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…

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