Saturday, 14 September 2019

Sigh… there goes another summer, Snoopy!


Chafford arms garden

Last weekend Richard an I cycled 48 miles to Fordcombe and back, for a drink. Well not exactly, we hadn't got together for a long time, so needed to catch up. As is the case with good friends we were soon chatting as if no time had passed.

It was a tough ride, with some challenging hills but Thatchers cider at the Chafford Arms coupled with good food made up for it.

thatchers cider at the chafford arms fordcombe


We arrived a little before it opened, so we had plenty of time to find a table in the big garden.
Once open it filled quickly but the service was speedy and efficient. We were quickly tucking into a tasty lunch. I'm not normally a cider drinking, but I'm glad I choose to be. It was delicious, just what I needed to top up my energy for the ride home.

It had started out a bit chilly, within a few miles the temperature was just right. By the time we sat down for lunch it had become a very pleasant afternoon, just right for a pub lunch in the garden. We talked about what we had both been up to and our plans. Richard is a beekeeper, I'm looking forward to some honey next year; I'll start saving some jars. It's a lot more work than I thought it would be, and if he's not careful they could just fly away. It's now all about building their reserves for the winter, having taken the honey during the summer Richard has to feed them quickly. He'll be wrapping them up soon, to ward off the winter cold.

Today was a solo ride, Matt having returned from his holidays late yesterday. So I took out the road bike. 

The hills felt a little harder than usual, even the flat was tougher that it should be. Am I getting old all of a sudden? Nope; the bottom bracket has started to seize. A quick trip to Ross Cycles to drop off the bike after my shower will have it sorted by next weekend. I took the opportunity to have the brakes upgraded. They have improved a bit since my first ride, but not enough.

This morning was really chilly, I didn't take my jacket off until I was heading home, a real sign of impending winter. It's beautiful now, with better promised for tomorrow. 

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Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Bold and bright

court basketball


I have been working hard on my photography, trying new styles and pushing myself with new challenges. Personally I have seen improvement, both in the quality of my work and my confidence.

But it's great when others see it.

I have had a number of photoshoots with Saskia, the last one was a few months ago.

Her mum approached me about a shoot for a designer. (facebook page) She had been asked to recommend a photographer, and Janise suggested me. That was a big boost, and a new challenge.

The theme was sporty so a tennis court was an ideal location; would the weather intervene?



I had hoped for a sunny day feel; but it rained for a short time and was overcast. A typical summer day.

A remote flash added a little punch to the scene.

At one point we had quite a crowd; moving to a different court cured them of their curiosity. I don't usually mind an audience, Saskia is use to it too. But when they stare from a few feet away it can be off-putting.

Janise got involved as well.




We tried to vary the poses and use every inch of the courts.





 Janise noticed one with pink chairs, although faded, they still added to the variety for the pink outfit.



This last outfit was a little less sporty, no-one is going to play tennis in those heels.


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Saturday, 31 August 2019

Deeper into Kent than normal

oast house kent

I don't normally cycle very far past Westerham, there isn't the time. But today I had some of that precious commodity. It was to be a lone ride, so I set my sights on Fordcombe. It looked like a good distance, just under 48 miles. And I'm due to cycle with some mates next weekend to the Chafford Arms in the village. I wasn't sure of the route, how hilly it was and if it was quiet or busy roads. It was good to reccy it and report back.

Sorry Matt and Richard, there are a few hills, one or two particularly challenging.

Although it didn't seem as bad as the Cyclemeter graph below.



The weather was perfect, not too hot with little wind so I kept up a reasonable pace. The bike has drop handlebars, but I rarely get in to the low drag position. It isn't particularly comfortable and the bumps threaten to loosen my grip. It does make a big difference, but I'm not racing anyone so I mostly stick to the top tube.

fordcombe kent

I arrived earlier than I had expected, so the pub was closed. Leaving later and being on mountain bikes next weekend should mean it will be open. It'll be great to catch up over a pint and some food.

I can guess at the meaning of the village name, a ford across a river in a valley, looking at the graph above it is in a valley. But has a steep climb to enter it, well away from any river. The pub gets good reviews so I'm looking forward to visiting it.

With not much to do, I ate a cereal bar, took some pics and headed home.

I'm starting to rack up the miles on the road bike; it was okay for most of the journey. Every bike I have owned seems to fit, until a longer distance is attempted. It's always the same, thirty nine miles all is well, but as forty rolls past. Thighs, knees and my back all cry enough. Fortunately it was a simple fix; move the seat forward and tilt the front up a bit more. Pedaling and pushing yourself back onto the seat takes its toll, hopefully it's sorted and I can enjoy the longer rides again.

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Monday, 26 August 2019

Remember the good stuff

shadow of the cycle helmet

The long weekend hasn't let us down.

Great weather coincided with a bank holiday, I'm sure it often does but I don't always remember.

It seems most holidays are marred by rain; or is it me holding onto negative experiences?

I can vividly recall mistakes, poor performance and disappointments. But successes, and good times; they're a little more difficult to recollect.

I suppose a diary would be a good idea, maybe that's why people write them.

I guess it could, subconsciously, be why I started this blog. I use it to record photography and cycling, both produce memories worth holding on to; shared experiences with friends, challenges overcome, and achievements.

I read it when I need reassurance or encouragement, a kind of "you got this".

It's too easy to think nothing is going well, but as I write this and think about old posts it has me remembering the good stuff. Not only what I have written previously but the day to day highs, that don't make it here.

We all have them, we just need to recount and value them.

It's said there is always someone worse off, I don't want to feel better at another's expense. We all need to count our blessings and not take what we have for granted. It's a more positive way to live.

Yesterday I caught up with a friend I hadn't seen for a while for his birthday, just four days until the weekend, I am working in London on Friday with the rest of the company and then a week off.

Four blessings right there.

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Monday, 19 August 2019

Stepford wives

stepford wives in the kitchen

A first for me; a themed studio day. With three models and a lot of work building the sets. It was a four hour shoot with one other photographer. A well planned schedule meant we shot separately; one model, then two and finally all three. We came away with different pictures, not normally the case with workshops and studio days. They usually encourage a queueing ritual, where everyone waits for the flash trigger. Hoping the current holder doesn't take too long and the models adopt the same series of poses. It's not their fault, there isn't time to chat and bounce ideas around. Even worse is when the person leading the session tells everyone what settings to use and places the lights in their never to be changed positions.

Not the case this time; there was advise from very the experienced models. But I had time to experiment.

The first time I had been to this studio was way back in 2017.

Beforehand I had some ideas for shots, bold colour, and a more posed look. We talked about the plan at the beginning, to make sure we all were going in the right direction.

To be honest I was a little unsure about the style the models had in mind. And I worried my mind would draw a blank.

I shouldn't have worried, they had plenty of ideas. It took me a while to change from my default shooting style, I relaxed and it flowed much better.

Rachelle built an incredible set; you hear the saying, brought everything except the kitchen sink. She can now say, "I bring everything, including the kitchen sink".

In addition to the kitchen set there was a living room. Again bold colour blocks were the theme.

light ironing

I had an idea to have Rachelle ironing Nicole. Have to keep that young appearance, no wrinkles allowed in a Stepford household.

That was the part of the session I took time to latch onto; if you have suggestion, the weirder the better, say it.

Nicole's idea to be blown away by double hair-dryer wielding Rachelle took a few attempts to get right. We had time and it was another example of a shot I wouldn't have got at a busy workshop.

blown away by hair dryers

 The bathroom was a little restricted by Scarlet made it work. The blue tiles a great contrast to bright orange.




Always eager to do what it takes, here is a novel way to change someone's mind. Give it a quick whisk

brain mixing

If you haven't seen the film, the women in the town are implanted with a computer chip. It makes them into the men's ideal spouse's. I prefer a more independent minded women.

So this last scene is Scarlet and Nicole persuading Rachelle it's for the best.

inserting the control chip

All friends again.



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Sunday, 4 August 2019

Two dry rides

cycling paraphernalia tea backpacks

A hazy morning followed the last two Sundays theme. But this weekend differed from the last two; Saturday was much better this time. I had hail and thunder on the 20th, and "just" heavy rain on the 27th.

It made for a great weekend. Although it wasn't without it's trials. The picture above was taken after a dangerous trek through stinging nettle lined paths. We had planned to have our tea in the middle of a field, with far reaching views of the countryside. But the ground was wet, so we carried on towards the church yard. This meant tackling the terrible path; shorts, t-shirts and poisonous chest high plants should never be in close proximity. We made it through unscathed and stopped for tea at the log shown at the top of the post. The picture shows all our paraphernalia, we don't worry about precious grams when we need a cup of tea.

RideLondon is happening this weekend. I did it twice and I really wish I was doing it again. Then I remember the very early start. I had to be at the Olympic park by six in the morning. The other hurdle is getting a place. A friend and I both entered the lottery two years in a row, neither of us got a place. The reason I got in was through a charity. I had been raising money for them for years, and my usual sponsors were getting fatigued. It didn't seem fair to keep going and stop someone else raising more money than I could.

The route winds its way through London and out into Surrey before coming back into London and ending outside Buckingham Palace. The first year it was torrential rain and flooded roads, the next it was warm sunshine. Both times the route was altered so I have never completed the full distance. I cycled home afterwards so the total miles were still over a hundred.

I have completed two Caterham to Canterbury rides, (2017, and 2018) a distance of just over sixty miles, and a few to Brighton, which is around eighty miles. It's a great feeling to just switch off for the day. Not completely of course, increasing numbers of motorists take exception to cyclists. You have to be aware at all times of other road users; some of which don't have safety and consideration of others on their mind.


I don't want to end on a negative. There are still a lot of my fellow road users that show patients and intelligence.

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Saturday, 27 July 2019

It gets easier


Out in the rain on my bike this morning, the weather wasn't as bad as last Saturday. As I left the house it was a light drizzle so I set a target of Westerham the long way via Beadlestead Lane; around twenty six miles.

Now that I am use to it, I don't really mind getting wet. If I want to do this during the winter I'll need better riding gear. What I have won't keep me warm, something I don't have to worry about at the moment.

Unfortunately the weather worsened and I decided to turn for home before I started the final descent into Westerham. Maybe I'm not that happy getting wet, eighteen miles was enough!

I kept cleaning the camera lens as I went, it's disappointing to get home and watch an hour or so of video with a huge water droplet centre screen.




I reached home soaked, so the shower felt really good. But how to dry my trainers? Last weekend the weather improved so I hung them outside in the sun.

I haven't read a newspaper for a long time; I now get my biased, poorly researched and written news online. But there is nothing like a cheap red top scrunched up and stuffed into wet shoes to absorb the water.


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Sunday, 21 July 2019

What a diff'rence a day made Twenty-four little hours

Westerham road bike flowers


Brought the sun and the flowers. Where there used to be rain.

After yesterday's grim weather it was good to be out in the sunshine. I was alone again so the road bike was my chosen steed. I think as I add miles to it the brakes are improving. Before I bought it second hand, the bike had only been used occasionally. It still has the new bike health and safety stickers. The last time I had a new bike I was as a kid. I don't remember any such stickers being on my Raleigh Chopper. The only warning was to not carry passengers on a seat clearly designed for two. I was never joined by a friend on the bike, it was too heavy with just me. With only three gears any hill was tough enough.


There are at least three stickers suggesting you check that the wheels and pedals are attached. There could be more that I haven't noticed yet, they are very small. 

Because the sun was shining I travelled further, to Westerham. I didn't stop at a cafe, that's for when the team is riding. This meant I was home early to start the chores for the day. Once that was done I could sit down to catch up with the Tour de France. It's looking good for the French with Alaphilippe ahead by just over two minutes after stage 14 of 21. 

Cycling is the only sport I watch, maybe with an occasional cricket match.

Motorsport is influenced more by money now. There is a human element to it, but it's not the deciding factor.

There is big money in cycling, Ineos and the other top teams spend millions. But if their top rider has an off day it could be all over. 

It's easier to relate it to my cycling. I know my bike is worth only a very small fraction of theirs, and I don't ride as fast or as far. But when they are pushing themselves on a climb, I know what it feels like.


I do a few all day rides but miss multi-day routes. Riding to Paris with two mates a few years ago was great. We arranged everything amongst ourselves and carried cloths etc on the bikes. Being self sufficient made the feeling we got approaching the Eiffel Tower even sweeter. Four days just thinking about cycling. It was tough at times, but worth it.


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Saturday, 20 July 2019

It felt good to be out in the rain

sheltering from the rain

My bike hasn't got a name so I think the post title is fitting.


It was to be a lone ride and as I walked to the garage the rain started. Not too heavy so I kept walking.
As I started the ride it got heavier, the further from home I was, the worse it got. I haven't ridden in rain like it since my first RideLondon. But I was wet so decided to carry on, and then thunder rolled in. Followed by hailstones.


It wasn't cold, and once the clothes I was in became saturated my body warmed up the water.

I only went to the bus stop at Tatsfield, around 17 mile there and back. I took my gloves off to take pictures and it was then I realised just how wet I was. My outfit was very heavy. Putting the gloves on again wasn't pleasant, they had cooled considerably.

Near home I passed along a stretch of road that always floods. There are specially built culvats at the side. Constructed a few years ago after the whole area almost ground to a halt due to a long period of torrential rain. The local water treatment plant was close to being swamped.


As I write this the sun is out and the rest of the day looks good.


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Friday, 19 July 2019

Dark in the sunshine


Another dark style shoot. A reflection of my mood perhaps?

Meeting Alex and walking to the first location we chatted about the theme she was bubbly and full of energy.

When the shoot started, her persona changed as if a switch had been thrown. Delivering the look I wanted, confident and assertive. But not looking angry or frowny, I think that's a word?

Between shoots we planned the next setup and she was back to her energetic self.

The first location was a lane behind a police station.

pensive look black and white

in colour leaning against a wall

At one point a police car parked up and the two officers stopped to watch us. Then drive off, I guess satisfied all was well.



The next location was a metal staircase, it was the rough gritty backdrop I was looking for. The rusty metal, dull paintwork, graffiti and the train tracks were perfect.


Parts of the it had harsh light, which was a challenge. I could have done with a diffuser. A big one, that might also have needed an assistant to stop it blowing away.

sitting in harsh light black and white

We changed our position, and added flash to really give it some punch.

sitting in on the stairs black and white


My favourite

Our time was nearly up, but Alex was still full of energy and ideas.
A lane was just the other side of the staircase.

As we entered there were tiled sections down one side. I suspect very few people have or will ever see them, but it gave a great opportunity for a different look.


And then a moody walking to camera picture to finish.


With more time we could have continued to walk around finding other gems like this lane. And as the sun dropped it would have altered the light.

My photoshoots are not about having hundreds of finished pictures. I took over 150 and aimed to reduce that to around a dozen to process. I only managed to get it down to twenty three though. It was difficult because Alex gave so much variety to each set. It meant I could be very picky and still have many great shots.

The last challenge was choosing the pictures for this post. I hope I didn't include too many.

With the exception of those shot against the tiled wall I could have exported all of the pictures as black and white. I had that in mind when I planned the session, but some do benefit from staying in colour.

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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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