Come with me to The Faroe Islands!

Wahoooo!  I’m finally going to make it happen. I’m going to the Faroe Islands.

And, the best part is I’m going to bring you along with me.  Or, at least a few of you.

I’ve decided to run an exclusive photography workshop in The Faroe Islands.  And, you might be thinking: “But, BvS, you haven’t ever been!”  But, that’s the whole point.  I think, that’s the fun of it.

You see, being a travel photographer, one of the most important aspects of the job is location scouting and shooting new places.  I think that this trip will give participants the absolute best idea of what life is like as a travel photographer.  It’ll give an idea of how we shoot, where we shoot, why we shoot certain places, and then other things like editing, cataloging, and and pitching clients.

Essentially, there is no better way for you to learn, than to be out in the field with a travel photographer as they are working.

And, the fact that this is an exclusive trip (there will only be 3 spaces open), will make this a fantastic learning environment.  You’ll have my ear as an instructor the whole time. I’ll be there right beside you as we shoot, edit, and explore together.

If you’re interested in joining the trip, click here for the information.

And, if you have no idea what the Faroe Islands are, I’ve dropped a couple images from my good buddy Jeff Bartlett below.

Faroe Islands

Photo by: Jeff Bartlett @photojbartlett

Faroe Islands

Photo by: Jeff Bartlett @photojbartlett

Faroe Islands

Photo by: Jeff Bartlett @photojbartlett

Can’t Come?

If you can’t come to this workshop, but you want information on when the next workshop will be running, fill out the form below.

I run 4 types of trips: Photo Tours, Adventure Trips, Clinics, and these Exclusive Trips.  I’ve got sold out trips coming in Patagonia and Namibia. And there are still spots coming on the upcoming Philippines adventure trip.

Then, over 2018-2019 there will be adventure trips in Nepal and potentially Mongolia.  There will be clinics in Italy and Montenegro. And there will be photo tours in Iceland and Patagonia.  Also, look for an exclusive trip to The Lofoton Islands.

As for the Vlog?

My photography channel is still rolling out fun content almost daily.  I’m in the US Southwest right now; I’ve got about a month left in the US. Then, it’s off to Wales, The Philippines, and Japan. So, there should be some amazing stuff happening soon!




My Video Project in Scotland

Look at me, guys, I’m writing a blog!

Of course, that blog is me writing about video – the reason I haven’t been posting here much at all lately.  Yes, my YouTube photography channel has started to consume my life a little bit.  But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t think about this blog from time to time.  In fact, at least once a day I think “I really need to blog something soon”.  And today, look at me go!

This point of this blog is to steer you to this awesome campaign that I did in Scotland in partnership with Visit Scotland and Visit Britain.

It was a crazy video assignment that had me shooting a bunch of different locations over a week.  I was whipping all over Scotland shooting video, photos, and having an awesome time.

As I was doing that, there were a number of other bloggers and YouTubers all over the UK doing the same thing.  Then, the footage we all shot got mashed together into 24 brilliant videos from The UK. Essentially, showing travellers all the things you can do in the UK each and every hour of the day.  Check their Facebook page here to see the project.

On my end of the project, I had 8 “moments” to cover.  Here they are.

Sunrise at Glencoe

Rather than organizing my “moments” in the order I did them, I’m going to go chronologically – according to the day.  That’s how it’s shown on the Visit Britain page, so I think it makes sense here.

This was actually my favourite moment. A photographer like me – who loves the outdoors – getting up to Glencoe for sunrise? Bliss.  Sadly, the weather was terrible.  But, I still made the most of it and had an amazing morning.

Glencoe

See the “Harry Potter” Train Pass

This video trip had some serious running around. And, there were times I was way behind schedule trying to catch up.  The “Harry Potter” train passes over this viaduct a couple times a day. I was behind and not sure if I was going to be able to get to it. So, I was literally running along the trail to get to the viewpoint.  Up there, there was a crowd.  I asked out loud when it was due to pass, and everyone started shouting “NOW!”

I was lucky to get my tripod up in time. Luckier even to get a shot.

Harry Potter Train

A Wildlife Seafari in Oban

Out in Oban, I had an early morning seafari which was great.  Honestly, we didn’t see much wildlife. There were some birds, a couple deer, but nothing much beyond that.  However, we did get some great views of the Scottish coastline which is just unreal.  This was a brilliant experience.

Oban, Scotland

Spa Treatment at The Isle of Eriska

Fact about me: I hate massages.  I find them incredibly uncomfortable, and I think they hurt. I don’t get them.  But, if I’m going to have to get a massage somewhere, The Isle of Eriska is an amazing place to have it done.  This exclusive little island was just stunning.  And, to be honest, I think I would have much rather been wandering around taking pictures than relaxing in the spa.

Visit the Glengoyne Distillery

While I might not like massages, I like whiskey. So, this was a trip I was really looking forward to. Sadly, I was also driving, so I hate to limit myself to one of the good stuff before carrying on.

I will say, though, if you come to Scotland and you’re looking for a whiskey tour, the one at Glengoyne is brilliant. They might, however, need to set up an Inn next door for those who decide to partake a bit too much as I was tempted to do.

Fly into Barra Island Beach Airport

I showed up at the airport in Glasgow only to run into a fellow photographer named Chris Marr who works at the airport. I told him I was flying to some place called “Barra Island”. He jumped a bit and said “Barra is meant to be brilliant, the plane lands on the beach!”. I had no idea. But, sure enough, the tiny 10 passenger plane landed on the beach of Barra Island.
Barra Island

Sadly, I only had about 15 minutes to explore as the “moment” was the flight to the island and the landing on the beach. But, I still raced to the other side of the island to check it out. I would have loved to spend a day or two there.

See The Kelpies at Night

There’s a theme developing, isn’t there? Once again, I had no idea what to expect when I looked at my itinerary and saw “The Kelpies”. I was just as surprised to rock up to them and find massive illuminated horses stretching into the Scottish night.

There were actually also a lot of photographers around when I was there, which is always cool. I had just a really short time there before I had to move on, though.
The Kelpies

Cocktails at Ashton Lane

This was actually a fairly funny moment. I was sent to Ashton Lane to film me sampling some of the nightlife in Glasgow. The only issue was that I was sent on a Monday night. So, Ashton Lane, which is famous for being the university spot to go grab a beer or cocktail, was basically empty. I guess, though, it made for some safer filming situations.

Before grabbing that drink, I headed up to the Necropolis in Glasgow for a sunset. It was epic.
Glasgow

Live Music at King Tut’s

Again, I headed out for more nightlight in Glasgow on a Monday night. This time, I was sent to a place called King Tut’s which is famous for having the best live music in Glasgow. And even though the crowds were beyond sparse, the music was just incredible. I really enjoyed it. This is totally a spot I would spend time at if I lived in the city.

What’s Next

As I mentioned in the intro to this blog, I’m focusing my energy on video these days. But, I’m still likely going to be posting things here from time to time – right now I’m aiming for every 2 weeks. I’ve got some fun trips coming up. I’m in the US Southwest right now, and then I’ll be in Wales, The Philippines, and Japan over the next couple months. Stay tuned on YouTube and my Instagram.

*** This blog was put together on a paid assignment with Visit Scotland and Visit Britain. However, all the thoughts are my own and in no way influenced or generated by the previously mentioned partners. ***




Exertis expand its wireless portfolio with latest innovation from Airangel

Airangel’s Captivnet platform now available from Exertis

Warrington: 12th January 2018 – Airangel has signed an agreement with Exertis, leading distributor of technology products for the B2B, mobile, and retail markets. The agreement will see the addition of Captivnet, Airangel’s latest cloud-based, guest WiFi solution, which includes location based services, advanced customer engagement tools, and smart building capabilities.

In addition, the Captivnet solution provides businesses with enterprise guest WiFi that sits on top any wireless network. Guests log into the secure system using a variety of options including one-click login, social media, email, or via integrations with PMS, CRM, or loyalty databases. The suite of reports available provide the venue operator with valuable demographic and engagement information about visitors via the management dashboard. This allows the business to understand who is visiting and using their network, how long they are online, as well as their age, gender and any other relevant information collected during the login process. Captivnet provides engagement tools to promote relevant offers, rewarding guests, or to simply keep them updated to what is going on in and around the venue.

Captivnet sets itself aside from its competitors in the hotel space with its home-from-home WiFi solution that can dynamically set up individual personal networks in and hotel room, zone, or meeting space and enables guests to have their own unique SSID and WPA2 key to connect just like at home. After first connection the guest’s devices will instantly connect as soon as they check in on any repeat visit.

Exertis’ expertise in wireless networking, knowledge of the UK channel and ability to help recruit, train and nurture its resellers will enable a significant new strand of business for those partners who want to add value to their customers with a need for next generation venue and value based WiFi. Exertis’ focus on key industry verticals, including hospitality, healthcare and education mirror those or Airangel, further demonstrating the benefit of the two organisations working together.

Gareth Bray, Exertis Head of Commercial for Enterprise said, “Demand for guest WiFi solutions, which go beyond simple guest internet access, is on the rise and businesses are looking for new and innovative ways to use WiFi to gain a competitive advantage and generate revenues. Captivnet represents a great opportunity for resellers to implement wireless networks that can provide a tangible return on their customers’ investment by creating revenue streams through monetising the wireless access and gathering vital data from visitors that can be used in future marketing campaigns.”

Dean Wilkinson, Airangel CEO added “Exertis is ideally placed to extend Captivnet’s market penetration with their broad spread of retail and reseller customers. In addition, they have a dedicated team of wireless experts within their enterprise division that are used to helping their customers deploy Wi-Fi networks in a range of vertical markets. Furthermore, Captivnet has been designed specifically for reseller partners and offers a range of ROI opportunities in a single solution which the reseller can take to their customer to drive wireless sales.”

END

About Airangel
Airangel has provided public and guest WiFi solutions for over a decade, working with large hospitality brands such as The Ritz, Movenpick Hotels and Resorts, Malmaison, Generator Hostels, IHG, Coast & Country Hotels, and many more.

Airangel’s aim is to provide safe and secure WiFi that is easy to deploy, simple to manage, and gets guests online quickly with the minimum amount of effort. Everything we do is driven by a passion for innovation and to help our customers to improve their guest’s experience, increase visitor satisfaction and loyalty, and to generate additional revenue.

Contact:
Matt Smith, Marketing Director.
01925 611 061
matt.smith@airangel.com

Aareon Opens New Office Suite In Southampton Science Park

Aareon UK (www.aareon.co.uk) has opened a new office suite, in Southampton Science Park. The new location, 5 Benham Campus in Chilworth, is now one of three Aareon UK offices. The move cements Aareon UK’s operational merger with Science Park success story 1st Touch, the established leader in the supply of mobile and digital workforce software for the UK’s social housing, property services and local government sectors.

Peter Birkett, CEO of The University of Southampton Science Park said: “1st Touch originally came to the Innovation Centre at the Science Park in 2008. Since then it has been extremely pleasing to witness the company’s significant growth through to the recent merger with Aareon UK. This move to significantly larger offices both reflects the company’s success to date and investment in the future. We are delighted to be able to support the company’s ongoing development through the provision of high quality accommodation here in Hampshire.”

Aareon's New Office

Aareon’s New Office

5 Benham Campus, which was opened by the Rt. Hon. Sir Vince Cable MP, is the latest addition to the Science Park’s successful portfolio of high-quality accommodation for science and technology businesses. With 20,000 square feet of flexible office space, leading technologies, secure round-the-clock access, coffee shop, rooftop terrace and breakout areas, the building is also home to Grant Thornton and the Tekever Group.

Commenting on the new office suite Nigel Rees, Managing Director of Aareon UK said: “This move is a significant milestone in our company’s ongoing development. We have had a partnership with Southampton Science Park since 2008 during which time we have grown as an organisation.

“Over this period, mobile and digital workforce solutions have become an integral part of a social housing provider’s requirements. Aareon has recognised these needs and delivered market leading enterprise–wide solutions to meet them. The recent operational merger with 1st Touch has enabled us to build on this, with solutions ranging from core mobile technology, customer self-service apps and portals through to full digitalisation. As a result, we see this important move as a significant investment in taking our business to the next level; both by creating a great staff environment and also giving us extra, more agile space in which to welcome customers and business partners.”

ends

Notes to Editors

About Southampton Science Park: The University of Southampton Science Park provides high quality office and laboratory space to a vibrant and high-tech entrepreneurial business community. Tenants on the Park enjoy a close link to the University of Southampton with access to some of the UK’s leading scientific expertise. www.science-park.co.uk Twitter: @USSPark

About Aareon (www.aareon.com)
Aareon is the leading European Software Company providing IT solutions to the Social Housing Sector. With many years of industry specific knowledge, our position as a profitable, growing and innovative organisation enables us to set the standard for business processes in the housing sector both today and into the future.

The Aareon Product Suite provides housing providers with an enterprise-wide solution.

Aareon QL Housing, Aareon QL Financials, Aareon QL CRM, Aareon QL Asset Management, Aareon QL Personnel & Payroll, Aareon 1st Touch Mobile, Aareon 360, Aareon QL Reporting Service, Aareon QL Task Centre Alerts & EDRM.

For further information on 1st Touch / Aareon please contact:
Emma Page
Aareon UK
02476 323723
Emma.Page@Aareon.com
www.aareon.co.uk

or

Leigh Richards
The Right Image PR & Marketing Group
07758 372527
leigh.richards@therightimage.co.uk
www.therightimage.co.uk

New ‘super six’ for Ready Camp

10th January – London UK. Ready Camp, the fast-growing glamping brand from The Camping and Caravanning Club, has added six new locations for 2018.

The ‘super six’ new sites bring the total of Ready Camp locations to 44 in the UK with a total of more than 200 well-equipped, pre-pitched safari-style tents.

Ready Camp Tent Interior

Ready Camp Tent Interior

Ready Camp was first launched in 2015 to attract new people to the pastime while also appealing to those who like spending a night under canvas but with a few more home comforts. Last year Ready Camp revenue broke through the £1 million barrier for the first time.

Bob Hill, Camping and Caravanning Club Sites Director, said: “Ready Camp continues to go from strength-to-strength, having been launched three years ago at just 17 locations. For the 2018 season we’ll see our Ready Camp tents at six new locations.”

The new Ready Camp tents will be pitched at Club Sites in:

  • Bude, Cornwall
  • Lynton, Devon
  • Clent Hills, West Midlands
  • California Cross, Devon
  • Crowden, Derbyshire
  • Normans Bay, East Sussex

Bob added: “The ‘super six’ sites added to this year’s line-up are found near town, country, hills, moors and coastal locations, are ideal spots for glampers to get out and enjoy our great British countryside.

“According to the travel association ABTA, the staycation is set to continue in the year ahead with two-thirds of people planning a UK break*. Our Ready Camp tents are an ideal way for holidaymakers to support that trend, which in turn supports both the local and broader UK economies.

“We aim to make the prospect of a glamping break away more accessible than ever, with Ready Camp sites located within an hour’s drive of each of the UK’s top ten biggest cities.”

Each safari-style tent comes well-equipped. Campers need only bring their bedding, towels and a sense of adventure. For parents of little ones, there is also a triple bunk bed and a single stow away bed. On-site facilities are of a high standard, and benefit from regular investment; washrooms are within walking distance of each tent and make the prospect of midnight trips to the loo with little ones a lot less scary.

Since its launch, Ready Camp has been recognised in several industry awards programmes. In its first year, the website www.readycamp.co.uk won the coveted ‘Best Travel & Holidays’ accolade at the eCommerce Awards for Excellence. Shortlisted in the Best UK Accommodation Group category in the 2016 Family Traveller Awards, Ready Camp went on to win the award ‘Best Holiday Rental for Families’ in 2017.

For more information on Ready Camp visit www.readycamp.co.uk.

*ABTA Travel Trends Report 2018.

-Ends-

For more information or images contact:
Simon McGrath, Senior Communications Manager, on 024 7647 5094, or simon.mcgrath@campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk

Andrew Robson, PR and Communications Executive, on 024 7647 5291, or andrew.robson@campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk

Notes for Editors

  1. Ready Camp is owned and run by The Camping and Caravanning Club, which is 117-years-old and is the largest and oldest Club in the world for all forms of camping. It has more than 100 award-winning sites throughout the UK and, through a partnership with the Forestry Commission, now runs and manages a further 15 Camping in the Forest touring sites.
  2. Ready Camp is yours to explore and is accessible to anyone; all you need to bring is your own bedding, towels and tea towel. All other equipment and utensils are provided. To view a list of equipment included in each Ready Camp tent, please visit: www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk/Readycamp/faqs/.
  3. The nearest Ready Camp site from the city centres and outlying areas:
    o London to Theobald’s Park, 59 mins
    o Manchester to Hayfield, 50 mins
    o Birmingham/Wolverhampton to Cannock Chase, 35 mins
    o Leeds/Bradford to Sherriff Hutton, 50 mins
    o Glasgow to Milarrochy Bay, 53 mins
    o Southampton/Portsmouth to Veryan: 40 mins
    o Liverpool to Bala: 50 miles
    o Newcastle to Barnard Castle, 54mins
    o Nottingham to Conkers: 45 mins
    o Sheffield to Hayfield: 58 mins
  4. Bookings are for a minimum of three nights. Three-night stays commence on a Friday (Friday-Monday), four-night stays commence on a Monday (Monday-Friday), seven-night stays can start on a Monday, Friday or Saturday, ten-night stays commence on a Friday, while 14-night stays can start on a Monday, Friday or Saturday. Tents sleep up to six, to include a maximum of four adults.
  5. Prices start from just £27 per tent, per night, in low season.
  6. Get involved: for the latest news, information and inspiration from Ready Camp, visit www.facebook.com/readycampuk, www.twitter.com/readycampuk or check out our Instagram page www.instagram.com/readycampuk.

ENDS

Top 10 Guest Photos 2017

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Hello and Happy New Year! There are certain things that you come to depend on, events that happen consistently and predictably. We like to think our annual photography competition is one of these events! Every year the team here at Active HQ gather around a big screen in the staff lunch area to let the competition entry images soak in – we let ourselves be inspired. Fresh from our own adventures over the festive season, it’s easy to let the mind wander… “what it must be like to gaze up at the Paine Massif in Patagonia, or how nice it would be to escape to Siberia Valley and walk across the early morning due accompanied only by the waking birds”.

Once the lucky winner is chosen, one of our team get the enviable task of letting them know they’ve just won a 2 for 1 deal on any of our Active Adventures – that’s here in New Zealand, Nepal, Europe and throughout South America. If you’re coming on an adventure with us in 2018 be sure to take your camera, because you may be the next winner!

It’s usually hard to pick a #1, but we have to say that this year there was a clear winner (read on below to find out who that was…) in fact their photos were SO good, we had a hard time trying to decide which ones to leave out of our top 10!

See the 2013 Top 10 // See the 2014 Top 10 // See the 2015 Top 10 // See the 2016 Top 10

Here’s our top 10 for 2017, in no particular order:

1. Terri Donati, Ultimate South Island Adventure ‘Rimu‘ trip

Terri Donati, Ultimate South Island Adventure 'Rimu' trip
The view from Braemar Station, over Lake Pukaki towards Aoraki Mt Cook in the background. Ahhh… What a classic! This is a view that we never tire of, which is why it’s part of our perennial favourite ‘Rimu’ trip, and a location that always surpasses our guests’ expectations.

2. Patrick Nguyen, Patagonia Hiking Adventure ‘Condor‘ trip

Patrick Nguyen, Patagonia Hiking Adventure 'Condor' trip
The ‘Condor’ trip in Southern Patagonia really does lend itself to stunning photography… For a short season between November and March the weather settles enough to allow intrepid hikers, like Patrick, the chance to measure themselves against glaciers, towering peaks and rolling tundra.

3. WINNER! Stan Jacobson, Annapurna Sanctuary Trek ‘AST‘ trip

WINNER! Stan Jacobson, Annapurna Sanctuary Trek 'AST' trip
“I pointed at my camera. Then I pointed at her and when I raised my eyebrows beckoning if it was OK to take a photo, she broke into this wonderful smile!”. Stan has been a finalist in our annual photography competition in 2014 and again in 2016. All of his photos are truly amazing. Congratulations Stan! Well deserved.

4. Dianne Czarnecki, Ultimate Peru Adventure ‘Jaguar‘ trip

Dianne Czarnecki, Ultimate Peru Adventure 'Jaguar' trip
Diane has captured the sense of elation at reaching Machu Picchu – a great achievement in anyone’s eyes. She and her fellow group members hiked the Classic Inca Trail, a 4 day hike reaching an altitude of 12,100 ft, as part of their 14-day ‘Jaguar’ trip. This photo has great colour and has already been a popular choice with the team at Active.

5. Jack Taylor, Mont Blanc Circuit ‘Tour du Mont Blanc‘ trip

Jack Taylor, Mont Blanc Circuit 'Tour du Mont Blanc' trip
You may have heard of Jack before, he’s been a guest on a few Active Adventures trips, along with various members of his family. His latest adventure was the circumnavigation of Mont Blanc, on which he carried a video camera the whole time and produced an excellent film. Somehow, he also managed to take some incredible photos, like this one of Aiguille du midi.

6. Danny Rigg, Ultimate North Island Adventure ‘Kauri‘ trip

Danny Rigg, Ultimate North Island Adventure 'Kauri' trip
Wide brimmed hats, singlets and shorts pretty much sums up the Far North of New Zealand. This is a quintessential shot of our ‘Kauri’ group hiking towards Cape Brett on a glorious summer day.

7. Pirko Hamer, Galapagos Land and Sea Adventure ‘Tortuga‘ trip

Pirko Hamer, Galapagos Land and Sea Adventure 'Tortuga' trip
It comes as no surprise that the ‘Tortuga’ trip nearly always features in the annual photo competition, with a wildlife shot. This photo of a heron by Pirko is composed beautifully with the dark blue horizon, the luscious green and the stark grey of the bird and rocks.

8. Steven Edwards, Everest Base Camp Trek ‘EBC‘ trip

Steven Edwards, Everest Base Camp Trek 'EBC' trip
“Gone for the season” was the caption on this photo by Steven, who hiked to Everest Base Camp with us in November. And it’s reassuring to hear from Steven, that this trek was not only “successful, but enjoyable too”! A great photo and a great bucket list achievement – well done!

9. Lindsay Busch, Essence of the South Island ‘Tui‘ trip

Lindsay Busch, Essence of the South Island 'Tui' trip
Who knows what this early riser is pondering, as they gingerly step through the tussocks that are being warmed by the early morning sun. The Siberia Valley Wilderness experience offers a once in a lifetime opportunity, to truly escape the confines of development. It’s often the slightly unusual photographs like this one, that catch our eye.

10. Jenny Wada, Ultimate Dolomites Adventure ‘Dolomiti‘ trip

Jenny Wada, Ultimate Dolomites Adventure 'Dolomiti' trip
What a perspective! Jenny must have had her heart in her mouth as she peered down to the valley far below. Although completely safe, and anchored to the rock, Via Ferrata is not for the faint-hearted. In this case, in Jenny’s words it was “The Best Day Ever!”
5 Personality Types Who Love to Trek in South America

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Thrive Homes’ App Delivers 1st Touch Self-Service To Transform Customer Engagement

Hertfordshire-based housing association Thrive Homes has launched an innovative app that provides a new way for customers to interact with the organisation via Apple Store or Google Play. The myThrive self-service app uses 1st Touch digital software from Aareon UK (www.aareon.co.uk) to offer a range of online customer self-service requests 24/7 via smartphones and tablets. The app is an important part of Thrive’s digital approach to customer engagement.

The myThrive app enables customers to:

  • view their account balance
  • book repairs
  • make a payment
  • report issues and upload photos, eg. graffiti or fly-tipping
  • update cases eg. anti-social behaviour
  • and so much more.

Whilst Thrive Homes is retaining all its existing customer contact options, the app will ultimately reduce the number of customer phone calls to its contact centre. This achieves value for money and greater operational flexibility whilst providing an additional and highly positive engagement experience for customers.

Thrive Homes' Van

Thrive Homes’ Van

The app integrates with Thrive’s Aareon QL CRM system, so that all online enquiries made update on the customers’ records. This ensures that, at any time, residents can always view up-to-date transactions on their account and repairs history.

Commenting on the new app, Jo Barrett, Operations Director, Thrive Homes, said: “The drive to enable more self-service options fits with our focus on efficient business practice, responding to customers’ feedback by providing access so they can self-serve 24/7 at a time and in a way that suits them. So the app is both a win for Thrive and a win for our customers. As such, it is a central element of our transformational digital strategy and we are actively supporting and encouraging our customers to go online and sign up. Our initial soft launch has gone very smoothly and the first hundred or so customers are already comfortable with using it. Ultimately, our aim is to have the majority of customer interaction through the app.

“We decided to move straight to an app, rather than starting with an upgrade of our website, as we knew most of our digital customers now use a mobile device to access our webpages. In deciding which system to choose, we already had a working relationship with Aareon and we were aware that 1st Touch is a market leader in both mobile and self-service technology, so we welcomed the opportunity to work with them. They were especially helpful in the design stage, for example we asked them to prioritise the menu choices in line with the most common requests received by our contact centre. The slick, comprehensive menu approach follows throughout the app, ensuring it is both intuitive and easy to use.”

Thrive is initially promoting the app to customers through its contact centre scripting, on-hold messaging and via their website (www.thrivehomes.org.uk). The app is also being promoted through customers’ annual rent statement and visually with a vibrant graphic on the back of Thrive’s vans and staff workwear. New customers are automatically introduced to the app as part of their ‘on boarding’ and it is expected that the majority will adopt this digital channel to transact with Thrive. Measurable data from Google/Apple analytics will continue to be reviewed by Thrive as take-up of the app gathers momentum.

Nigel Rees, Managing Director of Aareon UK, welcomed Jo Barrett’s comments, adding: “Thrive is a widely respected housing association with a first-rate reputation for putting its customers first and taking an innovative approach to business. The myThrive app is an excellent reflection of this and we are extremely impressed by Thrive’s highly professional approach and attention to detail in developing the app to support both customers and colleagues. Supporting digital customers’ access fully is a key element of Thrive’s digital strategy and we are delighted that they have chosen Aareon’s 1st Touch software to run their online self-service app which will drive both customer service and efficiency.”

Thrive Homes and Aareon would welcome the opportunity to share their experiences with other professionals.

-Ends-

About Thrive Homes:
Thrive Homes is a housing association which owns and manages over 4,600 rented and leasehold properties in Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire. Thrive exists to provide good quality affordable homes and services enabling the development of communities where people enjoy living.

We do this by working with customers and partners to deliver our strategic objectives:

  • Resilient with a strong financial base
  • Responsive to customer needs
  • Providing good quality homes
  • A good place to work.

Thrive Homes’ values inform the way it works – it is: open, respectful, excellent and reliable.

Visit www.thrivehomes.org.uk to find out more.

About Aareon (www.aareon.com)
Aareon is the leading European Software Company providing IT solutions to the Social Housing Sector. With many years of industry specific knowledge, our position as a profitable, growing and innovative organisation enables us to set the standard for business processes in the housing sector both today and into the future.

The Aareon Product Suite provides housing providers with an enterprise-wide solution.

Aareon QL Housing, Aareon QL Financials, Aareon QL CRM, Aareon QL Asset Management, Aareon QL Personnel & Payroll, Aareon 1st Touch Mobile, Aareon 360, Aareon QL Reporting Service, Aareon QL Task Centre Alerts & EDRM.

For further information on 1st Touch / Aareon please contact:
Emma Page
Aareon UK
02476 323723
Emma.Page@Aareon.com
www.aareon.co.uk

or

Leigh Richards
The Right Image PR & Marketing Group
07758 372527
leigh.richards@therightimage.co.uk
www.therightimage.co.uk

For information about Thrive Homes contact:
Sarah@wordassociation.co.uk
07850 765321 or 01455 614 333

15 Pieces of Photographic Evidence of Why You Should Come to Namibia

I’m ecstatic to announce that I’ll be running a photography tour in Namibia October 2018.  And, even more exciting, this will be my first “exclusive” trip.  What does that mean? It means that there will only be 4 participants brought along.  More hands-on learning, more time shooting, and more time living the life of a travel photographer in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

If you’re interested in joining the trip to Namibia. All the information is here.

And, if you were wondering if Namibia is a worthy photography destination, I’ve got all the photo evidence right here.

I’ve been to Namibia twice now, and both trips were far too short.  But, that didn’t stop me from filling memory cards like crazy.  It is one of the most photogenic countries on the planet.  And, here’s the photographic proof – in case you needed it.

The Dunes

Sossusvlei is home to the most photogenic sand dunes in the world. And, I think I can say that having been to big deserts on nearly all the continents.  Moreover, the dunes in Namibia are fairly accessible, especially as a photographer.

Ever See a Cheetah?

There are actually quite a few cheetahs in Namibia. It’s one of the best places in the world to see them. The big open landscapes are perfect for their speed. Incredible animals.

Ever Watch a Pack of Hyenas on the Prowl?

Prior to Namibia, I had never seen a hyena. But, over in the eastern part of Etosha National Park I followed a pack of hyenas for a couple kilometers. It was an incredible experience to watch them on the move.

Deadvlei

Maybe the most photogenic place in all of Africa is a dried up salt flat in Sossusvlei known as Deadvlei. It is just unreal. I’ve been here 3 times, and I feel like the compositions have changed each time. It’s almost like this old trees have moved.

Ever Watched a Rhino from 100 meters away?

It’s not easy finding Rhinos in some of the parks of Southern Africa. However, each of the 2 times I’ve been to Etosha National Park I’ve seen rhinos at this same watering hole. On our trip, we’ll be staying at this lodge and can go down to watch the wildlife at the watering hole at night under the black light.

The Best Roads in the World

Honestly, Namibia has some of the best roads in the world. And, I don’t mean that in terms of quality infrastructure but rather in how open they are. Sometimes, it feels like you have this country, and the roads, all to yourself.

Want to Spot a Leopard?

Of all the animals in Namibia, the leopard might be the hardest to stop. However, on a one day stop over in Etosha last year I managed to see this beautiful animal next to the road. Just beautiful!

Best Night Sky in the World

Due to the dry desert nature of Namibia, you get some of the most impressive skies in the world. And, you don’t really need to be a pro to shoot them. I shot this image of the Milky Way over our lodge in Sossusvlei years ago before I really knew how to shoot night sky imagery.

Wan’t to Watch a Lion Hunt?”

One of the harshest things I ever saw was at the waterhole in Halali, Namibia at night. A group of lions had just taken down a giraffe, and decided that wasn’t enough. They set off to attack a rhino. Some of us looking on were nervous for the rhino, others mumbled “no, no, no!”. It’s hard to see the hunt, but it’s nature. Luckily, for the rhino and our hearts, the rhino managed to escape.

Namibian Light

There’s something about the light in Namibia. It’s as if it’s always special. There’s a harshness to it during the day, but in the morning it’s just brilliant and soft. And, it seems to touch everything.

Baby Elephants!

Etosha National Park is one of the best places in Africa to see elephants. They are all over the place, and with little foliage they are wide open and right there. Moreover, it seems like every time I’m in Namibia, there are as many baby elephants as adults. And, oh my, are they cute!

Did I Mention the Stars?

I camped the last time I was in Namibia – because the lodged in the parks are extremely expensive. However, on this trip we’ll be in all the beautiful lodges. The plus to camping, though, is sleeping under skies like this. Fortunately for our group, the same stars hang right above the lodges too.

Hidden Gems

While the dunes at Sossusvlei get all the buzz, Sesriem Canyon just a couple kilometers away is also very cool. It’s a slot canyon carved by an ancient river. At sunrise, you have it all to yourself.

Did I Mention the Dunes?

Yeah, the dunes are amazing. I don’t think I need to say more. You will likely fill a dozen memory cards with dune photos alone.

Namibia Desert Sunsets

Regardless of where I go, the desert seems to have the best sunsets. Namibia is no different. The sky just seems to explode in a dozen different colours every evening. And, maybe the best part is that sunset signals the cool evening air and a reprieve from the heat of daytime in the desert.

Want to Join?

If you want to join this trip to Namibia. Be sure to head over to the info page. There is limited space on this one, and I’m expecting to sell it out very quickly. So, hop on over here.

Can’t Go To Namibia?

If you can’t join me in Namibia in October 2018 but want to join another trip (here or somewhere else)? Sign up below for emails announcing the trip. Note that newsletter subscribers get the trip info and the opportunity to book before anyone else.




Self-Service Success Drives New Functionality For Halton Housing’s Customer App

Halton Housing has significantly extended the functionality of its customer self-service app following its highly successful launch.

Halton Housing is a registered not for profit housing association, managing 7,000 homes in the Cheshire towns of Widnes and Runcorn. As part of its Digital First strategy, the organisation has worked closely with Aareon (www.aareon.co.uk), using its 1st Touch software to develop the self-service customer app along with a website portal and mobile working for its workforce.

Halton Housing's Self-Service App

Halton Housing’s Self-Service App

Since the initial launch, the Self-Service App has proved to be extremely popular with customers. Two thirds of all Halton Housing’s customers now access services digitally, with 99.5% of rent balance enquiries now being made via digital services. 39% of repair requests and 67% of anti- social behaviour reports are also now made online. Combined, this has reduced incoming customer phone calls by 71%. Overall Halton Housing’s aim is to get 90% of customer led transactions online by 2018; they are already running at over 80%, a figure which is continually increasing.

Initially, the App delivered the ability for customers to view details of their tenancy / rent balance as well as the ability to request a repair or arranging a gas engineer visit and a number of other functions. However, after 18 months of successfully using the system, Halton Housing has now introduced a wealth of new customer-focussed features. With the new version of the App, customers can:

  • Manage and pay rent by direct debit and request a rent refund.
  • Update their contact details.
  • Report repairs and arrange a convenient date and time for an operative to visit.
  • Keep up to date with Halton’s ‘ News’ and find out more about Universal Credit, Property Pool Plus, Homeswapper and Movemaker.
  • Access the organisation’s ‘LifeKit’ – an acclaimed digital toolkit which empowers customers to take control of their finances and to live a little better.
  • Reporting a local problem such as Fly tipping and graffiti.
  • Use the app to make the process of moving a lot smoother, with information on how to ‘Give Notice’ etc.

As the customers use the App, all the information entered is automatically updated in Halton’s Aareon QL Housing Management and Document Management systems. This enables management to produce insightful usage reports and to monitor service levels at a glance.

The App has generated a number of major benefits for Halton. These include significantly reduced costs and improved efficiencies along with much greater flexibility and diversity. The savings made have been redirected into other areas of the organisation to where customers need more intensive support.

Commenting on the success of the App, Halton Housing’s Director of ICT, Business Improvement & Communications Carole Galsworthy said, “Our free customer App is the ‘perfect portable companion’ to customers as it has allowed them a quick and easy way to do more online at a time that is convenient to them and is available 24/7/365.

“The initial success of the self-service customer App gave us the confidence to develop and evolve the breadth of services we now offer online. By listening closely to our customer’s needs, we have added this extra functionality, thereby adding even more benefits for customers. The 1st Touch system has allowed us to do this easily and professionally and we are already looking to add further services in the future.”

Nigel Rees Managing Director of Aareon UK is impressed by how well 1st Touch technology has been used, noting; “By enhancing their self-service customer interface, Halton Housing are delivering on their primary objective to ‘Improve People’s Lives’. And by using the 1st Touch App technology to achieve this, they have combined both top flight customer-care and outstanding technical creativity.

“The figures speak for themselves, highlighting just how popular the App has been since its launch. Halton Housing has built on this success by adding additional functionality which should also prove popular. The benefits include: significantly reduced costs, greater efficiency and significantly enhanced customer care. We look forward to hearing about how the new functionality is received.”

An animation of the new customer App can be viewed here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LK9cErbW51k&t=3s

ends

About Halton Housing

  • Halton Housing is a housing association that owns and manages 7,000 homes across the North West. Halton Housing was formed in December, 2005 following the transfer of homes from Halton Borough Council.
  • Halton Housing is a not-for-profit housing association and is a Registered Provider with the Homes and Communities Agency.
  • Halton Housing is a member of PlaceShapers, a national alliance of almost 90 community focused housing associations. We own and manage more than half a million homes and provide services to more than one million people. Find out more at www.placeshapers.org

About Aareon UK
Aareon UK Ltd is the leading supplier of Housing Management, Mobile and Digital Software solutions for social housing providers in the UK. Over 10 million units of housing stock are managed on Aareon software throughout Europe. In the UK the organisation has three offices: a head office in Kenilworth, Warwickshire; and 2 operational offices one in Swansea and the other in Southampton. Product offerings include; Aareon QL Housing Management software – 1st Touch Mobile – Aareon 360 Tenant Portal – Customer Self-Service Apps – www.aareon.co.uk / twitter: @AareonUKLtd

For further information please contact:
Emma Page
Aareon UK
02476 323723
Emma.Page@Aareon.com
www.aareon.co.uk

Or

Leigh Richards
The Right Image PR & Marketing Group
07758 372527
leigh.richards@therightimage.co.uk
www.therightimage.co.uk

Or

Victoria Graham
Communications Officer
Halton Housing
victoria.graham@haltonhousing.org
www.haltonhousing.org

Mistakes (Nearly) Every Photographer Has Made

I posted a vlog over on my YouTube channel this week discussing a series of beginner photography mistakes.  But, when I was editing I realized there are dozens of other ones that I could have probably listed.  Then, I started to think that there are probably mistakes that even non-beginner photographers have made. I know that long after I might be considered a beginner I still occasionally make these mistakes.

So, I thought I’d list some of these out in blog format.  Also, I’ll use my imagery from the UK as examples. I just realized that I’ve never posted a blog post with my photos from the past couple months, so it’s fitting.

Leave Things Behind

I’m almost guilty of this more now that I was when I was new to shooting. And it’s more of a laziness thing than it is a rookie mistake.  But, how many times have you gone out shooting only to realize you forgot your battery, tripod, or a certain lens?

The Solution: Set up your camera before you leave. Try to take a picture in your room. If it works, pack it all up.  You’ll realize quickly if you’ve forgotten something.  If you’re leaving on an early shoot, pack up everything before you go to bed and it’ll be ready for you to just grab and leave first thing in the morning.

Brighton Beach

Brighton Beach, England

Leave too Late

Sunset is at 6pm, and you rock up at 530pm.  It makes sense, but it just doesn’t give you enough time to look for a composition, and can leave you a little bit rushed to get a cool photo.  And, there are times that sunset or sunrise isn’t the best time to shoot, sometimes it’s just before or after.  Another example is markets.  Let’s say a market opens at 8am. The best time to shoot it might actually be 730am when all the shop owners are setting up.

The Solution: Add an extra 30 minutes to whatever time you think you need to get to a location.

The Lake District, England

The Lake District, England – Other solution: camp at your location.

No Location Scouting

So many new photographers just rock up to a location and think they can get the best images. However, you need to location scout. Not only is that going to make it easier to find compositions in the right light, but it’s going to lead to a less rushed shoot.

The Solution: In the middle of the day, when the light is terrible, go look at locations and eye-ball some shots.

London, England

London, England – I spotted this location on a location scout a week earlier

Not Moving

Jeff Bartlett and I noticed this on our photography workshop in Iceland recently, a lot of newer photographers just don’t move enough.  They stand and shoot the same image, composition, and exposure, over and over hoping for different results.  You have to move. You have to learn to let go of certain compositions and try different ones too.

The Solution: Move. It’s that simple. Get the shot, and move.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland – I found this location moving around waiting for light. Move, people!

Not Resetting the Camera to 0

I think everyone has this happen to them. And, usually it’s quite harmless.  You were out shooting long exposures, and you had the camera set to 30 seconds and a 2 second timer. Then, the next day you’re out shooting wildlife or something and you miss your first shot because of the timer or long exposure. And, while that’s harmless, there are cases where it’s not. For example, you were shooting small JPEGs for a time lapse and you forget to switch back to RAW. Or, you were shooting iso3200 at night, and you forget to switch it back to iso100 for the day and you get a series of grainy images.  It’s not usually that big of a deal, but it also can be a disaster.

The Solution: At the end of every shoot when you put the gear back in the bag set your camera settings back to 0. IE: ISO100, aperture priority mode, auto white balance, and no timer.

Glencoe, Scotland

Glencoe, Scotland

Too Shy

A lot of beginner photographers are just too shy with their gear. They seem worried about being in people’s way, or standing out. But, if you want to be a good photographer, you need to get in a zone and just get your shots.  When shooting portraits, you need to be courageous. And, when shooting landscapes you need to be bold enough to stand in the right spot for your shot.

The Solution: Suck it up.

Not Close Enough

I can’t remember who gave the advice, but I once heard that if you’re not happy with your images of a subject, you’re probably not close enough.  Whether it’s portraits or landscapes, sometimes you’ve got to get closer to your subject so that your images “interact” better with the subject.

The Solution: If you’re images feel like they’re lacking power – especially your portraits – put on a wide lens and get up in someone’s face (respectfully).

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Isle of Skye, Scotland – Sometimes you’ve got to get up in your subject’s grill.

No Clear Subject

This is by far the biggest beginner photography mistake.  All images need not only a subject, but multiple layers. Lots of new photographers will just go out and shoot a sunset. And while the sky is amazing, there’s nothing there to make it special. There’s no depth. You need to have 3 layers to a photo: an anchor, a middle (the subject, usually), and a background.  And, the subject of the photo should be obvious to the viewer.

The Solution: Find an anchor (a foreground element) to hold down the image and build the composition from there. Then, you’ll always at least have the anchor as a potential subject.

Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

Over-editing

I’ve seen so many beginner photographers edit their first photos, and it’s always messy. And, I was the same when I started, too.  But, it’s not just beginners.  I see a “gap” in people’s photography skill curve. It seems that has they progress they hit a wall and then they try to push forward by over-editing, or moving towards HDR. Editing should be a tool to enhance a photo, not to make it look fake. Be careful, don’t over-edit.

The Solution: If you’re editing in Lightroom, never take a slider past +/- 50.

Under-editing

While over-editing is maybe the biggest mistake photographers make, almost as many don’t edit enough.  Camera’s can’t see the same colour and dynamic range as our eyes can see, so most photos do need a little bit of correction or editing to bring them back to what we see. Editing, when done right, can bring an image from flat and boring, to punchy and exciting.

The Solution: Shoot in RAW, that way everything needs to be edited. Don’t overdo it, but be sure you make adjustments as they are necessary.

London, England

London, England

Everything Eye-Level

Another big photography mistake is shooting everything at eye-level.  And, when images are shot at eye-level, a lot of them can look very much just like a snapshot, rather than a made photo.  Our goal as photographers isn’t to take photos, but rather to make photographs.  And often the difference between a snapshot and a great photo is changing the perspective a bit.

The Solution: If your image looks too basic, try to change the height of the camera significantly. Change the perspective.

Hartland Quay, Devon, England

Hartland Quay, Devon, England – I got way low to the water to get this perspective.

Lack of Sharpness

Honestly, if you can’t shoot sharp images you can’t sell them.  Sharpness isn’t a skill as much as it is a factor of laziness.  You need stability, you need the right shutter speed, and you need the right f-stop.  If your images aren’t sharp, at least from a professional photography standpoint, you might as well chuck them.

The Solution: Tripods aren’t always the solution, but for maximum sharpness use a tripod, an intervalometer, lock the mirror up, turn off the image stabilization on your tripod, and shoot in the sweet spot of your lens (apertures 5.6-11 are sharpest). If you’re hand holding, always try to shoot a shutter speed of 1 / double whatever your focal length is. For example, if you’re shooting at 100mm, shoot 1/200 seconds minimum. If you’re shooting 16mm, shoot at least 1/30 seconds.

Durdle Door, Dorset, England

Durdle Door, Dorset, England

Shooting in Manual

What’s more important: getting the shot, or being able to brag about shooting in manual? There is a tendency among photographers, especially those who have just advanced from beginners to more advanced, to brag about shooting in manual.  Newsflash: most pros don’t.  Personally, when I’m on a walk around I shoot everything in aperture priority. I even set my ISO to Auto with a minimum shutter speed.  In fact, the only time I really shoot in Manual is in extremely tough lighting conditions or when I’m on a tripod.

Don’t be a snob, or stubborn.  There’s no real NEED to shoot in Manual. And, shooting in Manual doesn’t make you a better photographer, it just makes you a more hard-headed one.

The Solution: Aperture priority mode tends to be the best mode to shoot in. And, if you need to, you can always use exposure compensation in situations where you need it.

York, England

York, England

Not Chimping

Chimping = looking at your LCD after you’ve taken a photo.  The term came up during the transition period between film and digital in which film shooters joked that people shooting digital had the attention span of a chimpanzee and needed to constantly look at their LCD after every picture.  Since then, kind of like shooting manual, it’s become almost taboo to Chimp.  But, it’s ridiculous. Why not use the technology you have to get the best shot? Chimp away people!

Or, at least chimp every now and then to make sure you’re doing OK. I think if you chimp every image, you can miss shots. But, you should be chimping every now and then to make sure you’re on the right track.

Again, what’s worse: shooting all your images wrong because you were too stubborn to look at the LCD, or occasionally looking down and getting great images?

The Solution: I always chimp my first couple images to make sure they’re OK. Then, I can concentrate on the shot at hand to capture the moment. I’ll chimp every now and then after that to make sure everything’s still alright. Don’t over-chimp, but do it. And, if someone gives you a hard time for chimping, send them my way.

White Cliffs of Dover, Kent, England

White Cliffs of Dover, Kent, England – I had to chimp a couple times to get this tricky exposure right.

Quitting Too Soon

I think pro photographers are more guilty of this than beginners. We make a lot of assumptions. We think that the light is done, or the moment is done, or that the light isn’t going to get great, so we call it quits too soon.  However, in my experience, some of my best photos are about 20 minutes after I decided I wanted to go home.  Stick it out.

The Solution: As soon as you decide it’s time to call it a day, set your clock for 30 minutes. Spend that time location scouting and exploring for future shoots. When that 30 minutes is up, then go home.

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Isle of Skye, Scotland – With a bunch of rain, we almost called it quits on this shoot just before it cleared and got epic!

They Shoot with the Eye, Not the Camera

The camera sees different than the human eye. And, each lens manipulates that even more. Moreover, the eye doesn’t see long exposure, it sees a smaller range of light, and it sees depth of field different. So, you have to start shooting with the camera, not your eyes. If that makes sense.

The Solution: It’s a practice thing. But, before you take a picture, try to imagine how your camera might make the scene look.

Everything Wide

It’s easy as a new photographer to see the world and want to capture it all in one frame. As such, so many new photographers try to get too much of the scene into a photo. They shoot everything wide. As a result, the images are a bit messy and are too busy. Moreover, shooting wide can also make the big world look smaller.

The Solution: Change Focal Lengths. If you’re somewhere like a market. Walk around once with a wide angle, then switch on a telephoto lens. Same with at a landscape. Shoot it wide, then switch to a telephoto and test out the differences.

Dorset, England

Dorset, England – An iconic location shot with a long lens.

No Story

The constant battle in photography is “what story does this image tell”. And so often, a beautiful photo might not have a story. Early in our photography days, it’s easy for us to play with things like long exposure, or low depth of field and make things look visually pleasing, and that’s a part of the growth stage of photography.  But, what’s the point if there’s no story?

The Solution: Before taking a photo, ask yourself “what’s story does this image tell?”

London, England

London, England – Model: @alajode

Don’t Check the Edges

When I do photo critiques on my facebook group, the biggest thing I notice is that the edges of the frame have something wrong.  It’s so easy for us to focus on the center of the frame and totally forget the edges.  But, if the edges are messy, or something is cut off, it can be totally distracting to the viewer.

The Solution: Slow down when shooting and inspect the edges from corner to corner of your frame before shooting.

The Lake District, England

The Lake District, England

Shoot the Wrong Light

The other thing in my facebook group that I see all the time is amazing locations shot at the wrong time of day.  Almost without exception, the hours directly before, after, and during sunrise and sunset are the best time for photography.  And shooting those hours alone will make your images exponentially better.

The Solution: Don’t be lazy, get up for sunrise.

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Bonus! Photographer’s Add Their Mistakes

I wanted to open this post up. So, I’m accepting photographer contributions.  Below are various photographer’s talking about their own mistakes over the years. Add yours to the comment section.

“Back when I was new, I never shot in RAW. When I go back to old images, I can’t showcase the vision I had in my head when I took them, and missed out on a lot of great shots.” – Jim Cheney, UncoveringPA.com

“My biggest problem has been not so much forgetting to pack gear as just deciding I won’t take something in order to save space and pack light. I am still kicking myself for every time I have traveled without a tripod because I didn’t want to mess with carrying one around. So many photos could have been much better if I would have had one.” – Justin Stone

“The biggest mistake I made (still do but making a conscious effort to avoid) is simply not going out shooting enough. The best way to learn is to do!” – Richard Coombs

What’s Next?

I’m in Thailand at the moment. And, at the end of the month I’ll round up the trip with some of my favourite images.  As usual, you can follow along in real time over on my YouTube photography channel.