Blog

Of June…

The month started a theme that would play out over the course of the month. I’ve spent a lot of time this month feeling rather nostalgic for my younger years –the 1990s in particular.

The 90s were where my lifelong love affair with metal really started to build, the band Fear Factory in particular. My best mate and I would listen to their legendary second album Demanufacture over and over. We’d also watch Terminator 2 rather a lot, which was sampled liberally by Fear Factory on that album.

Metal inevitably led me to buy my first guitar and teach myself to play it. I got myself up to a reasonable standard before briefly joining a band. However, the band had trouble nailing down a drummer, so with money I had in savings I bought a drum kit…and taught myself to play that.

The band I was in recorded a few demos, played a number of gigs in Cardiff and Swansea, including Clwb Ifor Bach, Sams Bar and Swansea University but eventually fizzled out as my interest waned and the others shifted towards electro-pop. They were good times, but this year has reminded me just how much music has been a part of my life.

173/365 - New music

Fear Factory actually released another album this month –Aggression Continuum. Fittingly, it’s the last album with the original vocalist, as he’s had quite enough of the drama that has been unfolding behind the scenes since Fear Factory’s inception, but it’s an excellent way for him to bow out. A good album.

Frustratingly, I had quite a few days this month where my brain and I weren’t on speaking terms. I didn’t get out anywhere as much as I should have and I paid for that.

158/365 - Back swinging...

The good news is I did get my second vaccination, so that’s comforting. Once the slight weariness has worn off I’ll hopefully start venturing further from the house. I’m well into the stage where I have to check I’m not posting photos that look like ones I’ve already taken.

178/365 - Calm water

When you stay within the same area it’s easy to fall into the trap of taking the easy options and sticking with what you know. The hard part is looking at things in a different way.

Ah well, on with July then…

152/365 - Sentimental

May…

You may or may not have seen a little-known mini-series on the SciFi channel called The Langoliers. It was a TV adaptation of a Stephen King short story called Four Past Midnight.

Anyway, it tells the story of a disparate bunch of people who fall asleep on a plane ride and wake up to find that everyone else is gone. After a bit of detective work they discover that they’ve entered a rift in time and are a few minutes behind the rest of the world.

Well, that pretty much sums up my May anyway. Apart from the plane ride and the disparate bunch of people, obviously.

Lots happened, I think?

I reached the end of the month thinking it was all quite dull, but looking back it appears we had an election, a lot of rain and some new music to listen to.

126/365 - Civic Duty
Election day

This month we had the Senedd elections here in Wales, Scottish Parliament elections in Scotland along with mayoral and local elections in England. There wasn’t a lot of change for us, apart from the Ayn Rand enthusiasts losing their seats in the Welsh Parliament, so that’s good.

121/365 - More reading...
Reading material

I had a bit of a shopping spree this month. I picked up a few books to read –Michael Lewis’ “Boomerang”; Morgan Housel’s “The Psychology of Money”; and Scott Galloway’s “Post Corona”.

Michael Lewis’ book “The Big Short” was very entertaining, so I thought I’d try another. The other two popped up as recommendations, but the Scott Galloway book seems particularly relevant at the moment.

The Rains

123/365 - 'Spring' has encountered an error...

There was a lot of rain this month…so many of the photos I took had a certain look to them. That of overwhelming dampness.

I shouldn’t be too surprised, I am in Wales after all, but even so, on the back of a very dry April it is a bit of a shock to the system. It’s what the plants sorely needed though.

Fortunately I’ve grown to love shooting in the rain. The outside world becomes much more peaceful; there’s a lot more life in the woodland streams and the local industrial estate looks positively dystopian.

Music

Speaking of dystopia, Gary Numan released a new album this month. It’s called Intruder and it is excellent. Gary Numan’s work occupies that middle ground between riff-heavy industrial music created by the likes of Fear Factory, Die Krupps and Front Line Assembly and synth-pop like Chvrches. As I’m quite partial to both, it’s right up my street.

As we reached the end of May things started to brighten up. Temperatures rose to the high teens and early 20s just in time for the bank holiday.

I go into June feeling a need to re-set myself again. I’ve somehow lost sight of the plans that I had going into the month and have begun drifting again.

147/365 - Seen better days

I did take one positive step though –I’ve deactivated my Facebook account and removed the Facebook page for my other website. I’m trying to be more conscious of the time I’m spending online and aimlessly scrolling Facebook doesn’t seem like a particularly good use of it. Hardly anything I see in my news feed these days is from friends. It’s mostly ads…and clickbait that my friends have reacted to.

The next mission is to extract myself from Youtube and Twitter. Wish me luck…

121/365 - More reading...
All of May

A Perfect Circle – Disillusioned

A Perfect Circle were a band I regretfully failed to give a proper airing. They emerged in the early 2000s when “new metal” was starting to hit the mainstream. However, unlike a lot of other bands that were around at the time, A Perfect Circle seem to have aged far better than most.

This track is on their 2018 album “Eat the Elephant” and is a standout track in a largely solid album. Why I’m sharing it here is because the video is particularly relevant for the times we are living in.

Despite being more “connected” than ever, as a society we are arguably further apart than at any other time in my life. Pictures on a screen are not a substitute for a real connection.

Social media platforms may have started out as a means of connecting people, but they have gradually transitioned to an advertising platform that gets between you and the people in your life.

April…

April was an interesting month, for both good and not-so-good reasons. I had my first COVID-19 shot and even went to the dentist as well, so that’s good. There’s a reassuring hint of the normal life creeping back in.

With that said, there’s a lot about the past 12 months that I’d like to keep, but perhaps with a little less languishing and uncertainty.

Music…

This month I’ve rediscovered my long-forgotten Last.fm profile. As social networks go, one primarily focussed on discovering new music is one I can get behind. I’ve accumulated over 37,000 scrobbles on the site over the years, but this month saw a new entry in the form of Porcupine Tree.

A progressive rock band from Hertfordshire, England, it featured Steven Wilson on vocals and guitar, plus the excellent drummer and fellow Gavin, Gavin Harrison. I’ve picked up their last two albums (“In Absentia” and “Deadwing”) on CD and they’ve pretty much been on repeat for weeks. It’s a shame they decided to call it a day really.

097/365 - Sometimes days are like exposures....loooooong.

Vaccines

As mentioned earlier, there were a couple of milestones this month on the route back to normality. My first of two jabs happened a couple of weeks ago, giving me a bit of a sore arm but at least some partial protection from the virus that brought the whole world to a standstill a year ago.

There was also a dental checkup and a couple of trips into the office to add to the feelings of normality. However, before lockdown my main mission was to clear away the debt I’d built up over the years. I’m not proud to say there was quite a lot of it a few years ago and there has always been some since buying my first car at around 21 years of age, but after selling most of my worldly possessions and living on a very strict budget for a few years I cleared the last of it in May 2020. Yet, apart from a brief “yay” I never really acknowledged that fact. It just passed by, only to be replaced by the next problem or hurdle that lay before me.

It meant I was able to buy the camera I’m using for this project with my own money, which was a nice feeling, but I still feel like something is amiss. I feel the need to get my teeth into something new, but I don’t yet know what.

107/365 - A bug's life

Renewal

Spring has been taking its sweet time this year. There has been hints of change in the air since February, but the trees remained stubbornly bare and the forest floor was just as barren, but finally the forests are alive with the sounds, smells and colours of spring.

I’ve been keeping a really close eye on the garlic this year. Truth be told I’ve become a bit of a garlic-bore of late. I have many, many photos of Ramsons in various stages of growth cluttering up my photo library, but they’re now starting to flower and it’s probably time to stop…

112/365 - Held Two Ramson

As we head into May I have little sense of what is in store. Here in Wales we have a Senedd election coming up on the 6th May, but after that, who knows. In the meantime, here’s a slideshow of the month just gone. Now, on with May.

091/365 - "I

March…

As months go March was pretty good, at least in the photographic sense. Spring was most definitely in the air and the sunshine we did have had a touch more warmth in it than we’d have in “winter” mode.

However, I’m already feeling as though I’m exhausting the points of interest within the neighbourhood. It’s been a year since we retreated to our homes to wait out the pandemic, but I get the feeling that it’s still not quite done with us yet.

068/365 - Yes, yes I know...
Yes, there was still a fair amount of water to shoot this month…

I’m starting to reach the limits of the equipment I have where water is concerned. It’s a nice problem to have, but it’s just too bright in the evenings at the moment. A tripod and an ND filter has been added to my shopping list.

Fortunately, there’s some water in some very dark places…

077/365 - Ghosts
Back to the mine…

I decided to return to the mine tunnel, the former Cwm Dws Colliery that I shot last month, but spent a bit more time setting up the shot using some flat rocks I found nearby. It is said that the tunnel goes back around 400m into the hillside, but the light only penetrates through the grate for a few feet. This was with a 30 second exposure too.

079/365 - Hall of Memories
Trinkets…

This month I also got the chance to take a look around a local carpenter’s workshop. Arthur has been keeping himself busy here for half a century already and his shed was filled with interesting pieces.

060/365 - Spring...

As we head on into April I am very much hoping there will be some travel outside the town that I live in, but if not, I guess limitations breed creativity, don’t they…

February 2021 – The Difficult Second Album…

As we headed into February, I could sense that there would be headwinds this month. Another month of not really going anywhere new, treading old ground both physically and metaphorically.

January gets a lot of flack for where it sits in the calendar. It’s yet another dark month straight after the trials of Christmas are over with. The trimmings are down, the credit card bill is a mile long, but there’s something about the promise of another year ahead. January is a time for reflection and planning, which is something I can get behind.

February on the other hand…it’s still just more winter. It’s still dark, but many of our grand plans from New Year may have already fallen by the wayside. February is the month you have to endure to reach March.

A niche…

Meteorological winter in Wales… Short days, invariably murky, usually raining, but every now and again the sun would break through and give us a glimpse of spring.

Sometimes you step out of the house wondering what to shoot, but lately I’ve been having great fun standing in streams, with a camera balanced on my feet. I sold my tripod in the great purge of 2018 and I’ve been improvising with a sturdy pair of boots ever since.

The making of 054/365

It doesn’t always work, particularly if you find yourself on uneven ground, but every now and again it does.

054/365 - Dam that river...

I do wonder if shooting parts of the various streams around here became a bit of a crutch after a while –I did take a lot of watery photos this month rather than try to come up with something original. Fortunately, these are images from this month I’d be quite happy to add to the store when this project is over –although probably before, to be honest.

I’m hopeful that as the year progresses we’ll start getting out of the neighbourhood a little more, until then…

046/365 - After the rain

History…

One bonus of living where I do is the number of relics that can be found here. There are old mine shafts, ventilation tunnels and all sorts here. I started delving into the local history back in the summer, curious as to what various ruins were that I’d see on my lockdown walks.

Some of the tunnels are blocked off, for obvious reasons, but there’s one that is still completely open, although I’ve not crawled that far into it. I don’t really have the nerve for confined spaces…

052/365 - Further into the mine
Garth Iron Mine
035/365 - The rules...

So, it’s already March and I’m a bit tardy putting this up. I’m hopeful that there will be a vaccination in my near future and I can start heading further afield. It would be nice to leave the village, if only for a short time.

Is it spring yet?

The Best of January 2021

As months go, January has never been a favourite. We may see the year in with grand plans for what we are going to achieve in the coming year, but that seems to get quietly forgotten once a few more weeks of darkness and murk seep into our pores.

However, as the first month on this current 365 project draws to a close, I can at least be pleased that I’m still in the hunt and that I do have some reasonable photos to add to the store.

Water, water…

The photo up top was particularly pleasing. I’m lucky enough to live near a large hill with forestry around it. As it rained a lot this January there has been plenty of fast-moving streams to splash about in.

029/365 - Cascade

On the subject of water, we did have a worrying spell where the river nearby came perilously close to bursting its banks…again. Fortunately, within a few days the water starting to take on a fluffier texture.

024/365 - Obligatory Snowman Shot

We don’t get a lot of snow around here, but when we do, it’s always makes life interesting…less so now that many of us are working from home and no longer have to fret about getting stuck on the commute.

Finally, a surprise hit was this pile of wet logs.

019/365 - SOGGY

Signs of Spring

It may only be January, but the daffodils are already starting to appear and the sunset has made its way out to 5pm already. It won’t be long before I’ll have a whole hour of daylight after work.

Something to look forward to, eh. Onto February then…

Why you might want to try a 365 project…

We’ve all done it. You pick up a camera one day and suddenly you’re all in. You want to spend your time shooting, learning and scratching that itch until it goes away.

But then you have a run of lousy, uninspiring weather and the camera goes away for a few weeks. You feel uninspired and the skills you’ve been slowly building during those inspired days start to slowly ebb away.

What if you weren’t allowed those off days? What if you had to shoot no matter what?

Sometimes it is better to try and fail than it is to wait for a perfect time that may never come…

Those people who know me well may know that I live with depression. I’ve come to realise over time that many of us walk that fine line between OK and really blinkin’ awful. Me, I’ll have periods of heightened activity and focus, followed by days where I can’t face anyone or do anything.

However, those good days are an opportunity to put structures in place to keep me going through the bad days. Getting outside and walking regardless of the weather is one great way of keeping things going, but if you are going out for a walk, you might as well take your camera and look for things to shoot, right?

With a 365 project you need to produce something, anything, each and every day, rain or shine. Yes, some days you may come home with nothing particularly special, but you may get more, learn more and feel more than you would if you had never started.

Gradually you’ll start to spot opportunities, or see the mundane in new and interesting ways.

I’ve done a couple of 365 projects now. I remember the days of those years far more vividly than all the others, for better or worse. I can look at any one photo and transport myself back to that day. Best of all, shooting every day taught me a great deal about myself, my photography and I even came away with some photographs that are still in my list of favourites.

My latest 365 project you can follow along here:

001/365 - So long, coeden fach

This year I’m doing the whole year with one camera and one lens, a 50mm f1.8 prime. Limitations help to focus the mind –but that’s a topic for another day.

Hello again, world…

A couple of years ago I had a photo blog to my name, but then something happened that forced me to take a long hard look inside in the hope of finding a way forward.

I got rid of a heck of a lot of stuff, physically and virtually, including the photo site. Now it is back.

Here we’re going to talk photos, living intentionally, whilst shining a light on works of art and fiction that ask us the pressing questions of our day.

Oh, that sounds quite heavy. It’ll be fun, I promise…