wealth of museums and sights.

We went a day earlier than Peter and Ger and stayed an extra day so we could cram as much in as possible. We stayed at the Sofitel Hotel (very nice hotel), just off Kurfurstendamm (Berlin’s main shopping district), in the west of the city. Just a few U-bahn stops from the centre.

After our (very) early flight, we dropped our bags off at the hotel and walked to the Wilhelm Memorial Church. This was bombed heavily during the war but it was decided to keep the ruins as a memorial and build a new church alongside it. Inside the old part you get a glimpse of how beautiful it was as well as how brutal the conflict had been to the people and city.

In the new part, you are surrounded by blue stained glass walls, giving it a very mystical, calming, feel.

Going out of the city, we visited the palace at Charlottenburg.

This was the official residence of Queen Sophie Charlotte. We strolled through the ornate rooms listening to the audio headsets, explaining everything. The effects of the war were not far away though, as a lot of the rooms had been destroyed and rebuilt afterwards.

We finished the day at a local restaurant – Dicke Wirtin (not as painful as it sounds). Where we had our fill of german food, beer and hazelnut brandies.

Day two. We walked though to the Tiergarten park to the Victoria Tower. We climbed up to the first gallery and Clare wanted to hike up to the top. I took one look up the staircase with its 200 hundred steps, and suddenly realised I couldn’t be arsed, so I stayed down and waited for her. Normally I would have seized the chance to get to the top, but the weather was wet and overcast and the view was pretty good from the balcony anyway, so I struggled to summon up the required motivation. When she came down again, she said I was probably right to do so.

We caught a pedal taxi to Brandenburg Gate, where we met up with Peter and Ger.

After a quick look at the Reichstag, and a coffee, we decided to walk to the Holocaust Memorial. It was about then that the rain started. The Holocaust Memorial is very haunting and serene, but when you’re dripping wet and starting to get cold, it’s very hard to feel the atmosphere, so we cut our losses and headed to the cover of Potsdamer Platz.

I won’t itemise every minute of the trip, but over the next couple of days, in no particular order, we visited the Topographie of Terrors (museum on the rise of the nazis), we did the bus tour (mainly to get out of the rain), admired Helmut Newton’s naked ladies at the Photography Museum (well I did anyway), ate Schwinebrauten, Brauwerschnitzel and Bratwurst, queued in the rain for the excellent Jewish Museum and struggled to lift steins of beer at the beer hall.

We visited Checkpoint Charlie and fell into the nearby Irish Pub.

Had a joke-telling competition with a couple from Chicago in beautiful Italian restaurant, where we celebrated Peter’s 40th.

Wandered around the University.

Did my knee in perusing the art at the East Side Gallery – I don’t know what happened, but it seems to be okay now.

Strolled through Friedrichshain.

Had our photos taken with Karl Marx and Frederick Engels near Alexanderplatz.

Decided not to queue for two hours to get into Pergamonmuseum (even though it is excellent).

If you’ve never been to Berlin, I would heartily recommend it and I hope we can return soon. It’s a great city and it was wonderful to spend time with Peter and Ger, especially on his 40th birthday – thanks bro.

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Chris

 

Portugal

After many hours I’ve finally finished editing all my photos from our recent Portugal trip, I took over a thousand! Don’t worry, I won’t inflict them all on you now but I have selected my top 33.

This was our first time in Portugal and our primary reason for being there was, of course, my sister’s wedding (see my previous blog). But aside from that joyous occasion we also managed to get out and about, including one trip to Sintra and two to Lisbon, so here goes.

We stayed at Cascais (pronounced Cashcaish – just think Sean Connery and you’re halfway there) which is a seaside town just west of Lisbon. It has a Goldilocks quality to it, in that it’s not too big and not too small- just right in fact. The beaches were clean and the amenities plentiful, there were plenty of bars and restaurants but it never felt too commercial or sprawling. We had great weather too with clear skies virtually every day, the hot sun made the beach even more inviting and the water was lovely, once you got over the initial cold shock of the Atlantic chill. I found I was acclimatised pretty quickly except for my hands which seemed to take forever to warm up. For about five minutes after diving in I found I was swimming with my hands held aloft out of the water, which must have looked pretty strange.

Sintra is a 30 minute bus ride north of Cascais and was the summer retreat of the Portuguese Royal Family. There are several sites to visit but we only had time for two; the Palace de la Pena and the old Muslim Castle.

The Palace sits on top of a hill and when we got there it was shrouded in cloud, which only seemed to make it more magical – we later found out that it’s common for cloud to mystically cling to that particular hill and the locals refer to it as the Queen’s Fart!

Imagine you asked  an eight-year-old girl to design a palace with a set of brightly coloured crayons, the Palace de la Pena is that design on steroids. It really is amazing, with no expense spared and a real sense of palatial extravagance gone mad.

A short walk away is the old Muslim Castle. This was the opposite of the Palace as it had a strong military reason behind it, was bare stone and pure medieval functionality. It is impressive though and has a fascinating history. The low cloud robbed us of the supposedly best view of the Palace, but added a real sense of mystery and mood to the brooding towers and precipitous walls.

In Lisbon, we hired a Tuk-Tuk and held on for dear life as we raced through the steep streets, stopping at a variety of different Cathedrals, Churches and viewpoints. It was a great way to see the city if you don’t have much time. We also managed to fit in the Timelife Market and the Elevator, which is an old viewing platform, squeezed in between the buildings and reached by a rickety lift. Apparently the whole thing was built by one of Gustave Eiffel’s (of tower fame) apprentices, and you can certainly see the influence – it’s beautiful, quirky and the views from the top are great as long as you’re okay with heights.

Lisbon is a beautiful city, especially the old sections we explored.

From Lisbon we caught the underground Metro and travelled further out to the Oceanario, the second biggest aquarium in Europe. Incidentally, once you get there the whole area has been developed into a very futuristic seafront and you can also see the longest bridge in Europe snaking 17km off into the distance.

The Oceanario didn’t disappoint, with sharks, manta rays, penguins and even two gorgeous sea otters – Clare could get over their “little hands”.

My overriding memory of Lisbon is one of a beautiful place, with warm friendly people, obviously it’s hard to get a real sense of a place on a short holiday, especially when you consider I probably had at least two drinks in me at any given time. But, from my brief experience there, it’s great place and I would heartily recommend it. We had a great time in Portugal, especially magic with the wedding and the time spent with our wonderful family – usually ending the day here, in the Duke’s pub in Cascais.

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So much to see and so much we missed, I suppose we’ll just have to go back.

Chris

 

Rachel’s Wedding

We’re just back from our trip to Portugal and our main reason for being there – my sister Rachel’s wedding to Neil Gunn.

As well as the wonderful wedding, this event had special significance for me as it was the first time I was with all my Irish siblings at the same time (I‘m not going into the history here, wait for the movie), so we were all looking forward to it, but that’s enough about me, this was Rachel’s (and Neil’s) day.

Most of the guests stayed in Cascais, not far from Lisbon, and we all met at the railway station to be picked up by coach for the 40 minute trip north to Mafra and the Quinta de Sant’Ana where the ceremony and celebration took place. A stunning venue in a beautiful location.

The actual ceremony was fairly brisk, with a reading by my brother Peter, and yours truly, amongst others. Rachel looked stunning, as did the bridesmaids, and Neil looked very chilled – which was nice. The atmosphere was very relaxed all round in fact, with no trace of bridezilla anywhere, considering how much work must have gone into the day, that’s quite an achievement in itself.

Out of the church, a few photos and then a short walk through the town to the Quinta. This place was gorgeous, with the only Portuguese Irish Band I’ve ever heard, wine-tasting, great food and even white doves flying overhead at just the right moment – I have visions of guys hiding around the back waiting for the signal to chuck ’em in the air. It was almost too perfect.

It was great to be with everyone for such a wonderful occasion and I even got a few mentions in the speeches, so I feel especially honoured. The icing on the cake though was the chance to get a photo of me with my Irish brother and sisters after all this time, so it really was a wonderful day – thank you Rachel (and Neil obviously).

You now, we should do this every year!

Chris