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! 

Monday, 13 January 2014

Cycletherapy has mostly been here!
It's the planning phase for a lot of jobs at the moment, which needs doing or no more builds, and to tell the truth a winter without building trails is not a bad idea after last years struggle.
Some nice little community skills areas on the cards to do this Spring, those in conjunction with some bigger Forestry Commission jobs this summer will keep me nicely out of mischief for another financial year!
On a different tack, the photography work has picked up and as this may well be the long term plan for when I'm too old to build trail I needed to focus (sorry) back on it again and as much as I love taking pics of bikers and outdoor sports, my main source of clients appears to be the housing market. A lot of high value properties, whether for sale or as holiday let businesses, have truly awful pics and I think people are realising that a snap with a point and shoot or an iPhone really doesn't cut the mustard these days. It's funny that with the proliferation of how to capture digital images - phones / tablets/ etc there is still a market for professionally taken images. I don't think it's about the gear, I just think someone who is being paid to deliver a quality set of images worries over the quality and style of pictures far more than someone who just snaps away.
My biking has taken a back seat to running just now - it's a seasonal thing - I always seem to prefer running when the weather is truly awful and it sure has been rough out there for the whole of the festive season, with regular storms bringing down trees  all over our local fave riding trails. I have been swinging a saw again for a number of clients keen to get trails open asap for paying customers, but really I would like to get onto my local trails as this has a more direct impact on what I like to ride.
The skiings kicked off again for the season, but apart from making sure our kids get as much ski time as they can, the conditions aren't that great for a fun days telemarking, so I'll quite happily ignore the urge to ski 'til conditions improve and spent any free time working on the portfolio and running around wind blown trees!
Til next time....