The Eye Of The Storm

Monday 23rd August 2021 – I’ve not updated this page in about 10 years, so here goes!

Hi, my name is Craig Cooke.

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I’ll be blogging about my love of Landscape Photography.

My life and my (estranged) family.

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My past efforts at the gym, (the gym is now closed permanently).

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Walking in The Lake District and Scotland.

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What I’m reading or what I’ve read, the movies I’ve seen or would like to see, in fact anything I find interesting…

If you want to know more about me, click here !

The Old Gym

You know you’re getting old when…

You know you’re getting old when your daughter rings you and says “Dad! You’re going to be a grandad!” Oh great I thought! Grandad!

It was only 37 seconds ago I was holding my daughters hand in Seahouses, Northumberland!

And 15 seconds later taking her photo at Eilian Donan castle in The Highlands….

And here she is now, having children of her own. She’s actually older than me now!

Time flies….

Make the most of it!!!

Fiona Lark

I first became aware of Fiona Lark via Sean Tucker on YouTube.

He’s a fantastic photographer, philosopher, one of the guys you’d love to meet.

He has a great back story.

I can highly recommend his book.

Fiona is not human. She’s a spirit. If you watch her videos on YouTube you’ll see what I mean. Totally egoless, a total creative. Amazing. Her photos bring tears to my eyes at times. They’re so beautiful.

As photographers there is (to (mis) quote Sean) a pissing contest. Better cameras, better lenses blah blah blah.

Basically it’s not about the tools. The only tool you need is the one between your ears.

I watched a video recently where Fiona did street photography in Amsterdam where she eluded to being a bit uncomfortable. She mentioned in that video that she’d undertaken wedding photography so I’m a bit surprised by that. I’ll look into that as in my experience, apart from the bride and groom, everyone is a stranger, that said, they know the context (they’re at a wedding, they know there will be a photographer) – it’s interesting…

Fiona is an enigma. I’m still trying to work her out. That said her images are beautiful.

I’ve had my own personal journey. Divorce. Moving to a new area. Anxiety, depression, insecurity.

Fiona alluded to having troubles in her life. We all do. And out of those she’s produced some beautiful beautiful images.

I started walking along my local canal and just ‘braved it out’ asking people if I could take their photographs. Only one couple said no. And I respect that. If they said yes…

I’d take their photograph…

Give them a business card (it’s not a business!)

And send them the images. No cost.

If you have any interest in ‘people’ photography (dichotomy – Fiona takes Self Portraits) you must must check her out. You’ll be moved I guarantee it.

Instagram @fiona_lark

Thank me later…

Retirement!!!

I photographed weddings semi professionally for about 19 years. Packed in a few years ago as everone had an uncle Billy who had a camera, who could photograph the wedding ‘just as good as you – how can you justify the price’ – time to get out…then a friend of 30 years asked me to ‘come out of retirement’ and photograph his wedding. How could I refuse? So I photographed his wedding. A great success. Retire the cameras…now his brother has asked me to photograph his wedding to his partner. This is the last I promise 😂 I’m retiring from wedding photography after this!!!

Love is not love…

BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand’ring bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me prov’d,

I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

My ex never got the memo.

She’s Ill

Met my Buddhist friend today on the canal. I was telling him about my recent experiences in my life and without prompting he said to me “She’s ill” (I didn’t tell him my exes name or anything at all, I simply told him what had happened to me) he said “It’s controlling and bullying behaviour, it’s an illness rooted in insecurity” how insightful! And he’s correct. I didn’t tell him my ex was a bully or controlling, I just told him what had happened.

He was simply commenting on the condition.

Funnily enough my wife works for an organisation that according to Glassdoor has a bullying, harassing and controlling culture.

Maybe she just couldn’t leave her work at the office. Who knows?

My new Buddhist friend is so insightful, so calm, non judgemental…and…

He wants to commission me to do a photographic portrait of his life and boat when he returns from India shortly!

My photographic journey

I’m weird. The easier things get the less interested I am!

I got interested in photography about 1994. I bought a Canon EOS 1000 FN from Dixon’s as I was looking for a new hobby.

I’ve always been interested in The Lake District since my first visit in about 1984. So…

First photographic adventure, the most photographed bridge in the world…

I shot the original image on the Canon EOS 1000 FN with a CRAB bracket (Google is your friend if you’re not sure what that is) on Kodak film (I can’t remember what stock)

I was working at Kellogg’s at the time and I’d showed someone the photographic (6”x4”) – they asked for an enlargement – so off to Max Spielmann I went.

I brought the enlargement into work. And someone else saw it….and asked if I’d photograph their wedding!!! What!!! I’d no idea what to do. I told them that! However….it was a small civil ceremony in a registry office so thought…I’ll give it a shot!

Then…through word of mouth I got asked to photograph more and more weddings!

Scary. I thought. Things got serious! I bought 2x EOS 5D and a decent flash!

Photographed a lot of weddings on film….

Carried on shooting on film for years. Carried 2 camera bodies up most mountains in The Lake District (and Ben Nevis) – one with Fuji Velvia and one with Ilford Delta 400. with a Benbo Trekker tripod!

Then…

Moved to digital. An EOS 10D.

Shot a wedding on (two) Canon EOS 10D’s.

What a game changer! So much easier. No stress wondering what the image was going to turn out like!

Then I had to learn the image editing process.

I carried on photographing weddings on 20D, 40D, 7D and 7D MKII. Until I got bored.

Everyone had a digital camera, everyone was a wedding photographer. The democratising of photography whilst a good thing, devalued wedding photography.

So…I gave up eventually. I got bored with it.

However I carried on with some portrait photography…

And my landscapes

However…the easier things got the less interested I became.

And now everyone on YouTube is an expert…

I’ll start watching a video and usually after 5-10 minutes I’ll switch it off as I’m not learning anything,

Maybe I need to learn more!?

Every Cloud

If any of you have been remotely interested in my boring life you’ll know that my ex wife decided I was surplus to requirements in May 2021. Long story short, I was forced to move out of the house I’d paid a mortgage for for 18 years. Despite selling a house I wholly owned to buy the house we lived in. So total mortgage payments of 30 years…anyway. That’s clever lawyers and my naivety for you…fast forward

I had to move into rented accommodation. In Adlington. So I went from having a house, assets, security, a future to…

One pay cheque away from homelessness.

Oh, and I have to pay £100’s of maintenance for the privilege. (We have a son).

I went into a mental state I’ve never been in before. Anxiety, depression, panic attacks the whole caboodle. I was literally paralysed by depression and anxiety.

I’d spend as much time as I could in bed. Just trying to shut down my brain. And I’ll admit it…I had suicidal thoughts. Just thinking, if this gets any worse, if the hole gets any deeper, if the dark gets any blacker, what are my options?

I received an email from my ex last week that ended with “Thank God we’re not together” which got me thinking…

I idolised my family, adored them, was totally devoted…I was deceiving myself. Our realities were totally different. Our goals were totally different.

Therefore in my eyes my mental state was based not in a truism, but a construct.

Time to move on…

So…today, instead of spending all day in bed like I have done every weekend since my wife, son and dog left me…

I dusted myself down. Got my coat on. Picked up a camera. And went for a local walk…

I’ve had to rent a property in Adlington near Chorley. I didn’t realise how beautiful the area was.

The Leeds Liverpool canal is literally on my doorstep!

So…I’m moving on. Slowly.

It’ll take me a while to get used to not having an intimate family after 21 years.

My daughter who lives in Sunderland is supporting me. She’s an Angel.

But I’ll move on. The depression will ease. The panic attacks will cease.

There is a future.

I’ve been paralysed metaphorically and mentally. I won’t let anyone do that to me again.

You have a job. You’re not you’re job.

You have a partner. You’re not you’re partner.

Be careful who you trust.

I have a maxim. DTA Don’t Trust Anyone. Seems a bit harsh. Well…

Panic attack – heart rate 118 lying in bed!

Life must go on. And don’t forget…

180 seconds

Some of you will I know I’m going through a divorce and have had to move out of the matrimonial home. I’d been moving stuff piecemeal (what I could get into the car) for weeks. From Bolton to Adlington, about 10 miles. One Saturday a few weeks back I was driving back from Adlington to Bolton on the A675. It was raining and dark. I noticed something on the road that looked like a massive piece of aluminium…as I got closer I realised it was a scooter on its side…

I slammed on…put the hazards on…at the same time traffic in the opposite direction was approaching…I flashed and flashed then got out of my car and jumped in front of the fallen scooter and waived my arms…

A lovely man coming in the opposite direction slammed on and put his hazards on.

I then rang 999 and asked for the ambulance and police.

I was asked by the emergency services a lot of questions. Were they conscious, was there any blood, did they have a pulse etc. I’m no medical professional so I tried to find out as much as I could. I went to the person and kept asking “you ok buddy? You ok buddy?” Nothing…I was literally sh*ting my pants when…

The person took a massive inhale of breath and grabbed my hand….fuck me, brilliant…

She hung on and on and on…(it turned out she was a young girl – she had a lot of biker gear on, plus helmet, it was dark etc.)

And I just thought…I’ve got you now…just hang on…

Shortly after an ambulance tech and the police showed up…

As far as I can ascertain the young lady was on the way to see her boyfriend when she came off her scooter.

Never under estimated 180 seconds of holding hands. Sometimes that’s all you have…

I still cry about it today. I thought I’d met a dead person. And motorists from either side were shouting at me to let them through.

What has happened to humanity?

The only kind person was the person in the car coming in the opposite direction he said to me “You’re a good man” and I simply thought…”who wouldn’t do this?”

Adventures Of A Wedding Photographer

Disclaimer: Any photographs displayed are not representative of any of the ‘stories’

They’re simply for illustrative purposes…

Mother of the bride “Make me look beautiful”

Me “It’s a camera not a wand” 😂😂😂

Bride (4’6” about 15st – 210 lbs) “You’ve made me look fat”

I’ve not been your dietician for the past 30 years!

Guest “Have you photographed weddings before?”

“No I usually work for the local morgue photographing cadavers, but it’s my day off today…”

“What side does the Grooms family sit on?”

“Whatever the Bride says…”

Was once photographing a wedding in Liverpool when the Bride and her mother started arguing about her choice of groom. They’d been together 12 years and had two children! It came to fisticuffs. I left….

Plenty of more tales for another day…

I’m a loner but never lonely

I was born in Sunderland. Saturday 7th July 1962. I lived in my grandparents house in Cooper Street until I was 1.

Then we moved to Southwick in Sunderland. Cato Square. Don’t even think it exists anymore.

At about 9 years old we moved to Barmston in Washington. During that time Washington really was a New Town! Lots of green space between it and Sunderland. No Nissan getting in the way!

I used to go out exploring at weekends and all school holidays. It was a fantastic time. I used to explore the area between Barmston and what was Sunderland Airport (now Nissan).

There were 3 main areas if I recall.

Barmston Pond.

Some ‘Pill Box’

And ‘The Black Forest’.

When Sunderland air show was on I’d lie on the pill box and watch the planes.

If I felt brave I’d venture into the Black Forest but mostly…

I’d lie on my back on a mound near Barmston Pond and just watch and listen to the skylarks. All day, every day. I loved it…