Saturday 30 January 2021

It's okay to be ordinary

I know a fair bit about computers. I'm quiet good at troubleshooting problems in general. I like the pictures I take. Cycling is important to me, I can talk to people about how it keeps me fit and improves my mental health. I know some of the technical aspects.

I have a house, and food to eat. Great family, friends and employer.

And that's enough for me.

I do use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Strava. And this blog. It's not to acquire likes or kudo's. They are to share my thoughts and experiences. 

Unfortunately these platforms also propogate untruths, false information and unrealistic hope. They sell aspirations that may not be right for the reader.

Telling people to live their dreams, or do what you are passionate about can be a positive message, but it can lead to being dissatisfied with present circumstances. Or to making bad decisions. I am passionate about cycling and photography, but the chances of me making a living from either are slim. I post pictures to the platforms I have mentioned, and some get a like or two. But I wouldn't base my happiness or livelihood on that reaction.

We don't all have to be high flyers, entrepenuers, or risk takers to be happy. And just because your life isn't as others appear doesn't make it less valid or fulfilling.

Being hopeful, postive and content with the future is my goal.

And remember; it's okay to be ordinary. I am.

Sunday 24 January 2021

It's cold out there, a week with a trainer

indoor turbo trainer discarded jersey

The spiteful weather is testing my determination to ride everyday. It's not just the cold, but the rigmarole involved in getting out. The layers of clothing, the decision about which route is least likely to be icey. Then when I get home the pain as my hands and feet warm up. Yes, despite many different gloves and overshoes, I'm still not able to get as warm as I'd like. 

I mentioned to a friend that I had slid on ice a couple of weeks ago and hurt my hip. He lent me a trainer. I've now used it a few times, and it's a game changer. I had been getting very disillusioned because of the weather so it came at the right time. I get anxious if I think I may not get out, now I don't have to worry.

I'm not sure how to make it more like a real ride though. Do I include sections with almost no effort to mimic a downhill? I haven't, so my average speed and distance covered is less. On the other hand it means I'm working all of the time, I must therefore be getting fitter - I think.

The prep before a ride is minimal, I only have to worry about ice on the walk to the garage and I don't get cold and wet.

Another upside is that I can listen to music; I use it to vary the intensity of the ride. Once warmed up I increase the resistance and them speed up or slow down depending on the beat of the track. Punk or ska means a sprint at maximum effort. It seems to work okay, each session during the week is an hour. Starting in long and short sleeved jerseys, I quickly remove layers. By the end I'm in just shorts, both jerseys discarded. 

At the weekends I have been timing my outdoor rides for the warmest part of the day. Saturdays normally allow for bigger distances. To be honest though, at the moment I much prefer the garage to the road. The longest I have managed is two hours. It gets boring, and because I am at home there is the temptation to stop. My target is 60 miles, about four hours; it's going to be tough. I didn't do it this weekend.

Which leaves Sunday; and the meetup with Matt. It's still allowed, and we keep a distance from one another. But the snow and ice means I'm likely to postpone until the weather improves. Sorry Matt.

So it's another two hours in the garage.

Friday 22 January 2021


A word that means so much. Many other words form a group that contributes to this all encompassing, you could say creed. 

Traits I associate with the word: integrity, trustworthy, reliable, respectful, consideration, empathy.

It's a willingness to put others first, if that is the right thing to do. Without losing yourself in the process.

Too many put themselves above all else, they barely consider how their actions, or inaction affects others.

The anonymity of social media means it's easy to remove yourself from the consequences of words; to not appreciate their power.

It is saddening that people record others misfortune, and then post it online. They find humour in it, or use it as a way to denigrate. Someone may be facing the worst episode of their lives, and ghouls rush to record it. 

No-one's perfect, we all act or speak without thinking. Making it right can be tough, honour is also admitting when you are wrong.

We need to be less critical of others, it's easy to find fault. It's much harder to accept mistakes and use positivity to move forward. 

If a change of plan is needed, support it.

Don't allow caustic hindsight to wear people down.

Sunday 17 January 2021

Why make life harder?

I don't read many technical reviews about photography, unless I'm looking for new equipment. When I do it's to investigate providing a solution to a problem, it's not simply to buy more kit.

I do read interviews with photographers: how did they achieve success, how do they decide lighting, equipment etc.

Unfortunately there is often a familiar thread to them: photography is not just about equipment, it is art; which I agree with. But one subject, that I don't understand is almost always mentioned. The photographer will say, " I use camera X because it forces me to slow down". What does that means? It's invariably in connection with the use of a piece of old, difficult to use or limited equipment. I get the impression the statement is used to infer some kind of superiority. The article will have mentioned the photographer just considers their camera to be a tool; so why can't they slow down whilst using more mainstream technology?

Are they saying the results of their efforts are better because they were able to overcome the trials imposed by the choice of equipment?

To anyone apart from some other photographers, the process used to produce a picture is irrelevant. Few would care that the camera used was incredibly heavy, was so basic every setting took a maths degree and twenty years of experience to calculate. Or that many peculiarities of the camera had to be overcome before the shutter button was pressed. 

Maybe this is why pictures taken on phones are considered inferior, just because it's so easy. Good composition and an understanding of what you want to achieve isn't dependant on the camera used.

Too many articles and interviews include tired cliches. These lines are used in an attempt to demonstrate superiority or a higher level of knowledge. They can be barriers to a wider inclusion into photography, or encouragement to buy more.

Forget the tech, plan the shot. You'll know if the equipment you have is enough. 

Don't make it more complicated than it needs to be. When a picture is noteworthy because of the process used to achieve it, it becomes a technical rather than a creative process.

It could also exclude people from photography. Some may think because they don't have or can't use the equipment mentioned they can't produce as good or interesting pictures.

Saturday 16 January 2021

Indoor training


bike trainer garage turbo pain cave

The weather has really worsened, I woke up to a lot of snow. The forecast said it would improve this afternoon. But in reality I doubted I'd go out. Freezing slush and a biting wind would await me, I couldn't face it. Not to mention the risk of falling off.

A friend lent me a bolt-on bike trainer, so I attached my old road bike to it. How long would I ride before boredom kicked in? Some refer to their indoor training area as a pain cave, we shall see what I call it.

A punk music playlist would have to give me the needed impetus.

Friday 15 January 2021

Obsession, compulsion.

Regular readers will know why I started cycling in adulthood. And why I continue to do so. There has been a development.

Last night whilst riding through sleety rain, I realised it has become an obsession, I have a compulsion to get on my bike.

My evening rides are getting longer, at first they were around ten miles, taking about an hour. That has creapt up to fifteen miles and around an hour and forty minutes. I pass people multiple times as I complete my loops.

I could feel the cold creeping into my hands and feet, but I was still close to heading off into the night, instead of turning for home. I couldn't of course: it was 19:30, any direction would have been unlit; not great with such poor road surfaces, and I had commitments waiting for me at home.

My cycling clothing is now reasonably good at keeping me comfortable, unless it gets really bad.

The recent very cold weather has meant a few missed days, it's hard to have to accept I shouldn't go out. I look at the weather reports and out of the window a lot during the day. Trying to decide if it's okay to get on my bike. There are so many hills around me, I can't pick a flat route. And besides, I came off last week on a level road. It was the steep camber that caught me out.

I set myself goals to cycling further, more often in 2021. It has to fit into the time I have, so it's not going to be ultra distance. The likes of Mark Beaument haven't got to worry about their records being broken by me. I'm going to buy his book about endurance riding, I have read Trevor Lund's book - North to Alaska - about his ride up the America's. And have just started Quondam by John Devoy about his journey through Africa. I definitely have the bug for long distance rather than speed cycling, although I have looked into racing. But that might take up too much time, travelling to the venues across the country isn't going to be possible, even without Covid restrictions.

The charity ride in June for Mind will be partially accompanied by two members of Moof IT cycling club, I'm really looking forward to that. You can sponsor me here.


Sunday 10 January 2021

Walk around a golf course

The weather forecast was for another very cold start to Sunday. I messaged Matt late on Saturday to suggest a 9 am meeting instead of 8.

I prepared by donning many layers, and wrapping my feet in cling film before pulling on my socks. My efforts were wasted, the lock on the garage door was frozen solid. I tried a few things to thaw it, but eventually gave up.

I couldn't spend the day without exercise so I grabbed my camera bag and went for a walk. A few minutes away from me is the Surrey National golf course. There is a fairly well maintained path so I knew it wouldn't be too treacherous.

Here are by favourites.

Surrey National golf course frost covered tree

Surrey National golf course frost covered berries

Surrey National golf course frost covered thistle

Surrey National golf course ice covered pond

Surrey National golf course frost covered trees


I'm really enjoying walking around my local countryside looking for inspiration. 

Saturday 9 January 2021

When is it not okay?

I use Aperture to catalogue and do basic editing of my pictures. Unfortunately Apple have stopped development of it and when I update the macOS I won't be able to use it.

I started looking for an alternatives; the Adobe suite would be ideal, but it's too expensive for occasional and basic use.

There are many free applications, Darktable is well reviewed. Once installed it was too difficult to use, I had to search youtube for even basic how-to's. It has to be the least intuitive piece of software I have ever used. You should be able to at least get started and do basic tasks without the use of google. I gave up; I'm sure if enough time was available I would discover incredible results.

I have Affinity Photo for more advanced editing, again I couldn't justify the cost of Photoshop.

I am now using Luminar 4 to import and edit my work, so far I'm impressed. Youtube has taught me about some of its many features, but I worked a lot out for myself. It uses AI, (artificial intelligence) to speed up some processes. I still do the basics, but I can now do much more than I could before. 

This has lead to a dilemma; how much manipulation is too much? I want the results to look natural, this technology can allow massive changes to be easily achieved. Take the next two pictures for example. The first is from Aperture, with the sky over exposed. When I took the picture there was more cloud detail. The second image was the result of Luminar AI making the sky easy to replace. It's not what I saw at the time, I added a stock example.

scarred tree, natural sky

scarred tree, AI sky

Is the second picture too much? 
If I upload it to Instagram, Facebook, or my website should I label it as manipulated?

Thinking about it now, I could have taken a second picture, exposed for the sky, then combined them. Would that have been more valid?

Sunday 3 January 2021

A new year

As the new year settles in I look forward with positivity. It's too easy, almost habitual to expect the worst. This has meant inaction, being too afraid to attempt anything, convinced it will fail. 

Not this year.

What does 2021 have in store? 

More cycling, I have a desire for longer distances. How far can I go? 

The 100 mile challenge I set myself to raise money for Mind.

I hope that a couple of projects will mean a focused approach to photography. It's a watershed year, where I decide the direction it's going to take.

The walking photoshoots I did brought a lot of pleasure, they were a refreshing opportunity to slow down. 

This year will be one when I try to prioritise myself, consider my needs. I'll still be there for family and friends. Hopefully they will follow my growth.

Friday 1 January 2021

Looking back at 2020

I'll try to avoid the obvious topics for this year, except to say the four months of furlough did have some upsides for me. I lost weight, some may say I didn't need to. But I feel so much healthier and fitter now. 

It was difficult at first, I don't like to change my routine. I had plenty of time to myself, I know for others this aspect was harmful. But I needed it, being on the bike every day gave me space. 

Another change was talking, or writing about my depression. This blog became a way to more easily express myself. Family, friends and work have been great, I know they are there for me. They would have been in the past; if I had spoken about what was going on. 

I'll look forward with positivity, I'm better able to deal with the inevitable ups and downs

I want to build on this progress. And help others to move forward if I can.

I hope that for you 2021 will see positive change.