Saturday, 17 November 2018

Remembrance

we will remember them plinth

Last weekend included remembrance Sunday. I watched the various programs over the weekend and was touched by the ones remembering everyone affected by war. It's been said we shouldn't keep having this day and looking back. Nothing I saw glorified war, if anything it should reminded everyone how pointless war is. We have to remember what happened and work harder to avoid it in the future.

The other programs attempted to show what it was like to have been there. I don't think people realise what it was like. Obviously I don't but I had a connection to both wars. My grandad was in the First World War, my dad was in the Second. He never spoke about it, although I don't remember asking him. It seems as the number of people who lived through it has declined the effort to remember has increased, as it should.

I don't think it's taught in the same as it was, so many today know almost nothing of the two wars. It's too easy not comprehend the incredible suffering they caused. Or any war for that matter.

poppies arch church


The picture above is of a church in Godstone. The poppies looked knitted, I'm guessing the locals have created this special centenary display as have others at churches and schools around the country.
There is a war memorial in the grounds with the date of the war on as is usual. Except the dates aren't what you expect. 1914 -1919. When we saw these dates years ago it prompted an internet search. The usual dates of the war and the ones being remembered this year are for the ceasefire, or armistice. The Treaty of Versailles was signed in June 1919, officially ending the war.

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Nikon 1

autumn leaves hill


I didn't go out last Sunday, heavy rain and knowing it would be a solo cycle meant I just couldn't motivate myself.

Matt had been saying that since buying his new bike punctures had no longer been a problem for him. He said it a lot and so it was inevitable that they would eventually strike; last weekend they did. It didn't affect last weekend, the rain saw to that. But this morning's joint ride was lost. Matt had repaired the hole during the week, but either there was another one or the patch hadn't held. I woke to an abort due to puncture text.

It was a grey morning but I wanted to get out. Apart from anything else I wanted to test my "new" camera. When I first started photographing my cycling I used a big DSLR, a Nikon D70. It went everywhere with me. The short local rides and the longer ones to Paris and the South Downs Way. But on one off-road ride I fell off and landed on the bag containing the camera. It was never the same and frequently wouldn't work. I had by then upgraded to a better DSLR, so I wasn't going to take that cycling. I read a few reviews and bought a second hand Nikon Coolpix 8800. I was lead to believe it was a good camera. It was newer than the D70, but classed as a bridge camera. Something between a point and shoot and a DSLR. I must have been spoilt by the D70 because the 8800 just didn't compare. It was incredibly slow, had poor highish ISO performance and frustrated me everytime I used it.

I had a bit of spare cash and started to look around for a "new" camera. A few years ago Nikon released the Nikon 1 series. I guess you could say it was somewhere between a bridge camera and a DSLR. The specs were good and the reviews said picture quality was very good. Maybe a little fiddly to use due to a lack of buttons. Even minor changes require diving into the menu system, rather than a button press or dial movement.

Oh, and it was very expensive, you could have bought a full size DSLR for the same money. And you needed to buy 1 series lenses. It just didn't make sense and Nikon slashed the prices and then discontinued them fairly quickly.

The quick price drop and discontinuation means they are now selling on ebay at a very good price.


My first impressions are good. Yes, having to go into the menu system to make basic changes is a pain. But I think I now have it setup as I need it for most pictures. Everything else about it is great. It's fast to use, and the picture quality is excellent. I am really going to enjoy using it. And I'm sure I will take more pictures as a result.


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Saturday, 10 November 2018

joggers



The weather forecast for the weekend wasn't good, and as it drew nearer it looked more and more likely to be a washout.

Then the dreaded abort text from Matt. We don't normally leave our houses if it's raining, being on my own made it a certainty. As I went to sleep the rain was lashing down and the wind was blowing.

I woke up to still air and blue skies. So it was an easy decision to go for a ride. Last weekend Matt and I had thought about Godstone, that's where I headed. Being on my own I knew there would be no stop for tea and cereal bars so I took a longer route than normal, including an extra hil; The Enterdent. The recent wind and rain had dislodged plenty of leaves, it looked nice but made for very slippery conditions. 



High speed descents were out, especially if it included a bend. I stayed out towards the middle of my lane for this reason and also the big puddles could be concealing potholes. It meant other traffic had to think more about their overtaking, but that's never a bad thing.

On the way home I came across some joggers, they ran in a group spread across the road. As I approached they parted and I cycled between them. I guess they have a similar problem to me, drivers giving them little room unless they take control of the road.



As a way to keep fit I prefer cycling; jogging just seems harder work. I think it is classed as a high impact activity. I did run a 10k race many years ago, it was okay, but I wouldn't do it again. When I signed up for it I knew my general fitness would get me through but I'd still need to practise. I didn't do much, I just didn't like it. The run went okay, completed in just over fifty minutes. 

Cycling means I can travel further, and have a rest on the downhill bits. It's definitely for me.

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Sunday, 28 October 2018

Conkers

Conkers cycling autumn

Saturday saw a big change in the weather. It was very cold yesterday, frosty grass and cold feet. Matt was back from his trip to Japan so we cycled to the Tudor Rose tea room in Westerham for breakfast.

Regular readers will know I'm not one for lots of words, Matt's the writer after all.

I can remember he said he was on his own for the weekend and didn't know what he was going to do. I suggested he just sat back and chilled out. He thought maybe some decorating was likely.

We parted company near Botley with a plan to cycle to Godstone today. Then I got the dreaded abort text. And this morning an explanation; Matt's front room was to be redecorated.

The forecast was for rain today, when I looked out of the window it had rained overnight but it looked okay. I didn't go far, cold wind and rain does temper motivation. But it did give me the chance to take pictures, my other hobby.

Only a week of work until I can go cycling again.

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Sunday, 21 October 2018

darker mood

black catsuit monochrome

I had an idea for a darker photoshoot for a while. My usual style is what you might call bright and light. I wanted to use more dramatic lighting with an edgy theme.

I considered an outside shoot, but I didn't find a location I was happy with. It had to be somewhere I could control the natural light or modify it either with reflectors or flash. Without an assistant this can be difficult. Maybe I'll try a shoot with an assistant next year.

Now that autumn is here, outdoor shoots are much harder, it's cold and likely to rain. The theme of the shoot was moody, not cold and unhappy.

In a studio I can work slower, more deliberately. I don't have to worry about bystanders and equipment, bags etc are safe. There is always somewhere for the model to change, this can be a big problem and consumes time when you're out and about.

Natasha arrived well prepared. There is always a get to know you period when working with someone new. I meet her at the local station, so by the time we reached the studio everything was relaxed and the shoot flowed really well.

The studio, Murder Mile was darker than I had expected. The flash system had modeling lights so there was no problem focusing. It did mean the lighting was very controllable. I had planned to use two lights at a time and gels, but in the end I used one light for each set with either a ten inch reflector or beauty dish. Keeping it simple was definitely the best way to go. I was able to just light Natasha with the background almost black. Most of the outfits were also black; but shiny so standing out from the background wasn't a problem. As I edited them a realised a lot could be better converted to black and white.

black catsuit monochrome chaise long

colour chair head down feet up
Looked great in colour too

colour catsuit close up


colour chair attitude

The studio had a cage, it was too heavy to move and was a bit hemmed in but we couldn't resist using it. It did mean full length shots were out; I think it still delivered.

cage powerfull look

cage behind bars


The exceptions were the sparkly dresses. Treated to the same lighting they remained in colour. See above and below.

sparkly dress sitting on a desk

And the coat Natasha arrived in. It was too photogenic to ignore.

headshot fur lined hood

My wife saw the pictures and remarked how different they were to my normal style. Reinforcing how successful the shoot had been.

I am so pleased with what we achieved, I'll be returning to the studio, with Natasha again.

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Saturday, 20 October 2018

There's nothing else to compare

As I got ready to go cycling this morning the radio started playing Can't take my eyes off you by Andy Williams. Marcia, my wife, knew what was coming; I turned to her and started singing. And as I had hoped, she started laughing, shook her head and covered her ears. I'm not a good singer so I can't blame her. This always makes me happy, so riding on my own with a chilly start didn't seem so bad.

Even better, as I walked downstairs I blasted out the chorus and I could hear Marcia laughing again.

Then when I got on my bike it was brilliant, I was in a very good mood.

I stopped to take a picture, even the sun rays were pointing in my direction.

sun rays across the road early morning


Then at the bottom of a hill near home I saw how nature tries hard to overcome adversity.

sunflower at the side of the road


I'm guessing no-one planted the sunflowers, they survived all by themselves.

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Sunday, 14 October 2018

I want to ride my bicycle

I'm on my own while Matt travels the world for the next two weekends.

To go out or stay in and if I do go out, where to go; are the questions I ask myself in this situation. I nearly always get out on the bike with only a little wavering. Except if it's raining, and cold. So I stayed inside and wrote this blog watching the wind blow the rain nearly horizontally across the garden.

rain on the window

I went out yesterday and it was great weather; I was looking forward to the same today despite the forecast. Hence the title of the post; I want to ride my bicycle.

A quick internet search suggests the lyrics could mean almost anything you want. The world wide web can appear to be just a collection of strongly held opinions on every subject. Most are vehemently supported and vigorously defended. To the point that a discussion can quickly degenerates into pointless personal attacks. I rarely post my opinions, it's just not worth the hassle of justifying them to potentially closed minded people who hide behind their computer's. There are only a few people with whom I would share my thoughts; I know them personally, and we have discussed our views face to face in the past. Most of the time I just move on.

It is a shame that a tool putting most of human knowledge at the fingertips of so many causes so much division. Discussions become polarised faster than face to face exchanges are likely to.

The internet can be a force for good against injustice, it's why some countries either censor or block access to it.

It can also bring people together, in a way not possible before.


“Look after yourself and each other” 

-- Jerry Springer





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Saturday, 13 October 2018

Barriers

I was on my own this morning, it meant my mind wandered as the miles passed under my wheels.
I was headed for the churchyard, the long way. I needed quiet roads, you can't switch off but you can chill out. Nearing the end of the lane I came across a fallen tree, it completely blocked the road.

fallen tree cycling

I had a choice, try to pass through or under it or turn around. It wasn't too difficult to pick my way through and I was quickly on my way

It got me thinking about life and the many barriers we face. They aren't all physical.

Some are for good reason, rules and laws are there to protect us and set limits.

Then there are those set by people to bar entry or achievement of others.

Both of these forms of barrier can be challenged if they are unfair or discriminatory, people can do it on their own or get together in groups. It's not easy but we do live in a country that allows it. I'm thankful for the struggles of others who have ensured this is the case.

The hardest barriers to conqueror may be those we create ourselves. Those voices that say we can't do something, or we don't deserve it, we're not good enough. I have many and each one I struggle with almost daily. It's tough because I don't talk about them, I don't want to be a burden or bother people. There is a worry I will be judged; damn it's that voice again. Everybody is the same, I guess some deal with it better.

I try not to allow myself the choice to turn around or give up when faced with a barrier; I force myself to attack it head on. My photography is proof of that, and a way to remind me what I can do. Meeting a new person isn't easy, a photoshoot is normally just the subject and me, I get more than just pictures from the session. They show me the voice that says don't do it can be silenced, at least for a while. Each time it gets easier to quieten or ignore it. The barrier gets a little smaller.

With the loud one silenced I can hear the other voices that says I can, I deserve it, I am good enough. Why are they so small and quiet most of the time?

With each victory over the louder voices my goals become a little more achievable, it might still be a struggle.

But it is possible.


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Saturday, 6 October 2018

misty morning

cycling mist field

All week rain had been forecast for today, but as is often the case the reports changed and it was dry this morning. As I left the house it was a bit misty, so lights were needed for the first time in many months.

We met as usual at the green, it was a little later than normal and the mist had thickened to dense fog. The extra traffic and poor visibility meant the best option was the slow way to the bus stop. We were passed by a few other cyclists, surprisingly a lot of them had no lights. Worse; a lot of cars either had no lights or just the parking lights illuminated. They loomed out of the fog and disappeared very quickly as they drove away.

We watched them from the bus stop and discussed the apparent dumbing down of the general population. When we were younger, it was rare to see someone without their lights on in poor weather, adult cyclists were mostly road based and always stopped at red lights.

Away from cycling, no-one is to blame for what happens to them, they would much rather abdicate responsibility to others; the government mostly. People are overweight so we get the sugar tax, NHS funded weight loss surgery and all the other schemes that mean people can say, it's not my fault. If you are taking responsibility, and making changes yourself, I salute you. People weren't forced to start smoking. What is the world coming to?

Not much much else was said, the rest of the day had to start. Just the picture to take for the blog. Always a creative challenge when we are at one of our regular locations.

As we prepared to leave a cyclist arrived and sat down beside us. This doesn't happen very often, a guy on a recumbent once stopped for a chat, and Dawes Galaxy as we called him was a semi regular visitor. Most Saturdays he cycles from Biggin Hill to his mum's in Walligham, often stopping at our bus stop. It's weird to think, just after we leave, someone else is there. An new member of NVL?

He left and shortly after so did we. Hopefully tomorrow will be clearer, maybe we can cycle further.

Misty morning, a less well known Bob Marley song. Why do radio stations only play two or three of his records, over and over again?

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Saturday, 22 September 2018

The big buzz


cycling big buzz funfair
I get a buzz from cycling, overcoming the challenges of steep hills is part of it.
Unfortunately it was a solo ride this morning, and as is usual when this happens, I couldn't decide if I wanted to go. Much easier to stay in bed a little longer. But get up I did; so now I had to think where to go, and on which bike. Yes dear reader, I have a road and mountain bike. I knew I didn't fancy off road but that didn't rule out the MTB, the poor state of local roads means it more comfortable than the light but stiff road bike. Oxted was to be my destination; along a route Matt and I have, I think only done once. The reason is a steep hill. I didn't remember it exactly but I knew it was one of the steepest we had climbed. As I descended it became clear that it was steeper and longer than I remembered. No stopping now though, Oxted was beckoning. I kept the speed down, it was narrow and twisting. I'm no adrenaline junky, it hurts too much if I fall off.

cycling speed dodgems funfair
I rarely attain super speed
The pics on this post are of a funfair I passed on Oxted green. They look a little like they are sleeping without the lights and the noise, resting before the next night of excitement.

The problem with going down a hill is that you have to come go back up. As I left the green on my way home the sign at the bottom of the hill said 20%. This is definitely the steepest I have climbed. This is where the extra gears of the MTB make the climb easier. I think I may have struggled on the road bike.

What I do find weird about the steepness signs is that they don't always seem right. I am sure other hills are similar to this one, but their percentages aren't as high. Maybe they should rate the climb and use a face that gets redder the worse the hill is. This would not only take into account how steep, but how long the climb is. Also if there were flatter bits where you could get your breath back the rating would be less severe.

Here is the cyclemeter log of the ride.

Not the longest ride, but a hilly one.



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Saturday, 15 September 2018

graffiti

leeke street graffiti

The outfit chosen for the first location emphasised Xandria's stature with big heels and tall hair. The fluorescent top looked good against the busy graffiti background of Leeke St. It was a challenge to photograph in this dimly lit area. There were spotlights in the roof to pick out areas of the wall, which although not bright helped. I was glad to see them as I planned where we would shoot.

leeke street graffiti model

leeke street graffiti model

leeke street graffiti model


The second outfit, a colourful jumper, needed a clearer background so we went outside to a park. The tunnel had required the use of a flash with a 24-70mm f2.8 zoom lens. With more room I changed to an 80-200mm f2.8. This is a great portrait lens if you can step back a bit. I know in a previous post I mentioned the 85mm f1.8; the consensus being that this and the 50mm are default portrait lenses. But the way the telephoto zoom gives separation from the background is brilliant. It helped to make Xandria standout. I use it as much as I can.

model bright jumper

model bright jumper standing

This meant I was some way from Xandria, which can mean you lose connection. Pausing to show Xandria the pictures and discuss the next shot more often than normal ensured we stayed connected. It was a busy area but no-one walked into shot, everyone saw what we were doing and paused before walking between us.

We were near the river so I suggested we use that as a backdrop. To get there we passed a carousel, I couldn't resist using it.

model bright jumper standing carousel


model bright jumper standing thames

model bright jumper standing thames


As with the previous shoot, Xandria's mum set the style and Xandia and I worked well together to deliver her ideas. It is a joy to work as part of a good team.

Now that the weather is becoming colder and less predictable further shoots may have to wait until the spring. Which is a shame.


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Friday, 31 August 2018

Completed task list

harvey's beer wild hop blonde cycling bricklayers arms chipstead

It's not often I get to cycle during the week. Today I cycled to a pub I have been to a few times. Both on my own and with friends. It's also the destination known as the lake. Chipstead and back is around 30 miles so it's a good distance if I have some spare time, but not enough to get to Brighton and back.

I had the week off and thought about cycling every day, but bad weather at the start of the week and a lengthening task list meant it was not to be. This morning I completed the last item on the list and was free for the afternoon. As always when I'm on my own there was a moment where I could easily have stayed in the house, and as is also always the case, I was glad that I didn't.

The early morning rides mean the Bricklayers Arms at Chipstead is closed. Today I left the house at around 11 o'clock and arrived just before the lunchtime rush started. I got a seat outside and ordered a pint of Harveys Wild Hop blonde beer, not too heavy but very tasty. And a burger. It was a little pricier than I expected but worth it. So much so that I didn't stop to take a picture. I gave them a great Trip Advisor review after my last visit, and the quality was just as good this time.

harvey's beer wild hop blonde cycling bricklayers arms chipstead empty plate glass


Then on the way back the constant reminder that this glorious summer was coming to an end. Cloudy sky and bales of hay in the fields.

field harvested bales of hay

As if this wasn't bad enough, work on Monday.

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Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Lookbook shoot

model headshot orange top


It's been a while since Janayah and I had a photoshoot, not far off a year in fact. She emailed me about producing a modeling lookbook. The shoots always go well and produce better and better pictures so I said yes straight away.

It was planned a while ago while the weather was incredible, as the day drew closer though it became more unpredictable. As it turned out it was overcast without too strong a breeze; perfect. We meet late in the afternoon and the south bank of the Thames was very busy so we moved north, which was a good decision. The streets were nearly empty and we found two locations that worked well with the Janayahs' outfits. We quickly dropped into the easy rhythm that characterise our shoots, and make them so productive.

There was also no jobsworth quoting non-existent rules to stop us, unlike Saturday at the hill garden pergola on Hampstead Heath. Actually people were very helpful, the Pret a Manger near our first stop and Cafe Rouge near the second allowed Janayah to get changed in their facilities.

I used two lenses, a 35-70mm F2.8; a zoom and a 85mm F1.8; a prime. When I have the room the 85 is the one I prefer. It's not just the shallower depth of field, but the colour, sharpness and tone of the pictures it delivers, they are all more pleasing. I can make changes during processing, but the shots from the 35-70mm are still missing the polish of the 85mm. It's a good lens, until I compare it to the prime. I have a 50mm F1.8, I will maybe just use the two prime lenses for the next shoot.

The pink tracksuit were taken with the zoom lens, the orange top with the prime lens.

pink tracksuit sitting

pink tracksuit sitting


pink tracksuit standing

model full length orange top

model three quarter orange top

model three quarter orange top

model headshot orange top




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Monday, 27 August 2018

Wandering

horse magpie field


Cycling this morning and saw these two friends having a chat over breakfast. Much like Matt and I most weekends. But unfortunately not today. I was in the garage when I had a text about a change of plans. This always prompts an internal discussion, return to the house or go for a ride.

I decided to go out, but where to? Westerham had been our planned destination, but it just seemed too far now. I cycled aimlessly for a while; deciding at each junction, left or right? And found myself in Westerham. The tea room was closed, there were other places open. But I didn't fancy sitting alone in what you might call a formal breakfast establishment. I choose a bench and ate both lots of cereal bars. Then headed home.

field harvest wheat

When I had left the house the sky was dull and grey, and there was a chill in the air. Now as I retraced
my route the sun was out and there were patches of blue sky, but the view through gaps in the hedgerows confirmed summer is over. I don't think it will be too bad for a while yet, but I'll be digging out the extra layers that haven't been needed for six months. At least we have the cottage as a winter stop.

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Sunday, 26 August 2018

No photos at the weekend.



Today was a first for me. I got told I couldn't take photos, and had to leave a location. I did check the website beforehand, it said commercial photography needed a permit, this is a hobby so no problem. But oh no, the jobsworth (JW) had to throw his weight around.

I arrived and took pictures of the location, JW didn't like that. He told me I couldn't take photo commercially, I said it's only a hobby. Not convinced he loitered close by. I'm not sure what his problem was, maybe a "big pro like" camera meant I could only be a pro photographer. When Sam arrived JW's spider sense went into overdrive. He marched over and told us we needed a permit. And that would only give us a weekday pass, no photography was allowed at the weekend. Again I said it was just a hobby and there wasn't a commercial angle. He then said if you post on Facebook etc that was marketing and wasn't allowed. I had to laugh, I had seen plenty of pictures of this place on social media. It seemed to me the location would be benefiting from any marketing.

It was a weird situation, a tourist location that you can't photograph and certainly can't post on social media.

We left and started shooting just outside the walled off area.

suite leaning against a wall
shirt and trousers leaning against a wall black and white
shirt and trousers sun glasses black and white

shirt and trousers sun glasses black and white



 We chanced it for one sneaky shot with me on the other side of the fence and Sam inside.

shirt and trousers black and white
shirt and trousers


Caught by JW, he then compared us to children. So it wasn't all bad.

Which one do you think looks better, the black and white or colour version?



























Then one as we left the park.

shirt and trousers seated on a bench

I haven't photographed many men so it was a change to have to think about different angles and poses. Especially when JW had made a great location off limits.

But even with the change I liked what we achieved, and I had another photography experience.

What a tourist would have thought had they tried taking some pictures and been marched off, JW even threatened to call the police. I'm sure they have more important things to do.

At the end of the day no-one died, the structure didn't collapse or suffer any damage and I got some good photographs and a story to tell.

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