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

August…

Where is the time going, eh? It’s September and we’re heading back into the darkness and well, slightly colder rain.

It also means that we’re closing in on 100 days to go until the end of this current photo-a-day project.

Keepers…

One big reason for forcing yourself to shoot every day is that whilst there will be days where you really can’t summon the energy to shoot, you do anyway and sometimes things work out.

I had many days where the motivation was in short supply this month, but on those days my subconscious seems to come up with a plan.

236/365 - Lemons

These lemons were the result of subconscious me deciding that shooting some stuff from the fridge on the surface of a mirror seemed like a good idea. Luckily I had three lemons in the fridge –rule of odds ahoy! Oddly, it seemed to work out ok.

I did get out for a few walks, but I’m a little bored of walking the same circular routes over and over. This month I took a walk around the other side of the tracks, onto the industrial estates and hunted for some new subjects.

217/365 - A Gloom with a View

Printing…

One thing I did do this month is get some photos printed. I have a store on Fine Art America where you can buy my photos printed on all sorts of things –including phone cases and shower curtains.

I had a large-ish print of what I’ve dubbed “Red Forest” sent out to me, rolled in a tube. From ordering it took around 4 days to arrive and is on some good quality paper. I’m quite impressed.

216/365 - Eating your own dogfood

On the subject of printing, a few photos from this month have been added to my inventory, which is always a good feeling. At least if I decide to stop shooting every day come January I’ll have banked some reasonable shots from all this.

With that said, even though some days feel like a bind, forcing myself to create “something” is good for my overall wellbeing, so I might stick with it in 2022.

Feel free to head over to the store and have a mooch around. In the meantime, on with September.

213/365 - Haunting, familiar, yet I can

July…

Well, these monthly updates seem to be getting later and later, but I am still plugging away at this photo-a-day project. However, there was a little fly in the ointment this month.

Towards the end of July, my camera took an unfortunate dunk in the river and hasn’t quite been the same since.

Same old, same old

One thing about doing one of these projects at a time when people aren’t doing their normal things is that you end up going around and around in circles. To be honest, I’ve probably mentioned this already in previous updates, but such is the circular nature of life in the early 2020s, everything feels like it has been done before.

Fortunately, now that I’m double-jabbed I have braved some new-yet-old places that I’d not visited for a while. I took a trip to town on a couple of occasions and grabbed some shots of Castle Arcade.

192/365 - Light leads the way
Castle Arcade

Whilst much of the world has been on fire this month, here in South Wales we’ve been having a mixture of scorching heat and torrential downpours. As a youngster I used to like the really hot weather, but middle-aged me is far more partial to the rain.

The heat has been stifling, but the rain has been overwhelming the gutters and bouncing off the pavements. Still, I’d take that over what has been going on in much of southern Europe and the USA lately.

188/365 - Perspective

New lens…

This month I treated myself to yet another 50mm prime. To be honest, this is starting to get a little absurd, as I now have three, although one is a Jupiter 8 from the 1960s.

I’m using a Nikon Z6 at the moment, but I’ve been using it with an f-mount lens and the F-to-Z adaptor. I thought I’d dispense with the adaptor and get a Z-mount 50 instead.

The new lens is optically a step above the old AF-S model, but is also better weather-sealed. This is fortunate, because I would end up dunking both the camera and the new lens in the river at the end of July. This was not my finest hour.

The lens is fine, fortunately. No water made it into the lens, onto the sensor, battery compartment or card slot, but the screen on the back is completely dead. The whole thing is on its way to Nikon for repair.

In the meantime, I’ve managed to get a second Z6 for a bargain price, so I’ll use that whilst the other one is being repaired.

Here’s hoping August is a little less eventful…

182/365 - Omlette
July’s photographs

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

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

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…