Monday 27 January 2020

Music, it doesn't sound like it use to

status quo whitesnake rainbow

I have been listening to music transferred to digital from vinyl.

And it struck me that it sounded different, more raw. Maybe because it was originally on vinyl. I can't put my finger on it, today's music seems more clinical. I'm not an audiophile claiming vinyl is best, or that old tech can't be beaten. I don't have the space for a sound system like I use to. It's all on the computer or iPhone. I wish I had had the time to record all my records to digital.

My record collection is now lost to me. I could buy them in digital form. Or subscribe to a streaming service. If I collected a new album or downloaded part of my old collection every month, the subscription would kind of pay for itself. The problem would be that I am renting the music, if I end the subscription I lose access to it. Maybe it's my age, I need to change the way I access music.

I had the volume up, I don't often get to do that. And it was through speakers, not headphones. It took me back to seeing live music, often at the Hammersmith Odeon. Always rock, from heavy; Rainbow, Deep Purple to lighter; Status Quo, Foreigner etc. Before you write off Status Quo, listen to their early work; up to 1981. After that it went down hill.

For me; part of the listening experience is feeling the music. You can't get that unless you fill the room with sound. The better the amp and speakers, the greater the feeling. Unfortunately for my neighbours it also needs volume.

In the early days of CD's, the music sounded flat because they just re-recorded the mixes they had for vinyl. I wonder if going straight to digital has a similar effect, or is it just the way I listen now; the quality of the output device?

As a photographer, the album artwork interests me. Today though most is just the artist or group. I guess if you are primarily going to release you music online, why bother with creative imagery. The big format of vinyl meant it mattered more.

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Saturday 18 January 2020

Wow, that was cold

sunrise mountain bike

I left the house and walked across the heavily frosted grass to the garage. It was definitely the coldest day of winter so far. At least it meant no rain.

This time of year; it's either mild and raining, or cold and dry. Dry is always better, the thermal socks I got from the grand kids for Christmas helped to ensure I didn't get too cold.

The roads were treacherous in places, a bend looked slippery so I slowed my approach. With no skill on my part I stayed upright, both wheels slid away from me but found grip before I fell.

I turned for home early, the further I went into the countryside the more dangerous the roads felt.

And then just as I started the last short climb to home the gears locked up. I couldn't change down from top. I had to get off and push the bike.

Took it to Ross's; was told Shimano shifters never break, must need greasing. Went back later, it's broken.

Obviously I can't ride my newer bike tomorrow so I've had to pump up the tyres on the Carrera.

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A Giant upgrade

giant defy vision wheels

My Giant Defy 3 needed some upgrades. It’s a fairly light road bike. But the brakes were very poor so the Shimano Tiagra’s improved safety.

It now has new wheels, Vision 35’s. They are lighter than the originals, more aerodynamic and should improve the braking.

I thought aero wasn't going to be a big factor for me; I don't travel very fast. At just 10 mph though, aerodynamic drag uses half the power you produce. To double that speed, you need to produce eight time more power. My average speed is around 14 - 16 mph, maybe I can improve that a little. The biggest generator of air resistance is me, but the bike contributes about 30 percent. These new wheels will help to reduce it a little. There are plenty of hills where I live, being lighter will help with climbing.

I want to do more longer rides this year, like Caterham to Canterbury, and better my Waller Hill climb time.

I think I might be starting to take this cycling lark a bit seriously?

It's becoming a bit more than just a way to keep fit and socialise. Almost any bike will allow me to do both. Crucially though, going faster will mean I can go further in the same time; part of the motivation is getting to new places. Hopefully this will help me increase the number of rides I do in a year.

My bike has much upgrade potential; how far will I go? I don't think much further; increased performance costs money. Colin Chapman of Lotus said to go faster, add lightness. I could lose a few pounds now that Christmas is over. There are still chocolates and cake in the house though, I can't throw them away can I? Once they are gone, I'll try to slim down.

As I wrote this, it occurred to me; I might have a summer/good weather bike.
I never bought into the winter bike, one that you didn't mind being assaulted by the dirt and harsh weather. My bikes have to survive anything I throw at them.
But now it looks too nice to ride at this time of year. The mountain bike will have to cope.

When I got the bike back from Ross Cycles, it had been cleaned; which was nice. I really will have to keep it that way.

Take a look at the Ross Cycles website, I took the photos for it.

I'll need better weather to explore the improvements, which is a shame. I have started planning the rides. Ditchling Beacon and Leith Hill are on my to-do list.

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Friday 17 January 2020

Depression, how I cope

I have written a few posts about why I cycle. At first it was to get fit for some charity rides I'd commited to.

Looking after my wife is a big part of my world, and being healthy allows me to be there for her.

Cycling to a pub, or a cafe with friends also helps me cope. For a short time, I'm leading a normal life.

At times it feels like I'm on pause, waiting for the next task. I can't commit to anything, or relax.

So when I do get some time for myself I need to make it count. But then: it rains, I am unwell, joint plans are changed, or a bike lets me down.

I'm left with a hole I can't fill, and reality comes back into focus.

It's nobody's fault, plans change, the British weather is unpredictable. Maybe I can do something about the bikes, clean them more often, let Ross check them over regularly.

I don't think people realise the self induced stress I feel. How could they? I don't say anything.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfullness sessions have helped. They gave me a perspective that I had lost.

It was exhausting; depression caused me to be angry most of the time. Insomnia made it worse; I still don't get enough sleep. But at least I don't loose a whole night. When I started cycling regularly my sleeping improved. From the moment I get up though; I look forward to going back to bed. I never remember dreams; so for me, sleep is a time when I'm not depressed.

It was also a personal interpretation of a prayer I had read many times that saw me turn a corner. I'm not a religious person, for me it says I don't need to fix or resolve every problem. And not to worry about problems that can't be resolved straight away, or ever.

Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

It goes on:

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.

I don't believe He will make things better, it's my life; only I can can do that.

Social media isn't helpful, there is so much negativity. I rarely get involved in commenting about posts. And if people or groups I follow become part of the problem, then it's goodbye to them.
It's very easy to become overwhelmed, I still am at times. But now I take one day at a time, and prioritise what I deal with.

I have started to conquered my depression.

The best lesson I have learnt. Take control: make decisions, even little ones. It will mean you have made a change, and know more about a situation or problem than you did.

Another is to talk, I'm no good at this one. The therapy sessions are over; who do I speak to? I don't want to be a burden, or worry people. I'm not even sure why I'm writing this.

The good thing is that I have family and friends whom I know are there for me.

Maybe if it helps someone else, that will have been reason enough.

Wednesday 1 January 2020


Reading my 2018 review post, I didn't do everything I mentioned.

Motorsport photography was a genre that really started my journey but I haven't added anymore pictures.

It certainly seems I haven't done as much photography this year.

But I think I have made some big steps.

A shoot was published, and proved to me what I am capable of. I put a lot of pressure on myself and was very pleased with the results.

A long term collaboration has started to bear fruit. I first worked with a model and her mum many years ago. I can't believe it been three years.

This year the trust and respect we have built resulted in my working with them on a project for a designer, Jo. The feedback I received was just what I needed. I had started to lose motivation, I wasn't sure where to go.

I am planning a studio day with Alex, I know it will be a big confidence booster. We have worked together this year, the rapport was great. I came away with extra motivation. Next year I want a relaxed day experimenting with lighting. I won't have to worry about lack of time, and I know Alex will be full of ideas.

I have greatly improved the pictures I take when cycling. The 2020 calendar I printed has been very well received, it's a bigger size showing them off better than the previous years.

Next year we'll have to explore more cycling routes, find new destinations. I'll continue getting out, almost, whatever the weather. The weekend before Christmas had terrible wind and rain, and it was very cold; I just couldn't face it on Saturday. I did get out on the Sunday. Over Christmas, I rode whenever possible.

Looking at my cycling app I rode further in 2019. And that's despite not doing RideLondon or Caterham to Canterbury, both big mile days.

Cycling and photography allow me time to myself, to just think about the task at hand. Life can be very hectic, so many tasks and thoughts jostling for my attention. The rides aren't distractions, they're a way to reset, to take a breath.

I intend to do more longer rides next year, and a few focused photoshoots. I look forward to more shoots with the Jo, Saskia and Janice.

I am very pleased with what I have achieved this year, and I'm looking forward to 2020.

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