Monday, July 21, 2014

You Know, Yeah?

You know that I do this whole photography, writing and content marketing thing for a living, right?  

Last week I caught up with my Dad, and he made a very valid point that I hope this blog post will address:  I don't market my work well enough.  I was having a bit of a work-whinge (no doubt revolving around the fact that I work a lot but that it never feels like it's quite enough) and unloading all of the regular freelancer's anxieties in his ear, when he highlighted the fact that most readers of this blog, or visitors to my website, probably wouldn't know that this is my job.  I market my clients very well, through ongoing content marketing campaigns and bespoke photography and copywriting commissions, but I don't actually market these services to other potential clients.  So here goes:

My name is Mat and I am a storyteller.

I develop and distribute high quality media content - mostly in the form of images and words - that builds lasting relationships between a brand and its customers.

This might be bespoke photography or copywriting for a website or a print marketing campaign.  It is more valuable to a brand, however, in the form of regular, creative and dynamic content that potential and existing customers engage with through various marketing channels.  Custom digital content such as blogs, e-newsletters, photo essays and short videos increase website performance (particularly for search engines) and social media engagement, helping your brand to reach more potential customers and consistently converts views to sales.

Every business needs to share its message.  Being able to communicate what you do and why, in order to engage customers, is the key to a successful marketing strategy in the digital age.

You have a story, let me help you tell it.

So there you have it:  I'm an award-winning, published, photographer and writer with an international client list including Cloudy Bay Wines, Nokia UK, Otter Surfboards, Hog Island Oyster Co and the London Surf Film Festival, and I'd like to work with you.

Let's talk:
All of my contact details are in the last frame of the short video clip above, or you can use mat(at)matarney dot com, send me a message on facebook, instagram or twitter or leave a comment here and I'll get back to you.  Thanks.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Barrel Equation

Waves break when they become too steep and the velocity of the water particles at the crest exceeds the phase speed (the overall wave speed), so essentially they trip over themselves.  A wave will break when it reaches a depth of 1.3 times the wave height.  If the depth of the seabed is gradually decreasing (for instance, on a relatively flat beach) then this theory holds true and the wave will "spill" slowly, however if a wave comes out of deep water and hits a shallow reef then it will break much faster and hollower.

The Iribarren number can be used to classify breaker types depending on wave height (H), period (T) and beach slope gradient (B):

=(1.25H)T tanB

Spilling <0.4
0.4< Plunging >2.0
2.0> Surging

If you don't have an accurate measurement of the inshore bathymetry to hand though, and let's face it who does, then you can use Galvin's Breaker Type Parameter from 1968:

B=Hb/gT tanB

Where Hb = wave height at break point and g = gravity at 9.8m/s.

Surging B<0.003
Plunging 0.003<B>0.068
Spilling B<0.068

The length:width ratio of the cross-section of a barreling wave can be used to determine the intensity of the tube, from "wider then it is tall" through to the sort of head-dippers that you really have to contort yourself into:

Square <1:1
1:1< Round> 2:1
2:1> "Almond"

Have a think about that next time you see a photograph of Pipeline or Teahupoo shot from the channel, showing somebody stood in a keg wide enough to drive a car through with their arms outstretched and unable to touch the sides.  Maths for surfers:  Don't ever say that An Tor Orth An Mor isn't educational!

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Wooden surfboards are at the root of many countries traditional wave riding cultures, and this is certainly the case for Papua New Guinea.  Here, "splinter" surfboards have been used for generations to ride the waves that break over the reefs and black sand beaches, the boards being carved from indigenous trees or pieces of old canoes.  At the end of last month the multi-award winning documentary film Splinters toured the UK with several screenings in the South West and London, including one just down the road from me in Porthtowan which I was quick to get tickets for.  Andrew Abel, President of the Surfing Association of Papua New Guinea and a star of the film, was on hand and I was lucky enough to catch up with him after the screening to ask him some questions about wooden surfboard riding and it's place in the surf culture of PNG to feature on the Otter Surfboards journal that I curate.  This piece went out on the Otter Surfboards site last week but, for those of you who may not have seen it, here it is for you to enjoy.

What exactly is a splinter and where did they get their name from?
Splinters is a name given to the traditional boards that the local kids belly board or surf on around PNG...the local equivalent pidgin word is “palang”.  A Splinter can be cut out from an old canoe or cut from a tree trunk and shaped according to the eye of the carver, be it a young kid or his father or uncle...these days with the introduction of modern surfboards donated by the SAPNG and purchased by local surfers from visiting surfing tourists, Splinters are being carved to nearly identical dimensions as fibreglass boards, with fins fashioned from timber or plastic and leg ropes out of twine and tyre inner-tubes.

How did surfing on wooden boards develop in PNG?
Surfing on Palang wooden boards in PNG developed hundreds of years ago and has been passed down from father to son until the present day.  Over the past 27 years I have, in my role as the president of SAPNG, introduced modern boards but at the same time respected the craft of the resource custodians still carving and surfing their own hand carved Palang or Splinters as it is unique and something that must be continued and protected from dying out.  These surfboards are very much part of our PNG surfing culture.

Are they still used or seen regularly?
Yes, Palang boards or Splinters are still being ridden prone all around 
PNG, and more so being surfed standing up in the surf clubs in Vanimo, Sandaun Province, Tupira Surf Club, Bogia District, Madang province, New Ireland Province and in Wewak, East Sepik Province.

What are they made from and how are they made?The Palang or Splinters are made from light weight timber from the jungles along the coastline....the boards are cut out and shaped using axes and bush knives or machetes.

Are splinters/wooden surfboards a valued part of PNG's surf culture and historical development?
Yes absolutely, and myself and SAPNG take great pride in them and work hard to ensure that this important part of our surfing culture is carried on for generations to come. We are instilling in the traditional resource custodian host communities that we work with (in partnership in developing the surfing and surf tourism industry of PNG under our SAPNG model and policies) that this is unique to PNG and an added attraction and show piece of the evolution of the growing surfing culture of PNG.  I have, in my role as President of SAPNG, been approached by the PNG National Museum to develop an exhibition within the museum to celebrate our surfing culture and evolution. In addition, whilst I was in California presenting the Splinters movie I was asked to do Q&A at the San Clemente Surfing History Musuem and the Director of the Museum asked if I/SAPNG would be able to donate a genuine Splinters carved board to sit in their collection of historic surfboards alongside surfboards ridden by the likes of Duke Kahanamoku.
I am currently working on this and at the right time I will be taking two Splinters, that are sun bleached and worn from years of surfing, to be presented to the History of Surfing Museum in California so that SAPNG has a place amongst the surfing nations of the world.  I hope also to be able to present a Splinters surfboard to a national collection in the UK.

Would you like to see a return to using native (and less toxic?) resources for surfboard materials in PNG?I think it is inevitable that all our young local surfers in all of ourSAPNG established surf clubs will want to step up to modern day fibreglass boards as they all want to surf better and compete against their peers and other clubs. However, the art of carving a Palang or a Splinter only requires an axe and machete/bush knife without the need for any toxic materials like resin to make such a unique board, therefore I can see the traditional boards still being used by the younger grommies coming through the ranks until they are old enough and proficient enough to step up to a modern shortboard. 
In having said that, as part of staging our national surfing titles, the SAPNG will at all events ensure that we have an "expression session" style event where all competing surfers from the respective clubs will have an opportunity to have their best surfers compete on traditional Palang/Splinter boards, on the same waves and under the same ISA competition surfing rules as they do on modern day boards.  
In actual fact, as we are working towards staging our inaugural Mens WQS and Womens WCT in PNG in partnership with ASP Australasia, one of the events planned will pitch local PNG surfers against the visiting WQS and WCT surfing on Palang surfboards, on their home turf.  This will be the ultimate challenge for the PNG surfers who are experts in surfing these Palang/ Splinters to show off their skills against some of the world's best in the same waves and surfing conditions.
For me personally, as the President and Co Founder of SAPNG as we mark 27 years since foundation, it will be the most exciting moment seeing the kids that we have been nurturing being given the opportunity to stand tall and represent SAPNG and PNG on our traditional boards and show the surfing world how it is done.  For the families and clans of these young PNG surfers, it will be something to be proud of and remember for generations to come!

I would like to thank Andrew Abel and the Surfing Association of Papua New Guinea (SAPNG) for taking the time to talk wooden surfboards with me and for providing me with such a wonderful set of images to accompany his answers. 
All images courtesy of and copyright SAPNG.

You can find and follow SAPNG on facebook if you're interested in finding out more about this intriguing surf destination.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Jagwar Ma - Guilty as Charged

Last night they played the Park Stage at Glastonbury to a crowd of thousands, but a couple of weeks ago Jagwar Ma performed in front of what is likely to be their smallest crowd this year, in The Old Crown Courts in Bristol.  The Aussie three piece are hard to pigeonhole with a psych/electro/indie/rock sound moulded by the Sydney synth scene, and in such an intimate setting (three people deep from the front row to the sound desk) they rattled the roof of the old, crumbling, building.

I was there to shoot the event for Nokia, who put on the gig as one of their #LumiaLive sessions featuring rising stars in unique settings.  I love the challenge that these Lumia Live sessions present, with the usual bright, flashing, lights of a live performance paired with the less than standard locations - there's no getting a media pass to get side-of-stage here, as the audience filled the judges bench, jurors stand, witness boxes and gallery.  I had to climb around furniture and crawl between feet to get the angles that I was after, but that's what I love about these shows.  I also took portraits of the band in just about the creepiest location that I've ever used for a shoot - the dark old jail cells in the basement beneath the courts.  

Jagwar Ma played a storming set and frontman Gabriel Winterfield even managed to make light of the fact that, what with the previous gig that they played in Bristol being aboard a boat, perhaps the person in charge of their bookings was making a joke at the expense of their nationality.  The band are based in the UK now, however, and with Noel Gallagher hanging his hopes for independent music on them they look set to maintain their rapid trajectory.

As usual, pioneering French music film makers La Blogothéque were on hand with a dazzling amount of kit to film the performance…check it out below.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Ra Expeditions

Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002) was a renowned Norwegian archaeologist, anthropologist and explorer: a social scientist who backed up his theories about the spread of ancient cultures and population migrations across the ocean by testing them on a 1:1 scale.  In 1947 Heyerdahl skippered the Kon Tiki, a balsa wood raft with a crew of 5 other Scandinavians, 6000km from the west coast of South America to Polynesia in a demonstration of his theory of how the South Pacific was originally populated.  Then in 1970 he made two expeditions on boats made of papyrus reeds (Ra I&II) to prove his idea that the ancient, sun-worshipping, pyramid cultures on either side of the Atlantic Ocean in Egypt and Mexico could have been the result of a trans-atlantic voyage on a reed boat rather than just being down to coincidence as many at the time thought.  He stepped right into an ongoing debate between two schools of archaeological and anthropological thought, those who believed that ancient cultures on either side of the Atlantic developed in isolation, and those "diffusionists" who argues that there had been cultural exchanges pre-Columbus.  The central pillar to Heyerdahl's backing of diffusion theories was the existence of reed boats of startling similar designs from as far afield as Ethiopia (at the source of the River Nile) and Easter Island.  In comparison to these two points on the map where reed boats were still in sporadic use, the distance between Morocco and the West Indies didn't seem so far after all.
Ra I encountered difficulties shortly after embarking from Safi and starting to break apart, limping a fair way across the Atlantic before finally being abandoned to the depths.  Ra II built on the design and construction lessons learnt from the failings of Ra I, and arrived in Bridgetown, Barbados with all eight crew members and the ship's mascots (a duck and a monkey) safe and well.

Heyerdahl's expeditions fostered in him a strong sense of humanity and the environment.  He observed the degradation of the marine environment on his voyages over forty years ago and became a global advocate of marine environmental causes.  He also bore witness to the shrinking world, and conducted many of his projects through times of great world conflict - purposefully taking an international crew and flying the flag of the United Nations as an example of international co-operation on a man-to-man scale.  His opinions on humanity, our shared history, relationship with one another and with our planet are fascinating and clearly born of a great deal of time contemplating a vast horizon.

"The earth of our forefathers no longer exists.  The once limitless world can be circled in an hour and forty minutes.  The nations are no longer divided by impassable mountain ranges and infinite ocean gulfs.  The races are no longer independent, isolated;  they are connected and becoming crowded.  While hundreds of thousands of technicians are working on atomic fission and laser rays, our little globe is whirling at supersonic speed into a future where we are all fellow-passengers in the same great technical experiment and where we must all work together if we are not to sink with our common burden."

Thor Heyerdahl, The Ra Expeditions, 1971

One thing is for sure:  To spend 57 days on a boat made from woven reeds, crossing an ocean without any serious sailing experience in order to test a theory, is incredibly brave.  It is a testament to Heyerdahl's research, convictions and pioneering spirit that time and again he was joined by a crew of adventurers who were often prepared to drop everything at short notice to accompany him on his bold and fascinating expeditions.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Blue Blanquillo

Easily recognisable due to their streamlined bodies and blue coloration, with darker stripes running along their bodies and a white belly, the blue blanquillo is a truly distinctive fish.  Ordinarily found swimming alone in Indo-Pacific waters, lurking around coral reefs near the sea floor, it's remarkable to see one jumping out of the water in front of such a decidedly Cornish backdrop…

White surfboards can be stunning and certainly have their place, but I don't half love it when somebody goes for a beautiful resin tint (as is the case here) or spray job and gives their precious sled a name and a personality.  Surfboards are works of craft and art that we spend great deals of time with and money on, so it seems appropriate that when we get one with character we celebrate that.  Decorate it, name it, cherish it…and throw buckets with it.  

Nick Holden of the National Trust did and does with his Blue Blanquillo, making more than most would of a close-out under the Cornish cliffs.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Big Blue

The oceans cover 70% of Earth's surface.  We have technology (the Hubble Space Telescope) that can form images made from light that has travelled over 10 billion trillion kilometres from the edge of our known Universe, and yet we can see less than a hundred metres under the surface of the ocean because of the way that seawater absorbs and scatters light.  We just don't know all that much about our oceans considering how influential they are to life on this planet.  We know more about space and that strikes me as being a touch ridiculous.

We exist on a watery planet, and we rely on that core element.  But the oceans are big; perhaps bigger than we can easily comprehend.  Only a few hundred years ago, nothing in terms of the duration of human evolution, we still believed that the waters of the world's oceans just poured straight off the edge of our flat planet - they were that infinite that the water just kept on coming.  And so because they are so enormous, often stretching as far as the eye can see in every direction, some people still believe that their vast ability to dilute and distribute whatever we put in them makes them cheap and easy dumping grounds.  But this abuse of our planets largest ecosystems is catching up with us, and the ability of the oceans to absorb our excess carbon dioxide and maintain the status quo is starting to tip and our actions are altering the delicate chemical balance maintained by them.     

We are all emotionally attached to the oceans - some more strongly than others but nonetheless every single human being has an unquestionable and deep affinity for these massive bodies of water far larger, greater, and mysterious than we can comprehend.  We all lose ourselves staring at them given half an opportunity.  Why?  Maybe it's because, depending on what you believe and where you place your faith, several million years ago our ancient, ancient, predecessors flapped out of them when they became too crowded and adapted to life on "Earth".  Perhaps, considering this, we were a bit wide of the mark when naming this planet of ours.  Now there's something to consider on World Oceans Day.