Consolidation

Way back in 2015 I started a little blog about cycling in Cardiff. It was called Cardiff By Bike and it was my way of learning and engaging with the realities of cycling in Wales’ capital city.

Part of the reason I wanted to write about cycling was because so much of the internet and tabloid discourse around the humble bicycle appeared to be negative and I believed I could add some positivity to the discussion. I quickly came to realise that in an algorithmically driven web, all of what was bad about cycling (or indeed anything) was pushed to the top of the agenda.

However, cycling changed my life. Looking back, in my early-30s I was a tragically unfit, directionless and skint man barrelling towards middle-age with a whimper. Switching to a bicycle transformed my physical and mental health, my finances and my outlook on life. So, I had to write about it.

Sadly, absorbing yourself in a culture that in many ways is still trying to figure out what it is, has its consequences. Engaging in the politics of it all became difficult to avoid and quickly the enjoyment drained away. The good news is, in that time I met a number of great people, made a few good friends and had the opportunity to experience the Randonnée, or Audax as we call them. These are long days out on the bike, riding from checkpoint to checkpoint and getting a brevet card stamped along the way.

Heol Adam
From my cycling set on Flickr

This year I decided to draw a line under the Cardiff By Bike project and will soon let the project go. My plan is to bring the ride stories under a new section on here, called Bicycle Tales. These stories are too important to me to let them wither on the vine, so I’m going to re-publish them. Along the way you will meet some of my riding buddies, but ultimately it gives me the opportunity to bring together two of my passions, photography and cycling.

Arguably there is no better way to find interesting things to photograph than to explore the world on a bicycle. To quote Earnest Hemmingway…

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.”

Ernest Hemingway, By-Line: Selected Articles and Dispatches of Four Decades

I hope that those of you following me already find enjoyment in these stories.

Autumn

We’re nearing the end of October, the clocks are going back an hour and once again I find myself trying to adjust to a new routine.

I always used to be an early riser. When I started working full time in my late teens I’d usually be waiting for the 7:00am train, wide awake and raring to go. Mind you, I suspect youth had a lot to do with that.

Fast forward 20-odd years to 2022 and I’ve gained a few decades; a smorgasbord of grey hairs; and a few new aches and pains. That’s all to be expected I guess –aging has its quirks, but what wasn’t part of the plan is that waking up has gradually become later and later.

For someone who spends his free time taking photos, darkness has its challenges, particularly in a rural area. It is properly dark at 4pm and if I start work around 9am, I’m not getting out of work until 5pm. If I start at 7:00, that’s a whole 30 minutes of sweet, sweet daylight.

Long story short, I’m trying to train my body to wake up when my alarm goes off and not two hours after. I seem to be getting the hang of the early starts, but I’m not so good at going to bed earlier. I’m going to pay for that, aren’t I…

Jazz…

I don’t want to alarm anyone, but these past few months I’ve been taking an interest in jazz. I’m not sure how I arrived at this point and I didn’t really see it coming, yet here we are. Retracing my steps a little, I might have mentioned in an earlier post that I’d developed an interest in home audio.

As it turns out, audio nerds are happy to talk about albums that are interesting from a production standpoint. One album that pops up in discussions time and time again is ‘Kind of Blue’ by Miles Davis. So, I fired up Tidal and had a listen on a decent pair of headphones.

As someone who listens to a lot of music that has singing/growling and often chunky guitars front and centre, it is very easy for the nuances to get lost in a maelstrom of other instruments fighting for attention. Tracks like ‘So What’ on Kind of Blue have a lot less going on, so it is much easier to focus on Davis’ trumpet, the bass and the drums. The way it has been mixed also means each instrument occupies a distinct place in the sound stage.

Jazz appears to be all about improvisation and an unspoken communication between musicians who are at the top of their game. I can’t say I have it all figured out yet, but there’s a lot to like about it. I’m currently going through the growing list of most-recommended albums on Tidal.

The back three

We’re into the final quarter of yet another perplexing year. The great many crises continue to multiply and metastasise with little hope in sight for better times to come.

War, accelerating climate change, dysfunctional markets, rising interest rates, extortionate energy costs and a UK Government that seems to have been inspired by Elysium, steered by shadowy organisations with opaque funding.

It would be easy to become despondent after so many years of this, but I don’t feel ready to give up on the future just yet.

Anyway, you came here for the photos. Here’s the highlights of the last three months.

Until next time…

Summer…

Back in 2015 I rediscovered cycling. Truth be told, I became a little obsessed with it. What started out as a desire to get a little fitter and improve my health became an all-consuming obsession that saw me take on 100-mile rides around south Wales and south-west England. I then really leant into it and started a website which I’m still running today.

However, in 2017-18 I started to become depressed and withdrew from much of this. It came on gradually and I didn’t realise what a mess I was in until I was up to my neck in it –as it so often goes. My fitness started to ebb away and the medication I’ve been on ever since has left me with a chronic case of the munchies. This summer I decided to get back into the saddle…to get a little fitter and improve my health…again.

On repeat

Curiously, 2015 was also a year where I embarked on a 365 project. That year the theme was monochrome, so I have a stack of black & white photos from out on rides in amongst the collection. Last year’s 365 was mostly photographs from the neighbourhood, but each day it became harder to find interesting things to photograph. By combining the bicycle with the camera, I should be able to broaden my horizons.

When I think of all the places I cycled through over the years –Bath, Ferryside, Symonds Yat, Little Mill, Llandovery, Lampeter, Abergavenny, Crickhowell, Berkeley, Slimbridge, and places along the way. So much potential, but armed only with a mid-2010s iPhone and with only a limited amount of time, I really need to revisit these places, give myself a lot more time and see what else I can find.

The next challenge is to find a way to carry the big camera. My phone works fine in a pinch, but it’s not quite the same. It is also a much lower resolution, so print size over on the store will be limited. I’ve tried the “bag” idea, but that warm spot on your back becomes sweaty in a hurry –and I always seem to be in a hurry. Even though I’m not as fit as I used to be, my muscle memory is telling me to pedal like I’m being chased by an angry hornet. Next I’m going to try just the strap.

Music

Strangely I’ve not listened to as much music lately. I don’t know why, I haven’t really been in the mood for it. There has been a couple of things on repeat those times that I am –the Oh Hellos four EPs –Notos, Zephyrus, Eurus and Boreas. Four excellent, albeit short folk EPs. Also, Mr Little Jeans (Monica Birkenes) has a new album out, which is very good. It is indie synthpop in a similar vein to Chvrches.

I’ve also picked up a few CDs this month, including Die Krupps excellent Paradise Now. This is industrial metal, crunching riffs and samples galore. I also bought a bunch of Nickelback albums, but we won’t talk about that (OK, I liked them before they became popular…then universally loathed).

Finally, I re-bought White Zombie’s best two albums –La Sexorcisto and Astro Creep 2000. They’re knocking on for 30 years old now and that’s quite a scary thought, as I bought them back in the early 90s.

Still, it says a lot about the enduring appeal of CDs. They last a long time and still sound great.

Until next time…

Highlights

Seasons…

We’re now in what feels (occasionally) like Spring. There’s life in the trees again; the birds are singing; my eyes are streaming from the tree pollen and there’s certainly a bit of warmth to that sun now. So, where are we?

Well, the 365 project is still on, helped in no small part by the return of “easy mode”. Easy mode is where it doesn’t get dark until after I’ve finished work. Sure, I’m still walking the same loop near enough, but at least I can see where I’m going.

The highlights

Rather than bore you with the run-of-the-mill account of each month, I’ll provide you with the edited highlights of the first four months instead.

I’ve had a few keepers since the beginning of January, but I’ve yet to put them up on the store. I’ll hopefully get to that over the next couple of days. Still, if you fancy a shower curtain or a phone case, you know where to look. (shameless plug…)

One complication of doing two 365 projects back-to-back, during a time when I rarely leave the village is that everything feels really familiar. I did expect this, but boy have I painted myself into a corner.

Music

At the end of last year I might have suggested that I’d like to get back into music again. I assumed it might be playing it and that I might have acquired another guitar. It’s April and I’m still not strumming away again, but a Youtube rabbit-hole or two has led me into the (shock, horror) murky world of HiFi.

No, I didn’t expect that either. I’d have been the first to call snake-oil on the idea that one USB cable might sound different to another, but here we are. Truth be told, I still think most of that is as daft as the wine-tasting world’s flowery language to describe grape juice locked in a dusty cellar for months.

However, I’ve found a few very entertaining and somewhat relaxing channels that talk about the subject of HiFi components and headphones that are as far removed from current affairs, pandemics and war as you can get.

The upshot is, I now have a USB DAC, a pair of open-back headphones and a Tidal subscription. I’m not sure how to feel about it. 🤣

I’d been using iTunes for many years, which eventually morphed into Apple Music. It mostly met my needs, but over the years my account had become so full of clutter –albums I started listening to but lost interest in, with no easy way to just delete everything and start again. The other problem with Apple Music is that it doesn’t play well with others. To get the best out of it you need to just use Apple products, but I occasionally use Windows, Plex and I generally like to keep my options open. Tidal works with most streaming boxes, integrates well with Plex and the Windows application isn’t quite as awful as iTunes is.

Most importantly, Tidal is effectively a clean slate. Something I can fill with the music I actually like right now.

So, what’s playing?

The first few months of this year have been quite good on the music front. I’ve acquired a few more CDs –albeit mostly ones I used to have and had sold a few years ago.

There were some new ones though. Tears for Fears released their excellent new album “The Tipping Point”. If you are so inclined, have a listen to Rivers of Mercy at track 8.

One big surprise came from another Flickr user who put me onto the Oh Hellos. This is an indie folk band from Texas, formed by siblings Tyler and Maggie Heath. They released four EPs between 2017 and 2020 –Eurus, Zephyrus, Notos and Boreas and they’re excellent. That has probably had the most play since January.

Other news

So, I talked briefly before about removing myself from social media again. Whilst I still have my accounts, Facebook is deactivated and Twitter is uninstalled. It feels good not being on them at the moment and I recommend it to anyone.

Yes, they can be good, but the detritus has a habit of rising to the top. If you have a hobby or interest, you’ll soon find the less desirable part of it all up in your feed without you really needing to go looking for it.

I think that’s all I have for now. Until next time…

001/365 - Once more, with feeling

Around we go again…

After spending all of last year taking a photo every day, for some reason I decided to go around again.

This could be another year where I rarely leave the village, or do anything remotely interesting. So what on Earth possessed me to carry on with it?

Consistency

Truth be told, forcing myself out of work/care mode and doing something creative and entirely for me was something I really benefitted from in 2021. There was also a slight dopamine hit from producing a photograph that I enjoyed looking at afterwards.

Yes, it’s a bit of work; yes, there will be days where I really can’t be bothered, but you have to take the rough with the smooth.

Unlike last year, which turned out to be a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare with all the processes I had behind the scenes to manage everything, this year I’m keeping it simple.

I’m going to use one big set on Flickr to store all of the final images; plus I’m going to dispense with the monthly updates, unless I have anything novel to share.

There’s only one rule this year –everything is going to be square. I loved square format photos before Instagram appeared, but never managed to buy a Hasselblad 500CM when they were still affordable. The difference this year is that I will use whatever camera I have to hand –in the hope that I find some time to ride my bike again. Seems fair?

Here’s the set.

001/365 - Once more, with feeling

By some luck, I’ve had one photo picked up by Flickr’s “Explore” page already –the one from 9th January. For the uninitiated, Explore is where Flickr’s “magic donkey” algorithm picks up images it finds interesting. By interesting that is usually just lots of ‘activity’ –likes and comments mostly.

The result has been over 5,000 views, 110 people added it as a favourite since I posted it on the 9th January (it’s the 13th as I type this). This beats my second most ‘interesting’ photo by around 4,000 views and 75 favourites…in a couple of days. It’s quite a surreal experience to have that much attention on one photo, but it’s quite fun when it happens.

Explore is a great lesson in how unpredictable the internet is. The photo I posted on the 9th was not one of my personal favourites, I’d argue that there are others in my collection more deserving of the attention, but yet the algorithm seemed to like it and promoted it for a day or so.

There’s little point shooting to please others, because you can never really know what others will want –or when they will want it. Yes, you can adhere to the various compositional rules that exist in photography, but that will only get you so far. You have to shoot for yourself, for your own reasons. Maybe you’ll find an audience, maybe you won’t, but that’s not entirely within your control. You might as well enjoy the ride.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for today. Until next time…

December – An ending of sorts…

The year is finally at an end. Three hundred and sixty five photographs, one a day for twelve months.

It has felt like a very long year. Then again, this was kinda the point. It’s all too easy to tune time out, ignoring the mundane for years before realising you’ve reached middle age and wondering where the time has gone.

I started this project in the middle of a pandemic, quietly hoping it would document the path out of it, but a new variant is circulating and it doesn’t feel as though we’ve moved on at all.

However, it hasn’t been a boring year by any stretch of the imagination.

December

The last month of the year, aside from the slight issue of Christmas, was a little dull for the most part. There was the foggy day, but more on that later. I’ve struggled to muster any enthusiasm for Christmas for years now. It’s a bit of time off at the end of a long year, but the days of community spirit and the festivities we see in the saccharine-sweet movies seems to have ebbed away over the years.

335/365 - Needles...

Still, I can’t turn down some free time to catch up on me time. Life started to get on top of me towards November and December. I had a few wobbles and felt rather burned out from the day job. It is part of the reason the journalling has been restarted –it’s best to get these things out in black & white so you can make sense of it.

Music

I started buying CDs again this year. I managed to fill a shelf with CDs both new as well as some I never should have sold. One of the upsides of the pandemic is that many of the artists I like have been stuck at home writing and recording music rather than touring. This year we had:

1. Gary Numan – Intruder

2. Black Label Society – Doom Crew Inc

3. Gojira – Fortitude

4. Spiritbox – Eternal Blue

5. Mastodon – Hushed & Grim

6. Chvrches – Screen Violence

7. Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum

8. Mechina – Siege

9. Ministry – Moral Hygiene

10. John Mayer – Sob Rock

It’s not a bad haul for one year. Mastodon’s double-album was spectacular; as was Screen Violence by Chvrches. Gary Numan’s album had a lot of play this year too. It seemed the perfect album for a locked-down world failing to grasp the gravity of a rapidly shifting climate.

What I do find interesting is how some of them have adapted to working remotely –with some of them recording their individual parts at home and sending the stems to someone to mix everything together. The wonders of modern technology eh.

Then again, when I was in a band in my early 20s you had to pay lots of money to spend a few days in a recording studio to get anything close to presentable down on tape. Nowadays a USB audio interface and some microphones and a laptop are all you really need.

On that note, I did get around to watching PressPausePlay this year. It’s free to watch on Vimeo, so get to it. It stars Moby and a few others you might recognise and talks all about a new breed of creative people who are able to use technology to break down the barriers to entry that the old world might have had.

Plans

Aside from taking photos, I also run a website called Cardiff By Bike. I’ve been gradually adding to it since 2015 and I’m quite pleased with how it has turned out. However, one irksome part of running a website is dealing with social media.

For the new year I’m going to withdraw from the socials again, mostly in the interests of my sanity, so the twitter accounts will be used to share links to new posts here and on the other site. Other than that, the app will be deleted. I’ve already removed my Instagram account and disabled my Facebook account.

I’m still on the fence about starting a new photo project. Truth be told I’ve both benefited from the structure and the exercise it has forced me to take, so there is that. However, I do feel as though I’m wasting people’s time on those days where I really don’t like what I’ve shot.

I have started another 365, mainly for my own wellbeing. I’ve started journalling again and it is always good to be able to embellish them with a photo or two. You can keep track of it by scrolling down to the bottom of this page, but I am undecided about posting monthly updates. I’ll see how I get on over the next few weeks.

New store items

This year has been quite fruitful in terms of new stock for the online store. One benefit of these projects is that whilst 50% of photos are likely to be just life updates, occasionally there are some good ones that I’d like to put on my wall.

In December we had a day of very low cloud, so I took a walk up the nearest large hill and took some photos.

A few of these, as well as a few others are up on the store, should you fancy one on a shower curtain on phone case. 🙂

Happy new year, everyone.

November…

You would think that after ten months of doing this, the eleventh month would be a breeze. It wasn’t.

As winter approaches and the days get shorter, suddenly it is dark by the time I finish work, so I either have to shoot in the dark or race out for half hour during my break. Some adjustment is required.

The darkness…

When you’ve grown accustomed to shooting trees and water for much of the year, not having daylight to rely on poses a few challenges. You have to go looking for light where you can find it –for me that means dealing with the urban world again. Oh, joy.

Daylight this month has been reserved almost solely for weekends and early finishes, but sometimes things worked out.

Forcing yourself to shoot every day does at least make you think on your feet. There were of course days where I pretty much phoned it in and shot whatever was near my desk, but I’m quite pleased with this month’s haul.

What else has been going on…

Windows 11

Oh yes, Windows 11 came out. This is where I really struggle with the technology of today.

I really enjoy building my own PCs. I like to pick out the parts myself, pick out the case and spend time optimising airflow and all that fun stuff, but if you want a system that is supported by the vast majority of software, you have two options –Windows or to buy a Mac. Linux is great, but you very often roll the dice with a vast number of oddly named and invariably clunky applications –GIMP, QTPSGUI and a few others that spring to mind. Darktable is very good though.

However, I drifted away from Linux after too many failed updates that left me scrabbling around in the command line to get the window manager to load again. So, Windows or a Mac then.

Microsoft has been slowly and steadily turning Windows into an advertising platform for a while now. It makes quite a bit of money from Bing and the advertisements that appear on it. With Windows 11 there’s a whole panel of advertising that I find...irksome. You may think it harks back to the fun widgets you’d see on Vista, but no, it’s just ads. You get the feeling that every move you make is being sold to advertisers and it creeps me out.

Bearing in mind a retail Windows license is still anywhere from £100 to £200 depending on whether or not you want drive encryption, having to deal with ads on your desktop as well as app icons for things you haven’t bought from the Microsoft Store, I just can’t pretend that’s ok. So, I spent this month moving my Lightroom catalogue back over to my MacBook. Windows 11 also seems to lock up randomly. I’d give it a miss for now…

After December

I’m still thinking about what to do after this year ends. I’m still toying with the idea of a whole year of black & white, but then I’d also like a year of not having to shoot every day.

As I did this year, chances are I’ll make a spur of the moment decision on 1st January and then see where it takes me. So, on with December then…

305/365 - Daylight savings time...
All of November

October…

Another month has gone, but we’re closing in on the end of 2021. Time seems to be flying by these days, but taking a photo each day does at least provide a bookmark for each day that passes.

October is usually the time when the temperature drops, the rain starts to get a bit excitable and the fungus starts to grow from every rotting piece of wood it can find.

The fungus…

I suppose we had better get this out of the way. There was a lot of fungus to be found.

One downside with October is that the nights draw in really quickly, which isn’t helped by daylight savings time on the last day of the month. The first of November saw sunset arriving at just after 4:30pm, which means I’m going to have to rethink how I get the last 60-ish photographs for the year.

On the upside, the forests are full of various shades of brown and red.

Music…

I’ve done a lot of listening this month, with Tool making up a large part of that. Tool are one of those bands that have long had a cult following, but for so long I couldn’t quite figure out why.

Tool are best described as a progressive metal band, but to do so may make you think of Dream Theater or Porcupine Tree. They’re not like that. Dream Theater are undoubtedly a talented bunch, but musically they’re far too cheerful to be compared to Tool. Tool are dark; basslines are dirty, prominent in the mix and their videos are disturbing…

So, I’ve acquired most of their albums on CD this month, including Undertow, Ænima, Lateralus and 10,000 days. I’ve not picked up their latest one yet (Fear Inoculum) because they’ve yet to release the CD on its own –it comes with a book that I don’t really have a use for.

Now I think I can finally say I understand what all the fuss is about. Yes, they’re pretty awesome.

Speaking of awesome, Mastodon released a new album at the end of October, called “Hushed and Grim”. It is one of those rare gems that is consistently excellent from start to finish. However, there are some standout tracks in “More than I could chew”; “Teardrinker” and “Eyes of Serpents”.

Mastodon are one of those special bands that features many lead vocalists, but the clean vocal in the song above is that of Brann Dailor, the drummer. Brann’s an incredible drummer, but he does what he does whilst singing at the same time.

His voice contrasts nicely with Troy and Brent, who also share vocal duties. They’re amazing, but Hushed and Grim is an excellent album that is perhaps a little more accessible than their earlier works.

Apparently, in November there’s a new Black Label Society (Zakk Wylde) album coming out, so that’s something to look forward to. Speaking of November, better get on with it, I guess…

274/365 - Nostalgia

September…

Would you believe it, a whole nine months have passed already. This month we crossed the 100-days-to-go point and oh boy, I really need to find some other things to photograph.

Much of the warm and settled weather is now behind us and we now stare down the barrel of another 6 months of darkness and rain. Would you believe it, this post is already eight days late, so better squeeze something out.

Discoveries…

257/365 - Outside

As months go, it was pretty uneventful, apart from the very end. The last week of September was spent nursing a poorly cat, who spent the weekend at the emergency vet after being mauled by a dog. He has nerve damage to his front leg and a load of bite marks around his chest. He’s a stubborn old thing though and has handled the ordeal like a champ.

Speaking of dogs, I did have a visit from the black dog earlier this month. It has been a while, but I could feel it creeping on for the past few weeks. You can’t do very much when you’re in the middle of one –they suck all of the vitality out of you, everything feels like an ordeal, but the fog inevitably lifts and gives you a chance to reset and figure out where you could have done things differently.

Thoughts lead to feelings, which inevitably lead to behaviours that result in altered thoughts again. These can either be good or bad, a virtuous circle if you will. If you neglect physical activity or diet, or live with clutter, this can create a feedback loop that is difficult to get out of.

I’m fortunate that I know enough about myself now that I can usually find my way through it and I can see it for what it is, but if you are struggling, please reach out to someone, whether that is your doctor, a friend or your local mental health service, if you have one.

247/365 - Caught in a web

Being September, Autumn is starting to show its face again. The leaves are starting to fall from the trees, but the temperature has other ideas. It has been very warm lately, which is probably a good thing as the cost of energy seems to be spiralling out of control.

I must say, I am looking forward to winter though. As I’ve got older I’ve started to appreciate not being constantly hot and sweaty, or needing another shower after a short period of physical activity.

Music

I don’t have too many new music picks for the month unfortunately, apart from one. Armored Saint released an album in 2020 called Punching The Sky. It’s excellent.

If you’ve not heard of Armored Saint, you may have heard John Bush from his time in Anthrax (the best period of Anthrax, I’ll have you know). Bush is a great frontman and a classy metal vocalist and Punching the Sky is a fine album. There’s also a new Ministry album out, but that’s a story for October.

Ok, that’s it for September’s ramblings. On with October…which we’re nearly halfway through already. Oops.

244/365 - Breakout

Physical Media

This past year I’ve been doing something I didn’t think I’d be doing again. After getting rid of all of my CDs, DVDs, books and anything else that wasn’t bolted down, I’ve been re-buying many of them.

Whilst streaming can be great for discovering things you might have missed, it’s all too easy for an album or song to disappear from your chosen streaming platform when you just need to listen to it again.

Compact discs…

I started buying CDs in the early 90s. The first one I ever bought was Megadeth’s “Youthanasia”. It was a great album and, because I was relying on pocket money at the time, it was my only CD for a very long time.

I played that CD to death. Well, when I say to death, I mean to the point where I couldn’t face listening to it again –and I still can’t some 30 years later. The CD was completely unharmed and would still work today if I hadn’t minimised it.

Some months ago, I wanted to listen to Type O Negative’s last album, “Dead Again”. I went onto Apple Music, searched for it in my library and there it was, greyed out. “Sorry, this album is no longer on Apple Music”. Really? Why?

September Sun

Well, between the release of “Life is Killing Me” and “Dead Again”, the band changed record label and for whatever reason, Dead Again disappeared from streaming services for a while. It has come back again, but mostly because there are still members of the band still around to maintain its legacy. Pete may no longer be with us, but Kenny and Johnny are doing some great work with Silvertomb.

However, we are talking about relatively recent albums here. What will become of much older works that are left to the mercy of record labels and the estates of deceased bandmembers? If you have the CD (or vinyl) you no longer have to worry about it. What about bands that released one great album and then disappeared?

The 90s was a fertile ground for niche metal bands. Drain, Face Down, Pissing Razors –many of them riffing on trends established by the bigger acts of the time. Face Down were often called a Machine Head tribute act; Drain toured with Fear Factory during the Demanufacture tour but sounded rather like Dirt-era Alice in Chains; and Pissing Razors followed the double-bass orientated groove-metal style of Fear Factory.

Drain’s “Horror Wrestling” has completely disappeared; Face Down are still around, but “Mindfield” isn’t; and Pissing Razors’ self-titled album has just returned to streaming services and the band is still around and producing music.

Music aside, there is a lot to be said for having a little booklet of artwork and lyrics to read through on the trip home from the shop. Having a disc that sounds great and will last for decades is also a bonus. So, how do you have the convenience of streaming with the security of physical media?

Plex

Plex is a service that you can run on a NAS (network attached storage). You load it up with your mp3 or FLAC files; any movies you’ve bought from places like Vimeo On Demand; install the apps on your phone, streaming TV box etc and just start listening.

It also means that if you’ve bought anything on Bandcamp, such as some classic vaporwave or mallsoft you can stream them from Plex as well.

If you want to sync music to your devices for offline play you’ll need to shell out the £4 per month for Plex Pass, but with that you also get access to a load of very niche movies –mostly B-movie horror flicks from the 80s.

Of course, there are downsides to rolling your own streaming service. For starters you’re going to have to deal with the maintenance involved in running a NAS. There are going to be periodic firmware and app updates to contend with. I have a QNAP NAS and most firmware updates remove the SSL certificate you use when you login to the server’s back end. It’s not the end of the world, but it is a nuisance.

You also have to deal with power outages. Removing power from a NAS suddenly is rarely a good idea and you’ll have to wait for it to do a thorough check when you turn the power back on. A UPS (uninterruptable power supply) is on the shopping list.

Plex also releases software updates regularly, which usually have to be done manually as the version on QNAP’s own app store is much older than the current version.

The upside is that I have plenty of space for all of my music, camera RAW files, scanned 35mm negatives (massive TIFF files); GoPro footage and anything else I produce over the next few years. If the worst happens and I lose my files, I still have the discs to fall back on.

St David's Day

Film…

I’ve long considered myself quite fortunate that I was born at a time when everyone shot film and I was well into adulthood when digital came along. My first digital camera was a Fuji Finepix A204 with a whopping 2 megapixels.

However, after a string of digital SLRs I picked up a film one back in 2012 –a Nikon F80. It cost the princely sum of £50 from London Camera Exchange and it’s fantastic. It takes two CR123 batteries that last for months (literally, not figuratively) and it does everything you’d want a camera to do. Pair that with a negative scanner and you’re set –providing you can find a lab that still processes film. Sadly I got back into it too late for Kodachrome. I’d love to have shot some of that, for those amazing bold reds you’ll see in the works of Saul Leiter, Ernst Haas and Fred Herzog.

You may groan, but there’s a lot to be said for waiting until you’ve finished a roll to see what you’ve got, then going through the process of getting them scanned and put up on Flickr. It’s exciting in a way that digital often isn’t.

Yes, it may appear more expensive if you shoot a lot, but you have to take the cost of the camera into account, plus the ever-present push to upgrade. A £50 SLR, a £100 50mm F1.8 and a roll of whichever film you want to use. It leaves plenty of change for processing, batteries and more film.

On the other hand, I have hard drives full of files of digital photos that I’ll probably never publish –shots I’ve taken in the hope they might work out. They didn’t, but yet they still sit on a drive somewhere.

Vinyl

Yes, digital content is certainly convenient, but it’s easy and often forgettable as experiences go.

Sometimes things need to be a challenge, sometimes you need to spend time working out the kinks; sometimes you need to remember the journey there, not just arriving.