Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI: Blog https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog en-us (C) Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI (Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) Wed, 22 Nov 2023 12:59:00 GMT Wed, 22 Nov 2023 12:59:00 GMT https://www.dmfotoni.com/img/s/v-12/u23761446-o518528702-50.jpg Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI: Blog https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog 90 120 #DigitalNomadNI | Blog 089 | Motorhome Life in Northern Ireland https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2023/11/-digitalnomadni-blog-089-motorhome-life-in-northern-ireland I failed, and I failed miserably. I have done absolutely nothing in terms of anything I set out for myself in my last post. Dark Hedges? Nope, still not got near them. GoT Doors and sites, nope, not once did we embark on that adventure. The beaches? Oh, for sure we did a couple of those, but mostly the one less than 30 minutes away from here in Downhill. We mostly sat there during the summer and watched countless idiots discover that their vehicles are not great on soft sand, granted, a mistake I too have made, many many years ago in Castlerock.

So what's my excuse? Laziness, and the cost of living crisis.

Let me explain those two elements a little further. Laziness due in part because when I get parked up in a nice idilic spot, I just want to switch off and do bugger all. My drone has been out less that I intended, my photography has taken a back seat with my retiring from the wedding industry, and I just couldn't be arsed if I'm being really honest. It's only in the last few months that I've actually started personalising the van to our needs. Such as adding some hooks to hang stuff off, simple shit like that! Like seriously? Having built a camper from scratch, you'd think I'd be more invested in to the process, but nope. Okay, I did add some USB sockets to make life a little easier in terms of charging phones, but that was when we first bought it.

I added a new reading lamp above my bed, because I thought I was going to wreck the light fitting that wouldn't come off for ages, turns out, I just needed to a little more forceful, but, well, I had the new light, might as well fit it. It's snazzy, have to admit, and I now have 3 USB points near the rear shelving to charge stuff up, which has led to a new problem, leisure battery life. I'm going to have to add more of them next year. A bit of an investment, but one that's going to pay dividends on longer trips away.

I've replaced a toilet window, which just randomly fell off on our trip to Glencar, Ireland. I've had the water pump replaced, because I left water in the tanks over winter freezing it, and breaking it (I've probably mentioned that), and the last thing I've added is a mini projector to turn the motorhome into a cosy cinema, probably the best thing I've done!

I've had call outs for fix the fixed water pump, failed MOTs with the rear brakes (it's now back at the garage having those new brakes looked at, because they're noisy and dragging me back a little, to the tune of 3mpg loss, on average consumption), and fought leaks from the roof light.

So, it's not like I've been sat on my hoop this whole time, I have done stuff, I've just not documented any of it...

Moving on to the next element, the cost of living crisis.
Motorhome on a beachOn the beachDownhill Beach
What a time to invest in a motorhome hey? Fuel prices hikes, insurance costs rises, food costing more... Everything has just got harder! So, we've been sticking closer and closer to the house than we normally would have done last year. So, why drive for 2 hours to park up, when we could drive 23 minutes and be on a beach or on top of a mountain?

The downside of this that the local knobheads have a habit of driving past the van late at night and throwing eggs. Which is a pain in the arse to clean off the next day.

But it hasn't stopped us going on adventures with our friends, who also bought a motorhome this year, having rented one for the Coldplay Concert in Cardiff last June.

We met up with them in ours and had a few fun nights before heading on our separate ways, them back to Ireland, us up to Scotland for a few weeks. This weekend will probably be the last trip away, as the weather is closing in, it's not cheap to keep the van warm during the night AND the day!

I think we're all meeting up again in Dunfanaghy, County Donegal this Saturday, not sure yet, but that might be what's happening.

Will 2024 be any different? Will I be posting more content? I honestly don't know. I've 3 personal videos I've yet to edit and post dating back from January, the mojo has gone, guess I need to kick myself in the ass and motivate myself a little more.

The problem is I've got comfortable, and comfort is where passion dies. I know it, and I suspect you have gone through times in your life where you just can't be arsed too. As 2023 draws to a close, maybe I'll lean in to 2024 a little harder. Who knows...

What I have learned this year is that our local government could help the tourism sector a lot more, by simply having places for motorhome/camper travellers to get free fresh water, and a place to dump our waste. It seems the EU is way ahead on this, and it's a shame that more isn't being done to support the van life community, who do nothing more than spend in local little towns and do what they can to leave no trace.


(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) Adventure Beaches blog blogger Cost of living crisis darron darron mark Game of Thrones ireland Local government support mark motorhome Motorhome upgrades northern northern ireland photographer Road trip Tourism sector travelling Van life community vanlife https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2023/11/-digitalnomadni-blog-089-motorhome-life-in-northern-ireland Wed, 22 Nov 2023 12:58:38 GMT
#DigitalNomadNI | Blog 088 | Downhill Beach, Northern Ireland https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2023/5/-digitalnomadni-blog-088-downhill-beach-northern-ireland We've been coming to Downhill for years, but mainly to just chill out, not really spending that much time on it. That's always been the case until we purchased our latest motorhome, the Lunar Premier H622. A four-berth motorhome on a Renault chassis. Since buying it, we've noticed this beach offers a number of things we never thought about before such as:

  1. A strong WiFi signal, both on O2 and on EE (we use both for our digital nomad lifestyle)
  2. Toilet facilities (off the beach, but near the entrance) with clean drinking water
  3. A nearby cafe (Temple Cove)
  4. Dog bag and domestic waste disposal, both on and off the beach
  5. Overnight parking without restriction
  6. Outstanding views
  7. Super clean beach

Plus, there are shopping and fuel facilities not too far away in either direction. Compare this with Benone Beach

  1. No signal worth mentioning
  2. Toilet facilities (near the entrance)
  3. A coffee shop (take-away only)
  4. Limited waste disposal
  5. NO overnight parking (but people still do)
  6. Simple views of the sea
  7. Clean beach

The signal strength and the parking restrictions mean it's a 'No' from us when it comes to the very popular location of Benone. Back when Kathy and I got together, we would take the kids camping down there for days on end with our massive 9-man tent, and they loved it, that was all about the experience and making memories. But, they're all grown up and it's just down to the two of us with the dogs, Lucky and Milo. The kids just aren't interested in this lifestyle anymore, and point blank refuse to spend any time in the motorhome, which is fine I guess, means more room for us!

Droning and MotorhomingDroning and MotorhomingOne of the tools for documenting our nomadic life is the DJI Mini 3 Pro. One of the peculiar attractions to Downhill Beach is the recent phenomenon of 'Stuck-Car Watching' - Every day we've been here, without fail, there is always one driver who doesn't gauge the softness of the sand, and makes an attempt to drive through it and gets stuck. On one occasion, we counted 15 cars and I took the liberty of posting each and every one of them on my Instagram stories, and yes, in some of the more serious cases, I did assist in their recovery, I'm not a monster!

What's Happening With the VW?

The current update on the VW Camper is, we still have it, and we're going to be investing £1000 into its engine leak to satisfy those who come to purchase it. I'll also be having the timing belt and water pump changed, to double down on how solid this vehicle is. The interior is fantastic, and the bodywork is sound, just that little niggle of the oil leak needs resolved. Once that's done, it's going back on the market and I won't be taking any less than £8,000 for it.

The date it goes in for repairs/servicing is the 26th of May 2023, and then it goes back on the market with a video dedicated to the work that's been carried out and a full tour of what is in there to hopefully satisfy any would-be buyer.

In Other News

This motorhome has had a water leak issue since we purchased it, so we'll be leaving it off with the garage where we bought it, because, after a recent water pump repair, the water leak is now coming out from under the kitchen cabinets, which is a royal pain in the arse! It means we can't even flush the toilet without the dogs getting soaked, as it's near the kitchen where they sleep and spend most of their time. Everything is linked to that one water pump, the sinks, shower and the toilet!

Hopefully, it's repaired before our two-week break in England / Scotland which is coming up soon.

Anyway, just wanted to keep you all abreast of what's going on in our world, as well as this blog which I'll be back to update on a regular basis, the videos are starting to become more active again, with the latest video being published in the new playlist of New Adventures for 2023 - You'll see us experience life in the motorhome, traveling to new destinations and giving you an honest appraisal of what it was like being there, as well as updates on how we're getting on with this new motorhome.

Oh, and check out the video where I've reviewed these awesome URPRO camping chairs!


(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogger camper darron darron mark derry dji downhill beach ireland mark motorhome northern northern ireland photo photographer travel vanlife video youtube https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2023/5/-digitalnomadni-blog-088-downhill-beach-northern-ireland Mon, 15 May 2023 11:05:49 GMT
#DigitalNomadNI | Blog 087 | Travelling Around Northern Ireland - 2023 https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2023/3/-digitalnomadni-blog-087-travelling-around-northern-ireland---2023 I'm setting myself the task of documenting as much as possible this year, with my wife and I travelling to as many places as possible in our motorhome. We're going to be guided by the following: 

  1. Northern Ireland is home to the world's largest Titanic-themed visitor attraction. Located in Belfast, the Titanic Belfast is a must-visit destination for anyone travelling in a motorhome around Northern Ireland, we're going to therefore find the best spots for you to park up, and visit the centre and what to do from there in the evening, in and around Belfast City.

  2. Game of Thrones fans, you'll be thrilled to know that many of the show's iconic scenes were filmed in Northern Ireland. We're going to finally visit the Dark Hedges, the Cushendun Caves, and many other filming locations during our motorhome weekly tour.

  3. Northern Ireland is home to some of the most scenic coastal roads in the world, and the Causeway Coastal Route is a prime example. As we travel in our motorhome along this route, we'll pass by breathtaking views of rugged cliffs, pristine beaches, and quaint villages.

MotorhomeMotorhomeThe latest edition to the family The company I'm currently working for offers me the opportunity to literally work from anywhere in the world, so long as the tasks I've been given are getting done in a timely manner, I can do it from the motorhome, just as long as I have a strong data signal (3 bars minimum) I'm good to go.

This means, I'll be updating my YouTube once again, and even making a few 'shorts' for that channel too. Is there somewhere you think would be worthy of a stopover? Leave a comment below and we'll be sure to check it out.


(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogger darron darron mark derry digital nomad dji ireland londonderry mark motorhome northern northern ireland photo photographer photography remote travel vanlife working youtube https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2023/3/-digitalnomadni-blog-087-travelling-around-northern-ireland---2023 Fri, 17 Mar 2023 15:21:10 GMT
#DigitalNomadNI | Blog 086 | Working from anywhere https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2023/2/-digitalnomadni-blog-086-working-from-anywhere In recent years, the trend of remote work has become increasingly popular, and for good reason. The flexibility and convenience of being able to work from anywhere in the world is a major draw for many people, including those in the tech sector. For those looking for a unique and picturesque location, Northern Ireland is an excellent option. And for those looking for even more adventure, why not consider working from a motorhome?

Our motorhome parked at Gortmore ViewOur motorhome parked at Gortmore ViewHaving a motorhome (or camper) is an awesome way of exploring and working from anywhere in Northern Ireland (and beyond). Working from a motorhome in Northern Ireland is an excellent option for those looking to combine work with travel. Northern Ireland has a lot to offer, from the stunning Causeway Coastal Route to the vibrant cities of Belfast and Derry/Londonderry. Whether you are interested in hiking, cycling, or simply relaxing in a beautiful location, Northern Ireland has something for everyone.

There are a few things to consider when working from a motorhome in Northern Ireland. First and foremost, you will need a reliable internet connection. Many campsites and motorhome parks in Northern Ireland offer Wi-Fi, but it's always a good idea to double-check before you book. Alternatively, you could invest in a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, which would allow you to work from anywhere with a strong cellular signal. We typically use our iPhone's Personal Hotspot, but we did invest in a Mi-Fi device that allows you to purchase data through various providers should you find your own network to be too weak.

Gotmore ViewGotmore ViewExplore this amazing country, whilst working on the road! Another consideration is finding a comfortable and functional workspace within your motorhome. Depending on the size of your motorhome, this could be a challenge. However, with some creative thinking, it is possible to set up a comfortable and productive workspace. You could consider a fold-away desk or table, a comfortable cushion to aid in back support, and good lighting to create an environment that is conducive to work.

One of the benefits of working from a motorhome is the ability to change your location as often as you like. This means you can explore different parts of Northern Ireland and work from different scenic locations. Just be sure to plan your travel route in advance to ensure you have access to the necessary facilities and services, such as electricity and water, especially water, as we find we do tend to run out. One solution to this is to bring your own hose pipe, as some service stations offer a freshwater tap near the pumps, we've often used this as a way of topping up our tanks.

Finally, it's worth considering the practicalities of living in a motorhome. This includes things like cooking, cleaning, and waste disposal. While it may take some time to get used to, many people find that living in a motorhome is a liberating and enjoyable experience. This is going to be our long-term plan in the very near future. Expanding our range to the whole of the UK, and in time, Europe, as my role, in particular, allows me to work from anywhere in the world.

One tool which I've found to be invaluable is CaraMaps, which is a motorhome stop finder, where other motorhome owners have posted places they've stayed in and have then posted reviews, added pictures or if they've found it themselves, added it directly for others to find and stay. You can check out my profile there if you want to see where I've been in the past.

In conclusion, working from a motorhome in Northern Ireland can be a fantastic experience for those in the tech sector. With its stunning scenery, friendly locals, and excellent facilities, Northern Ireland is a great location for remote work. Just be sure to plan ahead, find a comfortable workspace, and enjoy the adventure of working from a motorhome.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogger camper darron darron mark derry digital nomad dji DJI Action DJI Mini 3 Pro DJI Pocket 2 limavady londonderry mark motorhome northern northern ireland photo photographer photography rode røde video videographer youtube https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2023/2/-digitalnomadni-blog-086-working-from-anywhere Tue, 28 Feb 2023 16:53:32 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 085 | Missing the Wedding Photography Action https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2023/2/Wedding_Photography_Blog_085_Missing_the_Wedding_Photography_Action As a photographer, the journey of finding your niche can be both exciting and challenging. For me, that niche was wedding photography. I had always been drawn to capturing the love and emotions of couples on their special day. However, after some time and effort in the industry, I made the difficult decision to give up on wedding photography due to a lack of bookings.

When I first started my photography business, I was eager to take on any and all photography jobs that came my way. I worked hard to build up my portfolio and establish a reputation as a reliable and skilled photographer. I knew that wedding photography was a competitive field, but I was determined to make a name for myself having moved into the North West, I was making some traction too in the greater Derry area, and over the years it was slowly but surely ticking along, but then COVID hit.

Once the restrictions were lifted, I started by offering affordable rates to build up my clientele, and while I did manage to book a few weddings, it wasn't enough to sustain my business. I tried different marketing strategies and even collaborated with local vendors, but the bookings still didn't come in as I had hoped. Eventually, I had to accept that wedding photography just wasn't working out for me in this neck of the woods.

While it was disheartening to give up on a field I was passionate about, I knew that I needed to pivot and focus on other areas of photography that were more in demand. Instead of dwelling on my disappointment, I decided to take the opportunity to explore different genres and styles of photography. This allowed me to expand my skill set and find new avenues for success.

Looking back, I realize that giving up on wedding photography was a tough but necessary decision. As a photographer, it's important to be adaptable and willing to try new things. It's not always easy to let go of a dream or a goal, but sometimes it's the best thing you can do for yourself and your business.

If you're a photographer facing a similar situation, don't be afraid to re-evaluate your goals and explore new avenues. Remember, success doesn't always come in the way you expect it to. Keep pushing yourself, and you'll eventually find your niche.

I've leaned more toward stock photography and video, especially utilising my DJI Mini Pro 3 as a more beneficial long-term financial plan, sure, it's a slow burn to build up, but I'm finding more and more ways to generate an income from this avenue, and it's certainly a lot less stressful. 

There are plenty of stock sites to choose from to publish your work, you should certainly look at it even from a secondary income point of view.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogger darron darron mark derry dji DJI Action DJI Mini 3 Pro DJI Pocket 2 londonderry mark northern northern ireland photo photographer photography rode røde video videographer wedding weddings youtube https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2023/2/Wedding_Photography_Blog_085_Missing_the_Wedding_Photography_Action Tue, 21 Feb 2023 12:59:20 GMT
#MusicPhotography | Blog 084 | Getting Off My Ass https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2022/9/-musicphotography-blog-084-getting-off-my-ass

I'm sure we can all admit it to some degree, but COVID changed us all. Lockdowns, parties behind closed doors (No.10), illness, deaths, the world got scary for a good while. We did the vaccinations, we travelled around wearing masks, and the numbers haven't stopped, people are still dying from this virus at the same rates, but we just don't talk about it anymore.

The real effect this has had on me has been my loss of motivation to do anything that requires me to leave the house. Sure, we're travelling a bit more in the camper (which is still for sale by the way), but that doesn't feel like I'm actively doing anything other than working from a smaller space and maybe eating out a bit more. What I'm really struggling with is going to gigs to photograph them again, which I have to say, I did enjoy doing on Saturday night for Chordblossom. In fact, I combined my two past times, one for travelling about in the camper and the other, for actually using my camera gear. Parking up on Exchange Street, just off Corporation Street in Belfast meant I could be within walking distance of the Oh Yeah Centre and stay the night, for free as there are no charges after a certain point and you can stay for free on Sundays. So... Guess what we'll be doing more of in the future?

KlydaKlyda4 piece indie rock band from Belfast. The shoot itself was okay, but the lighting wasn't great, to begin with, has to be said. The front lights were set to orange, which made the performers look like Umpa Lumpas, so I had a word with the guy who was handling the sound and it seemed he was also taking care of the lights, he gave me a grumpy nod to change them, which he did to a low level white. Not a great improvement overall, but at least workable. Lighting is so important for gigs, especially for the photographic end of things. Sometimes you have to work with what you have and sometimes you have to avoid venues altogether because of the shocking way they're lit, I'm talking about you Sandinos!

Chilling between acts Cloakroom Q and Susie Blue I did manage to have a catch-up with Susie, who I haven't seen on stage since 2018 at Stendhal, not to say she hasn't been on stage, just that I've not bumped into her since then. She'll be in Derry performing next week, unfortunately, I'll be in Bulgaria then, so won't be able to catch the show again.

Shoot over, I packed up and wandered back over to the van with the full intention of flying the DJI Mini Pro 3 drone around the night skies of Belfast. I checked flight restrictions and nothing was overtly showing as a high risk (airports) warning. However, there's a blanket no-fly zone that my drone would not overwrite or give me authorisation to fly in. Absolutely gutted! I wasn't too far from the Albert Clock and that was my intended photographic target, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. So, I put all the drone stuff away and settled in for the night with a few beers that had been chilling in the fridge and ordered myself a takeaway to be delivered directly to the van, in the car park. Within 10 minutes I was chomping down on a Hawaiian Burger with Garlic Fries. You've got to love cities for their food delivery offerings, unlike where we currently live, little to no choice other than an Indian or Chinese takeaway.

Anyway, where was I..? Ahh yes, back to getting motivated. Once I'm back from my travels to Bulgaria and London in the next few weeks, I will be making more of an effort to get out there again, I even activated my photography Instagram account, if you fancy following me on that, just for an outlet to post some post-gig images. Right, time I got sorted with prepping the van for our next 3 day away adventure. Of which I have no clue as to where we're going, but who cares, so long as we're actually going.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogger darron darron mark derry dji ireland londonderry mark northern northern ireland photo photographer photography https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2022/9/-musicphotography-blog-084-getting-off-my-ass Mon, 19 Sep 2022 11:17:48 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 083 | VW-T4 Camper For Sale https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2022/9/-vanlife-blog-083-vw-t4-camper-for-sale

Well, that didn't take long, did it? Me, selling the VW-T4 Camper, the star of its own YouTube Channel. I can hardly believe it myself if I'm being totally honest with you. One day we're chilling by a fire pit at the side of the van enjoying some random river or sea view (I can't even remember) and then we drive home and swing by a local motorhome retailer in Limavady and commit to buying a hugely expensive 4-berth motorhome with the one thing we're after... More floor space.

My beloved VW-T4 camper at Benone beach.More or less the day she was nearly finishedMy beloved VW-T4 camper at Benone beach. Now, when it's just me and the other half, the van is absolutely perfect, add Milo (he's a Pug / Jack Russel cross), still good cause he's only a wee fart of a dog, but when you throw in the other four-legged family member, Lucky, that's when the frustration kicks in. She's just too big. Weighing at nearly 8st and 5ft tall when upright, she takes up nearly 50% of the floor through no fault of her own. She's a Lab/Alsation cross, the deepest of barks you'll ever hear, but with nothing but love in her heart, so with much reluctance, I'm selling the camper so that she can have the space she needs to move about, and not get under our feet.

To be fair, Lucky has adapted well to the camper, she's learned to step back from the fridge door when Daddy wants in, and she tuckers herself under the rock 'n roll bed when it's time to go to sleep. The problem is, you're always fearful of stepping on her when you wake in the night to use the Porta-Potti, and once that bed is out, you have to think carefully about where you stand, as there aren't that many options.

So what have we bought I hear you ask (those damn voices)? Well, we haven't got it yet, still waiting on the finances to be approved, but we've only gone and got ourselves this yoke to the right. Fiat Lunar PremierFiat Lunar PremierProbably the newest motorhome we've owned.

Again, we had a wish list of things we wanted, but the priority was always going to be floor space for Lucky, and this literally has heaps of it. A fixed rear bed, which means the wife can sleep on for longer if she wants. I can move into the 'lounge area' which is essentially near the front bit that has a sofa, table and chairs I can work from. The bathroom and separate shower area are accessible and I can even make a cuppa and not disturb the dogs or Kathy. Everyone is a winner. We're hoping to have it by mid-next week (September 2022), but we'll see. No rush as we've another big thing happening... We're moving to Ballykelly too! Again, I kid you not, this is for floor space again, but of a different kind. Upper floors.

We currently live snuggly in a bungalow, but with 2 teenage girls, with next to no real privacy, as they have to walk across the main hall to use the bathroom/shower, adding to the reality that boys are going to be on the scene, plus music and just well, hey, girls being girls, we felt it was time to move to a house with actual stairs in it. However, we found a house with not just one flight of stairs, but two! We're moving to a 3-story townhouse (subject to contracts etc) which will mean, I and my good lady will be occupying the ground floor, the main living area and kitchen (and a large bathroom) are on the 1st floor, and the girls will have the two large rooms upstairs that have ensuite bathrooms and there's even an extra spare room for when my kids come visiting.

Farmer at workFarmer at workFarmer at work We're all super excited about lots of different things. It's almost like we're living the life we wanted for ourselves when we retire, but we're doing it now. I'm back out doing photography and drone work with my sub 250g unrestricted DJI Mini Pro 3, footage of which I'm capturing is currently going through the process of being quality reviewed so that I can sell stock video, I'm blasting out images left right and centre from the various locations we've been parked in. This tractor image you see on the left, I didn't even have to leave the garden to get it, he was right next to my house going about his own business when I captured him at work.

With my last wedding, I'll be photographing just a month away, I didn't want to totally walk away from photography. I still enjoy the odd gig here and there, the odd festival, but truth be told, I'm getting too old to be running up and down alters photographing couples. The craic was mighty, has to be said, and I do get a buzz out of doing them, but this stuff, writing, drone photography, stock video capture, this is where I'm going now. I'm even back to writing reviews for restaurants again, that's how much I've missed writing.

The day job gives me the freedom (and financial security) to work from anywhere. My wife is happy, the girls are going to be much happier, my children will have a decent space to stay in when they come to visit, and with a bigger rig to travel about it, and the ability to bring the dogs, it won't feel like we're just slumming it in the back of what is essentially a weekend away camper. We'll still have our fire pit nights sitting by the motorhome watching the sun go down, the dogs by our sides as we enjoy a cold drink. This way though, I'll be able to get up in the morning and continue my weight loss journey because I'll have a proper stove to cook from, a kitchen to work in, and a proper fridge to store the types of food I should be eating, not the junk I have been eating. Plus, I'll be able to shower that campfire smoke from my scalp (I don't have hair as you already know) and feel like a proper member of society, should I wish to do people stuff.

2021 started off okay for me, working away on the buses, completed that camper van, which I was really getting the benefit from, my eldest getting married, and then, back to an old company I'd previously worked at towards the later part of the year. Scotland for 3 weeks in 2022, a new granddaughter, a promotion and a transfer to a job I simply adore, and now we're moving home, selling the camper and buying a motorhome to create even more adventures and memories, and have the ability to spend more time with my family without worrying about the costs of kenneling the dogs, as they'll be coming with us, as we'd always intended when we retire.

Life is for living, you have to squeeze your dreams in where you can, and simply do what makes you happy. What are you doing to make you happy?

If you're interested in buying the camper, you can see further details here: VW T4 Camper (LWB High Top) If it's still listed when you read this, then it's still for sale.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogger camper conversion darron darron mark derry dji gumtree high top ireland londonderry mark motorhome northern northern ireland photographer photography sale travel van for sale van life vanlife video vw t4 wedding weddings youtube https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2022/9/-vanlife-blog-083-vw-t4-camper-for-sale Wed, 14 Sep 2022 03:45:07 GMT
#WeddingVideography | Blog 082 | Filming a wedding video with a DJI Pocket 2 https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2022/6/-weddingvideography-blog-082-filming-a-wedding-video-with-a-dji-pocket-2 Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I'd be attempting to film a wedding with a DJI Pocket 2 camera system! But last weekend I did just that.

Why did I even attempt such a thing?

Okay, the booking was initially meant to be a simple photoshoot, yet at the last minute (well, a few weeks' notice) the couple reached out to see if I'd be able to add a video service to the day too. I have a wedding coming up at the end of the month, and I've been considering upgrading my old DJI OSMO & DJI OSMO Plus systems to something more compact. The vlogging camera I use is the DJI Action camera along with the Røde MicroMic, and I love it. It's very versatile, and gives excellent video results, so, with the handy gimble being inbuilt, and the mini screen, the Pocket 2 was on my radar. I'd been holding off because the previous version didn't support remote control over WiFi that the OSMOs did, it wasn't until I caught a glimpse of a YouTube video talking about the 'Do It All' adaptor that comes with the combo pack that I realised, the Pocket 2 was back on my good favours.

Anyway, back to the story. The couple was getting married in The Guildhall in Derry's city centre. A notoriously hard place to park near, with their reception being held at the Thirsty Goat at the bottom of Shipquay Street, less than 5 minutes walk away, again, very restrictive when it comes to parking. Carting all the gear required to film this wedding was going to be an absolute nightmare for me, seeing as I'm basically a one-man band. I have a great little chest-type bag that I can store the basics in, as well as my Røde Go II microphones, so the Pocket 2 would sit nicely in there, and I could attach a mini-tripod to the bottom straps, as well as keep my hands free to photograph the day.

I simply couldn't afford to bring anything else with me, for fear of losing kit, or one of the many tourists visiting the Guildhall buggering off with some of my gear as I was darting about the place taking pictures. Everything and I mean everything, had to be strapped to me between scenes. I brought my DJI Action camera for a different angle on a Gorilla Pod, placing that at the front window ledge covering the action over the Registrar's shoulder. I then had the Pocket 2 on the tripod to the front side of the bride, so that should she move out of the scene, I could remotely control the camera using the Mimo App on my smartphone, all the while moving about behind the gathered guests taking pictures, essentially acting like a Ninja.

What are the results?

Well, it's too early to say, but the editing process has begun and I'm struck by just how well it worked in low light and adjusted to bright lights when moving outside. I got a little fancy with a virtual walkthrough of the Guildhall using the FPV gimbal setting, we'll see if that works its way into the final cut, probably not, but it was still fun to give that a whirl.

What I loved a lot about this little camera is that I was able to basically pull through the bridal flowers to reveal the bouquet like I was some sort of mini drone. Again, we'll see if that makes an appearance in the final video, it allowed me to be much more creative, and also a little less obtrusive than what a normal dSLR or my Canon Video Camera system would allow.

I filmed the whole day in 4k 60fps with a 256MB MicroSD. The battery did start to fail towards the end of the night, so I'll be bringing an extra powerpack in the backpack (already packed in there now) so that I can charge it during the reception dinner, granted, a rookie mistake. But, I did manage to capture everything I wanted to capture, so I'm not worried on that front. The MicroSD did a sterling job of capturing the footage, with no lags/buffers or warnings, so I definitely picked the right one there. I also had no chance of filling it to the max, so that's good.

I even managed to utilise the magnetic Wide Angle Lens that the camera came with, would I use the ND filters? I'm not sure I honestly need them for the type of video I'm making, plus, it would be one more thing to have to find a space for within my very limited-sized bag. I'm trying to keep things simple as I slowly transition out of the business over the next 4 months.

The camera will be used a lot more when we're out and about in the van travelling, as well as my long-anticipated DJI Mini 3 Pro, which I'm still waiting to arrive, having already sold my Mavic Pro. Could be a few more weeks, judging by the estimated date of delivery that Amazon is giving me. Not much I can do about that now. Patience maketh the man and all that.

I think I've just about watched every video out there on this little drone, all I need now is to get my hands on it!

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogger darron darron mark derry dji DJI Action DJI Mini 3 Pro DJI Pocket 2 londonderry mark northern northern ireland photo photographer photography rode røde video videographer wedding weddings youtube https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2022/6/-weddingvideography-blog-082-filming-a-wedding-video-with-a-dji-pocket-2 Mon, 20 Jun 2022 16:12:54 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 081 | End of an era (again) https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2022/6/-weddingphotography-blog-081-end-of-an-era-again I've had some serious 'wobbles' about this part of my business, purely due to a lack of activity on the bookings and obviously, people's plans have changed drastically over the last number of years because of COVID. Since the start of 2022, I've had one new enquiry/booking, to me, the writing is on the wall, it's basically over for me in this sector.

What does this mean?

Well, I have 3 more bookings left to complete this year, and those lucky brides and grooms will get the usual excellent service that I've always offered, which has included:

  • Super fast turnaround of images (typically within 24 hours of the wedding)
  • Professional web services that include downloads, prints and much much more
  • Smartphone App that allows you to view your images wherever you go
  • A bit of craic on the day!

My history

The business was born of necessity, as I had to transition away from a full-time role in sales to move back to England to look after my terminally ill mother. I had a passion for photography, always had from when I was no age, plus I had a good rapport with people, all I had to do was do a deep dive on what it was you had to do to become a photographer. This involved buying book upon book on posing, composition, and the technicalities of the hardware available to get the shot and style that would define me as a photographer. I got busy, putting myself out there by networking! I knew how to market myself as I'd been doing it for years in previous roles. My first couple of gigs were some PR work for the local PR agency, even had those pictures published in the local press (no credit), it was such a buzz. Getting paid to take photographs! What was not to love?

Sadly, the momentum I'd built up over a short period of time was to grind to an abrupt halt, with the passing of my Mam (we use 'a' in the North of England for Mum) years ahead of her prognosis. She was such a massive part of my life, my number one fan and I took her death badly. Thankfully, the company I worked for previously asked me to come back a few months later. They were such a massive help on my road to recovery, both emotionally and financially. Unfortunately, the economy was to take a massive downturn in 2008, and the company had to pull the reigns in. It was a survival strategy and I would have done the same! There were no hard feelings at all, and by all accounts, they survived and have thrived ever since.

Again, the camera came to the rescue.

I saw an ad in a local newspaper looking for a staff photographer and I threw my hat into the ring. Thankfully, my experience working with a PR agency in England got me the job. I had a great editor (who is still a good friend) who gave me a good deal of advice and guidance and got me on my way, working with the public.

My private business started to kick off too in the greater County Down area, I had a good network of friends and fellow photographers and the craic was amazing. Sadly, as newspapers started to struggle with sales, a lot of those staff photographers were let go, instead, they had to transition to the freelance market, and for some, retirement wasn't too far away anyway and they hung up their cameras. Me, well, I moved to the North West just before the press exodus, having found love and started a new life here in the greater Derry area.

That was 12 years ago. I've been fortunate enough to establish a more of a musical slant to my target market. The BBC have utilised my images/skills, and some local festivals too (Stendhal being one of them - who I'm a massive fan of!), I even dabbled in aerial photography, seeing some of my images published around the world, much to my bank balances delight.

However, the wedding business never really took off. I'd gone from 20 to 30 bookings a year in the County Down area down to close to 10 here in the County Londonderry/Derry area. COVID kicked the businesses arse, 2019/2020/2021 pretty much killed it on all fronts. Thankfully, I transitioned from online work to bus driving with Translink, then back again to online work, which is where I'm at now, online working for a great American owned organisation, which again is utilising my skills in writing, photography, and videography. It's almost like, everything I've gone through, learned and attempted have led me to this point.

2020/2021 saw me build out my camper van, and in October when I took up this current role, it gave me an opportunity to actually work from it! All I needed was a decent 4G network signal and I'm golden. We've travelled around Ireland, England and Scotland in the van, and I've been able to attend online meetings and complete all the projects I'm involved with, whilst sitting in the back of my hard work, I was never a fan of an office environment, so this job suits me to a tee!

This is why I'm not sad to see the wedding business die out. I'm actually happy with the way things have turned out.

It's been fun. I've met some amazing people on this journey, I've seen people enjoying what would be the best day of their life, and I've some stories to tell my grandchildren, such as the time a bride.... not for disclosure here...

Some of my camera gear is going on sale (not all of it, not until the last wedding is over), mostly the video equipment I no longer need. I'm downsizing some of the tech as new innovations have come into the marketplace, such as the DJI Mini Pro 3, and the DJI Pocket 2, just so I can have it all handy (and small) in the van for when we go on our travels/adventures for my 'other' YouTube channel.

What will I see on this blog in the future?

The short answer is, I have no clue. I've two blogs on the go at the moment, this one, and one on my personal weight loss journey. You can check that one out here: https://www.myfitnesspal.com/blog/dmfotoni - I'll probably keep posting van stuff, tech stuff and my other ramblings on things that are going on in my day.

How long will this site be available?

I've no immediate plans to sunset this website/domain. So for any brides who have yet to order prints, you've plenty of time to do that. I'm still active in the music sector, and I'm also going to be taking advantage of this new drone sub 250g freedoms and posting some new images (once it arrives) on the drone section of this site.

I really can't wait to get my hands on this little thing (that's what she said), I've probably watched every influencer video on the device going, and nothing has put me off at all.

Wouldn't mind being an influencer to that brand myself if I'm being honest.

Anyway, here's to the next chapter in the life of a 'non-specific-jobbing-photographer' on the loose. I'll keep you posted here (if you're remotely interested), and I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogger camper darron darron mark derry dji dji mini 3 pro dji pocket 2 ireland londonderry mark northern northern ireland photo photographer photography travel vanlife wedding weddings youtube https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2022/6/-weddingphotography-blog-081-end-of-an-era-again Thu, 02 Jun 2022 12:20:40 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 080 | VW-T4 Camper "The Big 50 Tour" https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2022/6/-vanlife-blog-080-vw-t4-camper-the-big-50-tour Day1: With a 15:30 ferry crossing on a very chopping Irish Sea, we landed in Scotland just after 6 pm and headed South. It's been well over 8 years since I headed in that direction as we usually take a left turn out of the port and head for Glasgow, in this instance, we were travelling towards the Lake District. Our first stopover was determined by the fantastic App park4night that highlights great spots for campers to stay across Europe. The information it provides covers such things as parking costs, limitations on whether you can sleep over or not, what's local to do, and the best parking spaces within a particular destination.

We plumbed for Keswick town centre, more specifically the Co-Op car park where it was said would cost you £1 to park overnight, with the added convenience of having a supermarket less than 50 feet away to buy supplies, which we did. The two 'Pay and Display' machines were out of order, which to my mind is a win! So free parking it was. Having sorted out the living accommodation for the evening, we looked for a nice place to relax and enjoy a pint, settling on the Bank Tavern. This was a real oldie world type bar with exposed beams, wooden floors and packed with trekkers slash hillwalkers who'd obviously been out enjoying the fantastic scenery has to offer. We're not so inclined, opting more for a more sedentary lifestyle of finding places to chill and relax, which this bar certainly had in abundance. Drinks-wise, in terms of cost we paid a little over £10 for a Guinness and Gordon's Gin and lemonade, we'll be basing our expenses overhead on this metric :-)

Having had a few settlers, and enjoying the company of those fitter than us, and their pets (as this whole town seems to be dog friendly (so long as you don't allow them to lie on the carpet)), we made our way back to the van for a few more sociables and listened to some music before sorting out the van for bedtime.

Keswick Town CentreKeswick Town CentreKeswick on a cold January morning. Day2: As it was still Sunday, neither of us had any work to do, so, once we'd sorted out the van back into 'Day Mode' we dressed and headed back into Keswick in search of somewhere to have breakfast. This is where the confusion of the situation started to appear. In any hotel in Ireland, you can walk in and enjoy breakfast along with the residents, not so in Keswick. Repeatedly we were turned away as breakfast was only on offer to residents, which strikes me as foolish. The hotel industry has been on its knees since COVID, so you would assume they'd be glad to make any money being offered, no matter how it was earned, so refusing custom to visitors when they already have a fully staffed kitchen and waiting staff seemed a little odd.

Sunday morning in any tourist spot we would expect to find an abundance of premises offering food, not so here. We did eventually find a small cafe, which again catered for dogs, and ordered breakfast. A little on the expensive side has to be said, but tasty nonetheless. Once that was out of the way, we made our way back through the town, peering in through the countless hiking shop windows, taken aback at some of the prices people are prepared to pay for waterproof jackets and the like. Our next destination was Blackpool.

Blackpool TowerBlackpool TowerThe famous Blackpool Tower My only experience of Blackpool was as a child, and it was always cold, raining and not a very pleasant experience. I didn't hold out much hope for this trip either, but, foolishly I'd suggested it to Kathy (my wife) and she'd said she'd never been but had always wanted to go. Which is why it was on the tick list.

Our two-hour journey through the lake district was lovely, the VW-T4 managed the undulating hills without a hiccup. We even managed a few returned waves from fellow VW camper van drivers, which was super nice.

I found a suitable parking spot not far from the tower, as many of the spaces were off-limits due to height restriction barriers. Fees were a little steep and the website booking sites for card payments did not offer a 'stop paying' feature, it was all pay-in-advance as you would at a pay and display machine with cash.

Having secured the van, we headed straight to the tower!

In my previous childhood visits, we never went into the tower, it was always viewed from ground level. Prior to our arrival, I did look up the opening times and found that it was only open at the weekends between 10 am and 4 pm. The cost as an adult to go to the viewing area at the top was £16.20 each, which also included a 4D cinema experience, which was short-lived but still fun. Then up the lift, we went!

The down view through the glass at Blackpool TowerThe down view through the glass at Blackpool TowerYou can stand on the glass viewing deck and look straightdown. The lift takes a little over 60 seconds to ascend 300 feet to the first-floor viewing area. Here, you'll have the ability to look through the glass floor to the streets below, the sensation is very weird, you're fearful of falling along with placing trust in this inch thick safety glass is certainly in conflict. Kathy did venture on it briefly but instead chose the safety of solid floor coverings. There are bar facilities on this level, however, they were closed, possibly due to COVID, but you're there so you can get a 360 view of the surrounding area, not a pint. There are stairs available taking you higher still, which we took advantage of, another open deck meant you felt the wind smack your face, plus an even higher level available, which again we went up to. The views were amazing, well over 400ft, so very much higher than my drone wouldn't have been able to capture. Which, incidentally, I had in the van the whole time and never flew. I'll get into that in more detail in my next post.

Anyway, having 'done the tower' we made our way back down and out through the visitor gift store, yes, we bought a fridge magnet. That seems to be our thing these days, finding the local gift shop to purchase the local magnet to bring back to our fridge. This started in our old motorhome. The fridge had a metal door, so all our magnets would stick to it, but since we've now sold that, the magnets now reside on our home fridge, in various states of damage from being knocked off and chipped and damaged, some are just clattered in superglue. 

The plan was to stay in Blackpool overnight, but because of the very restrictive parking in the town, I thought it would be better to just make our way over to Darlington (our next stop) and grab dinner and stay there. Which is what we did. It felt strange coming 'home' to my place of birth has not been there for getting on 8 years. I went to what used to be the small village of Middleton-Saint-George, only to find that it had expanded beyond its boundaries from when I was last there. New builds, new road layouts, new shops, everything just seemed less village'esk, and more, town orientated. I eventually found my mother's childhood home, and I reminisced about visiting there as a child when my parents would take us back to visit my Auntie who had taken on the home after her parents had passed. I'd never met my grandparents from my mother's side, as they were basically gone by the time of my arrival. The house seemed 'smaller' than I remember, it had always felt so big when we were children, but that's probably everybody's experience, isn't it?

Having done that little tour, we decided on The Old Farmhouse. This again has a little history for me, as in the month before my first marriage I worked there to get some more funds together to cover the cost of the wedding, so it was nice to come back and find that not much had changed in terms of layout. Obviously, with my first wedding taking place some 28 years previously, nobody was going to remember my little 4-week stint, but still, it was nice to come back. The food was nice enough, and the parking to the rear was free and uninterrupted, apart from the wind. But all in all, it was a great start to our trip in England, before heading up North to Scotland.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) 50 birthday tour blackpool blackpool tower blog camper camper van covid darron mark keswick park4night photographer photography tour tourism vw wild camping https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2022/6/-vanlife-blog-080-vw-t4-camper-the-big-50-tour Thu, 02 Jun 2022 10:53:18 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 079 | VW-T4 Camper Conversion Complete https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2022/1/-vanlife-blog-079-vw-t4-camper-conversion-complete

Over the past 12 to 18 months I've been busy with the VW-T4 build, all of which can be seen on my YouTube channel (hit the video playlist below).

It's been an absolute labour of love for me, learning new skills, meeting new people, connecting with hundreds of other like-minded individuals on Instagram through my other profile (@Rookie_VW_T4), which you're more than welcome to come and take a look at (if that's your thing).

With all that in mind, it was a joyous and also sad time when I realised it had all come to an end, essentially, the build is over, and it's now time to start enjoying my endeavours out on the open road.

Whilst I'd been building out our van, my wife had been working overtime on and off with her own job to build up enough funds to take us both away to Thailand to celebrate my half-century birthday. However, having experienced a short trip to Amsterdam and all that entailed with COVID rules and regulations, testing, and the changing nature of governmental responses, we decided not to go ahead with those plans, instead, we'd do a road trip across the UK (mainly the North of England and Scotland), which is where I'm typing this today, from a Beefeater in Darlington, 3 days into our Big 50 Tour!

Having started our journey in County Donegal on Friday night with the sole purpose of fueling up the van (£99) to the top, we then set off for the Stena Line ferry in Belfast to Scotland the following day. In preparation for our long haul journey, I visited our local tyre garage to get the rear valves fixed, as I'd foolishly purchased one of those cheap pressure sensor kits and couldn't get the security nuts off the valves to pump up my tyres. In them changing the valves they found two slow punctures, so that was fixed, however, not before my gear selector failed on route to the tyre place. So, I had to slowly divert in 3rd gear to my other mechanic who helped me put on the new selector kit.

Peter my Mechanic worked his magic on the van, easing the little hard silicone ball into position by first popping it into boiling hot water to soften it up and make it more pliable.

A healthy dose of copper grease mixed with oil (he swears by it), along with some brute force and a large crowbar and we were good to go!

But, just like us men, when we visit the doctor it's usually when we're suffering a whole host of ailments that we feel we shouldn't be bothering them with, we blurt them all out while we're there.

Peter was good enough to help me remove my after-market DRL lights so we could get to the high-beam bulb that had blown a good 4 months earlier. Driving down country roads at night was like trying to navigate by candlelight in a storm! These DRL's aren't the brightest on the old looms, and I'm not going to bother upgrading them as it's just a wiring nightmare in there already. We couldn't access the rear of the light fitting with the unit in place, so off came the front grill; out came the headlamp and an H1 bulb swapped out for a new one, making me road legal again, ready to brave the dark country roads of England and Scotland.

With the van being finished, up to a point, there was always a few things that needed the final flourishes, such as window covers for the nighttime heat retention and privacy. Blinds for the sliding door, and a Jackery Explorer 1000 for backup battery power and something to plug our laptops into. The previous two weekends have been a flurry of activity in and around the van. I managed to wire in a second-hand Maypole LED Lightbar, fit a direct feed into my Campark DC40 dashcam to control it from a rocker switch in the dashboard, which looks so much more preferable to having power cables hanging down from the camera into a 12v socket, fitting of the IKEA blind to the side window, as well as the purchased sliding door window mount.

As with all things, there's always a problem isn't there? I ordered the window mount with the intention of fitting the blind behind it. But, I hadn't factored in the window mounts to the blind! They're longer than I thought they would be and poke too far forward for the plyboard to be fitted securely to the door frame, so that's £55 wasted. Also, whilst were using the van and the blind, I need some velcro straps to secure it when driving and just generally using the van, as the opening and closing of the van door is putting pressure on the material, as it's obviously only ever intended to go up and down, not side to side. Back to Amazon I go for those as they just don't seem to be available anywhere in the real world shopping environment.

More posts are to follow, expanding on the adventure we're having across the UK for the Big 50 Tour, be sure to keep up to date!



(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) amazon belfast blog blogger build campark dc40 dashcam camper conversion county donegal england gear selector hightop holiday IKEA jackery explorer 1000 maypole led lightbar northern Ireland rocker switch scotland the big 50 tour vlog vlogger vw t4 white van' youtube https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2022/1/-vanlife-blog-079-vw-t4-camper-conversion-complete Mon, 31 Jan 2022 13:57:57 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 078 | VW-T4 Camper Conversion https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2021/6/-vanlife-blog-078-vw-t4-camper-conversion Rookie VW-T4Rookie VW-T4Dramatic Sky Shot I'm going to be writing a bit more about our adventures in the world of campervanning (is that even a word?) on the island of Ireland (that's both North & South for those of us who live here). I know it's not really wedding focussed, or even photography based content, which is why, if you're interested in this sort of lifestyle, you might be interested in signing up to my new email subscription service on SendFox.

The sign-up page for that is above.

Once you sign-up, you'll be able to get notifications of my latest video upload to my Rookie VW-T4 page, as well as news and stories of events that we'll be discussing on our new Facebook Page VeeDub Camper Club.

If you're in to wild camping in a van, or just want to hang out on the beach with a fire going and some beers, then this is place to join. We'll be arranging 'club meets' up and down the country for people who own VW campers, or people who are interested in converting a VW into a camper, as there's loads of us with experience in this area in the Facebook Group, plus you can watch me in on my YouTube channel making a complete hash of my own endeavours to covert my lovely VW T4 in to a space to sleep, rest and explore.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) beaches camper conversion camper van campers camping diy gatherings ireland meet-up northern ireland rookie vw-t4 self build van life vw vw camper vw t4 https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2021/6/-vanlife-blog-078-vw-t4-camper-conversion Thu, 17 Jun 2021 16:00:23 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 077 | VW-T4 Camper Conversion https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2020/12/-vanlife-blog-077-vw-t4-camper-conversion Imagine, a few years ago I attempted (albeit poorly) to build out an Iveco Daily LWB camper into something more suitable to me. Needless to say, I failed, and I failed HARD! A few years on, older and less wiser some would say, I'm back at it again, only this time I'm actually much further on than I ever imagined.

The vehicle undergoing this camper transformation is a 1998 1.9d ABL VW-T4 Transporter and I've named him Rookie. Now, some people give their vans and vehicles a female gender, but I'm a getting a dude vibe of my van. He's been through the wars during his 22 years on the road, had dubious modifications made (such as an illegal fuel tank addition so that a previous owner could run it on red diesel without being caught), a bunch of weird wiring attachments made (which I've stripped out) and a bucket full of dust behind the dash from its time roaming building sites. Rookie and I are on a journey of discovery. I'm learning all about how to build a camper, and it's learning that it's got a new lease of life, and someone willing to spend a shit tonne of money him, which was a discovery to me too hahaha.

Where are we at right now?

Well, I have a joiner coming tomorrow to fit a countertop I purchased from a local kitchen supply company, also to build me a small cabinet at the rear to house the gas bottle (which I'll need to drill a hole out for) and to cut a shape out the top for the sinker/cooker unit I've already got. He's also going to be building me an 'under-bed slide-out drawer' to house my gear, what gear is as yet undecided. I was thinking of camera gear, but I'm swaying to more outdoor types of things, like a picnic table and chairs for those summer evenings at the beach with the wife. I think I'll just have to wait and see. 

We can but dream of summer can we not? Besides, with the way this COVID is going, I doubt many of us will be boarding any planes any time soon, so what better way to enjoy some free time than to travel in your own hotel around your own back yard?

A quick breakdown of what I've done so far:

  1. Total Insulation of the underfloor, walls and behind all the panels.
  2. Recarpeting of said panels and exposed wall areas, the front of the cab too.
  3. Repainting of some interior elements away from the light grey to black (I've still the door cards to do yet)
  4. Lighting fitted which also included a handy remote control.
  5. New over the cab storage space built by my neighbour.
  6. Chinese Diesel Heater installed under the driver seat. My only regret on this front is that I could have moved it back slightly more, but it's in now.
  7. IKEA kitchen units built and scribed into position. Just need to put the marine catches on the doors and drawers to stop them opening when going round corners.
  8. Flooring repaired and relayed.
  9. Rock & Roll bed built and installed.
  10. Rear reading light installed (the second one will be going in once the gas bottle cabinet is built)
  11. Passenger seat swivel base installed.
  12. Leisure battery installed and some of the electrics have been done.
  13. New fancy headlights installed to give it a more modern look.
  14. Brakes have been serviced, as they were as woolly as my wife's bobble hat.

There is still a whole pile of other items to be checked off the list that I never made, such as the gas piping to be done, an instrument panel to be wired up correctly (need new cabling for that though), a pull-out drawer to be made for a fridge I've yet to purchase (after Christmas probably) and curtains to be made, as well as a window frame for the side sliding door. All of which will be filmed as has been done on my YouTube channel specifically for this build.

Check it out, plenty of good stuff on there, and once it's all done, I'll be making more videos from the sights and sounds of Ireland and beyond.


(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogger camper campervan conversion darron darron mark derry ireland londonderry mark northern northern ireland photographer photography vw vw t4 https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2020/12/-vanlife-blog-077-vw-t4-camper-conversion Tue, 15 Dec 2020 19:00:19 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 076 | I'm Back..! https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2020/10/im-back

2020-10-27_Wedding_Blog2020-10-27_Wedding_BlogI'm back

In truth, I never really went away. I've been busy with a new job, as I'm sure most of you reading this are aware, our UK Gov't hasn't really been that supportive of the creative industries, of which I would class myself as being part of. Which meant that for most of us, we've had to find work elsewhere to support our families. I took up the role as a Bus Driver, and as such, it has meant that my focus had to be on learning the various laws, rules, regulations, and obviously how to drive vehicles up to 44ft in length, some weighing up to 12 tonnes.

It's been a life changing experience, I don't mind telling you. I thought I was going to have to give up my photography business fully, but, as I'm now settled into the role with my new employer, and have learned how to navigate the system (as well as the many bus routes I've had to learn), I'm comfortable in my availability to continue to do what I love most, photograph weddings.

I will, however, be removing my wedding videography services. Simply because the editing process does require a heavy amount of time, and that is something I want to keep for other activities, such as my video blog regarding my other project, the conversion of my VW T4 camper van.

So, again, if you know anyone who is considering getting married and would like to book me as their wedding photographer, please do send them my way!

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogger darron darron mark derry ireland londonderry mark northern northern ireland photo photographer photography vanlife wedding weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2020/10/im-back Tue, 27 Oct 2020 10:40:22 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 075 | End of an era https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2020/6/-weddingphotography-blog-075-end-of-an-era

I've been putting this off for some time now, but I think I'm just about ready to make the announcement. I'm closing down the wedding side of my business. For those of you who have already booked me for your wedding, please don't panic as I'm still 100% committed to your big day, but as far as taking on new bookings, it's over for me.

The global pandemic has had a detrimental effect on my business, on two fronts actually. Firstly, my fledgeling drone business never really got off the ground (pardon the pun) as I couldn't get the flying time I needed either due to other commitments, the weather or the current lockdown. The second being my wedding business, it's struggled in terms of getting new bookings as everything has just been so uncertain, and not just for me, the whole sector has had it tough. During the COVID-19 crisis, I was fortunate enough to secure work with Ulsterbus, which has seen me working my guts out at the depot deep cleaning buses day in day out this whole time, whilst also waiting for the driving school to reopen so I can start the process of gaining my Class D license to allow me to drive buses with passengers.

All the while my camera gear for the last 4 months has sat quietly in its various bags, doing nothing other than depreciating in value, and my focus (see what I did there?) has turned to a new challenge, that of a van conversion that I fully intend to finish this time!

I'm not saying my heart isn't in it anymore, it truly is, however, from a financial standpoint, it is no longer be my main source of income and as such, I have to give my full attention to my new role as a future bus driver with my spare time building a new camper which we'll be using to attend festivals and gigs across Ireland in 2021.

Over the next few days, my website will be undergoing some minor changes, removing the wedding elements of the business and adding some more information about the van build, as well as highlighting more details of my music photography services. The drone business will slip back into 'hobby mode' too, mainly to support my van activities and blog posts about the van's progress.

Again, I want to reiterate, for those couples who have already booked me, nothing has changed for you. You will still get all of my attention and passion with the usual high-quality output as has been received by over 100 of my previous wedding clients, so please don't worry at all about that! With that in mind, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of those couples who have supported me, grown with me, and become firm friends on Facebook and Instagram over the years. It's been amazing watching you all grow as couples into families and beyond and I look forward to maybe seeing you on my travels either on the buses or at the festivals that I'll still be attending with my dusty camera gear.


(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogger conversion darron darron mark derry dji ireland londonderry mark music northern northern ireland photographer photography vanlife wedding weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2020/6/-weddingphotography-blog-075-end-of-an-era Tue, 30 Jun 2020 19:44:07 GMT
#COVID-19 | Blog 074 | 2020 Weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2020/3/-covid-19-blog-074-2020-weddings

COVID-19 UPDATECOVID-19 UPDATE Having already changed the dates for two brides, it's only a matter of time before others will seek my assistance in these uncertain times. I will do whatever it takes to accommodate the dates you've had made available by your venue, but you need to let me know as soon as possible!

I even make mention of it in my contract which covers all such eventualities, if I can do your new date, I will!

What I would advise all my clients who are getting married within the next 5/6 months, change your dates now! Don't wait to see how things will pan out, there is no quick fix for this pandemic, especially with the lacklustre response from our elected representatives who have not implemented enough testing to track its progress through the population of both the UK and Ireland.

Contract Terms excerpt:

21. If the date of the wedding is postponed, we may at our sole discretion (which we will exercise reasonable care having regard to our ability to obtain alternative work on the first agreed date and availability on the second date) agree not to treat the Contract as being cancelled but to provide the services on the postponed date and apply all monies paid by you towards the fees for that day.

If you need to contact me, you can use the chat icon on the screen to the right, or drop me an email with your questions and alternative dates.

Good luck everyone, stay safe and stay indoors!

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) availability blog blogger booking caronavirus covid darron darron mark derry donegal ireland londonderry mark northern ireland pandemic photographer videographer virus wedding booking wedding photographer wedding video weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2020/3/-covid-19-blog-074-2020-weddings Wed, 25 Mar 2020 19:19:10 GMT
#TechReview | Blog 073 | DJI OSMO Mobile 3 https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2020/2/-techreview-blog-073-dji-osmo-mobile-3 I'm an addict to tech. There's no getting away from it and it's just a simple fact about my life that I have come to terms with. The major items such as DSLR's and the like are usually well out of my price range but if you stick something in front of me around the £300 mark, then I'm a sucker for it and will probably find a way to get my hands on it to own.

This has been true in the case of the OSMO Mobile 3 which is a 3-axis gimbal for the smartphone user. What makes this device unique from its predecessors is the compact nature it contorts itself into when not in use, with a 3 point folding mechanism it slides neatly into your pocket, whilst still offering superb performance when in fully formed mode.

The only reason I bought this was that I wanted one, I just needed to justify why? I have the OSMO and OSMO+, both of which are fantastic bits of kit and are heavily utilised when filming bands in tight spots in bars, with the added functionality of being able to remotely control them from across the room using my iPad.

OSMOOSMODJI OSMO Camera, films in 4K and is remotely controlled by your smartphone or iPad. OSMO PlusOSMO PlusFilming in 4K, the DJI OSMO+ also sports an optical zoom lens.

Travelling to Turkey with my wife for her Bariatric Surgery gave me just the excuse I needed as we'd only be travelling with hand luggage because essentially, she'd only need space for PJ's and I wouldn't be getting up to much so a few t-shirts and a daily change of underwear would be fine. However, if I wanted to get some decent b-roll I'd need a gimbal, as well as a tripod for the interview elements we'd be doing, plus a sturdy case to handle the travel between Dublin, Frankfurt and Istanbul airports. The smart choice was to buy the Combi-Pack which increases the cost by not much more than £25, to my mind, well worth the investment as it includes a case and a tripod, as well as a wrist strap (which I'll never use) and a soft cover pouch.

OSMO Mobile 3OSMO Mobile 3The additional COMBO-PACK is well worth the investment. OSMO Mobile 3OSMO Mobile 3 FoldedThe DJI Mobile 3 in its folded state.

The charging time from flat is 2.5 hours, in return, it will give you a solid 15 hours of smooth gimbal goodness. I'm on the lookout for another iPad Mini 2 (which I thought I'd snagged whilst away only to hear that another buyer had swooped in and took it before I got back from my trip) as this would give me dual control of the two OSMO'S I have, freeing up my mobile phone (which I use to control one of the OSMO's) for other purposes, such as moving through the crowds capturing their emotions on the OSMO Mobile 3.

I'm fortunate enough to be in a position to own an iPhone 11 which boasts an impressive camera, though in low-light it does struggle without activating the front-facing light/torch. There are few attachments you can add to the handle that would hold an additional microphone and small LED Light, but I'm not currently tempted to go down that road as yet, as I don't think it necessary for me, but the option is certainly there.

My intention is to have three filming type scenarios that fit within the areas I currently operate in, each utilising the various bits of equipment that I already own.

1. Full Wedding / Commercial Shoots

This would involve most my camera equipment, with the main device being the Canon HD DV video camera on its professional tripod with full remote LED lighting, audio recording devices (Zoom H4N & Zoom H1N, as well as the TASCAM DR-10 for the groom), and at least one DJI OSMO camera for a 2nd angle. Where weddings are concerned I might also roll out the drone, but that is purely dependant upon the bride and groom paying for that service as it involves site surveys, additional insurances and flight planning.

2. Gigs / Open Mic Nights

The DJI OSMO equipment (all three of them) with the Zoom H4N linked to the sound engineers board.

3. Travel Videos

OSMO Mobile 3, as well as the Zoom H1N, supported on a JOBY Gorilla Pod and possibly the DJI Mavic Pro drone.

As I mentioned in the previous blog, following my wife's journey through her Gastric Sleeve journey was intense and one that was really close to home. Not many people I know would ever share such a personal decision such as the one Kathy took, but she did so to inspire others to make choices that are beneficial to them, and not to worry what other's think of you. I'll be using some of this equipment in the next video, as we follow Kathy and her weight loss to her target of losing 77lbs.

If you have any questions about any of the equipment that I've listed in this blog, I'd be happy to reply, a lot of thought has gone into each individual item I'm using, be that ease of use, quality of output or the sheer fact that it fits into the industrial boxes I've purchased to cart all this around. So until next time, get out there, film it, photograph it or just simply enjoy it with your own eyes.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) canon dji dji mavic pro dji mobile 3 dji osmo filming gigs gimbal interviews iphone istanbul joby mobile music northern ireland photographer photography services tascam dr-10 travel turkey wedding wedding films weddings zoom zoom h1n zoom h4n https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2020/2/-techreview-blog-073-dji-osmo-mobile-3 Mon, 24 Feb 2020 17:32:25 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 072 | Bariatric Surgery | Departure Day https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2020/2/-dailylife-blog-072-bariatric-surgery-departure-day I'll probably not get this finished by the time the taxi arrives to take us to the airport so I'll get the bones of it written now and complete it tomorrow in the comfort of my own office. My wife, Kathy, has had all her final checks done and the drain removed from her stomach plus she has even managed to get showered. Dr Ali Solmaz came early to check on her, then returned to say "Goodbye" and wish her well, he also wants to Kathy to keep in touch and send updated pictures to show her progress. He is such a lovely person, very professional, very considerate and is happy to sit and explain away any worries you might have.

Dr Ali Solmaz, Kathy, R. İrem Uysal, Nutritionist, and team member. Camlıca Erdem HospitalDr Ali Solmaz, Kathy, R. İrem Uysal, Nutritionist, and team member. Camlıca Erdem HospitalDr Ali Solmaz, Kathy, R. İrem Uysal, Nutritionist, and team member. Camlıca Erdem Hospital It's our last day in Turkey and as I look out of our hospital window I can see the rain falling on the busy traffic below. The taxi is booked for 2 pm to take us to Terminal One of Istanbul's impressive airport. We’ve been handed all the post-op medications and instructions on when to administer them, plus a letter to cover us through the airports, as they include liquids over and above the 100ml limit. I took the precaution last night to amend our flight booking to include hold luggage to save any issues, only to then receive an email about an hour ago from Lufthansa to say that due to the flight being fully booked, we can hand all our hand luggage in for FREE! Bugger!

#newlifenewme#newlifenewme My wife, Kathy Mark#newlifenewme Overall, the Erdem Hospital group has been a positive one especially from my side of things as I wasn't the one going through the surgery. My wife on reflection has also nothing but positive things to say as the team that has supported her throughout her operation have been fantastic. We're now looking ahead to a new beginning.

I can already tell you that Kathy is not a fan of the chicken broth that has been brought in to her or the protein shakes she needs to drink or even the thought of having to give up Diet Coke (because of the fizz). The most she has taken of the protein shake has probably been about 4 sips and is insisting on only taking it when she gets home with the alternative option of lactose-free milk, instead of the water solution I made up for her today.

The Turkish government has also just announced that from March onwards, visitors from within the EU (including the UK) will no longer have to apply for a Visa (£27/$35) so long as you have at least 6 months remaining on your passport at the time of your arrival! That's great news, well, not for us as we'd already paid for two of them before we got here. Let's face it after January 1st of 2021 UK citizens are going to find it a lot harder to travel around Europe now that we've voted to leave the EU (I didn't).

This isn't the end of these blogs concerning Kathy's weight loss journey, just a pause for now until you can see the transition occurring in her figure.

Normal service will resume on other topics such as band write-ups and technology reviews (I can't wait to tell you about the DJI Osmo Mobile 3 I've been using to film this week, great bit of kit!).

Remember, if you're considering booking with the same Hospital that my wife has undergone her surgery, I would point you in the direction of this information request form, and the hospital will get in touch with you directly.

Thank you for following me on this journey as I've watched my wife go through something which most people would keep very private. We're not those people, we're more sharers and carers so hopefully, someone out there who is considering going through with this type of surgery will know all the facts and take some hints and tips away from it. So, until next time, have a great day!

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) anxiety back issues back pain bariatric bariatric surgery depression documentary drastic measures english erdem hospital turkey family fat fear gastrectomy gastric band gastric sleeve guilt health ireland irish kathy mark keyhole surgery lazy life story medication medicine mental health northern ireland overweight pain procedure stomach suicide surgery thyroid turkey Turkish surgery uk united kingdom weight weight gain weight loss weight loss surgery wife https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2020/2/-dailylife-blog-072-bariatric-surgery-departure-day Thu, 20 Feb 2020 10:39:09 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 071 | Bariatric Surgery | The Day After https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2020/2/-dailylife-blog-071-bariatric-surgery-the-day-after

Having finally passed out at about 4:30 am from exhaustion, Kathy managed to get a few bits of sleep, using the pain meds as means to 'pass out' between bouts of wanting to throw up and excruciating pain from the sensation of trapped wind. It's no relief when the medical staff are constantly reminding you that this is normal, not when you're extremely uncomfortable and helpless to do anything about it. The night was tough, and for those who discuss their surgery, it's a little known part of what you should expect to feel, as, for the most part, everyone who has gone through the surgery tends to 'forget to mention' what it could and is likely to be like for anyone going through it. This is not a walk in the park!

I'm working on the video from yesterday, having noticed that at one point the nursing staff, obviously concerned for my wife's privacy, chose to cover my camera which was recording her return from surgery. They later asked my wife if she knew I was filming, and why? They understood that we're documenting this journey, so as to help others who also want to have this type of procedure go into it with their eyes fully open.

Kathy likened the pain she was feeling to that of childbirth. Having had two daughters, it was something she didn't imagine she'd been feeling again when having keyhole surgery to have 75% of her stomach removed. The staff who were on nights on our 5th-floor ward where exceptionally calm and patient throughout the evening. Once you get used to the communication style, you'll appreciate then their professionalism. When pain meds were requested by myself to assist my wife, they were attentive. If you can bring someone with you, do! There is a lady next door from the same area as Kathy and she is here on her own. We called in earlier to see how she was feeling, and she is currently in exactly the same pain as Kathy was yesterday. We handed her the call button which wasn't passed down to her, otherwise, she'd be lying in that room on her own waiting for staff to call in to check on her, rather than taking proactive measures to get them in to help. Her exact words were "I wish I never had this done!". This is the pain level you are entering in to. Kathy, the trooper she is, felt exactly the same way at the same point. Today, today she feels differently about it. Tomorrow, she'll have a completely different view again, which is where you typically find out what people think of their surgery after the trauma has become just a memory that you don't want to revisit.

This blog (and the previous one) is not about putting people off coming for bariatric surgery, together, we're just trying to warn you to be under no illusion, this fucking hurts!

The vomiting of foam is an unusual occurrence. I've not personally seen that before, plus there's a high chance you'll see blood in there too, don't be alarmed, that's all normal, obviously, you're stomach has had some major changes, plus, while you're sleeping they're intubating you for the purposes of anaesthesia, so there are a few bits of blood from the throat too. When my wife was doing her research, a few people had mentioned pain in the upper shoulder area from the trapped wind, she felt it more so just below the sternum, near one of the keyhole entry points. That's still currently open as there's a fluid drain tube in situ. They've only just removed her catheter too.

Just as I'm writing this, the translator and a junior doctor have come to check on her, again, just to numb the pain a little, Kathy has asked for pain relief. In the UK, post-surgery, you would expect to be connected to a morphine driver, where you are in control of the pain relief yourself. Obviously, there are safety measures integrated within the machine so you can't go overboard. Here, they bring in small IV type packets and swap out your saline drip with the pain meds. Once the bag has emptied, they come back in again and hook you back up to the saline. The reason you're going to be on the saline is that you're not going to be drinking anything.


They take cash. The reason being is, that if you do a bank transfer it will increase the costs by 8%. They'll take the deposit for the surgery by bank transfer, typically £200, with your balance of £3,000 (total being £3,200) being due whilst you're here. I would highly recommend bringing your own currency to make the payment (in our case, Sterling), otherwise, like me, you'll have to make loads of trips to the cash machine around the corner and withdrawing Turkish Lira. We have 5 different bank accounts, personal ones each, a joint one, and ones for our businesses, this has allowed us to take out larger amounts on our daily limits, you might want to speak to your bank before arriving to increase your daily withdrawal limit, or risk bringing the cash with you in a money belt. It's not the Wild West here, I've not felt intimidated, or fearful whilst walking around the town, which by the way is very large (there's even a Burger King, for before your surgery lol).

Booking Your Own Surgery

If you're interested in booking with the same Hospital that my wife has undergone her surgery, I would point you in the direction of our information request form, and the hospital will provide you with all the necessary instructions on how to make your booking deposit etc.

Getting Up & Walking Around

Lung Exercise DeviceLung Exercise DeviceLung capacity and exercise device. They're really keen for you to get up and walk around. You might not feel like it at first, but with the wind sensations, being up-right does help. Kathy managed to get a 4 hours after surgery, albeit slightly unsteady on her feet. She's now in her own PJ's and between sleeping and fighting the urge to vomit, she's in much better form. They've given her a lung exercise toy to play with too. Any surgery (as explained by Dr Ali) has an impact on the lungs, so this exercise toy is a must. You tip it one way to suck in, and then tip it the other way to blow, with the objective being to lift the balls up in the chamber (yeah, I know how it sounds too, and I'm the one writing it).

What Can You Eat?

Nothing. Trust me, you won't want it. Not initially anyway. The mere thought of it makes Kathy gag. Sips of water are all she can take. Even at that, she might bring some of it back up. The hospital dietician suggests sips of water every 10-20 minutes, of teaspoon-sized quantities. Also, they have a special blend of protein powder that Kathy can drink, which is extra in terms of having to purchase it yourself, and we're getting that delivered tomorrow to take away with us, and then I can look at buying more when we're home. Theirs contains proteins, vitamins and minerals, everything your body needs but isn't currently getting. The catering for patients basically consists of some sugar-free apple juice, milk, and water. That's all. Kathy hasn't touched the milk, just a few sips of the apple juice which barely tastes of anything at all.

Anyway, I'm going to get back to editing yesterday's footage so that I can include it below. If you have read this and have any questions, please feel free to do so in the comments section below.

Playlist link here: https://youtu.be/YVxSneHr2P


(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) anxiety back issues back pain bariatric bariatric surgery depression documentary drastic measures english erdem hospital turkey family fat fear gastrectomy gastric band gastric sleeve guilt health ireland irish kathy mark keyhole surgery lazy life story medication medicine mental health northern ireland overweight pain procedure stomach suicide surgery thyroid turkey Turkish surgery uk united kingdom weight weight gain weight loss weight loss surgery wife https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2020/2/-dailylife-blog-071-bariatric-surgery-the-day-after Tue, 18 Feb 2020 20:30:19 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 070 | Bariatric Surgery | Operation Day https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2020/2/-dailylife-blog-070-bariatric-surgery-operation-day

My wife, Kathy, has just left the hospital room we've been spending the last two days in to have her gastric sleeve operation, at the Erdem Medical Facility, here in Istanbul, Turkey.

This morning started early, with blood pressure checks and the dubious breakfast being wheeled into the room by the support staff. A quick glimpse and I knew I wouldn't be touching it as it was exactly the same as yesterday's which was a mix of cheese, a Mediterranean bread roll, olives, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and what I've just found out is a bowl of buttermilk. Oh yeah, I forgot the little plastic container of spring water to drink and a cold hardboiled egg. The joys of Turkish breakfasts, it's no wonder there are hardly any fat people here with what they choose to eat! Plus, to add to the commotion of interruptions there's the soundtrack of a Muslim call to prayer going off too from the nearby mosque. It's a lot to take in first thing in the morning, especially when you didn't get to sleep until 6 am due to the fact I was up editing the latest episode of Kathy's Journey for YouTube.

There were a further visits from various medical professionals which made getting out of bed and into some clothes almost impossible, as no sooner had I a foot on the floor then the door opened once more, so I just sat there for nearly an hour in my t-shirt and boxers with the blanket around me like some lost hobo. Kathy's doctor arrived and having reviewed all the tests, looking at all the imagery of her scans said that she showed signs of fat deposits on the liver, however, as a result of this surgery they would almost certainly be reversed in the next few months.

Due in some part to the language barrier, there's very little warning of what's happening next so you can't really prepare yourself for the next stage. Within moments of the visits coming to an end, a nurse came in and asked for Kathy to remove her wedding ring, which of course she has difficulty with since the weight increase. They don't allow for tape to be placed over the ring so it must be removed and if you can't, they'll cut it off for you, there was a quick dash to the bathroom to use the hand-dispenser soap to loosen it and thankfully, between myself, Kathy and the nurse we got the ring off, and whoosh, she was out of here with barely any time to give her a peck goodbye.

The surgery is expected to last 45 minutes so I've time to get this blog started and maybe get a few winks in before she returns.

2 Hours Later

I managed some interrupted sleep whilst she was away to surgery as the girls were messaging asking for updates here and there and it was only then that I noticed that it had been 2 hours since she'd left. If anything had gone wrong I'd have been informed, but still... I put it down to pre-op procedures and obviously post-op observations after coming out of the anaesthetic. Not long after a few nursing staff started to appear and prepare the room for her return, it was then that they told me that the operation was over, not that it was a success or anything, just that it was over. I had to ask if it went well directly, to which they confirmed everything went as planned. These strange observations could be cultural or possibly the lack of English to expression themselves fully. To their credit, today they provided an interpreter to assist, however, he doesn't do medical terms which is a slight weakness in his skill set considering the environment he's working in. Again, we have been using the power of Google Translate to help with some of the more jargon type words, and we've managed okay. If you're considering coming here for this surgery, get the Google App loaded on your phone before you get here and practice using it as it might get you over some of the language barriers, I would advise to try and not use local dialect type words, such as 'trapped wind', this makes no sense to anyone outside of English speaking countries, we've opted for 'stomach gases' which seems to have worked, not that they'll give Kathy anything for it except to explain that this is normal, tough it out.

The other thing you have to consider when coming to Turkey is that it's not part of the EU! A route the UK is on track to emulate too, so you will not benefit from European roaming agreements on your mobile contract. Calls back to the UK are £2.00pm, that's also the same price to receive them. Texts cost 50p to send and are free to receive, data is £7.20/MB which is then capped at £51. Thankfully this hospital has some really good WiFi that we've been using to keep in touch with family and friends (I've even uploaded YouTube videos at speeds I'd expect to see at home). For additional security, I'm using a VPN provider as I want to ensure my data is secure, especially when using our online banking. On the money front, everything is just so DIRT CHEAP! Food, water, sodas, even some items of clothing are relatively cheap, albeit of local taste. I got a new beanie for roughly £3.80 and I couldn't be happier!

There's no alcohol in Istanbul, not that I've managed to find anyway and although the country is secular, you probably only see alcohol in the more tourist-centric areas to the West, Istanbul is just not one of those places, I would have to say it's predominantly Muslim in its demographic because there are a lot of headscarves being worn by the women, which sort of gives it away. One more thing I would advise on is to not drink the tap water. I'm mainly drinking bottled water (even to brush my teeth) as I've had a bad experience in the past with their domestic water supply that I don't wish to repeat.

Anyway, judging by all the tubes emanating from my wife at present, I'd say she fairly uncomfortable. Saline is going in along with antibiotics and pain relief, plus, she has a stomach drain coming from the abdomen area, as well as a catheter. She's wearing compression socks as well as additional pressurised leg contraptions which are buzzing away pumping air in to prevent her from creating a clot. She's been complaining of it being too warm and for some reason, I can't turn on the AC to reduce the temperature in the room as I did on the night we arrived, so I've just had to open a window, thankfully we're still in February, so it's cool enough here on the 5th floor.

When Kathy went through some of the online forums, a few past patients highlighted their number one major being that of 'trapped wind'. This was Kathy's first and only complaint (other than feeling too warm) too. She didn't complain about any actual surgical pain, just the discomfort of wanting to burp but nothing coming out. There have been a few urges to vomit resulting in clear liquid coming through, and we've been warned to expect a little bit of blood if there is any further vomiting due to the nature of the procedure. There's nothing they can give for this pain of trapped wind because your stomach needs a time-out. In our research, patients have complained of this pain emanating from as high up as their shoulder, in Kathy's case, it's purely abdominal in its source.

Having just had a flying visit from the Dr Ali Solmaz (Associate Professor of General Surgery) to check on Kathy, he's very happy with the results and has basically said that things will improve hour by hour in her awareness and feeling of comfort. Everything she is feeling is to be expected and that she should just relax, which, judging by the number of contraptions she's wired to, she has little choice and at the same time I've been given my evening meal, and to be honest, it doesn't look very appetising. 

Erdem Lunch Tray for guests who are here to support their patients.Hospital Lunch MenuI did in fact eat the stew looking thing, with the pasta. All else (apart from the water) went in the bin.

Okay, I take that back, as I took the photo above I thought I'd give it a taste and to be honest, it tasted better than it looked (except the soup, not touching that or that white cream stuff).

During the time I've been writing this, Kathy's pain has eased, just the discomfort of the wind continues. They've given her another anti-biotic to aid with the healing process and stave off any infections. She's sitting comfortably without much complaint, so proud of her.

I'm signing off for now as I've limited battery life left because all the power sockets are being used for the equipment that Kathy is currently wired in to, so until later, I'll bid you farewell.

Be sure to check out the other videos from Kathy's journey that has taken us to this location, if you haven't done so already.

Video Link: https://youtu.be/YVxSneHr2P

If you're interested in requesting further information from the hospital team, please click on our Information Request Form, and they will get in touch with your directly.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) Ali Solmaz bariatric surgery blog blogger blogging daily life data dinner doctor documenting erdem hospital food gastric gastric sleeve hospital food Istanbul kathy mark mobile network nurses research roaming charges staff surgery turkey turkish weight loss wifi https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2020/2/-dailylife-blog-070-bariatric-surgery-operation-day Mon, 17 Feb 2020 15:46:50 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 069 | Mental Health & Bariatric Surgery Project https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2020/2/-dailylife-blog-069-mental-health-bariatric-surgery-project

My wife and I are embarking on a small joint project together, where I'll be tracking the progress of her bariatric sleeve surgery this month. I'm not only a wedding photographer, obviously, as you have probably noticed, for those who know me personally, you'll know I also dabble in the odd small film project too. This one, however, is a little closer to home.

We're currently sitting in Dublin airport waiting for our flights to Istanbul. This is the second time this week we've been in this airport, last week was to see Lewis Capaldi with our daughters, this week it's just me and Mrs Mark. Just like last week, we had to deal with a storm (Ciara), and this week we're dealing with Storm Dennis, as our first flight out to Frankfurt has been diverted away from Dublin and has instead gone on to Birmingham. With the power of technology, I was able to book us on to the next flight a full hour before any of my fellow passengers realised what was going on using the Lufthansa App and also the Flight Radar App. I could see the plane coming in from Germany had done a sharp u-turn back towards GB, that's when I hit the apps. I'll never let myself be at the mercy of the service desks, there's always going to be someone with less baggage than you who gets there faster. Work smarter, not harder, as I did. Sitting at the departure gate, watching the screen steadily increase our "Delayed by" time I got on with the process of securing the limited seats that would be available to get us to Frankfurt for our connecting flight to Turkey.

Why Turkey?

In short, it's just cheaper to get the surgery there. A growing number of medical centres offer the surgery that my wife is going for, plus with plenty of options to choose from when it comes to dealing with weight issues, Istanbul was an easy choice to make. The most common form of treatment that most people have heard of is the Gastric Band. This restricts the size of the stomach and reduces the amount of food you can take in, however, the long term issue with these is that they eventually expand and you can end up back where you began. My wife has chosen a more permanent option, the Gastric Sleeve. The procedure will cut away (and staple closed) 75% of her stomach so that it's essentially the size of a banana. The process also removes a lot of the chemicals involved in transmitting signals to the brain that tell you you're hungry, people have had to remind themselves to eat!

My wife is doing this as she feels that she's in a slow spiral of low self-esteem and her confidence is starting to gradually chip away due to her increasing weight. Having been at the point of wanting to take her own life a few years ago, she has been prescribed medication to help with her mental state and tackle that anxiety and depression, as well as insomnia. Some of the side effects of these medications are weight gain and thyroid issues, which also increases your weight. Not once have I ever made any negative comment about her weight, I'm her husband and I will gladly have her by my side no matter her size, than not have her at all. I saw what her mental state did to her, and it's frightening to witness, that the person you love the most in the world thinks that you'd be better off without them? That is the power of the mind, especially when it's ill.

Kathy (let's start using her name) opened up to her mental anguish on our first interview a few weeks ago, and we're going to be updating this on a weekly basis (where time permits). Below you can see what she's had to deal with:


When someone you love is battling a demon you can't see, it can be really frustrating in working out how best to help in this situation, which is why we're doing this project together, to give not only those who are going through it some tools and information on how to get help but also the family members who are at a loss as to what to do for the best. 

In my dealings with Kathy, I simply had to listen, to let her know she wasn't alone in this, and that no matter how low she felt that she was not a burden, that life would definitely not be better without her. Imagine being a Mummy to two little girls and still thinking everyone would be better off without you being there? That's how anxiety and depression can mess with your reality. I wrote the 'Story' section of Kathy's Facebook page, which we're debating whether or not to change the name of, making it less targeted to one regional area and expanding it out globally. More on that over the next few days I guess.


We're now safely in Frankfurt, the rebooked flight managed to get off the ground before the worst of the storm hit Dublin. The weather in Germany is amazing and I couldn't be happier, as it looks extremely likely that we'll make it to Istanbul on time to meet our driver who has been tasked with picking us up. Not entirely sure where they're taking us, could be the hotel, or it could be the medical centre. But hey-ho, life's an adventure, isn't it?

In light of what's happening over this coming week, I'll be posting a blog update for those who want to know more about this surgery, and I'll discuss how my wife is coping with the nerves, the surgery itself, and the post-operative info as it transpires. Obviously this is a topic away from the norm, but I want to let you into what goes on behind the business, an insight to my life I guess? Feel free to comment and share, you don't know who might need to see this.

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(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) anxiety bariatric surgery blog blogger dennis depression documentary frankfurt gastric sleeve istanbul journey life lufthansa operation personal storm travel turkey youtube https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2020/2/-dailylife-blog-069-mental-health-bariatric-surgery-project Sun, 16 Feb 2020 22:16:37 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 068 | Location Motivation Procrastination https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/12/-dailylife-blog-068-location-motivation-procrastination

I've finally been upgraded back to full 'Office' status once again! What do I mean? Well, prior to my relocation to Derry ~ Londonderry, I lived in and around Banbridge and Newry in the beautiful County Down, Northern Ireland. There I focussed on learning my trade as a photographer. I even managed to snag a position as a full time Staff Photographer for the local newspaper, which gave me daily access to the wonderful lives of the people in that area. I also got to write small stories to accompany the images I produced, which was great for my creative writing skills, and I'm really thankful to my good friend (and then editor), Alan McVeigh who now has his own Whisky Channel on YouTube.

My then home, had an under-utilised garage which I'd turned into a working office/studio to do various model and commercial shoots, as well as working on the day's images before sending them over to the paper. After an amicable breakup with my girlfriend, I started a new relationship with my now wife Kathy, who is a nurse from the North West, which is where I find myself now ("Have cameras, can travel"). When we moved in together, we initially remodelled her garage into a studio/sleeping area for when my children came to visit. However, they much preferred the living room sofa beds to the garage, so I turned it fully into a studio/office to do my editing. Then, as I started to strip back what I wanted to focus on, I found that I didn't need all the space, and could easily work just off my laptop in the back of my van. The garage then became a play room, then an office again for me when I briefly worked for a tech company, and for the last nearly two years it's been a Beauty Parlour for my wife's business, during that time I have been working out of the motorhome, or on the end of the kitchen table.

Motorhome OfficeMotorhome Office The motorhome was fine, but a bit of a pain in the ass when I had to pack everything away to actually drive the thing anywhere. So, I sort of migrated to the end of the kitchen table for easy access to the kettle and biscuits, where I've been for the last 6 months. Just tinkering away at this and that, writing, editing, surfing, buying loads of crap again, and chatting to family. All the while being thoroughly distracted by the goings on in the house. I'm the worst for being distracted!

Anyway, my wife wants us to work on a new project together, and she's going to be doing a bit of working from home too with her current job, so, we've remodelled the summer house in to an office. I say "we", I mean ME. I repainted the walls, put up some new shelving from Amazon (purely decretive, let me tell you) added a few fake IKEA plants, threw in some IKEA desks and chairs and boom, we have an office!

The Summer House

First it was just a normal room with an L-Shaped Sofa in it to look out over the Foyle and Donegal, and I think we sat in it twice, maybe three times having spent nearly £3,000 building the stairs, framing, deck and the structure too. Then, it was a beauty treatment room, and now, it is the new home of Darron Mark Photography (and wife).

I love coming up here now. I finally feel like it's a proper space, away from everything and everyone. The views during the day are just bliss. I'm going to get some extra lighting fitted to the handrails that lead up to the office, as the solar ones are great in the summer, but suck in the winter as there just isn't enough light to charge the batteries in them, so mains power is a must or I'll break my neck in the dark. The wife says I should just buy a torch, but she has no imagination!

I've sourced the downlighter I want to buy, mainly because they're able to hold GU10 bulbs, which also means I can link them to the SmartHome setup I have, I've bought a couple of tester bulbs from GEEK.com, then should be here in a few days to see how they work with Amazon's Alexa system. If they do what I hope they'll do, then the garden will be a multicoloured affair for sure this winter!

The WiFi just about works, it's a strong signal to the extender, but the distance to the main hub is the problem. Running CAT5 would probably be pointless and ugly. So, it will just have to do, I say that, but I do have my eye on a tasty new, more powerful extender, once funds become available, I'll probably try and sneak it past the wife.

2020 & Beyond

I've been buying new containers for the camera gear, something with wheels. I loved the first one so much that I now have two of them, and they're great. The reason for it was ease of moving my gear from the car to location without having to carry them on my back, my excuse being that I'm old!

Having recently filmed on top of an Irish Fort for local singer Conor McGinty, it was fair to say I feared for my life as my heart was beating through my ribs ascending the damn hill, whilst carrying the gear. Which reminds me, I must check their strength out in terms of being used for seats during my bouts of short breath, I really must join a gym or something..?

I've even found some snazzy Camera Pouches for the more expensive gear to sit inside these tool chests, for more protection, they should be here in the next few days.

In one travel box I have the smaller cameras and accessories, and in the other will contain the larger video camera and my stills cameras, plus lenses and chargers etc, and, if I can, I'll squeeze in the drone.

I recently start building up my showreel for going forward, trying to use as much footage from this year as possible, however, I quickly realised I've not got enough footage that I would say is worthy. Which is where my 'Procrastination' issues have kicked in. I've been learning a new part time career as a carer for various organisations that I've simply not focussed enough time on my passion, which is travel and photography. I'm now a fully qualified carer, and the people I support are wonderful. The reason I took this route was to simply maintain a basic income that would cover our family expenditure during the lean times, which is what winter is for most photographers, especially the ones that are more wedding focussed, it's very lean. I didn't want to go back to a full time tech job again, they just drain the life out of you, so giving something back to my community through some part time work that is more rewarding for my soul as well as being able to cover a few bills is a great way of freeing myself to do other things that I'm passionate about, which leads me on to the next event we'll be working on next year.

Selling the Motorhome

Fiat Benimar MotorhomeFiat Benimar Motorhome It's just too damn big! My wife and I really thought we needed something with a shower, toilet, hot water etc etc. However, when you've a huge motorhome sitting at the side of your house and you need to go to town, but you'd prefer to get the bus, you have to rethink your strategy a little. We regretted selling our last motorhome almost immediately, and dabbled (as you know) in some self build dramas with an Iveco Daily, which I slowly realised I didn't have time for whilst working full time.

So, we rushed out and bought this bus. It's a great van, it's just not practical for our daily needs, which is why we're selling it for something a little smaller.

We've done a few festivals in her, living a comfortable existence but we know what we really need, and it's not this right now. So long as it has a means of powering a laptop for basic editing on site, a comfy bed, and a fridge/cooker, I think we'll be good with that.

The vehicle we're hunting for, is... A MAZDA BONGO.

I know, we've owned one before, however, that was strictly an 8-Seater bus with a bed in the pop-top roof. We slept in it ZERO times. It wasn't converted in anyway shape or form, it didn't even have a coolant sensor fitted, which goes to show how basic it actually was. The bodywork was mint! Our hearts just weren't in it though.

I've thought about going down the VW route, however, they're just so expensive! For good reason obviously, but we're not going to need that level of investment. We just need a daily vehicle that primarily I can sleep in, and have space enough to do festivals a few times a year, and use the motor every day if need be. This will be my bus, and the wife can use the family car.

The next Bongo must have the following items:

  • AC/DC Inverter (enough juice to power a MacBook
  • Gas Cooker & Fridge (I edit better with a beer in easy reach)
  • Sink (with optional external flow (not a deal breaker))
  • Pop-Top Mattress
  • 12v USB Sockets
  • Coolant Sensor
  • Diesel Heater (would be nice)
  • Solar Panels (again, would be nice)
  • Tow Bar
  • Rock & Roll Bed (if it has seat belts, that would be awesome, but not a deal breaker)
  • Be under £7,000

Bongo on the BeachBongo on the Beach Bongo on the BeachBongo on the Beach Bongo on the BeachBongo on the Beach

We've a few maintenance items that need to be sorted on the Motorhome before we put it up for sale, which are scheduled to be sorted next week, and whoever buys it is in for a treat, as we've maintained that bus the whole time we've owned it, she's in great shape (unlike her current owner).

I've a few Bongos saved on my Gumtree account, hopefully one or two of them are still available once we find a buyer for the motorhome, but we're in no rush as yet, so long as I have something in place by Spring, I'll be happy.

Anyway, that's me for 2019, it's been a fun ride with lots of ups and downs on the career front, but as a recap, here's what's been happening in no particular order:

  • Quit my full time job
  • Went on holiday to Benidorm with friends
  • Retrained as a carer
  • Retrained as a massage therapist
  • Went on holiday to Bulgaria
  • Buried our new puppy Winston who sadly took ill
  • Made my first proper music video
  • Gained my PfCO to fly my drone commercially
  • Helped my son move to Glasgow for his new career
  • Felt my heart melt when my granddaughter had her 1st Birthday
  • Played Santa

Take care everyone! Have a wonderful New Year and I'll see you all on the other side in 2020.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) Benidorm blog blogger blogging bongo Darron Mark dji dji mavic drones Glasgow Gumtree Mazda Bongo motorhome Northern Ireland PfCO pilot travel videos YouTube https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/12/-dailylife-blog-068-location-motivation-procrastination Tue, 31 Dec 2019 12:00:00 GMT
#MusicVideo | Blog 067 | Conor McGinty "A New Dawn" https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/11/-music-video-blog-067-conor-mcginty-a-new-dawn

I, like many others who live in the Derry region of Northern Ireland, have nothing but love and respect for those who push themselves into the limelight and seek out their dreams. Some of those currently well known names include Nadine Coyle, now residing in the National Parklands of Queensland, Australia, in "I'm a Celebrity, Get me outta here!", or, Bronagh Gallagher who is in the cinemas right now with her new film A Bump Along the Way. There a many more Feargal SharkeyPaul McLooneDanaPhil CoulterMichelle Fairley who played Catelyn Stark in Game of Thrones right up until her demise at the Red Wedding, all of whom hail from the Maiden City as it's also known.

Needless to say, Derry produces some amazingly talented individuals in many areas of science, sports, politics and beyond. A new name soon to be added to that rostra is Conor McGinty.

Conor has some family heritage when it comes to the Irish music scene, especially in the realms of the world famous Celtic Thunder, and with the way things are going, fingers crossed, it won't be long before he finds himself fully immersed in that rollercoaster world himself.

This new found burst of attention hasn't been without its struggles. His first TV performance was on the 2016 edition of X-Factor, where the judges were extremely impressed by his range, and ability to make the song his own, which can be seen below in his first audition.

Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be, despite the praise he lost his seat into the bootcamp stages, right at the very end. For most who appear on the show, the feeling of rejection plays hard on a their confidence. To receive such adulation at the audition, to then be told you're not good enough can be crushingly hard to take. Conor had to return home with his family, and back to his life as a photographic assistant at Boots.

Derry~Londonderry has a troubled past, in fact, it is where 'The Troubles' essentially began back in 1968 with the Housing Protest on Craigavon Bridge on the 5th of October, 2 days after Stormont banned all forms of protest/parade. Things went from bad to worse over the coming years, with the terrible tragedy of 'Bloody Sunday' in 1972 where 13 innocent people were killed by the crown forces. A bitter conflict ensued not only between the people and the security forces, but between the people themselves across religious divides. The aftermath of which is still felt today with a high proportion of people suffering severe mental health issues, struggling to find peace within themselves as a result of the environment they were brought up in.

Conor suffered, and suffered in a culture where people typically don't have the tools to deal with it, as everyone else around them are suffering to some degree themselves. It is a systematic failure in this town that it doesn't have a professional infrastructure in place to help its people, they are left to fend for themselves. Thankfully, Conor's time in a dark place slowly faded, and in time he began to get back out there, doing what he loves to do most, entertain people.

When you come so close to your dreams, it's hard not to think you've failed. It's hard not to feel a sense of embarrassment that you dared to put your head above the parapet and didn't achieve what you set out to do, in front of everyone you know, and millions of other people you don't. Those that don't truly know the mindset of the Derry people will see them as closed off, or hard to do business with, again, historically, the North West (and even in the neighbouring Donegal) have been promised so much in the past by politicians and businesses. Investment has always then been cancelled in favour of either Belfast or Dublin, with little left for the the North West. What you don't see is their protectionism for each other. Sure, he tried, but do you know what, they supported him as he tried and he kept trying.

As Chris Archer put it: “It Takes 10 Years to Become an Overnight Success

What Conor didn't really grasp at the time was, he has a strong Irish soul. He'd just been in denial the whole time. Who can blame him? He wanted to be the next chart topping success, and who wouldn't? It's only natural for a young man to want to go down road. However, Conor didn't come to terms with what was being played out before him until recently, that his voice, his passion, and his natural leanings were always to be an Irish singer. To embrace the gift he was born with, to truly reach in to the hearts of his growing fan base and actually connect. Music is meant to connect with it's audience, it is meant to make the hairs on the back of your neck and on your arms stand up, and that's what Conor's voice can do!

A New Dawn

In his first album, emotion runs deep as 'A New Dawn' encapsulates his own life. Conor has sought out the songs that lend themselves to his voice and he's made them his own. What's most surprised him about 'A New Dawn' has been that it's topped the Irish Music iTune Charts in it's first week, plus he's already being helped by Celtic Thunder who are promoting his Album to their international fan base (over half a million Facebook followers alone) and it's been received with as much warmth has his own fans have shown.

In Conor's first show, it was obvious that the people not only loved him, but they were invested in his success too. His performance that night was emotional, entertaining and passionate. 

I was fortunate enough to be invited along to film that night (with I might add, only 3 hours warning). Having stepped in at the last moment, I was pushed for camera placement, also, I was a little worried about the sound too, as I'd not had a chance to speak to the sound engineer prior to my arrival. Thankfully, a good friend was already behind the sound desk when I got there, he promised to supply me with the audio files after the event to help me sync the cameras in post.

I've only met Conor a few times over the years, I cheekily handed him a business card once, in Primark, not long after his appearance on the X-Factor when we first met, so actually getting a chance to work with him was exciting for me. It felt like all my years working on this music videography 'stuff' might just pay off in a commercial sense.

It wasn't long before Mr McGinty was on the phone asking for timelines for the videos to be released. Within a few days the individual songs started to be transferred over to him for his own social media channels, and it would seem he was impressed with not only the speed, but the quality too (a big sigh of relief). The idea of a "music video" became the next subject of discussion, and would I be up to the challenge? Thankfully, we could squeeze enough days in to get the filming down, of which Conor had a very clear idea of what he wanted in his mind, we just had to translate that into film, which we did in the course of the following week. Time waits for no man and all that.

Goodbye My Old Friend

This is one emotional piece, and it is very personal to Conor's heart as it's about his lost connection with his grandmother who sadly passed away. For those who listen to it, and watch the video, they too will relate to losing a loved one, and this song helps them feel comfort in the words and meaning too. Prepare to have your hair stand up.

Piecing everything together was the fun part, getting it to match through in terms of transitions worked great more through happy coincidence than preplanning (which is where a storyboard would have been handy), but we got there! The results of which can be seen below in Conor's new song, "Goodbye my Old Friend", check it out, let me know what you think in the comments below.

Here's a few images from behind the scenes with Conor and myself going through the process of filming and finally getting the finished version live.

A wet and cold evening at an old Irish Fort.Me (Darron Mark)A wet and cold evening at an old Irish Fort. First night's filming at The Grianan of Aileach, County Donegal. Darting out between showers.

A bit of moon and a bit of a rain and a bit of Conor McGinty.Conor McGintyA bit of moon and a bit of a rain and a bit of Conor McGinty. The last shot of the night, in the rain, with a moon doing its best to poke through the clouds over Conor McGinty.

That's a wrap! Finished shoot on Lisfannon Beach, County DonegalDarron & Conor McGintyThat's a wrap! Finished shoot on Lisfannon Beach, County Donegal We used Lisfannon Beach in County Donegal to get some really cool aerial footage for the video, to build even more atmosphere into the final production. Again, bloody freezing, but that's what happens when you film in November in the Northern hemisphere.

Joy as the video goes live on Facebook/YouTube 7 days after the first scene was filmed.Darron & Conor McGintyJoy as the video goes live on Facebook/YouTube 7 days after the first scene was filmed. Okay, so I was a little excited, Conor however, was on the phone with his manager to tell him we'd got everything uploaded and tested. It was a busy day in the kitchen as we tweaked through all the changes and transitions to Conor's exacting requests, the response has been amazing! We're both so happy with the results.

What's next? Well, I'll be breaking down the rest of Conor's album launch concert into more single videos so he can ease them out online to build up momentum for his next big gig at The Millennium Forum, tickets available here: https://www.millenniumforum.co.uk/shows/conor-mcginty-a-new-dawn/

Conor, will be working hard on promoting his new album release, and I'm sure we'll be working on future projects very soon.

What's the lesson from all this?

You simply have to just keep going. Keep trying, it's not a failure if you learned something from it. Keep working, keep learning, and just keep going, just like Conor has and continues to do so. He's an inspiration, and I'm proud to finally call him a friend (he calls me all the time, he's very demanding you know lol).


(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) A New Dawn blog Celtic Thunder Conor McGinty darron darron mark derry Facebook Goodbye my old friend ireland iTunes mark northern northern ireland photographer photography Song For Ireland YouTube https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/11/-music-video-blog-067-conor-mcginty-a-new-dawn Tue, 19 Nov 2019 13:54:54 GMT
#Adobe | Blog 066 | Camera RAW Update 11.4.1 Issues https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/10/-adobe-blog-066-camera-raw-update-11-4-1-issues There's an issue with the most recent update on Adobe's Camera RAW version 11.4.1 - It's only a minor issue but for those of you out there who blanket wash their whole Adobe Bridge selection edit and hit 'Auto' to balance their image settings, you'll quickly find you can't.

Adobe CC Camera Raw plug-in imageAdobe CC Camera RawUpdate notification to version 11.4.1

What do I mean by this?

Not everyone uses Adobe Bridge the way I do, most prefer to use Adobe's LightRoom to manage their images, I fell into using Bridge because it was part of Photoshop, it can almost do everything LightRoom can do, and it was free with Photoshop so why buy something extra if you don't have to?

It's worked well for me over the years, it's not perfect but it can really get you out of a jam when you've under-exposed a shot just a tad too much, it handles noise really well if you know what you're doing, and if all else fails, you can quickly desaturate and boom, you have a Black & White image in less than a second.

My usual process post-shoot is to put all my cards into their own folders. They might not be in the right order, especially if its a wedding shoot, but I have a fix for that, by syncronising the camera clocks before I take the lens caps off, more on that later.

  1. Open each folder in Bridge and STAR rate the ones I like the most. 1 STAR if it makes the cut, 2 STARS if I need to do an edit in Photoshop after I'm done with Camera Raw.
  2. Move all the STAR rated images into a new folder where they will then start the process of fast edits.
  3. Repeat the process for all the images in each of the folders, however many you have: STAR, Move.
  4. Open the Master Edit folder you moved all those selected images into.
  5. CTRL/CMD+A in Adobe Bridge - Then CTRL/CMD+R - This will open Camera RAW

The Auto function in Camera RawAuto function in Camera RawSelect All, then select Auto

That's me and the wife and our buddy Izzy from our trip to Bulgaria a few months ago.


  1. I then select all the images (CTRL/CMD+A) and set about letting Camera Raw automatically correcting the exposure. Most of the time it has very little to do, but as you know, clouds can get in front of the sun and you might forget to correct properly in that short period of time. Camera Raw can help you out.
  2. If I have a selection of images that have been taken indoors, what I will tend to do is find a white object in one of those series of images and then use that as the 'Selected Picture', the one I can see on the screen, then on the images above and below, I'll mass select them, and White Balance them based on that white object.

I think go through more corrections and lens distortion adjustments etc.

Synchronize OptionsSynchronize OptionsThe other work around that didn't work The problem recently has been that when I selected ALL of my images and then used the 'Auto' function, it would only update the first image and ignore the others.

I trawled through the internet boards to see what everyone else was doing, with no real solution to the one I was used to.

Some suggested I use the Synchronize feature within Raw, which in theory works great if all your images are within the same sort of framing, lighting and environment.

IF they're not, however, well, they all get exactly the same settings from that one image you can see on the screen.

So, what has happened to the AUTO feature?

Okay, so why is it so important that I've created this blog post about it? When you're dealing with hundreds of pictures each day, time is of the essence. Time is what sets me apart from other photographers, as I want my clients to have their images within the shortest time frames possible. Weddings are especially critical to me, as I promise to have a couples wedding day images available to them before they've had their breakfast, 99% of the time that happens, it's only on the rare occasions where I'm travelling long distances between weddings where I might need an extra day or two.

The AUTO feature scans the individual image and highly complicated algorithms extrapolate all the pixel information to balance them out to their natural exposure rate as compared to its surrounding pixels.

I'll still go in and individually adjust each image, but if they've already been auto-exposed, I can quickly see what I'm dealing with and adjust only the tiniest of elements as Camera Raw has done all the heavy lifting for me.

All this stopped with and update, version 11.4.1 - Auto in all its glory, simply stopped working on mass. It would work on an individual scale, but on mass, no.

Have Adobe in their infinite wisdom decided to limit this feature? Seems not. One such senior admin on one of the forums admitted it was a glitch in the update, one that would be remedied in the next one, however, they gave no indication as to when this would happen, surfice to say, the only option left to all of us who use this feature, was to roll back to the previous update.

Let the hunt for this update begin. https://helpx.adobe.com/uk/camera-raw/kb/camera-raw-plug-in-installer.html

Okay, so I did all the hunting for you. With other apps within your CC Subscription, you can dial it back to the previous version. As Camera Raw is technically a plugin, you can simply download that previous version and overwrite the current one. What I would also suggest you do, once you've done that, is turn off Auto Update as a choice on Creative Cloud app manager. You'll get update notifications from time to time, just remember to keep a close eye on what update number it is in the hope they fix this issue in the next version.


(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) adobe blog camera camera raw darron darron mark edit editing ireland mark northern photographer photography raw software update updates wedding workflow https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/10/-adobe-blog-066-camera-raw-update-11-4-1-issues Wed, 23 Oct 2019 19:08:40 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 065 | Secret 2nd Shooter https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/9/weddingphotography-blog-065-secret-2nd-shooter

Wedding Photographer Northern IrelandWedding Photographer Northern IrelandDarron Mark Photography offering wedding photography and video in Northern Ireland and Ireland.

This shot came from my Groom Only booking I did earlier in the year. I, just like probably every other single shooter wedding photographer tend not to travel to the groom's house in the morning, mainly due to the time constraints and high likelihood that the travel from the bride's to the groom's homes would make it impossible to do. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised to get an enquiry from the Groom to see if I would be prepared to call out to his home, and the supply the images to the main photographer for inclusion in their wedding album.

I didn't know who the photographer was, their style or type of equipment they used, I was happy to provide the images to my fellow professional as I knew the reason why he/she wasn't going to include the groom's home preparation.

The last time I attended a groom's home (at the specific request of the bride), the groom wasn't even home, he was away trying to get his shirt ironed at his Mum's, his groomsmen were somewhere else, one had been missing in action from the previous night before! When the time came for me to leave to get to the bride's it was only then the groom turned up and apologised and explained what was going on as he hadn't got any of my calls or texts because in his rush he'd left his phone in the house.

The time before that, there were three grown men calling their wives/partners asking where things were, shirts were just being pulled from packets and not one knew their way around an iron! I'm happy to re-knot ties, help with cufflinks, pin flowers in the right position, but I draw the line at basic housekeeping.

Young boy on the morning of a wedding.Morning Preparations.Morning preparations at the Mullan home with Stephen and his family getting ready for Stephen's big day. The family I'd been hired by this time were just around the corner from where I lived, so that was a win in terms of expenses. They'd booked them in for an hour and set to work. It turned out the father was a plumber I had used in the past, the sister of the groom worked in my local store (and was completely unrecognisable in her wedding attire). The tone of the morning for me was very relaxed as I wasn't under any pre-wedding pressure, to me, it was just a simple documentary style shoot and the groom's Mum had everything in order, everything was hanging in the right place and all shirts were pressed to perfection.

I never did find out who the other photographer was that day, I only hope my images worked well within their own album design, needless to say, I'm always happy to support my peers which is why I'm offering my Aerial Photography services to all wedding photographers who wish to offer this unique solution, but don't have the time or inclination to purchase a drone, do the courses and get the relevant qualifications/certifications. The royalty of the images will all be transferred to the photographer for use in their final product, whether that's in a wedding album or wedding video.

If you're a bride who has already booked your photographer/videographer but wish they offered aerial services, again, please get in touch and I'd be happy to collaborate with them too.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) 2nd shooter aerial photographer aerial videographer assistant blog business darron mark documentary drone drones film maker groom Ireland morning Northern Ireland partner partnerships photographer photography royalty free wedding wedding album wedding videos https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/9/weddingphotography-blog-065-secret-2nd-shooter Mon, 23 Sep 2019 10:41:53 GMT
#MusicPhotography | Blog 064 | Fast Thursday https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/9/music-photography-fast-thursday

Fast Thursday - 015 - 20190903Fast Thursday - 015 - 20190903Hard rock 3 piece Irish punk band performing a blow out gig at Bennigans Bar, Derry City. The band consist of Reece Nelson, guitar/vocals, newest memeber Jamie Mc Clelland, Bass guitar/vocals and Luke Sharkey on drums. Hailing from Strabane, they'e had a fantastic year with a mini-tour of the UK and also more recently performing at Stendhal 2019. Images by Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI

Let me introduce you to Fast Thursday, where the lead singer is a Skoda Estate driving lunatic who drinks and smokes too much and could possibly drop dead at any minute due to a dodgy ticker, a drummer who has a habit of passing out pissed and losing an eyebrow and their newest band member who learned the band's set in 10 days before being launched on the public at the Stendhal Festival in August, having only been with the band a grand total of 2 weeks. This hard rock 3 piece Irish punk band command your attention at every gig, and they closed off 2019 at their own gig in Bennigans Bar, Derry City. The band consist of Reece Nelson, guitar/vocals, newest member Jamie McClelland, Bass guitar/vocals and Luke Sharkey on drums. Hailing from Strabane, they've had a fantastic year with a mini-tour of the UK and also more recently performing as previously mentioned, the Stendhal Festival, 2019.

I've recorded these guys before, well, I say guys, the truth is; only Reece is the link between then and now, where then was a fecking cold March 1st night, as CHERYM decided to launch their latest album on a night that almost fell below freezing, in a bar that has an outdoor stage and between sets you could hear people's nipples falling off and hitting the concrete below.

Fast Thursday - 008 - 20190406Fast Thursday - 008 - 201904063 piece Hard Rock Alternative Punk band from Ireland consisting of
Reece Nelson, on guitar and lead vocals, Adam McGinley on bass and backing vocals, Luke Sharkey on Drums. Fast Thursday hail from Strabane Northern Ireland. They closed off the Battle of The Bands event at The Delacroix in Derry City on Saturday night, placing a second place, but a firm first for the fans. Pictures by Darron Mark Photography - https://www.dmfotoni.com/music
That night, with a lacklustre performance, they were hardly noticeable amongst the mega talent that is Mosmo Strange and CHERYM. However, that was then, this is now. Well, I'll caveat that with an interjection. I saw Fast Thursday again this year at the Grand Final of Battle of the Bands, and 'not in a gay way', I couldn't take my eyes off Reece. He demanded you pay attention, not through instruction, but by simple stage presence. That night I'd brought my son with me as he was in town visiting, and he, like me, came to the same conclusion: They should have won! It was an attendance vote that night, and don't get me wrong, the winners were worthy, however, they did have more 'fans' from Derry in the room that the band from Strabane, and it was a People's Vote that swung it. 

Reece's appearance had changed, now sporting a big blue mohawk and a slimmed-down waistline, he was 'cooking on gas'!

He'd also swapped out his drummer with Luke after an internal dispute over an ability to commit to the band, but it was logistics that really ended that relationship. Adam, the bassist wasn't going to be around for long either as it turned out, though that relationship has been amicable, queue Jamie's appearance at Stendhal.

Fast Thursday - 014 - 20190816Fast Thursday - 014 - 20190816Fast Thursday are a loud energetic hard rock band from Northern Ireland who’ve played gigs in every pub bar and club up and down Ireland, they are an original drums bass and guitar trio and to truly experience the feel of a Fast Thursday show is a wild ride, they have two EPs released to date with the second EP unite the factions taken on tour across the uk in june 19 as well as a smattering of Irish gigs to go with it. Pictures by Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI When it comes to music, I'm an old goat. I know what I like when I hear it. That's not to say I'm tethered to any particular genre as such, it means that if you can get the hairs on my arms to stand up, you have my attention, and Fast Thursday have them up in droves, so when they were appearing at Bennigans in what they term "Post Summer Holiday" "Pre College" gig, I just had to be there.

What's next for Fast Thursday? They're writing, practising and I've spoken to the band about potentially doing a video in the near future with them. Reece has a new song, needs polish and practice but he hopes to have it recorded in the next few weeks. Luke and Jamie want to include a busted apocalyptic 9 and Half Weeks montage in there somewhere (I hope it's soon, cause I'm averse to the cold lol) and they're looking at organising another tour very soon.

Will They Make It? Fuck yeah! These guys are amazing. The command Reece has of the stage is tantamount to bullying. You simply have to watch him or he'll turn the amp up to 12 if you don't. His drive and passion for his craft is a burning flame that burns blinding bright and would melt the weakest of mic stands, learn the name 'Fast Thursday', it's fuck all to do with dieting.

This is the video from the Winter Session as I like to call it and trust me, they're amazing live!


(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) band bar bass battle of the bands Bennigans blog blogger Cherym darron darron mark derry drummer drums Fast Thursday gig Jamie McClelland londonderry Luke Sharkey mark mosmo strange music music blogger music photographer music photography photographer photography Reece Nelson Skoda Estate Stendhal Strabane tour vocals https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/9/music-photography-fast-thursday Fri, 13 Sep 2019 22:17:06 GMT
#MusicPhotography | Blog 063 | Stendhal19 https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/9/-musicphotography-blog-063-stendhal19

Let's talk about one of the best festivals in Northern Ireland, Stendhal. This gem of a gathering draws crowds from across the island of Ireland, as well as bringing home a whole host of people who have for one reason or another moved away, but use this event as a reason to come home, catch up, and basically have a great (and this year) muddy time.

Stendhal19 - Crowds - 004 - 20190817Stendhal19 - Crowds - 004 - 20190817 I live no more than 20 minutes away from its epicentre, and I have to say, having attended 4 of the last 9 festivals, I'm still amazed by how many people still don't know about it. Admittedly, I'm a little late to the party myself having moved to Greysteel some 9 years ago. Once I had been to my first one, having experienced the carrying of my oversized tent across three fields in the pouring rain with my then-girlfriend and her two kids, I wasn't initially hooked, I'll be honest!

To be fair, this was my first ever festival. I've been to outdoor events in the past but never had I ever had to trundle back to a tent, in the rain afterwards. It was a truly horrific first experience initially, one I felt at the time I wouldn't ever want to repeat. As the days rolled on and you adjust to the reality that you're shitting in a plastic Tardis, washing with a baby wipe or three and you're trying to cook breakfast on a bloody BBQ tray cause you're not allowed to bring any gas to the site, you sort of warm to it. For the life of me, I couldn't work out why I couldn't bring camping gas, till I got there. You're pitched alongside thousands of other people all in the same predicament, and if, heaven forbid, someone had a gas cooker accident, what with that amount of watertight nylon in such a condensed area, the flames would be seen from space within minutes.

I know I'm not selling it right now, but as I said, it was my first festival - I'd led a very sheltered (and comfy) life up until that point. After the first full day and night, you come to terms with it. You're here, with a slight whiff of alcohol, piss and baby wipes, but you'll be surprised at just how quickly you adapt. Once you do, you'll start to notice what an unmitigated triumph of organisation, management and absolute belters the acts this country has to offer (as well as some blow-ins from further afield).

That baptism four years ago was just what I needed. It rained, and it rained. The team provided bales of hay for people to take as much as their arms could carry, to make dryish areas in the front of their tents to take off their wellies and boots before diving into their tents. The same thing happened this year too, the rain came and didn't really leave.

The early release tickets went on sale for this year's event in 2018, the acts hadn't even been announced and I simply didn't care. Sure, there were bands and singers who I have formed great relationships with who I hoped I would see, but it didn't matter, we were going and that was that.

I want to be honest with you here, there are loads and loads of things for the children to do, and it grows in scope each year, but we didn't bring ours back. My wife and I have made Stendhal 'our thing', and the kids are not invited anymore. For them (early to mid-teens), they're just not interested. They'll come back around it, of that, I have no doubt, our two would prefer to be in their rooms, light off, SnapChat on till their skin tone turns translucent, it's a phase they're in and there's no point in fighting it. Besides, it means me and the wife can just let rip and have a great time without a care in the world (we're already getting a taste of the life we hope to live once they've moved out lol).

To me, the event has two agendas.

  1. Have a fantastic time with my wife, wandering around the multiple stages, bumping into friends and relatives and watching some amazing talent perform from the afternoon to the early hours.
  2. Photograph as much as I possibly can (whilst still sober) and at the same time, try and keep in touch with the wife, as I skip from one stage to another and she anchors to whatever act she's enthralled by.

Neil Moore of Magic Bean FilmsNeil Moore - Magic Bean FilmsWeathering the storm, Neil deciding on making a run for it to the next stage... Ciara McMullanCiara McMullanCiara McMullan on the Basement Jaxx stage getting that unique shot.

The Stendhal Team have been fantastic in providing me with Press Access and there are a number of other great professionals who cover the event on their behalfs, such as Neil Moore from Magic Bean Films, and my absolute fave Ciara McMullan, tour photographer and an all-round good egg. Having a mid-set natter with these two keeps me sane, though, as the night wears on, I do tend to try and avoid them, as I'm under no pressure to produce the goods, so tend to end up a little, er... Tipsy.

After our first two festivals spent in pretty large tent, we decided to upgrade and bring the motorhome. I didn't even know it was an option until I saw more information on the social networks about the tickets to bring your motorhome being a little low, so last year, having convinced my wife it was the 'sensible' option, we brought the van. She didn't want to, she actually thought we were cheating the whole experience by not camping, and last year was a splendid year in terms of weather, but, I wanted to edit pictures seated at a table, with the option of a shower (as I've mentioned earlier, I like my comforts) and a cold beer in the fridge). What I loved most was that once last years festival was over, we simply drove away! No rolling up an airbed, sleeping bags and a wet tent. I'd even invested in a big-wheeled trolly cart so I could pull it like an auld shire horse across freshly cut cornfields. I loved being able to drive up, park up, get to the gigs/bar in under 10 minutes.

This year was our first Thursday night onsite. Most people would tend to take the Friday off to get on-site and sorted, and the Stendhal team picked up on that and added Thursday night to the mix, and we weren't disappointed in coming in early. Tucked away in the new Air Stage was a band neither of us had heard of - Blackbird & Crow. A mixture of country and bluegrass with a hardcore powerhouse of a singer in Maighread Ni Ghrasta, we were blown away. So much so, that the following day when they performed again we bought their 'Shock, Shatter, Convince' album. They're one of those bands that actually sound even better live!

Blackbird & Crow - 027 - 20190816Blackbird & Crow - 027 - 20190816Blackbird and Crow come from the farthest northern corner of Co Donegal, Ireland. The band formed four years ago and are comprised of Maighread Ni Ghrasta (Vocals) and Stephen Doohan (Guitar/Bouzouki /Stomp Box). Pictures by Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI

I didn't intend for this blog to be about a particular act as such, but it would be a wasted opportunity not to tell you about this band, so here's a video from their album.

If you're lucky enough to get to attend a gig of theirs, get there. They're simply amazing. We'll be both trying to organise a night to see them again in the next few months and hopefully, I'll have an opportunity to bring the video camera along too, for my YouTube Channel.

Anyway, back to Stendhal 2019. Thursday night, the sun is still pretty much still visible, it's been raining in the last few days, but nothing too concerning, and the ground is still fairly solid. We mooch about, grab a bite to each from one of the onsite vendors and start making our way to the few stages that are open at this point. The bottom half of the site is sealed off, only the top part is open, which is where we discovered the new Air Stage, and the new Big Tents. I recall the Saturday night last year we had torrential rain and there weren't that many places to hide from it, this was resolved this year with many covered areas being made available near some of the stages. 

Festival Top Tip: Buy the program, get a notepad and do a little bit of research on who is on and where, and more importantly, WHEN. I'd confused myself this year with mixing up my days, and the Smartphone App for some reason wasn't updated this year. I'm on O2 and tend not to get a great signal, which is why I was savvy enough to bring my new walkie-talkies. I'd had to buy them for my new PfCO (well, I say 'had to' but I really just wanted them and used that as an excuse (don't tell the wife)) but they were amazing in terms of range and I was easily able to keep in touch with the wife, even while she was still in the motorhome and me wandering about the main area.

I think what I'm going to do at this point, break down some of the acts I saw in future posts, but what I want you to take away from this, you have to come to Stendhal10 - The 10 is part of their new marketing for the 10th Anniversary. I promise you, it's going to be amazing. Who knows, I might even bring the kids next year (I doubt it)! My parting memory of this year (apart from the stinking hangover on Sunday) was being towed out of a muddy field by a volunteer tractor driver, of which there were 18 of them helping people get home. Again, a testimony of how well thought out this event is. A fleet of tractors working the fields, only this time, they are harvesting cars and motorhomes instead of crops. 

As a music photographer, Stendhal provides me with an opportunity to make a few notes on new acts I want to get to know further, build relationships with and get on my YouTube Channel

Where you there this year? Who was your favourite band/artist? Would you go next year? Let me know in the comments below.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) 2019 blackbird and crow blog camping children Ciara McMullan darron darron mark festival festival photographer festivals fun ireland Limavady magic bean films mark motorhome mud music music photographer Neil Moore new northern Northern Ireland open mic nights pfco photo photographer photography photos press access snapchat Stendhal Festival teenagers tents walkie-talkie youtube https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/9/-musicphotography-blog-063-stendhal19 Fri, 13 Sep 2019 20:55:55 GMT
#AerialPhotography | Blog 062 | PfCO & Drones https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/9/-aerialphotography-blog-062-pfco-drones

For any of you who follow me on my many various social media platforms, you might already be aware that I recently gained my PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operations) from the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority). This means, in short, that I can fly for money. If you didn't know, simply owning a drone (or as they're properly named Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) does not mean you can start an aerial photography business. You must satisfy the CAA that you are aware of the various rules of the air, that you are skilled in basic manoeuvres and understand what to do when planning a flight. Only after you have passed those thresholds and tests, are you able to earn a living from a drone.

I've been flying drones for over 5 years as a hobby, taking pictures here and there, and the odd video. Nothing worthy of a going for a commercial license. However, more recently, as I've been pursuing my career as a film maker, adding aerial footage has always (in my opinion) added a little more to the content. As well as making videos for my own pleasure, I also wanted to be able to offer aerial services to my wedding clients, so I had to go down the formal route, as there are no ways to avoid being caught out by the police if you're caught flying for money without the PfCO.

The Aerial Photography aspect of my business is starting to seep into my various booking options, especially in the areas you'd expect, the wedding side of things being the first, but the main focus for the aerial business will be aerial surveys for agricultural solutions, which is one of the reasons I've created another website: www.AGRIdroneNI.com 

Nobody: So, other than the usual elements the drone can add to a wedding photography/videography business, what else do I hope to achieve with the new AGRI business?

Me: Well, the technology exists to highlight areas within the growth cycle of crops that there's a problem starting, two weeks before the human eye can detect it. As a farmer, if you have that information early, you can remedy it much faster and in a more targeted fashion, saving you money on lots of different fronts, such as a reduction in treatment costs as it's targeted towards problematic areas, and also, potentially healing a failing part of your land so that you can reap a more successful growth return.

Some of you reading this will be thinking "Why are you telling me all this?" The answer to that is, you know I'm passionate about photography, and a few of you will know people (or even be) involved in the agricultural sector here in Northern Ireland and Ireland, so I guess I'm asking you to let them know of my new solution.

Anyway, that's enough waffle for today. Time I got back to this editing of videos lark. Till next time, have a great day!

Facebook advert for the new AGRIdoneNI business.AGRIdroneNI Facebook AdvertThe first advert I've created for the new AGRIdroneNI Business.



(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) agri agricultural agridroneni blog blogger business crops darron darron mark data derry farmers farming farms growing growth intelligence ireland londonderry mark mid new northern northern ireland photo photographer photography season seasons wedding weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/9/-aerialphotography-blog-062-pfco-drones Wed, 11 Sep 2019 12:17:05 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 061 | The Big Signs https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/8/-weddingphotography-blog-061-the-big-signs

It's not often that I'm impressed by another wedding supplier. Let's face it, I've been at this game for more than 12 years with over 100 weddings under my belt, it's pretty safe to say "I've seen it all". However, when I rocked up to the Silver Tassie Hotel last Saturday I had to do a double take.

Mr & Mrs McFeely by Scene Setters of Omagh.Scene Setters - Light LettersMr & Mrs McFeely by Scene Setters of Omagh.

This huge Light Letter in the main reception area where the couple would soon be enjoying their evening meal. I don't know how they've done, how it's made, all I know is, I love it! I think it's amazing that you can just hire your surname in lights for an evening, without going to the expense of buying one yourself. 

It makes quite the statement, which is obviously what they're going for, and they've loads of examples of their work on their website and Instagram. Along with these amazing signs, they offer a Vintage Photo Booth, Popcorn Van, Moon Gate (not sure), and the usual Sweet Cart (which, I have to admit, I did visit whilst everyone was distracted).

Now, I've been tempted to venture into the Photo Booth space myself in the past, but putting it bluntly, by the time it comes to that part of the evening, I'm shattered and very happy to let others who have invested a lot of time and money (a lot of money) take over for the rest of the night.

Anyway, this was just a shout out to the guys and girls over at SceneSetters.co and I wish them well and look forward to seeing their work in future weddings I photograph.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogger darron darron mark derry ireland light letters londonderry mark name in lights northern northern ireland Omagh photo photographer photography scene setters wedding wedding services weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/8/-weddingphotography-blog-061-the-big-signs Fri, 02 Aug 2019 21:42:43 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 060 | Bulgaria Trip https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/5/-dailylife-blog-060-bulgaria-trip This is our second visit to (Googles location again) Veliko Tirnovo in Bulgaria, having been here last September, when I worked for LaunchPad Recruits and sat along side my work colleague Izzy. Back then, I told my bosses that I'd like to 'work from home', I just didn't say who's home that would be.

One of the downsides though, was having to sit at work all day, while the sun was splitting the trees outside, and that was in September, so I didn't really get to see much of the country then, apart from the hell that was the journey from Sofia to Tirnovo having been drove here by here by Izzy's brother! You would have sworn he'd stole the car and we were being chased cross country. Apparently, they all drive like that here we were told. When we (I keep saying 'we', I should say, my wife came with me) left, I politely declined the offer of a lift back to the airport, with said brother, and got the bus.

I left LaunchPad in February, as I wanted a bit more freedom to do things that interested me, such as photography (obviously), video projects, and my newly acquired skill set of Massage Therapist. Which means I can work from home a lot more supporting my wife's business over at Foyle43.

We're back in Bulgaria, this time, purely on holiday (but still staying with Izzy, who is still chained to her desk), but she's taken a few days off this time, so that we can go do a little bit of exploration, show us some of the sights of this great country. We've ventured out on our own too, with my camera's and drone in tow, having hired a car for this trip, it's given us an opportunity to be a little more independent. It's taken us down to really worrisome routes on the GPS, roads which can only be described as concrete farm tracks with the classification of a A-Road back home. You're arse certainly grips the seat when a HGV comes in the opposite direction, let me tell you that for free! Also, for the record, they all don't drive like Izzy's brother (there are some that do, and good luck to them).

I'm not one to just sit about, which is why I always travel with a bit of kit with me. I brought a DJI Osmo+, Canon 600D, and a DJI Mavic Pro. My Canon camera thus far has been used for food photography for a local restaurant already (I didn't even get a discount on the food), tourist stuff, and tonight, I'm photographing a live gig in a local bar. I'm trading my skills for room and board here with Izzy. The local currency is Lev, which equates to 2 Lev for 1 Pound Sterling, however, the food here to so so cheap! We've had dinner and drinks at restaurants and the bill has been roughly £15 for the two of us. It's ridiculously cheap here! The quality is still top-notch though. The only place where you'll see a like for like in terms of costs is in McDonalds, where I wouldn't recommend the chips/fries as they've not travelled well. I watched them being cooked, and they still tasted stale.

One of the things I enjoy doing when on holiday is read. I hardly ever get a chance to do that when I'm at home, there are just way too many distractions to even attempt to focus. I'm a massive fan of the film 'Arrival', I even love the soundtrack to the film. Having watched the extras of the film, I found out it was derived out of a short story by Ted Chiang, and some of the book's story had to be adapted for screen, I won't say what, but the short story is pretty close to the film. My daughter knew I liked the film, and I must have mentioned that I was going to get the book when I had a chance to get some peace to read it. Well, she bought it to me, and I'm writing this blog with the book half read already. The book itself is a collection of short stories, each independent of each other, but the writing is phenomenal. I love this guy's style, the detail and the journey he takes you on. I'm actually nearing the end of the 'Arrival' short story, and knowing the film, but seeing the differences has made this story all the more interesting.

I'm determined to finish the book before I finish this holiday.

Check out some of the pictures from our trip so far (you'll need to visit this webpage to see them if you're reading this via email), we're getting further away from the town with each day trip, my only concern now is, what's Bulgarian for 'Petrol'? If only we could drag Izzy away from her many jobs to come join us.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) amazon arrival blog books Bulgaria camera canon canon 600d darron darron mark dji mavic DJI Osmo DJI OSMO+ drone drone footage film mark photographer photography reading Ted Chiang Tirnovo tourist travel Veliko Tirnovo https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/5/-dailylife-blog-060-bulgaria-trip Fri, 24 May 2019 09:00:00 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 059 | The End of Fusion https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/5/-weddingphotography-blog-059-the-end-of-fusion As I woke up the other day, and reached across to my phone, that was on charge by my bed, I read, through sleepy eyes, that my long time wedding album designer has decided to close her business.

I've been using her services for nearly 10 years for my Fusion Album designs, in which she blended their creative flair along with my images, to create stunning and unique wedding albums. To say I'm gutted, would be an understatement. It's meant that I've had to pass that news on to a number of brides and let them know that their album design of choice is now, sadly, not available.

Finding great service providers is hard. Finding ones dedicated to their art is even harder. With new styles coming through, such as my collage ones, brides are typically picking the cleaner lines, which meant the Fusion design was slowing going out of favour, which is a shame, as I really liked it.

The Fusion Design isn't the only thing I'm shedding from my site, I'm also going to be doing less Press Photography too, as the newspaper industry is in it's last death throws, as more and more journalists are taking pictures themselves, as well as that, the papers are taking any auld toot when it comes to accepting free images from the general public. You simply can't compete when it comes to trying to earn a living from organisations that feel they don't have to pay anymore. I'm currently in dispute with a Northern Ireland based National Newspaper, that hasn't paid their invoice in over 90 days, so I'm taking them to the small claims court. It's ridicules that you have to resort to these sorts of things just to get what was promised to you. More on that as things progress.

My daily focus will now be more aligned to the music scene here in the North West, mainly supporting the Sundown SessionsTeam over on Facebook, who host an OpenMicNights night at The Grand Central Bar in Derry, and if someone else is aware of a gig night like this, get in touch, I'd be more than happy to come and lend my lens to that too (when I can).

Obviously; wedding photography is still going to be my main business focus, because I simply love being a wedding photographer, however, as they're a weekend thing, and the music scene typically tends to be a mid-week thing, they don't clash, which keeps me plenty occupied.

On the music front, not only do I manage to take pictures of the acts, but I also film some nights too, so if you're in to home grown music, you really should check out my YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/OpenMicNights - It's where all the cool kids hang out, and this fat auld bloke too!


(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog darron derry music facebook facebook groups fusion design ireland mark music northern photographer photography sundown sessions youtube https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/5/-weddingphotography-blog-059-the-end-of-fusion Tue, 21 May 2019 09:30:00 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 058 | Mill Park Hotel, Donegal https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/5/-weddingphotography-blog-058-mill-park-hotel-donegal I did promise I'd write more, which usually sees me losing some 'subscribers' to my blog feed, because, well, I'm not always going to write about stuff that's relevant to everyone, as you all have your own individual likes, needs and wants, which is a bit like how we perceive Jesus - I'm joking! This isn't a radio broadcast sermon. Have you noticed how they always manage to start off with something waaaay over there, and then, without warning, swing you right into the gospel?

I'm not a religious person, never really have to been if I'm being honest with you. I'm too cynical, I over think too much, not at an anxiety level, more in a logical sense. I'm a problem solver by nature. I try things to see how 'things' work, or re-work actions I've taken after having reflected on what I've done to see if there is a better way of doing it. I do this because I'm fundamentally a lazy person. I want to find the easiest way to do something that other people would think to be hard. I just want an easy life, so I think about the easiest way of doing hard, complex things.

Having this mind set enables me to spot others who think the same way as I do, a bit like 'gay-dar' but for lazy folk. Wedding professionals typically fall into this category, because we're all trying to be as efficient as possible, like wedding co-ordinators for example. They're some of the hardest working people I know within this industry. They're planners, they are captains of teams, they are problem solvers, no matter where you look, they are there making sure guests are all having a great time, whilst making it look easy. They've worked out all the kinks through training, mentorship and experience, filing it all down to a sharp point.

When it comes to the speeches and the groom is giving his thanks to everyone, on only one occasion in over 100 weddings has anyone said thank you to the photographer (me), they always default to the team at the hotel first. It's not without reason. These heroes of the day juggle so much in the run up to the big day, that you sometimes forget how pivotal they are to the whole wedding.

As you're booking your big day, you probably don't know the exact numbers who will be attending, you'll have a range that you hope you can stick too, but you won't. Not when all the aunties and uncles start coming out of the wood work, then there's the cousins, the new borns that have shown up between you booking the venue and the wedding day. There's the dietary requirements for those who only eat chicken nuggets to those who won't eat meat.

The seating plan! Let's not get started on that nightmare. All of this has to be relayed back to the wedding co-ordinator, who in my last wedding was the wonderful Mary, of the Mill Park Hotel in county of Donegal.

From the moment I arrived with the happy couple Mary was on the go. She knew the cake had to be ready, she knew the room had to be ready, she had the drinks reception already queued up, and was organising everything like a concert conductor, all with a wonderful smile on her face.

Now, I've never photographed at this hotel before. I've drove past it a good few times, but was never in it. I have to say, the interior is amazing. A mixture of an old guildhall market wooden interior, with a modern design twist. Spacious yet cosy, an open wood burning fire, comfortable seating, and sectioned off areas to just sink into the seats and relax. Her team were as professional as she was. Everybody had a smile on their face the whole time.

My bride on this occasion was Melissa, who it would seem is a bit of a Disney fan. Mary's team were ready and waiting, each adorned with Minnie Mouse ears.

The Park Hotel team (Mary at the rear centre)The Park Hotel team (Mary at the rear centre)Mary and the team at Park Hotel, Donegal all wearing Minnie Mouse ears.

Now, if you have a team THIS ready, then ears off to you!

The whole evening went without a hitch, and as I packed up my gear before I left, I could still see Mary on her feet, still making sure everyone was having a great time.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog darron donegal Ireland Irish Irish weddings mark mill park hotel photographer photography wedding coordinator wedding photography https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/5/-weddingphotography-blog-058-mill-park-hotel-donegal Fri, 17 May 2019 11:30:00 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 057 | 'A Life' in Review https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/3/-dailylife-blog-057-a-life-in-review Last year had its ups and downs, what with dealing with family illness, close friends losing their fights to cancer, or just losing touch with other friends through no fault of our own, just the endless onslaught of life. I have, however, managed to grow personally. I started writing this post on Christmas Eve, 2018, and I'm only just getting around to finishing it and I'm taking the time to think of the people that have been an inspiration and brought joy to my life.

Firstly, I have to talk about Mrs Kathy Mark. I have such a loving wife, who, while I do my best to prevent it from happening, I still sometimes take her for granted. She is my inspiration, my drive, and although she's had her own demons to battle last year, has always stood by me and my madcap ideas for world domination in one area or other. As previously mentioned, she was the one that came up with the idea for my 'Memorial Video' solution, and to pursue the Music Video 'thing' (more on that later), which meant we could get out of an evening, doing something different whilst helping local bands and singers with free videos to show off to others. Kathy also roped me into helping her with massage therapies within her own business, which incidentally seen me have Kathy's clients request me directly, me, a massage therapist of all things, who would have thought it? The training wasn't much different from what I learned years ago, and I actually enjoy doing it, never thought I would. Harper Green, GranddaughterHarper Green, GranddaughterThe latest edition to the family My children have also brought joy (and frustration) this year, with my eldest, Yasmin, becoming a mother and making me a grandfather with the birth of Harper to her long-term partner Timothy (hopefully there'll be a proposal in the offering soon, hint hint). The next daughter down in the list is Demi (formally known as Jade, who is now using Demi (her middle name) as she thinks it's better (which is what I told her mother when she was born)), she finally managed to snag a new job, which is great news, whilst juggling her further education in game design, we so happy for her. Moving swiftly on to my son, Leon, who, despite all our advice quit midway through his A-Levels to pursue a career as a ship's captain having successfully been selected for the 4-year course, which will mean he'll have to move to Glasgow next year. Hopefully, his 5th attempt at passing his driving test will see him driving there instead of getting the bus. In the interim, he also managed to get a job at a local call centre to tide him over until his start date, and he's doing really really well at it too, by all accounts. I'm hoping for great things for my children, as any parent would!

Back to me.

When I married Kathy a little over 3 years ago, we became what's commonly known as a 'blended family' which basically means, I have taken on her children too and she has helped influence mine (as they're much older). It's not been without its issues, truth be told.

As a seasoned wedding photographer, I've seen this a lot in other couples who have gone down the same road as me, where its not their first marriage, and I'm always keen to get their advice on how they've worked it out. The common response is that it takes time and a lot of effort, and patience. Kathy's children and I have rutted heads a few times over the years, and this past year it sort of levelled out to a calm sea, with the odd choppy breeze. I recently had my first "You're not my real Dad" hurled at me when Kathy's eldest didn't get her own way. She's just turned 14, which I'm sure you all understand what we were like at that age?

Philosophy, surprisingly has helped in this and learning that taking a different perspective creates moments of reflection. It's not easy, for any of us, especially when that breeze turns in to a squawll. Though, with my wife's calming hand on the tiler (all these boat metaphors and analogies must be rubbing off from my son), we've managed to keep it together. My own children have also seen a great change in me personally, with (not always) my new ability to slow down my reactionary decision process, to ponder, consider all points, and then respond, where I would have normally just blurted out what my knee jerk response would have been.

Throughout my life, I've been a problem solver. A challenger of issues, the guy you come to if you have a problem cause 'I simply know' what you should do, because it's what I would do if I was in the same position. This year has seen a change in that behaviour. Sure, I still think I know what would do, but now I don't say it, I'll simply offer you a way to see different options on what you 'could' do, instead of what 'I would do'. What I would do is not necessarily the right decision for you. What I do now is simply shine a light on the other areas of opportunity that maybe you hadn't factored in, but ultimately, it's down to that person to make the right choice (rightly or wrongly) for them.

Typically, when someone comes to you for advice, they're only painting the picture of the scenario that they're in, they've created the construct, they're the ones still holding the paintbrush, and the picture of the problem is only as large as the canvas they're prepared to show you, from their point of view. When you give someone advice based on only the colours they have on their palette, you could in fact be reinforcing the problem as they see it, and this might not be the best course of action.

We've all seen those 'inspirational quotes' on Facebook. They are, for the most part, all horse shit to some degree. With the rise in mental health awareness it's important for us who are doing okay to be a little calmer when talking to those who might not be so well at the moment. A little more patient, and a lot more understanding when we hear about our friend's stories or woes. To them, they maybe major but to us, very minor, however, the mind has a way of distorting a reality to a person trapped in depression or with anxiety. We're all going through something, sometimes, and that knee jerk response to someone who has just opened up can sometimes lead to them closing the lid again and doing the worst thing imaginable with that problem, I don't need to say what.

What I do want to say to you is, I'm here, to listen, to put the kettle on and have a cup of tea with. I'm here most days now, having recently quit my day job to be a Massage Therapist within my wife's business, and also to allow me the time to again grow my photography and videography business here within DMfotoNI, I can always make time for you, to talk, to have someone who will just listen, cause when you hear your thoughts translated into words, they can sometimes reveal something more about what's going on.

We should all share that mind set, because we're supposed to be kind, we were simply born that way.

Oh, and a shout out to the lovely reader of my blogs who suggested that I add a speech reader to these blogs! Thank you, it's been a pain in the bum updating them all, but if it helps just one person (you), then that's good enough reason for me to do it, again, thank you x

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog darron darron mark family ireland londonderry love mark mental health northern photographer photography sharing talking understanding https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2019/3/-dailylife-blog-057-a-life-in-review Fri, 22 Mar 2019 13:03:20 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 056 | What Is A Memorial Video? https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/12/-dailylife-blog-056-what-is-a-memorial-video Losing a parent is tough, take it from me, I've lost both of 'em to cancer. It's been a while now, just a smidge over 10 years, but every now and then they enter your mind and from nowhere, you're crying. Due to Western culture, it's not the done thing for a grown ass man to cry, but I do, granted, usually in private, but I do shed a tear or two.

Just recently I was watching that new Netflix film 'The Christmas Chronicles' and without spoiling the movie there's one scene where a son looks back at his Dad, and I shit you not, I near lost it, that gulp feeling as your just about to bawl your eyes out. I always seem to put myself into the scene as the son, which is odd, cause I have a son too, and I wonder if one day he'll do the same about me when I've left this mortal coil.

Fun Fact: Mortal coil is a poetic term for the troubles of daily life and the strife and suffering of the world. It is used in the sense of a burden to be carried or abandoned. To "shuffle off this mortal coil" is to die, exemplified in the "To be, or not to be" soliloquy in Shakespeare's Hamlet.

We have all a family history we refer back to when it comes to thinking about our loved ones, but yet all we feel is this overwhelming sense of loss. If my Mum & Dad were sitting opposite me right now at the kitchen table, where I'm writing this, I'm sure we'd be reminiscing about previous Christmas's, or what I got up to as a child so that my wife could fully comprehend what a little shite I was, but, as she's never met them (as they'd gone before we had got together), we'll never have that, she'll never get to know them, and this too makes me sad. My Dad always had this knack of bringing up stories that would embarrass me to the core, I hated it and loved it all at the same time because throughout my childhood it felt to me that he wasn't really present. He'd been a hardworking man, always away providing for us all, and it was nice to know, despite (to my little mind) his absence, he'd been paying attention.

I dream about them sometimes. I wake up with that ghost-like ache in my arms from hugging them. Sometimes I wake up with tears streaming and that pain in my chest like there's a huge hole that can't ever be filled or replaced. I've witnessed friends and family go through similar experiences and I know what they're going through, I also know that those feelings, however intense they are, will eventually fade and they too will be where I am, holding this fragile box of emotional turmoil that at any moment might explode out of nowhere. That's grief. It's like the tides on a wide beach, you can let yourself hear it when you want to as you go about your daily life. However, every now and then, you get engulfed in a huge wave, just like I did yesterday watching a movie.

There are a number of creative people out there creating memorial cushions from the clothing of their loved ones. I think they're a fantastic idea, I really do. My ex-wife makes them, and I've seen a few on Facebook here and there from people more locally based. I'm no good with a sewing machine, I'm more of a photographic and video creation person. So when my wife came up with the idea for the Memorial Video concept, I thought yes! This is something I can do!

Promotional Video - Val MarkA 60 second sample of a Memorial Video The idea is this: I visit people in their homes, or they can come to me, whatever suits them best. We go through all the pictures that they want to appear in the slideshow, and we make arrangements to convert any videos that the family might have too, I can cover this aspect as well, as I already have the technology to do so, be it a DVD or a VHS, I'll get it sorted.

The next thing is to put the pictures in a timeline order, oldest to newest, and if there are any people worth mentioning in the pictures we write on post-it notes and stick them to the back of the picture, this way we're not damaging the picture by writing anything directly on the back. I then go away, scan them all and start work on putting the memorial video together.

As you can see the sample (above) I made with my late mother's pictures, places, names etc are all overlayed. The video is also kept within the timeline and added, and we can even have the music they loved used as a background track.

The best bit about this is, all the pictures have now been digitally stored in a unique personal gallery for them download for free. They can even watch the original videos that are now online, as the one thing I've found over the years is that I keep forgetting what my parents sounded like, their voices, their laugh.

Should they want to get prints done from those newly converted pictures, there's a wealth of products available through my store, which includes framing, canvases, and gifts too.

Everything is all in one place, which means they can then share that link with their other family members to enjoy when they too want to go back to those happy memories. It's not just on the web either, I have a free smartphone app that will take them directly into the password protected gallery to enjoy whenever they get the sense they want to visit those happier times.

Words of Wisdom - Video Services

These are more in-depth in nature and are more to do with family members who are still with us. They don't necessarily have to be near the end of their life either, they can simply be done as keepsakes for the future. This is the thing about age, every day we should be thankful for another opportunity to enjoy our health and the fact that we are still here because we just don't know what's around the corner.

Similar in the Memorial Video process, we gather all the family photographs together in the first instance. Together we'll have them all put into the right order, timeline wise. Then, once we've everything in place we go back and film the family member talking about those pictures, either to me or with another family member, which tends to be the more relaxed way of doing it. Especially if the main person is a little shy.

One question I've been asked is, can I do 8mm video conversions? Yes, yes I can, however, those who have Super 8mm will only have a video without sound, and to be honest, there's not a lot of 8mm with sound in the attics of Northern Ireland. There is also an additional charge for 8mm conversions, as the packages only cover DVD and VHS.

In the video below, you'll see a full example of a video I made about my late father, who died in November 2006. He was the wisest and most measured man I knew. There was nothing he couldn't turn his hand to, be that mechanical, decorating, building or just general knowledge. He was well read, well informed, and had friends up and down the town he had lived in his entire adult life. I miss him. I miss loads and wish I'd spent more time with him. I wish I knew more about him than I do now, I just never took the time to think about, nor did I ever think he'd be gone at the age of 56. That's 10 years away from the age I am now! Thankfully after a recent health check, I've managed to get my blood pressure down to normal, though the condition I've to tackle now is cholesterol. Damn me and my sweet tooth and those sausage baps for breakfast. In my defence, I've tackled almost all of those vices, including drinking, though I have absolutely no will-power when it comes to sweet things. Peanuts are the new nibble of choice, dull as shit, unsalted, unroasted, peanuts, but if you want to be around for your grandchildren, you have to put the effort in required to staying alive.

Anyway, check out the video below, if you or someone you know might welcome a service like this, send them to the Memorial Videos section on my website, where there's a full break down of costs and what's involved.

Have yourself a very Merry Christmas x

William Jeffery MarkMy personal hero, my Dad and his Memorial Video.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) 8mm bereavement blog conversion daily life darron family family videos ireland loss love loved one mark memorial northern photographer photography share storage vhs video https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/12/-dailylife-blog-056-what-is-a-memorial-video Sun, 16 Dec 2018 16:43:06 GMT
#TechBlog | Blog 055 | How Not to Get Screwed Buying 2nd Hand Tech Off eBay https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/12/how-not-to-get-screwed-buying-tech-off-ebay I've been using eBay from the very beginning of its inception, when it was pretty much a badlands of 'buyer beware' and when people were quite happy to sell the packaging of game consoles to unsuspecting individuals who thought that 'The XBOX Box' meant the game console itself. I've steered through these murky waters without much incident, until recently.

Working in the pubs and clubs across Derry's music scene has meant that from time to time, I can't get into a decent position due to the internal layout of the venue, which happened recently at a 'Sundown Session' in 'The Grand Central Bar' in the heart of Derry. I just couldn't get the variety of angles I needed as the place where the musicians would be seated offered little to no room to sit directly in front of them. This meant that I had to put my cameras on the bar.

Not only does this pose its own hazards of drink spillage or the camera being accidentally knocked over, it meant that once the cameras were rolling, I also couldn't get back to them as this would mean either walking in to shot, or going behind an already busy bar to adjust them, which was not an option. I was essentially shooting blind.

I pushed all the relevant buttons on the cameras and hoped for the best, well, with one exception, that being the DJI OSMO. I've had this epic piece of equipment for a number of years and I simply love it. It's really good in low light, it has a small footprint and can be operated remotely by a mobile or tablet device. This gives me a view of what the camera can see, and the ability to pan the camera too, all from the comfort of my chair. The most important aspect of all its features is knowing with confidence that it's actually recording what's going on.

I got a couple of decent videos with the odd walk past, but one thing that you probably don't notice is, the absence of angles from the two cameras on the bar. It started off great, but unbeknownst to me, my JVC had either stopped recording due to a memory issue or, I had failed to fully push the record button. Either way, the JVC was just a bar ornament, with a bright LED on it.

That was it, it was time to get rid of this pre-DJI OSMO situation, and fully commit.

I had a wedding coming up in a few weeks, so a flush of cash was coming my way that would be just enough to buy the next model of DJI OSMO, and that was the OSMO+. The difference between the two models is that this new unit was only slightly bigger, due to the fact that it could optically zoom in. Was it necessary? I've no real argument on that, to be honest, but having been out for 2 years, and a newer model, I thought it better to have it and not need this feature, especially since it was priced around the same as when I first bought the previous model. The search began.

You can buy these new for around £650+, that wasn't gonna happen. On Amazon, they're roughly the same price too, so I headed over to eBay for a look at what was going on there. They ranged from £300 to £450 depending on the activity of my fellow bidders.

Being a seasoned bidder, I knew my budget and was going to stick to it. Nothing over £320 would be leaving my bank account in this endeavour. I had a video shoot coming up with my good friend Niall O'Mianain, and I was keen to have this new camera be the primary device, just to give some use in anger.

I started bidding on one listing, and as the deadline approached I set my alarm notification on my phone so as to remind me to come back to the listing in good time. My intention was to 'sniper' the other bidders in the last few seconds with a higher bid, which at that time was currently sitting at £280, this was perfect, as I still had a surplus for shipping costs. Unfortunately, someone else had the same plan. My final bid in the last 8 seconds was £300, and the other bidder must have had a higher proxy bid of £350 because as my bid went through it was accepted then instantly rejected by a higher amount and then auction closed.

Time to find another camera.

A gentleman called 'Paul' had recently listed his camera, and along with a few others, I added him to my watch list. A few days passed and a new alarm was set for an end of auction day. This camera was sitting at £260 in the final few moments and this time I thought I'd go just a smidge more in my £320 limit, just to be sure. I proxy bid the full budget thinking I'd worry about shipping later (it was only £8). This time, I WON..! The best part was, in those final few seconds of bidding into the unknown, I managed to snag it for £280 plus shipping. Now, one of the factors that played in my favour was the time of the closure of the auction, it was 10:30'ish in the morning. The other bidder must have placed their bid the night before and forgot about it, but I was on it!

I sent payment immediately and then the waiting game began.

To Paul's credit, the camera arrived within 48 hours with all the packaging, charger and a spare battery, as listed. I couldn't wait to get playing with it, to see what it could do, so whilst in the office I quickly turned it on, and the camera sprung to life (unlike the very first OSMO I bought, which had a gimbal fault, which resulted in me instantly returning it), happy days. I put everything back in the box and got back to work with a view to setting it up properly when I got home.

In anticipation of receiving this new DJI OSMO+, I'd made a few other ancillary purchases that I knew I'd need. Extension brackets, a base plate holder and even a new ZOOM H1N with additional leads, because I wanted to make sure everything was ready for this new poetry shoot in Derry.

I had everything laid out in the motorhome, which is essentially my home office these days. Switched the camera on, and paired my iPhone 7+ to it. The software worked fine, I could manoeuvre the camera as I can with my other OSMO, however, there was no video feed coming through. I couldn't see what the camera could see. I spent the next two hours going through various YouTube videos on this subject to find a solution. Stumbling upon a Russian YouTuber who didn't speak a word of English, but had attempted to put in clearly web-translated subtitles on the screen, repeating a process of factory restoring some OSMO's, with varying degrees of success. It's basically a combination of holding certain buttons on the camera, whilst restarting it a few times, or trying a different combination and removing the battery, putting the battery back in etc. It's a bit of a chore, but it did get the camera working.

During those two hours, I'd emailed Paul and complained that he'd sold me a dud. It was late in the evening, and after watching the Russian fella work his cold magic (for some reason he was wearing gloves in his videos), I got mine working, and then sent a follow-up email via eBay to state that through a combination of swapping handles with my own OSMO (the handles are identical) and updating the firmware and resetting the camera, I got it working and not to worry.

I packed everything away, sorting out an old camera bag to carry all the relevant DJI OSMO camera gear into one handy backpack and went to bed.

A few days later, I met with Niall to start our shoot together. Out came the new and what I thought was working DJI OSMO+, everything set up, new extension brackets, microphones, and low and behold, the same fault, no video.

I didn't have time to sit through another 30 minutes of trying various combinations in the hope this thing would work, so I threw it back in its box and lifted by original OSMO and got about the task of shooting another great video with a great poet. I'd deal with this issue later.

I emailed Paul again through eBay and said that this camera isn't working as stated, and I wanted a refund. He wouldn't accept it based on my second email stating that I got it working and that I must have done something to it.

This just pissed me off. I started a claims procedure against him on eBay using all the correct procedures and packaged the camera up ready for shipping back confident that eBay would resolve this in a matter of days. As is usual, the seller gets 7 days to respond or they then have to accept the return. He challenged the claim, and to my absolute shock, I lost my claim due to the fact that I had technically tampered with the device by updating the firmware!

What I should have done, is simply return the camera as soon as I noticed the fault and done nothing with it. However, in my defence, I've seen the black screen on my own DJI OSMO, and usually just closing the programme on my mobile and restarting it fixes it, so I had sort of started this journey of going down the rabbit hole with the view that this was just a simple fault. My old trade skills of fixing computers had taken over me, and that inner core of "I will not be defeated by you" had kicked in.

I appealed the decision directly with a telephone agent, and explained that everything I had done was not a technical interference, as I had used the DJI website to update the firmware (as anyone who knows DJI products, they have a habit of updating their firmware a lot), and as the camera is technically a two-part device, swapping the handle is not interference either. They said they understood and they'd come back to me with a new decision once they'd had time to consider this new information. I even referred them to my first message to Paul saying that I thought he'd sold me a dud.

A few days later, they said that they were sorry, but the decision stands, this time it was coming from a new agent, again, I appealed and this time they said that as I had made the payment through PayPal, I should challenge the seller through this, as they have more power over the dispute, as they control the money, meanwhile they'd still investigate it further and give me a full and final decision. As instructed, I contacted a support guy at PayPal who was very sympathetic, I fully explained everything I had done, and how it was not technical interference, and they felt that yes, I should be refunded and they'd investigate. They left me with a sense that justice would prevail. It didn't.

The shites at eBay closed my case the instant I approached PayPal because they said if they'd made a decision to refund me, I could, in theory, get the money back twice as PayPal could conclude the same and also give me my money back. That was bullshit if I ever heard it. PayPal then came back and said that as eBay had decided in Paul's assertion that it was technical interference, they too would be closing the case.

I had just lost £288 to eBay in exchange for a DJI OSMO+ brick.

Having nothing to lose, I unpacked the camera and started back with the previous repairs. Having tried a number of times with resetting the camera I stumbled upon a solution. Keeping the gimbal lock when booting up the camera and listening to the gimbal alarm, after two seconds of it straining to move I released the locks and the camera started working normally. The downside to this was, that I had to repeat this process each and every time, meaning, eventually my gimbal motors would fail and destroy the camera completely.

A conversation with my wife was needed. Obviously unimpressed with my situation, the only option I had left was to raise this as a fault with DJI Support. At most this would cost me roughly €80 to investigate. With her blessing, knowing that I'm already nearly three hundred quid down, I filled in the online form. The site asked for proof of purchase, the only thing I had was the eBay receipt for what was obviously a second-hand camera, but hey, it's all there was so I PDF'd it and added it to the support ticket. Within hours of my submission, I was given a package label for a UPS pickup and I needed to leave it off at a local drop off point where it would be shipped out to Holland for assessment. The shipping costs? Free.

You can track it's progress online, first through the UPS website in terms of transit, which if I'm being honest, they're a bit relaxed about, there was clearly no urgency in this at all. After about 4 days it got there and an update on the DJI Support system said they had it safe and sound. I avidly watched the support status site probably 4 times a day to see what this would likely cost me for repair.

It had been a busy day in the office and I had momentarily forgotten about the camera until I got an invoice statement for the repair bill. €499. I gulped, and to be honest, I think my arse slackened a little.

Having read the email from DJI on my phone, I slowly just put it down on the desk and considered how I was gonna tell the missus. The camera was now gonna be more in terms of cost that if I'd just saved up and bought a new one. My phone vibrated again, another email. The original invoice was still on the screen, and I was wondering if the next one would be a follow-up to seek approval for the repair costs. It was, and it wasn't. It was an update to the original invoice and it referred to those two golden words "warranty repair". They were going to fix this issue 'under warranty'. What warranty? Had they looked at the eBay receipt and thought it a new purchase? It had the price I paid for the camera stated on it, there's no way they took this as an in-warranty purchase?

I was not going to argue. The status on the support website had changed once again, this time it was in the workshop getting repaired. I was over the moon! 

Within two weeks of submitting my repair request to DJI I was sitting with my fully functional DJI OSMO+ once again.

In all honesty, I've still not used it in anger, but I will, as my wife and I have a new project dealing with mental health issues, which includes learning the techniques to take back control of those thoughts that quietly steal your peace, more on that later.

What I've taken away from this whole experience is, when buying off eBay, do NOT ATTEMPT to fix anything if it arrives with even the slightest of faults, get straight back on to the seller and report it. Which is what I should have done, but I was blinded by a bargain and a need to have it, which is something I've now had time to reflect on, and will never do again.

What has been your biggest purchasing regret? Did you too experience purchasing a faulty item and not get the support you needed? Let me know in the comments section below, I'd love to read of your story and what you did about it.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogger darron darron mark derry dispute dji dji osmo dji osmo plus dji support eBay fail failure ireland mark northern PayPal photographer photography blog returns policy ripped off technology technology blog https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/12/how-not-to-get-screwed-buying-tech-off-ebay Sat, 15 Dec 2018 13:20:59 GMT
#Poetry | Blog 054 | Black '47 and Niall O'Mianain https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/10/-poetry-blog-054-black-47-and-niall-o-mianain It was never my intention to go out and capture poets on my OpenMicNights YouTube Channel, I thought I would be filming bands and singers at these events, however, over the last year I've found that poetry can be just as powerful and just as current as any political hardcore rock band can be. The first poet I captured on camera was actually a rapper from a gig I did with North West Hip Hop, a guy called Jack Loughrey aka SomeDeadBeat. I'm not sure if his rap was poetic or it was a poetic rap, but whatever was going on, I was captivated. You can check out his performance here: SomeDeadBeat - Peace, Love & Green Doves

The next to come on to my radar was the well travelled and popular Niall O'Mianain. I've been to a number of OpenMicNights and heard him take to the stage, and in the early days, I didn't record him, because naively I thought that I was building a music channel for local talent to showcase to a wider audience. Again, this proved to be very narrow-minded on my part, because music and poetry go very much hand in hand. A poem may not have a bridge or a chorus, however, as I mentioned earlier, it can have a very powerful impact on the soul.

If there was to be a next time that Niall took to the stage, I vowed to keep the cameras rolling.

I didn't have long to wait. Singing sensation Rebecca Mulhern was playing host to an OpenMicNights gig in the Maiden City's Bennigans Bar. Which is pretty much where you'll find me most Monday evenings (time permitting). During the interlude between bands, Niall, in his usual flowing clothes, long dark beard and even longer dark flowing hair took a seat on the stage. Niall usually stands during his recitals, flailing his arms in expression and punctuation, but tonight he was more mellow and not feeling as energetic.

What impresses me most about Niall's skills as a poet is his ability to recite them at will as if they're not just words he's written and memorised, there his friends who walk by his side waiting for an opportunity to be heard again.

That evening, we listened to two poems 'Ahh Donegal', and the second of the evening 'Change in the North of Ireland'. Once publised online, they quickly got views on the channel, for such a small following it was fairly noticeable, proving I was wrong not to have taken advantage of this new source of creative endeavour.

A few weeks later, whilst sitting in The Grand Central Bar listening to Rosborough playing an acoustic set, I got chatting to Niall who had joined us later in the evening. I got to thinking, 'I wonder if we could record something that we could incorporate the film Black '47 into the theme?'

I put this to Niall. Neither of us have even seen the film at this point, only ever being exposed to the trailer recently, made this even harder as a challenge. It was Wednesday evening when proposed setting Niall the challenge of writing an original poem based on the film he'd not seen, for recording the next Saturday, some 10 days later, and he accepted.

I didn't pursue it after that. I'd had a few pints and thought it would be a tough call for anyone, and I didn't really know Niall that well, other than him reaching out and thanking me for making the video a few weeks earlier, so I wasn't sure if he was just being ameiable or he would infact have a go. Anyway, a week passes and I get a message, he's only gone and nailed it and wants to know if we're still on for the recording!

We agreed that an early start would be in order, fewer people, less traffic and hopefully a dramatic morning sky. The reason for that was during the week I too had managed to see the film and was struck me most was the greyness and bleakness of the landscape. I thought we could utilise some of the surrounding areas of Culdaff on the Donegal coast as there are areas with little foliage and it would take at least an hour to get there from where I live and pick up Niall. So the alarm was set for a 7 am pick-up and a drive West.

The Friday before was nothing but torrential rain. No let up and I was worried that we'd have to call off the shoot, but Saturday revealed low cloud but the hope of a dry day.

Having not heard the poem we did a few recordings off camera, and each time Niall repeated it I just knew he'd guided these words through the dark history of Ireland to today's shoot.

One problem I had was that I knew I wouldn't be able to sync up the clean audio with the outdoor shoot, and we couldn't boom mic because there was a fair bit of wind and I didn't want to restrict Niall's movements so the only option was to lapel mic him using the Sony ECM-AW4 Wireless Microphone Transmitter to the DJI OSMO camera.

We filmed firstly off the side of the road on the way to Culdaff because of the hillside views both near and off in the distance look fantastic. The clouds were heavy and the effect was exactly what I was after, I even managed to get a few moments of airtime on the drone. The second location was just off the beach and finally, for one section of the poem we ventured on the soft sand as the tide was deciding either to come in or out, we weren't sure, it was touch and go whether we'd have a wet Niall by the end of it.

We wrapped 5 hours later from pick-up to drop-off. Along the way, I discovered a lot more about Mr O'Mianain and I'd like to say I consider him a friend after this intense session. There were moments when he was going through his poem that I felt shivers go down my spine, such was the intensity.

I got home and set about editing the footage as fast as I could. The thing about trying to create something current, especially when it's aligned with a film that's just been released, you can't wait about. So far the film Black '47 had only been released in Ireland, the UK wide release would be coming on the following weeks, with the US following quickly behind it.

I spent all Saturday and Sunday trying to resolve the various audio issues I was experiencing and trying to match the various lighting conditions we faced when moving between locations and the sun taking a higher position. I could have kept the whole video focussed on the first video, however, at each recording, Niall's focus on different words and lines were slightly different each time, so I wanted to take those and put them in the final version. With the addition of a few backing sounds and colourisation, I was done.

The video went live on the Monday, 10 days from start to finish. Niall's ability to create something from scratch, memorise it and have the same powerful conviction each time he recited was inspiring. It was a pure pleasure to work with him, and I hope next time I see him in the coming weeks he'll accept a soft drink and a hug from a very grateful videographer.

Check out the final version of 'A Deathly History' below and let me know what you think in the comments section.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) black 47 blog blogger darron mark derry dji dji osmo donegal film history ireland Irish Famine niall o'mianain osmo poem poet poetry rap rapper rebecca mulhern rosborough somedeadbeat sony the grand central bar video videography https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/10/-poetry-blog-054-black-47-and-niall-o-mianain Sat, 06 Oct 2018 09:00:00 GMT
#MusicPhotography | Blog 053 | Musician Interviews https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/10/-music-blog-053-musician-interviews Filming around the bars in Derry has given me an insight as to the camaraderie found between the singers and band members. They're also intertwined in what they do for each other, such as providing strings for broken guitars late at night, giving each other lifts to gigs, the obvious supporting act line-up and in some cases, you'll even see a drummer from one band, playing for another. There is nothing that they won't do for each other, which is inspiring to see in this highly competitive marketplace.

I've always been fascinated by people who have this capacity to entertain others with their own musical creations. They take delight in seeing others enjoying their performances and then sit back in the audience to see the next act do the same thing, without any measure of jealousy or arrogance.

What I've also uncovered is that there are lots of different reasons why acts take to the stage, in my opinion, is a brave step to take. Which is why I've coined the phrase "Only the brave take to the stage" on my new merchandise account: www.OpenMicNightsShop.uk (with new designs being added all the time - sales pitch times).

In my first interview with Derry born musician, Christopher Kavanagh, we dig deep into this own upbringing, his influences and what has inspired him in writing the songs he's written. He was kind enough to go into detail where some of his songs originated from and he explains what starts off as one thing, can quickly turn into something completely different at the end of the creative process.

With the recent launch of a new YouTube channel, covering music and poetry emanating from local talent, I hope to bring more of it into the greater public domain and would love it if you supported what I'm trying to do by coming by the page, giving a video a like, a comment, or even if I may be so bold as to ask, a subscription?

Northern Ireland is breaking more and more ground on the charts, on the radio playlists and on streaming sites like Spotify and Amazon Music, however, with every chart-topper that manages to get that big break, they all started in their bedrooms, the garage, then the pubs and clubs, which is where you'll find me and my camera gear.

If you know any bars in your area who you think would be willing to have me come down and film an Open Mic Nights, let me know, and I'll reach out to them and see if they're okay with it.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) amazon music bennigans chris kavanagh darron derry interview ireland londonderry mark merchandise music music scene northern OpenMicNights photographer photography youtube https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/10/-music-blog-053-musician-interviews Fri, 05 Oct 2018 14:30:55 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 052 | A Budget Wedding https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/8/a-budget-wedding

Planning 'the big day' isn't just about trying to find a venue and a dress, it's about being realistic when it comes to what you can and can't afford. Some of you maybe fortunate and have a benefactor who is going to fund the final tally, but for most brides that's simply not the case.

Weddings can be a costly event if you let things spiral out of control and this post will in some way, I hope, help towards keeping an eye on the bottom line.

Obviously you're going to need a dress. You'll no doubt have a particular designer in mind, or a local bridal wear boutique you want to splurge your money on with the hope you'll be able to sell the dress after the big day. However, ask yourself this, "Should I buy second hand?" - If you're reluctant to even consider this and wear someone else's dress, why do you think someone will want to buy yours after your wedding?

The bridal store market is worth and estimated £238 million pounds here in the UK, and growing. They're not doing that by stocking 2nd hand dresses. As of today, there are nearly 150 used wedding dresses on Gumtree of varying sizes and styles with prices ranging from £100 to nearly £2,000. They're usually dry cleaned and up for sale within weeks of the wedding, so will be current in terms of trend, and whose ever going  to know? More to the point, who really cares?

"But it's all about the dress Darron!" I hear you say, but is it? I thought it was about the celebration of the marriage to your future husband. Let's be honest here, you will still look fantastic in a one time worn bridal gown, all I'm saying is, at least have a look.

The Venue. This is probably one of the most costly aspects of the wedding (depending on what you're doing for a honeymoon), and the best way to get a good deal is by booking them at a wedding fair. Don't go with the intention of just browsing, take a cash to make a deposit. You shouldn't need more than £500, usually a bit less.

The venue will charge you per-head (guest), and they'll need confirmation of those numbers at least 48 hours ahead of time but you can give them an early indication as to how many you think you might invite. Which leads me on nicely to the next consideration for your venue, how many people are you thinking of including? Remember, this is a budget thing, and there are three parts to a wedding:

  1. The Service - Free to invite
  2. The Reception - Needs food
  3. The Evening Function - Needs more food

Everyone knows what to expect at the reception dinner so don't worry too much about the choices on offer, it's probably going to be a mix of Turkey & Ham with a second option of Beef at the lower end of the budget, possibly even just chicken. Keep to the lowest cost possible and cut corners where necessary. Most guests will probably buy a light bite during the day between the service and the evening reception. The only people typically hungry are the bridal party, cause they're distracted with the photographer so having tea/coffee with shortbread (buy your own) on hand when they get there will keep them going till dinner.

Talk to the wedding co-ordinator to see what they can do for you, put the pressure on them to get you as a client. See what you can get them to throw in to the deal, such as centre pieces, table covers, tea & coffee (tip: If you've 50 guests, don't buy 50 teas & coffees, get half that, not everyone drinks it so it will be wasted) and seating covers. There are plenty of businesses out there that sell these ancillaries as a service, but you'll find hotels will have most of it anyway. Remember, wedding fairs put you at an advantage because the wedding co-ordinator is trying to make a success of the wedding fair, and that translates to bookings for them, so you're in control!

The evening function may include additional food costs, such as mini-burgers or fish bites and chips. It's well worth thinking about , and it won't break the bank, but remember that you'll need to factor in your evening guest numbers too.

Consider a 'Sweets Stand' to distract the children (and those guests with a sweet tooth). Start scouring the discount stores or Amazon for Plastic Jar Party Packs to hold the sweets that you can guy from pound stores. Just get the hotel to put a table in the corner of the room and hide a the box you'll bring them under the cloth to make a sort of tier to place the jars on. You can also buy coloured sweetie bags online too!

The bottom line is this, it's all about the numbers. The more you intend to invite the more it's going to cost you. You'll need to drill this home with your parents time and time again, because you'll be surprised how many aunts and uncles start popping out of the woodwork when a family wedding is on the horizon.

A Dress Code can really help keeping the spends down. The more informal you try and make it for your guests, the less pressure there is on the numbers in your bridal party. Informal sends out a signal as intimate, and those tend to be the most memorable. Do you want 5 Bridesmaids and 5 Groomsmen? Cause that means 10 outfits you have to buy/rent.

If you've children already, just go with those as the bridal party. The boys can look great in just a jacket & jeans with new shoes matching Dad, and the girls can easily be catered for in any department store. The benefit of keeping it this way means you're buying clothes that can be used in other family situations. I got married in jeans and a jacket I already owned, the only thing I bought was a new pair of shoes for me and my teenage son, who was also my best man. If you've told everyone you're keeping it simple, they'll not expect tuxedos and ball gowns.

Your flowers can be purchased online, again, they can be kept for centre pieces in the home if you want to create an intimate wedding memory corner once you've got your hands on your wedding photos, and other little items you've saved from the day. There's some really great bouquets available on Amazon, and it can give you some ideas on which way you want to go if you want to add your own coloured ribbons to the table centre pieces.

What about the cake? Do you have any friends or family who can make you something a little more in-keeping with your bank balance? We had a Batman and Minions cake from Tesco for our wedding day, because, why not?

Obviously, the longer you give yourself between the engagement and the wedding day, the bigger the 'war chest' can be, allowing you to push the boat about a bit further in those really important elements, such as the professionals.

You're going to want someone who you can trust to capture your wedding day on film or video. 'Uncle Bob' being a keen photographer is not the same as a professional and experienced wedding photographer. It's a whole different kettle of fish managing a wedding ceremony, and manage it we do. Personally, I offer a flexible payment scheme that you can pay towards as and when you've the means to do so. Other professionals may require a deposit and balance on the day, so make sure you've all those envelopes ready on the night to settle accounts. Which is why it's important to shop around.

The best people to speak to are those who've walked down the aisle before you, or speak to those who work in the industry at the wedding fairs.  One thing is for certain, any bad customer service in the wedding sector is quickly shared across all social media, so if you're picking someone, make sure you do a bit of research on them before you hand over any money, as 'deposits' tend not to be refundable.

I hope this has helped, and given you some fresh ideas on how to keep the costs down.

If you've read this blog and have walked down the aisle already, what pointers would you recommend? Share in the comments below, I'd love to hear your stories.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog budget conversion darron darron mark derry londonderry mark northern photographer photography wedding weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/8/a-budget-wedding Wed, 01 Aug 2018 11:43:43 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 051 | The Royal Wedding & Galway https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/4/-weddings-blog-051-the-royal-wedding-galway clayton-maldronclayton-maldron My good friends over in Galway's Clayton Hotel wanted me to share with you their latest special offer.

In celebration of the forthcoming wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19th, they would like to invite all engaged couples to join them for your very own royal wedding consultation.

Book a wedding consultation between the 1st April and the 19th May 2018 for your very own royal experience.

clayton-hotelclayton-hotel Your Royal Wedding Consultation

Upon arrival you will be treated to lavish afternoon tea followed by a full viewing of their wedding services. Wedding & Events Manager Karina Duffy will meticulously note and discuss every detail of your requirements and dreams with the aim of tailoring your wedding to perfectly suit you. During your consultation you will also receive details of their amazing wedding packages together with specifics of their new and exclusive ‘Royal Wedding Package’ To top it all off, everyone who avails of this royal wedding consultation will be in with a chance of winning a luxury royal mini-moon to London!

10% off our Royal Wedding Package

As part of this consultation, and in continuing with the celebratory theme, you will also automatically receive 10% off their new and exclusive Royal Wedding Package. This special package includes many exciting additions which they will introduce you to on the day.

Book your Royal Wedding Consultation.

Arrange your exclusive wedding consultation at Clayton Hotel Galway between 1st April and the 19th May 2018 by calling Karina on 091 721900 or email [email protected].


(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog clayton clayton hotel darron darron mark derry galway galway weddings ireland maldron mark photographer photography special offer the royal wedding weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/4/-weddings-blog-051-the-royal-wedding-galway Tue, 10 Apr 2018 12:37:53 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 050 | Top 5 Wedding Tips https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/4/-weddingphotography-blog-050-top-5-wedding-tips As with anything you've never done before, planning your wedding can be a stressful endeavour.

Where do you even start?

In this post, I break down the key areas for you to consider first and foremost, and these are usually what we call 'Date Sensitive', because without these being locked down, nothing else will stick!

1. The Guest List

It's a bit odd to start with the guest list don't you think? But hear me out. When you start planning a wedding, you need to consider how many friends and family you think you will be inviting. Without this, you won't be able to decide how big (or small) a venue you're going to need.

101-20121010101-20121010Wedding day images from the wedding of Barbara and Steve who had their ceremony at Christ Church in Limavady and their wedding reception at The Belfray Country Inn, Drumahoe. Formal images were done in the grounds of Roe Valley Country Park. Pictures by www.DarronMarkPhotography.com You could decide to have a small'ish wedding, then book a venue that's too large, then feel compelled to fill it with even more friends, which is obviously going to have massive impact on your budget.

Be realistic here, when you try and plan for a small wedding, with the best will in the world, the numbers will start creeping up. Will your venue be big enough? Does it have enough accommodation to cater for all your guests, or will some have to make arrangements in nearby hotels? How handy is that? Will you organise a bus to shuttle your guests from one location to another, or are you choosing to let them fend for themselves?

2. Venue & Celebrant

This can strike off two key points depending if you're having a religious service or a civil ceremony.  If you're having a church or chapel wedding, their availability is usually decided by the clergy who will be holding the wedding ceremony. If they're available, then typically, so is the venue. If you're a regular visitor to church services, then there shouldn't be anything to worry about. However, if 'faith' isn't your thing, you'll need to make yourself known to the priest or vicar, and they usually like to see you rock up to a few services in the weeks (even months) before your big day.

They may even ask you to go through a marriage course, just to make sure you fully understand what you're both letting yourself in for. Remember, once the wedding bills have been paid, you've to start working on your marriage, as dynamics will change once you've put a ring on it.

Civil Services are slightly different. You'll need to check that the venue is free and can actually host a wedding service. There's a process a council goes through to ensure venues are compliant with certain Health & Safety rules so that they can host a wedding service. Most hotels will already have this sorted, but if you're after a Barn type venue, check they're cleared to host a wedding first. Once you've got a date in mind, you need to speak to the Civil Registrar to see if they're available that day, and at what time. Pencil that in with them, then get back on the phone with your venue to see if they can accommodate those timings, get those synchronized and you're ready to move on to looking for a reception venue.

If it's a civil ceremony, it makes sense to stay at the hotel you're having your wedding vows, if indeed you are using a hotel. Do they have an area within the grounds for wedding photos?

Start pricing early. Go to the wedding shows that hotels run throughout the year, you'll find most of them occur in January and October. January is the busiest time for bookings, as guys use Christmas and New Year to 'pop the question'.

Wedding fairs are great, but not all service providers attend them, so don't rely on just whose who are in the room, use them as a way to get ideas, you don't necessarily have to commit to anything there and then. Hotels will be offering special deals if you book on the day, so if you've your heart set on that venue, make sure you go on their open days.

3. The Theme

The theme is usually dicated by the seaons, summer tend to be pastels and lighter shades, and winter weddings strike a bolder colour scheme when faced with lots of grey skies and muted natural foliage, you might want to add strong tones. 113 - Sophie & Patrick - 20180120113 - Sophie & Patrick - 20180120Wedding Day images from Sophie & Patrick's big day. Their service started in Quigley's Point Chapel, with an evening reception at Ballyliffin Lodge & Spa, County Donegal.

The bride's dress is a given (for the most part), white. What about the Bride's Maids? What colours are you going with? How long is it away from your wedding day from this point in time, because it's not unusual for the odd best friend to get pregnant before your chosen date.

As a wedding photographer, it warms my heart to see bride's maids in winter wearing shawls or some form of shoulder cover, because we're going to be outside at some point, and we'll be out there for at least an hour. Brides tend to have shoulder cover taken care of with their choice of dresses, as a good dress retailer will factor that in. The men, it's simple, they're suited and booted already. The girls, they'll be in thin dresses and freezing. So bear a thought to matching accessories when factoring the colder seasons. They don't all have to match in style either, so long as the colours match, which gives your girlfriends a chance to maybe pick out something they can wear again in the future?

Remember to tie in the colours of the dresses with the groom's men's ties (see what I did there?), they'll compliment the photographs.

Carrying those colours through to your reception creates a great flow through from the day to the evening, and really impresses your guests. It could be as simple as chair bow decorations matching your bridal party, or the flowers that adorn your service and top table, it doesn't have to be too extravagant.

4. The Professionals

You have the date set, the venue is confirmed, and the timings are sorted. Other time sensitive providers can now be booked. As mentioned previously, not all service providers attend wedding fairs, they can be very costly to attend or overly biased towards certain vendors, this can limit your choice. Start asking about, speak to friends and family or do your own searches online.

  • Wedding Cars

Think about the dress, can you get in and out of the car easily? I've seen brides struggle to get out of the rear of a flashy sports car because their husband-to-be got a little carried away when left this job to do. You want your day to be elegant!

Will there be enough room for all your bridal party to follow you from the church to your chosen bridal photo location?

Are there any cheeky extras? Like a bottle of shampers for the photos?

If you do bring 'drinks' along for the ride, between the service and bridal photos location, think about the 'call of nature', that's all I'm saying.

  • Music / Bands

Are thinking of having someone play music throughout your service? What about the reception area where people will be just milling about at the hotel waiting for you to come back from your photography session? Then there's the evening's entertainment, will you be having a band and DJ, or just a DJ, or even just a band?

A good tip for band selection is to try and get out to one of their wedding bookings. The bride and groom at that wedding will have probably done what you're about to do, and get a sneak peek of how they're getting on. Trust me, it's worth the effort. Check out any feedback they have on their websites and Facebook pages too! They'll typically have a video or two for you to look at which will give you an idea as to their range and genre.

  • Videographers

I don't do wedding videos. I just want to start this section off with that statement. I toyed with the idea of it, but it's a whole load of work that I simply don't have the time for. The amount of editing can literally take weeks if not months in post production before you get to see the full video. These ladies and gentlemen in this profession are highly underpaid in my opinion for the work they do. 106 - Bernadette & Aidan - 10032018106 - Bernadette & Aidan - 10032018Images from the wedding mass of Bernadette and Aidan in Lifford, County Donegal.

The more cinematic the final product, the more it's going to cost you. Some of the videos I've seen are just out of this world. I have a few personal favourites in terms of suppliers, but I won't let that sway yours, it's down to you to watch their show-reels. Again, do your home work, some are simply inspiring!

If they have a drone, make sure they also have the relevant insurance and licenses to fly them commercially. If they hit someone with it, the claim is against you!

  • Photographers

Okay, I could be biased somewhat on this, because I'm a wedding photographer, and this is my blog. However, all I will say is, book early. Especially if you're getting married on a Friday or Saturday because they're limited in number. Our wedding season typically runs from March to September, with the odd wedding here and there outside of those dates, so the earlier you book, the better.

Couples tend to go for the summer season so as not to be soaked coming out of the church, which makes sense. What I would say is, if you are thinking of booking your wedding date, consider April to May here in Ireland, as this is sort of our best period, weather wise.

Choose a photographer you feel you can get on with, who will offer you the best choices for you budget and shop around. I even tell my own brides when they're looking to book me to go and have a look at other photographers before they confirm. They always seem to come back to me in the end... Okay, I'm selling myself again, sorry ;-)

  • Make-Up & Hair

What's easiest for you? Getting ready at home (or Mum's) or going to a beauty parlour in the morning, which usually means really early!

A lot of great wedding Make-up Artists (MUA) don't actually have a boutique, they're purely mobile. It keeps their costs down (and yours) and only do wedding make-up. I personally know of a few, and I also know of some amazing boutique owners who do come to the house. It just depends on you and your relationship with the MUA's.

The same can be said of the hairstylists. If you're having your make-up done at home, then it makes sense to get the hair done there too. The MUA and hairstylist can work in partnership, one's doing hair,  whilst the other is applying make-up.

Those are the date sensitive suppliers who need to know the date of your wedding so that they can schedule you in and be there with you. The other vendors can plan around you, such as florists, cake suppliers, suit hiring, wedding dress suppliers, etc etc.

So, lets move on to last of my tips number 5, but circle back to that guest list.

5. Child Guests

Are you going to allow them to be at the wedding? If you've children of your own, then you'll probably understand how things are, but if you're not a parent, then you might want to consider how you're going to handle a 3-year-old nephew going full arched back an yelling he wants down!

066 - Sophie & Patrick - 20180120066 - Sophie & Patrick - 20180120Wedding Day images from Sophie & Patrick's big day. Their service started in Quigley's Point Chapel, with an evening reception at Ballyliffin Lodge & Spa, County Donegal. It's your wedding. Don't feel guilty if you want to have a child free service, it's your wedding. They can always come to the evening function, but bear in mind, those family members who usually look after the younger family members are probably going to be at the wedding also.

If however, you are allowing children to come to the whole days events, make sure you've something to keep them occupied, especially at the reception dinner. There are plenty of child activity professionals out there who do great jobs of keeping them entertained, and not for a lot of money.

Any child under four is more than likely going to be running around the place during the service, let it happen. It's really stressful for a child to be told to be quiet and sit down. To their little minds, this an ideal opportunity to perform. Their perception of the world is completely different to ours, and it's a wonderful thing and should be embraced. My advice would to just let them get on with it.

Another factor you'll need to consider if you have children of your own is, who are you nominating to help out? Mum is likely to be involved with the bridal party photos, so they're a good resource, just make sure they have everything they need for the day, such as treats (that don't spill or stick to anything), spare clothes, coats, toys etc. A photographer will do their best to include them in pictures (again, this isn't about me), but again, don't expect too much from your child, as they're highly stressed and do play up, especially if they're warm and tired.

So there you have it, those are my top 5 tips that I would say will really help you out. If you have any tips you'd like to share, or wish to add comment to on mine, please let me know on the blog page, I'd really like to read them, and other's will surely benefit from your own experiences!

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) 5 tips blog children at weddings darron darron mark derry ireland londonderry mark northern northern ireland photo photographer photography tips wedding wedding ideas wedding themes wedding tips weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/4/-weddingphotography-blog-050-top-5-wedding-tips Tue, 10 Apr 2018 12:09:08 GMT
#Motorhome | Blog 049 | Rotten Eggs https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/4/-Motorhome-blog-049-rotten-eggs

So we took delivery or should I say, we went to collect, the latest edition to the story that is our vehicle ownership, last week. It's a fully featured rig with the following toys:

  • Air-conditioning Unit
  • 3-Way Fridge
  • Solar Panel (I suspect 100w)
  • Convection/Microwave Oven
  • 3 Ring Smev Burner
  • Smev Sink (obviously)
  • Shower/Washbasin
  • Thetford Toilet
  • Fitted TV (botch job, but it works)
  • Heater/Boiler System
  • Storage, and I mean like, tonnes of storage!

And my personal fave:

  • Onboard 240v Petrol Generator

The one of the downsides is, it's slow as fuck! I'm not sure why, but it is one of the slowest motors I've ever owned. I'm talking about 3rd gear when there's even the slightest incline in a road. It's supposed to be a 2.8 turbo diesel, but I don't believe it. Or if it is, then the turbo has long since given up the ghost, despite it only being a 1999 model with 81,000 miles on the clock.

The other is that it's giving off the most disgusting smell from the engine compartment, which is strange, because the amount of sulpha it's pumping out should be coming from the exhaust beyond the catalytic convertor, or the fuel management system getting the flow wrong, or... as I now suspect, it's the leisure batteries that sit under the driver's seat.

The thought only occurred to me after I'd already spent £85 on a Halfords Battery Recovery Charger, because the batteries in the motorhome are worse than low, they're near death, which I'm hoping to resolve with said charger, which incidentally you can get from Amazon for a bit cheaper (advert on the left).

I wanted to address the battery issue sooner rather than later because we were meant to heading away again this evening, but that doesn't seem likely now the van is pretty much tied into the garage electrical mains going through some serious charging.

We (or I should say, my daughter Jade) noticed the smell on Sunday, whilst up in the Mourne Mountains. The only trigger for it to my mind was the journey's incline, which must have stirred the acid in the batteries, causing the sulphur to ruminate in to it's full pungent aroma. Believe me, it's pure rotten.

I had to endure it for another three hours as I made my way back up to Derry, watching car after car overtake me on the Glenshane Pass, whilst I kept one eye on the engine temperature gauge to see how this lead bus performed. I made it, and the temperature gauge didn't flicker.

So, as I write this, in the motorhome (which as I've already mentioned is now my office), the new charger is giving it dixie in full recovery mode, the smell has dissipated (it was stifling when I came in earlier today), but I do also have the window open a little, to vent the odour. It's been running now for about 5 hours, and it's just saying that the voltage is 9.0v which isn't good. This could be a replacement, but the instructions do say to give it at least 20 hours of charging, so we'll see how we get on tomorrow when I check it again.

One thing you have to remember about leisure batteries, when they get to 11.1v you're already in deep trouble in terms of longevity of the battery, that is now classed as dead. So, hopefully, you can appreciate where we are with 9.0v. It's basically only capable of powering a smoke alarm. 

I've posted some new images on the County Down Stock Photography gallery if you're interested in taking look whilst you wait for an update, if not, I don't mind, suit yourself.


(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) batteries battery catalytic converter charger county down darron mark derry engine halfords leisure londonderry motorhome motorhomes northern ireland rotten eggs smart charger smell spelga dam sulphur travel blog https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/4/-Motorhome-blog-049-rotten-eggs Tue, 03 Apr 2018 10:55:00 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 048 | Over before it began https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/3/-vanlife-blog-048-over-before-it-began

I've spent nearly a year of my life learning new skills, watching videos of countless others build out their vans (some better than others), all with the aim of doing the same with my own Iveco Daily. Sadly, it didn't get off the ground, it almost did, but it didn't.

The backstory to this was our own Talbot Autoquest 400. We sold it in May of last year because as my wife put it "You are a grumpy twat when we head away". Which was sort of true, well, completely true. It took me a few days to unwind from the countless other things I had going on, to completely switch off, so putting a family of 5 into a tin can, to drive to the other end of the country where the kids would ultimately just sit and complain about having to go anywhere, all the while draining the leisure batteries on their phones, didn't fill me with glee. By the last day, I was usually resigned to it, and sort of happy and relaxed, but then it was over, and we'd have to drive all the way back home again, where at the other end, I'd be the one left to slop out the shit from the toilet.

Role forward 3 or 4 months and the regret of selling it kicked in. The missus missed the motorhome, the weekends away, that feeling that you'd actually been on a mini-break, and it was of course, all my fault (even though I didn't want to sell the thing in the first place). So, we bought the Iveco Daily. It was meant to be a project, spend a few grand, get it all done up, and away we go, just me and her and the dogs.

However, last year we'd four international trips planned, then after all that, a Christmas to contend with, my wife was also buying a business, and things just got in the way. We'd over spent on our original budget on the Iveco, and we'd only gotten away once in it, where we found that just about everything in it didn't work. No water, no heating, no lighting, it even didn't start when we tried to leave. More money had to be pumped into just the van element, welding, brakes, this that and the other (all of which I've wrote about in this blog), and we just kept 'kicking the can down the street' as they say.

It all came to ahead when we tried to get some of those niggles fixed and it cost us a small fortune. This was gonna push the project back another two months, from what we'd agreed would be the start of it (I'm still paying off those repairs now, off the credit card). The wife had had enough.

She just wants to get away. I just wanted to get away too!

So, a loan was applied for, granted, haggling occurred, and we're now the new owners of a Fiat Benimar 600SL 4 Berth Motorhome.

We've still to sell the van, it's actually sitting in front of me now as I type this from the motorhome, as it's also my new workspace. Free from the distractions of Homelife, as sitting in the kitchen didn't help me get anything done at all. I've put the van up for sale last night, trying to be as honest as I could with what's been done, and what still needs to be done, so anyone who wants to take this on does so with full knowledge of what they're getting in to.

We're not expecting a quick sale, or an easy one, but hey, it is what it is.

Our first trip away in this new motorhome will be this evening. Nothing too far, just a local spot in Donegal called Culdaff Beach. Once I've taken a trip to Asda to get everything needed, like, just, shopping stuff. Thankfully we've most of our old items left over from the last van into this, as they were stored in the attic. The main stuff would be duvets, pillows etc. I've the fridge already on chill mode, which is something I'm going to have to become quickly used to doing myself, otherwise she might just get rid of me next time!

Anyway, time I jumped off this thread and got dressed, packed up this laptop and got my arse over to Asda in Coleraine (and then B&Q for one more Ryobi toy)!

Watch this space for new pictures and videos of our travels, as the vlogging is about to start in full swing again!

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogger darron darron mark fiat ducato ireland iveco londonderry mark motorhome northern photographer travel van life https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/3/-vanlife-blog-048-over-before-it-began Fri, 30 Mar 2018 10:51:09 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 047 | A lesson in how not to do customer service, Iveco Style https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/2/-vanlife-blog-017-a-lesson-in-how-not-to-do-customer-service-iveco-style When we bought the van last year, there were a few niggles that weren't major issues, but I'm a little OCD when it comes to having everything working as it should. If it has a function, that function should operate as it was originally intended in my view, if not, then lets fix them. It's just how my mind works and I make no apology for it.

The list of those niggles were:

  • Fuel Gauge Sensor - Put more than 30 litres in to the 60 litre tank, it shows it as being full.
  • Side Running Lights - The side door light didn't work at all, and the rear drivers side worked when it felt like it.
  • Side Door - This wasn't fully closing, and had a large visible gap at the top of the door letting in water when it rained.
  • Interior Heater Control Unit - The dashboard selector had only two settings left, then one, and then in the heart of winter, nothing.

New faults:

  • The Door Locking Sensors - The dashboard displayed that a door is open, also activating the interior cab light, when all doors are shut.
  • Handbrake Sensor - Shows up as being applied on the dashboard, even when it's not.

The plan was to get an idea of how much these things would cost and break it down into the quick wins based on the budget. Based on what I'd listed, they said Wednesday would be the best day to book it in. I dropped the van down to them on the Tuesday evening cause, well, work reasons.

Wednesday afternoon I followed up with a call to get an idea as to prices, only to be told that someone would ring me back, they didn't. I was still looking for an estimate of works.

Thursday I rang again, to be told that nobody would be able to get a look at it that day and I should ring back on Friday. I'm not even sure why they even book vehicles in to be honest!

Friday. Still no clue what's going on. I ring again, twice in fact, only to be told someone would ring me. I needed the van back as I need to make some trips in it that evening, so I said I'd just come and collect it instead at the end of the day.

When I get there, they gave me a limp apology that nothing had been done other than the side lights, the reasons being that they were busy, understaffed due to sickness and, well, they just didn't get round to it. Three fecking days wasted. I asked what was the likely estimate to be, and was told they still didn't have that worked out yet. But, they had fixed the Side Running Lights. Now, when they say "fixed" what they really mean is, replaced with new ones. Nothing wrong with the old ones, just a cabling fault, possibly a contact point issue on the sliding door. But no, their solution is simply swap it out, new for old, like some sort of insurance policy.

The main issue I have with this scenario is; they're probably used to dealing with only commercial operators of HGV's etc, where every invoice is picked up by the company accountant or written off as a business expense, tax deductible. However, I'm not a business that has that sort of cashflow to pick up big hits like this, I have to be cautious. So, as I'm sure you can imagine, I'm starting to panic a little here.

I ask what parts might it need, there must have been some sort of investigation at least? I was then told that the fuel sensor was on order costing £170'ish, and that the handbrake cable needed replaced, not sure why, cause it was fine doing handbrake cable stuff when I dropped it off? The list, that I initially reported was now lost apparently, so again, I had to repeat it to make sure nothing was left off, and again, asked for a breakdown of what the costs might be. I was told they'd let me know on Monday and that they'd make arrangements following that.

The van was at the rear of the premises in Claudy. I was told it was 'road worthy' if I wanted to take it away, which was when I noticed the new  light fittings, which look feck all like the old existing ones as the design has changed completely.

Warning: It gets a little Sweary Mary from here on in.

When I jumped in and started the van, I quickly noticed I didn't have a functioning handbrake. I might have missed that part of the conversation due to the descending red mist, I knew I needed one (apparently), but I'm sure he never said that they'd ripped the existing one out. So, in I goes again to have a word, to be told, that's what he meant, it needed a new handbrake cable, confused, and ready to kill dead things, I felt it best to just leave and consider my options. They said they'd ring me on Monday with the prices so I'll take it from there.

Monday comes, no phone call, I'm not even surprised anymore. I'm conscious that there's been no call but I'm too busy at work to do anything about it and forget to chase it again myself. You know what it's like sometimes right?

Tuesday. I make a phone call, because, lets be honest here, tradition dictates that they're not going to bother their arses! Customer service is simply not their thing.

I ask what are the prices likely to be for the parts and the work, to which they say they need to get it in again to work out, could I bring it in again for Thursday? Absolutely defeated, I submit.

Wednesday evening, as before, I drop it round because, well, I've work to do during the day and I can't take it to work to then leave down, because I've no handbrake suitable for street parking, and the side door doesn't even shut, because they've said it needs a hinge (how much that is, I have no clue) and in their investigations, it would seem they've broken the existing one even further. When I do leave it down, I wait in the cold and dilapidated servicing reception until someone can tell me what the fuck is going on (sense the anger yet?). There's not even a seat to sit on.

The list it would seem, is no where to be found! I get them to write it down, telling them that I want a list of the pricing so I know what's going on! The side lights are £14 each apparently, they told me that much, I don't know how much the handbrake cable is, and it seems beyond them to give me that price either,  I already know about the fuel gauge sensor (still not happy about that). So, in my mind, as they've fecked me about for two weeks, they'll at least have the decency to go light on the labour, at which, the servicing guys says "we won't be hard on you now" - Whatever the fuck that means? I'm thinking, maybe in the £300's for the repairs, possibly £400. I've the money sitting. It's tight, but I have it. I've said to them that I won't be down Thursday evening, as I can't get to them after work, it's just too far/complicated (it's not on my normal route home, and the wife's too busy anyway with her work to scoot me down), I'll plan on it Friday morning cause I'm off then anyway, and we'll see where we're at. All agreed, or at least I thought so.

Thursday. I don't get any calls, but that's okay, I did say I'd come down and collect it on Friday, so we'll chat then.

Friday. I leave a message to say to give me a ring, but hear nothing back (par for the course), and my Friday morning has gone a bit off plan, so I'm in no rush, next week will do.

I finally get a call back, I'm on another call, so return it just as soon as I can.

"Hi, it's *name* - We're just waiting on a part for the heater control switch, we think its either the resistor or the motor" It's not the blower motor I tell them, that works fine, it's the actual selector on the dashboard that's not working, so we'll call that a resistor fault. I then ask (at just after 1 pm) how much is all this gonna cost, so that we can work out a schedule?

*name* "Not sure, I'll give you a call back in 20 minutes.

Two hours later I get a call. *Name* "Everything else is done, but we're just waiting on that resistor part which won't be here till after 3pm and we'll not have time to fit it so is tomorrow okay?"


Me: "Sorry, what do you mean everything else is done? What's done? How much is this costing?"

*Name*: "The bill comes to £987, all in"

Me: "I was asking for a price for the work! I've been asking for a price for the work since I booked the van in! Are you fucking serious? A grand! A fucking GRAND!"

*Name* "Well, you asked us to repair the vehicle, which is what we've done, repaired it."

If I'd had been hit with gammer rays in my past, I'd have turned green moments ago and would be leaping tall buildings right at that very second.

Now, in my entire experience with working with garages, they always ring you with an estimate of works/parts and ask if you'd like to go ahead with the repairs. My previous car mechanic was sound, he operated pretty much that same way too, but he had the common sense to just go ahead if he thought that the wasn't going to be too tough on the wallet, my repairs typically ran to less that £150, anything a bit more, he'd give me a call. This however, was a grands worth! I've bought cars (lots of them) for less.

I think in the conversation that followed he grasped my immediate displeasure with the whole situation and reduced it by paltry £137, I guess this is what it feels like when they're not too "hard on you". I still felt like I'd been assaulted though, robbed in someway.

I posted a just over a year ago about how customer service here in Northern Ireland is absolutely shocking. That the way businesses treat their customers with absolute distain is nearly epidemic in nature. I would wager that there are more companies providing poor customer service than there are those offering good.

Whether they feel they're in the right over this is irrelevant in my opinion. This was not what I asked for, this was not what I was expecting from an approved Iveco Dealer (amongst other brands they cater for) and this is not how you handle customer service at any level.

I'll be picking up the van on Monday (if they have it ready) because it would seem that they weren't fully confident that they'd even got to everything on the list, as they couldn't remember (not surprised in the slightest). Will I be back? Not on your Nelly. I have a mechanic who deals with most of the heavy stuff very local to me, but as some of the faults were of an electrical nature, in this case, they just weren't his bag, so in my naivety I thought I'd give the main players a turn, as I'd heard good reports about them from the previous van owner.

How wrong I was. How very wrong indeed.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) brothers claudy county daily dealerships derry eakin ireland iveco life londonderry mechanics northern parts servicing van https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/2/-vanlife-blog-017-a-lesson-in-how-not-to-do-customer-service-iveco-style Mon, 26 Feb 2018 11:55:00 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 046 | Why I'm giving up on Bark.com https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/2/why-im-giving-up-on-bark For those of you who don't know (and I suspect that might be a large chunk of you) bark.com is a professional services website that offer you the chance to bid for work from those who have a particular need that you're listed as providing solutions for.

I'm a wedding photographer and video editor, and those are some of the services I've placed in there as areas of interest. Now, when someone asks for any of those services, I get an alert on the app and in my emails detailing the specifics of that persons requirement. You can't approach them and ask for further information or clarity until you've paid for their contact details, which typically cost anything from £11 to £15 a go.

In return, you'll get that contact's phone number and email address, and they'll have received a notification of how much you're willing, or if you've asked for further clarifications to start the conversation. They say that to stand a better chance of securing any business from those in need, that you should really spend some time and effort on your listing. Which I had done. Now, how much interest in those profile edits actually occurs, I don't know, but needless to say, there's a lot of effort that needs to go into building your brand on this site.

Over the past few months I've literally spent a couple of hundred quid trying to get people to at least engage with me. One did, some tool from Essex who decided to use his neighbour instead having spent a whole weekend BS'ing me, telling me he would send the sample footage over. Beyond that, I've had 3 people in total chat to me, and then still decide not to bother to book, with no explanation as to why. Now, granted, I may not be the best wedding photographer in the world, but this bark.com seems a little over priced for it's return value, and the model is certainly flawed.

Firstly, no matter how hard you push to get your own site listed, Bark will be ahead of you, as they're doing their very best to pay for every type of keyword hit possible, and they've the budget to do it too, from suckers like me who are paying for leads that tend not to even get a response.

Those that submit their request for a quote from professionals like me don't have to pay a single penny. All the money generated comes from those who are providing a service, and it's not just for Photographers, it's for plumbers, dog walkers, painters, electricians, men with vans, you name it, they're hoovering it up (cleaners too).

Is it me just being a little bit bitter? Probably. Could I have spent my funds better? Sure. I think with sites like this (and yes I'm registered with another one that has yet to bare fruit) it's a lottery. How many of us have had wedding bookings from brides that have done some homework and checked out the local competition? How many of us will ever know if we've missed out on someone because of that one picture that they didn't like the look of, but you think is awesome? I guess it's just the lottery of this type of business.

What have decided though, is to come off Bark.com, delete my account, cut my loses, and channel those funds I seemed to willing to part with back in to my own Google Adwords and take my chances out there.

What are your thoughts on sites like Bark.com? Have you had a better experience than me, or have you felt the same level of frustration? Leave a comment below.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) bark bark.com editing local photography portal services video wedding https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/2/why-im-giving-up-on-bark Sat, 24 Feb 2018 11:29:08 GMT
#MusicPhotography | Blog 045 | New YouTube Channel https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/2/-musicphotography-blog-045-new-youtube-channel I've been a busy little bee these past few months, so apologies if you've been checking your inbox/RSS feeds every day for a blog post from me, I've been slacking on this front, so again, I'm sorry.

"What have I been up to?" I hear you say!

I've been working on my video skills alongside some awesome bands and singers from the greater NW area, and I have to tell you, the talent in this region is epic!

The equipment I've been using has included the versatile DJI Osmo, GoPro Hero 3, for some of the more static based shots giving it that multi-camera angle feels, as well as taking full advantage of my Zoom H4n Pro Handy Recorder, which has solved all my major sound recording issues. I've had to buy some additional connector cables to cater for the different sound mixers out there, but so far, it's been easy peasy.

The video work has also lead on to some more commercial projects, working with a huge retail chain, which involved me recording the footage, but also fully edit it within 24 hours, ready for first draft preview.

Connecting social media platforms in a syncronised way has been a bit of a challenge, especially when you're trying to do all this on a budget. Yes, there are platforms out there that will do this for you, but they tend to come with a hefty monthly subscription, but you can also do it with free systems if you're willing to put the effort into sorting out the triggers. Whilst going through some of these solutions, I found a really handy way of distributing the audio for my band recordings into iTunes. So now I'm a fully fledged podcaster. Feel free to check me out on there if you fancy some new music poured into your earholes. The last upload was from the lead singer of Foreign Owl and you can see the video recording below if you fancy it? Apologies for the audio on this one, because, even though I recorded it perfectly, I accidentally deleted it (cause I'm an idiot) and had to use the on-camera audio recording instead. I know! I'm only as good as my human imperfections. Lesson learned.

In the coming weeks, I hope to be recording a new session with Arbuckle and McCormick, who recently paired up to put their creative heads together having worked independently for some time. Their music is a mix of indie/folk with catchy riffs and smooth laidback lyrics. Needless to say, I'm already a fan, they're already on my channel if you want to check their first gig together out? On the YouTube front, I have now managed to secure a unique link, which basically means I can type out the channel name with letters, instead of a random string of numbers: www.youtube.com/OpenMicNights

So, if you know of any band/singers who are looking for some coverage, send them my way, I'm always happy to help out where I can.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) and arbuckle darron dji emily foreign gopro h4n handy itunes mark mccormick mic nights open osmo owl podcast pro recorder robert soundcloud youtube zoom https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2018/2/-musicphotography-blog-045-new-youtube-channel Mon, 05 Feb 2018 11:45:00 GMT
#MusicPhotography | Blog 044 | Expensive Purchase Alert! https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/12/-musicphotography-blog-044-expensive-purchase-alert Firstly, I just want to start off by saying "I have an awesome wife!" - That's it, it's out there, I said it.

Probably one of the most unique ways of starting off my blog today, but, with good reason. I've been editing the videos I've captured at a few gigs I've also photographed, and one of the major issues I've tried desperately to tackle was audio.

Let's face it, if you're going to attempt to film bands performing, the key thing you have to get right is the sound. It goes without saying! The problem I've been experiencing is that with all the various cameras I use to film with, none of them can handle a drummer going full pelt.

That's not the only issue, the audience. They insist on talking and laughing and clinking their beers, and just generally ruining the whole video recording process, why can't they sit in silent reverence to appreciate the gig? Ban them, ban them all I say... I'm joking obviously, it is what it is, bands typically play in pubs.

I've tried plugging into the soundboard, with varying degrees of success, well, no success if I'm being honest. One attempt was totally blown out by the electric guitar, another by being plugged into an in-port so I recorded nothing but static, which I didn't find out about until the next day. So yeah, something drastic has to be done.

There's been a spell where I've actually not needed anything, not wanted anything, not even casually browsed for things to spend money on. That was until this week. I just had to solve this audio crisis, it was driving me insane.

Here comes the wife to the rescue!

She says I have a habit of 'planting the seed' when it comes to wanting 'stuff', but in this case, she fully understood my plight. Since she started coming to gigs and festivals with me, she now has a higher appreciation of what an artist/band goes through to produce good quality music. She's picking out the various skills musicians perform for their fans through with their craft, and she absolutely loves it. The last gig we were at was in Derry's Nerve Centre watching Rosborough perform, and he was amazing.

I've done my best this week to find the most functional and best quality recording device that won't make me sweat clicking on the buy it button. It has to come out of the family budget, with the understanding that any returns on investment will obviously be ploughed back into the coffers.

So, tonight, she gave me the green light to buy a new Zoom H4n Pro, 4 Channel Sound Recorder. It features the same high performance, low-noise mic preamps as their acclaimed Zoom H5 and H6 Handy Recorders, with recording and playback at resolutions up to 24-bit/96 kHz. The improved noise floor (-120 dBu EIN) captures audio at lower volumes with less noise and fewer artefacts.

It's basically recording 4 different things at once, but on individual tracks so I can pull what I need from the audio when I need it. I was also talking to a recording engineer tonight about this device, and he said I wasn't to forget about that ambient noise that the audience throws out, as it's an important element from a live event, that you, the viewer, also hear that there's an audience in there too, so I've to factor that into the edits, not that you wouldn't notice anyway, as they have this annoying habit of walking in-front of the camera to go get a drink or relieve themselves of earlier drinks.

The small form factor is really going to help in transportation too, as I'm positive I can squeeze it into my main vlog camera bag beside the JVC camera I'm using.

Zoom H4n ProXLR InputDirect sound deck feeds Zoom H4n ProBlue Digital DisplayThe H4n Pro isn't just improved, it's superior in every way. With advanced X/Y microphones, incredibly natural-sounding preamps, and a super-low noise floor, you can record everything from the Indy 500 to the fluttering of a hummingbird with extraordinary realism. Zoom H4n ProStereo Mics

Anyway, now that this is on its way to me, and I should have it early next week, I'm even more excited about being out and about, not only photographing bands but also filming them at the same time. Even if I just manage to get one song from each act, I'd be happy with that.

As I've said already, the editing has been ongoing this week, as I want to clear the 'to-do' list on that front now, so I can then focus on getting that all important family holiday video done, as there's an opportunity hidden away in there that I'm keen to exploit early next year.

Check out my YouTube Channel to see my new playlist 'Open Mic Nights', where you'll see amazing talent from the likes of Sean O'Hagan from a band called 'The Pragmatix' singing songs like this amazing tune:

Hopefully, from now on, the audio will be much much better. So watch this space!

P.S. Thank you again Mrs Mark - You're awesome!


(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) acts amazon audio bands blog darron h4n ireland mark music northern ireland photography pro recording sound the pragmatix video youtube zoom https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/12/-musicphotography-blog-044-expensive-purchase-alert Mon, 04 Dec 2017 11:45:00 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 043 | Seats, Seats, More Seats! https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/11/-vanlife-blog-043-seats-seats-more-seats As some of you may already be aware, I bought seats for the van. They're great seats, and I had every intention of using them in the layout I had in mind for the rear living space. However, as luck would have it, I found a double passenger seat for the front of the van that is out of another Iveco, the same as mine! I saw them pop up on my other favourite site, Gumtree (my favourite site obviously being this one!). I got in touch with the guy who had them, and set about for another road trip to Newtownards, again!

Saturday mornings it would seem, are slowly becoming 'Road Trip Time' but with one destination, Newtonbloodyards.

I have recently seen listed a mint caravan that I'd have loved to gone and bought, for carcass purposes. The problem being is, I've other things to pay off first *boo*. Such as the three European holidays we've taken this year for starters. Now we're kicking into the Christmas season, we have that to get out of way.

However, as with most things, the van build needs new tools, lots of them. Tools I've never needed for before, such as custom drill bits like these Zacro 3 pcs Titanium Step Drill Bit Set that comes with an automatic centre punch.

Step Drill BitsAvailable on Amazon Why do I need this? Well... I couldn't find a 19mm drill bit that would carve out the hole I need for my switches that are going to control the rear cameras. The little nubbin one didn't have the strength to withstand the 5Amp load going through, but to be fair, it was only rated at 3Amp, so that's my fail, not the switch, but damn it looked cool.

Thankfully, I bought a load of 3 Pin LED Rocker switches I'm going to have to use instead a few years ago, and they've been sitting in my electrical tool bag gathering dust for ages. So in a way, I've been sort of preparing for this build without realising it.

Now, as I'd bought new blanks for the van, and I've already set about tearing a hole in one of them, which is now useless, I needed more blanks. I have a search alert for scrap Iveco's on Gumtree and a new donor vehicle had come on the market, which meant last weekend was a side road trip to Mayobridge, in County Down, which was handy as I was down visiting family anyway.

The parts on my shopping list are currently:

  • Circular Dashboard Blanks
  • Instrument Panel Rectangle Blank (sits to the right of the steering wheel (RHD))
  • Rear Door Restaining Hinge
  • Side Door Original Interior Light

What I managed to get from the donor vehicle was 3 circular blanks and the rectangle, all for the princely sum of £5, considering I paid £10 for just the two circulars a few months ago, that's a win. Everything else in the van was long gone, but hey-ho, no big deal.

Mechanic's CreeperAvailable on Amazon The other 'tool' I needed was a Mechanic's Creeper so that I could slide under the van with ease and feel like a proper mechanic. There's a fair bit of wiring that I want to channel under the chassis, and this is the best way to get around. The build quality is fantastic, and I will probably keep it for other maintenance jobs, or sell it on, who knows? What I do know is, the first job it's going help me tackle is to replace the single passenger seat with the newly purchased double. This is obviously going to impede access to the front of the van from the rear (and vice versa), but I'd much prefer more seats up front, cause it's of little use at the moment with only two people capacity.

I'll do a video of me attempting this, and post it on my YouTube channel. There will probably be a lot of blood and cursing! Be warned.



(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) amazon build conversion darron derry drills ireland iveco londonderry mark mechanic creeper northern seats tools van vanlife https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/11/-vanlife-blog-043-seats-seats-more-seats Tue, 28 Nov 2017 11:55:00 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 042 | Bunk Bed Solution https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/9/-vanlife-blog-042-bunk-bed-solution With the power of Gumtree Alerts, I wake up every morning to a couple of emails pointing me to objects that are relevant to my quest of building this van on a budget. After a slight adjustment to light, my scanning through the various caravan parts that have come onto the market in the last 24 hours begins. One peeked my interest recently, that being a collapsible bunk bed.

Bunk Beds UpBunk Beds UpGumtree Picture Bed DownBed DownBunk Bed Down

As you may already know, this van conversion is for the sole benefit of me, okay, and the wife, not forgetting the two dogs (if I still allow one of them to live that long (see the previous blog)). However, a few hints have been dropped by 'She who must be obeyed' that it would be nice to have extra sleeping space in the van to cater for the two girls to tag along. With space being so tight at the minute (in my mind, cause I've yet to spec this out properly), I didn't want to add another double bed into the limited space, or put permanent bunks in either, so having this collapsible bunk frame was going to be a win.

Arrangements were made between myself and the seller, Anna, and a drive was on the cards for the next Saturday.

Finding Anna's home was easy enough, a mix of GPS and handy notes had me gingerly driving up her narrow drive in my mahoosive van. I would have been tempted to reverse up it, but since I'm now blind at the back thanks to Milo, that wasn't gonna happen! Anna's having a clear out and she has an old caravan she's stripping for parts, none-of-which took my fancy, as I'm after something more compatible with a hot water system. Her son was kind enough to give me a hand shifting the frame from the rear garden to the van, and a nicer fella I have yet to meet. A few shekels changed hands, and I was blindly backing out of the drive back onto the main road with no clue as to whether I'd get creamed by a lorry. Thankfully traffic stopped for me, making me even more determined to get these cameras fixed, and soon!

Rather than bringing the bunk bed straight home, I called out to Mick, my welding hero from Ballykelly. The reason I needed his skills was that the bunk beds are 73" wide, and the space I have for them is only 71".  I could say I knew this in advance, but I will freely admit that it wasn't until we loaded it into the van that I then thought to measure them. Another rookie mistake! But, I was confident that Mick would be able to solve it, and solve it he did. He took a section of the springs out, cut the side supporting poles down, a little bit of nip / tuck to wedge them together, some welding, a bit of red oxide paint, done! They're prefect.

The only thing that remains for me to do now is, sand them down, thin a bit of Hammerite paint, then give them a quick freshen up.

My wife didn't understand why I had to buy them straight away until I explained that when hunting for bargains that are actually relevant to something you've an interest in, you can't just wait until you have the money or the time to sort it out. Who knows when an item you might need will come up again? It's not like I can just go into my local store and ask for this stuff. I probably paid twice as much in fuel getting it, but hey-ho, I have it now, and they'll factor into the design of the van build.

As for the design, this is where the awesome product Sketchup Make comes into play. I'm now trying to learn 3D modelling, which is a whole other level of head melt. It has to be done though, there's just no escaping it. I'm going to be that dude that always has a tape measure stuck to his arse, for that 'just in case' moment...

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog bunk bed camper campervan conversion darron mark iveco daily motorhome northern ireland stealth van van life https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/9/-vanlife-blog-042-bunk-bed-solution Tue, 26 Sep 2017 10:55:00 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 041 | Puppy Problems https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/9/-vanlife-blog-041-puppy-problems It's that age old adage that if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. I pretty much live my life by it. So much so, that it drives my wife and kids insane at times. I'm the guy that will reposition your glass if you've placed it too close to the edge of a table, because if I don't, I know for a fact you'll knock it off, or at least I've convinced myself that I've prevented that from happening, so we'll never actually know.

I've seen a problem in the van from the moment I picked it up that I knew would need addressing, even a quick preventative measure would of done, but I just never got round to sorting it and as I predicted, it's happened!

My sodding dog has chewed through three sets of cables in the back of the van!

Milo the cable chewer.MiloHis 'Butter wouldn't melt' look. Don't be fooled. The guilty party is called MILO, and right now, he's a c*nt in my eyes. Sorry for the language, but he is! I've removed some of the panels and shelving that was in the rear compartment as it''s not going to be used, which allowed me to start putting the dogs in the back of the van, as is it's future intention anyway, half of the space is purely set aside for the both of them when we go away. It means that when they get all 'mucked-up-to-eyes' they can just chill in their own kennel and dry off, and not wreck the living area in the centre.

The bigger of the two, Lucky, she just loves the water. She can smell a river from miles away and just makes a b-line straight for it, no matter how dirty it is, she's got to be in it. Milo, whose a Pug/Jack Russell mix (JUG) is a comical little sh1t. But when he's bored he chews.

Lucky and MiloLucky (left) and Milo coming up the rear.Lucky and Milo on one of our walks. One of the rear door panels is missing, it just so happens to be the lower one and Milo has already eaten through the door locking mechanism cable and I had to fix that this weekend. I even took the time to hide it from him so he couldn't get at it for another go. Last night however, he found the CCTV ones that link the rear cameras to the front display and had a good auld chomp on them. I know its him, he's got form for it. Lucky, although she's a complete pain in the arse on a lead is essentially a loving and placid pooch. Milo, you need eyes in the back of your head for.

There's two cables for both cameras, one of them is already knackered (see previous posts) and I already have a cable sitting in my amazon shopping cart for when I've the wood panels all out. I didn't want to buy it till I can properly feed them through the channels in the roof space. I hadn't planned on tackling that for a while yet, you know, cause of funds and stuff. Milo has put paid to that now, cause he's eaten both of them, so I've no way of gauging distances properly around the town trying to park.

So, instead of just chilling this weekend, I've now got to start the strip out process, so I can channel the cables through from the back to the front of the van. Joy...

I'll put a video from the my exploits later. I've already put one up from my mishap with trying to swap out the camera switch, which you can see now below.


(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog cables camper cctv darron dogs iveco mark modifications parking rear van conversion https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/9/-vanlife-blog-041-puppy-problems Fri, 22 Sep 2017 11:00:00 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 040 | Battery Problem Resolved https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/8/-vanlife-blog-040-battery-problem-resolved Yey..! YouTube videos have given me enough knowledge to understand battery technology to such a degree that I've resolved the dead battery problem Having a leisure battery directly connected to your starter battery is never ever a good idea. Which is what I've discovered with this vehicle, and why it kept flattening the battery to the point I couldn't even get a dashboard light. I'd only had it running 3 days earlier too, but it was as dead as a dead thing at it's funeral.

I've now got a battery switch relay on order from my good friends over at Amazon, however I've had to bin the existing leisure battery, because if a leisure battery falls below 12v it has serious consequences for it's longevity. It's safe to say to say, that this one is fooked. I'll replace it as part of the re-build at some point up ahead.

The van in the past few weeks has just been sitting at the side of the house, as funds for the build are on hold whilst we get my wife's new business established. Her beautician had decided to move to the US and start a new life out there as a Nanny. This has provided an opportunity too good for the other half to pass up on. We've bought the business from her, well, when I say "the business", we've bought everything that the business has, and re-purposed what was my studio office to 'Kitty's Parlour'. The van has been sitting full of products and furniture from the previous owner, until I got all of my gear out.

Iveco & The MournesIveco & The Mournes It made sense to turn it in to something more productive, as my plan to strip back everything to the basics has meant that all I need is a laptop and some cameras. The upgrade from my previous laptop has also allowed me to work in 4K in a more travel friendly environment. Added to the fact that I don't need a mini-server farm anymore to host all my many years work of photography, I can simply store them on Amazon's vast cloud infrastructure once I've finished working on them.

During the move, I've also been able clear out the roof space. I had nearly £600 worth of photography books up there. I read everything when I first started out. Learning from the pro's and industry leaders who had bothered to publish their knowledge to print for people like me to pour over. The books unfortunately went for pennies. Hopefully someone will benefit in the future. I'm now adopting a very strict rule of;

"If I haven't touched it in 6 months, I obviously don't need it, so sell it or bin it, or donate it to charity."

A lot of gear has gone the way of 'Cash Makers', which is a local pawn shop here in Derry. I spied a lovely little iPad Mini 2 the other day as I walked past the other day on my way home.

Sitting neatly in the shop window on a Friday afternoon, I thought if it's still there on Monday, then it's meant for me. Sure enough, come Monday morning as I walked up past it again, it's still sitting there. There was a very decent iPad Air next to it, but I feel that's probably too big for my needs, the iPad Mini will be perfect for my drone work, offering much better views that I'm getting from my iPhone 6s (can't wait for the 8 to come out).

So, the last tech clear out commenced. First to go was the Google Nexus 7 Tablet. This was supposed to be the tablet of choice for my drone, but it was just half and inch too small for any bracket to actually hold it, even with the bigger case surrounding it. Plus, it had problems connecting to my GoPro's when I really needed to see what the camera could see, like at the wedding I did in Portugal. So I wasn't a fan. I'd only had the damn thing 2 months (bought in the same way as the iPad I'm hoping to get), and the way this trade-in thing works, you lose 50% of what you could sell it for if you were prepared to wait. So £90 quickly turned to £50. 

The next to go was the last Dell Monitor I had left. The plan was to keep it as a second screen, but that wouldn't have made sense inside the van, I'd need something more multi-purpose. Something I could HDMI into with the laptop. So no longer fit for purpose, £15.

Hard Drives, cleaned and ready to go. I'm always wary of letting hard drives leave the house without some sort of hammer being their last experience, but these are still great 1TB Wester Digital Drives, someone could use them. I'd scoured the web for a way of overwriting them to the point that no data would ever be recovered. Found this great Windows program called Eraser, which does a Department of Defence level wipe. It took nearly 9 hours to perform on each of the three I was selling, but it did the job. Gone, £20 each.

Last to go was a great video tripod with dolly wheels. People where offering to buy them from across the country, with free shipping and discount. Jokers. Sold it to a guy who flies drones professionally and runs a security company too. He asked if I'd be so kind as to drop it up to a friend's of his locally, which I obliged. Money in to the auld PayPal account, and the iPad was mine. Not a penny spent from out the bank, and more space cleared.

I've done some walking back and forth up that Shipquay Street in Derry (those that live here will know it's some hill) I can tell ya! Even the staff know me by name I was in it that much recently. This laptop I'm working on right now came from there! It's an Aladdin's Cave of stuff. Picked up a cheeky little stereo for the missus too.

My wife asked me the other day was there anything else I wanted for the photography business, and I can honestly say, for the first time in a very long time; No. Nothing. I have everything I need to do what I love doing, which needs less of it.

Just a few jobs left to do with my wife's beauty parlour, which reminds me, must put the tool's batteries on charge, as I've a bench to cut to size.

The site is going to be going through a revamp too, as I'm cutting back on the things I'm going to be photographing professionally focussing more on just Music and Weddings. I'll be doing a lot more on the filming front too. First band booked in already, expect some 'Summer House Sessions' coming down the pike. Also, the van build is going to be designed to host some 'post gig' interview sessions with bands across the country, so I need to have great lighting options and plenty of seating space to allow for a few guitars and singers (sorry drummers, you'll have to slap the walls).

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogger conversion darron darron mark derry ireland iveco londonderry mark northern northern ireland photo photographer photography travel vanlife wedding weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/8/-vanlife-blog-040-battery-problem-resolved Tue, 29 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
#MusicPhotography | Blog 039 | Why do I do it? https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/8/-musicphotography-blog-039-why-do-i-do-it There's something very intimate and exposed about music photography, and I'm talking more about the new starters, the ones putting themselves forward in front of people to be judged at the very beginnings of their careers, not the big stars.

I've photographed some of the most famous names in the world, there's a confidence to those performers that comes with time and obviously practice, lots of it. The same can be said about photographers I suppose, your confidence and repertoire grow with each and every shoot you do, you can spot the newbies a mile off. I remember my first wedding shoot, I was so nervous. I obviously didn't show it, but it didn't help that the bride was nearly two hours late, and most of the guests couldn't find the tiny chapel in the middle of borderlands of Armagh. I'd only found it by accident when I'd gone to scope it out the week before. Tucked away in a little dip in the middle of nowhere, no phone signal and very little in the way of signage, a tense time.

Roll on 10 years and I'm still at the wedding photography, but I'm really getting more into the music end of things now, and the reason is simple; you get to see some real talent emerging from this small corner of the world. One of my favourite covers I've seen played was done by a guy in a dark little bar in Derry. Sean O'Hagan's own version of Whitney Houston's 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' below...

Pragmatix's Sean O'Hagan singing, I just want to dance with somebody.

One of the reasons I don't do this, and that's for the money. Nobody gets rich photographing musicians unless you manage to get a tour contract and travel the world with these top flight stars, like a hero of mine Mike Lerner is doing. He freely admits he only managed it through luck and good fortune, simply starting out photographing a little-known star at the time known as Katy Perry, who we all know became something of a household name eventually. He's now running around making Justin Beiber look good.

The real reason I do this is to get off my arse of an evening, marrying my love of home grown musical talent and at the same time, getting back to my roots in photography and just doing it for the love of it.

Interestingly I spoke with a bassist a couple of weeks ago, of a great band and he said something that struck a chord with me (if you'll pardon the pun) and that was "Since I started playing in a band, I practice a lot less than I did before. Before I was playing 5 or 6 times a week, just for the fun of it, but now, I only play when we gig".

Coming back to the photography, it was the same with me for a while. I would be out photographing anything and everything, then when I started working full time for the papers, nothing was for just me anymore. Wedding photography is slightly different because I just love doing that anyway and it's always an honour when some one puts their trust in you to cover that most precious of days. I don't get an opportunity to do it as much as I used to, simply because of the competition out there now in wedding photography, especially this neck of the woods. Everyman and his dog is a wedding photographer it would seem!

Music photography is different, you have to push yourself, you have to sometimes negotiate with venue providers to let you in the pit at the more formal events. The pubs and clubs are a challenge in themselves too just from a lighting stand point. They're always underlit and you'll never have the space to work in cause they're pubs! But, I'll still go out and support local talent where ever I can find it.

Who knows, maybe one day I'll be flying coach tagging along to one of these as yet undiscovered gems in the near future.

Check out my Music Portfolio if you want to see some of the names I've been fortunate enough to cover.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog darron mark derry ireland lerner londonderry mike northern northern ireland photo photographer photography weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/8/-musicphotography-blog-039-why-do-i-do-it Mon, 14 Aug 2017 11:16:31 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 038 | Why Is It Never Easy? https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/8/-vanlife-blog-038-why-is-it-never-easy The quest for additional safe seating (as in, seats that have integrated seat belts) started almost immediately after I purchased the van.  I wanted to be able to have passengers for the day to day runs, like trips to the shop or taking the kids with me when we walk the dogs by the beach. Or, god forbid, if we do ever decide to include additional sleeping quarters to the rear, bring the kids with us on short breaks.

Alerts have been set on Gumtree.com for anything Iveco related in terms of parts here in Northern Ireland. I could do with swapping out the driver's seat as its padding is a little worn, hard left turns are a little unnerving cause your arse muscles have nothing to push off against to counter the bends. You get a feeling like you're going to fall out the driver's door at any moment.

The priority, however, is getting some seats in the back for when I start moving forward with the rebuild, which as yet is still a non-starter due to funds being allocated elsewhere. Mainly on holidays to be honest. My wife has this tendency to buy cheap flights to far off places cause, well, they're cheap. The problem is though, the accommodation costs and spends don't seem to factor into her thought processes quite at the same moment. Two flights to Malaga last year cost £81, return. Bargain right? The total cost of the holiday? About £1,700. For a week! Don't get me wrong, it was a cracking week in the sun getting shit faced and mooching about the streets of Torremolinos, just not economically thought through enough.

Same with this year, bar the first holiday. I was sabotaged on that one by a bride. Good friends of ours decided that they would be getting married in Portugal, in the expensive part, the Algarve. Flights were booked (for me) last Christmas Eve. I was drunk and Sarah (the bride) took my phone and set about finding us a good deal on flights, which basically translated to the only flights that covered the days we'd need to be there. So I woke up on Christmas morning £480 lighter. I really do need to get a grip on this seasonal drinking lark!

We're not long back from it actually, it was a bloody good holiday/wedding, and I've an amazing tan and a bit of video from the day if you're interested below:

It was also roasting the whole time we were there. Nonetheless, we had a fantastic time. The knock-on effect has been that I still can't start the van conversion, cause, well, I'm skint. Not 'skint' skint, just nothing left to spare to buy anything other than food. I sort of knew that was gonna happen before we left, which is why when my Gumtree.com alert notified me that there were some suitable seats on the market, it was time to strike.

Now these aren't Iveco seats, which would have been awesome, and in all likelihood if they had been, they would have ended up in the front cab. No, these were from a Ford Transit, which was recently converted from a mini-bus into a plaster's work van, and the guy had them spare for selling.

Transit seatsTransit SeatsRear passenger seats with fitted integrated seat belts.

Granted, there's nothing flash about them, they're just seats. Looked okay on the picture (above) and he was only looking £120 for them. Not as cheap as I'd seen in adverts further afield, but at least they were in Northern Ireland. Every other set of seats I'd seen have all been in Scotland, mainly because Gumtree likes to spread its area of search a little further when it can't find what you're looking for locally. I wish I lived in Glasgow sometimes, cause everything for this van seems to be in that city, never in Northern Ireland!

As typical face-to-face buying methods go, we arranged to meet at a suitable place for both of us. I was actually heading to Newry for the weekend, so we agreed to meet at a Roundabout off a busy road like a couple of crooks. He wanted £120, but when I saw how tattered the backs of the seats were, I said I wanted a tenner knocked off. The seller agreed, but as he didn't have a ten pound note to swap for my £20's, I ended up giving him £100. I didn't tell him I had two tenners as well, where's the fun in that?

Thankfully they have the top mounting plates, though they will need two further underside plates made to secure them through the floor.

This is where it starts to get to be a bit of a pain in the arse.

I'm gonna have to take the fuel tank off so that I can get to the underside of the van I actually want them on, because that's where the tank sits. Also, I can't do that until I've obviously removed the cupboards inside, and once that happens, I have to start with redoing the floor. I sort of knew this going in, but again, the quick fix of having extra seats isn't a quick fix at all.

The enormity of this job isn't lost on me, it's just the amount of time and effort it's going to take, as well as the lack of funds, cause you guessed it, another holiday looms. We're away again in 8 weeks on another 'cheap' holiday, then two weeks after that, the big family holiday!

It looks like this project is going to have to be mothballed until next year, only this time, there will be no 'cheap' flights being booked anywhere.

In other news, the van likes to drain its batteries if left unattended longer than 3 days!

Also, it seems I'm not supposed to remove the tachograph (see previous blog) just in case I decide to use the tow bar to tow anything, cause then I have to have the tachograph going too!

Anyone wanna buy a van?

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogger conversion daily darron mark iveco iveco daily northern ireland seats van van life vanlife https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/8/-vanlife-blog-038-why-is-it-never-easy Tue, 08 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 037 | Failing at Fault Checking https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/8/-vanlife-blog-037-Failing-at-Fault-Checking When you're buying anything second hand, you're trying your best to remember everything that the seller is telling you about your purchase, the good bits, and especially the bad bits. You're trying to catalogue items that either you're gonna need someone to help you with, or simple things you could probably do yourself. You don't always retain the bad bits, cause you're caught up in the exciting buying experience, but one thing I did manage to remember that was faulty, and that was the reversing cameras at the back of the van.

With a vehicle of this length, I'm gonna need some help parking in tight spaces. Lorry drivers tend not to have to worry about on-street parking, cause they're either driving or parked up in a dedicated bay suitable to their needs. But when your van is over 7 meters long and takes up two parking spaces, knowing what's going on at the arse end is invaluable, especially if you don't want to be going about the place cracking front number plates for other car owners.

I'm fortunate, I've two cameras mounted to the back roof. One points directly down to the rear step plate and tow bar, giving you an accurate guide as to how close you are to something, the second (when operational) should be pointing to the traffic behind me, providing me with information about whether or not it's safe to overtake, so I'm not surprised by something sneaking up behind me in the blindspots, of which there's a gaping one in the side mirrors, as it's nearly caught me out twice so far.

As you've gathered, it's the second camera that's not working. So the hunt was on for a replacement on Amazon.

There are a number of cameras of this model shape out there, however mine has a four pin connector which allows for the powering of the camera from the main 12v source at the other end of the connecting cable. Much less hassle than those other composite types, which need you to provide a separate power input. It took some finding, and really focussing on the connections in the sellers pictures, just as much as the camera, but I found one, and they're cheap enough new, around the £20 mark.

CMOS Car Parking Camera, Rear View Backup Reversing Camera with 18 IR LED lights Night Vision Waterproof for Caravans DC 9V-36VCMOS Car Parking Camera, Rear View Backup Reversing Camera with 18 IR LED lights Night Vision Waterproof for Caravans DC 9V-36VThe right camera for the job! Now I just have to wait patiently for the order to make its way to me, a whole 24 hours!

When it did get here (within 24 hours) I kept it in the van for when I'd get some time to actually fit it to the roof. I was going to be visiting my kids at their Mum's that weekend, so I thought I'd get to it while they were sleeping through their Saturday mornings.

Up bright and early I got a lend of some step ladders to get me up top. Thankfully my ex-wife had a bit of a tool set which meant I could start getting the self tapping screws out of the camera mount, cause forgot to bring anything with me to help in this planned tasked, typical of me. I was going to leave the bracket and just swap out the main camera, but the screw heads were so rusted that it just wasn't going to happen, so the whole thing had to come off. The hole in the roof is shielded with a plastic screw 'thing' that was filled with silicone sealant, which I had to tear out so that I could feed the cables through to push the new one through.

The new camera was fitted perfectly, and the camera aligned and the cables that feed the signal through to the dashboard monitor were secured. A quick run through to the cab and the activation switch flicked to see what this new camera would look like.

Nothing..! Feck all could be seen other than the 'No Signal' display on the screen. A flicked it to camera One, and that was fine, but camera Two wasn't working.

A dash back to the rear, up the steps, I switched the leads around, down the ladders, back to the front, and boom! Camera Two is working, now camera One isn't..?

Back to the rear, up the ladders, old camera Two on to the working lead, back to the front and well feck me! It's working fine! There's nothing wrong with these cameras, it's the sodding connecting lead from the rear to the front! Why the hell didn't I just test this first?

I've probably described this little task like it was a quick swap out, it wasn't, it took at least an hour, and it had also started to rain just to add the to the bliss.

I decided there and then that dashboard console needs to come out so I can see what's going on here behind the scenes with these damn cameras, just to properly fault check it this time.

Unscrewing all the various nuts and bolts just revealed the years worth of dust and grim that has accumulated over it's lifetime as a builder's van. The fuse box panel and the kick panel were taken to the sink for a good wash, and a whole packet of car wipes were used to make it clean and presentable around the floor joins and air vents. The cables for the camera system were found, and again, just for shits and giggles, I swapped them to confirm that the fault lay with the font to rear connectors, which it did. I thought the while I was at it that I would try and remove the tachometer that I don't need, and the old battered Parrot Hands Free Car Kit that was now redundant. I failed to even get close to removing the tachometer, cause that need some serious skills, the Parrot however, was out in no time, clearing up the clutter on the dashboard.

As for the camera cable, well, that's going to have to wait until the refurbishment kicks off, cause it's currently fed through the rear panels of the interior. I might as well just deal with it as part of the wiring fit out.

Nothing ever seems easy with this motor. I'll get there though, cause I'm determined to make this van awesome!

But if anyone has any handy links on how to remove a tachometer, or knows someone in the NW who can deal with it, let me know. Next job, source some rear seats that have seatbelt already fitted. This is a whole other handling session, but I'll tell you about that, next time.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) auto daily darron free hands iveco mark northern ireland parrot photography reversing camera tachometer van life vanlife https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/8/-vanlife-blog-037-Failing-at-Fault-Checking Wed, 02 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 036 | Rebuilding what I broke https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/7/-vanlife-blog-036-rebuilding-what-i-broke It was a gloriously sunny 12th of July here in the North West, and I had a full plan of attack when it came to the camper van conversion. Just days away from the MOT on the 15th I thought I'd get stuck in and tackle some of those jobs that needed my attention.

First on that task list was the water flow situation. What was it that was stopping the water hitting the bog? In my previous blog I mentioned that even though there was power to the electrical flush switch, and the taps obviously worked, albiet for less than a second, there was no obvious reason why the water wasn't getting pumped through the pipes. Time to get all Sherlock and assess the rear of the van, as that's where all the plumbing was situated.

I unhooked all the pipes, and no water was to be found in any of them. I knew that it had been sitting dormant for a while and obviously drained of liquids over the winter period. Having filled the tank before we left, I thought that would been enough to get it going, seems not. I'm not sure of the capacity of the onboard water tank, I suspect it's in the in the 50ltr range, but even the pressure from it's high position had no effect. The only thing left to do, was blow into the pipe and see what occurs.

With the end of the blue water flow tube to my lips, I gave a resounding bellow of air that any bagpiper would be proud of.

After an initial slight resistance, the air got through into the water tank, and then came flooding back down the pipe. I quickly reconnected the pipe to the system only to then find that the pump was missing a filter, fecking water flooding everywhere over the rear the vehicle. I had to quickly pull the pipe out of the system and did my best to expel the water out the rear of the van. The tank obviously needed cleansed with a good dose of Milton, but I'm glad I've found out at this stage that I need to order a new filter. Now all I need to do is find the right one.

Okay, drawing a line under that drama, it was time to move back into the living space and remove all that fitted furniture.

Ryobi drill in hand and the settings in reverse, those screws were coming out. Feeling that it would be better to start at the top and work down, the first to be removed was the top shelving. A quick 'zurp zurp' of the drill and I'm 10 screws down, and the retaining ledge was out. This is going to be so easy!

Iveco Daily on a beach.A quick pit stop at Benone BeachFresh after it's MOT, I thought I'd take 5 minutes to take a quick picture.

Then it hit me! This van is classified as a camper because of everything that's currently in it! By me removing it BEFORE the MOT on Saturday, I would being ruining it's standing as a camper.

Sheepishly I retrieved the only piece of wood I'd just threw out, and tried to get it back into place. My whole day's worth of work was halted after only one piece.

Roll on to Saturday, and a quick visit to North West Motor Factors for some wipers, as the rubbers were done, and the washer jets (which are fitted to the actual blade) weren't letting wiper fluid through. They weren't cheap either, £35 for two blades, and with the help of a small stool, we had them on and fitted. However, as with all things with this van, there was a blockage in the pipes, which meant I was now sucking on tiny tubes to get the fluid though. I swear, I think this van is simply a perv.

Take it from me, washer fluid is not tasty substance, and takes some serious flushing out, but a few pins and pokes through the connector pipes we had them fully operational and I was good to go.

MOT's are stressful enough, but when you're putting through a DIY camper that you've invested nearly five grand into, it takes it up a notch. I was booked into a normal car bay, but the guys called me over to the HGV pits for my inspection. Too cut an already long story short, the only thing he asked to see was the sink. Everything else was a pass, with the only 'comment' (not documented) being there were still a few areas of concern, rust wise, near the passenger front wheel arch area. I'll have my welding hero look into that when funds allow.

The normal 'triumphant' text was sent to the missus, to let her know the good news, and quick stop off at the beach for a photoshoot (one shot, cause by then it was lashing with rain) and the van is back home, all ready for the next stage, the ripping out of redundant tech from the cab area, and the swapping out of the rear CCTV camera that's not sending video back through to the front.

More on that next time, cause all was not what it seemed.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog camper conversion darron darron mark ireland iveco iveco daily londonderry mark van life vanlife https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/7/-vanlife-blog-036-rebuilding-what-i-broke Wed, 26 Jul 2017 23:00:00 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 035 | Two Nights In Dublin With Coldplay https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/7/van-life-blog-035-two-nights-in-dublin-with-coldplay We've done lots of camping over the years, many's a night on a beach, mountain sides, fields, forests, you name it, we've kipped on it. Having done the touring caravan thing we moved up to owning a motorhome, which was fantastic, the only downside was that it sat at the side of the house for 6 months of the year, off the road. Not through any mechanical issue, just, well, it's the weather here. It's shit!

It rains a lot here in Northern Ireland, and I mean a lot! But here in the North West of the North, it rains even more than the rest of the country. I've spent a morning in blistering heat in South Down (the East side) on one of those rare sunny days, then travelled up to the North West (NW) only to see it pissing down with rain, and I'm only talking 2 hours drive away. There must be something about that notorious Glenshane Pass that doesn't allow the clouds to pass, just stacking them up one on top of the other until they burst and flood back down all over us here in the County Londonderry region.

Where was I? Oh yeah, camping and motorhome ownership.

Why did we sell the motorhome in the first place? My wife says it's all my fault we had to sell it cause I was always a grumpy git on the first few nights away, intolerable apparently, I have no clue what she's on about! Maybe it was the thought of having to live in a tin can full of grumpy kids and two wet, smelly dogs that put me off, but we'll never know, despite what she says. Once we sold it though, we instantly regretted it. The finances of owning an all year vehicle and yet only using it 50% of the year spoke for itself if we were really being honest.

Dial forward 12 months, and we have a massive van at the side of the house that I'm planning on converting, but one I'm also going to be using as an all year round vehicle for the work commute and obviously as a base for my photography and videography work. It has to be able to hide in plain sight, which is going to be difficult as the thing is over 10ft tall. It also has to be comfortable enough for a weekend away for me, the missus and the two dogs. No kids allowed, they moan too much that they're bored, or that they can't get WIFI, plus they need feeding all the time, so no.

Anyway, our first few nights away in the as yet, unfurnished to my plans (which I've still yet to draw up), were upon us. Coldplay were playing in Croke Park, Dublin and my wife has been wanting to see them since she missed out over 8 years ago. We've been together the last 7, and I promised, come what may, I'd get her there. That meant not chancing fate, and going the night before.

Coldplay at Croke ParkColdplay at Croke Park

Friends are going to be meeting us down their on the Saturday, so we found a decent enough spot to park using Google Maps. Less than 15 minutes walk from the stadium, and less that 4 minutes away from the hotel our friends would be staying in. All I had to do was make sure the van was ready.

We'd essentially be camping inside the van. As I said, it's not what you would call homely. The previous owner just slept in it when he was done for the day working on a building site across England, so it was practical for his needs, and comfort wasn't high on his list.

There's plumbing in there for hot water for a wash and shower, and there's also a toilet with an electric flush, all very practical. I filled the internal fresh water tank at the back, and got the air beds ready, the wife got the blankets and a Camping Grab Chest, which is a chest that contains everything you need to eat, sleep and cook with. It's even got various lights in there, so we're sorted on that front. The 12v fridge was lifted down from the attic and packed with drinks and snacks, as we knew we'd be enjoying a few meals out, so cooking wise, that wasn't going to happen inside the van this weekend. Once all set up, we set off down the country for a 3 and a half hour road trip, with a quick pit-stop to see my kids at their Mum's.

Driving something of this scale is almost like driving a lorry. The road view is amazing. I keep forgetting it has 6 gears and kick myself when I cotton on I've been coasting in 5th for while without realising. The wipers are shite, so another thing to add to the list of replacement parts. The washer jets are actually on the blades, but only one of the 6 spray holes work. When will this list ever end?

It's holding a 60ltr fuel tank, and with the way the prices are on fuel, we tapped out at £60 in filling it up. It must have had a few sips left in the almost empty tank.

Noise wise, it has it's issues. Plenty of rattles and squeaks, which I'm sure I'll be able to resolve with a new cab carpet, and finishing off some of the insulation on the sliding door. When just idling it's grand, not a peep, only when we're moving does it play the song of it's people.

A quick stop to see my daughter who was over visiting her Mum from Scotland, hug from the other kids after a bit of craic, and we're motoring again all the way to Dublin, avoiding the toll roads, cause I'm a cheap skate, and I didn't have any Euros on me yet.

I found the road I was hoping to park on easily enough, and with the benefit of rear parking cameras I managed to squeeze the van into a parking space with inches to spare and we got settled for the evening.

When you're finally forced to live in the space, only then do you start finding other faults that you previously never gave any thought too. The first being: No toilet flush. It just wouldn't work! There was water in the tank, the water pump was working, and when you pressed the toilet flush switch, the lights dimmed a little, yet no water appeared. Thankfully I brought along some spray bleach to help wash anything down that needed washing down. The taps in the sink gave a quick burst of water, then they too stopped working! No water at all coming through anything. Fine... I'll deal with you when I get home! Ever the cub scout, I had bought water on the way down, so we were grand for a quick wash if we needed too go beyond the baby wipe shower.

We had the company of a few spiders dotted around the place, which were quickly despatched the following morning, and I also noticed that the sliding door doesn't sit flush against the van. I've since tried to adjust it, but to no avail, as there's no more give in the guides to pull it in further. I'll seek expert advice on that later.

The previous owner had fitted a TV aerial to the roof, but then when he'd bought his new wagon, he transferred that aerial to it. Leaving us with the pole housing and a hole for good measure. The second night's rain managed to find it's way down the pipe. A bung is now needed for that to stop that happening again. I might even get that welded over and sealed up when I go see my favourite welder again.

Camping lightsFirst night in the camperNot wanting to drain too much from the leisure battery, I used our camping lights.


The next thing I found was that although we do have a leisure battery fitted to the rear of the vehicle which takes a charge from the starter battery, it doesn't appear to have a working switch isolation relay. I found that out after we got back from the concert. I'd left the 12v fridge running to keep the beers cold for our return, only to find everything dead, including the starter battery. Back to cub scout mode, I'd packed jumper leads for this very event. As I said in a previous blog, there are way too many leads coming off that starter battery for me to run any risk.

After a few minutes of me trying to flag someone down to help me jump start the van, a kind Polish gentlemen stopped and got our engine going. Which meant I had to sit in the van not drinking whilst it was charged itself up for a bit. Needs must I suppose. It was still good to go the next morning, but back to that shopping list we go - New Switch Isolation Relay.

The drive back was uneventful, I think I've learned a lot about the space we were in. It's given me a few structural jobs to think about, a bit more welding (roof) and I'm going to have to bite the bullet and sort out that wiring, but the interior has to come out first for that to happen. Anything that needs power from the starter battery will be handled by a main switching panel so I can turn off any and all unnecessary items for fault finding.

I worked out the water situation this week, but I'll tell you more about that next time, and how I nearly shot myself in the foot with the official camper classification.

Oh, Coldplay, I forgot to mention, they were amazing! Just look at my wife's wee face!

My wife's dream come true!Coldplay were amazing! Just look at the amount of people...

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) battery camper camping coldplay dublin fuel iveco northern ireland sleeping toilet travel vanlife water pump https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/7/van-life-blog-035-two-nights-in-dublin-with-coldplay Mon, 17 Jul 2017 11:00:00 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 034 | The Mechanics https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/7/van-life-blog-034-the-mechanics Okay, so where do I begin in this latest #VanLife update?

Well, the truck mechanic has been all over the breaking system. Swapping out drums, discs, shoes, pads and the handbrake. He even managed to get the horn working longer than I did, as my repair only seemed temporary, like, to the bottom of the road temporary. The side effect to the horn working is - when you open the doors the indicators flash five times, like the alarm system has been triggered or something. Not a major thing, but just something else for me to think about when I'm trying to get to sleep at night. He couldn't get the nearside front marker light to work, the one on the side door itself as it needs a part that connects the door electrics to the van electrics through a contact plate. Which means the door has to come off it's runners to fit it. I could do that, just need a second pair of hands to handle that big bugger, cause I can see me getting crushed once it's released, I'm no Hordor.

Iveco VanShe's not yellow, and as yet, she's not named.My big red bus, but what should I call it?

I did manage to forget one fault when I dropped it off, as is typical with my approach to all things faulty (out of sight, out of mind), that being the fuel gauge sensor. I think it's only reading as a half tank. I was warned about it, but complete forgot, and it only ever comes into my head when when I'm starting to run low on fuel, cause the dial starts dropping from 'full' to 'near empty' in no time. Again, something for another day.

Now that I've gotten all that sorted and paid for (£380), it was time to seek out that elusive welder.

Plenty of people have referred to "Yer man from Ballykelly", they all know his name, but not one of them knew his number. Really frustrating I can tell you! I have trawled the interwebs for him. On social media I found one or two blokes with his name, but it turned out they weren't him. In desperation I started reaching out to local engineering firms to see if they would take it on as the clock is ticking with the insurance company to get this sorted for MOT. Even they pointed me back to "yer man". Thankfully, one of the firms I did contact was one that "yer man" bought metal sheeting from, they asked him if it was okay to send out his details to me, which he obliged, and a call was made straightaway.

We spoke on the phone briefly and I did my best to describe my woes and he gave me a very rough estimate of £200 over a weeks worth of labour. I thought this was a bargain, having no clue as to the dark art of vehicle welding and repair I was expecting a lot worse. I picked up the van on the Friday from the mechanic, and had it on the door step of the welder on Sunday evening.

"Yer man" is actually called Mick, and a lovely fella he is! He's not into all that "internet stuff", being in his 50's/60's he's no interest in it, which is why I couldn't bloody find him. He's taking life at his own pace, and fair fecks to him for it!

He works from a yard not far from his home and it didn't take him long to get on his back to take a peek under the van, and start poking holes in the rust. The job was getting bigger and bigger as more and more prodding was taking place. I was starting to get that feeling of dread that the £200 quote was slipping away from me.

Now Mick isn't a fan of the Ford Transit. If I'd had tipped up with a White Tranny he would have sent me home with my tail between my legs. He thinks tin foil is thicker than what those wagons have to offer, and he'd told me on the phone he refused to work on them. My Iveco met with his critical approval, and the quote still didn't change once he got back to his feet, still £200. This gave me a sense of relief, this guy knows his trade! My only stipulation was that it needed to be ready by the following Friday, as the wife and I were for Dublin that weekend for a Coldplay concert, and the wife wanted to be within walking distance on the Saturday, the actual night of the concert. Mick was confident it would be ready before then, he just had to get some metal ordered and he'd be good to go.

Iveco - The Task at Hand.Quick Snippet of a much longer video to come. Whilst Mick was plying his trade, I got back on to the insurance company and told them the craic. It's still not technically on the road, and I'll need an extension on their stupid 14 day deadline, cause stuff on this scale takes time. They were happy enough with that, I've now got till the 17th of July to get it sorted.

Mick, true to his word, managed to get the welding done and finished by Thursday. The supports for the axle were rotten, and around the side door step needed completely replaced, as well as the some of the panel joint structures too, which were really noticeable even to my untrained eye ! A few flicks of red oxide paint were applied and he even found a rubber gasket for the gaping circular hole that was in the front cab area. I decided not to have it welded over, as I think I'll use it a handy channel for some electrical cabling I've got planned.

The best part was, it only cost £160 to do! I love this man, I don't care how hard he is to find, he was well worth the effort. I've got him saved in my phone for future use if anyone round these parts needs him. I've a bit of fabrication I think he can help me with over that hole in the cab area up ahead once we're moving further forward. Honest and hard-working tradesmen are hard to find, so I make a point of keeping them close.

The van now back on the drive with great breaks and a few less cancer spots, all we had to do now was; prepare for our two night stay in Dublin, and I'll tell you more about that, next time.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) ballykelly blog blogger darron darron mark ireland iveco iveco daily londonderry mark mechanic northern ireland photographer truck vanlife welding https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/7/van-life-blog-034-the-mechanics Fri, 14 Jul 2017 11:00:00 GMT
#Advert | Blog 033 | The Table Selfie Has Arrived https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/6/table-selfie

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What are your thoughts on this new concept? If you are getting married, would you hire these for your event? Let me know in the comments below.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog booth darron darron mark derry ireland londonderry mark northern northern ireland photo photobooth photographer photography selfie table weather wedding weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/6/table-selfie Wed, 28 Jun 2017 10:10:20 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 032 | Insurance Difficulties https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/6/van-insurance-problems We've been away for the weekend recently, at our niece's wedding in the lovely Greyabbey, but we couldn't help but reminisce about the last time we were all there a few years ago in our motorhome. We stayed not too far away from the wedding location, and I even managed to make a quick video of our time whilst we were there:

Having made the decision to buy the IVECO, we're now starting to sort it out for our own needs. My wife and I have very different reasons why we bought the van. My wife is looking forward to just getting away with me and the dogs, whereas I'm looking forward to building out the interior specific to our (my) needs (AND spending time with the wife and dogs)!

We've had the vehicle for just over a week now, and there have been some issues, namely getting it insured. The previous owner was with the local National Farmer's Union, but because he had so many different business related insurances with them, they could give him a great rate, me? Not so much. It wasn't too bad, but I could save £200 by going with the main motorhome insurance provider here in Northern Ireland, and that was through Dublin based broker Dolmen. I've had my previous motorhome insurance with them and thought it would be an easy process going back to them, but oh no! 'Fecking Nightmare' springs to mind!

The IVECO has been classed as a camper since 2007, it's been MOT'd as a camper, insured as a camper (even with Dolmen) but all of a sudden they want proof, and they even questioned the proof when received.

Here's the list of things they wanted:

  • Proof of my having insurance with another vehicle
  • A copy of my license
  • Interior Images:
    • Images of the gas fittings
    • Images of a cooker
    • Images of a sink
  • MOT Certificate
  • Utility Bill

Now, because it doesn't have a 'cooker' as defined by them (something with a worktop style gas / electric ring) they weren't going to classify it as a camper. The DVLA here in the UK state the following:

Motor caravan minimum features

In order for a converted vehicle to qualify as a motor caravan it must have certain minimum features:

  • a door that provides access to the living accommodation
  • a bed, which has a minimum length of 1800mm or 6 feet - this can be converted from seats used for other purposes during the day but must be permanently fixed within the body of the vehicle
  • a water storage tank or container on, or in, the vehicle
  • a seating and dining area, permanently attached to the vehicle - the table may be detachable but must have some permanent means of attachment to the vehicle. It is not good enough to have a loose table
  • a permanently fixed means of storage, a cupboard, locker or wardrobe
  • a permanently fixed cooking facility within the vehicle, powered by gas or electricity
  • at least one window on the side of the accommodation

If the vehicle has all of these features present, permanently fixed and installed properly, then it is a legal requirement to have it reclassified as a motor caravan on the V5C.

Our van has a microwave oven, this is a cooking facility in my eyes, not conventional I grant you, but still, it can heat stuff up. Having argued my case with them, they then came back with another stipulation, that I should get a new MOT. My current MOT doesn't run out for another 3 months, but hey, where's the harm getting that done? Just another hoop to jump through I guess.

My usual mechanic can't work on this bad boy, he just doesn't have the facilities to squeeze in a 2.6m high wagon through his doors, nor can he lift it with his current jacks as it's a 3.5t beast. Thankfully I have a local company; Greysteel Commercial Repairs who are less than a mile away from my door, who work specifically on trucks and lorries, so that's me sorted, as there are a number of faults that need looking at:

  • Rear Brakes imbalanced requirements only just met. It would appear that the braking system requires adjustment or repair. (3.7.B.5b)
  • battery loose (not sure on this one! I think it's solid)
  • Offside Front marker light not working (I fixed this yesterday)
  • Offside Rear marker light not working (working intermittently, wiring fault)
  • Nearside Front marker light not working (wiring fault, pain in the ass)
  • Nearside Inner Body has slight corrosion sill (6.1.B.2) (yeah, this is pretty bad, gonna need some welding)
  • Vehicle structure has slight corrosion (6.1.A.1) (agreed)

The engine bay was covered in dirt, so that's all been cleaned up yesterday. The rear step and tow bar needed a new lick of paint, again, got this done yesterday. I thought I'd tackle the underside of the van too but managed to get rust in my eye. Safety people! I did go in and find my goggles, but by the time I came back out it had started to rain, so that's for another day.

Other things I found were that the horn wasn't working, it just needed a fuse, so that's off the list. Plenty of grime was also removed from the front cab area and there's a circular hole in the floor that will also have to be sealed up, so might as well get it all done in one go.

The handbrake needs attention too, cause it only works when fully engaged. I was also getting coolant level warnings when I took it out for a long drive on Saturday. I topped that up when I was cleaning the engine, and painting some of the rust spots. The other niggle is that the fuel gauge is a little on the vague side, not quite sure what it's playing at, but I was warned about it (and promptly forgot) when we picked it up from Steve, the previous owner. Having sat and done the math, I've worked out that the 3ltr 16v engine does roughly 21mpg... Eeek..!

It's with the new mechanic tomorrow, so I'll update you with how that went when I know more.


(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog camper conversion daily darron darron mark derry dolmen insurance ireland iveco londonderry mark motorhome northern photographer photography https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/6/van-insurance-problems Mon, 26 Jun 2017 12:32:37 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 031 | The Power of The Blog https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/5/van-life-blog-031-the-power-of-the-blog As you may or may not know, we've sold the Bongo. The official handover is taking place this weekend and the new buyer and his family will have oodles of fun in it, and good luck to them cause she's a great wee bus, just not big enough for our dogs, well, mainly the big heifer that is our Lab Alsatian cross.

We had embarked on a trip to hopefully go lift a rather appealing Merc Sprinter on the other side of the country, only to decide to walk away from what I felt was a wrong'un. Needless to say our journey home was a mix of disappointment and sporadic searches back on Gumtree to find a replacement vehicle, as I would soon be without a mode of transport after Sunday. We'd seen a former Church Minibus amongst other things, and the owner wasn't looking big money for it either! This was good news for us as it basically meant more money in the kitty for the conversion process, because that Amazon shopping list wasn't going to pay for itself!

Arrangements were made over the last 24 hours and a time agreed to go over to Antrim to see it, which meant another 3 hours on the roads of Northern Ireland.

I was kicking my heels whilst waiting for the love of my life to return home from her meditation class, when out of the blue a former client of mine from a wedding I'd done nearly 5 years ago got in touch to tell me they might have just the wagon for us and would I be interested. I was... I was really interested.

Now being a wedding photographer I've come to learn a number of things that always seem to ring true, one of those being: People do business with people they know, like and trust. Another one is: Word of mouth are the easiest ways to strike a deal. There's an inherent confidence in buying from someone you know, and I know Stephen.

Now I know it wasn't Stephen who reached out directly first, it was his lovely wife Barbara who must have informed him of my plight because Barbara reads my blogs, and I know this cause she told me a couple of months ago when I bumped into her at our local Tescos, it's nice to know that someone out there reads it at least! (Please validate my life by leaving a comment below if you've read this too).

Stephen & Barbara on their wedding dayStephen & Barbara on their wedding dayStephen & Barbara on their wedding day The van Stephen was selling was his own, and one he'd freely admit that it's functional in its presentation and design, but by all accounts it's in great shape, and has had a fair bit of investment pumped into it, albeit, functional. Which is great for us, as it means we can still put our own stamp on it and make it out own. A "fixer upper" if you will. It will undoubtedly put us months ahead in our plans to own a Stealth Camper and get back out there. 

The only downside is that it's currently in Devon as Stephen had been using it to live in whilst he was working in the South of England, but he's now bought himself and impressive multiple purpose vehicle, and it's basically the size of a house, more that suitable for his needs.

In short, we've put down a deposit, and he'll be away working again for a number of weeks and when he's finished, he'll be bringing it back to us here in the North West so we can get stuck in personalising it.

What did we buy? Well... An Iveco Daily (this isn't the actual vehicle, but it's one just like it) Long Wheel Base High Top:

Ives Daily LWB High RoofIves Daily LWB High Roof My wife admitted that she was tempted to offer something a little less to get that deal thing going, as she loves haggling but we definitely got the impression we were already getting a bargain to begin with, and it would have probably been a little embarrassing to have asked, as he's obviously done a great deal to it to make it work for his needs. Ours will slightly differ, in that we're going for a little more comfort, and again, we've to factor in the needs of our two dogs, one of which must have been a termite or a woodpecker in his former life, cause he fecking chews everything in sight, and he's also a Houdini style master at removing any form of muzzle.

Not only have we managed to get a fully kitted out 'Stealth Camper', but hopefully I've found an electrician to help me out with a couple of odd jobs I need done to get my workshop project started, as Stephen is quiet the skilled builder.

The power of blogging, solving problems!

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogger camper camping conversion darron derry ireland iveco iveco daily mark motorhome northern ireland photographer photography reader self build stealth camping https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/5/van-life-blog-031-the-power-of-the-blog Thu, 18 May 2017 11:00:00 GMT
#VanLife | Blog 030 | False Start https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/5/van-life-blog-030-false-start Tonight hasn't ended the way I had hoped. We're still without a useable van with which we want to convert into a stealth type living space for when we're out and about the highways and coastal areas of Ireland. We've been up and down Gumtree and Facebook listings for weeks, semi-stalled due to the fact we didn't want to take on anymore debt, so planned to sell my Bongo instead to part fund this new chapter in our lives.

Having finally managed to find a buyer to take the Bongo off our hands, we started to make a few calls to other vehicle owners looking to move on their various Long Wheel Base (LWB) vans. One in particular 'looked' promising and as soon as I got out of work today, I raced to pick up my other half to make the 4 hour round trip to see the below vehicle:

I even shared my excitement with my Instagram and Twitter followers, sharing some of the images I'd managed to get from the seller on their listing. We found the location okay, and the van was sitting ready for inspection in a yard where the owner had us meet him. Upon our meeting, he'd said that he'd read the message I'd sent him to say we were on our way whilst he was driving and unbeknownst to him, the police were right behind. He's now going to be in receipt of a £60 fine, and 3 penalty points on his license for his troubles, not my fault, but hey ho.

Now first impressions count with me, and all I could see was the various newly spray painted spots along the body work and joins. Obviously I couldn't have known just from the pictures on his listing, but it was plain to see, attempts had cheaply been made to tart this wagon up. The bottoms of the door frames were flaking off, the inside step was as brittle as pastry, it just gave off a vibe of don't look too closely. Which obviously I had no intention of listening too.

The current owner had said it had been used by the previous owner for the purposes of helping him in his business of carpet fitting, which the cargo area attested too. However, the current owner hadn't done one single thing to it to change it's purpose. Bits of carpet were still evident on the shelving, which if I'd had bought it, would have been removed promptly (with an angle grinder).

Another interesting thing I kept picking up on was, he seemed to not know anything about the van, as if he was creating an air of plausible deniability. I've just sold my Bongo, and granted, I've not had it that long I knew all it's features and it's weaknesses, and I openly discussed those with the buyer. This guy was just in denial about knowing anything!

I asked for the engine to be started so I could get an ear to it and look around for any leaks etc. Now, I'll freely admit I'm not mechanically minded, I'm more technically swayed in my understandings of the world, so looking under the bonnet of any car is the same as me looking into a chest cavity staring at a beating heart, I've no clue what I'm honestly looking at, but I can instinctively tell if something is wrong (or I'm deluding myself, who knows?).

As the engine was ticking over, all I could smell was exhaust fumes from the front. Alarm bells to my mind. The last time I smelt carbon monoxide from the wrong end of a car was when my own Mercedes decided that it had given up on life and was waiting to blow a valve rendering it scrap metal. When challenged, again, nothing known, hardly anything said.

I was done. Thanks, but no thanks. Four hours lost, £30 in fuel, but I was happy in my stance that I was not going to be taking on anyone else's bad choices. I can only speculate that he bought it recently and might have realised he'd bought a half dead horse, so he was gonna do his best to shift it on. Again, I just want to reiterate that I'm no mechanic, nor am I inferring that this guy was trying to rip me off, maybe the van was 100% sound, but my gut feeling is, it just wasn't right, needless to say, I was walking away.

So the quest for the start of our van life dream continues. We're looking at a Ford Transit this evening, not as tall as I would have liked, but we've decided for the type of travel we're looking to do, a shower really isn't the sort of luxury we need, so there's no need for the height space required to fit one. I might get one of those exterior solar ones in the future, who knows?

Follow me on Instagram or Twitter to see my day to day exploits, and subscribe to my YouTube Channel to watch my weekly overview of what I've been up to, and where we are with this van conversion, if we ever agree on the right van!

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) conversion darren mark darron darron mark ireland mark motorhome northern ireland photographer photography travel van life https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/5/van-life-blog-030-false-start Wed, 17 May 2017 11:00:00 GMT
#WebsiteNews | Blog 029 | Phone Cases Now Available! https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/4/phone-cases-now-available New Phone Cases Now AvailableNew Phone Cases Now Available

Smartphone cases are now available in Europe! You can personalise your mobile phone case with your favourite photo from your gallery to create a stylish accessory to carry with them always. Perfect for personal use, or to give as a gift, these easy-to-create cases are sure to become a client favourite.

These cases are made in and shipped from the UK, and are produced using the highest quality materials, backed by a lifetime warranty that covers defects/product failure. These customisable cases are designed with access to ports for easy connectivity, and are created using processes that embed inks underneath the coatings so they last longer, resist scratches, and don’t fade or rub off easily. A three-step quality control process ensures a consistently great product that you can show off to the world.  

There are three different case styles for iPhone and Galaxy devices:

Tough Case

Tough CasesTough Cases

Vibrant hi-res imagery blends together with a clear, protective finish to prevent scratches and fading.

An interior layer helps protect devices against mild shocks and impacts to deliver a gorgeous and tough case that reflects your style and personality.

  • High-resolution decoration (300+ DPI print quality)

  • Dual-layer for extra durability and protection

  • 100% of outer surface is decorated

  • Made from lightweight, durable space-grade polymers and cushioned TPU (Thermoplastic polyurethane)

  • Created with industry-leading 3-D decoration systems, inks, and processes

  • Rich, vibrant colors embedded deeply into the surface of the case

  • Protective finish resists scratches and prevents image from fading, rubbing off, or blurring

  • Available in both matte and gloss finishes

Available for

iPhone 6

iPhone 6S

iPhone 6 Plus (only available in Gloss finish)

iPhone 6S Plus

iPhone 7

iPhone 7 Plus


Galaxy S6

Galaxy S6 Edge

Galaxy S6 Edge Plus

Galaxy S7

Galaxy S7 Edge


BakPak 3 Case

BakPak 3 CaseBakPak 3 Case








Pristine quality and vibrant hi-res imagery deliver a gorgeous case with a rear storage compartment that holds up to two items like credit cards, business cards, cash, or ID. Your can show off your style and personality, and travel light at the same time.

  • Sliding storage compartment in back allows user to carry cards, cash, and ID

  • High-resolution decoration (300+ DPI print quality)

  • Additional interior TPU liner offers added toughness

  • Created with industry-leading 3-D decoration systems and processes

  • Rich, vibrant colors embedded deeply into the surface of the case

  • Protective finish resists scratches and prevents image from fading, rubbing off, or blurring

  • Three-point quality inspection process

  • Available in gloss & matte finish

Available for

  • iPhone 6

  • iPhone 6S

Folio Case (satin finish)

Folio Case (satin finish)Folio Case (satin finish)

This gorgeous case offers an inspired way to express individuality while providing full-frontal screen protection and interior storage pockets. Decorated with high-resolution artwork that seamlessly covers both the front and back, the Folio becomes your personal art canvas. Printed artwork is not only high quality and sharp, it’s also clear-coated with a proprietary dual-layer satin finish that resists damage, scuffs, fading, and transfer of ink. A clear shell case protects the phone and attaches to the folio with an adhesive strip on the interior. This solution locks the phone in place, provides cover around the edges of the phone, and does so without leaving residue on the device.

  • Clear shell case included—can be detached or attached with folio

  • High-resolution decoration process on front and back preserves bright, sharp colors

  • Conveniently stores cards, cash, or ID inside interior pockets

  • Faux-leather material with textured surface

  • Three-point quality inspection process

  • Stand feature for watching media

Available for

  • iPhone 6

  • iPhone 6S

  • iPhone 6 Plus

  • iPhone 6S Plus

  • iPhone 7

  • iPhone 7 Plus


  • Galaxy S6

  • Galaxy S6 Edge

  • Galaxy S7

  • Galaxy S7 Edge

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) Android cases cell customers darron device European for Galaxy iPhone mark mobile phone phones photographer photography product protection Samsung Smartphone update updates wedding https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/4/phone-cases-now-available Wed, 19 Apr 2017 08:29:40 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 028 | Is Customer Service (in Northern Ireland) Dead? https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/2/is-customer-service-in-northern-ireland-dead Isn't it shocking the level of customer of service we typically receive from businesses here in Northern Ireland? Take the 'Home Improvement' market for example, more specifically the people out there offering their skilled services to assist you in your upgrades or repairs around your home. I think I've phoned roughly 4 local electricians, 5 Joiners, and 3 different gardeners to just get work done, only to be let down by most of them. Yet, it's only the older guys that seem to have shown up. That generation that knows what a hard days graft is all about. Those hardy few that will be there when they say they'll be there.

My late father was of that generation. A stereotypical man who just simply knew how to do EVERYTHING. Not only was he a dab hand around his own home, but he would be often called upon to help with other people's homes too. I remember he had a particular set of clothes he'd wear, worn jeans, checked cloth shirt, a trusty pencil, and tape measure. I wish I was half as manually capable as he was, I'd be a lot less reliant on others to do what I need to do that's for sure!

To be fair, we do have an amazing plumber on hand. No hassle, no mess, straight and honest pricing. He did charge me for coming to turn my thermostat up once, when the house wouldn't warm up following a warm summer, but we'll not go into that particular embarrassing story... I'll never forget the look he gave me, not my proudest moment.

My most recent exposure to the lackluster trades was when attempting to get our offices cleaned. A quick Google search for local commercial cleaning companies revealed that the choice was a little short to say the least (an opportunity there if ever there was one). I set about arranging for the first company to come and give us a quote for what we needed. A date was arranged (no specific time), date comes round, no show. No reason offered nor given. I did attempt to call this company back but was diverted to a residential home voice mail service. Having wasted a few days, I moved on to company number two. As before, a date was arranged, again, no time specified, and again... No show.

The next day an email was received to say they were sorry they didn't appear on the date they'd suggested. They then asked for me to give them an idea of what it was we wanted cleaning so they could give us a price, which sort of irked me a little because I don't know how these things are estimated. I refused to play and set about replying to their (Yahoo Domain) email address to tell them that it was unprofessional not to show up to a business appointment.

The email bounced.

Which was okay (well, not professional obviously), as I knew it would be delivered, because my first attempt to contact them had also bounced. I used the same email address published on their website.

What annoys me about companies with such low customer service levels is the manner in which they answer their business phone, usually with a basic "Hello?" Like you've called them at home and you've interrupted them. Wouldn't it be better to announce who you are and who you represent if you're taking business calls? Am I being too picky on this?

Can you imagine a Hotel Receptionist picking up the phone with just "Hello"?

It just gives off a more professional feel when you answer the phone in a business manner, which these two previous business owners fail to comprehend.

A vacuum cleaner on a carpet.Vacuum CleanerA demonstration of how hard it is to get anything done in Northern Ireland.


Cleaning company number three.

The telephone was answered in a professional and courteous manner (tick), a brief Q&A on who we were, where we were, and what we were after. Following which a date was set for them to come and see us, with a time! Imagine, making an appointment with an actual a time! I knew then we were on to a winner.

Sure enough, (nearly) on time (it's a tough place to get parked where I work) the arrived, gave us a great breakdown of their services and what they were offering and a contract was agreed, there and then.

I've worked in sales for getting on for 32 years (I started when I was 13, do the math) and I've some simple strategies that will get your business further ahead than any other amateur in your operating space will ever grasp.

  • Smile

    • Simple right? You'd think it would be, but look at some of the waiting staff in our restaurants. You'd swear they were under duress. The same goes with shop staff, would it kill you to look up and smile?
    • Smile when you're answering the phone too! It actually has an impact on how you speak to someone, especially when that person is wanting to give you money for your skills/services.
  • Telephone Manner

    • Confirm that they've actually called the right number by telling them who you are and who you work for. Even if you're the boss, let them know. For example "Hello, this is john here for Acme Cleaning Company, how can I help you?" (whilst smiling). If you're busy, or out at another job, always be prepared to write stuff down, have a pen and notebook with you at all times if that's the space you operate in, better still a pen and diary so you can set appointments and you'll always know where you have to be, and when. Don't rush to answer the phone, be prepared before you pick up first.
    • Ask questions, show that you're listening. It demonstrates that you know what you're doing, even if the caller thinks they know what they want, offer your advice if you know of a better suggestion, justify it with a story of why. Stories really help customers understand more easily.
  • Be On Time

    • If you've agreed a date and time, be there. Call ahead to confirm that the caller is still going to be there (they might have forgotten), that way if you run into traffic or can't get parked, at least they know you're still coming. If you're really struggling with punctuality then I'd say definitely call again, and see if they're still okay to wait.
  • Be Professional

    • I'm sure you can stand by your work, otherwise, you won't be in business too long, but go that extra step if you can. It's that little bit extra that customers will remember, it will also set you apart from your competition. Always be professional and courteous while you're a doing it.
    • Be honest about your costs. An honest price will see you get more customers through word of mouth, which is the ultimate compliment for any business owner. I'm not saying do a job cheap, as it will undervalue your services, I'm saying sit down and work out all your business costs and then add what you need to make a living and charge accordingly. If you do it too cheaply, you'll be out of business before you realise what went wrong.

There are plenty of other 'tips' I could throw in there, but I would say those four are the basics. It's what I've built my photography business on (that and my other unique selling points, which I'll not bore you with here), you'll see the feedback I get on my Guestbook Page (check it out if you haven't already done so), it's a testimony to the relationship I have with my clients.

It would be nice, just for a change, for business owners, restaurant managers, retail managers and anyone else out there just trying to do a good job, to take onboard some of these basic elements of customer service, we'd then find we all have a better experience as customers, and they, in turn, would have a better return on their profits from repeat and word of mouth referrals.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogger builders cleaners company darron handymen ireland manner mark northern poor sector service smile telephone tradesmen https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/2/is-customer-service-in-northern-ireland-dead Wed, 22 Feb 2017 11:55:00 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 027 | The Amazon Effect in Photography https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/2/the-amazon-effect-in-photography Full disclosure, there's going to advocating a few services here, but I in no way am being endorsed or sponsored by these companies.

So let's get started. Who here (which basically means you) goes straight to eBay to buy their latest Chinese manufactured 'tat' because we feel it's a safe bet, and eBay will do us right? Come on... Hands up! No..? Yes..?

Okay, if you said 'Yes' (in your head), then you are like how I was. Anytime I saw something someone else using and thought "damn, I need that" I went to eBay and looked for it's cheapest substitute copy and bought it, or bided on it. Which usually meant either getting outbid and having to buy it from an eBay store somewhere else (or buying it there in the first place), having checked that the shipping wasn't going to shaft me in the long grass.

I'd then sit there for days, sometimes weeks, waiting for this 'Made in China' stamped device/gadget/tat to arrive, and then be blinded by the almost Christmas effect that this object had when it finally arrived. Convincing myself that no matter how crap it was, it was worth the effort and investment and that I'd simply work with it till I grew to love it, plus ignore its limitations. This is fine when you're single, or all the funds you generate within the business stay in the business, but what about when the wife/husband/partner/Mum gets involved in your spending? Or in my case: 'The Missus'.

My response when something came through the door was always, "But babe, I need this, I saw this guy using it and it was awesome, granted his cost 5 times as much, but I got a bargain on eBay". The Missus would then enquire a month or two later as to why I wasn't using said gadget, to which I'd respond "Nah, it's not that good, but that's okay, I'll stick it back on eBay and get my money back", knowing full well that would never happen, cause that takes 'effort'.

Enter the world of Amazon

I was slow to join Amazon, I admit it, I was wedded to eBay having been one of its very early adopters, so Amazon to me was all about the books. How wrong I have been.

Everything you buy on Amazon has one unique feature, a speedy returns policy. It's because of this I want to tell you the story of the Camera Stabiliser I purchased just this very Monday (today being Wednesday), but first, I have to give you a little bit of background, on why I migrated to Amazon for my buying, instead of eBay.

My daughter is a big fan of Amazon, a few years back she'd let me know the sort of Christmas presents she wanted, and she had done so by supplying me with an online shopping list on... You guessed it, Amazon.

At that time I had never used it, I just felt I could get it cheaper on eBay and save myself a pound or two, which isn't worth it in hindsight. So my daughter's Christmas presents arrived at various points during the course of the month, one or two items after the event, but she knew they were coming and didn't mind. Scroll forward a few months, and my eldest daughter bought me an Amazon FireTV Stick. I had AppleTV, but to be honest, it's shit (don't bother with 'em - see, saving tip number one). Amazon has it covered on the subscription front, not only do you get to watch Prime (additional fees apply) but you can stream stuff through Netflix and a little-known app called Kodi.

I even bought myself the odd wee thing here and there, but it wasn't until I purchase that 'Prime' product that things really made sense to me. Not only did I have access to all manner of digital media entertainment through my Stick (which incidentally, I now had two off (one for the bedroom), I also had access to 'Next Day Delivery' to anything listed as being a 'Prime' product, which leads me on to Monday...

As you know (those who follow my blogs), I'm trying to downsize my digital technology. The plan being to have only the very necessary things I need for this business and my new passion of 'vlogging'. Whilst attempting to sell on my HD Camcorders to fund my single awesome camera strategy, I found I wasn't getting offered the same value for what I'd paid for these great cameras. So I then set about adapting my plans by looking at alternatives, now I'm not throwing in the word 'cheaper alternatives' in for a very good reason. If you've never heard the saying "Buy cheap, buy twice" then let me explain it to you. If you buy a quality product that has been designed and tooled to do a specific job, that has quality and reliability at its core, then it's obviously going to cost a little bit more. If however, you buy it's cheaper Chinese copy counterpart, there's a good chance it's going to bite you in the bum and let you down, you'll then either buy another one (the twice bit) or you'll suffer and wait it out until you can buy the quality one you should have bought instead (again, still twice).

So over the weekend, I set about researching 3 axis gimbals that could cater for my existing hardware, and still give me that silky smooth footage I'm craving when I'm actually walking with my camera. What I discovered was that the manufacturing had moved on leaps and bounds in terms of products out there designed specifically for this purpose. Fantastic I thought, let's get it on!

Having trawled through the various items on Amazon, I finally picked the gimbal that appeared to do the trick. It was available on Prime, which means that if I ordered it within the countdown period, I could have it the next day. Which was great, because I was waiting on a call back from a local singer who had recently appeared on the X-Factor, and he was looking for me to create his newest song release and make it into a video for a regional TV station this Friday.

Sutefoto / FOTOWELT Handheld Camera StabiliserSutefoto / FOTOWELT Handheld Camera StabiliserDo not buy this product - Image from my Instagram Account (@DMfotoNI)


Let the Christmas Factor Kick In

Okay, I'm a sucker for tracking my orders online. I admit it, I get excited by new tech. I'm just glad I don't have to go through the drama of writing product reviews every day, otherwise, I'd be an anxious wreck all the time, waiting for 'stuff' to arrive, just so I can play with it. Having placed my order at around 3:30 pm on Monday, I was then told at 5:30 pm that my order was despatched from our closest regional hub in Scotland. The following morning at 4:30 am it was in the hands or the distributing carrier, and by 8:10 am the delivery driver had it out for delivery to the office in Derry.

At 1:22 pm I had it handed to me by the courier and I set about configuring it to my HD Camcorder. It was fiddly as hell, but I was expecting that, as these things have to be balanced to perfection, you also have to consider using a wide angle lens, because no matter how stable you make it, there's always going to be some judder as you walk that can be rectified by post production stabilisation software tweaks.

My singer called and canceled. He couldn't spare the time, nor could he ask I do the work required in the time allowed on the limited budget he had left for this track release, which was fair enough. I had other uses for this 3 axis gimbal that went beyond the music video.

I took it out for a test run on my long walk to the dentist who is situated over the River Foyle in the Waterside of Derry, which typically takes about 20 minutes to get to, so it would give me ample time to test it in a few situations, including strong winds. It was a sodding disaster.

A couple of key things annoyed me about it:

  • The weight of it didn't justify the balance requirements. The weights attached are to do with balance but the whole rig was made of cheap materials and only added stresses to my arms whilst holding it.
  • The handle was too close to the slider plates that held the camera in place, so that everytime you tried to do a pan down shot, it would hit off the handle and ruin the flow.
  • The Holding plate was just naff, no quick release and it had spirit levels on release dials that were always going to be vertical, it made no sense.

I tried and tried to get it to do what I wanted it to do, and those old creeping eBay feelings started to take over me, I tried to justify my keeping it in that I'd use it indoors where I could, and then I'd ultimately stick it on eBay and sell it on at some point, which would involve effort and in all likelihood, it would sit on a shelf with all the other tat I've been meaning to sell gathering dust.

But at about 5:00 pm another thought came to mind. Return the damn thing. This is AMAZON (think SPARTA)..! I put it all back in the original packaging, and logged back into Amazon and started the process of returning the item that I'd had for less that 4 hours. Amazon have made it so simple to do this, and my local post office is less than 3 minutes walk from the office, why shouldn't I just return to sender?

At 5:22 pm it was back in the hands of the post office and it's now making its way back to wherever the hell it came from (the dump I hope), I should have the credit note on my account in the next day or two, but only this time, I'm going to save up for the camera I really really want.

Tell me in the comments section about things you've regretted buying, and what did you do with them...

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog camera darron darron mark derry gimbal ireland londonderry mark northern photo photographer photography stabilisers video wedding weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/2/the-amazon-effect-in-photography Thu, 16 Feb 2017 11:45:00 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 026 | Family Feedback https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/2/family-feedback Before I start; I have to say this one thing first: My wife is awesome! She's a dedicated and talented nurse and works really really hard to make sure her patients are well looked after. However, when it comes to things like digital content, she has no clue, but will still give me an opinion on it, usually negative. It's fine, I still value her feedback no matter how much it stings, but I am reluctant to let her preview my work. Which leads me on to my next family member, my son. The light of my life (he say's he's the favorite, but I love all my children with equal disdain, I'm joking, I love them all to bits), he too has took it upon himself to give me feedback, such as I received last night.

He appeared recently in one my first attempts at video blogging, or vlogging as they call it these days. It wasn't really a blog as such, more a visual vomit. I was just feeling creative and wanted to make 'something' so I took a stab at it. The wedding photography season is about to kick in for 2017 so things have been a little quiet of late. A few bits of photography work here and there, it's safe to say this is the booking season, so as I said, I was feeling creative and wanted to make 'something'.

My son was down for a weekend and I captured snippets of our day and put some other stuff together to do with a busted fridge, seriously cutting edge right? Anyway, the feedback he gave me after that little video was positive, he enjoyed it, though it needed more work. I showed it to the wife, and she just didn't get it, "who cares about our fridge not working?" was one of the comments. I was trying to explain that I was just practicing some techniques and I was bored. My beautiful wife just gave me one of those 'wife stares' that basically translate to "why did I marry this mouth breather?"

A few weeks go by, and I'm still haphazardly filming 'stuff' that's happening. Bits of this, bits of that, just... well... because really. Then last Saturday I tried to put it all together into 'something', then threw it up onto YouTube and went to bed (worse for wear, having had a few drinks whilst I worked on it).

The next day, the son rings "I've got some feedback on the new video Dad, do you want to hear it?" My SonMy newest critic - My Son


Now I'll be honest, I'm a proud man. I'm not arrogant, but I do take my photography very seriously. I've spent nearly 20 years honing my craft, but I can admit that video-blogging is more of a curiosity than a means to see me qualify for a guest spot on Celebrity Big Brother. I've tonnes of video gear (which I've already talked about) though I hardly ever get to use it professionally, as I'm still seen very much as a stills photographer, which is fine. I have made commercials, training videos, and produced promotional content for businesses, I'm even busy video editing and tweaking corporate videos for some well known named brands as part of the day job, it's just the vlogging that I struggling with.

Why the sudden interest in vlogging?

Well, I love YouTube videos of people living on the open road in their vans, it's my guilty pleasure. That's why we bought the bongo, just to experience those feelings of freedom I see others enjoying, just until we actually do it full time ourselves, the wife and I, when the kids have finally left home. On YouTube there are thousands of vloggers sharing their stories, a fair few of these film-makers videos do suck though, but some are really awesome, and the awesome ones would use a lot of the techniques I'd employ if I was doing what they're were doing, which kind of lit the pilot light in me again after a dull winter. My problem is, I've no story to tell, it's just fat me.

This brings me back to my son's phone call, "Do you want the good bits or the bad bits first?' he asked. 'I didn't want any bits thank you very much' I thought, but through winced eyes, I asked for the bad bits first, let's rip that sticking plaster off fast!

He broke it down from the choice of music, the lack of dialogue and the lack of a story, plus a major missing element, not enough me. The funny me that is. The 'me' that he knows and loves. I guess bits of 'me' are being transmitted through this screen your reading now, you can get a sense of who I am when I'm writing, as I write it more or less the way I would actually say it out loud.

I don't write this for my ego, I write it because I actually enjoy writing. There's a book in each and every one of us they say. I guess my book will sit here, on this little auld blog of mine. I've bumped into people who have said they've actually read this too (Hi Barabara & Jonny), which is nice to hear, sorry, I've gone off on a tangent again...

Where was I? Oh yes, Family Feedback. So my son didn't like the last two music tracks, he didn't like how the video slowed down at the beginning just to see me park the Bongo, as he felt he should have been able to see me remove the GoPro off the side of the vehicle (I actually cut that out, my son said I should have left it in), the music in the latter half didn't actually match what I was done, even though the choice itself was good, just not in the right place. There was too much of me just walking the dogs, he suggested I should have talked more, not that you would have heard a word I was saying due to the high winds that day.

I learned a lot from that conversation, I don't just mean the feedback either. I learned that my son feels he can talk to his Dad and critique him. He's just turned 16 and he's doing revision for his upcoming GCSE exams. This is a pivotal moment in his life as he starts to make decisions about his own future. I, as his father, can only offer advice, it's not my place to give it or steer him. Of course, I would love to see him as a professional footballer, not cause I actually like football, but he's integral to my retirement plan, as I  don't have one! Again, I'm joking! We've now moved away from a Parent/Child relationship, I hope he begins to see me as his best friend, whose advice he can trust, because I only have his best interests at heart, like he has mine.

If you're remotely interested in seeing this (crappy) video blog, check it out below. Subscribe to the channel, and (hopefully) watch as I improve my content, though it's essentially fat me at the end of the day, click here to watch it.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog blogging darron mark derry father feedback ireland londonderry photographer photography son vlogging wife youtube https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/2/family-feedback Tue, 14 Feb 2017 12:15:00 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 025 | Downsizing Technically https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/2/downsizing-technically Do you ever just get into something and buy everything you think you need, only to find out you don't need half of everything you have? What's worse is, by having all that stuff you disable yourself to be creative, because it's such a bind to haul it everywhere, plus if it's electrical gear, you'll want to make sure everything is charged and ready to go before you venture out on whatever it is you were planning on doing.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is, I have too much stuff and it's pulling me back. I'm just not sure how to deal with it, other than to get rid of most of it on eBay and the like.

If I list the stuff I have, I can honestly justify why I have it, but if I'm being honest with myself, the argument for "Just in case" doesn't cut it anymore. That's the mantra of a hoarder, and in the photography business, there's plenty of us about.

I had this awesome drone, it did everything I wanted/needed it to do, but I was always worried it would get damaged when we traveled about in the Motorhome, especially when we had some many kids staying in it on our travels. So I bought a massive case so that I could put all my gear into it comfortably. When I say massive, I mean you could bury someone in the thing (with the aid of a saw, but I digress). I was pleased as punch with the case, everything was safe and protected as intended, but then it was a pain in the ass to take with us, it just got in the way, so I stopped taking it, and there it sat, in the studio, in its big ass case, not flying.

Then I got a great HD Camcorder for interviewing people, but one wasn't enough, not if you want to be able to film the interviewer too (i.e. me), so I bought a duplicate of the same camera, for consistency of course! Then I wanted to be able to record the subject from a different angle at the same time, so I bought a 3rd. I went out and bought a wide angle lens for one of them, more tripods, more microphones, then more lighting, and a bag to fit all this stuff in... I think I've done 3 interviews with it in the last 2 years. I mostly talk to a camera myself now (new project coming soon), so I really don't have a need for all these cameras.

I've another 3 sports cameras, those GoPro's you've probably seen on TV, just to give you a multi-angle view of the same activity, those I'm keeping cause they're awesome, and the size of them is just so convenient.

Obviously, if you're getting this email there's a good chance you've seen me working a wedding or something, so you know I've two cameras for that, and for a very good reason, speed and resilience should one die for some strange reason. Those babies aren't going anywhere, but the rest of the stuff, do I really need it anymore?

You should see the camera bags I have! I've even got a full belt system going on, which I used for a couple of times. It was supposed to be more practical for me but it ended up being just another hindrance I didn't need, I felt like fecking batman wearing it, so now it sits in the attic with 20+ photography books, user manuals and the boxes most of this kit came in.

Having a Motorhome helped with keeping all this 'tech' together, but we got rid of that last June, and I'd be lying if I didn't say I didn't miss it, cause I really do, but the time isn't right for us to have one, as the children really don't like going away in it. So we went back to a tent for the odd weekend away, which has been one weekend away, and again, the kids weren't too fussed on that either, even though the Missus and I loved it.

Over the months, that urge to just shoot off to the beach and chill wouldn't go away, so we bought a Bongo.

Most people have never heard of a Bongo, but they're simply awesome. I think they started building them in the early 90's in Japan, right up until 2005 when unfortunately their factory burnt to the ground. Fortunately for the UK buyer, they're right-hand drive and are what's called 'Grey Imports', so require little in the way of re-registration for the UK roads. You can sleep 4 in the uncoverted ones, as the seats all fold down into a big double bed, and the roof pops up where a further 2 can sleep. You can convert them easily (for a cost) into full campers, but for now, we're happy to have it as is.

Now, this is where having something a lot smaller plays into downsizing the tech I really need to make videos and photographs. The normal [stills] camera still comes with me, but having sold the big drone and buying something smaller (see previous blogs), plus downsizing to just one video camera and the sports cams, it means that I essentially have everything I need for a weekend away in the Bongo. The plan, however, is to change the video camera to something more stabilised instead, like the camera below...

Cool right?

I have everything I need to fully utilise this camera system, now I just have to find a way to fund its purchase, which is why I'm having a sell-off. I have even got the most practical bag to carry everything I need in the Bongo, with nothing getting damaged, and easily accessed.

So this year's plan is to get this all into place, remove what I don't need, focus on what I do have, and push the creativity to the forefront of what it is I'm passionate about, and that's making videos and taking pictures again. I guess you can only fully realise what it is you need, once you've learned fully what it is you don't. I'm trying hard to get that into my children, that making mistakes is the first steps to achieving success, and not to worry about when you get things wrong, just so long as you learn from it and move on.

What's your passion? Are you getting out there and indulging in it? What's holding you back?

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) beach benone blog bongo business darron dji drone ireland mark mavic mazda northern osmo phantom photographer photography tourism travel video visit wedding https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/2/downsizing-technically Wed, 01 Feb 2017 12:05:00 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 024 | If That Then This https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/1/if-that-then-this Getting your images out there once taken can be a complicated affair depending on what you're hoping to achieve. If it's just a simple commission with a client then that's easy, you email them a link (and a password if required) and you're done, they see their images and everyone is happy. It's the other stuff that takes a little more care and attention, especially when you are trying to factor in email marketing and social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook Pages, Twitter, and Instagram. I can be found on all of these by the way, but how do you make the task easier you ask? Well, it's a combination of RSS Feeds, MailChimp and a free app called IFTTT, which stands for If That Then This.

It basically breaks down your online activities (if that) and runs 'Applets' to coincide with your instructions (then this) that you can set up on their website or through an app  on your smartphone.

I've been playing with it for awhile, mainly to help with the distribution of my iPhone pictures from Instagram to Twitter because Twitter in its infinite wisdom stopped the sharing of 3rd party pictures being displayed natively within tweets, to make you use their platform directly basically. I get it, it's a business, it needs users to actually use it, and I did for years, but then I've kind of got bored of it if I'm being honest. However, I'm slowly coming back round it, because I'm trying to build the brand of what I do back up again, and it's a great tool for that.

The First Strategy:

Pictures of 'random stuff' I like the look of or family orientated 'snaps' will go on Instagram and no further. This will take a bit of work, because it means I've to set up a new Applet that looks at my Instagram and if it sees a hashtag in there, for example #twitter, then it needs to be able to cross platform share that and ignore the others that don't have it.

 - Told you this could be complicated.

The Second Strategy:

Any pictures I deem commercially viable for profit will be posted on two separate platforms, the primary being this website through my iPhone Photography section, which in turn will then distribute them to Instagram and Twitter with all the relevant copyright information triggered by and update on the RSS feed from that gallery, those share will contain links to back to source for purchasing (which would be nice). I have some really nice images on there, so there's no reason why someone wouldn't want to buy it. The other platform is a micro stock image resource called Stockimo, which again, if I'm being honest, isn't a massive money maker for me but it never hurts to keep your options open.


So why all the effort?

Automation of processes is what I do. I've been doing this for years for my wedding photography jobs where feedback suggests couples waiting up to 3 months or more with other photographers, just to see their wedding pictures. My couples typically wait 12 to 24 hours depending if I'm back to backing weddings.

With my photography services broadening out into other areas, such as music coverage and press (which I've always done) I felt it was time to expand the automation out to those areas too. There's a great musical culture in Ireland and I want get out there as much as possible to get those images of those artists out there.

As you've probably read in my previous blog, I'm embarking on another service too, the Aerial Photography Business. Much more on that later. But for now, check out my music section, and if you do know of any bands or singers who wouldn't mind getting some new images done (for free), send them my way.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) aerial automation darron facebook if ifttt ireland linkedin londonderry mark music northern photographer photography stockimo that then this twitter wedding zenfolio https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/1/if-that-then-this Fri, 27 Jan 2017 12:00:00 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 023 | PfCO Drone Route https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/1/pfco-drone-route In a few weeks I'll be embarking on a journey to gain my PfCO Certification from the Civil Aviation Authority to fly my DJI Mavic (that's a drone to you) for commercial purposes.

They're a number of organisation out there that offer this course, but most, if not all, require payment in full upfront. Now that's fair enough, I completely understand the business model, get paid, provide a service, job done. I do it myself for my wedding photography, but I also offer people the opportunity to "pay in for it" should they want to stagger their payments over a number of months, completely without interest of penalty, so long as I'm paid, I'm happy. But... There's always a but, finding £1400 +VAT for a 5 day course is tough going. There's a raft of providers offering the same course for roughly £1,200 and some others for £999, all with the same aim of getting you certified.

As it says on their CAA website:

"Anyone who wants to fly a drone for commercial work (generally referred to as aerial work) needs a Permission from the CAA."

Now to get that permission, you have to demonstrate a sufficient understanding of aviation theory (airmanship, airspace, aviation law and good flying practice), pass a practical flight assessment (flight test) and develop basic procedures for conducting the type of flights you want to do and set these out in an Operations Manual. Sounds simple enough right? Wrong. It's a tough course, and it has to be for good reason, there's a risk to flying 'drones' and knowing what to do to minimise those risks, and what actions to take should things go wrong is hugely important. 

I've decided to work with a company called Robin UAV Ltd, who will be coming over to Belfast next month to run their 3 day course. Spoken to the team who will be training me and to be honest, I can't wait!!!

The best of it is, not only is their course only £999, they also let you 'pay in for it' after you've done the course through a Direct Debit Scheme, which is fantastic news for me, cause I've not long forked out £1,099 on my latest quadcopter, the awesome DJI Mavic Pro, check out what it can do in the video below.

Now to say it's portable would be an understatement, which is one, if not the only reason I wanted one in the first place. Now that I own one, I just can't wait to get out there and fly it, I just wish the weather was in better form that it has been of late, what with our Snow Blizzard (that didn't show) and the constant wind and rain, which is always here.

However, now that it's part of the camera gear, I want to be able to include it in the services I provide, such as group shots at weddings, little fly overs where possible for some of the future 'Picture Stories' I'm going to be offering in 2017, and also to enhance some of the commercial video work I currently offer, and not have to rely on the footage that others have supply.

I've been working on Adjustment Layers in Premier Pro to create a standardised filter system (colours, exposure etc), with a view to understanding on how to create a uniformed standard for all types of imported footage. I'll got in to that in other blogs, but I'm getting there.

Thanks for reading, and further updates as I'm able to offer this aerial photography on a commercial basis becomes more concrete.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) aerial caa darron darron mark derry dji ireland londonderry mark mavic northern pfaw pfco photographer photography wedding https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/1/pfco-drone-route Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:00:00 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 022 | Drone Photography https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/1/drone-photography I'm sure you've seen them, those noisy flying 'doofers' buzzing about, typically to be found at your local dog walking spots, or at a beach or lake somewhere. There's plenty of them out there now, and for good reason; they're getting cheaper, safe, more advanced, and offer a new perspective on what would normally be mundane locations that have already been photographed to death.

They're not without their own risks. You've liability and stability to consider. Nobody wants to receive an impromptu haircut whilst out walking their labradoodle, due to an errant quadcopter dropping out of the sky because the 'pilot' hasn't considered battery life.

You've also to factor in that you can't offer your services for any commercial gain from the product of your flights, without having the relevant certification from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the UK's Government Body tasked with policing the airspace for everyone's safety. Which is fair enough, however loads of newbie flyers are flying in a dangerous fashion with little or no regard for the rules, probably due to the fact that when you first take possession of your new fancy drone, you've no clue there are rules in place. However, we all know there's no defence in law for ignorance. So when one of these newbies takes flight near an airport or over a football game, it's the rest of us that get tarred with the same roller brush.

DJI Phantom 1DJI Phantom 1DJI's first mass produced consumer quadcopter, the Phantom P1 I've owned a drone now for the last 5 years, it's had it's fair share of abuse, upgrades and crashes. It's had new batteries, new parts, enhancements and modifications, it has even had it's entire shell replaced (from a low battery incident I'd rather not talk about). I've had emails and comments levied against my YouTube and Social Media posts by the CAA for improper use or flight, or merely questioning my motives for flying with reminders I can't operate it for commercial purposes (none of which were for commercial gain). Those sort of put me off for a while, added to the fact that the DJI Phantom P1 was the original high profile mass market drone on the market. Because of that it was pretty much lacking in any of the features you'll find in the more recently released Mavic Pro, which I recently took ownership of. The Phantom P1 had a very limited battery life and you never truly knew where it was in a spacial distance sense cause for the most part you were blind. It wasn't until I spent another chunk of cash on it, that I could finally see what the onboard GoPro camera could see. Which made life so much more easier, as there was many a day I thought I was close to the object I wanted to film only to find out much later that I was in fact no where near it, and sometimes not even pointing in the right direction to it, but we learn.

This brings me on to the next chapter of my drone life, certification. Next month I'll be starting the process of Civil Aviation Authority certification, which will finally allow me to start selling not only my work product (pictures and videos), it will also mean I can start advertising my aerial photography services to businesses and the general public. There are very stringent rules on where you can fly and what manner you can fly in, but at least I'll be able to see some return on my investment, or I should say, my wife will finally see some return on 'our investment', as with most of my hobbies and business ventures, there's always an associated running cost.

I've created a new section on my recently edited website for Aerial Photography, it doesn't have any sales type features activated on it yet, it's purely a gallery for viewing what I've done in the past, and once I'm certified those sales features will be switched on, and the marketing will fully kick in.

DJI Mavic Pro - Image sourced from CNET.comDJI Mavic ProImage sourced from CNET.com So far I'm just happy to be learning in more depth, all of the features of the new DJI Mavic Pro. It's a great quad with the added benefit of being super portable, with a really long flight time and huge range. I'll have to get more batteries for it obviously, though I'm stoked it's got me in the air for more than 5 minutes, so it already feels like I've got four batteries in it at the minute.

Make sure you do check out my new aerial photography section, more images will be uploaded very soon, and if you do have a future requirement for some aerial photography after February, please feel free to get in touch.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) authority aviation blog CAA civil control darron dji drone ireland law legal mark mavic northern permission phantom pictures pro quadcopter remote UAV video https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2017/1/drone-photography Sun, 08 Jan 2017 10:45:42 GMT
#MusicPhotography | Blog 021 | More Focus Required https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2016/10/more-focus-required Firstly, I have to apologies, I've sort of neglected this site for a while, and to be honest, the reason for it is a new 'day job'. I've tried so hard to maintain a full time photographer status, but in this day and age it's a real struggle to compete with emerging photographers who have little or no experience and undercut your efforts at every turn. So needs must and all that, I took a job for a London based recruitment technology firm. The funny thing is, I actually love working there. It fits in with all of my creativity needs, in that I'm making more videos, editing client's own videos, learning even more about various rendering techniques as well has helping clients understand the need to stage their own video creations for the best results.

However, this has meant my own photography has taken a bit of a back seat. Though I have found a new outlet to get images into the syndicated agencies, and that's been by using my iPhone 6s and uploading to mobile specific content sites. I even managed to get a news story syndicated, which was nice. I'm there snapping away with my mobile phone and instantly pushing them to a news site, while my more well equipped fellow photographers are hours away from getting their images to a computer and uploaded.

So what does this mean?

Well, I guess it sort of means I'm paring down on the amount of equipment I own for one, selling some hardware that I've finally admitted to myself I didn't really need in the first place (a lot like my previous post about buying junk), keeping it to a core set of equipment. That being:

  • HD Camcorder with a Wide Angle Lens
  • Various Sports Cam of the GoPro kind
  • 2 Still Cameras (Canon 5D's) because of the weddings
  • DJI Mavic Pro - Once it arrives

Everything else is going, and I'll link to my eBay page so you can keep an eye on what I'm getting rid of and get yourself a bargain. There's even a set of four Merc Alloy Wheels if you're interested.

I'm also back to owning an iPad again, not for any other reason but to write to you lovely peeps via this blog, as again, I've been guilty of not posting too much on here, which is a major no-no in the blogging world. No fresh content means no new readers or reader apathy.

So my question to you is, what would you like to read more about? Is there anything you'd like to learn about that I could teach you? If you have any comments or suggestions, please put them below, happy to offer advice and help where I can.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog darron derry ireland londonderry mark Northern photographer photography wedding https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2016/10/more-focus-required Sat, 22 Oct 2016 10:43:08 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 020 | The Humble Dressing Gown https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2016/9/the-humble-dressing-gown It's always hectic at the bride's preparation house (not always her own, typically "Mammy's") on her wedding day, especially when there are so many things going on, and so many people crammed into the house. We have bridesmaids, we have flower girls, we have Mum & Dad, we have nieces and nephews, make-up artists, hairstylists, videographers and me, the wedding photographer.

I always call my brides a few days before, just to make sure that everything is as it was agreed, mainly to make sure the times haven't changed as sometimes these things are book years in advance and as the time draws closer, things tend to change. It's only natural, you think a 2pm Wedding is a great idea until you start factoring in travel times between the service venue and the reception and the time it takes to get photographs done, so sometimes things move.

As an experienced wedding photographer; you become familiar with the 'flow' of the day, the pitfalls and stumbling blocks that can be avoided if a little thought is put into it. As I said, that comes with experience, so today I'm going to draw attention to the humble dressing gown.

The humble wedding dressing gownMatching Where PossibleWedding day images from the marriage of Karen and Clive who were married on the 16th August 2014 at Donemana Presbyterian Church, with a formal reception at The Eveglades Hotel in Derry. Images by Darron Mark Photography - www.dmfoto.co.uk

Wedding albums usually have a few pages of the preparations in there, capturing the essence of the mania going on in the family home, I've 30-page wedding albums where nearly 20% of it is taken up with just the morning alone! The reason being? Well, it's probably one of the most naturally captured part of the day with little or no intervention by the photographer. We're just hovering around trying to capture those special unguarded moments where family members are just interacting with each other. We as photographers love uniformity, it makes life so much simpler in editing if everyone is almost matching in style, so it's always nice to see the bridal party wearing the same dressing gown with their different roles on their backs in rhinestones. We'd prefer it if they weren't all so white and reflective on a sunny day, but we can't have everything now can we?

The other advantage of the dressing gown is in its ease of getting out of. What I mean to say is, you don't have to pull it over your head having spent nearly an hour getting your hair and make-up done.

They're so cheap too, almost a throwaway item starting from as little as £5 on Amazon and they come personalised to each of the roles each of your bridal party are responsible for. 

If you don't fancy a gown, you can even get something with a little more 'post-wedding' use such as a hoodie as seen here:

The Wedding HoodieThe Wedding HoodieWedding Day Images from the Gemma and Philip's big day in Ballykelly. The Drummond Hotel was their wedding reception venue. Images by Darron Mark Photography. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you're paying attention to how you're going to get out of your preparation morning clothes into your wedding attire, and also check out what the rest of your bridal party are wearing, otherwise they'll have to jump back into the hairstylist's chair to get emergency repairs done, making you later to the church than your groom's nerves can handle.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog darron darron mark ireland londonderry mark photo photographer photography wedding wedding photographer weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2016/9/the-humble-dressing-gown Mon, 05 Sep 2016 14:12:31 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 019 | Travelling Equipment - Things to Consider https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2016/3/travelling-equipment---things-to-consider I travel a lot, and I mean a lot, granted mainly around the coast lines of Ireland in our motorhome, but even at that I just can't bring everything from my studio into the cramped confines of a family recreational vehicle. Not when I have to fight for space with a 7 year old who wants to bring her toy doll car and an assortment of other bite sized oddments that the dog preys on once they've been left on the floor long enough for her to call dibs.

Travel TripodTravel TripodDuopod Travel Tripod and Selfie Stick

The main things I tend to bring are as follows, based on trial and error.

  • SLR (with Flash Unit)

I have a trusty Canon 5D that has stood me well. It comes with it's Canon L Series 24-70mm f2.8 glass as I find that the sharpness that this lens provides is second to none. Great for low light, great for action shots and just long enough for you to get close up, and if you need to get closer, the memory size and clarity of a Full Frame Sensor will allow you some decent cropping scope with Bridge or Photoshop.

The flash, well, why not? If you are just about the landscapes and all that, then you're not really going to need one, but the odd time you might want to take a nice interior shot of the venue you're visiting, and having that bit of extra light (off camera) will get you out of a scrape.

  • Tripod

Not the sort you're thinking, as to be honest there aren't that many out there that are both compact enough to fit in your cabin luggage that are going to be useful when extended. But I do have one, a great Duöpod, it's part of a kit that you can buy online (eBay, my usual haunt). It also hosts a selfie stick to give you a little bit of extension but it's not for the SLR. Attaching an SLR to this will just crush it, it's actually for my mobile phone. 

My iPhone is my 'out and about' camera of choice. It's capable of producing some great images both straight shooting and in post production apps that can make a dull image into something totally surreal, and I just love that.

  • Selfie Stick

I don't take too may pictures of myself, ain't nobody wanna see that. I use it as a means of providing me with more variety of angles and higher or lower perspectives, and if you bring one, you'll also need a smartphone cradle that you can quickly snap your phone into.

  • Tablet/Laptop

I'm currently writing this post on my trusty iPad 2, with a Brydge+ Bluetooth keyboard, sitting on my deck chair as rally cars are passing no more than 15 feet away from me at 90 miles an hour. I've already got the pictures I want to use for stock that I took on their first circuit (lap), I've been online and gathered all their car numbers and driver names, I'm under no pressure to get them to one of my stock agencies as this isn't really a news story as such, but having a means to check statistics, facts, location details of the subject you've just captured will save you hassle in the long run. So you'll also need some sort of internet connection device too, pairing your mobile to your phone is one option, I have a 3 Network Mifi 'doofa' that creates a wireless connectivity zone, and because we cross borders between Northern Ireland's UK networks and Ireland's Southern, we can be prone to high data charges, but not on the 3 Network. They don't penalise you like some operators do, not when travelling within some of the major European countries.

  • Chargers

Goes without say, but you'll also need the means to apply power, so if it comes with a car charging option, label it and keep it in the glove box. I say label it because how many of us have a box of electrical chargers with no notion of what they actually charge anymore? Every time I buy a new bit of tech and it comes with a charger, I label it straight away, cause I'm OCD like that.

  • Smartphone

I've already mentioned that this is my 'go-to' device, I've a whole section on my website dedicated to the recently coined term of iPhoneography, there are plenty of professional photographers out there that are also avid phone photographers, I'm one of them, a recent convert if you will, and also a mug! 

I'm a mug because I took a rocking picture of the devastating effects of the 2014 Weather Bomb, and I was too snobby to consider it a 'proper photograph' because I took it on my mobile phone. I missed out on possibly hundreds of thousands of pounds by just releasing it for free. Little did I know the image was going to be picked up internationally by news agencies who used it on their websites, TV news items and print media.

My rule now is; no matter what the device that captures the image, it's always worth something to someone. So travel light, and always travel with a means of capturing what your eyes can see, as you never know the true value of your image until someone else wants it. Bring out the big guns if you are solely  out there to take a picture or three, keep a selfie pole in your bag and a means to promote your picture if you want to build up a social following or make a few coins.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog bomb darron darron mark derry iphonegraphy ireland londonderry mark motorhome photo photographer photography selfie travel weather https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2016/3/travelling-equipment---things-to-consider Sat, 05 Mar 2016 16:17:34 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 018 | The Wedding Photographer's Toolkit https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/8/the-wedding-photographers-toolkit What's a wedding photographers toolkit?

Well, there's no easy way of admitting this, but I have a bumbag. Horrible things I know, a cast off from the 80's, but mine looks manly enough I think (I've convinced myself of it anyway). So, within said 'Pouch of Problem Fixing' I have a number of items that have proven invaluable time and time again. The reason I have one is because I find that having the things most commonly needed during the course of a wedding is much handier than having everyone go searching for it.

Bumbag CompleteBumbag Complete

  • Crochet Hook

This has two functions (not counting its main purpose obviously), one being that it helps getting those pesky elasticated hooks at the back of the dress over the tops of those fiddly little buttons, which are an absolute nightmare when you consider you probably have had your nails done. Plus it can help getting the zip pulled all the way up, which it has done done a few times.

  • Plasters

New high heeled shoes can be punishing for all concerned (not that I'd know), causing blisters to the backs of heels and little toes. I've seen girls walk around the formal picture area in their bare feet, and that too has it's own hazards. So I always keep a few cushioned plasters in my kangaroo pouch.

  • Mints

Aids with dry mouth after the service, which is when I usually break them out. I'll take the odd one or two myself of course, just incase, nobody likes stinky breath.

  • Fancy Pen

There's nothing worse than taking pictures of the registry signing and the only pen available is some disgusting chewed Biro. I always carry a nice fancy pen, and you'll see it make a number of appearances in my wedding pictures where there is an absolute need to use it, which is a lot. I've lost a few, it has to be said. As you get swept up with the hustle and bustle and sometimes forget to pick it up again. The one I've got now was actually a gift, so far I've managed to keep hold of it for the last 3 years.

  • Tissues & Hair Clips

Mums cry all the time, and sometimes Dads (hence the tissues). The Hair Clips are great as bridal hair loses its shape during the day so you have to be part photographer, part hairstylist and be able to put things back in their place. It's not rocket science, the hairstylist has done the hard work, your job is just to carry out minor repairs.

  • Safety Pins

How big is this bag I'm sure you're wondering? It's honestly not that big, but these things in their entirety are very small, and they'll all come into play in some way shape or form over my career as a professional wedding photographer. I also keep my memory cards and a set of spare batteries in there too. But the safety pins have help me put a grooms trousers back together after he'd split them across his bum, they've pinned many a dress into place by either holding that zip up, or fixing frill that has been accidentally tugged from the dress. They've even held button holed flowers in their place.

  • Multi-Tool

This actually sits on the belt that the keeps my bumbag around my waist. It has a set of pliers, a sharp knife, and a bottle opener. The pliers help where the crochet hook can't, with the zip, the knife element to cut car ribbon and loose threads, and the bottle opener, well I'm sure you can guess!

  • Towel

It rains here, a lot! So having a towel to wipe down the cameras when running between locations is a must for me. On the odd summer day that we get here in Northern Ireland, you can get a little warm, so having something handy to wipe my brow work well too. It's just a black golfers towel you'd see hanging off the side of any golf bag. I think I bought while doing a wedding at a golf club actually, I just thought 'genius, I'll have that'. Now I never leave home without it.

  • Memory Cards

I keep them on me at all times! I have two pouches specifically for them too, one to the front for unused, and one to rear for used. This way I'm positive no harm will come to them.

The last thing that I don't share about, for hygiene reasons, is my lip salve, or ChapStick™. I'm a bit of lip licker when stress starts creeping in during the day, doesn't happen all the time, and there's no pattern to it. But as things get busier I find that my lips start to get a little dry as a result of me licking them a little too often. So I keep a handy lip salve stick in one of my side pockets to keep that little issue at bay. You have to also remember to look after yourself too. I'd also keep a drink in the car to to sip from, and a handy chocolate bar to keep the energy levels up when moving between locations, as you'll find you do tend to move about a lot more on days such as these.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) bumbag crochet hook darron darron mark derry ireland londonderry mark mints multi-tool northern pen photographer photography pins plasters safety tissues toolkit wedding wedding pen weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/8/the-wedding-photographers-toolkit Sat, 08 Aug 2015 23:15:00 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 017 | Glencar, County Leitrim - A Must for Travellers https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/7/glencar-county-leitrim The most heavenly place you can imagine, with rolling mountains, forest foothills, a waterfall, a still lough and plenty of parking for all manner of vehicles.

We probably travel down to this idilic spot every two months just to get away from it all, plus with the limited access to cellular networks you can pretty much forget trawling through your friend's updates on Facebook, and just stare at the magnificent scenery that surround this luscious land.

We recently headed down to the seaside town of Bundoran, mainly to escape the 12th Weekend Madness, and also to make use of the long weekend.

It takes a while to decompress when your in a motorhome, a period of acclimatisation has to occur to your surroundings, and the pure lack of privacy in terms of just being able to be on your own, there isn't any bedroom to just chill out in, you have to basically deal with the constant togetherness that happens. What does occur though is an appreciation of your surroundings when you step outside.

We've been coming to Glencar for just over a year, since my future wife visited with her sister the year before. It was something she just had to share with me, and I'm so glad she did as I can't keep away from the place now. If I die in Ireland I've already requested that she come down here with my ashes, it's that awesome.

The waterfall is impressive, there's plenty of YouTube videos on the area, with people jumping into the waters (usually letting out a scream or two as the cold takes hold) and I've even made a video myself, though not from me taking a dip.


This weekend saw the Sligo Motorcar Rally turn this sleepy valley into a hotbed of turbo charged, stone spitting speed, action. I say stone spitting as I was hit a few times at the side of the road as cars passed at speeds of 90+ miles per hour.

But the two images I want to show are these from the lake view, left and right as you stand at the shoreline.

Glencar Lough, Connacht, County LeitrimGlencar Lough, Connacht, County LeitrimGlencar Lough lies in the Glencar Valley, between the Dartry Mountains to the north and the mountain range including Cope's Mountain to the south. Glencar Lake, County LeitrimGlencar Lake, County LeitrimGlencar Lough lies in the Glencar Valley, between the Dartry Mountains to the north and the mountain range including Cope's Mountain to the south.

They really don't do the place justice, and they were taken with my iPhone as I wanted to show just what you could do with a few tweaks from my favourite app; Snapseed (iOS & Android).

Normally I hit the 'Drama' filter and work from there, but this time I tried the HDR Scape and I was extremely surprised at the results, a little ramping up of the saturation and that was it, job done.

Hanging my handy mobile travelling companion on the edge of the motorhome's wing mirror, my Mifi (from the 3 Network) seemed to grab a hint of 4G (or it could have been 3G) just long enough for me to get my images uploaded to my website using my mobile app kindly supplied by my website provider, Zenfolio

My advice would be; come take a spin down, bring a picnic (there's plenty of seating areas (and a public toilet), take a wander around the waterfall, then call into the new visitor centre. Hopefully it's not like the one at the Giant's Causeway where they charge you for entry only to find you've stumbled into a cafe and gift shop and nothing more (don't kid yourself with that half baked education element either). 

If you own a Kayak, bring that down too, as the lake has really easy access into the water via a concrete jetty, but we've been warned that there are some really strong under currents, so be careful. We'll be bringing ours down on our next trip down.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) caragh darron darron mark glencar ireland lake lough mark northern paradise photographer photography ring of kerry tourism travel https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/7/glencar-county-leitrim Sun, 26 Jul 2015 07:00:00 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 016 | The Complete Guide to Buying Useless Stuff https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/7/the-complete-guide-to-buying-useless-stuff The Complete Guide to Buying Useless Stuff

I think the first 3 years when I started out in photography I, like many others, had been suckered into buying that latest bit of photography tech, thinking I'll get some great images and loads of use out of [insert gear here]. I've bought no end of 'tech' gadgets from all manner of places, typically eBay if I'm being completely honest.
So I thought I'd try and steer you clear of my own mistakes.
· Bags
Lowepro SlingShot 100 AW
I think I must have been a woman in my former life, because when it comes to bags for cameras I'm like some sort of fashionista. Who am I kidding? I'm a mug. I've bought those swing bags that 'swing' under your arm from one over the shoulder strap for quick access to your SLR. I had it for about 2 months and used it like... Once... Pure dung. The only reason you would need something like that is if it rains, because a camera in a bag is a camera missing the action. A shopping bag would do just as good a job of keeping the rain off your SLR than these things. I've had the camera bags that keep your laptop in, part camera storage part wet weather, part laptop. I gave it away, which in hindsight I wish I hadn't, cause I'd have probably got more use out of it, but I've lived fine without it.
Lowepro Nova 5 AW
The one bag that I has stood the test of time would be one of my Lowepro's Nova 5 AW. But not for my SLR, well, initially yes, I did drag it around the odd wedding, but now it's providing safety and security for my 3 JVC HD Camcorders I use for other projects.
I have the canvas traveller, great bag that doesn't look like camera bag, which is what you want if you are in a city that you're not familiar with. No point in advertising the fact that you have some high end photography 'stuff' packed away in your rucksack. Why would you?
In my time as a Staff Photographer for a weekly newspaper I never once used a camera bag. The bags I did use though were Storm Jackets from the US, I bought them when they were a lot cheaper than they are nowadays. I think I paid about £10 each, I think the last time I looked they were looking £50 each, which is a bit cheeky as they're only a bit of waterproof fabric with some elasticated ends. These Storm Jackets have protected my gear in some of the wettest of sports games when I really had no choice on being there.
Which bag would I recommend?
That depends on how many cameras you have! I have 3 SLR's and no bag will ever be able to provide the protection I would need for that travelling scenario. I tend not to travel that far, and when I do I wrap my cameras in a standard luggage type case and cushion/protect it with my socks and pants.
I think what I'm getting at is you don't need one! Do you want to know how bad my camera bag obsession got?
I have the Lowepro belt kit and I even bought a little belt attachment case for my iPhone. I mean seriously, who am I, Batman?
I used it for 3 weddings, and it just got in the way. It's worth £200 maybe £300 and it's taking pride of place in the attic with the rest of the tat I've bought, which leads me on too the next bit of 'stuff'.
· Battery Expansion Packs
Battery Expansion Grip
I have a love / hate relationship with these things! I love them when they work and I hate them when they don't. It's that simple, and it's simple because you need to get one.
Don't bother getting the 'Branded' ones because they're clearly take the piss in terms of costing. However don't buy the cheapest one you see online, go for something mid range and make sure it fits your gear. As the saying goes, "buy cheap buy twice". I never understood that until I started paying for camera gear. I've bought some right tat that I've only had to replace with the one I should have paid more for in the first place.
What I would say is, get one. They'll save you all sorts of hassle because of the ability to increase your time taking pictures, not by hours, but by weeks if not months! Plus they'll increase the size of your camera and get you over the gate in many press areas. If you are in the amateur end of things this will really open doors for you.
· Tripods
I could scaffold the house with the amount of tripods I've bought, and to be honest those more expensive ones don't offer any more features than the cheaper ones. I've taken thousands of product images over the years, and the tripod that holds the camera in position and doesn't slowly start tilting forward under the weight of your camera and heavy lens is the one that works for me. 
· Monopods
Feet on a monopod
I have one, I love it and I would suggest you get one. The one caveat being that you only need one if you take sports images at the side of the field, otherwise they're just big sticks and they'll get in your way. Unless your camera has video capabilities then try and get one with the feet. Depending again on the weight, go for the more expensive ones otherwise you'll just be buying again. Don't be tempted in getting the monopod that can convert to a walking stick by covering the end piece, I mean, who are you? Edmund Hilary? No... It's a waste of money, but if you want one, give me a shout, cause I have one in my attic doing sod all.
· Reflectors
Ask yourself, how many hands do you have? Two right? Now tell me, how are you going to hold your camera, focus your lens and hold a reflector? Unless you have an assistant save your money as there is no way in hell that you'll ever be able to use it. Don't be fooled by those adverts where they say the reflector is really easy to use with one hand, remember you only have two! I have three sitting next to my awesome belt kit because I thought I'd get some use out of them. I haven't as yet, but I live in hope (or denial).
· Handgrips
Oh those things make me laugh. Cheesy pictures of some dudes hand on some video camera style strap! Give over!!! Never have I seen anyone use these, never! That should be a stark warning to you. I'm in the concert pits with some internationally distributed press guys from leading agencies and not once have I seen one of these 'things'. Save your coins for memory cards.
· Memory Cards
The knee jerk is to go big, my advice would be don't. If you cram all of your images on to one card and that thing fails, well... Your screwed. I have 12 memory cards none of which are over 4GB in capacity, as this really does reduce my exposure to failure. Being a wedding photographer is a one time frame deal, you can't go back. So don't put all of your faith in one bit of electronic circuitry. It's the weakest link in your strategy, but it's the most important.
· Straps
Get rid of your stock grip, the one the camera came with, they'll cut the neck off you. There's no bounce in them and they'll jar the muscles plus advertise your gear's make and model for no purpose than to promote the manufacturer, and unless you're on a retainer, why would you? I have a £10 strap from Calumet that is detachable through release catches, has a rubberised cushioned grip cause I'm precious, and is more or less unbranded, so I don't attract nerds over asking how I find the latest Canon model compares to theirs. I've no interest, I'm too busy being awesome in my own right.
Double camera owners seek out the double camera sling. Don't go with single camera strap per camera, because you'll end up with a kink in your neck trying to keep the camera you're not using on your shoulder. 
· Summary
Although your camera isn't waterproof to the extent of a torrential downpour, it is 'weather' proof for the most part. A camera in a bag is of no use, save your money on getting the best 'branded' lens you can afford for your camera and keep taking pictures. In it's purest form (RAW) your camera will capture some amazing images if you just let it, without having all sorts of tat hanging off it.
I have boiled down my gear to two cameras, loads of 4GB memory cards, double strap sling setup and that's it. Oh, and my storm jackets depending on the situation to go with my Monopod with feet. To keep them dry? A weather proof jacket that you wear your sling under. Now get out there and enjoy taking pictures.
(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog camera darron double sling feet gadgets hand grips ireland lowepro lowepro sling mark monopod northern photo photographer photography reflectors sling storm jacket tech weather wedding weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/7/the-complete-guide-to-buying-useless-stuff Mon, 20 Jul 2015 11:15:00 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 015 | Carlton Mitre Hotel, Hampton Court (London Wedding) https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/7/carlton-mitre-hotel-hampton-court-london-wedding I had the great fortune to be booked for a wedding in Hampton Court, London in October 2012, this wasn't a totally random affair as I’d known the groom for some years (I was actually the best man at his last wedding, but that’s another story). The booking did throw up a few things I had to consider.

The main issue was equipment transportation. I would be flying over the day before the big event, so I set about booking a flight to the closest airport (Heathrow in this case) with the cheapest operator I could find flying out of Belfast. The next thing was to find the cheapest hotel in the area, closest to the reception venue. I’d assumed that the place would be booked out by guests, so I didn’t even bother checking (knowing that the bride was from Scotland and the groom from Nottingham, there would obviously be some travelling guests looking for places to stay) the Carlton Mitre Hotel was where they’d booked their ceremony to be held at. So I therefore opted for a Premier Inn in Kempton Park (£90 per night) which was only a few miles away.

The Bride and GroomThe wedding is about to beginCarol makes her entrance to be greeted by a very happy Cory.

I then returned to the main issue at hand, which was transporting my equipment in such a manner that it would never leave my side. After all, I didn’t want to turn up to the wedding with nothing buy my iPhone4 in my hand, in the hope of capturing the days events while my cameras were on a flight to Timbuktu.

I have a great Lowepro Nova 200 camera bag, which I can just about squeeze in my Canon 5D & 40D, along with the 4 lenses I usually operate with, and the two flash units and trust me, I took me some time to work out that little jigsaw puzzle so I could get everything to fit inside (snuggly). However, this didn’t leave any space for even a pair of socks, never mind a weekends worth of clothing. So what to do..?

Calumet in Belfast was my first port of call for a solution. I wanted something I could safely get my camera gear into, that would also allow me to stuff in a few tops, socks, boxers, wash kit, pair of jeans or maybe just the suit I’d planned to wear. I couldn’t find a single thing. I’d considered wearing my camera gear over, I’ve a CameraSlingers strapping system, but that would just look nuts, and make me a highly attractive mugging victim. There was nothing there that suited my needs. Nightmare… There was no way I was squeezing more out of the budget for hold luggage, just for an couple of nights worth clothing.

The solution was this: I would fly over wearing the suit I would be wearing on the big day. I would wrap my camera gear in two tops (one for the night arrived which I’d change into, one for the travel back) and one pair of jeans. I’d wear the same shoes for the whole weekend (sourced shoes that go with both the suit and a pair of jeans – (Gok Wan eat your heart out)), socks and undies packed and toiletries included all in a cabin sized flight bag, that I already owned. RESULT..!

Best man and groom outside their wedding venue, London.Best Man and the Groom.Giving it full on 'Catalogue Men, Scotland Style' outside the Carlton Mitre Hotel in London.
Having arrived in London by plane, then getting on a few different buses, then a taxi to the Premier Inn I realised that a few miles on Google Maps can infact cost you a bloody fortune in transport. What I should have done was check to see if the Carlton Mitre Hotel had any rooms, pay the extra (which I recall was £60 per night more than I was paying)  as this would have been less hassle and cheaper than the solution I was going to be enduring over the next 3 days.

We’d arranged to have a meeting that afternoon (once I’d gotten myself sorted) to meet with the hotel’s conference manager, who gave us a run down of the room layout, the order of service and some nice spots for photography.

The room in which the whole thing was to happen was a  light and airy conservatory, which overlooked the Thames with a wooden patio area which took you to the waters edge. It didn’t look that impressive the night before if I’m honest, but we were promised we wouldn’t recognise the place come Saturday afternoon.

The local surroundings, restaurants and bars are amazing, you wouldn’t think you were in a bustling capital city, as after our meeting we headed off (the B&G and Best Man) for a quiet meal in a local Italian place (Pizza Express) following which we scouted some areas to get some ideas for the ‘location shots’ after the ceremony.

I’d decided that evening, that I was definitely going to be using the Bridge over the Thames, and Hampton Court Pier for the bridal party images. You could see even in the early evening light, that this place was a play ground for a photographer.

The Groom, best man (his brother) and I headed into town that evening, a sort of mini stag do if you will, as I hadn’t been able to fly over for the official stag do, though we agreed there was to be a firm ground rule, “No over doing it”. I had a wedding to shoot the following afternoon, and he too had a wedding to go to! I am after all, a professional. The evening was great, we didn’t over do it, though we did end up going in the opposite direction to where I was staying (more taxi money) and the taxi driver did take me to the other side of where I wanted to be because he wasn’t long in the job and put in the wrong hotel (£50 taxi rip off) in his GPS. How was I to know where the hell he was taking me? Ice Cream ManIce Cream Anyone?Can you believe the ice cream man even charged me for this?

The following morning (and another taxi ride) I arrived at the hotel where I set about with the the bridal preparations shots in the bridal suit, which had a beautiful four poster bed air conditioning, and a stunning view of the palace. I then  met the boys next door for a pre-wedding tipple (I had a soft drink by the way) before heading over to the hotel again in preparation for the wedding service.

The conference manager was right, the place looked spectacular! It was finished to perfection, the staff did an amazing job getting it ready, with a friendly and fun registrar who conducted the service, the wedding went without a hitch.

I did use the bridge for a couple of shots (The Bride loved the attention from passing motorists (who wouldn’t?)), the sun was shining brightly like it was a summer’s day, this was the end of October remember! We all couldn’t believe our luck in terms of the weather. I managed to sneak the couple into the grounds of the Palace to get a few pictures away from the main kiosk for paying, I needn’t have worried as the staff offered to let us in for some staged shots. It was a fantastic shoot.

What I’ve learned from this trip is this:

  • You should always ensure your staying at the SAME location as your B&G if your planning on staying out of town
  • Staying in a nearby location could be a false economy
  • There are no bags that will let you carry weekend luggage AND camera gear (if you know of one, then please comment)
  • Arriving the DAY (not night) before in a new location will always ensure your giving yourself time to scout out some great spots for bridal formal pictures
  • I was a guest at this wedding, but I remained professional
  • I even managed to get a local ice cream van involved in the day’s shoot..! (the sod even charged me for the ice creams – tight bugger).

If your interested in booking me for your wedding outside of Northern Ireland, please feel free to get in touch for a quote.

Wedding Bridal Party in LondonTaking the London High Street by stormThe bridal party return to the wedding venue with horns a blaze.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) blog carlton court darron derry hampton ireland london londonderry mark mitre northern photo photographer photography selfie weather wedding weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/7/carlton-mitre-hotel-hampton-court-london-wedding Wed, 15 Jul 2015 11:47:58 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 014 | Wedding Photographers & Building Instant Rapport https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/7/wedding-photographers-building-instant-rapport Wedding photography isn't for everybody, that's a simple fact. It takes a special kind of someone that can quickly break the ice and potentially become a rock for that bride to lean on during the day, and how you can do that really comes down to a number of factors:

  • Confidence

There just isn't any time to build up a relationship with a couple (usually the bride in the first instance) you have to hit the ground running, and I find the best way is to be completely confident (not arrogant) in who you are, and what you do. Shrinking violets will wilt under the pressure of the day, and if you haven't got your (pardon my French) 'shit together', then the bride isn't going to trust you or decisions and you're going to struggle from the get go.

I've had brides take panic attacks before walking down the aisle, get flustered by the commotion of activity around her making her anxious when realistically there wasn't anything to worry about, and having that calmness will de escalate the situation.

Emma arrives at her wedding venueEmma, the entrapped brideI wouldn't let her out of the car and she was really 'busting' to get free.

  • Rapport

Nobody is asking for you to be the main act for comedy night, but at least have some character about you! Being fun (and confident) will put everyone at ease. I personally always seek out that one weak link in the family armour. There's always one bridesmaid who may be just left of centre field when it comes to social norms, that quirky one. Or it could be that matriarchal mother who typically controls everyone in the house, but today she's going to have some random photographer taking over her home and telling her where to stand, put her hands, and to smile on command. I find that just being part of the family and being completely comfortable in their home is the best way.

Don't ever take them up on that offer of a cup of tea though. Not unless you have a bladder the size of a Space Hopper™.

It's easier taking that cup of tea in, than it is getting rid of it later. I find that using my client's bathroom on a day such as this a bit of a 'no no'. Not for any social reasons, just the pure practicalities of getting near it, as you'll have 3+ Bridesmaids all vying for the mirror, Dad trying to get a shower last minute, because he's it all worked out time wise, never once factoring in that I'll need him ready for photographs before I have to leave, sometimes a good hour before the service start, just to give me time to see the boys at the church.

So I always try to minimise my fluid intake during the day, and I try and get my Bridal Party to think along the same lines, as I've yet to see a public toilet in our local parks open during the summer months, which is just one of the many touristy failings we have.

  • The Guys

Don't forget that there are two people getting married this day! Me personally I ask that the guys meet me at the church at least 30 minutes before the service starts. I don't go to where the guys are getting ready typically, cause all you end up doing is dressing half of them, as in, tying their ties, putting cufflinks on and stuff their mother's would do if she was there. Plus it's just a bunch of guys having a fry, so really, what can you do with that?  At least when they're at the church you can have a bit of a laugh and carry on, just to get them in the mood.

Have your poses ready, at least a good few you know work with awkward fellas whose experience of photography for the most part is a drunken selfie. The most common and most popular at the classic 'Reservoir  Dogs' walk (all the better if they have come prepared with the shades, but it works just as well without them). You then have the Flying Ducks, the Ring Check, and my personal fave, the 'Runnaway Groom'. You'll see that a few times in my mix of images. 

Give them some quick tips too, like fingers only in the pockets, not the whole hand, catalogue classics and what you would expect of them during the day in terms of where they should be when it comes to standing next to the main man. This saves a whole load of time. 

Again, I always pick on one of the groomsmen, as they'll do something that catches my eye that just looks out of place, that odd hand placement when you ask them to put their hand on the Groom's shoulder, or that stance that makes them look like they're a bouncer or something. Be prepared to be mocked back, which is the highest form of group acceptance. If you can at least try and use their names, me, well, I'm different. There might be the 'Viking' in there with an impressive beard and hair cut, the eyebrow guy who takes his personal appreance a little too far, we all have them, but because I'm only with them the one day, I'll take it to edge each and every time. Here', I'm no George Clooney, but I am the guy with the big cameras and in control for that day.

I think what I'm trying to get at is that you have to be yourself plus 10. You have to be the bossy one, the one that takes control of everyone in such a way that it's fun. Always be respectful, but throwing in a little hint of cheeky. Never let anyone upstage the Bride & Groom, least of all you. I'm their best friend for the next 12 hours, I'll make sure she looks awesome at all times, is in the right place when she needs to be, stress free as much as possible, and I'll be the guy that keeps reminding the Groom that it's okay to kiss his new wife in public, because the photographer says so.

Most of all, enjoy yourself, keep smiling, no matter how tough the day gets, be professional.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) darron darron mark derry ireland londonderry mark northern northern ireland photo photographer photography selfie story wedding weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/7/wedding-photographers-building-instant-rapport Tue, 14 Jul 2015 11:08:14 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 013 | Anne and Paddy’s Big Day, Redcastle, County Donegal https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/7/anne-and-paddy-s-big-day-redcastle-county-donegal

There wasn’t long between meeting Paddy & Anne and their big day, it was only a matter of months. They both called out to my studio to discuss the sorts of pictures they wanted, and to discuss the album and design choice they had in mind. They were to have their wedding just over the border from where I’m now living, which was great, as it wasn’t too far away for change. Not that I mind, but it’s always nice to work on your doorstep from time to time (I class an hours drive on my doorstep these days, as I’m shooting weddings across the whole of the UK and Ireland now).

098-20110625098-20110625Images from the wedding of Anne & Paddy in Muff, County Donegal. Their reception was at the beautiful Redcastle Hotel, where the couple danced the night away.

I’d taken a scoot out the week before, just to familiarise myself with the area, as the chapel was on the same road as another chapel, and I really didn’t want to find I’d been taking pictures of the wrong couple on the day, and the road signs in County Donegal are ambiguous at the best of times, so I wanted to have a little peace of mind.

The morning of the service at Anne’s mothers was the usual foray of activity, bridesmaids running round looking for hairspray, lip gloss, shoes, and the usual order of things on any wedding morning. Anne however was cool, calm and collected. We’d done a few pictures of them in their Bridal dressing gowns, a few candid shots of them all getting ready before I set off for the Chapel to meet a nervous Paddy on a glorious sunny day. 070-20110625070-20110625Images from the wedding of Anne & Paddy in Muff, County Donegal. Their reception was at the beautiful Redcastle Hotel, where the couple danced the night away.

The service went smoothly, a few tears of emotion from the bride (dutifully caught on camera) and then a ‘High Five’ moment between Paddy & Anne after their vows which had their guests applauding (I nearly missed it, as it was completely unexpected, I stress the word ‘nearly’).

We then headed off to some gardens of a friend of theirs, where we did the bridal party pictures. The grounds were immaculate, with a man made lake of sorts, with a bridge spanning over the water, none of which could be seen from the front of the property, and a real surprise and delight to work in. We were all treated to copious amounts of tea, coffee, biscuits, cakes and sandwiches from our hosts.

Next stop, Redcastle Hotel, County Donegal. I’d been to the hotel a few weeks previous, and was given a tour of the complex by the wedding coordinator who showed me some of the usual spots that photographers used. This only spurs me on to look for something different, which I found behind the hotel. I’d told the drivers to follow me down past the service entrance where there was a jetty of sorts and to position the wedding car in reverse so I could use the Foyle Lough as a backdrop to the image. It was a bit windy, but I used the wind to my advantage, with a perfect picture of Anne in Paddy’s embrace, with the wind taking the dress to dramatic effect.

153-20110625153-20110625Images from the wedding of Anne & Paddy in Muff, County Donegal. Their reception was at the beautiful Redcastle Hotel, where the couple danced the night away.

Having got the shots I was after, we then headed off to the reception, where they had a singer belting out some tunes until they’d all be called for the reception dinner and speeches. I covered the event until the first few dances, which I think look great at the back of the wedding album, as they show the newly married couple dancing to ‘their song’ in such a way that it’s as if nobody else exists in the room… As it should be…

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) darron donegal ireland mark photographer photography redcastle wedding weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/7/anne-and-paddy-s-big-day-redcastle-county-donegal Thu, 09 Jul 2015 18:00:00 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 012 | Five Things to Ask the Vicar https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/7/weddings-5-things-to-ask-the-vicar

There are definitely a few things to think about when it comes to planning a wedding, of that there is no mistake. However what should you ask the vicar?

There's an order of things, and before any of this is even an issue, first you have to be asked to be someone's wife/husband, thats a given right? I've heard a story where a (potential) bride had booked a venue 5 years in advance, despite not even having a boyfriend! She was just so into the hotel and the grounds that she just had to book it. Talk about a pressure date when that that date draws near? Her sitting there with a wedding dress hanging in her hotel room, on in the vain hope you'll go with it the next day!

You think 'wedding', you have to think about the vicar, the priest, the minister, the registrar, the Elvis impersonator, you get the idea? So we'll quickly start with the main venue, because once that's sorted you can then move on to the reception, as nothing can start without getting that all important date sorted.

The Wedding Service Venue

As a professional photographer there are always going to be a few rules on how to conduct yourself, the Minister or Priest call them 'rules', me? I call them common sense 'things'. Things like, don't be wandering around the place getting in the way and distracting the wedding guests. No powerful flashes going off in everybody's eyes, turn the BEEP thing off when your camera is trying to focus (a pet hate of mine), and my most common request by the officiant, "don't take pictures over my shoulder". Yeah... There are some rookie photographers out there that think it's acceptable to get their shiny new camera lenses right into the middle of the action like they're trying to photograph the birth or something! St. Eugene's Cathedral in DerrySt. Eugene's Cathedral in Derry

Me personally, I keep a respectful distance throughout the whole ceremony, especially those tightly grouped venues that are really small and cramped. I work with two cameras with two very different lenses, one for the close ups, and one for the distance work, where I'm some yards away from the action but can still zoom right in as if I'm right next to you. It requires a steady hand, a full understanding of the settings and capabilities of your camera, but that's all second nature to me now.

As a bride however, you can make things run a little smoother for your photographer, by asking a few simple questions before hand.

  1. Can I have a photographer take pictures 'during' the service?
  2. Will the exchange of rings be easily seen by the photographer?
  3. Is it an alter table or side vestibule for the signing of the register?
  4. Can we come back in after the service for photographs (for 30 minutes max)?
  5. Can you tell the caretaker not to turn all the lights off for above mentioned photographs?

Some Ministers/Priests don't allow photographers to work during certain parts of the ceremony, and that's fine I respect that. Usually because of some idiot who has ruined it for everyone else most likely, but just so we're all on the same hymn sheet, it's nice to know in advance.

The Reception Venue

I've found that having somewhere that offers you a discount for your guests who might have to stay the night is always the right route to go. Remember, you're in control here, they want your business just as badly as the next hotel. Even if it's just saving your guests £10 on their booking, at least it's something right?

There's always a dedicated Event Manager at each hotel whose job it is to convince you to book with them. They'll have Wedding Fairs usually twice in the year so make sure you stick that in your calendar, that way you'll get an impression of how the room will be dressed for the happy occasion. Here's my list of things to consider when booking a venue:

  • When can the band get set up?

There's nothing worse than having to wait for your band/disco to get set up, especially if you've paid to have them from 8pm and they don't get access to the room until 8:15pm as you've overshot the clock during the dinner reception, because your Dad has decided to recite your entire life as he wasn't sure what to say during the speeches, so he's pretty much blurted out everything out from nappy training until the time you left the front door that morning. Speak to the band too, see if they would find it easier to come in during the day to get set up, and you'll promise to keep your sister's kids off the drum set in the corner.

  • Will you have your own bar area?

You don't want the town's local bench warmer wandering in, helping himself to the sweet cart you've paid a few hundred quid for now do you? Especially if he's just come in from a hard day's graft mucking out the cow sheds and he's a bit of a bar of soap, if you know what I mean? You know rightly one of your work mates will probably end up trying to snog him for a bet.

  • Do they have gardens for photographs?

To be honest, some hotels have spent a fortune on making sure their gardens are the place to come to for your formal photographs. Me as a photographer I think that's great, so long as Uncle Bob isn't constantly trying to get his own photography business off the ground by stealing all my setups and taking pictures over my shoulder. However there are those hotels who have gone for full tarmac and car park option, and maybe a small area for the smokers. 

If that's your venue's tack, then you're going to need a plan B: "Where do we go between the church and the hotel?"

Always speak to your photographer about these things when you come to meet him/her for the first time. Ask them about their local knowledge of the area, and if it's outside of both your local knowledge, why not take a Saturday stroll around the local parks. Always try and take a viewing on the same day of the week as your wedding, as you could find that Saturday's are crammed with kids and dog walkers. Better yet, ask the wedding co-ordinator about their experiences of the area. It's also a good idea to arrange to have your engagement commission in the same place you're planning on having your wedding images, as it gives everyone a chance to think about how things might go, and to come up with some new wonderful, yet realistic ideas.

As an experienced wedding photographer, I always suggest that the bride bring along some flat shoes to wear between locations, especially if you're planning on having some photographs done on grassy areas. Even some areas in woodland can be a little tough on the ankles if they're in new high heeled shoes. They make for some amazing images, but do consider your footwear requirements when planning on those picturesque surroundings. Also think about the time of year, if it's late autumn those woodlands can look a little grey and dull, and lets not forget wet and muddy.

Remember, the seasons tend not to behave in the way you think they should. April / May are fantastic months for the weather (usually) as spring seems to be dryer that the end of June and the beginning of July, but you can never tell. We'll talk about the weather and what to consider in my next blog, so be sure to subscribe on the links above, or contact me directly to be included in my email updates.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) chapel church darron flash ireland mark minister northern photographer photography priest rules venue weather wedding https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/7/weddings-5-things-to-ask-the-vicar Mon, 06 Jul 2015 11:30:00 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 011 | The Passage of Time https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/7/the-passage-of-time

The Passage of TimeThe Passage of TimeWhat lies ahead, nobody ever knows.

With photography you have the ability to pause time, a split second held for a hundred years. For me, I love to stop time with my loved ones. This is my son walking our latest addition to the family, 'Lucky' the pup. Lucky is only 4 months old, my son is now 14. 

My son won't be long starting out on his own adventures, as he explores everything the world has to offer, and this for me has mixed emotions. He'll soon 15, 16, 20, 30 and onwards it goes on, and I'll always feel I never take enough photos of him. We all hope to grow old, to have lived our dreams, to be loved and to have found love, to have stories to tell to our grandchildren in the future, and a picture helps us remember this moments just a little more clearly.

This picture is almost a metaphor for our lives together, there'll come a stretch in his own road where he must go it alone, and hopefully he'll be able to look back and see that I'll still be waiting on the far banks for him, should he ever feel the need to come back, but hopefully he'll find the courage to go on and cross those waters to the road on the other side.

As for the dog? Well, I just hope she learns to stop shitting everywhere!

Lucky the pup having just left the water.Lucky having just taken a quick dip!Colder than she first thought, as you can see by the look on her face. Find your special place, create your own memories, and take as many pictures as you can, because you'll regret it if you don't.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) child clouds dam dog passage pup relationship son Spelga time walk water youth https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/7/the-passage-of-time Sat, 04 Jul 2015 08:22:42 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 010 | The Portstewart Weather Bomb https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/7/the-portstewart-weather-bomb

One of the joys of modern technology these days is the mobile phone with a camera. They used to be called Camera Phones, but now they've gotten so clever with a multitude of functions, we call them Smartphones. Having a Smartphone has a couple of distinct advantages, one obviously is that you always have it with you, two they come with some pretty awesome cameras these days, and three you can edit that dull image with dramatic effect and then share it with the world.

As I did in the case of this image. 

Portstewart Weather BombPortstewart Weather BombThis image went viral around the world in 2014, Portstewart's Weather Bomb

The image went viral around the world in 2014. Portstewart too the brunt of a weather bomb, which saw this little seaside town host budding and professional photographers alike. I used to work in the town, and such would be there before any news crews got wind of the awesome power that nature would unleash upon its defenses. In this scene which I captured on my iPhone you see that the children's play park completely submerged in water, as the sea made it's way over the defensive barriers.

As part of my blogging I'll be sharing more iPhone pictures I've taken out and about on my travels, some images will also have been captured using my GoPro which you can usually find underneath my DJI Phantom Quadcopter (or drone).

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) area bomb children flood iphone park picture play Portstewart sea Sky steps storm tide wall weather winter https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/7/the-portstewart-weather-bomb Wed, 01 Jul 2015 01:48:08 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 009 | Selfies Have Their Place https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/6/selfies-have-their-place

We're all familiar with the term 'Selfie' right? The art of taking a picture of yourself, sometimes with or without friends and family members. These are great for social media sharing, letting everyone know how awesome your life is and stuff! But what about those special occasions where you want to be in the pictures, but in a way that doesn't include your arms either side of the camera?

This is where I come in!

I've been moving files around on the website to group 'Family Shoots' together to make it easier for my clients to access their pictures, but keep them in the relevant timeline, so they're not all jumbled up. The reason I've done this is because what typically happens is; a couple will book me for their wedding, we'll do some engagement shoots to get them used to having a big bald fella stalking them with two whacking great big cameras, teaching them how to relax and basically break the ice with me. So we've those done... Then obviously the wedding comes around, and I put all those in a different folder. Then you might have a child or a wedding anniversary come along, and have me for that, you know, for consistency... It's much either when you have your photographs taken with someone you know, don't you think?

Group images now available on your smartphone app.Grouping Images on my new Smartphone AppKeeps passwords secure, pictures in the right order, everything simple. Like today for example! A christening in West Belfast, with the couple whose wedding I did a little over 5 years ago. Baby Jessica had her first shoot with me at her Baptism, both into the Church and into Darron Mark Photography. The reason I was there was Dad had thought "hang-on, who'll take the pictures if we're all there?" All I can say to that is "Smart Dad" - A selfie just wouldn't have cut the mustard, unless you used one of those selfie sticks (yuk).

Having a photographer (me) at your special events means everything is taken care of, no blurry pictures of those special moments, Mum AND Dad in the picture, along with the little ones, everyone happy. Keep the selfies for the holiday snaps or nights out at the pub.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) darron mark dmfoto ireland northern ireland photographer photography selfie https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/6/selfies-have-their-place Sun, 14 Jun 2015 21:12:19 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 008 | Keeping 'IT' in the Family https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/6/keeping-it-in-the-family I was fortunate enough to be booked to do a wedding next year in Redcastle Hotel, in Moville. The bride is the sister of a bride whose wedding I did in 2009, who coincidentally I'd just uploaded her wedding images to this new site.

My previous site had some real storage issues, with the high image quality my cameras produce, the side affect was always going storage. They're huge files individually, and require a lot of resources to store them. However with this current website system I have the opportunity to upload everything I've ever taken a picture of, as there are no size restrictions at all! Which is great news for you, as you'll have a permanent place to return to, should you ever have a problem with your own files, such as a virus or a scratched DVD.

It's always been my goal to have families return to me for all their photography needs, which is why I'm expanding my service range to include, birthday parties, special occasions, 1st Communions and Confirmations, pregnancy shoots (hopefully with couples who have had me take their wedding pictures, or who will be in the future), any event essentially that requires someone to take a picture of everyone there, so nobody is left holding the camera for the group. Prices start from as little £60 (depending on distance), so contact me if you want to book me for that special occasion. I'm slowly creeping into video now too, which is worth thinking about.

Smartphone Web App on the iPhonePhoto Memories AppMy recently launched Smartphone app, allowing you to take your images everywhere.

Plus, when you book me over and over again, you'll have access to each Family Event gallery through my new 'Photo Moments' Smartphone App, so you can see them where ever you are, and share them with your friends through Facebook.

It's great for couples who perhaps don't have the budget for a full blown Italian Leather Album, and there's nothing wrong with! As a culture we're moving away from physical things to 'Digital' access. It even works on the iPad.

If you haven't received your invite to download your wedding album (there are a few instructions you have to follow - basically clicking an email twice) then please get in touch and I'll send you details.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) 1st Communion Confirmation darron Family ireland mark northern photo photographer Photography wedding https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2015/6/keeping-it-in-the-family Fri, 05 Jun 2015 15:11:52 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 007 | Digital Weddings and What Are They? https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2014/11/digital-weddings I'm now in possession of a snazzy iMac (well, I've had it for a while) and one of the striking features that this awesome piece of equipment has, is its lack of a CD/DVD tray. I can't load a disc into it, without having to go and buy an external one.

This got me to thinking... Do I need a disc drive anymore?

We've long forgotten the 3.5inch floppy [A: Drive] we're all (over a certain age) familiar with, and we got on fine without it, and now we're moving more away from CD's & DVD's and their ilk for a more downloadable marketplace, with apps, updates, iTune purchases, Netflix™ and Amazon™ Prime which are all doing away with the need for a physical disc.

Does this also apply to wedding albums? I honestly don't think so...

I still provide really high quality Italian albums, but what if you just wanted the pictures for your phone, or for your tablet, or even you internet TV to watch them on? Do you really then need to have a physical album? I would counter that some of you don't. Or am I wrong?

iPhoneWebAppiPhoneWebApp I have on my price list a 'Picture Only' option, this allows you to just book me as your photographer. When I say photographer, that means the creative director of your wedding day who also captures images. They say the photographer shouldn't be the centre of attention during the day, and I'm not, but I'm the guy that will put you at ease during the day and get the very best images of you both without you even realising it, even for those grooms that have no clue how to pose or even just stand without looking awkward. Just ask any of my clients, hell, just look at my pictures. They're a steady mix of posed (but look natural) and actual natural images taken during the day.

My system here on this website allows you to build your own picture books if you want them, in a style of your choosing and a design that you have full control over. You knew I had that right? Well, I do...

With the digital package (or pictures only, heck, I'm gonna change it to digital now, as it makes more sense) you download your images on to your laptop, you can download individual ones on to your devices too, as I'll send you a password that allows you that feature. The more traditional amongst you can also order really high quality prints from the site and have them delivered to your door, there's a full range of products on there too, from mugs to cards to keep as momentoes of your big day.

To ask about about this package or anything else you have seen on my website, please feel free to get in touch.


(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) darron derry digital ireland londonderry mark northern photographer wedding https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2014/11/digital-weddings Thu, 06 Nov 2014 13:34:12 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 006 | New Website Launched https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2013/9/new-site I’m a much better photographer than writer so hang in there if I make too many mistakes. Actually, I think I’m an even better comedienne than photographer. The reason I say this is because I just seem to have a knack for making people smile and look happy. Which comes in REAL handy as a photographer. Getting your subject to look as natural as possible can be difficult if you don’t get them to loosen up and show their natural side.


This year I'm going to be a little more adventurous, "sod it I say, sure if they don't work nobody will ever know"... So for those who have booked me or have yet to book me, hold on to your veil, we'll be having a blast these next few years...

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) darron ireland mark northern photo photographer photography wedding weddings https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2013/9/new-site Tue, 10 Sep 2013 16:09:52 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 005 | When Having a Spare Car Might Come In Handy https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2013/3/when-having-a-spare-car-might-come-in-handy ARCHIVE: To say the day went well would be well… A little bit of a lie. I’d scouted the couples venue for the wedding on Google Maps, simple enough, I even managed to find the bride’s parent’s house too, so I knew exactly where I had to be. Roughly 2 hours drive down from my Greysteel base here in County Londonderry heading for the Orchard County of Armagh. Cameras were all charged, flash batteries too, memory cards wiped and gear all centrally assembled so that I didn’t have to panic thinking I might leave something behind, as there was no way I would be able to just nip back and get the bag of memory cards, or that other lens that I knew I’d need. Everything was meticulously planned out.

The drive down was uneventful, I had my iPhone fully loaded with podcasts chosen from various stations, mainly BBC Radio 4, I have to admit I’m a ways off the Radio 1 demographic and I prefer to listen to intellectual conversations than that biennial music, unless it’s a bit of Bowie, or Blondie, but I’ve just recently updated my hardware from PC to Mac, and have yet to fully transport my music on to the new device, so I’m stuck with podcasts for now.

Anyway… I get to the brides house a few hours before the 1pm service start. All is calm in the house, the mother of the bride is in the final stages of having her hair done, all make-up was done hours ago, and an offer of tea was gratefully accepted. I don’t usually partake in offers of refreshments as I’m thinking how on earth will I get rid of the post body processing of same during what’s going to be a busy day. But, knowing I had plenty of time I thought why not… I took the time then to return to my (normally) trusty motor to retrieve my gear with a view to taking the album background images of the flowers/cards/jewellery and the like before I got down to the serious business of capturing the day in full. When I actually got back to my van I noticed a trickling pool of fluid running down hill towards the nearest drain. Power steering fluid…

I knew it was this because only the week before it was blowing this stuff out of the filler reservoir and had been booked in for a check up at the mechanics this coming Tuesday. I’d bought replacement fluid just incase because I knew I had a wedding to shoot, but this was much worse. This was just pouring out of the pipes behind the pump belt. Things had gotten a lot worse.

Darron Mark Photography BusMy Photography BusSadly sold now, but a great bus when it wasn't leaking.

I phoned my trusty RAC pals to get things sorted, I had 2 hours before I really had to worry, they would certainly be here in time, they’ve always said that somebody would be here to look at it within 2 hours in the past. Surely they wouldn’t let me down on this occasion either. Having spent 10 minutes on hold due to a high number of calls being experienced at this time – a common mantra for these sorts of organisations I was finally put through. A patrol vehicle had been tasked and I should anticipate a call from the patrol man and that I shouldn’t worry. Happy days… I didn’t need to sort out a hire car just yet. I got the call. It was a recovery only contractor, not someone coming to fix the car. Not good. I promptly rang back and again stressed the situation I was in, wedding photographer, doing a wedding, no transport stuck at the brides house! Basically as it turns out, because I’d have to wait until the recovery driver had had a chance to review the situation (me, not being able to go anywhere) I wouldn’t be able to have a hire car delivered because it was going to be after 12pm on a Saturday and they don’t deliver after that time. Not a response I was hoping for obviously. Stressed to the max I did my best to still capture the morning preparations  the flower girls, the bridal party and still maintain a conversation with the RAC muppets who were sending me round and round in circles. I was about to flex my forearms and move myself off to the chapel with a busted van when the recovery guy turned up and organised it’s return to Greysteel. I was going to have to catch a lift with the brother of the bride, or start paying out for taxis. Luckily for me, there was a spare car in the family, and the Bride’s father was kind enough to lend it to me for the weekend, which meant I was able to cover the day and get home.

Not how I wanted my first wedding of the 2013 season to kick off! I have a spare of just about everything, except a spare vehicle, which wouldn’t be much use if I was 85 miles away from home when it decided to break down. Though I might consider getting a moped now and have that sit in the back of the van, or have it written in my contract that the bride’s family must have a back up car on standby just incase.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) darron ireland mark northern photographer photography wedding https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2013/3/when-having-a-spare-car-might-come-in-handy Mon, 18 Mar 2013 14:19:00 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 004 | 90 Page Wedding Albums – The Truth https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2013/3/90-page-wedding-albums-the-truth Okay okay okay, before I get started on this ‘rant’ I know that we all had to start somewhere along the road of being professional wedding photographers, but what most of us ‘genuine’ wedding professionals did was, we trained hard, we read everything, we practised loads, and where ever possible we asked to shadow what were to be our peers.

I have learned allot over the years by watching my fellow wedding photography peers do their stuff, both on YouTube (from those who have the time to produce films), being second shooter, and working alongside some very creative types, as I worked in my capacity as a standby videographer.

I’ve also played it forward, allowing those who are interested in this side of the business shadow me. Always after the event I’ve summarised our time by passing on one mantra:

Don’t ever get start out by undercutting!

This has consequences that will ripple through your new business for years to come. But despite this there is the ever rising flood of new ‘wanna-be-get-rich-wedding-togs’ appearing online, but not online in the sense that they’re publishing low quality cheap websites, oh no… They’re showing up on Facebook, and get this, they don’t even have their own ‘Pages’, they’re posting on these bloody ‘Buy & Sell’ community group ones offering 90 page wedding albums for £160!

£160 wouldn’t get me a 15 page album! This is where there’s an obvious tell tale sign too, we don’t call a page a page in the way you would a book, oh no. A page has two sides you see, so our albums typically start from 15 pages, which is 30 sides. Now if I was to create a 90 sided album which would be 45 pages I would be near bankrupted if I offered it for £160, and you would have an album you’d struggle to lift, plus the farmers in Italy would run out of cattle in no time due to all the leather needed to bind the damn thing.

So what does an 90 pages album look like? Simple, you can make one yourself on PhotoBox.com – They cost £99.

Not a bad price, but just how many good quality wedding pictures are you going to have in your album from a photographer who is possibly only making £60 from a weeks worth of work. Sorry… I mean a days worth of work at your actual wedding. Us proper wedding photographers spend over a week on your wedding.

“Over a week? Sure your only there a day!” – Ah, you're only there a day, but how long did it take you to prepare for that day? Well the same is for us, but only in reverse. We would have scouted the area, checked out some likely after service locations for bridal formals and done a little research as to whats on offer. Then after the wedding (which is typically the only time you’ll actually see us doing any work) we have to set about going through all our memory cards, picking out the winners and ditching the losers. Then going through it all again to see if we can pick any more losers and then rethink some of those winners and maybe ditch those (they’re could be in excess of a 1,000 images to choose from here). Once that’s done, we’re on to the editing, just a rough first draft in my case, as I want you to see your images as soon as possible. I’ve gotten quite skilled in this process by the way, then there’s the renaming, grading and formatting in to JPEG from our RAW files – Ask your 90 page album photographer what a RAW file is!

Again, I can only speak as to what I do. I’d set about uploading those into a secure password protected area on my website which I pay a high monthly fee for, so that you can use such features as a LightBox to pick your own winners.

Having received notification that you’ve picked your own personal winners, I’ll then go through them again to see if you maybe hadn’t noticed something special about a picture that I might be able to use in your album design. You’d be surprised at how many of my clients miss amazing shots due to the overwhelming nature of having to pick a selection from those I’ve made available.

“Why only a selection?” – Well, because if you have too many of the same thing, the album looks boring, or if you simply have too many the designs look just too busy and each image doesn’t have an opportunity to shine in it’s own right.

Needless to say, we spend allot of time with your pictures, looking at them, inspecting them for flaws like colour correction, sharpness, exposure, and don’t get me started on the plug sockets, exit signs over the doors, or fire extinguishers all over the show. These all have to be removed too. I tend to this when I’m actually designing your wedding album. Yes, we actually design your album. If you haven’t played with Photobox yet, you would see that it designs it all by itself.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking what PhotoBox do, quiet the contrary, I use them myself for some products, but I wouldn’t use them for a wedding album, because I want you to have a wedding album, not a picture book

“So what’s your point?” – My point is this! A 90 page album costs £99. If a photographer is only charging in the region of £160 for a wedding, what does that tell you? Do you honestly think there was any point in buying a dress if all your pictures of it are from a low quality, possibly fuzzy, unimaginative picture printed on a thick paper in a cardboard book? Since your at it, skip the reception and get a drive through. It’s at that level, and if I’m honest, if this is where the industry is going then count me out.

Oh by the way – You could only wish to get the pictures that are in that picture above if your only paying £160, unlike us proper wedding photographers, we would insist upon ourselves to produce those pictures and you would have a contract that says so!

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) darron derry greysteel ireland limavady londonderry mark northern photographer photography wedding https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2013/3/90-page-wedding-albums-the-truth Tue, 05 Mar 2013 14:17:00 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 003 | First Wedding of 2012 – Kees Hotel, Stranorlar, County Donegal https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2012/2/first-wedding-of-2012-kees-hotel-stranorlar-county-donegal Managed to get to use the tiny ‘Nifty Fifty’ (Canon 50mm f1.8) on the morning of this shoot, it’s been sitting in my bag for about 3 years with little or no use at all, and I really wanted to try a bit of prime lens shooting on this wedding. It gave me some great DOF and the light coming in was amazing.

I’d been scanning the web to find some inspiration over the winter months, and I have to say, there are some amazing things going on in the world of wedding photography. This has inspired me to change the business model, hence this totally focused wedding photography website. The DMFoto site will still remain the ‘Warehouse’ for the wedding images, but this site will take the lead from a ‘Front of House’ stand point. Anyway… Getting back to my B&G.

The service was held at St. Joseph’s Chapel in Galliagh, County Londonderry. I’ve not done a wedding in there before, though I have to say, the layout is fantastic for photography. Wide open spaces between the pews means you can move around without causing any distraction. The priest was great, no restrictions at all other than the usual “don’t become the focus of attention” ~ goes without saying really.

No balcony, which is a shame, I’m a sucker for the balcony angle, but plenty of light. The grounds however are a little bland, and not somewhere I would use for any external family style gatherings. This wasn’t going to be a problem, as we were all heading straight to Ballybofey to the Kees Hotel, with a quick stop off at a local forest walk for the location part of the shoot.

A February wedding is always going to pose some problems, the soft ground, the lack of foliage on the trees, puddles and mud to dodge, but we had a great time despite all this. There’s a little bridge which goes over a dry ditch, which I used for some angled bridal party shots, then a couple on the river bank before heading back to the waiting Chrysler C300 Limos.

Off to The Kees Hotel, where Paul the Duty Manager took charge and made sure that everything ran like clock work. The staff at the hotel we’re very helpful, and there is a dedicated space for the guests to remain in the same area during the whole of the evening. The Videographer and I headed to the restaurant to get a bite to eat, giving me a chance to get to work on the evenings ‘Picture Show’ which is part of the Evening Coverage package. If the food the guests were served was anything like what we were served in the restaurant, then everyone should have been impressed, as we couldn’t find fault with it.

All in all, for the first wedding of 2012, I think I have to say it was without drama, apart from me forgetting to sync the times on the Canon 40D and 5D. That won’t happen again, as it’s causing me no end of fiddling now I’m editing!

Bring on the next wedding I say…

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) Ballybofey County Donegal darron ireland Kees Hotel mark photographer photography Stranorlar wedding https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2012/2/first-wedding-of-2012-kees-hotel-stranorlar-county-donegal Sat, 25 Feb 2012 14:39:00 GMT
#WeddingPhotography | Blog 002 | Monkey Photographers https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2011/12/monkey-photographers The term ‘Cowboy Builder’ is something we’ve come to recognise as a term for someone who possibly isn’t the best qualified to carry out work on your home, or who might infact just take your money and run, but what term could we use for the photography industry charlatan?

I’ve a suggestion:  ‘Monkey Photographer’ 

Since we’re talking in terms, what about the one “You pay peanuts, you should expect monkeys”..? I think this fits in very well with the professional wedding photography industry. There are a lot of ‘bargain’ wedding photographers out there, knocking out cheap wedding books (I refuse to call them albums, due in part to the fact that they’re not anywhere close to being considered an album) passing themselves off as pro’s, this isn’t snobbery by the way, nor me being bitchy, this is defence of the profession that I’m passionate about. However I’m sick and tired of those wedding photographers who come down from the trees at the weekend, with their one body/lens and all the posing techniques of a Mafia execution squad (line ’em up and shoot) and who charge less than what it takes to actually run my business on a per wedding basis.

I’ve heard what’s been said by these Monkey’s:

“Sure they charge the earth some of these photographers”

“I can do it for a fraction of the cost”

“I don’t see why they think they can charge so much for a wedding”

I understand where they’re coming from, and it’s simple really. Ignorance.

Not having any overheads in their mind means that what they charge is pure profit (aside from the £24.99 photobook). I mean seriously, I’ve heard of monkeys charging £200 for wedding photography services! What galls me most is that these monkeys over time will one day think about going into this profession full time, and this is where it bites them in the arse. It’s only then do they realise that the cost of actually being a photographer is far more expensive than they might have first thought. I’d like to think that some of them take out insurance (a legal requirement), then there’s advertising, marketing (they’re different), hosting, new equipment, equipment upkeep, samples, printing, suppliers, designing, fuel, more insurances, more hosting, more new equipment, contracts, accountants, bookkeepers, accounting software, invoicing, direct debits, etc etc. The list goes on and on.

£200 a wedding isn’t even going to scratch the surface. I’ve nothing against people wanting to become wedding photographers, I really don’t. The more the merrier. What I don’t like is people with little or no experience seeing this industry as a fast and easy way to make a few extra pounds at the weekend. If you want to do that, go do a car boot sale or something else instead. Because if you come into this industry competing on price, then you’ll never ever be able to make a living from it. It’s simply not possible, and if your not doing that, then you can’t focus on your craft and become an inspirational photographer, who produces timeless classics, wedding after wedding.

I love being a wedding photographer, I love the pleasure it gives my customers from seeing my work, I love how on the most amazing day of their lives, I get to share every moment of it with them. Making sure I don’t miss a thing, so that they have a record of it for their rest of their family to see.

So, if your a Monkey reading this, do one of two things. Shadow a professional and learn from him/her. Work out what everything is going to cost you if you decide to go into this sector, charge appropriately and don’t ever compete on price. Or… Fill your boot, take a stall at the car boot sale next Sunday, and leave the photography to the photographers.

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) cowboy builders darron ireland mark monkey photographers northern photographer photography wedding https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2011/12/monkey-photographers Sat, 17 Dec 2011 14:53:00 GMT
#DailyLife | Blog 001 | Location Location Location - Has camera, can travel https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2011/12/location-location-location---has-camera-can-travel I’ve been getting a whiff of rumours that because of my relocation to the North West, I now don’t cover the South East from where I originally started the business. I would just like to clarify this for the record: I cover the WHOLE of the UK & Ireland.

Granted, there are some associated costs involved when covering areas outside of Northern Ireland, but even with that, I feel I’m a very competitively priced photographer. As far as covering Northern Ireland is concerned, I liken it to the Pizza Delivery theory. The only service that you need to worry about when it comes to location is take-away delivery food. Nobody wants to get a stone cold pizza that took 2 hours to deliver do they?

Which is my point, I’m not delivering pizza…

I’m travelling to your wedding venue (or home if you want home coverage) and I’m never late. I’m probably one of the most punctual people I know. It drives my girlfriend bonkers, but when it comes to professionalism, it’s a must.

I take bookings from across the globe, I’m currently in the process of delivering a wedding album to Australia for a lovely couple who were originally from the County of Armagh and who now live on the other side of the planet. I’ve covered weddings in London and Glasgow, I very nearly secured weddings in Spain & Greece, but sadly they didn’t come to fruition, which is a shame, because I’d got my sun factor zero and budgie smugglers sorted.

The point is, when choosing a wedding service provider your only focus should be the quality of the work, not where it’s coming from, and so far, the feedback I have received has been all positive. So if you're thinking of booking a wedding photographer for your wedding, then look further afield with confidence, because I’ve a tank full of diesel and very loud alarm clock.

For further information on my wedding packages, please follow the link: Photography Prices

(Darron Mark Photography | DMfotoNI) darron ireland mark northern photographer photography wedding https://www.dmfotoni.com/blog/2011/12/location-location-location---has-camera-can-travel Thu, 01 Dec 2011 14:53:00 GMT