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a blog by Chris Barrow

The holiday snap

When my kids were small (the early 90’s) we would regularly take 3 weeks vacation in August, driving 3-days each way to Tuscany in our imported left-hand drive Pontiac.


We rented a villa, either in the grounds of a palatial 19th Century home near Lucca or a converted farmhouse on a conical hill just north of Siena.

I would take my mountain bike, plenty of reading/writing material and genuinely forget about work.

Rising at 06:00 allowed me to explore for up to 3 hours each morning, discovering off-road forest trails or deserted Renaissance towns and cities.

After a day of parenting pool-side or on tour, the retirement of the 5 bairns later in the evening would allow time for adult chat, the savouring of home-cooked food made with the freshest of ingredients and a selection of ever-wonderful local wines.

At the time, I was much influenced by the local residents, many of whom would close down their homes and offices/factories in industrial coastal Italy and migrate to the hills for a whole month of late mornings, afternoon siestas and slow evening meals by candlelight that extended well past midnight. Their children never seemed to go to bed.

Conversation flourished. August became the key time of year to re-connect with one’s family and oneself.

Many is the time I have commented on the subsequent arrival of devices, wifi and notifications.

In the last 12 months I have witnessed the conversational paralysis of disconnected families in Zanzibar, Ireland, Turkey, Luxembourg, Holland, the UK and in my own home. People connected to everyone except each other.

I offer myself guilty as charged after posting on my Facebook profile daily photographic updates of our recent sojourns in Ireland and The Lake District.

Which brings me in an unplanned meander to the subject of holiday snaps.

Some will remember the days when pictorial memories of your latest vacation were eagerly awaited following their return from a postal developer or local retailer? Remember Kodak?


An important part of holiday preparation was buying a supply of 36-photo rolls of film (the number of such rolls directly proportional to the quality of the adventure ahead).

Learning to change films without the risk of exposure was a craft passed from father to son like a Norse hunting ritual.

We never really lost the unnerving feeling that all or our work would be eradicated by some foreign airport’s X-ray machine on the way home.

Perhaps a week after our return “the photos” would be delivered by the postman or collected from a shop and there would be great ceremony over the evening dinner table as the packets were opened and the contents perused and discussed.

The next weekend would be our first chance to bore the pants off neighbours and extended family by going through them all, one by one, with a riveting commentary – “this is me standing under a palm tree”, “our hotel room was that one”, “the view was much better than it looks here”.

How things have changed – the 32Gb ScanDisk inserted into my trusty but somewhat ancient (2009) Panasonic Lumix GF2 and the use of software and apps create the perception of photographic talent when, in fact, I’m simply deleting all the rubbish then cropping and tinting the survivors.

Our mistakes are consigned to the trash before they see the light of day.

p.s. the 12Mps capability of my camera (state of the art when I bought it) will likely be embedded in the new iPhone 6s to which I will upgrade in October, at which point instead of loading my Lumix photos into a separate device for editing, I’ll be completing the whole process in one series of steps; point – shoot – crop – tint – post – comment – tag. Panasonic obsolete but my “selfies” may well reach a new level of expertise.

A far cry from sifting through those old packages of prints and negatives when they came back from the developer and groaning with disappointment at “that” shot that didn’t come out right.

I’m sure there must be a host of Luddites out there who grumble about the advances in technology that have allowed us common folk to accidentally take great photographs – I’ll never know what an f/stop is (and don’t want to) – perhaps the same can be said of music composition post-synthesiser, of writing post-blog, of art in general – that where the objective is not commercial gain or fame – the internet of things (IOT) has created a world in which the amateur can enjoy fleeting moments of pride.


The photograph above of Kibo, one of our Hungarian Vizslas, in Grizedale Forest, Cumbria isn’t intended to win a prize (although it might just make next year’s Vizsla calendar – there is one) and I didn’t set out to take it – it was just one of dozens of shots taken during one 5.5 hour walk and over 7 days.

I think back to the holiday snaps taken by my father in the Gulf c.1953, by my parents in Newquay c.1966, by me in Italy c.1993 and reflect that there isn’t a chance in a million that we could have recreated the moment seen here with such quality. The cameras (that we could afford and understand) would never have been good enough and neither would the photographer.

The IOT makes us all potential award-winners when that one shot in a hundred turns out just right.

The IOT can be  a conversation stopper, an intrusion, a distraction when it comes to holiday dinner conversation – but it also gives us all the opportunity as musicians, writers, photographers and artists to experience the equivalent momentary euphoria of an amateur astronomer discovering a new comet.

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