Sunday, September 29, 2013

Humble Pie For One

I would say that I am a pretty patient person, at least with most things besides computers.  

I've been waiting for the perfect combination of quite specific conditions for a couple of summers now with the hope of taking the boat that I built, an outrigger sailing canoe, on a short overnight expedition to surf, spearfish and camp onboard. I won't go into the details of my plan, but because of my planned route and the nature of my trip I had to wait for the stars to align with favourable winds, tides, swell and weather all falling over a 48 hour period.  Last summer I took the boat on a maiden voyage along a short stretch of my route; this spring I tested the boat's abilities to launch through surf and return again, using the experience to make some minor modifications; then this July the weather was perfect however I had work commitments.  I scoured the weather forecasts daily.  I started to become impatient.  In mid-August there was a day that looked do-able; not ideal, but I thought that I could give it a shot.

My alarm was set early and I got up in the dark.  I'd set the boat up on the beach just above the high tide line the evening before, so I arrived early and loaded it whilst the local small-boat fishermen prepared their boats and reversed them into the water.  I launched twice, and I returned twice.  I never did make it to the beach where I had planned on surfing, or to the small cove where I had intended to moor up and sleep under a boom tent on the hiking boards strapped across the outrigger arms.  I spent hours at sea out in the bay battling against the wind, swell and the power of a big spring tide.  I couldn't sail upwind so had to drop the sail and paddle, but for a solid hour I made no progress against the elements.  I measured my progress against the flow of the pushing tide by triangulating my position with a lobster-pot buoy and the westernmost point of a small bay.  If I paused my paddling the wind pushed the bow around so that I was broadside on to the large swells so I had to pull relentlessly.  Continuing to my intended camp spot would have been foolhardy so I turned around, put the mast back up, raised sail and then slipped.  One leg went overboard into the water and I landed heavily on the gunnel.  With the sail up and a following wind it took me less than ten minutes to retrace my course which had taken over three hours in the other direction.  
Back on the beach one of the fishermen, Lloyd, told me that I did the right thing coming back - he didn't think it a good day to be out in a little boat like mine without a motor.  The next day the bruise under my leg came out, a proper deep one the size of a dinner plate, and I ached from the hours of paddling.  I felt pretty humbled by the entire experience.  What must it've been like for the early Polynesians who explored the Pacific Ocean on boats not dissimilar to mine, or for modern day fishermen who still use these boats across the Pacific and Indian Oceans to scrape a living?  The Ocean is massive…my small boat was like a grain of rice in a swimming pool out in the bay, and yet only ever a mile or so from safe harbour. 

And now the seasons have started to turn.  Perhaps next summer...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Vintage Vroom Vroom

During World War Two the RAF used Goodwood, a country house estate on the edge of the South Downs in West Sussex, as the base for a squadron of spitfires.  When the war ended the Earl of March turned the airfield's perimeter road into a motor racing circuit and the first race was held there on September 18th 1948.
Sixty five years on and each September Goodwood hosts the Goodwood Revival, an event celebrating the circuit's motorsport heyday from 1948-1966.   Of the 150,000 people attending I'd estimate that 90% were dressed in genuine mid-century era fashions which, along with the plethora of beautiful vintage racing cars (including the spectacular Ferrari GTO250), motorbikes and historic aeroplanes meant that I shot an awful lot of rolls of film.  Below is a small selection of ten images from the films that I've had developed so far.  Enjoy the time machine:


Hair and Helmet

Belle and the Biplane



Noisy Norton

Home Straight Spectators


Green Light for GO! 

 Guests of the Earl of March

Monday, September 16, 2013

Tin Mugs

There is something special about drinking out of a tin mug.  That something just shouts "OUTDOORS!" almost as much as the smell of wood smoke on a flannel shirt.

Since the 1920's these white mugs with the classic blue rim have been a staple piece of kit for anybody who is spending a night sleeping outside, for whatever reason.  Made by fusing porcelain onto steel at over 750ÂșC, enamel mugs (and other plates and cookware) are pretty sturdy bits of kit that are not only durable but chemical resistant and you can put them straight onto a heat source.  You can even use them to make pies.  Typically these things get knocked around alot; hung off the sides of kit bags or balanced precariously on rocks, but the worst that usually happens if they get a big knock is that some of the porcelain chips off and the exposed steel underneath goes a bit rusty.  But that's adding character right?
It's lucky that these simple tin mugs evoke such strong loyalties from people who have the twin passions of hot caffeinated drinks and getting out into nature, because they don't half burn your lips when you try to drink from them too soon, and your tea goes cold kind of fast.  But trying to strike the perfect balance between drinkability and not scorching yourself is a pleasant challenge to try and master (an outdoor skill right up there with building a fire and gutting a fish) and at least you can be safe in the knowledge that when you're drinking from a tin mug you're more than likely out in the fresh air, and celebrate that fact.

Top image:  Kate's Cornish coastpath coffee break, August 2013.
Bottom image:  What an Otter Surfboards tea break looks like - the image that's been heading up the wooden surfboard company's blog page and, until recently, monthly newsletters. 

Oh, and one last thing:  this past week I finally went and hit the "publish" button on the Mat Arney Photography facebook page. I'd be super grateful if you'd head on over and click the "like" button to get updates on blogs and other photographic work every now and then.  Many thanks, Mat.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

And The Staves Played On

I found Alex, my oldest friend, on the beach building a fire.  It was his job to organise this whole thing and as the sun dropped people were starting to trickle onto Porthcurnick beach from the coast path and the small lane that runs down onto the sand.  Over the past year he's organised a series of small, intimate, performances by rising stars of the music scene at unique venues for mobile phone company Nokia.  The theme of the Nokia Lumia Live Sessions has been undiscovered artists in undiscovered locations and he's put on gigs such as Kodaline in an old tannery in Dublin, Fenech Soler in a fight cage in Leeds and Lianne La Havas in a skate park in Liverpool, to name but a few.  This was due to be the last Lumia Live Session and was to feature British folk sisters The Staves performing fireside on a small beach in Cornwall to an invited crowd.  

Of all of the Lumia Live Sessions that he's had to organise, this one was perhaps the most unpredictable due to the vagaries of the British Summertime weather.  It had been a lovely, sunny, August day and there was a fair crowd on the grass and benches around The Hidden Hut cafe above the sand.  There were paper cups of wine and seven enormous paella pans were being tended to by a team of chefs and the brightly coloured food looked, and tasted, incredible.  Around 150 people had been invited (plus some of the cafe's regulars and passers by) and as is so often the way at events like this in this little county, most of the crowd knew each other.

The Staves made their way up from the water's edge just after 8pm and the three sisters arranged themselves on the rocks and piles of logs beside the small fire.  They were performing accoustically, with French film makers La Blogotheque recording the performance and they'd placed their microphone right next to me.  The crowd was absolutely silent, listening intently to the sister's familial harmonies and the gentle guitar over the sound of the outgoing tide, until a few bars into the second song the rain began to drip...and then drum.  It was a summer downpour of biblical proportions, the heavy black cloud like a bruise appearing over the hillside and emptying onto the beach within minutes.  People ran for cover under the low cliffs, umbrellas appeared over the three heads of the Staveley Taylor sisters, and the French film crew hurriedly covered their expensive equipment in whatever jackets they could find.  Many people left as the rain set in, but the performance was simply being relocated to the Hidden Hut cafe just behind the grass.

Two large gazebos had appeared, tables were cleared and The Staves reappeared a short time later in the serving hatch.  Periodically the rainwater would build up on one of the gazebos and overflow, crashing down onto the already soaked-to-the-skin spectators.  But the band played on, and ended their performance with an encore in the midst of the small, steaming, crowd.

This was one of those events where it seemed that every other person present had a big, fancy, camera so I'm really proud that Nokia have used a load of the images that I shot for their website banner images and other post-event publicity.  I'm certainly really grateful for the opportunity to attend such a unique gig; if you get the chance then spend some time watching the La Blogotheque films of the other five Lumia Live Sessions and checking out The Staves beautiful music.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Smells Like September

I stepped out of my car into the sunshine at Sennen this morning and it smelt like September.  I mean, I had a real definite waft of the smell of September hit me, and it hit me like some sort of catnip.  I got so excited.  I don't know what that smell was…  the ozoney smell from the breaking waves of the small groundswell?  Cold sand and a warmer ocean?  Warm surf wax?  Coffee?  I couldn't place my finger on it but it was a clear aroma and it made me realise that it was September 1st.  It was an instant reminder of the beaches when schools are back in and work slows down for everyone who works a seasonal job, dawn surfs that aren't still "last night" as they can be in midsummer, bare feet on cold sand, French boardwalks over the sand dunes, Portuguese custard tarts and hurricane swells.  Oh!  September, how I've missed you so.