Tuesday, 25 August 2015

School hols are over.

Hols over, kit cleaned, van swept of sand, pics downloaded safe and sound and into a new term we go.
The kids summer hols flew by in a eyeblink; from watersports, to cycling, munro bagging, snorkelling, crab fishing, visiting family and even the madness of the Fringe.
I don't think there was a 'dead' week of "what are we going to do". We as parents survived to exit at the other end with deadlines ignored, inboxes full and clients to catch up with and reassure that all will be ok now. Such is the way of a family with two self employed parents.
Weather was 'Scottish' in its unpredictability, wetness and requiring of the usual insulated protective clothing.
The Outer Hebrides gave us just enough 'nice' weather to appreciate just how beautiful a part of the world it is. I have no doubt it will figure in our future again.
Some pics in no particular order...

 So, back to sorting out various projects both mtb and photographic, lots to fit in on the slippery slope to shorter days, not to mention trying to squeeze in bike rides whenever the sun shines.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Summer? What Summer?

I know we're a hardy race, but really, this years summer 'dreich-ness' is starting to wear a bit thin! Temperatures are often in the single digits at breakfast and there hasn't yet been a decent spell of warm and sunny weather.
See me, I'm grumpy.
Alright that's enough of that. Work has been behaving itself, got a lovely project at Tarland finished well in time for the summer hols. Great fun this job; mountain biking client, cracking wee hill, good ASDUG, exciting design and the team firing on all cylinders. I love working with Chris and his gang, they're all amazing digger drivers (obviously) but more importantly they're all keen and very handy bike riders. It makes a huge difference to me to have operators that really get into what we're building and want to ride it as they build it to make sure it works right. 
Happy digger drivers
Our next build is after the school hols and is back up at Fochabers where we were in the late winter / early Spring. Another pump track / jump run / feature rich skills trail type thing. Chris and gang on the diggers and rakes (!) Looking forward to it. 
Meanwhile in the background I am still busy with consultancy on a big job, which if all goes well will be quite an interesting build! 
Photographing houses continues to get busier, so much so that I've invested heavily into Canon tilt / shift lenses (google it) which meant a new body (6D) and a steep learning curve. I love my workhorse Olympus, but there's no doubt about it, if you're serious about developing in architectural photography, you gotta go with shift lenses. Geek bit over.
Me at work pic
A very strange thing happened a few weeks ago when Mrs Cycletherapy entered us into the local 'shop to the top' bike race to the top of Cairngorm. A 'fun' event, so we decided to do it on a borrowed tandem. However, I cannot cycle up a hill in a 'fun' manner, the need to hurt is too deeply engrained... 
I think we enjoyed it, the social afterwards was great craic. 
Me and the missus having fun

So, final images processed and uploaded, invoices sent, out of office email notice put up and holidays proper start tomorrow, We're off to the Outer Hebrides and just to be on the safe side we've packed everything from shorts and flipflops to duvet jackets and thick wetsuits! No 3G, no wifi, just us, the kids and whatever the weather throws at us.... 

Monday, 16 March 2015

A Busy Start to 2015

Personally I'm having one of the worst ski seasons I've had in years; hardly any runs open on my local hill, poor snow cover and relentless high winds. Yes, there have been the odd good days, but not when I'm around.

There is a silver lining to this though - it has been a great winter to build trails, with construction starting earlier in the year than is the norm. I normally don't like to start builds until April, just in case winter kicks in and we're halted mid build with snow and frost, but this year we started in mid feb'.

A cracking wee contract to ease ourselves into the trail building year, with a freshen up and rejig of the Moray Monster trails. A tricky one this, as revising old trails is trickier than a new build and there are a lot of people who like old rooty, characterful trails (me included) but in this case there were some stretches that were just too muddy, worn out and just not enjoyable anymore. So, a delicate hand was needed, with a three tiered plan of hand works, minor machine tweaks and then full rebuilds where required.

I was working with the usual team - Chris Rogerson Contracting and for me having digger drivers that I've got to know over many kilometres of trail building and themselves are keen bike riders makes life so much easier. They know what I want, they know how to build it and they know that if it doesn't ride right then it needs tweaking until it does - and that's without me saying anything!
Bike riding digger drivers rock!
We are heading off to Tarland (near Aboyne) next to build more jumpy, pumpy, woodsy trails - looking forward to this one - a good client brief and some new ideas from me and the gang!

As always, in the background, I am involved with the consultancy side of things helping new clients take their initial ideas through planning and funding to hopefully get more builds happening in the near future. Some exciting things on the burner, but as usual can't really talk about them here!

Blinking photography keeps getting busier too - this wasn't meant to happen 'til my late fifties - when I'm too crippled to build trails, but not complaining about the workload, good to be busy and every photo gig I land I learn something new. I seem to have hit a niche market of architectural photography, not quite the action sports pics I so love, but it pays well and action sports gigs don't.....
I'm also trying to develop my weakest skill i.e. portrait photography, an aspect of the art I'm not too confident with, but keen to work on. It might not lead anywhere, but I enjoy making myself do something I feel awkward with. Mind you, my latest gig is made easier by having a model that is easy to shoot.

Ann Vestano local artist
Riding wise, things are looking up: just started getting some 'base' miles in and although I had to miss the locals hot weather training camp i.e. Aviemorons go mad in Spain, I've got the bit between my teeth and am trying to get out whenever possible in whatever weather is happening. Grim, but essential if I'm going to try pinning on a number this year - not saying anything - just in case like.

Anyhoo, Easter next, family time and the next time you pop back another build update hopefully. 

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Into the dark months

October hols over and it's into the dark months that take us up to Christmas and hopefully the skiing season too. Hard months for trail building as less light per day equals less trail built equals less money! Thankfully there aren't many builds planned for this period (good planning that), what I do have is more design, planning and consultancy work - all office based, and photography work - mainly indoors (nice planning again) so should get through to the longer days aok. I always feel that once you're passed Christmas you may still be in the depths of winter, but as the daylight starts to increase things get easier. As usual can't say much about works in progress, but three lovely wee builds on the cards and a plum of a design job that is the start of a major project in the central belt.

Lewis was an epic trip, in that we arrived at the same time as Hurricane Gonzalo! Add to that the house we were renting was about as exposed to the Atlantic as you can get and we had a few sleepless nights listening (and feeling) the house being battered by storm force winds and torrential rain (kids slept through it). Even with dreadful weather the Uig peninsula was a beautiful place to be and it was no bother keeping our two young lads occupied with walks to see the full might of the weather hitting the cliffs and beaches - having a gorgeous house to retreat to helped as well!
the most amazing foam party ever!

cosy gaf
Just a geeky kit note; I'm using the wee Olympus omd em-1 these days, a family holiday is no place to drag around a hulking big Nikon and the Oly is small enough to stuff in jacket or wee bag, totally weatherproof (camera was washed down in the shower several times to remove salt spray) and with built in wifi there was no involved editing type nonsense, just send to phone or iPad, a quick tweak and off to Instagram the image goes! Can't see me going back to a traditional DSLR anytime soon. 

Prior to leaving for hols had to squeeze in a weekends work for Singletrack mag covering the World Endurance 24hr solo champs. I was sort of thinking of going over anyway, but to take the usual flash lit racers racing type pics that seem to sell well directly to competitors and sponsors.
This time I was going to leave the flash guns at home and try and capture more 'reportage' style shots, a challenge, but massively useful for my development as a photographer. In the end I shot 1300 odd images, slept for all of 4hrs and came away with some shots I was quite happy with, whether Singletrack use them is another matter! Can't publish any of the pics, but here's a 'B' roll pic I quite like. 
Again used the little cameras, omd and the ever faithful fuji x100, both cracking wee cameras to use, especially the fuji for candid moments. Both cameras were cranked up to high ISO's - 6400 at night and all images fine enough for use. 
Geek note here again, the oly has amazing image stabilisation allowing hand held at about a second, mental. Geek note over. 
Anyhow that's enough of that, I'm off for a run as this is my traditional 'let's go back to being a runner' time of the year! 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Into the Autumn

Well it's a new season (well it feels like it here) and time for a catch up. Autumn's a good season for me, the kids go back to school - I love them dearly, but very little gets done whilst they're off (home workers). So me and the mrs let out a large sigh of relief and get on with work and some more 'me' time! Which in my case means trying to get fit again (my sort of fit) with loads more riding, both road and mtb. Eventually the body remembers, big hill fitness returns and it's time to squeeze in some epic mtb rides before the dreich months that end in 'ber roll around.  Torridon is good even on a bad day, but we hit it with blue skies, warm sun and no midge, truly some of the best riding this year.


Local trails have been getting a good hammering too, with some old classics getting as much use as possible before harvesting kills them dead. I know it's a crop and needs harvesting, but even so, forest I've ridden trails in for nearly twenty years are scheduled to go.... 

going, going, nearly gone.

But, with the weather so good, it would be a crime not to get onto the local high trails before winter closes them down (at least on bikes!) so some quick up and downs combined with longer forays across the plateau were in order, sometimes alone, sometimes with like minded 'mountain' bikers. 

Coire an Sneachda 

Work has ramped up with a fairly equal mix of Cycletherapy and photo work. Trail stuff at the mo' is a mix of helping clients through planning applications, designing new tracks, trail surveys and a wee bit of trail maintenance training for various government bodies - I quite like this stuff, as I get older I like the idea of passing my info on. The photo work is progressing nicely with a steady influx of properties to shoot and something new to be learnt every contract; from dealing with tricky properties, to new lighting techniques, photoshop skills and streamlining the workflow through to the client. I love it! it's not quite the action shooting I thought I'd specialise in, but a niche I'm keen to develop and capitalise in. 


Anyhoo, that's enough for the now, it's time for a wee dram before settling into watching how the Scottish Independence results play out - whatever happens there's tricky times ahead up here! 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Mid Summer Madness

Hi all.
That about sums up summer for me, what with trail builds, design reports, trail maintenance contracts, the photography business (more on that later) family and the endless desire to squeeze rides into any gap I can.
I'm amazed that with the economy the way it is I still have clients that can find money for trail builds, I think the biggest change is that trail builds these days are driven by the local user groups, not by external agencies. These groups know what they want, do their research, have the community behind them and with all the right boxes ticked have no problems gaining planning permission and finding the money.
Smaller jump parks, pump tracks and skills areas built right in the heart of a community are where the fundings at these days; not requiring transport to get to and being able to be used by kids all the time - not just when mum and dad can load up the van and travel to an 'uber' centre.
All good by me, but I still pine for building endless k's of good old honest xc riders thin flowy single track  hugging the side of a lovely remote hillside with stunning views, maybe with a few rocky problems thrown in, the odd berm, maybe a little tabletop here and there, ahhhh well, maybe one day again.
The Aberfoyle build went really well, working with Chris Rogerson Contracting and his merry bunch of young keen trail builders, they're are always great fun to work with - what with their willingness to throw themselves over partly completed jumps all in the pursuit of good flow! See Pete above.
Alyth's next on the to do list, with their build imminent and much to do before the kids break up for the summer hols and Cycletherapy closes  down for a wee break somewhere hot and sunny.
Designs are out to various clients to start on their journey to a build, hope these happen, they're really worthwhile projects and would be a delight to build.
The photography business is also busy, I never intended for it to come on stream so quickly, rather I saw it as a long term plan to slowly develop my skills and client base to the point where I could use it well into my old age when trail building becomes harder. Call it future proofing (or my version of a pension plan!) However, the architectural photography side of things is very busy, with a good client, nice properties to shoot and the ability to learn something new with every gig - also, the level of accuracy and attention to detail required appeals to my OCD side!
Much as I love the action sports work, it simply doesn't pay that well and photography in my busy world has to earn it's keep, but every so often I have to grab the gear and head off to the trails to scratch that mtb photography itch!

No racing for me this year, not an issue just now, as I've regained my mtb 'mojo' and I'm simply in love with just riding my mtb on local natural trails, official and unofficial trail fairy work and just enjoying the ride.
Til the Autumn - bye for now.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Spring Update

Ok, blog update, long overdue, but that's cos I'm busy - which is a good thing (sometimes).
At the start of the winter I said no winter trail builds this year, as last winter was just too damn hard to build in  - and what happens? we get a relatively mild easy winter (well certainly at the low levels I build at)
you can build in that...

So because of this I decide to step up my sideline of photography, and what happens? that gets really busy, really quick! Which is fantastic, but now the trail building season is with us I'm going to have to play it canny to fit everything in, as well as be a dad, husband and keen cyclist!
event piccies
house pics

people pics
product pics
action pics (Nash Masson) he's really very good!

I love photography, but for me it's gotta pay it's way or else Cycletherapy will not give it any calendar time at all! Luckily, all photo gigs so far have been at a good rate and long term it gives me the flexibility to use it as an income stream when trail building has to stop because of weather or me being knackered! 
Trail building stuff continues, but as I've said before a lot of my stuff can't be talked about due to planning considerations. However, I can talk about the next couple of builds that will take me through to the summer hols (that's half the year gone) Aberfoyle is getting a wee skills area and Alyth is getting a wee trail, jumps, pump track, fun park type thang. All good fun. 
The keen cyclist part of the life / work balance was satisfied with a weeks good 'beasting' on the road bike is Spain - 38,000' of climbing and near 400 miles in a week, of course as soon as we get back the weather turns all cold and wet, so it's out with the winter road bike and layer upon layer of winter thermals - groan! 
Luckily here the local 'real' mtb trails are in good nick so the Tallboy has been out and about and I'm glad to still feel the love for all that trail riding thing. Mojo still intact - check. 
Ski season rumbles to a finish: it's been a funny old season - heaps of snow, but rubbish weather with lots of days ruined due to high winds. Family Masson has been up as much as poss', but if I'm honest it'll not go down as one of the greats.... anyhoo, the boys have had some good blasts and NÂș 1 son is going to finish of the season at Easter with a 'freestyle' skills clinic (gulp) 
Right that's all your getting for now, going by this rate there'll be another update going into the winter!