Monthly Roundup: August 2017

This month sure flew like clockwork, didn’t it? I’ve been so busy and so productive lately with job-hunting and other things, whilst going out and enjoying myself with friends that it’s officially the end of the month.

I would love to hear how your month went, I am keen to find out whether you enjoyed August, and if not, please feel free to submit your response below in the comments. I would love to hear what you got up to over the course of August.

Without further ado, I will take a look back on the articles I published over the course of August.

1.8.2017 – Welcoming all of you to August, I mentioned that the next few weeks were set to be peaceful, but also a little busy, as I had my next batch of photographs on the way very soon, which would feature a certain someone who is a very close friend of mine.

2.8.2017 – “Should We Change at the Expense of Others?” was my way of getting all of you to see the way I see things from a personal perspective, considering that changing ourselves at the expense of others would mean we would put ourselves in a position where we’re made to change ourselves in order to be socially acceptable to everyone else.

9.8.2017 – A few weeks prior to writing the article: “Croydon Murals Defaced Beyond Recognition”, I spoke about the beautifully exquisite Amy Winehouse: “Tears Dry On Their Own” mural, which was produced by the artist, Bareface, in conjunction with and as commissioned by the RISE Gallery.

I published this article, because on Saturday 5th August 2017, me and two close friends of mine paid a visit to Katharine Street because we wanted to find out if the mural of Amy Winehouse was still in the same finished state it was when I photographed it just a few weeks before.

Sadly, on closer inspection, I was devastated to discover that not only had the mural been defaced, but a grey block and teardrop were drawn just below her eye, with some graffiti etched onto the back of Bareface’s clothing, which ultimately destroyed Bareface’s true work of art.

15.8.2017 – It was a long time coming! Sonic Mania finally arrived and officially marked a nostalgic return to form with the help of Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, PagodaWest Games, Lola Shiraishi & Headcannon!

Reliving 26 years of some of the most iconic levels from Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic CD and Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Mania revisited Green Hill Zone with an easter egg of an old landscape that was ditched from the final release of Sonic the Hedgehog, with the zip-line being re-introduced, and a lost level which was meant to appear in the original Sonic games but never got used finally came to Sonic Mania, and that was Mirage Saloon Zone. Studiopolis Zone, which is an all-new level, officially débuted in Sonic Mania with a city-like landscape that made it feel a little like Stardust Speedway, Casino Nights and Carnival Night Zone mixed in.

22.8.2017 – Following on from when I photographed my close friends, Saviyon Thomas & Shaquille Roachford, I was honoured to have been given the opportunity to photograph my close friend, the actor and mental health awareness campaigner, Oli Regan, again, but this time for my photography series: “The Concept of Expression”.

As I look to explore the concept of expression in the subjects I photograph, photographing Oli gave me the chance to explore his personality, regardless of the angle, but more importantly, as body language is a consistent boundary for the subject’s facial expression, photographing Oli again gave me the chance to explore his personality through these photo headshots, as well as his persona, so in this case, because he’s an actor, he puts on a serious face, which makes the photos interesting, considering that being serious really makes him stand out.

Thanks for such a great month everyone. Although it has been quite the busy month, I wanted to take a moment to remember the TV legend and Strictly Come Dancing presenter, Sir Bruce Forsyth, who sadly passed away on the 18th August 2017, but I also wanted to take this opportunity to also pay my full respects to all the victims and all the families who have lost their loved ones as a result of Hurricane Harvey. My thoughts are with all of you at this time.

Again, thanks for a great and busy month everyone and I will see you all in September. To everyone going through Hurricane Harvey, stay strong, but always know I’ll keep you all in my prayers and hope this hurricane ends soon.

Alex Smithson

The Concept of Expression / Oli Regan

Following on from when I photographed my close friends, Saviyon Thomas & Shaquille Roachford, I am honoured to have been given the opportunity to photograph my close friend, the actor and mental health awareness campaigner, Oli Regan, again, but this time for my photography series: “The Concept of Expression”.

As I look to explore the concept of expression in the subjects I photograph, photographing Oli gave me the chance to explore his personality, regardless of the angle, but more importantly, as body language is a consistent boundary for the subject’s facial expression, photographing Oli again gave me the chance to explore his personality through these photo headshots, as well as his persona, so in this case, because he’s an actor, he puts on a serious face, which makes the photos interesting, considering that being serious really makes him stand out.

The serious impression and the modelling approach that Oli has taken to make sure the photographs I have produced look visually eye-catching are out of this world. Whilst I remember, keep an eye out for Oli on the latest EE advert that’s been on TV recently. You don’t want to miss it. To spot him, wait for Stormzy‘s song: “Big for Your Boots“, taken from his album, Gang Signs & Prayer, to come on after Kevin Bacon finishes with the word: “INCOMING!” and you should see Oli on the left-hand-side of the screen skanking to Stormzy’s record. It’s a bloody good advert and you will not be disappointed.

Below are the photos I’ve produced of my close friend, Oli Regan.

I am pleased with the way these photographs turned out, but I won’t lie to you, naming each photograph based on the expression and emotion is quite hard, and the photography work I produced when I was at Croydon College is living proof that naming each photo based on the expression and emotion is harder than it looks.

What I will need to improve on is angling the camera when I photograph any subject, so that rather than photograph the subject the way I would usually photograph them, I would need to put the camera up higher, but with the camera angled down a little so that there is little to no head-space on the portrait photographs. These photographs I have produced are really good as they capture the expressions and emotions I wanted Oli to make, but I will be making sure to improve on certain photography-based areas I may or may not be so good

These photographs I have produced are really good as they capture the expressions and emotions I wanted Oli to make, but I will be making sure to improve on certain photography-based areas I may or may not be so good at so that this gives me a better chance next time.

Other than that, I am actually pleased with the overall outcome from these photographs.

These photos will be in my E-Folio so please make sure to check my E-Folio as I will be updating the E-Folio as often as I can.

If you like these photographs I have produced of my close friend, the mental health awareness campaigner and actor, Oli Regan, please leave your comments below. I would love to hear your response and if there are any further improvements I can make for next time, please let me know. I am open to criticism as this will help me to improve the photographs I take for next time.

Alex Smithson

DSLR Used: Nikon D3300

Sonic Mania: A Nostalgic Return to Form.

It’s been a long time coming! Sonic Mania has finally arrived and is a nostalgic return to form with the help of Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, PagodaWest Games, Lola Shiraishi & Headcannon!

Reliving 26 years of some of the most iconic levels from Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic CD and Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Mania revisits Green Hill Zone with an easter egg of an old landscape that was ditched from the final release of Sonic the Hedgehog, with the zip-line being re-introduced, and a lost level which was meant to appear in the original Sonic games but never got used finally came to Sonic Mania, and that lost level was Mirage Saloon. Studiopolis is an all-new level that officially débuts in Sonic Mania with a city-like landscape that makes it feel a little like Stardust Speedway, Casino Nights and Carnival Night Zone mixed in.

After such a long wait, Flying Battery Zone has officially been revived and is officially a part of Sonic Mania, which wasn’t just a fan favourite, but is also one of the most iconic levels taken from Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles and Sonic & Knuckles, a level of which I absolutely love. Both Acts for Flying Battery Zone have had some changes here and there with access to some new and unseen areas, giving all gamers a chance to discover certain parts of both levels that have never been seen before.

Chemical Plant Zone has returned in Sonic Mania but with a difference; Chemical Plant Act 2 contains an upbeat sound whilst giving gamers like myself the chance to go inside the Chemical Plant. This gives the Sonic franchise a new lease of life considering that Chemical Plant is often seen in some or most of the games released in the Sonic series. The last known appearance that Chemical Plant made was in Sonic Generations, but this time, it’s back with quite a few changes. The songs for Chemical Plant receive up-to-date futuristic sounds, modernising the old into the new.

The man behind the soundtrack for Sonic Mania is Tee Lopes, who, just like Christian Whitehead, is also a massive fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog series and his work on making the soundtrack for Sonic Mania is sure to make everyone’s eyes water with joy.

Special Stages are back and have an eerily similar feel to the Sonic CD Special Stages, though you will need to think quickly and act quickly to catch the UFO that carries the Chaos Emerald per each Special Stage that you play.

Eggman is back but with a difference. Working alongside him, the Hard-Boiled Heavies aim to manipulate the timestream by stealing the mysterious gemstone, which is revealed to be the Phantom Ruby, which is the energy source Tails picked up on one of his energy readings far away from Angel Island Zone.

The new levels that make their début in Sonic Mania are Press Garden Zone, Oil Ocean Zone & Titanic Monarch Zone, though the other few notable levels that have been revived for Sonic Mania are Stardust Speedway Zone, Metallic Madness Zone, Hydrocity Zone and Lava Reef Zone.

Does Sonic Mania live up to the hype and anticipation?

Of course, it does! Sonic Mania brings about the nostalgic days of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, including Sonic CD. With past levels, such as Green Hill Zone, Chemical Plant Zone, Flying Battery Zone, Lava Reef Zone, Hydrocity Zone, Stardust Speedway Zone & Metallic Madness Zone making a comeback, Sonic Mania truly lives up to the hype and anticipation me and everyone else have waited for. Sonic Mania was delayed earlier this year as more time was required and some more levels were being added in, but I was glad it was delayed until today for its release as a delayed game is better than a rushed game.

Does Sonic Mania capture the true essence of old-school retro games?

Definitely! Because Sonic Mania has revived some of the well-known and well-loved levels from the 16-Bit Sonic franchise, the old-school retro appeal gives Sonic Mania the true essence that it needs. The true essence of old-school retro games is the nostalgia the games carry, and for Sonic Mania, it does exactly that, it captures the true essence of old-school retro gaming.

How many levels are in Sonic Mania?

In their particular order, the levels that are in Sonic Mania are:

  1. Green Hill Zone
  2. Chemical Plant Zone
  3. Studiopolis Zone
  4. Flying Battery Zone
  5. Press Garden Zone
  6. Stardust Speedway Zone
  7. Hydrocity Zone
  8. Mirage Saloon Zone
  9. Oil Ocean Zone
  10. Lava Reef Zone
  11. Metallic Madness Zone
  12. Titanic Monarch Zone

I must admit, when I heard that Titanic Monarch was a completely new level, I was a little bit stunned at first with the name, but I was pleased the name was used as the name pays homage and pays tribute to the RMS Titanic ship that sunk on the 15th April 1912, 105 years ago. Although this might not seem like a relevant connection between the level and the ship, it certainly pays tribute respectively as the name remembers the ship perfectly. Fair play to Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, PagodaWest Games, Lola Shiraishi, Headcannon & SEGA for paying homage and for paying tribute to the RMS Titanic, I think it’s a perfectly respectful and touching gesture.

Below are the screenshots for Sonic Mania that I managed to gather together during gameplay.

Below is the video playlist I’ve created for Sonic Mania. Please feel free to watch the gameplay footage I have uploaded to my YouTube Channel, and if you have a YouTube Channel and want to see gameplay footage from Sonic Mania, please make sure to like, comment and subscribe.

Sonic Mania hasn’t just proved to be so popular, but because Sonic Mania has brought back the nostalgia and magic of past games, this gives the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise a new lease of life and also brings to the table the potential for more Sonic games and potential sequels now that Sonic Mania has exceeded mine and everyone else’s expectations. Sonic Forces follows on from Sonic Mania this holiday season, but I can be absolutely sure from my own perspective, that the Sonic franchise will be open to the potentiality of more games and sequels.Sonic Mania has me falling in love with retro games once again.

To conclude, Sonic Mania has me falling in love with retro games once again.

If you haven’t yet purchased your copy of Sonic Mania, I strongly recommend you do, because Sonic Mania isn’t just a nostalgic game worth playing, it’s a game that stays completely true to the entire Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. What are you waiting for? Purchase your copy of Sonic Mania now! If you pre-ordered the PC version of Sonic Mania on Steam before today, the PC version will be released on the 29th August 2017. To make up for polishing the PC Version, those who pre-ordered the PC version of Sonic Mania before the 15th August will receive a free copy of the first ever Sonic game, Sonic the Hedgehog.

SEGA, Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, PagodaWest Games, Lola Shiraishi and Headcannon, including all those involved in the making of Sonic Mania, you are awesome! Thanks for making Sonic Mania the perfectly crafted masterpiece it truly is, but more importantly, thanks for taking me and everyone else for a nostalgic trip down memory lane. You are all awesome and all of you rock!

Alex Smithson

© SEGA, Sonic Team, Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, Lola Shiraishi, PagodaWest Games & Headcannon 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

© The Sonic Mania logo, including all the screenshots, all of the gameplay videos, thumbnails and official art, are all copyright of SEGA, Sonic Team, Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, Lola Shiraishi, PagodaWest Games and Headcannon. Full copyright goes to the respective owners.

Sonic Mania Rating: 10/10

Croydon Murals Defaced Beyond Recognition

Just a few short weeks ago, I recently photographed the beautifully exquisite Amy Winehouse: “Tears Dry On Their Ownmural, which was produced by the artist, Bareface, in conjunction with and as commissioned by the RISE Gallery.

Fast forward to Saturday just gone, while I was with my close friends, who I just recently photographed a few weeks ago, with some more photographs on the way soon, all three of us paid a visit to Katharine Street because we wanted to find out if the mural of Amy Winehouse was still in the same finished state it was when I photographed it just a few short weeks ago.

On closer inspection, however, I was devastated to discover that not only was the mural defaced, but a grey block drawn just below Amy Winehouse’s eye, with a teardrop also drawn just below her eye, with some graffiti included on the back of Bareface’s clothing has ultimately destroyed a true work of art.

I just, in the last few days, spoke to the man behind the Amy Winehouse mural, Bareface, over Instagram, and even he is just as furious as I am about the mural being defaced.

Bareface made this statement during a conversation I had with him on Instagram. Permission was granted by Bareface for me to release his statement on his mural being defaced alongside the other murals that were also defaced.

“I did notice in a few pics I was tagged in this week that it had been worked over. It’s a shame but sadly it’s the law of the jungle. These “thugs” seem to think it’s fair game if it’s out in the street to tag over something that’s already there. The bigger issue is that if it continues the council will think it invites more vandalism and it will put a stop to public art so it’s a tough one to tackle. I will be in town today so I will be able to see it up close but it would have been nice for it to remain “clean” for a lot longer as it is a legal wall, but that’s something the organisers need to consider for next time.”

Bareface went on to say:

“I had a look today and it’s a shame most of the work has been tagged over apart from the lettering “graffiti”. There is always a rift between people that do lettering graffiti and people that do stencil art and other styles but that’s another story for another time.” – Statement released by Bareface on Monday 7th July 2017.

You can see just by the statement he released to me in our conversation just how disgusted he is by the fact his mural was destroyed because I too would be the same in his shoes. To think that those who defaced this mural would go to such lengths to destroy such a beautiful and exquisite masterpiece, as well as two other murals proves the lack of respect those have. Those who did it should be ashamed.

Below are the photos I took, which were featured in two articles that were published in the Croydon Advertiser, the first article of which was published on Monday 7th July 2017 and also Tuesday 8th July 2017. You can also read the articles in which I expressed my fury on the murals being destroyed by clicking here and here.

It’s a distasteful and remorseless act and it shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Alex Smithson

Should We Change at the Expense of Others?

From a personal perspective, changing ourselves at the expense of others means we are putting ourselves in a position where we are made to change ourselves in order to be socially acceptable to everyone else.

I personally refuse to change myself at the expense of others because I am happy with who I am, what I look like, including how I present myself to other people.

So what, I don’t give a damn if some people don’t accept me just for being myself, at the end of the day, I refuse to let anyone change me so that I can appear acceptable to them.

It’s a messed up world, there’s no other way of describing this world, but at the end of the day, if no one can accept you for who you are, what you look like, including how you present yourself to others, and if they expect you to change yourself at their expense, forget them and just be yourself and never change for anyone.

Never change yourself.

If you feel what I have said here is powerful and eye-opening, please let me know. I would love to know if I inspired you as I want to inspire you all and for you to be yourselves and to never change yourselves at all at the expense of others.

Alex Smithson

Welcome to August!

Welcome to August on Mother Nature everyone! As the next few weeks are set to be peaceful, but also a little busy, it is safe to say that time sure will fly this month, as I’ve got my next batch of photographs on the way very soon for my own photography series which will be of a certain someone who is a very close friend of mine.

I have photographed this person before, but I will reveal the person I will have photographed very soon once another article goes up for: “The Concept of Expression” Photography Series.

What are your plans for August? I would love to hear what you are planning to do over the course of this month. Please feel free to submit your response below, I would love to hear what plans you have got in store for this month.

Until then:

Welcome to August!

Alex Smithson