Category Archives: Photography

July 26th: Farewell to Deano (a.k.a. the 2014 Sheffield Grand Prix)

Wednesday (23rd July) night in Sheffield was FarewellDeano Night as anyone in the city centre around 9pm will know. Wrapped up amongst the farewell celebrations was the official event of the evening – the 2014 Sheffield Grand Prix which featured a Cat 3-4 race as well as the men’s Elite Race. Dean Dowling had won the 2013 event but the big question was could he do the same again in what was to be his final pro race?

The hors d’oeuvres for the main course was a mixed Cat 3-4 race which turned out to be, not unsurprisingly, hotly contested thanks to the fire power of some special order young guns in the shape of Thomas (Tom) Pidcock from Chevin Cycles.com and Harry Hardcastle of Kirklees Cycling Academy. Racing with the Cat 3-4 guns, the young ‘uns were allowed in as a ‘special’ – and what a special it turned out to be as it was down solely to Dieter Droger (Pioneer Scott Syncros) to hold the lads off the top spot. Nevertheless it was an inspired race for the youngers and as Dieter Droger said during the podium interview, it clearly shows that British Cycling has some real talent coming through. Here’s a gallery of images of the Cat 3/4 race.

The 2014 SGP Cat 3-4 race starts out on its warm-up lapAnd they're off in the 2014 SCP Cat 3-4 raceSome big gaps in the 2014 SGP Cat 3-4 race open up quicklyEarly leaders in the 2014 SGP Cat 3-4 race sticking tight togetherRiders in the 2014 SGP Cat 3-4 race working hardHarry Hardcastle punching out the watts in the 2104 SGP Cat 3-4 raceDieter Droger fixing the young guns Tom Pidock and Harry Hardcastle firmly in his sightsAnd the winner of the 2014 SGP Cat 3-4 race is Dieter DrogerThe 2014 SGP Cat 3-4 podium with Dieter Droger (Pioneer Scott Syncros), Tom Pidcock (Chevin Cycles.com Trek) and Harry Hardcastle (Kirkless Cyclig Academy)

The Elite race itself was also  hotly contested although there was an enforced ‘black flag’ break to allow the newly crowded Junior RR Champion, Tristran Robbins, to pick himself and his (de-chained) bike up off the cobbles. Once the race restarted a lead group got away leaving Team Raleigh working hard to bring them back although sadly they were unable to podium. In the end, Kristian House (Rapha Condor JLT) led home in the gathering gloom with local rider Adam Blythe (NFTO) and Toby Horton (Madison Genesis) following.

The night was clearly for Dean and he took to the podium with his daughter for an interview to the crowd’s delight…‘Farewell Deano’…

Finally then, a gallery of images from the mens’ Elite Race

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Also posted in Cycling, Events

July 17th: It’s all over in a Second or Two – Roadside Shooting at the Tour du France

As most of Yorkshire knows only too well, it’s all over in a second of two! Or at least that’s how it seems if you stand by the roadside for several hours to wait for the greatest bike race in the world that is Le Tour (a.k.a. The Tour du France) to go past. Out of all the places that we could have watched Le Tour, Jawbone Hill in Oughtibridge was where we washed-up. As one of the top-ten places listed on the Sky website – we figured it would be good. For starters, it was on a hill so the riders would be going slow – right? Access wise – Jawbone Hill camping was right there too, with its built-in ringside (ok… roadside…) viewing. Double bonus. All we have to do was rock-up late Saturday, pitch the tent and wait up for the great show on earth to roll past. Piece of cake – what could be better or easier for that matter?

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There’s no shortage of erudite cycling commentators far more qualified than me to talk about the actual race itself – so this post is more about shooting Le Tour from a roadside shooters perspective. Thanks to Google Earth I had already driven up and down Jawbone Hill several times in the comfort of my own house to get an idea of where might be best to photograph from. I’d worked out where the sun (assuming it wasn’t cloudy) was gonna be in the sky (sic) and roughly which sections would be back-lit and where would be in shadow. Sadly though, there were still many known unknowns. How many others were going to be roadside too? Would the crowd all surge forward and block the view? Would the weather play ball or would we be treated to a day of interminable grey or worst still, rain? Would there be any restrictions to moving about as spectators? More questions than answers so it seemed like it was all going to be a bit of pot-luck. Walking up Jawbone Hill it was obvious that it had a number of steeper ramps and a steep(ish) finishing straight. By 10am on race day Sunday 6th, some 6 hours before the action, the frontline viewing spots behind the roadside barrier on the finishing straights were already taken! Folks sure seemed keen but I guess 6 hours for a ringside view of Le Tour might not be an unreasonable return?

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In the end I settled for a position on about half way up Jawbone, on the beginning of the outside of a bend which came after a decent straight. Waiting for the riders gave an opportunity to try out some angles and do some crowd watching. I was pretty chuffed with one shot especially which for me summed up waiting for the TDF when a young gent got down with the vibe and worked on his TDF Road Art. I would have been rude not to snap some of the more memorable aspects of the TDF ‘caravan’ has it rolled past and it was an opportunity to practice focus tracking and panning.  By the time the helicopters arrived and signalled the immenent arrival of the riders themselves I’d distilled my game plan and was sorted. Rightly or wrongly I’d decided to shoot the first group of riders as they approached my position with a 70-200mm then switch to a 24-70mm mid-range for the close up stuff as more riders came past. I added an on-camera flash, with a booster pack for faster recycling, to fill the shadows. I opted for a wide aperture for the telli shots – primarily to separate the action from the background but stopped down a bit for the mid-range shots to give more depth of focus.

Anyways, here’s my shots as the caravan and Le Tour tackles Jawbone Hill. I think my game plan worked ok although it nearly fell on its derier as I’d not factored into the equation that ahead of the first riders is the official red race car – complete with outriders – which nearly obliterated the long shot down the road look that I was after. Totally by luck than judgement as the opening group came towards me I was able to snatch a few shots of the riders once the lead vehicles had pulled past. It hard picking a ‘best shot’ but this one sums up what I’d envisaged.

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Apologies for the delay in posting – technology failure caused by the BSoD (Blue Screen of Death) took a wee while to get sorted – but here at last is a full gallery of the day…

Cote du Jawbone - race minus several hoursCycling RoyaltyBy heck lad, here comes t'caravan...She was still playing when she hit Sheffield too - apparently!Fruit never tasted so good?Part of your 5-adayAye - big hills and great teaNow thats a big teddyLovin' it...French strong armTDF road artEgh up - here comes TDF!French chips...Bear in the airYep - after 6 hours waiting, finally here comes to TDF!Le Tour is here!The openning group charging Cote du JawboneThe openning group charging Cote du JawboneThe openning group charging Cote du JawboneThe openning group charging Cote du JawbonePorte and Froomy goes by...Way to go guys...Toni MartinClose-up and personal #1Close-up and personal #2Close-up and personal #3Eh up - is that a yellow jersey I see?Eh up - is that a yellow jersey I see?Yep - le yellow jerseyYellow jerseyPates brings up the rear (sort...off...)...

 

 

 

Also posted in Cycling, Events Tagged , |

June 8th: Northumberland Coast – Not your typical Coastline…

Plagues and lotus were about the only things missing off the agenda according to the weather forecast for the recent bank holiday so we had zero expectations when we set off. The vague plan was to have a few days R&R on the Northumberland Coast; walk a few miles, cycle a few more, run a few as well and maybe, just maybe pull down on some problems…

DSC_6823_000_lo resI’ve been a fan of Northumberland ever since my first visit back in the late 70’s. The climbing is tough but super satisfying. I find the scenery stunning and the coast just something else completely. So many times I’ve been up there when the bad weather that was hammering the rest of the country never seemed to make it that far. The beaches knock the much lauded southern counterparts into the proverbial cocked-hat! I’m talking visually and water quality wise although as anyone who has been up there will tell you, there’s often a breeze that keeps temperatures a tad suppressed. If only…!!

Officially designated an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), the section of coast north of Amble and Alnmouth right the way up to Berwick Upon Tweed on the Scottish border is the amazing. Dunstanburgh Castle is the southern beauty; then Bamburgh and then Holy Island (Lindisfarne) in the north are the three stand-out locations that most folks have seen/heard about. We didn’t have a plan as such but having ‘done’ Holy Island and Bamburgh relatively recently we naturally gravitated towards Dunstan. Following the monsoon on the Saturday we had two incredible bluebird days – back-to-back sunny days that couldn’t have been much better.

Photographically, the area is a peach – although being a bank holiday we certainly weren’t alone, far from it in fact! Any photographic skills text-book will tell you that sun-rise and sun-set are the two golden hours in the day; but when you’ve a family with you, you have to take the opportunities when you can. I took the easy option and opted for sun-set rather than the totally unpalatable 4-5:00 am starts that hunting sun-rise shots would have meant. As I say, both days were stunning although strangely both evenings failed to live up to expectation.

I’ll upload two galleries from the trip; firstly a collection of colour shots and secondly some black and white conversions.  I’d never photographed at Dunstanburgh Castle before but it’s on the list now as a ‘must re-visit’ venue. I was utterly taken by the Castle and the surrounding area and I’m confident that you’ll get different conditions on every visit. The beaches are amazing  – not least the boulder-field just north of Dunstanburgh Castle. Don’t forget to drop-in to Craster too – another amazing ‘must visit’ spot.

In case you’re wondering, the bouldering mat and boots never saw the light of day as the weather nose-dived on our last day. Still, it gave us an excuse to get the slackline out – although that’s no easier when it’s lashing it down!

Dunstanburgh Caste sure stands well on the coast north of CrasterSo good here's a portrait shot of Dunstanburgh Castle as wellAnd another with the sea rolling inEmbleton Bay, north of Dunstanburgh Castle, has golden sands as far as you can seeDunstanburgh Castle from the beachDunstanburgh Golf Course. I don't play golf, but if I did this is one venue I'd go forDunstan floraLobster pots in Craster harbour. Lying in the lea of the castle, Craster is a cracking little venueDusk falls over Dunstanburgh CastleThe late setting suns blasts Dunstanburgh Castle and the bouldersDunstanburgh boulders await the incoming tideNight falls over Dunstanburgh CastleDunstanburgh Castle doing an impression of The Mittens in Monument ValleyNight falls over Craster harbour as late-evening 'crabber' hang inLow tide renders Craster harbour silentDusk and Craster HarbourAnd a landscape version of Craster Harbour too

Also posted in Scenic, Travel

May 16th: Stanage Sunset – the finest there is?…

Sunsets don’t come with a guarantee – you just have to be out there at the right time and in the right place. Tonight was exactly that – grey and un-inspiring one minute and the awesome the next. I got some shots off tonight out at Stanage – did you?

 

Sunset out west from StanageSunset out west from Stanage - wideSunset over Stanage #1Sunset over Stanage #2Sunset over Stanage #3

Also posted in Scenic

April 21th: Mojo Rising (Old skool bouldering at The Breck)…

I remember the magazine images clearly. They conveyed an urban, gritty feel to the climbing which looked distinctly esoteric – a locals’ local, albeit with some gnarly testpieces. Over the years I’d never been to the crag nor had I ever spoken to anyone else who has climbed there – or, perhaps more accurately, I’ve never spoken to anyone who wanted to admit they’d climbed there! Thirty odd years had passed since the magazine article and I’d all but forgotten about it then, flicking though Grimer’s Boulder Britain guide, there it was on page 184 and less than a mile from where the in-laws lived! “Yeah, we used to climb on Granny Rock as kids” said my wife to my surprise. I added it to the list of places to check-out – at some point…

My opportunity came yesterday on Easter Sunday. I think that Easter is a great time to grab a power top-up and Fontainebleau (where else) would head my list of venues – given the choice. It’s fair to say that The Breck would be a good deal lower down my list. However,  as we’d pitched-up on The Wirral at the in-laws it was either travel and go indoors or nip down to The Breck. I had little more than an hour or so to spare so it wasn’t a hard decision – The Breck it was.

Grimer’s intro is classic: “The holy grail of graffiti and urban chic with highball crimping and ghosts of old heroes”. The sun was shining and the bluebells were out and it seemed a tad surreal almost – a climbing retreat amidst such domesticity. Situation wise, I couldn’t help but draw parallels with Sissy Crag in Sydney – but let’s stop right there! The delightfully named Bluebell Wall seemed the obvious place to start. Think Burbage North size-wise but add a concrete topping and then some railings immediately behind. Warming-up was interesting; Bluebell Crack, Fagan and Melancholy all seemed about the same grade despite being 4+, 4+ and 6a respectively. They were high too – this was real old skool bouldering especially as I was travelling light and was sans pad! The final twist was that you either had to down-climb the problem or traverse along the top and then drop-down an easier problem; good for the head and a bit extra mileage!

Bluebell Wall @ The BreckJust opposite, Granny Rock looked tempting – and lowball! The blocky front face was covered in easy ledges but the back-side had a handful of problems including a couple of traverses and some pretty impressive graffiti! It seemed an unlikely place for some quality climbing but all four blocs give just that – Positron Traverse at 6b stood out. Amongst the graffiti I spotted a collection of shabby pockets leading from the middle of the wall to the left arête. It’s an entertaining little link and it soaked up all my remaining time. I couldn’t leave though, and nor should anyone else visiting for the first time, without nipping over and have a look at Overhanging Wall – home to Al Rouse’s Direct 7b+ and Steve Haston’s Dyno 7c+. Both looked good, shockingly high and distinctly old skool – a remarkable testament to the standards achieved yonks ago. Grimer’s descriptions were bang on the money.

Visits to the in-laws will never be the same again!

Mojo rising - selfie of me on Granny RockCrimping the graffiti

Also posted in Bouldering

Jan 10th: A New Year (game plan)…

With 2014 well and truly established I’ve been reflecting a little on 2013, the images I captured as well as the photographic process. I often find that sifting through and filing recent images I drift off into a reflective mode. Instinctively I ask myself questions. What worked well and why? What didn’t work and why? What will I look to develop? What will I do different in the future?

It’s easy to opt for BAU (business as usual). However, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got! And whilst that might be the correct game plan for some circumstances it almost certainly won’t be good for others. The trick is knowing when and where to switch into a new way of working and so produce something different. Although I’m still (metaphorically) crunching the numbers on this, I feel that I’ve got the basis for my shooting sorted out. Meanwhile…

The good weather and my free time hasn’t coincide much yet this year and I’ve yet to capture any climbing action. However, I’ve been shooting some non-climbing action and that’s been insightful in its own way. Thus far, I’ve snatched three separate shoots of three disparate subjects:

Shoot#1 – An hour or so snatched in the early morning in the Peak getting shots of a ‘lone tree’ and of an inversion over the Hope Valley.

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Shoot#2 – Less than an hour grabbed as the sun rose on the sea front at New Brighton, Cheshire.

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Shoot#3 – A (chilly) hour or so poised for some northern lights action above Stanage – sadly, they didn’t show up though!

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It would have been very easy to ignore the opportunity to get out on every one of these occasions. I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t. As well as a few nice images, I’ve come away with a single common thought; no matter what the outcome might be – just do it! Here’s a gallery

Also posted in Scenic

Nov 24th: Be in My (2014) Calendar – Round-up

So, with Climbing 2014 shipping it’s time to round-up the 2013 ‘Be in My Calendar’ competition that was run on UKClimbing. This year the winner was David Kirsfelds and the three runners up were Luke Owens, Char and Owain Atkins.

This year we stayed in the Pennines for a day of classic grit for the photo-shoot with David. Whilst I know the Pennines pretty well and it was pretty easy to short-list a number of routes to go out and shoot, it did pose a challenge – how to shoot classic routes which have been photographed many times before.

There’s a write-up for the day and my thoughts on shooting the classics here

And finally, here’s a gallery of my favourite images from the day as well…

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Also posted in Be in My Calendar Competition, Climbing, KSP Publications

Oct 28th: A Decade of Climbing and Calendars…

Whilst I’ve been working on Climbing:2014 I’ve been feeling in a rather reflective mood. Not only is Climbing:2014 my tenth consecutive climbing calendar but I’m now into my fifth decade of climbing. Both feel something of a benchmark. My intro text to Climbing:2014 reflects my feelings on both the calendar and on climbing and I figure it’s maybe worth posting it on-line…

Back in the summer of 2004 I had the bright idea of publishing a climbing calendar. At that time I didn’t know what that would entail or how to bring that simple idea to fruition. Neither did I give a second thought to where it might go in the future. To coin a phrase, I had a dream, and set off in pursuit of that dream armed with a camera and a bag of lenses, an address book, a shelf-full of guidebooks and a bunch of ideas. My mission was underwritten in my mind by a number of objectives which I came to treat as core values: produce a premium product; include an eclectic mix of striking climbing images from the UK, Europe and beyond; include images of both inspirational and aspirational climbing across the grade range; include all the disparate climbing styles; feature male and female climbers as well as heroes and non-heroes alike. And to make matters even more authentic feature seasonal images as well and take them in the month they were to appear in!

A decade on, Climbing 2014 is my tenth calendar and, save the last of the criteria listed above, my mission and core values remain as they were back in 2004. Not surprisingly, the decade has flown by in no time at all! Climbing is now even more polarised than it was: sport climbing is becoming middle-aged; many boulderers don’t own ropes, a harness nor rack; indoor climbing has a huge following and is an end in itself for a significant number; DWS (deep water soloing) is firmly established; hard trad is still alive and kicking although no longer is it just quintessentially British any more and training is no longer a dirty word, in fact, if you’re not following a programme and not using a stop watch then you’re not really training at all!

And yet, despite all this nu-skool agenda, fundamentally climbing is the same as it was, climbers getting it on with the rock! One glorious Saturday in August I drove north to the Yorkshire Dales to capture some images for the calendar. In the car, along with myself, was Paul Reeve, Steve McClure and Buster Martin. At the ripe young age of 50 Paul had just plucked an ascent of Cry Freedom (now reckoned to be F8c). Buster had done Bat Route (another F8c) earlier in the year when he was a mere 16 and Steve McClure, for his part, had nailed Batman (at F9a/+). I was struck by the disparate circumstances of us all but by the strength of the common bond that was climbing that wove us all together. I couldn’t help but take delight at that bond.

So, Climbing 2014 features yet another eclectic mix of images, some of firm classics and others of new routes that are likely to become classics of tomorrow. Climbing isn’t easy, nothing worth doing ever is. That a significant number of us are driven by the need for exploration is to our sport’s benefit. New developments are the life-blood of climbing; they fuel the inner drive of so many of us and help keep climbing fresh and exciting. I’ve no more idea what the next years will bring in climbing than the next person – but here’s to the journey wherever it takes us. And finally, thanks to all who have been involved with my calendars over the last 10 years – it’s been a blast.

So there you have it; my reflections of a decade of calendars. This being a photographic blog I can’t really leave without an image or two so here’s a few more shots of Neil and Claire on the somewhat ‘off radar’ Hanging out at Glastonbury at Castell Helen, images which were shot for the calendar on an absolute cracking summer’s day. It seems a lifetime away already…

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Also posted in Climbing, KSP Publications

Oct 24th: Climbing 2014 is now shipping…

So, as they say, Climbing:2014 is now back from the printers and is now shipping…

Climbing:2014 is my 10th consecutive climbing calendar and man, has the time flown by or what! I’ve gone with the same landscape design that we’ve used for the last few years along with the glossy laminated covers and full bleed landscape images. There’s a year planner/poster included too within the calendar for inspiration and/or organisation. Oh yeah, and it’s the same killer price that it’s been for yonks – a quid a month plus a tad – that £12.99!

For a change the weather has been little short of amazing this summer and what a joy it’s been shooting in better weather. Not only does it lift the images but it’s opens up other venues and puts a smile on folks faces when they’re out climbing! I’m tempted to say – if only it were like that every year!

The front cover is a shot of a little know route on Castell Helen, – Hanging out at Glastonbury (E4 5a, 6a, 5c, 5b); Neil Foster is captured cutting a trad pose as he completes the traverse on P1 above a growing abyss. Kicking Climbing:2014 off with a seasonal image is a shot of a lone winter boulderer on Conan the Librarian (Font 6b+) at Mother Cap. More grit action comes in the (classic) shape of Trust (Font 7a) on the Fourth Cloud Boulder and Surform (HVS 5b) on the mighty leaning block that is Higgar Tor. Sandstone is the represented by one of the finest UK ‘red rocks’ venues which is St Bees whilst Sissy Crag down-under is the counterbalance down in the southern hemisphere.

Sport climbing action includes cave Route Left-hand (F7c+) at Gordale, Bat Route (F8c) at Malham, a mega project over on the Little Ormes and some pocket pulling madness in the Gorge du Tarn. That leaves some under-canvas action from the BBC’s (British Bouldering Championships) at Cliffhanger, some monstrously high DWS at Rhoscolyn and then some classic mountain rock from Dinas Mot in The Pass. It’s a pretty eclectic mix – as intended!

Copies of Climbing:2014 will be popping up at climbing walls/shops across the county pretty soon now. However, if you want you copy direct from the calendar stash in KSP Towers then you can order your copy from the KSP e-shop. Copies of the Climbing 2014 Year Planner/Poster can also be ordered from the KSP e-shop too.

Finally, to see the images in Climbing 2014 click here or to see the pages click through here…

Also posted in KSP Publications

2012 Captured

With 2012 fast disappearing in the rear view mirror I figured it’s a great time to look back and see how it stacked up…

Going through my photo archive brought some memories back which I’d filed deep away. It’s probably one of the understatements of the year but I’d say it’s been quite a challenging year as a photog! That said, I’ve added plenty of images to many of my portfolios from climbing through heritage and travel. I even started a new category of Olympic sports although I’m confident though that that particular portfolio won’t see any new additions anytime soon!

Climbing wise, the year started and finished bizarrely with Rowter Rocks. I say bizarrely because it’s some coincidence that my first and last outside climbing trips were at this off-the-beaten-track venue. As a photog I’m always really keen to explore new venues and this year it’s been some of these ‘new’ venues which has given me some great shots adding depth to my climbing portfolio. Rowter is certainly interesting, as are both Anston Stone and Nuda’s Tartan.

The joy of shooting in interesting light – read mixed, evening and twilight as well as winter light – was something of a recurring theme whether shooting climbing or other subjects. Two of the foulest days imaginable in the midst of the wettest spells ever gave me some nice waterfall shots. Jokingly, I’ve said to more than one person that next year’s calendar will be waterfalls!

I’ve pulled in a fair few heritage shots this year as well including some of Britain’s must see locations such as Fountain’s Abbey, Cragside and Lindisfarne.

The Olympics were awesome too. We managed to get seats to the ladies hockey play-off matches. Sadly, I couldn’t get field-side but shooting from the stand wasn’t all that bad!

The summer highlight for me though was a trip intoFrance toAnnecy and Chamonix. The former, sadly in the news this year for the wrong reasons, is well worth a visit – especially if you’re visiting with a family who like biking. Chamonix though was the real joy and we had just the best weather that we could have imagined. From Montenvers we visited the famous Ice Grotte as well as losing a few calories hiking along the Plan d’Aiguille. Save for a flying visit about fifteen years ago, this was my first proper return toChamonixsince my first visit in 1976! I was truly shocked at how far the Mer d’Glace has receded since then too. It’s staggering to mull over the shear loose in volume of the glacier – we should though, and we should do everything we can to help redress the balance.

Autumn saw a return to the shoddy UK weather and Simba, a new addition to the family. New skills to learn to capture that pupster! I washed-up at Whitby over Halloween. In a couple of hours I’d captured some nice night shots of the harbour and had one of the best fish and chip meals I’ve ever had – win-win!

Finally, 2012 finished photographically with the shock that images captured by modern smart phones are really quite good – assuming good light and static subjects. No-one should be afraid of getting their smart phone out and snapping away – they’re way better that you might think and as often as not you can get photo enhancer apps as well that do really reasonable basic tweaks for web/FB posts.

Here a link to the full gallery… http://www.keithsharplesphotography.co.uk/?page_id=725

Hope you enjoy – see you in 2013…