Darron Mark Photography: Blog https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog en-us (C) Darron Mark Photography (Darron Mark Photography) Tue, 07 Aug 2018 15:43:00 GMT Tue, 07 Aug 2018 15:43:00 GMT https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/img/s/v-5/u23761446-o518528702-50.jpg Darron Mark Photography: Blog https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog 90 120 #Weddings: Blog #022 A Budget Wedding https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/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.

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(Darron Mark Photography) blog budget conversion darron darron mark derry londonderry mark northern photographer photography wedding weddings https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2018/8/-a-budget-wedding Wed, 01 Aug 2018 11:43:43 GMT
#Weddings: Blog #021 The Royal Wedding & Galway https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2018/4/-weddings-blog-021-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 kduffy@claytonhotels.com.

clayton-galway-ballroomclayton-galway-ballroom

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(Darron Mark Photography) blog clayton clayton hotel darron darron mark derry galway galway weddings ireland maldron mark photographer photography special offer the royal wedding weddings https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2018/4/-weddings-blog-021-the-royal-wedding-galway Tue, 10 Apr 2018 12:37:53 GMT
#Weddings: Blog #020 Top 5 Wedding Tips https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2018/4/-weddings-blog-020-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!

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(Darron Mark Photography) 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.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2018/4/-weddings-blog-020-top-5-wedding-tips Tue, 10 Apr 2018 12:09:08 GMT
#Motorhome: Blog #019 Rotten Eggs https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2018/4/-Motorhome-blog-019-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.

Motorhoming in the MournesMotorhoming in the MournesIt's first official full day out.

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.

 

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(Darron Mark Photography) 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.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2018/4/-Motorhome-blog-019-rotten-eggs Tue, 03 Apr 2018 10:55:00 GMT
#VanLife: Blog #018 Over before it began https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2018/3/-vanlife-blog-018-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!

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(Darron Mark Photography) blog blogger darron darron mark fiat ducato ireland iveco londonderry mark motorhome northern photographer travel van life https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2018/3/-vanlife-blog-018-over-before-it-began Fri, 30 Mar 2018 10:51:09 GMT
#VanLife: Blog #017 A lesson in how not to do customer service, Iveco Style https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/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?"

WTF..?

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.

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(Darron Mark Photography) brothers claudy county daily dealerships derry eakin ireland iveco life londonderry mechanics northern parts servicing van https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/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 #016 Why I'm giving up on Bark.com https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/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.

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(Darron Mark Photography) bark bark.com editing local photography portal services video wedding https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2018/2/why-im-giving-up-on-bark Sat, 24 Feb 2018 11:29:08 GMT
#MusicPhotography: Blog #015 New YouTube Channel https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2018/2/-musicphotography-blog-015-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.

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(Darron Mark Photography) 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.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2018/2/-musicphotography-blog-015-new-youtube-channel Mon, 05 Feb 2018 11:45:00 GMT
#MusicPhotography: Blog #014 Expensive Purchase Alert! https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/12/-musicphotography-blog-014-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!

 

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(Darron Mark Photography) acts amazon audio bands blog darron h4n ireland mark music northern ireland photography pro recording sound the pragmatix video youtube zoom https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/12/-musicphotography-blog-014-expensive-purchase-alert Mon, 04 Dec 2017 11:45:00 GMT
#VanLife: Blog #013 Seats, Seats, More Seats! https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/11/-vanlife-blog-013-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.

 

 

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(Darron Mark Photography) amazon build conversion darron derry drills ireland iveco londonderry mark mechanic creeper northern seats tools van vanlife https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/11/-vanlife-blog-013-seats-seats-more-seats Tue, 28 Nov 2017 11:55:00 GMT
#VanLife: Blog #012 Bunk Bed Solution https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/9/-vanlife-blog-012-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...

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(Darron Mark Photography) blog bunk bed camper campervan conversion darron mark iveco daily motorhome northern ireland stealth van van life https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/9/-vanlife-blog-012-bunk-bed-solution Tue, 26 Sep 2017 10:55:00 GMT
#VanLife: Blog #011 Puppy Problems https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/9/-vanlife-blog-011-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.

 

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(Darron Mark Photography) blog cables camper cctv darron dogs iveco mark modifications parking rear van conversion https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/9/-vanlife-blog-011-puppy-problems Fri, 22 Sep 2017 11:00:00 GMT
#VanLife: Blog #010 Battery Problem Resolved https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/8/-vanlife-blog-010-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).

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(Darron Mark Photography) blog blogger conversion darron darron mark derry ireland iveco londonderry mark northern northern ireland photo photographer photography travel vanlife wedding weddings https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/8/-vanlife-blog-010-battery-problem-resolved Tue, 29 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
#MusicPhotography: Blog #009 Why do I do it? https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/8/-musicphotography-blog-009-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.

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(Darron Mark Photography) blog darron mark derry ireland lerner londonderry mike northern northern ireland photo photographer photography weddings https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/8/-musicphotography-blog-009-why-do-i-do-it Mon, 14 Aug 2017 11:16:31 GMT
#VanLife: Blog #008 Why Is It Never Easy? https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/8/-vanlife-blog-008-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?

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(Darron Mark Photography) blog blogger conversion daily darron mark iveco iveco daily northern ireland seats van van life vanlife https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/8/-vanlife-blog-008-why-is-it-never-easy Tue, 08 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
#VanLife: Blog #007 Failing at Fault Checking https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/8/-vanlife-blog-007-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.

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(Darron Mark Photography) auto daily darron free hands iveco mark northern ireland parrot photography reversing camera tachometer van life vanlife https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/8/-vanlife-blog-007-Failing-at-Fault-Checking Wed, 02 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
#VanLife: Blog #006 Rebuilding what I broke https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/7/-vanlife-blog-006-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.

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(Darron Mark Photography) blog camper conversion darron darron mark ireland iveco iveco daily londonderry mark van life vanlife https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/7/-vanlife-blog-006-rebuilding-what-i-broke Wed, 26 Jul 2017 23:00:00 GMT
#VanLife: Blog #005 Two Nights In Dublin With Coldplay https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/7/van-life-blog-005-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...

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(Darron Mark Photography) battery camper camping coldplay dublin fuel iveco northern ireland sleeping toilet travel vanlife water pump https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/7/van-life-blog-005-two-nights-in-dublin-with-coldplay Mon, 17 Jul 2017 11:00:00 GMT
#VanLife: Blog #004 The Mechanics https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/7/van-life-blog-004-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.

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(Darron Mark Photography) ballykelly blog blogger darron darron mark ireland iveco iveco daily londonderry mark mechanic northern ireland photographer truck vanlife welding https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/7/van-life-blog-004-the-mechanics Fri, 14 Jul 2017 11:00:00 GMT
The Table Selfie Has Arrived https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/6/table-selfie

The UK’s largest Photo Booth manufacturer, Photobooths.co.uk, have released the Table Selfie, the upcoming “must have” table centrepiece for weddings and special occasions. It’s completely brand new to the market and has never been seen before!

Abolishing the need for disposable cameras, the Table Selfie is a sophisticated turntable camera device that elegantly sits and spins on the centre of a table amongst other table decorations. It captures instant photos and displays them by connecting with a mobile phone.

Table Selfie are perfect for use at wedding breakfasts or evening receptions. Not only do they provide great entertainment for you and your guests, but they also capture unforgettable moments throughout your special occasion for you to treasure forever.

 
Table SelfieTable SelfieWifi Hotspots Table SelfieTable SelfieWifi Hotspots Table SelfieSmartphone compatibleTake selfies, and trigger other table's cameras from your smartphone.

Guests around the table can connect to a Table Selfie via their mobile phone to trigger a photo. Once a picture is taken, guests can save, discard, or even print their photo to a local printer. You can even have even more fun by triggering the Table Selfie camera on other tables!

All photos produced by the Table Selfie can be fully branded to your event with custom templates, colours, and messages.Hire is currently exclusively available from photobooth.co.uk and pictureblast.co.uk starting from just £249 for 3 hour hire. The Table Selfie can be hired singularly or in multiple numbers.

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.

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(Darron Mark Photography) blog booth darron darron mark derry ireland londonderry mark northern northern ireland photo photobooth photographer photography selfie table weather wedding weddings https://www.dmfoto.co.uk/blog/2017/6/table-selfie Wed, 28 Jun 2017 10:10:20 GMT