Category Archives: Photography

At last – an update. Venice (again) and the new car

Even the not-so-eagle-eyed will have noticed that I haven’t posted anything for a while and the longer it goes between posts, the harder it is to sit down and put anything “on paper”.

But, after a couple of months and with a hint last week, there must be something to share.

Firstly, there has been another trip to Venice – our fourth. I have said in the past that once the city gets under your skin, it’s the kind of place that you just have to go back to. As “old hands”, we are now familiar with where to go and where to eat, etc., but even this time we did at least three things that we hadn’t done before on previous trips.

We went out to Torcello, the first island inhabited in the lagoon – quite a strange, quiet place now that there are only a couple of hundred people living there rather than the 20,000 that used to fill the island. Lots of silted up small canals, a couple of restaurants for the tourists walking from the vaporetto to the ancient church with its amazing fresco. And that’s about it. Worth the short ride from Burano though.

Torcello

Secondly, we went to the Doges’ Palace, the magnificent seat of power for the Venetian empire. Quite why we haven’t been there before I don’t know, but it’s well worth a visit, if only to walk across the Bridge of Sighs.

Sighs

Thirdly, we decided to go to Harry’s Bar to sample a Bellini, a peach and prosecco cocktail invented there. Sitting at the bar, these two short drinks set us back 45€, but it was an experience – that doesn’t need to be repeated.

Finally, we decided to try the cicchetti at the little wine shop near to the gondola workshop. We had been there before, but just to try the coffee. This time, we braved the 2€ glass of prosecco (much more reasonable, I am sure you will agree…) and their small canape-like cicchetti on a slice of “french” bread. Some had smoked salmon on cream cheese, others had dried and salted cod. They were all delicious and again, bargains at 1.50€ each. Enough lunch could be had for two for only 13€. Highly recommended.

Cantine

And, here are some random snaps from the rest of the few days

Calle-dei-mortiDon't-Look-NowGondola-panoramaGondola-workshopMoon-over-Grand-Canal

I have had the new car just over a week now. Mercedes are, unsurprisingly, buggering me about over the collection of the old one. The car itself is also making life difficult, by throwing up a “you need to have your brakes checked” warning on the dashboard. You cannot hand a car back with such warnings, so I will have those sorted this week

The new BMW is simply astonishing. It’s difficult to describe how different it is from the Mercedes, in just about every way.

It has an unbelievable amount of power, and loads of torque right across the rev range. The acceleration is astonishing and almost addictive – but that is what needs to be kept in check, for the sake of the fuel consumption, the tyres and of course, my licence!

Unlike the Merc, it goes round corners, with the car going where you point it, rather than some random destination outside of the curve. It’s also surprisingly quiet, unless you have it in Sport mode where some flaps in the exhaust open up to make it a bit louder – I don’t do that.

Going back to real leather seats, as opposed to Mercedes’ vinyl ones is good and the BMW ones are very nice indeed.

And, the sat nav works… See, it can be done.

And, I have been getting well over 30 mpg, which is excellent.

This past week, I attended another NCRI Committee Meeting and have volunteered to join a sub-group, rather than just stay on the main committee. I haven’t had much direct involvement or requests for assistance from the committee in the year I have been involved, but it transpires that all of the real work is done in sub-committees. Hopefully, there will be more for me to do and assist with at that level.

At the forthcoming local Lymphoma Association meeting in Manchester, I have been asked to give a talk about my NCRI experiences and what it is that they do. It’s a shame that I haven’t a huge amount to tell regarding the “everyday” but I will give it a go in May.

Just before heading off to Venice (literally the same morning, but that’s another story) we had the bathroom refitted. This means that only 569 days after moving into the bungalow, every room in the place has been renewed, redecorated, upgraded and finished. Now, it’s the garden’s turn and as that gets weeded and cleared and replanted, I cannot take any credit. It’s starting to come together, in the back garden now, as well as the front and as it grows and matures, it’s going to look really lovely. Ann does a fantastic job.

Finally, Easter is upon us once again. Let’s hope that the weather next weekend is as good as it has been these last two – one can live in hope…

It’s not too late to say “Happy New Year”

Is it?

Happy New Year. It’s going to be a good one this year.

As I sit here with a stinking cold – not flu, obviously, as I had the jab – I have a little time to reflect on a very good Christmas and New Year.

On the way back from visiting my folks in Maidenhead over Christmas, we avoided the horrendous nonsense that is the motorway network at a holiday time and returned via the Cotswolds. We stopped in Broadway and, on finding that The Lygon Arms is dog-friendly, we cancelled a planned trip to edinburgh on New Year’s Day, and returned there instead.

I cannot recommend it highly enough. Very friendly, very comfortable room, excellent food and breakfast and nothing too much trouble. They even offered to defrost my car for me in the morning… You don’t get that in a Premier Inn. Not cheap, but a proper treat.

While there, we popped in to Robert Welch’s shop in Chipping Campden and ended up coming away with some kit for the new bathroom (more shortly) and a fantastic kitchen knife. One of those shops where you really could spend an absolute fortune.

The bathroom, the last remaining room in the bungalow to be refurbished, is to be done in the last week of February. Since it is the only bathroom we have, it’s going to be a bit of a pain for a week (no shower in the office either), so I can see us making use of the local swimming pool showers for the duration. Still, it’s great that it’s finally going to be done as the existing one is pretty horrible. We gave up on Porcelanosa’s recommended fitters, none of whom would respond to my enquiry, and went with a family-run local company. Will probably have spent more money than the alternative, but at least it’s ordered and on its way. It’s going to make a big difference.

The postman also brought a surprise today… what a joke!

time-to-change

Yes, due to my loyalty to Mercedes-Benz (ha ha!), they are offering me a personal discount of £1,500, which would be nice, if I hadn’t already told them that I never wanted another one and had a new BMW on order. Clearly they really don’t read their correspondence files, or any history of their customers or cars. They don’t deserve any loyalty, and have had none from me. This discount is also in lieu of any other dealer incentives, which might well have been more than this in any case. I am thinking of ringing them up, but actually wonder whether it’s worth the bother. Probably not, but I have nothing else to do this afternoon.

So, here are few shots taken over Christmas and the New Year, either in Broadway (no prizes) or south of the Cat and Fiddle road, between Macclesfield and Buxton, a part of England that never fails to deliver.

broadway

peak-district-bw

dane-valley-tree

road-across-the-misty-valley

Update: The dealership both liked my Tweet (that gets posted with this blog) and replied! What a laugh!

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That’s the One Challenge over and done for another year

If you have never been to Lisbon, I can recommend it wholeheartedly as a really great city for a weekend break. Surprisingly hilly, but really interesting, with very friendly people, excellent prices, even at 1€ = £1, good food and, for us at least, excellent weather in mid-October.

It was a good One Challenge this year, with 30 people about to send me their photographs for judging later and 40 for the dinner on the Saturday evening. A good time was had by all and it was great to see so many “old faces” and new ones. 300€ prize fund up for grabs later in November.

I have a choice of two shots to enter, and think that I have decided which one, but will inevitably change my mind three more times before plumping for the wrong one, but that’s OK.

Here are some shots from Lisbon  – not including any taken during the Challenge period of course!

bethem-bins

Always nice to see the bins and a sign to the toilets in front of an ancient building…

bethem

if-i-had-a-hammer

lift

pigeon

On our return, we spent a couple of days in Kent – where we had to find the Mercedes dealer as I posted last time. Amongst a visit to Chartwell (definitely worth a visit) and Leeds Castle (definitely not at £50 for two adults…), we spent some time on the beautiful Dungeness shingle. Really is a fabulous place.

dungeness-colour

power-station

dungeness

The pub with rooms was all a bit odd. The room was “quirky” in as much as it had a huge copper bath in the middle of the floor and a lit open fire in the corner, together with a door lock that broke on the last morning meaning that we couldn’t return to the room to check out, but the evening food was excellent. Breakfast was a bit chaotic, though, which did detract from the experience, a bit. As did the cost.

Oh well. You only live once.

Following all the buggeration by Olympic Airways and the long lost trip to Milos, I have been advised by our travel insurance company that they are going to pay our claim in full later in the week, which is excellent news. I am also going to pursue a claim for compensation from the airline for the cancelled flights, as is one’s right under EU law. So far, the Greek authorities are not responding to letters, or emails, so I think that I will use one of the “no win no fee” companies that specialise in these cases. 75% of the compensation is better than none.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any further contact from the warden of my friend’s flats, so I fear that I will not have been able to pay my respects as I had wished.

Twitter isn’t the same without him.

Wasdale. On a Bank Holiday Weekend

So, yesterday, we went to Cumbria to collect the slate threshold for the doors. More of that later.

While up there, we decided to drive round from Honister and have lunch in The Boot Inn, near Eskdale. We stayed there a few years ago and the food is good pub food and the place is welcoming even when it’s busy. We had a sandwich and some juice in the garden and it was a nice lunch.

Afterwards, we went round to Wastwater in Wasdale, fairly remote but very famous and the Lake District’s deepest lake. It’s a lovely spot, most of the time. Yesterday, the bubble burst, for me at least. It was “crowded”. There aren’t many parking spots there, as it’s a long way round to get there and it takes a bit of an effort. But, they were all full yesterday. People were parked on the side of the road and on the grass verges.

People were sunbathing on the lakeside, and there were several inflatable boats on the water. My heart sank. It was such a depressing sight.

As much as they can be, there are some things that should be “sacred”. Just because you can drive your Mercedes 4×4 SUV onto the grass verge, doesn’t mean that you should. Just because you can park 100m from the water and drag your inflatable boat into it, doesn’t mean that you should.

Call me a miserable old git if you like, but there are dozens of waters and lakes in the Lake District where you can paddle your inflatable canoe. Wastwater, beneath England’s highest mountain and on the “difficult” side of the Lake District, shouldn’t be one of them. Yes, I know that it’s a free country. I know that people can go where they want, when they want and do what they want (within reason). And I know that if there is any time that this place is going to be full of people, a sunny Sunday afternoon on the second May Bank Holiday is going to be right up there with the worst of them. More fool me.

I had thought at one time that I would like my ashes scattered on the little island that gets cut off when the lake is full, but is easily reached by a causeway when the lake is low, as it is this weekend. I am so glad that I have changed my mind.

Here is the Wastwater that I know

Wasdale

and here’s the scene yesterday, early afternoon.

Wasdale 160529

I don’t think that I’ve been there completely on my own, although I have been close, but there would normally be just two or three cars there.

I blame that ITV programme a couple of years ago which showed “The Best Views in Britain”. This was one of them, if not the best. Well, it certainly wasn’t the best yesterday.

Anyway…

As promised, here’s the slate threshold in its rightful place. I reckon it looks pretty good, with only a little bit of making good decoration to be done when the cement has dried properly.

IMG_6818

IMG_6820

After the 9 months, this has suddenly felt like the icing on the cake.

The aurora borealis then.

Yes, it really is all it’s cracked up to be. At least it was when we were lucky enough to see it.

As I said earlier in the week, we were incredibly lucky on Wednesday night when we stayed out until the early hours of Thursday, watching the aurora do its stuff. As I promised, here are some photographs from that experience.Twighlight
Stage-1

Stage-2

Starting off with an incredibly clear night, and a very subtle blue hour after sunset, the aurora began to show itself in the second photograph. Depending upon your eyesight and quality of the screen, you may be able to see the faint green mistiness in the middle of the photo.

Within about 10 minutes or so, it had grown in strength, so that it started to get brighter and more intense.

Campfire

Bear-right

Reflection

Eventually, as the night wore on, the show became even more amazing, as can be seen from the second three photographs.

Now, these were taken using a sensitive sensor setting on the camera and with 8 second exposures, so the camera can record a lot more than can be seen with the naked eye. In fact, it’s almost impossible to record on a camera, what you can see when you are there. The first two of the second batch are pretty close, though. The third one there has been fiddled with a bit, but it seems that the amount of light produced by the aurora can be huge. It was easy to see one’s way, after midnight, just by the light from the sky.

It is interesting to see, on some of the shots, just how far a satellite can travel in 8 seconds – several shots have bright lines, traced by the satellite, as the shot was taken.

For those of you that might care about these things, the camera was a Leica M240 and the lens was a Leica 24mm Elmarit-M ASPH. So, now you know.

If you ever get the chance to travel north during the winter months, I do hope that the gods are with you as they were, north of Tromsø, last Wednesday.

1200+ photos later… Time to reflect on a terrific experience

It’s time to sit and wait for the first of our flights today. Another week’s holiday is over and it’s back to work next week. But, I do have to go to Blackpool on Monday afternoon, so it’s not all bad 🙂

On Wednesday, we did the Chasing the Lights tour. We were picked up at around 6pm and headed about an hour or so north of Tromsø, by coincidence to roughly the place we ended up with the hire car the day before. At first, things were not looking promising. The guide was no doubt deliberately talking down the possibility of seeing the lights – obviously nothing is guaranteed – but we headed off to a small cove, at the north end of an island. Grunnfjord, if you want to have a look on Google Maps.

After about 15 minutes, one of our party spotted a pale, green smudge in the north east. Slowly this grew until the lights revealed themselves in all their glory. For a couple of hours, there was an arch stretching across the sky, from horizon to horizon. The intensity grew, and faded. The curtains effect revealed itself really strongly, and the lights went in waves along the line of the arc. Even with the naked eye, some of us could see a pink tinge to the edge of the lights, beyond the strong and dominant green. Even if you are colourblind, the visual experience would be amazing.

We stayed out beyond midnight and, as we were thinking about packing up, as if in the finale of a concert, the aurora really showed us what it was made of. The whole sky, from edge to edge, in all directions was green. Patches were darker, some lighter. Whichever way you looked, there were moving streams through a paler green background.

It really was incredible. We stayed there for over 6 hours – a really fabulous experience. This really is a stunningly beautiful part of the world and is worthy of anyone’s time ( and deep, deep pockets ) to visit. I think that this time of year might be perfect, as the snow is still on the hills and skies are a beautiful blue.

So, now, as I sit here waiting, I have >1200 photographs to look forward to viewing and editing. I am hoping that pushing the camera to 2500 ISO hasn’t affected them too much. We will see, but I have never taken so many photographs on a week’s holiday before. Or any week, probably. Not all taken on Wednesday evening, some on the day when we had hired the car.

I will share some here later in the weekend to encourage you to make the effort to come here. You really should.

My 2016 project(s)

Every year, around this time, I decide that I really ought to knuckle down and “do a photography project”. I am not sure why this compunction comes round every year, but I have to confess that for the most part, it’s an idea that starts, then stops fairly quickly.

One year, (2010 was it?), the project was actually putting a book of my photographs together. That was a good idea, as at the time, I rarely saw my photographs printed and to see 100 of them in a book was very pleasing (the book is still available if anyone wants a copy 🙂 ). I must get round to doing Volume 2.

Another time, after I had said that I was looking for a photography project, a colleague at work suggested that I gather a collection of Tin Tabernacles, corrugated iron chapels erected by the hundred by the Victorians, some of which still survive. That was Ok for a while, but actually, there are not that many of them left any more.

Before that, I decided that photographing every Brakspear pub would be a good idea for a collection, overlooking the fact that all of them are at probably 200 miles away.

So, these were not actually very practical. I really don’t have the time or the money to go driving to the Thames Valley every weekend.

The idea for what will be this year’s project is to shoot dead or “clinging-on for dear life” petrol stations. Yes, please contain your excitement. I know that this doesn’t sound like a Pulitzer prize winning idea, but it’s not meant to be. I first had the idea when we found this bungalow and started the process of buying it. There is a small, independent garage in this very village that still has a couple of pumps outside the timber shed. The owner sits in his little office reading the paper, only venturing out when someone stops by for a chat or a couple of gallons. It struck me that he might not be there much longer and nor would his colleagues other little places around the country. I am amazed that there are still some around at all, to be honest. So, I took a photograph. I know I should have bought some diesel too, but the shot was taken while I was walking the dog. I promise I will buy some from him, before it’s too late.

So, here are some shots that will start off the collection. Two of these places are still selling fuel; sadly, two on the isle of Skye aren’t, having closed since the last time that the Google Streetview car went by in 2011.

Rufford, Lancashire is an interesting garage in a very nice little village. It has a gun-shop adjacent, ironically accessible just to the right of the magazine rack. That’s not something that you see very often. But at least if you run out of ammo and need this month’s “Horse and Hound”, you know where to go.

Central-Garage-Rufford

 

This one is in Comberbach, which is also a very nice little village, but sadly lacking in amenities when compared to its Lancastrian cousin…

JH-&-O-Percival-Comberbach

And here are two from Skye, roughly three or four miles apart, on the same road.

Struan-Garage-Skye

Dunvegan-Garage,-Skye

Over the year, as I am out and about on the highways and by-ways, I shall stop as often as necessary and expand the collection.

If I get to 100, I will put them all into a book.

Now, the observant among you, which I know is all of you, will have noticed that I hinted at a second project. Like buses, they have come along at once.

It’s actually, not dissimilar to the first one and tips a hat to the Brakspears one. With pubs closing by the hundred every month in this country, this one will unfortunately be easier to do.

This is The Lion, Burscough 

The-Lion-Ormskirk

So, if anyone has any ideas for a good title for a collection of old petrol stations, or dead pubs, I would be very happy to receive them. Answers on a postcard please.

There’s a pint in The Lion waiting for you.

 

Not The Flying Scotsman and AdBlue and tin-rattling (again)

That most iconic of Britain’s steam locomotives, The Flying Scotsman (4472, when I were a lad, but some other number now) has just had a major overhaul and is back on the track after several years of absence.

She (he? it?) was due to take a train from Manchester Victoria, up to Carlisle on the settle line and then back via the mainline to Manchester on a 12 hour trip yesterday, arriving back at around 19:15. I thought that I would go and have a look at her arrival.

Once I had got to the station, via a tram which was completely full of angry Manchester United fans (always a pleasant experience 🙂 ), I had a look around the newly refurbished station to get a good vantage point. A decent chap on the ticket barrier would let me through with a nod and a wink so as to get to the correct platform, but suspiciously, he hadn’t been told that the train was coming in… Because it wasn’t.

I found out via Twitter that it had a problem with its brakes and was therefore not in a fit state to haul a train all day. It was likely that an alternative loco was to haul, but that’s not quite the same thing, and since it wasn’t very warm, I decided to cut my losses and head home.

As I was leaving the office car park, I remembered that the train was due to be passing Eccles station about 15 minutes before arrival at Victoria, so taking a leap of faith, I parked my car close to Eccles station and waited there.

A darker, wetter, more forlorn station it is hard to imagine. extremely poorly lit, it would be a dangerous and nasty place to stand around at night waiting for a train, especially if you are a lone woman. But last night there was a family and a few others waiting for the special to come through. Chatting to one lady, it turned out that the FS was actually running, but as the second loco in a pair at the front of the train, with an old diesel pushing at the rear. How they coordinate the power output of these three engines I have never been able to work out, but it obviously works and the train was due in at exactly the time I expected.

What I wasn’t expecting, was for it not to stop.

I found myself the best place I could to have the steaming locos slow down and stop right in my frame and waited a few minutes. On cue, the single light of the front loco came around the bend half a mile up the track… it was obvious that this train wasn’t going to stop…

It thundered past the platform, at probably 60 or 70 mph, with full steam, smoke, whistle, the works. The flames from the fire lit up the smoke in the darkness and it was a fantastic sight. The smell of the smoke lingered long after it had gone through.

I got one shot…

 

Not-the-Flying-Scotsman

I should get out more often taking photographs of these things – they are really interesting and photogenic. We have loads of preserved lines in the NW, so it’s not hard to do.

On the way home, the warning came on the dashboard of the car that the AdBlue tank was once again running dry. This system is the one that clears some 85% of NOx emissions from exhausts and is a good thing. VW are. allegedly, going to retro-fit millions of systems in their diesel cars to get round their emissions problem. Let’s hope that they fit tanks big enough to last between services.

Mercedes lied to me. They said it was a system I didn’t need to worry about and that the additive would last between services. Once again, it hasn’t. There are 2,000 miles to the next service.

Good job I bought a couple of litres and kept it in the boot, just in case.

Right, it’s time to go and rattle a tin at Tesco in Bidston on behalf of Bloodwise. It will be interesting to see what a difference this stupid name change has made. You have already read my feelings on this…

More later.

Taking one’s chances

I was a bit of a moaning Minnie about the weather up here earlier in the week. While others at home were enjoying lovely weather, but had to be at the office, we were suffering with single digit temperatures, high winds, low cloud and rain. Neither of which are fair really. While it’s nice to have decent weather, it’s nicer to have it when you can enjoy it. 

So, apologies for moaning a bit. 

However, when this is the main holiday of the year, you just have to put up and shut up. So I have. 

And now, today, despite it still being cold and windy and rainy, just getting out and about can be rewarding. 9 miles of walking through the Cuillins and over headlands has given me these photographs. And sore Achilles’ tendons. 

But that’s good. 

Onwards and Northwards tomorrow. 

   
  

 

Sheep, snow, sun and Shutlingsloe

Had a great day out today. Foggy at home and on the motorway, but as I got higher into the Peak District and Derbyshire, I left it behind and the weather was superb.

Here’s a shot taken on the way home, just below the Cat and Fiddle road from Buxton to Macclesfield, one of the first to get closed each winter when the snow comes. All roads open today but still lying snow in the fields. Nice light too.

Has brought home the obvious fact that if you want to take photographs of nice places, you have to go out there and make an effort. I’m glad I did.

This looks like a sunny upland to me.

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Losing one’s “mojo” – and how to find it again

Mojo

Defined by the OED as:

Magical power, voodoo, the art of casting spells; a charm or talisman used in casting such spells. More generally, esp. in recent use: a power, force, or influence of any kind

Well, I am not a shaman, I have no magical powers and I am rubbish at casting spells. But the “recent usage”, of “power” or “force”, is what I have been getting at when I have said that I have lost my photographic “mojo”. I have stopped enjoying taking photographs and I am at a bit of a loss as to what to do about it.

Those of you who have known me for a while will know that for many years, taking photographs has been a huge part of my life. After a lull while the children were growing up, when I basically took a lot of snaps as Dads do (and there’s nothing wrong with that), I got back into it in a much more serious way in maybe 2002. For several years thereafter, I was taking a lot of photographs, making the most of every opportunity and using a lot of film. I have lever-arch files full of negative and slide films on the shelves in front of me dating back to that time.

In recent years, however, in relative terms, I haven’t taken many photographs at all. A friend of mine asked me last week when I stopped, and I had to think pretty hard. I linked it to being diagnosed with the cancer, but I’m not sure if that isn’t too convenient a “hook”. I will need to do some analysis to see when I slowed down and eventually came to an almost complete stop. It might have been around that time, or it might have been a little later; I will see.

After all, it’s not as if I am not fortunate enough to get away several times a year to new and interesting places. Last year we went to Sorrento, Cornwall, France and Istanbul. One would have thought that those locations would have offered a wealth of opportunities, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case.

This year, the diary currently has four trips too, including trips to San Francisco and Vienna, plus return visits to Skye and the Somme. Therein lies one of the problems – “return visits”. On a return visit anywhere, I tend to try to take the same photographs as I did the first time, especially if I have been pleased with them. That isn’t good.

Could it be related to the diagnosis? Quite possibly. Cancer does funny things to you, even when you are in remission. It changes the way you think about life (as this blog is a painfully long witness) and in many cases, it can lead to depressive thoughts. I have tried very hard to stay positive throughout this whole experience and for 99.9% of the time, with the support of family and friends, I have managed to do so. Maybe, my lack of photography is sitting in that 0.1%?

Having a further think, I am wondering if it is related to the “anti-photography” movement on the streets, these days. S44 of the Terrorism Bill had the effect of giving any jumped-up, fluorescent jacketed security guard the idea that he could prevent anyone from taking photos on the streets. Many policemen were of a similar opinion, unfortunately. No doubt, recent events in Paris and elsewhere will bring this nonsense back to the fore. While I was never and could never be a “street photographer”, I used to enjoy wandering around cities taking photographs. I can’t remember the last time I did so.

Or maybe it’s something else? I don’t know.

So, how does one get the “mojo” back?

A project.

What I need is a project.

In the past, I have enjoyed going to classic car rallies. There are many photographs on my website taken at rallies in the NW as well as, a couple of times, at the Goodwood Revival. Not only do they offer the opportunity to photograph some interesting cars, be they Ferraris (will be lots of Ferraris at Goodwood this year!), Maseratis, Jaguars and all the rest, the people associated with them tend to be interesting characters too.

So, this year, I am going to make a concerted effort to attend as many as I can. Lots of “stately homes” around here hold them in the spring and early summer, there is one in Lytham St Annes and smaller ones all over the place.

“A project” is a very good idea and one that I will embrace.

A new camera…

Much more controversial, of course. A new camera does not a new photographer make.

But, for years I have been toying with the idea of buying a digital Leica M, to accompany my film M, and maybe this year is the year to do so. I have had my Nikon D700 for a few years now, and enjoy using that too, so maybe it’s time to upgrade that instead (I can’t afford both). But, I have long been frustrated with colour film work, notably since taking slides, my favourite form of film, became so expensive. A roll of film now costs about £10 and processing is about the same. This means that every time the shutter is clicked, you are spending about 50p. That soon adds up and is a major consideration.

Colour negative film is cheaper to buy, at around £5-6 per roll, and can still be processed cheaply. However, you are reliant on others doing it properly and with my last roll being ruined (shots of the Millau Bridge in October, unfortunately), this is becoming more of a worry, especially as film use continues to decline. I could process either film myself, of course, but my volume of film taking means that the chemicals are very expensive in small quantities. A bit of a chicken and egg thing really.

So, if I want to continue to shoot colour, with an M, I might need to grit my teeth and bite the bullet , both at the same time.

Let’s see what the spring brings.

My website hosting and email account have finally been moved successfully

Finally, after several months of messing around, I have managed to move the hosting of my website and, much more importantly, my main email address to a provider who isn’t going to get bored and pull the plug.

This process has taught me several useful lessons.

1. Just because someone has a professional looking website and can set up hosting accounts etc, doesn’t mean that they may not just a one-man band with a big hard disk in their back bedroom. (I don’t know, but that’s what I suspect was behind my previous host)

2. Even if said host was recommended by a web-designer friend, have a look at what the really big boys are offering.

3. Do not rely on an email address as your main point of contact with the Bank, HMRC etc, etc, if that email address can be switched off on a whim by said back-bedroom owner. To say that it’s a pain is not even coming close.

4. Moving a web host is much more difficult than you could ever imagine, especially if the original host, from whom you have to get various Nominet codes etc, is somewhat uncommunicative. Eventually, this guy proved helpful, but it took me several months to get everything sorted (admittedly, I did let it lie for a while over Christmas, after he switched the servers back on…)

5. Moving a bank account is much easier than doing this.

6. My new host provider, Zen, have proven to be extremely helpful, but it still took me three half hour calls to get the email account working (due to a DNS error issue)

Whilst it obviously has to be difficult to move hosts, to prevent the bad guys hijacking your pages, I didn’t realise just how difficult it would be, especially if you are not completely comfortable with DNS, MX, and other tech stuff that goes on in the background.

So, everything is back up and running now. All I need is to find some decent content this year…

And with that in mind, it’s off to Liverpool for a wander.

Keep taking the tablets…

I haven’t updated this blog in nearly a month, so it’s about time that I did.

Lots of routine stuff has happened, of course.

Once again the car has been serviced. This I time, I had to pay for it myself, as the “service pack” that I bought with the car, which gives the first 60,000 miles servicing at a discount, has expired. The car has now done more than 70,000 miles and, incredibly… , this is a major, serious service. All the filters need to be changed again and I was pleased to receive a text from the garage telling me that the front brake pads and disks all need replacing too. To have got 70,000 miles out of them is very good, but when you turn up to collect the car and are given a bill for £1,060, it’s a bit of a leveller. Even the service agent at the garage raised her eyebrows a bit as she told me how much it would be.

The rear brakes are also in need of replacement in 10,000 miles. I have had these done before, back in June, so I will question that when the time comes round. They really shouldn’t be wearing out so fast. I suspect that there is a faulty reader, or something.

I have also been considering what my next car should be, but it’s difficult to decide with having the house on the market. (No joy on that front, I’m afraid). I really don’t want to be hiring a car for 40,000 miles again in the Spring, and then moving closer to the office so that high rate isn’t necessary. That would partly defeat the object of the move, if it ever takes place. I will make a decision in the New Year, and probably change after Easter.

The Istanbul Challenge voting has been and gone and, incredibly, my shot came fourth. I really wasn’t expecting that, so maybe I must still be doing something right. A decision was taken while in Istanbul that 2015 should see us go to Vienna. Hotel already booked! Flights are a bit of an issue, though… guess which airline offers the cheapest flights to the city… It’s not Austrian Airlines.

And a couple of not really routine things to report too.

Firstly, I have stopped taking the statin tablets prescribed to me before we went away. I have had high cholesterol for as long as I can remember, certainly all of my adult life. When I first found this out, maybe 25 years ago, I went on an extreme low-fat diet and ate at least 60 grams of oatbran every day and managed to get it down to something “acceptable”. However, one cannot live one’s life like that, so the regime quickly fell by the wayside. At a routine blood test at my GP, the results came back high as usual and he recommended that I take a statin. This is an “every night for the rest of your life” deal.

Within the first week or so, I had had two nightmares, something that I haven’t had since I was a child. Disturbed sleep is one of the side effects that can occur, and fortunately, the nightmares only occurred a couple of times. However, since then, I found that I would take a very long time to get to sleep and wake several times during the night. I even installed an App on my phone which monitors your sleep pattern, scoring a most impressive 61% average quality of sleep. Getting fed up with this, I consulted the GP and have been advised to stop taking the tablets for a couple of weeks and see if this helps. So I have, and so far it think it has.

I think I’d rather live with the higher risk of stroke and heart attack than not sleep properly for the rest of my life. That can’t be good for you either. Maybe there is an alternative drug that they can give me that won’t affect me like this, so we will see.

Monday brings the CT scan I have written about in the past and have been waiting for. I don’t not look forward to these, if that makes sense. I know that they aren’t good for you in a basic physiological way, given that they are about as strong as 400 x-rays, but the information that they generate is far more important than that. I see my consultant again in 10 days time for the regular 4 monthly check up and the results of the scan, so that will be interesting. With a bit of luck, he still won’t be able to see anything, but as time goes by, and being 4 1/2 years into my remission, I am staring to feel like I am on borrowed time with this. But, let’s not jump the gun and see what happens in only a few days.

Christmas is coming around all too fast once again. A time to count one’s blessings, appreciate once again the support from family and friends that help us get through the days and weeks and make sure that they know that they are appreciated and loved. I couldn’t do this on my own and my heart goes out to those that do not have the support and love that I enjoy.

No presents for us this year. We have booked to go to San Francisco for a week in March, so that will be a big enough gift. We are flying with Virgin…. Maybe I will hire a car over there for a day and give the booking form as a gift. But now the secret is out… I’m sure that there will have to be a little something under the tree.

Unprocessed film and news from my recent consultation

The fact that there was still an unprocessed film from my week in Cornwall at the end of June is testament to the amount of pleasure I am getting out of my photography at the moment. I am hoping that a forthcoming visit to France and Istanbul will get the creative juices flowing again.

However, given a very rainy Bank Holiday Monday, I finally got round to processing the film. Not very successful, I have to say – the processing was fine, it’s what I found when I’d done it that was a bit of a disappointment. I managed to scrape together a couple of shots from the roll, so I thought that I might as well put them on here.

The first shot is of Mevagissey. I am pretty sure that there’s a colour one from there on posts from June, but this is obviously a black and white version. The colour is better, since it’s a colourful place, but never mind that.

Mevagissey

The second is from Port Isaac on a day which probably gave us the worst weather of the holiday. Either heavy rain or horribly overcast. But, beggars can’t be choosers and it’s too far just to pop down to take advantage of good weather.

Port-Isaac

Since my last post, I have been to see my consultant for a regular 4 monthly check-up. 

He has slightly changed his story with regards to what he could see on the CT scan from last year, but it doesn’t materially change anything particularly. He does want to do another scan in December and will send me an appointment nearer the time. He is proposing to do further scans “over the next few years” and then stop doing them until he thinks it necessary again. These series of scans will be used to act as benchmarks against which future, but not so frequent, scans will be assessed.

This is a good thing for a few reasons, but mostly because he obviously expects me to still be alive in a few years after he has done the series of annual scans.

I asked him about “remission” (or “partial remission” in my case) and when that would normally be measured from. This is from the end of the chemotherapy that has caused the disease to shrink. It ignores the maintenance, because that is intended to just increase the remission period. That said, he suggested that there is some evidence to say that the Rituximab maintenance can also continue to shrink the disease during that period. So that’s also good news.

What this means is that I have now been in “partial remission” for four years and with no sign of the disease returning at the moment, this is another successful visit over and done with.

Steady as she goes, once again. Keep on watching – and waiting…

Never give up hope… Perch Rock revisited

Doesn’t take much to re-vist, to be honest as it’s less than half an hour away from here, but a couple of years ago I was bemoaning the fact that this is a very popular spot with photographers around here – too popular.

Yet, there I was last night seeing whether the sunset that I’d seen while walking the dog at about 8 o’clock, would result in something interesting up at New Brighton.

Parkgate

When I got there, about 20 minutes before sunset, there was a large bank of cloud sitting on the horizon, over the Irish Sea. There would be no spectaculars this evening. I tried a couple of shots with the half moon behind the lighthouse, but they didn’t work, so I decided to head home.

As I left, via a slightly different route back off the sand, I turned to look at the lighthouse again. And saw this…

All-quiet-at-Perch-RockNow, this isn’t the best ever shot of this place, but it is unique.

I was the only person there, taking photographs.

 

Holiday slides. (Bear with me…)

Yes, I know. When we were very young people used to show their holiday slides to any victim who couldn’t think of a good enough excuse to be somewhere else.

“We have been to Cornwall. Relive our memories of getting sunburned on Rock beach with us, and enjoy our memories of our holiday, even though you weren’t there, and were at work that week”

You know the thing.

To a very great extent, recent posts on this blog are a modern equivalent. “I’m here in Cornwall. The weather is bloody lovely. You’re not here. Too bad”. But, my recent posts while on holiday were not intended to rub any noses in it. They were intended to show my Mum that the weather was nice 🙂 (Sorry Mum!)

No. What this post is about is the wonder and the joy and the shear perfectness of a well exposed and composed photograph taken on “slide” film. A positive image in all senses of the word.

With slide film, you have to get it right. You have to get your exposure spot on (it’s pretty unforgiving of sloppy exposure), with maybe only one stop either side of “right” to play with. You can soon see a poorly exposed slide.

With colour print film, where you shoot a negative image and have it printed to a positive print, the film technology allows for a decent amount of leeway, making the medium definitely more forgiving.

With digital, with a modern, decent camera, you have a huge dynamic range to play with. Under-exposed? Over-exposed? Don’t worry. Fixable in Photoshop, or Adobe CameraRaw.

Not so with slide film.

Get the photograph back from the processor in a nice plastic mount. Stick it in a good projector onto a good screen, and that’s it. What you took is what you see. No messing about. No fiddling. No adjusting exposure or white balance.

Now, there are still a few of us who shoot E6 film. A dying breed. There will be fewer of us next year, and fewer still the year after. Most of us who do, I suspect, scan our film and manipulate on the computer. It was the best of worlds and it was the worst of worlds. Neither film in it’s purest sense, nor digital in its most versatile, scanning film leaves one in a tricky bunker somewhere on the 10th tee.

So… the point of this blog post? Scanning slides is brilliant. You have a real colour original as a reference (as oppose to a colour negative on a pink/orange base…) and it makes scanning so dead simple it’s stupid.

Here are some scans of slides I took last week in Cornwall. You can’t see the real thing, unless you come round to my house and see the slide. But you can see the scans of them.

These two rolls of slide film have restored my faith in my Leicas. My photography.

Let’s just hope that slide film lasts a little longer yet…

 

A-long-way-from-London

Portloe

Pompeii Farm

Having had to stop painting the back of the house due to the rain, I have been playing around with some shots from earlier this year. I have stumbled across a setting on my scanner that seems to deliver decent scans from Kodak Portra 160 colour print film.

Initially, I liked this in colour, but having played with it for half an hour this afternoon, I actually prefer it in black and white.

Maybe, if I were to buy a new camera (as I have been thinking about…) it should be a Monochrom. Maybe…

Image

The best from Malham today

I was about to throw this film in the bin. I take so few photographs these days that it would appear that the developer that I had as stock was probably a bit on the “2013” side and therefore not up to the job. I should have made fresh – I know, I know…

Anyway, the negatives came out very thin. (Pan F+ in HC110(B) cut 50/50 with water and developed for 8 minutes, if anyone is interested and even knows what that means)

But, sometimes you get luckier than others. I am a very lucky man in so many ways and today is a lucky day.

 

Malham Cove, North Yorks National Park, about 09:30 today

I really like the idea of these two lovers, standing on the edge of a considerable cliff, holding hands, contemplating the future…

Image

The two trees can be seen on this shot, taken from the bottom of the cliff. It’s a long way down. And up…

Malham-Cliff