Sunday, 26 May 2019

The Bike shed



I visited the Bike Shed show 2019. The description was for custom bikes displayed without ropes, so nothing to get in the way of photography.

Tobacco Dock is a great venue, the event was very busy but it rarely felt crowded. There were many glass walled areas of various sizes. Each had a theme or housed a shop. The walkways between them showed off bikes. There was a band and an outside area, you could get your hair cut or have a tattoo. Not your average bike show, that's for sure.

The whole place had a feeling of a relaxed bike club meet, plenty of comfy couches allowed people to sit and chat.

It covered the whole spectrum; companies who would build you a bike, or sell custom parts and bikes built in a shed. One of the bigger areas was dedicated to self builds.

I talked to Alec about his Yamaha. 









The major parts were stock, he had modified the rear of the frame and built his own exhaust.

Yamaha TR1 custom exhaust

Yamaha TR1 custom

Yamaha TR1 custom


He had grafted on the front end from a fireblade. Another benefit of choosing the parts that fit you is that the bike can be tailored to your needs. I had a Ducati with low standard clip-ons. They were okay for a short time in traffic, after that it just became more and more painful. Even on the motorway three hours was the most I could do before the pain set in. Previous bike accidents may have caused some lasting damage the riding position couldn't accommodate.

Bigger companies also showed what they could do. Debolex Engineering from Croydon, not far from me were there. I have a soft spot for Ducati, so this was a must see.

Ducati Debolex Engineering from Croydon

Old Barnstomer Motorcycles had a unique take on exhausts, I took the first picture and after taking the side view was handed a card as a prize for not just walking away with one shot. There was much more to the bike than the backend.



The barista from Mainhattan Choppers was next to it. 









Both bikes demonstrated incredible metal work and attention to detail, as well as creativity.

There were plenty of biles from my era, Kawasakis and Suzukis I lusted over, but couldn't afford when I was young. Both given a modern twist.



Competition bikes with their own particular requirements, and what must have been very loud exhausts took my fancy.




Then there was, what I can only describe as, bikes that show just how far you can go.

V8 power anyone.

V8 powered


Big bike manufacturers had stands, showing their appreciation for the custom genre.

Royal Enfield

Indian Motorcycles

Indian Motorcycles


It wasn't just two wheels,



Two more of my favourites.




The event was very relaxed as I have said, more than that the people running it and exhibiting were friendly and approachable. And the other visitors were easy going and a pleasure to be around.

I'll be back next year.

I photographed a more informal event from last year hosted by a bike builder.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Is a few seconds really worth so much?

This weekend has been maybe the worst for cycling safety.

So many close and/or dangerous overtakes have occurred it is depressing.

I like to take photographs of my cycling, but today I just wanted to get home safely and as soon as possible.

I have posted before about the inconsiderate and downright dangerous  behaviour of some other road user. But this weekend was ridiculous.

This is from yesterday.


Just a pause of a few seconds was all the driver needed to make. Instead the car was driven over the raised round about and I was forced to brake to avoid the car or the curb.

I have reported the driver to the police, but I doubt anything will be done.

Today was worse.


An oncoming car didn't slow the Seat. My life, the people in the other car and the Seat's drivers life all put at risk to save a few seconds.


Here again the driver drove on the wrong side of the road towards a right hand bend with no way to know if anyone was coming the other way.


And then on a series of bends a pickup truck overtakes the car patiently waiting for a safe overtake  and me to save a few seconds on his trip.


No-one in Surrey seems interested in dealing with this.

The NHS has said they will give bicycles to the obese to get them to lose weight. I don't think most obese people are that way because they can't afford a bike. But suppose some of them do go out for a ride.  It's not likely they will do it for very long once they see how dangerous it is. Another wasted opportunity not to mention money.

The super cycle highways consuming huge sums of money, I don't think they are the complete answer. Are they maybe a partial admission that the law isn't being enforced? They can't be added to most roads, and when constructed; where do the vehicles go that use to park or drive there? Are they built more to make it harder for people to use the roads? It's doomed to fail if that's the case, it is a pipe dream to hope that everyone will walk, cycle or use public transport. It's just not an answer for everyone. Don't get me wrong, everyone should make changes to cut congestion and pollution. But even wishing really hard wont remove all cars and lorries from the road.

Another example of a solution that may not be as successful as it should to justify the cost is the twenty miles per hour limit applied to most minor roads in Croydon. I don't live in Croydon but do use the roads affected. I'm sure it cost a lot of money to put up all the signs. But it wasn't well publicised. Whenever I travel along at twenty, I always have a queue of cars close behind. And then it's like I'm cycling again; they try to overtake no matter the dangers. Bends in the road, or oncoming traffic doesn't stop them.

Both are examples of those that make the decisions thinking if you throw enough money at a problem and wish really hard it will be fixed. At least you can say you are doing something, or you would if you just had some money.

Of course the standard response is cyclists jump red lights, ride on the pavement etc. I don't, so how can you justify subjecting me to dangerous driving?

Then there is cyclists don't pay road tax. No-one does; it's called Vehicle Excise Duty and is based on emissions. So cyclists would be zero rated. Does it also mean any zero rated vehicles shouldn't use the road, or the driver potentially injured or killed?

Registration is a contentious issue, I'm not totally against it. Just not sure if it's not another opportunity to throw a lot of money around without actually changing much. All cars are registered and they still commit offences. And kill and injure more people than bikes.

The media has a terrible record on this too. Always trying to build a conflict between cyclists other road users. But then the media generally has a very poor record on research, and unbiased reporting.

Cyclists aren't just the victims though.

Don't jump red lights or ride on the pavement. If a junction or stretch of road is unsafe, don't make it worse by breaking the law.

Ride at appropriate speed and take into account other road users. Can they see you, can they react in time?

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Saturday, 11 May 2019

A performing dog?

bike leant against single track sign


It's the second lone ride weekend, Matt is recovering from jet lag and a fraught trip to America.

Today's ride was a new route, a loop past Chartwell.

I took the picture above at the beginning of a very narrow lane. The map I looked at when planning this didn't show just how steep a decent awaited me. I didn't cycle back up it, too tired and it was very poorly surfaced. Potholes, mud and gravel; and a grumpy old man.


I said good morning as I passed him. He shouted after me to watch the dog. I did; but it didn't seem to have a talent worth my interest. No juggling or anything. I don't think you will see it on Britain's Got Talent, unless staring becomes more popular.

On the way home it rained. We are very lucky and miss rain most of the time. It got much harder after I arrived home, so I guess it was still a win.

The forecast for tomorrow is rain, fingers crossed it abaits long enough to allow my ride.

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Monday, 6 May 2019

May Bank Holiday number one

road bike in a lane with bluebells

Yesterday's weather was better than it was on Saturday. Colder but less windy, which is easier to deal with.

I'm still on my own; Matt's in Pittsburgh for two weeks on business. It gives me a chance to use the road bike. It's faster but the gearing can make hills a challenge, especially when I'm feeling tired. Which I have been this weekend.

I don't know why, I just have periods where it's a real effort to do anything.

I have to push myself to get out, and the first couple of miles are a chore; hills come close to persuading me the ride may not have been a good idea. By mile three I'm into the ride, and it isn't so bad. I know I'll feel better the further I go. Subsequent hills are climbed without much stress. They are hard but no longer seem insurmountable.

And of course when I get home, all is right with the world.

road bike at a crossroads


Today, bank holiday Monday, was the nicest of the three day weekend to cycle. It was chilly rather than cold and the force of the wind was much reduced.

I felt stronger and fitter. Hills were taken a little faster, maybe a gear higher than before. Or I could change up earlier.  I still felt tired but it wasn't the big effort it had been.

When I got to the the crossroads at Tatsfield Church I had four choices. Left was a very hilly loop back to Tatsfield village, straight on lead to the bottom of the hill on the right. And right meant that same hill. The fourth option; back the way I had come.

I went for the last choice and headed home.


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Saturday, 4 May 2019

Headwinds and potholes

road bike leant against a wall chevening

What is it about headwinds? I nearly always face into them. It seems I could ride in a circle and feel their effect for the whole circuit. How is that possible?

There are other gripes about cycling: potholes and poor road surfaces in general. It's one of the reasons I rarely take out the road bike. Constant jarring and always being alert for potholes is very tiring.

A particularly bad section on my route today eventually had the camera swivel on it's mount.


Another section was the complete opposite. I turned off the main road onto Pilgrims Way and cycling nirvana; trees shielded me from the wind and fresh smooth tarmac was under my wheels. It didn't last very long but it was brilliant, and so relaxing.


Even when it appears smooth, it can be rough going.


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Friday, 26 April 2019

Go big

canvas prints on the wall


A few years ago I wrote a piece about the need to print pictures. Online is great, and better than the days of film when they most likely went in a draw never to be seen again. But you really can't beat having them hung on the wall.

And the bigger the better, size does matter.

It's great to visit someone who has one of my pictures hanging on their wall.

I have printed books and calendars, mostly just for me. Vanity printing I you could call it. Viewing on a screen just doesn't have the impact, or maybe it's that we are use to quickly flicking to the next image when we use a computer.

I looked at some options for big prints; posters is one format, but it's not the finish I was looking for. Printing big and framing is very expensive. I needed something in between.

Printing on canvas is affordable, but I hadn't been impressed with the quality, until I found The White Canvas Company

I ordered a 20 x 30 inch print, it was a very good price and the whole ordering process was easy.

When the print arrived it was with some trepidation that I opened it.

I shouldn't have worried it was so much better then my previous canvas prints. It went straight up on the wall of my office.

I have ordered many more for the office and other people.

If I had an unusual size requirement, or they thought a slightly different crop would suit the print we would discuss the options and agree on any changes.

I think if you get good service from a company you should say so. It's not a big outfit, the personal touch is another attraction. They think about the result; it's not a case of just printing as is, if it could be made better.

The reason I'm writing this now is because I have just taken delivery of my latest print. As you can see at the top of this page I have quite the collection.

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Monday, 22 April 2019

Easter weekend


The long Easter weekend could not have started better for cycling. Matt and I decided to meet a little later on Friday. But the weather was so good I left around the usual time and took a longer route to the green. I wanted to take the picture shown above.

The last time I cycled this way the pond was covered in snow and ice. 

Much nicer now.

Matt arrived at the green and it was off to the church yard the long way. It is harder going the long way, more hills. But it avoids the Clarks Lane and the Limpsfield Road. Both fast roads they are  where nearly all the close passses happen. They are recorded and reported, but I have yet to know of any action being taken. Or see the situation improving.

When it is sunny and dry the church yard is our default destination, you can hear the nearby road but it is muted. It is a peaceful place to have a morning cup of tea.

Saturday I had a long drive to do, which meant Sunday was off. I'm getting too old to drive 500 miles in a day and not feel it afterwards.

both bikes at the churchyard

Monday was close to an abort. A very late night meant I intended to abort. But the weather was so good I wasn't tired. I met Matt at the green, and we headed off to the churchyard again. Peaceful and restful; we discussed staying for the day. Back home there is grass to cut, shopping to do and diner to cook. So after finishing the tea we headed off.

Only four days and we can do it again.


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Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Ten Thousand Hours

It's said that ten thousand hours is needed to become an expert. Or to put it another way, eight hours everyday for over three years. I'm not sure many will have the time to invest after they finish school or university.

The ten thousand hours and photography practice has to be focused to be effective. If it's not you'll see improvements at first, but I think it will tail off quickly.

I'm at a point where I want to specialise, I think I have a good understanding of the technical aspect, composition, planning and execution of a photoshoot. But what genre interests me the most? Then there is the business side, this is the last part of the puzzle and it worries me the most. Training for it is hard to find. There are plenty of what I call portfolio building courses, but I see very little benefit in them. I also think they can give potential clients a false sense of security. The client sees great pictures; but how much input did the photographer have during the shoot?
Many videos of workshops I see seem to be follow the leader. A queue of photographers waiting to take the same picture as everyone else.

For me learning about the camera is as important now as it was in the beginning. I don't need a workshop for that. Hiring experienced models was the next step. I leant much more and could confidently say the pictures were the result of my experience.

When I was ready I started working with less experienced models, I needed to plan ahead and keep the shoot moving. I also shot a wedding. Recently I did a shoot for designer; there was the studio, a model and a makeup artist to organise. I knew the model so it wasn't all on me which helped immensley. It was another learning experience and one that may lead to some of my work being published.

How do you know when you're an expert?

Photography has many genres and techniques. A lot of hardware and software. Then there are customer relations and business skills.

Are you an expert when you know them all? Can you know them all?

For me, I feel that I am always learning. If I add up all of the hours I have spent using my camera, planning shoots, talking to people, processing the pictures, experimenting; how many more hours until I am an expert?

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Saturday, 6 April 2019

Just the dog walkers and me

spring blossom off road path


Not a lot to say about today's ride. I was alone with my thoughts, except for a couple of dog walkers.

I don't normally mention my job in these blogs but this week was good. A little background to explain. The main office is in London, I work in a Croydon office, it's convenient for me and it's in a nice building so no complaints. But I am on my own, with an occasional visit if someone has to be at a local customer site. I'm used to it and it doesn't really bother me.

I do look forward to visitors though, and this week there were three.

On Tuesday Natalie and Paula arrived for lunch. It was really great to catch up, chat and have a laugh. My wife now says I'm a lady that lunches, which is nice I think. Hopefully it will be a regular event.

Then on Friday Henry worked at the second desk for the day. I caught up with company news and chatted over coffee. Again, I hope it will be a regular occurance.

They really helped the week flow quickly and meant my mood was good for the whole five days. And better than last weekend.

Back to the ride.

I covered nearly twenty five miles including the hill out of Oxted, a proper challenge with most of it twenty percent.

It was hard work as always but so satisfying, the hills are twisty so the top isn't in sight until you are very close.

If the weather doesn't intervene it will back to normal tomorrow with Matt in attendance.


For those interested in such things; here is a graph of the route showing the hills. No flat bits to speak of. The steepest section started at around sixteen miles.



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Sunday, 31 March 2019

melancholy

daffodil

After the mood enhancing ride yesterday, today was a come down. I awoke in a low mood not helped by the sound of rain against the window, checking the phone and seeing a text from Matt saying he couldn't make it today. I think the clocks going forward and robbing me of an hours sleep didn't help.

So what to do? Go back to bed, or go out? In the end I did both; an hour later I was out on the bike.

Cycling normally improves my mood, but not this time. Lots of family stuff going on and it was colder and windier than Saturday, finally I was cycling alone. I went through the motions and returned home.

I saw the daffodil alone and growing away for the path, where you wouldn't expect it.

I thought it summed up my mood.

Looking at it again, I guess you could put a positive spin on it. The daffodil grew and made the best of it's situation. I don't know if it was made stronger by the experience, or if it can be used as inspiration, being a flower. But I feel a little better for the thought.



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Saturday, 30 March 2019

Signs of spring

bikes leant against a gate CCTV

Just back from a cycle and it was great. Warm, sunny and very pleasant. I could say the normal signs of spring were everywhere, daffodils etc. But for me there are other harbingers.

The legs come out, after a long search for the shorts.

bikes leant against a gate CCTV shorts

Don't worry this post won't get geeky; my camera doesn't need such a high ISO.

ISO for film was used to show how much light a particular film needed. The higher the number the less light it needed. The trade-off was the picture became grainy at higher ISO's. Digital camera sensors don't work in the same way though. The ISO rating was retained to give an indication and allow some comparison of how a camera deals with light. The higher the ISO the more amplification the camera applies to the picture. This can result in noise and a lose in quality.

We see a lot more lycra wearers, abandoning their turbo trainers for a bit of fresh air.

And finally it's time to cut the grass. If I do it regularly it doesn't take too long. The rest of the gardening is less of a priority; the garden tends to have to look after itself. Survival of the fittest.

larn mower


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Sunday, 24 March 2019

Blue sky and fly tipping

blue sky over a field bikes

We got out on the bikes both days this weekend. Yesterday was nearly aborted. Light rain that stopped quickly enough so as to not dissuade us. I even contemplated shorts, it was that warm. I'm glad we stayed with it. A pleasant ride to the bus stop, tea and biscuits.

On the way back after parting company with Matt I took a detour to Oxted. It meant a descent and climb of a twenty percent hill. It's time to start challenging myself in preparation for the Waller Lane hill climb. I'm hoping to beat my time from last year.

This morning was bright and clear, but no chance of wearing shorts. Way too cold.

We followed the same route and headed for the same destination as yesterday. This time however the road was almost completely blocked by a big pile of garden rubbish. It's becoming more common, especially on this road. Are we really getting to the point that CCTV needs to be everywhere? The penalties have to be increased, and the people whose rubbish it is should be punished. It's their responsibility to ensure their waste is disposed of properly.

rubbish dumped blocking the road


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Friday, 22 March 2019

Know your rights

I read blog about a new development in New York that is encourging visitors, you could say it is a huge art installation.
The comments quickly filled with "experts" saying what they are doing is illegal. I'm no expert, so this is my opinion.

It is private property, so access is granted with conditions.

It all seems reasonable to me, if you don't like to rules, don't visit. What isn't clear is how prominently they are dispalyed as you walk through the door. Which I think is more of concern. But everyone seems focused on how pictures might be used, not if people could reasonably be expect to know what they were agreeing to.

Other venues have similar restrictions, concert and theatre venues ban photography.

The "experts" also say you have to sign a contract for it to be binding, I don't think that is true. You don't sign contrats for software you install, or for tickets you buy. Just because no-one reads T&C's doesn't mean they can be ignored.

I am sure there are plenty of instances where proceeding with an action infers acceptance of T&C's.

The T&C's that visitors agree to by entering the building don't say you lose ownership of your pictures. Or that if you are seen taking pictures the company can ask you to delete them or take the memory card. They have been changed, here is a link to the original agreement.

I suspect that the commentors haven't followed the link. Even the writer doesn't appear to understood what was written. Neither version seized ownership.

It says you agree to allow the building owners to retweet, or reshare your social media posts. I guess the actual wording doesn't make such an attention grabbing headline.

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Saturday, 16 March 2019

A violin and Brighton

 brighton model violin and the pier


A model contacted me about organising a shoot. She mentioned playing the violin which I thought would add some extra interest. Yesterday I travelled to Brighton, I wasn't sure the shoot would go ahead, I checked with Helen and she was still keen. The walk from the station to the beach was concerning, the wind was getting stronger the nearer to the sea we got. I thought the waves, wind and backdrop would make for drama. It made it almost impossible to shoot. Helen was only about fifteen feet but she couldn't hear me. She kept her coat on while I checked camera settings and adjusted the pose. Then coat off, take a few shots and coat on. It was so windy keeping the camera steady was difficult, standing in big heels can't have been easy. But all she was concerned about was getting a great picture.

brighton violin and the pier heels

We moved to a short jetty structure, it was about fifty feet long. And only accessible by walking across the stoney beach, but as soon as the camera came out people felt compelled to walk it. It seemed weird to us.

red coat pier in the background

We didn't stay long, time for plan b.

Hot drinks were needed, we found this beautifully lit dinner. Big windows facing the beach and down one side gave very soft light.

tea in a dinner

The violin came out again, the black of Helen's outfit and red of the phonebox were a good contrast.

red phonebox violin black outfit

Then to compete the shoot some lifestyle shots taken as we walked back to the station.

red coat lifestyle railings

red coat lifestyle flint alley

It goes to show what can be achieved out what at first seems like a lost cause.

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Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Collaboration

headshot makeup

At the end of last year I contacted a model I had worked with a few times. I knew she had contacts in the design and fashion world that may enable me put together a bigger collaboration. It is part of my goal this year to push my photography, and set challenges.

The project was on hold until Marilyn finished at London Fashion Week. It was a good opportunity for her to talk to people about it. When she told me there was a makeup artist also interested I was very excited, tempered with a little trepidation.

I started setting up the lights and a white backdrop, Marilyn arrived and said, "that won't work with the clothes". As we started to look at them I could see what she meant. There was gold, orange and pink; really bold and shiney. A short pause then while we evaluated all of the choices. Bright orange was tricky to light evenly but I am so glad we used it.


The initial makeup took longer than I expected to be applied, but it had to be right, and it did allow time for the studio to warm up. I rarely work in a warm studio, this one was big, with a high ceiling so not easy to heat. But much smaller ones are also generally cold. Ok for me, I can keep a jumper on, but it's not the same for the model. It was okay towards the end, I'm not sure what else they could do. Maybe a space heater like those in garages etc. But they are noisy.

Once we started it became obvious how much harder this was going to be then my previous shoots. The extra pressure of delivering on a promise to a client was at the back of my mind. I leant on Marilyn more than a photographer might normally do, or at least that's the way it felt. I have watched commercial shoots on youtube, the model doesn't seem to have much input. As I become more confident I'll need to take charge. Although I hope I can still make the process a team effort.


We had an hour at the end of the shoot to look at the pictures on the computer. But time didn't allow us to decide a final number to edit. There were too many to choose from. We'll work online to put together a complete set.

It is said you need to take lots of pictures to improve I don't think that's the best advice unless each shoot pushes you to try something new. Be that equipment, style or location. I see a lot of portfolios where all the pictures are very similar. The photographer has one idea and sticks with it. Often shooting the same model again and again. For me at least, I would soon get bored.

I have attended workshops, but they didn't deliver for me. I have improved because I have challenged myself with each shoot. Working with good models is also the part of the journey. This shoot for instance, I learnt so much. Not just about lighting, the choice of backdrop etc. The clothes designer wasn't at the shoot, but Marilyn involved her. Sending short videos and back of camera shots. I hadn't thought of doing that.  But now I realise how brilliant an idea it was.


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Monday, 11 March 2019

dockland HSS

The first photoshoot of 2019.


Ria docklands red jumper

I had intended to use my 300mm lens after doing some testing with it at the beginning of January.

I had only used it for motosport. The results from a previous portrait shoot where I had used the 80-200 were good. Now that I had more space I could see what the longer lens could do.

It is also satisfying to be able to collaborate with people, they see my work and want to be part of the shoot.

The location was docklands, near the ExCel exhibition centre. The cranes could have been a frame for the shots, it shouldn't have been too busy and the Royal Victoria bridge was also interesting.

In the end the weather meant no time to experiment so we went for the safe shots. And there were a lot of people. A dance conference was in full swing, with many dancers having their picture taken. We didn't want to get on their way.

I was assisted by Xavier. I think he took away some insight and thoughts for his photography. I did need the flash to be off camera but I was standing a long way from Ria. He came in handy as a moving light stand.

I intended to use the 85mm first to help establish a connection with Ria. The long lens requires a considerable distance between subject and camera which can hamper this.

The strong cold wind would have made using the long lens difficult; even on a monopod I wouldn't have been able to keep it steady. I stayed with the 85mm. Xavier had the flash, moving around to keep Ria perfectly lit.

Ria docklands red jumper sitting on a crane

Ria docklands red jumper


I used what is called high speed sync to keep the sky from being overexposed. It was very bright, needing 5000th of a second at f2. Without the burst of flashes that HSS produces the maximum shutter speed I could have used was 200th second.

Ria docklands coat
It was cold so Ria grabbed her coat whenever she could


As you can see; even at 1000th of a second the sky was very overexposed.

dock sculpture over exposed sky

Getting the sky right would have meant a silhouette for the sculpture. When I introduced flash and went up to 5000th of a second the sky was better.

dock sculpture High speed sync

The speedlight needed to be closer and more powerful to really light it properly. It's better to bring up the shadow during processing; there was little I could do to improve the sky in the first shot.


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