Monday, 30 May 2011

What's this two posts in a month! A good month for work, a bad month for being a cyclist. Two new consultancy jobs popped up out of nowhere - which was nice, but as usual can't talk about them at this stage (it's a planning thing) however the weather took a turn for the worse and it's been cold, wet and windy. Now, I know they say "there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing", but day after day of November style cold, northerly winds and rain bordering on sleet does start to wear thin.
I have been very lucky to keep up the practising of my fledgling photographic skills, managing to persuade some very talented local female riders - Jo Cardwell and Roberta Walker to 'model' for me (steady now - cycling pics only) and most recently Jules Fincham of Cycle Wild Scotland - a locally based mountain bike tutor. The first sesh' with the girls started well, but soon deteriorated as the rain moved in earlier than expected, causing misfires of my wireless flash kit, but still a good learning day. The shoot with Jules was blessed with sunshine and as we have some stunning trail right on our doorstep(s) it meant the whole day could be spent on the bikes, with no travelling required at all. Bonus.
June's just around the corner and pretty soon I'll need to make the decision whether to do some races this year - more precisely whether to 'man up' to the training required to do another 3 Three Peaks cyclo-cross race, which also means a new cx bike.....

Monday, 16 May 2011

A lot has happened since last months blog; two trail builds finished - the Laggan 'Orange' re-build and the Alness Academy Skills Area. Laggan needed doing, it was an old original piece of trail built in the days of 'IMBA' old school standards, so it was ripped up, re-aligned, 'waterproofed' and re-surfaced. A good job, started in the snow showers and finished in weather that was too dry! Seriously, it was less then ideal to finish off a trail in bone dry weather (dry aggregate doesn't compact very well) and with the good weather as soon as the fences were down the Easter hordes were all over it, but apart from a little TLC with a rake and a roller it'll be ok.
Alness had been left unfinished when the winter snows kicked in back in late November so we were all very keen to get back in and finish off the job. Not a lot needed done just the final shaping of the jumps, but this is a critical stage and can't be done in the winter snow and frost, it needs careful hand working, raking, test jumping, 'tweaking' and then final compacting. Luckily the Spring run of good weather held and we rounded off a fantastic little project, in the sunshine, watching the local 'jump' crowd styling it up on their new jump line.
Thereafter it was straight into finishing off some fairly 'weighty' written reports and general consultancy 'stuff' with those that wear suits. So after all this I needed a break and something completely different, so after some quality family time, I set off to the Seb Rogers' photo course in the Quantocks.
I have always loved taking photos, but most of them are just snapshots of family life and the chance to spend three days riding and taking pictures of mountain bikers under the guidance of one of the best photographers in the business was something I had been looking forward to for some time.
And what a cracking course it was; the other students were all very capable photographers, good riders and great company, the riding was excellent (and this coming from someone who has the Cairngorms on his doorstep!) Seb was an excellent teacher and the accommodation (and cakes) was spot on for hungry mountain bikers.
Just one or two key pointers from Seb early on were worth the cost of the course alone for me. Panning technique, manual focussing, low shutter speeds and taking good pictures of a scene that have a bike in them rather than my approach of just a snapshot of a biker were all major lessons for me as was seeing the different ways other photographers 'see' a scene.
It also helps when you have at your disposal Mr 'pro pointy elbows' himself - Mike Davies who rode and re-rode sections of trail always with gusto and perfect facial expressions! 'Chapeau' as they say (in roadie circles)
My pictures definitely improved as the weekend progressed and at the end of it I came away with a few pics that I was generally quite pleased with.
All I need now is loads more practise on patient riders that can put up with being asked "could you do that just one more time"