2015 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

The start of February usually sees me head away somewhere, and this year saw me head to Barcelona for a short break.

While there, I toured the city, did a tour of the Nou Camp, got lots of Street Art pictures and went to two football matches

Upon my return from Barcelona, it was straight into Irish League action, to see Linfield take on Cliftonville at Windsor Park.

Four days later, I was headed to Stangmore Park, on my birthday, to see Linfield take on Dungannon Swifts, with Linfield giving me some birthday cheer by winning 3-0.

Three days later I was headed to Mandela Hall for the first time since 2011, for my first gig of 2015 – Echo and the Bunnymen.

A further three days after that, I was back at Windsor Park to see Linfield lose to Portadown.

The final day of the month saw me see Linfield take on Portadown again, this time in the Irish Cup, and at Shamrock Park. It was the same result though.

Barcelona

Barcelona Photo Album

Nou Camp Photo Album

Barcelona Street Art

Barcelona Street Art Photo Album 1

Barcelona Street Art Photo Album 2

Barcelona Street Art Photo Album 3

CE Europa v Masnau

CE Europa v Masnau Photo Album

Espanyol v Valencia

Espanyol v Valencia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Echo and the Bunnymen Live At Mandela Hall

Echo and the Bunnymen Live At Mandela Hall Photo Album

Linfield v Portadown

Portadown v Linfield

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PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : FEBRUARY

February’s football watching began in Barcelona, where I went for a weekend break, going on the Nou Camp tour, going to a lower league game (CE Europa v Masnoua in the 4th tier) then the La Liga match between Espanyol and Valencia.

Upon my return from Barcelona, it was straight into Irish League action, to see Linfield take on Cliftonville.

The following Saturday, I was at Stangmore Park to see Linfield get a 3-0 win on my birthday, which was nice.

The next two weekends were all about seeing Linfield take on Portadown, first at Windsor Park, then at Shamrock Park, with two damaging defeats for Linfield.

CE Europa v Masnoua

CE Europa v Masnou Photo Album

Espanyol v Valencia

Espanyol v Valencia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Linfield v Portadown

Portadown v Linfield

BARCELONA

As February begins, I usually go away for a weekend somewhere. This year, I chose Barcelona.

Why? Well, I hadn’t been to Mainland Europe for two and a half years, and I just had an inkling for Barcelona. I had been before, four years ago, so I felt the time was right for a return visit.

So set was I on Barcelona, that I travelled from Dublin, with flights from Belfast not available at this time of year. It wasn’t an ideal option, but needs must. I flew out on Wednesday and flew back on Monday. Realistically, the trip was Thursday to Sunday, with the late flight on Wednesday and early flight on Monday making those days a write-off.

Wednesday wasn’t a complete write-off, as I headed for a short walk to the Arc De Triomf, before heading to bed, ahead of a busy day on the Thursday.

I woke up on Thursday morning and headed for a walk around Placa Catalunya, spotted some Street Art to photo, and had a walk around the shops. I had planned to go on the Street Art tour properly, rather than just spotting stuff.

At lunchtime, I headed to Arc De Triomf, the meeting point for the Street Art tour, but I was to be disappointed as it wasn’t on that day.

With a change of plan, I headed for a walk around Barcelona, before heading to the Nou Camp. It was too late to do the tour, so I had a look around the shop, before heading back into the City Centre to get a bite to eat.

After that, I had a walk around Las Ramblas, one of the main squares in Barcelona.

Friday morning began with me heading to the Nou Camp to do the tour. Last time I was in Barcelona, I went to a Barcelona match and did a tour of Espanyol’s ground. I always promised myself I would do a tour of the Nou Camp and go to an Espanyol match.

On Thursday morning, i’d sorted myself out for a ticket for Espanyol’s match against Valencia from the tourist office, one of many outlets in the City Centre selling them.

At the Nou Camp, I did the tour, beginning in the museum giving a chronological timeline of the club’s history, containing memorabilia and trophies from throughout the club’s history.

From there, it was a case of following the arrows which led you into the stands, then into the dressing room, the tunnel, to the side of the pitch (but not on the pitch)

The only downside was the pitch being covered. Not sure what the technical term was, but it was the things that are used to heat a pitch from above. Apologies for my lack of pitch management knowledge. IT ruined any chance of getting decent photos of the stadium.

As you followed the tour, the tour ended on the top floor of the club shop. Barcelona certainly aren’t slow in trying to make money.

As I exited the Nou Camp, I walked past Mini Estadi, which translates as The Mini Stadium, which is used by Barcelona’s reserve team, and sometimes by Andorra’s national team. Disappointingly, there was no match on that weekend, as Barcelona B (who play in Spain’s version of The Championship) were away to Real Zaragoza.

That afternoon, I was back at the Arc De Triomf to try my luck with the Street Art Tour. I soon discovered the reason why there was not tour on the Thursday – The Tour Guide had suffered a broken ankle a few weeks ago and was still recovering. Obviously such an injury is inconvenient when yo do something that involves a lot of walking

The tour is split into two – a tour of the El Borne beginning at 2pm, and a tour of Raval beginning at 4.45pm. I planned to do both on the same day but was advised to do them seperately. It was wise advice, due to the amount of walking.

The tour was very enjoyable, with the guide very knowledgeable. It also exposed me to the El Borne area in Barcelona, which I was previously unaware of. A very nice area of the city indeed. At the end of that tour, I had the later tour, earmarked for Saturday. My poor feet were worn out from all the walking.

From there, I headed to Las Rambles, onto the Marina for a walkaround. I wanted to do the cable car over the city, but I missed out …… by minutes.

I had hoped to take in a concert but the listings weren’t kind to me. The week after I visited, George Ezra was performing, which would have been nice to go to, even though I saw him at The Limelight in October.

On Saturday, I headed to Las Ramblas, the marina, the beach and El Borne.

Late afternoon, I headed to the Raval to do the Street art tour. I met my guide outside Macba (Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art). The area around MACBA is a beautiful area with lots of activity, it was a pity I only stumbled onto it to go somewhere else.

The Street Art tour of Raval was enjoyable as the one yesterday. The only complaint was that it wasn’t earlier in the day, as it began to get dark, meaning the quality of some photos wasn’t what I hoped it would be.

Sunday would be my “Day Of Football” with not one, but two matches in my plans. I went to Nou Sardenya for the lunchtime kick-off in Tercera Division (Spain’s version of League Two) between CE Europa and Masnau, which the home side won 1-0.

I then headed to Cornella, on the outskirts of the city for Espanyol v Valencia. I’d planned on going to the shopping centre beside the ground, but I ended up with too much time on my hands. I probably should have went to the City Centre for a while before heading on.

The match itself wasn’t very good in terms of quality, but was a brilliant atmosphere despite the stadium being nowhere near full.

Valencia won the game 2-1.

As I headed back into the City Centre for a bite to eat, my Barcelona adventure was almost over, as an early morning flight on the Monday would mean I wouldn’t be doing much in the city that day.

If you go to Barcelona, brace yourself for a lot of walking. Or you could be lazy and buy a pass for the Metro. I got a 10 journeys for €10, which was money well spent as I made 11 journeys (I bought the 11th as a single for €2.35)

You never had to wait a long time for a train as well, and all the stations I visited were very clean.

One thing about the Metro is that you are guaranteed to get a musical performance wether you want it or not. In Barcelona, buskers travel on the trains and give performances in packed carriages.

One down side of Barcelona is the volume of smokers, it was almost like an obstacle course at times. A blight on an otherwise beautiful city.

Despite that, I enjoyed my visit. I saw so much, and there was still so much I wanted to see.

2011 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

February was a month of travelling, and thankfully, the pictures reflect that.

At the start of the month, I headed to Barcelona for a quick break, and absolutely loved it.

It’s a fantastic city worth visiting, with some fantastic Street Art and sights which is a dream for amateur photography.

Managed to get a ticket for the match at the Nou Camp against Atletico Madrid, where despite being in the second tier of the stand, I managed to get some fantastic shots of a fantastic stadium.

Almost as soon as I got home from Barcelona, I was Dublin bound to see Northern Ireland take on Scotland, in the newly built Aviva Stadium which is kind for amateur photography, even though some of the seats have shocking views.

Later in the month, I managed to see Imelda May perform at the Oh Yeah Centre for a TV show, where I managed to get into a good position for shots.

Enjoy

Barcelona

Barcelona Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Scotland

Northern Ireland v Scotland Photo Album

Linfield v Dunmurry Rec

Imelda May

Imelda May Photo Album

Glenavon v Linfield

PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2010-2011

Apologies for the crap headline, but it was fated against me.

I’d hoped for “Newry to Nou Camp” but didn’t have any pictures from Newry on the list. For the same reason, “Ballymena to Barcelona” was canned.

Hope you enjoyed my month by month round-up of the football season just past, so I just thought i’d create a shortlist of my favourites, and allow people to vote in them.

I did something similar last season, and the winner was a picture of Windsor Park in the snow, while a picture of Michael Owen celebrating a goal came in second.

There a no pictures of snow or Michael Owen in this compilation, so enjoy, and feel free to vote.

For what it’s worth, my two main favourites are the pictures of Steven Douglas and Jim Ervin. It’s not that I have a throw-in fetish, but the composition just works.

Douglas at Dungannon

This came on the second Saturday of the Irish League season. Dungannon is a ground which is friendly to amateur photographers, so I was hopeful of getting a good shot.

Linfield got a throw where I was based, and play was stopped as a Dungannon player required treatment for an injury.

As Douglas waited, I siezed the opportunity to make the most of the framing, and this was the result.

Berbatov

Technically speaking, it’s not the greatest photo ever taken, but it’s just the emotion of it and people’s reaction which makes my love it.

This is what it feels when United score against Liverpool

Seaview Corner Flag

Got a similar photo at Richmond Park last season, so took the opportunity during a break in play at a game at Seaview to try likewise.

Again, I love the composition.

Corner Kick

Linfield, 2-1 down and chasing an equaliser, have a corner kick late on. I was quite close to the pitch and the composition just worked.

It was actually a productive phototaking day for me, pity about the result.

Burger Queue

January saw me visit Solitude for the first time. At half-time, I went around these new surroundings to get photos, and saw this queue, which was composed beautifully with the fog in the background, and it just worked.

Nou Camp

Like Solitude, I visited the Nou Camp for the first time this season, and went snap happy.

This was my favourite of all the portrait shots I took.

Charlie Adam

A few days after Barcelona, I was in Dublin for the Northern Ireland match against Scotland.

Aviva Stadium is kind to amateur photography, even if some of the views are dreadful.

The only attacking action I saw in front of me was when Scotland were on the attack in the first-half, where I took the opportunity to snap Charlie Adam as he took a corner.

Free-Kick

Tension builds as Northern Ireland have a free-kick against Slovenia in a Euro 2012 Qualifier.

For me, the composition just works.

Jim Ervin Throw

A frustrating evening of phototaking but the right result, the opposite of my previous visit.

I just love this photo of Jim Ervin.

Supervisor

Using people as props, I managed to snap Linfield fans watching their team’s match against Glentoran at The Oval.

Depressingly, it also shows the low attendance by this fixture’s standards that day.

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : FEBRUARY

Like in December/January, I attended a match at a stadium for the first time. A lot more grand than Suffolk Road and Solitude, but Nou Camp and Aviva Stadium.

In February, I also visited Estadio El Prat, home of La Liga side Espanyol.

I visited Barcelona for a weekend in February and absolutely loved it. I’d booked it primarily for a break, but did keep an eye on the football fixtures, and managed to get a ticket for Barcelona v Atletico Madrid on my arrival.

If I do visit Barcelona again, i’d like to do it the other way around, and go to an Espanyol match, and do the tour of the Nou Camp.

Nou Camp was great, a fantastic fixture of both modern and old features.

A few days later, I visited Aviva Stadium in Dublin for the Northern Ireland v Scotland match.

The match, as a 3-0 defeat suggests, was dreadful, and it didn’t help being placed in awful seats with people standing at the side of the pitch blocking your view.

Thankfully, I managed to make use of some spare seats and managed to get some decent photos.

Barcelona

Northern Ireland v Scotland

Linfield v Dunmurry Rec

Glenavon v Linfield

I HAD THIS PERFECT DREAM ……

As work colleagues and Twitter followers will have been long aware, I was in Barcelona the past weekend on a short break.

Last year, I took a short break over the first weekend in February in Manchester, and wanted to do the same this year, as something exciting to look forward to over the winter months.

I decided that I didn’t want to go to mainland UK, but instead to go to mainland Europe, and then I had the idea of going somewhere with a top class football team, and try to get to a match, but not to make a football match the focal point of the trip.

I narrowed the options down to Munich and Barcelona, before eventually settling on Barcelona, to be in the city for a few days around the time they play Atletico Madrid.

The airline I booked with cancelled their flights from Belfast during the winter months, but did give me the option of changing my departure of Dublin, which I took, despite the fact I would leaving Belfast in the wee small hours ahead of an early morning flight.

Having done some prior research, I headed to the Tourist Information Office in the airport to get a ticket for the match, which was one less thing to worry about, as I set about getting checked in.

As soon as I checked in and left my bags in the room, I set about exploring the city, blindly, with no tourist maps.

I find that the best way to get lost in a city is to, erm, get lost in a city.

What struck me most was how much love there is for Street Art in Barcelona. Where there was free wallspace, or a shutter, there would be something drawn or spraypainted on to it.

Regular readers will know how much I love Street Art.

I checked out the Marina on the Thursday. Beautiful place and very photographable, or just good if you want to laze about and watch the world pass by.

I managed to find the Nou Camp by fluke, partly because I got the wrong metro stop to the one I was staying at.

Despite it being teatime on a Thursday and a non-matchday, it was rammed with tourists and people just wanting to see one of the world’s most iconic football stadiums.

After a double-digit sleep on Thursday night, I headed to Estadi Cornella-El Prat, home of the city’s other La Liga side Espanyol, where I got a guided tour of the stadium, taking in the stands, press room and changing rooms, where a symbolic space is left for former player Dani Jarque, who died in 2009.

A memorial of shirts and flowers is place in one of the stands, and plans are in place to place the shirt Andres Iniesta wore after scoring in the 2010 World Cup Final, and he subsequently donated to the club.

The remainder of Friday, and early on Saturday was spent exploring the lively Las Ramblas area of the city centre, full of life and activity.

At about 5pm on the Saturday, I decided to head over to Nou Camp for the game between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, which kicked-off at 10pm local time.

There was me thinking that Linfield playing Setanta Cup matches at 5.30pm on a Saturday was odd.

I headed into the stadium and checked out my seat, three rows back in the second tier, unbelievable. It was great for amateur photography of portrait shots, rather than actual match action.

Barcelona won the match 3-0 with a hat-trick from Lionel Messi. Stating the obvious, but he is rather good. He was playing for fun at times, showing off as if was having a kickabout in the street.

Sunday was a lazy day, mostly spent watching football on TV and lazing at the marina before heading home on the Monday morning.

An excellent weekend well spent, and was well worth having as February’s STLFTEM.

Farewell Barcelona. If God is willing, we will meet again ……….. someday.

Photo Album

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