being a photographer

Windows ate my Lightroom catalogue

On Thursday my PC got the latest Windows 10 update. On Friday, my external hard drive had disappeared. Lightroom still showed my photographs using its previews, but it couldn't find the originals. Every single folder displayed a question mark. Hundreds of thousands of image files had gone missing.

The more I researched the problem online the more worried I became. Neither the online help systems nor the user forums of either Microsoft or Western Digital turned up the simple, clear, recent advice I wanted: “It's a well-known issue, just do x and y.” Instead, the articles and threads were long and confusing, with multiple options and many comments of the “I tried that, but it didn’t work” type. Many suggested reformatting the hard drive as the best solution.


I told myself to stay calm. It was true that everything was backed up in the cloud. But still, downloading terabytes of data and rebuilding my Lightroom catalogue was not the way I had planned to spend my weekend.

I turned off the PC.

I unplugged the hard drive from the USB port and powered it down.

I turned on the PC.

I powered up the hard drive and plugged it back into a different USB port.

Reader, it worked! Everything is back to normal. Windows sees the drive again, even on wake from sleep or hard reboot. Lightroom knows where to find each photograph.

Birds: singing. Sun: shining.

Microsoft: 0. Simon: 1


Glamour is probably not the first word my friends associate with me. When I was asked to take photographs for a birthday, I assumed that it would be a party. In fact, the birthday girl had gathered her closest friends in a hotel room in central Brussels to dress up together.

When I arrived, a makeup artist was already hard at work, and I was supposed to record the finished products in the corridors of the fifth floor. Apparently, this is a thing that people now do on their eighteenth birthdays.

The eyelashes, fingernails and hair were false, but the girls were very genuine and rather sweet with me. I hope they had a fantastic evening after I left.

Calendar 2018

Starting in 2008, every year I've made a printed wall calendar as a Christmas gift for friends and family. Each calendar features 12 of my photographs (or 13, counting the cover) taken during the previous 12 months.

The exercise of selecting and ordering a dozen images from a whole year's output is always interesting. Each individual image must be capable of giving pleasure over 30 days, but variety is important, too. This year, I shortlisted 24 images and asked artist and photographer friends to pick the 13 they liked best. The results were sometimes surprising, forcing me to evaluate my work from a new perspective. But of course the final selection respects my friends' collective wisdom.

Here are the 'winners', with brief background notes.

Cover, January-March

Cover – This is from the afternoon I spent with Marc Vanoverschelde in July, harvesting his organic wheat and rye crop at the Ferme du Hayon.

January – I took this at an exhibition of Japanese prints in Brussels. I like the very soft light on the faces of the mother and son, and the two diagonal lines, one straight and one wavy.

February – These two young women were walking out in Matonge, the African district of central Brussels. Apart from their obvious chic, I liked the nearly-but-not-quite symmetry of their dresses and hairstyles. The reversed cigrette of the one in blue is a nice detail.

March – This woman was taking part in the annual march against the detention centre for migrants at Vottem, just outside Liège. The orange of her glasses, which picks up one of the colours in her scarf, makes them push forward out of the frame.


April – This was shot at a Muziekpublique concert. The band, from Zimbabwe, is called Mokoomba. The cymbal and the brim of the hat play nicely together.

May – I spent two days with the magnolias at the botanical gardens at Meise this year. My Nikon D810 with Nikkor 135mm lens and macro extension allows me to get right into these wonderful flowers. This one had already lost half its petals.

June – Another concert at Muziekpublique, this time the 20-year anniversary bash of Brussels band Jaune Toujours. Bart Maris on trumpet.


July – Brigitte and I spent a week in Corsica at the end of April, and I fell in love with the huge weathered granite bolders which were used as rudimentary shelters by our ancestors in neolithic times. 

August – Street photography in Ixelles. Is the cyclist visiting this vacant shop from the past or from the future?

September – An amazing solo performance at Muziekpublique by the Comorian musician, Nawal.


October – I shot this couple at a wedding reception I was covering. I like the way her arms emerge into the light.

November – The relationship between this father and son looked excellent to me. The conversation, at an open air concert in Brussels' Parc Royale, was intense but respectful. The light between their faces is lovely.

December – I shot this in the mediaeval part of Poggio Moiano, a hilltop village about 70 kilometres north-east of Rome, on the evening of the annual festival. I spotted this little boy and his grandmother looking down on the celebrations, and she let me take the picture.