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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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:
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.