Sunday, 7 July 2019

Cornwall

relaxed view from the cottage

Our week away in Cornwall eventually arrived. The hottest day of the year so far, and we were in the car.

As we got close to Treworgans farm, the clouds gathered and the temperature dropped by fifteen degrees. Still pleasant but a remarkable change.

The cottage was perfectly setup for disabled access and living, so less stress for Marcia and I. Almost the only sound were the sheep, literally under our window, and surrounding the decking where we ate some meals.

view from the decking at breakfast

The sign on the gate had me hearing the Jaws theme when I read it.

beware of the rams
Going to need a bigger "boat"?
As is always the case when I go on holiday, it takes time for me to unwind. I never realise how bad it is until I get away. The first day is spent trying to stop rushing around. Looking out of the patio doors across the fields helped.

view from the patio
view from the patio
The huge welcome basket was a surprise, no need to go shopping straight away. Often it is little more than a snack box. This one had freshly baked cake, scones and bread; eggs from the farm; milk and Cornish butter. With biscuits, crisps, jam and veg; Sunday was just what I needed, a zero task day.

It was well off the beaten track, narrow lanes leading to a track up to the farm. Apart from the sound of the occasional train, it was quiet and secluded. But it wasn't totally cut off, Ladock had shops and Truro wasn't far.

There is a temptation to plan a visit every day of the week. To make the most of the time, but I held back. Visiting my sister was the priority, after that it was just see how we felt each day.

After driving to my sisters on Tuesday we took it easy on Wednesday and went to the Eden Project on Thursday.

When we last visited during our honeymoon it wasn't fully complete.  It was good to see how much had changed. The outside area is now fully planted and inside the domes have a matured look.

Eden Project domes



The walk from the car park was a gentle slope down, past a wheel from the excavation equipment. 

big wheel eden project
Marcia is dwarfed by the wheel.
A waterfall in the tropical rain forrest dome.

waterfall rainforrest dome

A bloom, not sure what it's called. 


As we climbed up through the dome it got hotter and more humid. Not quite bad enough for me to have to use one of the chilled cubicalls, it was close though.

The less humid mediterranean dome was still very hot, but it was more comfortable.

a visit to the med


Friday was the hottest day since we arrived so we waited until the afternoon to visit The lost Gardens of Heligan. Another place we last saw during our honeymoon.


flowers against a wall
flowers in the sun dial garden
Marcia's wheelchair meant we couldn't see the whole site, but were able to see much of it; the formal and the kitchen gardens. They can grow the expected fruit and veg and also mango, and pineapples. 

There were also formal gardens.

flower garden
flower garden

view from the summer house
view from the summer house
Luckily for me the top part of the site included a huge grove of rhododendrons. The path through it provided much needed shade.

dovecote surrounded by rhododendrons
dovecote surrounded by rhododendrons
The last section was a short walk into the wilder area, not as far as the jungle trail, but far enough to see some sculptures.

mud maiden
mud maiden

giants head
giants head
I left my "big" camera; the Nikon D700 at home. It's too big to carry on day trips. Last year I bought a second hand Nikon 1 V1. I wrote a short review. The quality and speed means I am very happy to use it for more than just cycling pictures. It has made me think about how heavy the D700 is. The latest mirrorless full frame cameras would be much easier to carry and use. They could open new opportunities. If I were a professional photographer I'd make the move when my present kit needed to be replaced.

The drive home was again very hot, but with less traffic than I expected it only took five hours. We'll be back next year.

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Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Harsh light and defiance


Our last shoot was way back in December, but it took no time to settle into our routine. Saskia's mum, Janice, quickly put the finishing touches to makeup and outfit and we got started.

The theme had been discussed; dark and moody. The day was bright harsh sunlight though.

I got to the area a bit early and scouted around. Holborn viaduct has staircases down to Farringdon Street and they looked ideal. The white tiled walled would bounce light into the shaded areas. I could expose for the outside and have soft light inside. it didn't work out that way so Janice became the light stand holding the flash to add a little extra light.

As is always the case, it takes time at the beginning of a shoot to settle into it; even when we have worked together many times.

The location may not work out as expected or needs a bit of a rethink. The staircase was a case in point. The background was a distraction and Saskia had the same idea as I did; move a little. That's when you know the shoot is going well, everyone syncs.

I wasn't sure at first about the hair and shadow across the face, but I think it works.

She also took on the theme, moody and defiant.

A short walk away was a small lane, it again suited the theme.




Janice as always checking the details

checking hair and makeup


Then finally a shaded garden gave the opportunity for an outfit change, and a softer theme.



Saskia easily changed her look to be much more relaxed. 

Another productive shoot in the bag.

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Thursday, 20 June 2019

Published

orange background gold top

Magazine published photoshoot.

Back in March I organised a studio session; intending to learn about and get experience of a more pressured photoshoot. The background is in this blog post.

There wasn't a big team, just three; Marylin, Jen the MUA and me. As you will have read in my precious post Marilyn did much more than model. I am very grateful to her for working so hard. But it didn't stop at the end of the shoot. She helped me choosing and processing the pictures. She planned to contact magazines, both printed and online, about publishing the set. It really pushed me to learn more about editing.
 
I could see the set improve as I added or took away pictures and how small edits changed pictures in big ways.

I had to consider the designer, and the MUA. They both needed shots they could use.






Orange dress, orange background; not easy to light. And then to ensure Marilyn's skin was lit correctly. It is one of my favourite shots though.



I wanted to provide a different look, one they hadn't had before.

And show off Marilyn's personality.



There were shadows cast by the multiple lights that I didn't want to remove completely. I tried to leave enough so that it had the appearance of only one defused light. Avoiding the floating in space look.

Here is a link to the published article.

This project was a challenge, which had me stressed. I was anxious about how the pictures might be received. But it was worth it.


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Saturday, 15 June 2019

So much noise

bikes against benches

Watching or listening to the news is hard work. Everyone has an opinion to defend. If others don't share that view, name calling and shouting ensues. It's much easier to label a person than it is to listen to them. The more extreme a label the better.

Social or should that be anti-social media is the same. Most contributors being polorised and closed minded.

On the street, there are selfish, inconsiderate people living without a thought for others. They drive too fast, cycle on the pavement, etc. Always defending what they do, whilst criticising others.

I cycle to unwind, but lately it hasn't worked. Too often other road users spoil it. Just a small pause to allow them to pass me safely is all that's needed. Today on a narrow lane two cars stopped at a passing point to allow Matt and myself to pass. It was so easy for them to do, I waved a thank you. Then a few yards further a Range Rover turned on to the lane. He could have stopped where the road was wide, but he didn't; instead he accelerated towards me.

What's the solution?

I don't know; Matt and I often talk about how angry everyone is. But I think it's more than that. It seems acceptable now to be closed minded, and to believe your's is the only opinion. Our society is more accepting of everyone, which is good, but somehow we have gone too far. Everyone is right, everyone must come first.

There has to be compromise. Few can take criticism or being questioned. This just leads to a less fair and just place to live.

I try not to get angry; it's too exhausting. And mostly pointless.

Words said in anger are often regretted.

I guess I'll put on headphones and listen to music this afternoon. It's one way to drown out the noise.


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Sunday, 9 June 2019

Waller Pain year two


start waller lane hill climb

It was that time again. The Waller Lane hill climb organised by the Caterham Roundtable. Last year I did it in 2:59. I wanted to beat that time.

I went out yesterday, just a short ride to the bus stop with Matt. It was raining as I left the house, but stopped quickly. I really needed to get out, and I'm glad the showers didn't persuade me not to.

Last year I was pushing harder on the hills during rides leading up to the climb. This year I have ridden more miles than normal. And acquired a new to me bike. Lighter and a better fit. Last night watching the Giro d'Italia for inspiration. The last week is all about hills, so it was good motivation.

Road cycling is the only sport I watch, I think because I could almost see myself doing it. Not racing maybe but cycling all day with nothing else to think about it. In 2011 two friends and myself cycled to Paris; a brilliant four days. The next year it was the same group and two days for the South Downs Way.

I cycle every weekend for twenty to thirty miles and I wouldn't miss it. Chatting during our tea stop is equally relaxing. But it's only for an hour or so, and then back to real life.

I'll try to do a few all day rides this year, via a pub for lunch.

There were less people lined up so my turn came round quickly. An interesting bike was a very old tandem.

old tandem at the start

They had a couple of test starts, the weight and gearing meant a run up and pushers were needed. They started after me so I don't know if they made it to the top. It looked like it would have been tough.

The starter announced my name and the age group I was in; 40 plus. He did say I looked just old enough. Which was nice.

I started off faster then last year, which may have been a mistake, about half way up I began to wilt. But I got a second wind and as the last third flattened off a bit I managed to change up gear and accelerate. And my time; 2:49. So I was a little quicker than last year, but not as fast as I had hoped.

I remembered to press the record button before the start this time.






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Tuesday, 4 June 2019

The Clocktower

model on a bed with a cat

This was my first photoshoot since I did three in March.

I arranged it with Ria after our last shoot. The weather had been terrible for much of the time. While sheltering from the rain we had talked about the opening of a new studio.

The Clock Tower studio is a gothic style English bell tower, constructed as part of a church in 1861. It was converted into a domestic property in the 1990s following an arson attack.

There was a spiral staircase, a grand piano and many windows and alcove areas that kept it interesting. To be honest it was a little too much, we ran out of time before we used everything available.

The start was in a black bedroom, as we sat and talked about it one of the three cats came in a made himself at home. They had scattered when we were shown in by the studio owners. I guess this one quickly accepts new people or perhaps we had found his favourite spot.

He was included, he made a good prop I think.

model smiling on a bed with a cat

model on a bed with a cat

model on a bed with a cat

I processed the majority from this area as black and white, it seemed to fit the mood.

There were five floors including a basement and roof. We started on the first floor, after the bedroom it was into the bathroom. Too small to fit lights in and with no power for the flash, I increased the ISO and brought in a reflector.

Both black and white and colour suited this location.

















Time for a wardrobe change and a move to the roof. Unfortunately the sun came out from behind clouds producing harsh light. We did our best but it just wasn't working.

portrait on the roof, city in the background
Being one of the highest spots in London, you can see the cityscape in the background.



Moving to have Ria with her back to the sun was an attempt to make the best of the environment. With other areas to use, it was time to move on.













The bell tower was accessed by a narrow spiral staircase from the third floor. It had a combination of soft and hard light depending where we stood.

The soft light area was first. The windowsill was four feet off the floor. Between the two of us Ria got comfy. It was so much better to not be battling the sun.

portrait on the window sill soft light


A ladder bolted to the wall hinted at the original use for this room.

Ria's suggestion for me to lay on the floor and shoot up was another reason to work with experienced people. I wouldn't have thought of it, and kicked myself for not doing so.

portrait on a ladder tall bell tower


The grand piano was in a small raised area, difficult to light and shoot in. Another visit will be needed to allow more time to work on it.

at a grand piano


And the cats; we didn't see one of them and the third only put fleeting appearances in.


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Monday, 27 May 2019

A Giant May bank holiday weekend

bike at the bus stop

May is a great month; the weather starts to improve, and there are two bank holidays.

The last bank holiday I was alone for the three rides. It was the first of three lone weekends, Matt was away for work.

At last it was back to normal, I meet Matt at the green and we cycled to the bus stop.

Later in the day I went to the bike shed custom motorcycle show. It's a long time since I had a motorbike, plenty of ideas if I ever get another.

Sunday's route was via the church yard, as I have said before, one of my favourite places to ride to. If it was a bit further from the road it would be perfect.

bike bench churchyard

Today however Matt wasn't available so I was alone again. It did mean I could take out my new bike. When I say new, I mean new to me. It's a two year old Giant Defy 3.

Giant Defy 3

Why did I buy a new bike? There are a few reasons; the Carrera was in need of a major service, tyres brakes and head bearings were some of the replacements needed. I have said for a while how harsh the ride is, the last seven lone rides had cemented my decision.

The Giant has a frame designed to flex in the right places to absorb road shock, without compromising power transfer. The fork is made from carbon fibre, so it's lighter and can be made to be flexible in a way an alloy one can't.

So how was it?

The steering is quicker, a steeper head angle I think. It took a little getting use to, but it wasn't the big change I felt when I first rode the Carrera after the Kona.

When I got to the rough roads there was a welcome improvement. It wasn't mountain bike soft, but the harshness was gone. I could feel the flexing, I stopped to check for a puncture at one point. The pedaling power wasn't reduced but I anticipate longer rides being much less tiring without the constant jarring. On really poor roads it was faster, I didn't feel like my hands would be vibrated off the handlebars, and my vision wasn't blurred. I felt in control.

Things I would change;
The seat. The shape is a real problem. The sides slope away too quickly for me leaving a lot of weight on the centre of my, seating area. It will have to go.

The brakes. I know I'm spoiled by the hydraulic disks on the Kona, and they are similar to the Carrera's, but they don't have any bite. I slow down, but there isn't any urgency. Improving them might be expensive so I'll have to think about it.

That's it for the weekend. Only four more days until it's here again.

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