Sunday, 15 July 2018

Coconut Thai curry with chickpeas

Coconut Thai curry with chickpeas in the pot


This is a bit of a departure for the blog, I normally write about photography and cycling. Today it's cooking.

It's also unusual because I'm not a vegetarian and I rarely follow recipes. But I was bored of the standard food I eat and a friend suggested a vegan recipe. I was keen but couldn't get all of the ingredients. A google for ideas that I could cook came up with coconut Thai curry with chickpeas.

Dealing with butternut squash and aubergines was a first, and I have never included chickpeas in a meal. But it wasn't so bad. An hour to cook gave me plenty of time to start writing this. I didn't know what it was supposed to look like, I just hoped it was going okay.

So how did it go?

Not too bad if I say so myself. Although having eating on hold while I took photos caused the wife some concern. I could have presented it better if I had a bit more time. But when you photographing food you don't then sit down to eat it. I held Marcia off as long as I could and also didn't want it getting cold.

Coconut Thai curry with chickpeas on the plate


I think next time I'll add more chillies and a bit more liquid. And I don't think I'll be giving up meat anytime soon, but I will cook more vegetarian meals. It does make a nice change.


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Saturday, 14 July 2018

Personal challenge


summer cycling chipstead

Yesterday when I knew todays ride would be solo the plan was to do around thirty miles and see if I could match or better the average speed I achieved last weekend cycling to Canterbury. I know Canterbury is twice as far, but I didn't have anyone to pace me or to draft. When I cycle on my own it's easy to back off if it gets tough or slow down as my mind wonders. Today I pushed on and tried not to slow down. If I had to stop pedaling, on a bend for instance, I accelerated back to my cruising speed as quickly as I could. And kept pressure on the pedals as much as possible. It worked, when I got to the point I would turn around for home I had exceeded my average. Now I had to keep it up on the way home. I lost a little; when I got home my average had dropped to match last weekend's.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not obsessed with times and sectors, or comparing myself with anyone else. I just wanted to set a target, a personal challenge, to see what I might be capable of.

I get more from a lone ride by doing this, when I'm not on my own it's more about having a laugh with mates and chilling out. We can all easily complete the distances we do.

summer cycling chipstead
Taking a break
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Sunday, 8 July 2018

Caterham to Canterbury year two

at the start bike number 33
at the start
Doesn't time fly? It can't be a year since I last did this ride.

The day started hotter than it did last year. The forecast was for a very hot day. Maybe Adam at Larner Cycles must have ticked the wrong box when he booked the weather. Instead of warm, he ticked incredibly hot.

I arrived early but there was already a number of people chatting and preparing.


Making Adam jog.


I again hoped to team up with someone who cycled at the same pace as me, it's a long ride on your own. And I did; Jo who I had meet at an off road cycle event before Christmas.

Her target was an average of 16mph, this is faster than my average on a long ride. But I wanted a challenge.

It was going okay until a very steep section on to the Limpsfield just passed Wallingham. I was slower and took longer to turn right at the junction. Jo had opened a big gap and no matter how hard I tried I could only reduce it very slowly. Then just at the right time a pair of cyclist came past me. I got into their slipstream and very quickly caught Jo up. I was amazed at how much of a difference it made.

Slipstreaming.


From then on Jo and I swapped the lead and we kept a high average speed. So much so that we reached the lunch stop faster than I expected. Over thirty miles in a little more than two hours.

The food stops on last years event were brilliant, and this year the standard was just as high. The lunch stop especially had sandwiches, cake everything I needed. We stayed a while but when we got outside the heat had increased and this, I think, caused me to really start to suffer. It's true the pace was higher than I was use to. But cycling in now 33 degrees C was proving very difficult. Jo said it was okay if I didn't spend so long leading, drafting her helped me maintain a reasonable pace. But there was little respite from the sun. A surprising consequence of the heat was when we stopped at a junction. It was like opening an oven door. I was warm as I cycled along, but pausing for any reason. The heat just hit me.  The shaded sections were a relief, but they were too few.

Shaded section. 

At the third and last stop I just sat on the grass, I didn't know how was I going to complete the last sixteen miles.

I had some food and drink but still wasn't ready to go on. I got chatting to the other riders and one of them, Pat from the Oxted CC, handed me two energy gels. He said they should help me get to the end. They did.

This is another great aspect to the ride. The support, encouragement and camaraderie from everyone involved makes a real difference.

 end of the cycle jo
Jo looking unfazed

end of the cycle me
Me, looking very fazed
As I sat waiting for my bike to be loaded onto the transport I noticed in addition to the dirt and grime I was covered in a large number of dead flies. I didn't realise I was going so fast the insects didn't bounce off. The lift back to Caterham is always a relief and is another reason I have sighed up for next year.

A big thank you to everyone involved in running the event. It's a big job very well delivered.


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Sunday, 1 July 2018

Another weekend, more great weather

summer cycling fields
On the way home, a field of wheat

I can't remember the last time a weekend ride was in danger due to bad weather. Yesterday it was a bit grey as I left the house, but quickly warmed up. It was a hilly route including White Lane near Botley and then on to Hosey Hill via Westerham, both very steep. In addition to Clarks Lane out of Westerham, and Burntwood Lane near to home. A proper test again. Being on my own it was just a circuit and back to the house.

Today was better, Matt was back. Just the question of where to go when we met at the green; we discussed Westerham, the quick way. But I just wasn't up to it, so the Church yard at Tatsfield was our eventual destination. Sitting there drinking tea, eating cereal bars and chatting about the news was perfect. We also talked about what we would do if we had no ties, no responsibilities and could just do whatever we wanted. Matt had been reading One man and his bike by Mark Carter. The backstory was that one day on his way to work he just kept cycling past his workplace and on around the coast. We were skeptical, how did he put his life on hold, how did he afford it? A book deal and writing articles for a newspaper must have made it easier to do it. And then we moved onto explores and adventurers. How did they do it? Decide to not follow the norm, and travel the world. Matt mentioned a woman who had rowed across oceans. One voyage had to be abandoned when a severe storm blew in. The problem I saw with this and most adventures is that they are fine when all goes well. But if it doesn't, like when the storm rolled in, other people have to risk their lives to mount a rescue. My view is that these people are a little selfish. Or am I just jealous?

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Saturday, 30 June 2018

Enjoy, value and protect your countryside.

cycling vineyard wine


Matt and myself ride our bikes around Surrey and Kent all year. Only very bad weather and adult responsibilities will stop us. We meet at a village green just fifteen minutes from our houses, and we are on the edge of fields and winding lanes. Some places we cycle to are very quiet; we could be in the middle of no-where it's so peaceful. But in fact we are very close to civilisation.

What makes summer cycling so good is the winter. It makes you appreciate when the weather improved. Seemingly endless weekends of cold, wet and at times very unpleasant rides. It keeps us fit and is needed stress relief, but it can become a chore.  Then I realise it's warm enough for shorts and t-shirts, the fields are full of crops and I am presented with a view like the one above.

I have a long awaited ride next weekend, sixty-six miles to Canterbury. My usual rides are about 25 miles. That distance allows time to chat and have a laugh with Matt. The extra distance does give me the chance to push myself a bit more. But it wouldn't be possible without the year round rides with Matt, and occasionally James, Richard and Matt D. Does this sound like an awards ceremony speech?

The award should go to the British countryside. Long may it be so close.

Enjoy, value and protect your countryside.


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Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Caterham Photography Society studio shoot

model sofa studio


Since the group was first created the membership has risen. And some had shown interest in a studio shoot. They wanted to see what it was like, and to experiment with lights and working with a model. So I arranged it and last weekend we met at 69 Drops Studio in London for an afternoon session.

I had worked with Marilyn, our model, before on location and in a studio; it was good to catch up and introduce her to the group.

The plan was for an informal afternoon to allow everyone to chat about what they had done before, what they wanted from today and for everyone to relax and bounce ideas off each other. So not really a traditional workshop, no waiting in line to take the same shot as everyone else. I liked this format, and the initial feedback confirmed so did Karen and Cliff, with some suggestions to improve the next one.

I think we achieved our goal of gaining experience and confidence. As far as another one goes, it could be a shoot on location. I find outside of a studio can be more spontaneous, and creative. Bad weather and people stopping to watch may put people off though. Or if there more participants we could hire a bigger studio with more areas to shoot in. 

Here are some of my favourites.

model studio sofa

model chair studio

model standing pink dress

model studio pink

model studio pink sunglasses

model studio green dress

model studio print dress


Here are some behind the screen shots.

BTS studio model group shoot
Focused and reviewing the shoot

BTS studio model group shoot
the right angle.



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Sunday, 17 June 2018

Waller Pain

waller pain hillclimb caterham nearly finished
Waller pain hillclimb Caterham nearly finished

The day finally arrived, but how did I get here?

I saw the posters for the hill climb last year but it was too late for me to sign up. I kept an eye out and a few months ago I saw the event on Facebook. The hill climb is a very old event, (here is a bit more info about it) dating back to the 1890's. Back then it was run by Catford Cycle Club, nowadays it's the Caterham Round Table.

The confirmed booking meant the training had to begin. During my weekend rides I attacked hills harder than normal. It surprised me how quickly this extra effort improved my pace and stamina. White Hill Lane, Gangers Hill, Tandridge Hill Lane, any hill in fact is still not easy but is less of a strain.

Yesterday, it was time to prepare the bike. This is where every gram counts, so I took off the lights, and the pump. I also decided I would be leaving the backpack that normally carries food, tools and my camera at home. And lastly I inflated the tyres to max PSI. It's all about speed, not comfort.

waller pain hillclimb caterham bike number

This morning it was cereal, coffee and some chocolate. I hoped the coffee and chocolate wouldn't be considered performance enhancing substances. When I signed on, there were no awkward questions, so all good.

I accepted the extra weight of the GoPro was worth it to have a video of my climb. I was thinking about the start so much, I forgot to press record before the off, only remembering after a few peddle revolutions. If you listen carefully you can hear my breathing getting more laboured.



So what was it like?

It was raining hard as I left my garage, but within minutes it stopped and the weather was perfect after that.

waller pain hillclimb caterham waining at the start
Waining at the start
It was very busy at the start but I had booked early so I didn't have to wait too long. Before I had much time to think about it I was at the start wondering how hard I should push early on. The riders leave at one minute intervals so it was a little depressing to hear them count down the next rider before it felt like I had gone very far. There were a few people cheering everyone go past which was nice. All I wanted was not to get overtaken, some of the other riders before me had gone off at a high pace, including kids, a bloke on a Brompton and another with his daughter on a seat behind him.

My time was 2:57, definitely the fastest I had climbed the lane, but still a little disappointing. Next time I'll do better.


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Saturday, 9 June 2018

Solo

I was on my own today for the cycle. I would normally take the road bike in this case, but not this time. I decided on the comfort of the mountain bike. And I'm glad I did.

I stuck to the route I take when I'm on my own, except for a little off road part the road bike couldn't handle. Until I got past Godstone and up the Enterdent. Then I really took advantage of my off road capabilities. There was an interesting track to my left. It wasn't very muddy but was badly chewed up by horses, so it was a little hard work.

dense forrest track

The track passed through dense forest teaming with wildlife. I could hear it but there was only a fleeting glimpse of a deer, the rest remained out of sight.

The descent pictured above opened out in to a desolate area, devoid of animals. There was just a signpost in the middle to guide the adventurous traveler, and the only evidence that anyone had ever been this way.

desolate empty area signpost

Tomorrow will be with Matt again, so there will be chat about his recent travels, tea and cereal bars.

Next Saturday will be a rest day because I have the Waller pain hill climb on the Sunday.

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Thursday, 7 June 2018

Why work for free?

I have posted about why you should pay a photographer. The same applies to any professional.

I think working for free, or collaborating, is questionable when one member of the team stands to benefit financially, or just doesn't want to spend money. If it is a collaboration then everyone concerned should benefit to the same extent.

A few of the justifications used for uneven collaborations are;

They can give you experience and knowledge you wouldn't have access to any other way. This one could be a good reason, depending on who is making the offer.

It might lead to paid work. You will have to weigh up how likely this is to pay off. If I were to work for this reason again it would take a lot of persuasion. When I did, it quickly became apparent I wasn't valued or appreciated. I should have heeded the warning signs when they arrived over an hour late for the first shoot. When they did it for the second time I called it a day. I hoped it might mean a network of people needing my photographic services. With hindsight I realise this was never going to happen.

And the final carrot used when asking someone to work for free is exposure. This is a real red flag. Who will be exposed to your work? Are the thousands of Instagram followers likely to be in need of your services? Don't forget there are ways to buy followers. The number of these potential customers on any social media platform should be viewed with suspicion.

Working for free can affect your reputation. The quality of your work might not be what people know you for.

I follow photography forums and Facebook groups. The collaboration ones are changing into places to post requests for people to work commercially for free. It's not just photographers, people want models, MUA's and studio time without paying. How do these people and companies expect others to make a living? 



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Wednesday, 6 June 2018

What is art?

A story sponsored by Hasselblad popped up in my LinkedIn feed about Brook Elbank. In case you don't know here is a link to the Guardian article. They are extremely excited about the pictures and exhibition. I have form for expressing my views on art. This again taps in to my misgivings. The pictures are close ups of people from around the world, who have freckles. The only remarkable thing about them is the intensity of the subject's stare and the obvious processing. Another article I read about this project says Brook spends six hours working on each picture. It would be great to see the original images. Are the freckles that pronounced? They look almost like those pictures used to emphasis damage done to skin by too much exposure the the sun. What has he been doing for six hours? Thousands of people applied to be photographed, others were nominated. They and he travelled all over the world to shoot them.

The reason for the project was to highlight the bullying people with freckles suffer. A worthy cause, and these pictures may get people talking. But to call them incredible pictures is going way too far. Especially taking into account the apparent manipulation involved.

He had a beards exhibition which got rave reviews from the Guardian back in 2015. Again it's the same format, many are at extreme close up with obvious over processing. With poor white balance consistency between pictures this time. They were shot in a studio so why? Or was it intentional? You take a look and let me know what you think.

Brook Elbank has managed to become a celebrity photographer. Famed for his discussion pieces as much as his skill. Does that sound too harsh? I'm not saying he isn't talented, and it does ensure he is in magazine editors minds by producing this kind of work. So I guess he is no fool.

I just don't get what he is trying to say, looking at the pictures just doesn't give much of a clue about his message.

An example of a series of pictures that show imagination is a set celebrating redheads by Keith Barraclough. I know it was a marketing project for him, but it does show what could have been done. 

I googled "what is art".

And I found what I expected to find. Modern art is for clever people, if you don't like or understand it. Then you just aren't intelligent enough. It all strikes me as elitist, a club were you believe what you are told you are seeing, emperors' new clothes syndrome you might say. Do that and you are in. Even better if you have vast sums of money to lavish on the artists, the studios and auction houses to keep the circus going.

Or am I just not clever enough?

This article is one I found. The early art, I get. It is a picture or sculpture of a subject, even the early impressionists trying to portray emotion and thought I can understand. It says the invention of the camera caused people to not want traditional art. Taking a picture of someone is quicker than painting or sculpting them. But there is still a place for this style of art. The artist spends time with the subject, connects with them. Hopefully that connection is evident in the finished work of art. It's what I try to achieve with my portraits.

But piles of bricks, a canvases painted in one colour, an unmade bed, I could go on; check out the Tate Modern for more examples. The article says you need to know how the art was made, what was happening at the time, what the artist was trying to say. To me, if I can't understand the meaning by looking at the piece, then whatever the artist was trying to say, isn't clear enough.

I don't want to come across as bitter, if you are successful, good luck to you. I don't mean to pick on just one person either. It just happens this article appeared in the feed and it got me thinking.


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Sunday, 3 June 2018

Another glorious cycling weekend

poppies field of poppy


poppies field of poppy

Another weekend of sunshine. It's brilliant to be out on the bikes with blue skies above us and a warm breeze to help us along. The pictures at the top of the post is a field we cycle past most weekends. For the last couple the poppies have been incredible. I think this weekend they have been at their most vivid. I'm not sure how much longer they will be so impressive. I do know I cant do the view justice.

Today we decided to visit a village we haven't been to for many years. I guess we don't get there very often because of a hill that is signposted as 14%. Apart from a brief section on the busy A22 the route is a good one. The steep hill on the way back wasn't that bad either. We had our tea and cereal bars in a church yard never previously visited as well, St Peter's Church, Tandridge. A peaceful place to stop, chat and take a break, must be why we regularly visit church yards.


St Peter's Church, Tandridge
St Peter's Church, Tandridge
It was a ride that gave me the chance to use my GoPro camera for more than recording bad driving. We had close encounters with a deer, a squirrel and a rabbit.




The deer needs to learn the green cross code.


Not sure if the squirrel was racing me or just desperately looking for a way off the road.


Matt startles a rabbit.

To top off a great weekend I had a brilliant photoshoot at a new location (Waverley Abbey) with a model I hadn't worked with before.

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Waverley Abbey photoshoot

model headshot backlight by the sun waverley abbey


I am always looking for interesting photographic locations and new people to work with. It's great to work with someone many times, but it's good to keep meeting and connecting with new people.

I found Waverley Abbey and a model I had wanted to work with was not too far away. It was arranged some time ago, the model Michelle hadn't, at the time modelled there. By the time our shoot arrived that had changed. Which was a good thing, she had some ideas about where to go, but best of all she was keen to explore more areas.

I arrived a bit early so I went for a walk to check out the site. I had a quick walk around the ruins and on the way back to the small car park I took some pictures of the ducks on the river.


waverley abbey black coot on river


waverley abbey duck with chicks on river

It is such a peaceful place, and not too busy. This meant the size of the car park wasn't too much a problem. When I arrived I took the last space. I wondered where Michelle was going to park. But I needn't have worried, no-one was staying very long. If there hadn't been a space for the car I would only have had to wait five minutes or so and someone would have departed. When Michelle arrived there was plenty of space, so the shoot started straight away.

We started near the bridge, Michelle had no hesitation stepping into the river. I think the crop from the full length pose at mid calf works well, but the shot wouldn't have been possible without the paddling.


model in front of bridge waverley abbey


The rest of the shots contrasted Michelle's curves with the straight lines of the ruins.


model in an arch waverley abbey




model leaning against a wall waverley abbey black and white


model leaning against a wall waverley abbey


model sitting in a widow waverley abbey


I couldn't resist another headshot, a simple clean shot, that I hope shows a connection with a relaxed model.


model headshot backlight by the sun waverley abbey


It really was a great weekend with this shoot and perfect weather for cycling.

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Monday, 28 May 2018

Eddy's first event

Thanks Eddy

The day finally arrived, but the weather looked like it might have something to say about it. Impressive thunderstorms the night before and a forecast of more to follow. When I arrived the setup was nearly complete, but the weather was overcast and not looking promising.

But as the bikes started to arrive, so did the sun. It got hotter and hotter all day.

So hot in fact I was taking some pictures and then diving under cover for a while. The predicted storms never arrived.

It was a good turnout, a wide of variety of models and customisation meant there was plenty to photograph. Even people walking past came in to look at the bikes.

custom red stretched harley davidson

black harley davidson

vintage harley davidson

road king harley davidson


row of harley davidsons

mustang p52 inspired paint scheme harley davidson

drop handlebars sports harley davidson

harley davidson with flag

It's took me a long time to decide which of the many pictures to process, and even longer to choose the ones to include with this post.

The live music was very good, the DJ did a great set, followed by a brilliant session by Midnight at Room 306.

midnight at room 306 opening great singer

Midnight at room 306 watched by bikers

I'm not sure when the next event is, I think it will be once a month, after Eddy has had a rest. But he has certainly started well, and set the bar high on his first go.

A photographer for the Kent Messenger paid a visit. Eddy's hard work is really paying off.

jacket patch loud pipes save lives
Yes they do


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