Sunday, December 7, 2014

What Goes Around, Comes Around.

Cagoules and canvas back-packs are back in; I'll bet that not many of them get worn whilst ice-climbing Ben Nevis these days, though.  This short film was produced for National Geographic by Yvon Chouinard (he of Patagonia fame) back in 1976, featuring famed Scottish climber John Cunningham.  Take 8 minutes sat in front of your screen and, whilst you probably won't end up wishing that you were John wearing a small avalanche on your head half way up a frozen gulley, you'll certainly wish you were outside getting some cold air in your lungs.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Slyding Sunrise to Sunset

This past Saturday saw the finless clans of the British surf community converge on Lusty Glaze beach to compete in this year's Approaching Lines Slyder Cup, presented by the good folks at Reef.  With it being just a few weeks shy of the winter solstice, the "Friction Affliction Winter Convention" filled the few short hours of daylight and extended the magical golden hour to cover what felt like half of the heats contested.  Huey co-operated and sent some solid lumps shoreward for the duration of the day, testing all competitors waterman skills as well as their abilities to ride waves with no traction.  Here's a selection of my shots from sun-up to sun-down that sum up a great day of wave sliding.

At first light the surf looked fun.  An hour later it had jumped in size by about four feet as a westerly swell filled in, providing big, cold and bumpy conditions for the bodysurfers.

Swasssshhhhh zone stand-off.  Crabbing my way half-way up a rock face and balancing my camera on my knees doesn't get quite the same results as a tripod, it would seem.

There was a lot of water moving around the small bay as the bodysurfers competed at high tide, with wash-through sets leaving the "smaller" inside waves as the only consistent options.

Wooden surfboard shaper James Otter preparing to swim out with a handplane produced using offcuts from one of his surfboards. 

I'm pretty sure that Rich Pope was entered into every category.  Here he takes on an outside bomb on a 4'x1' bent plywood bellyboard before going on to win the air mat category and take second place overall.

The Otter Surfboards demostration station - showing what goes on at a bodysurfing "build-your-own" workshop experience day.

Jimbo Bennet returned to defend his title, drifting all over the place on an albacore with control and grace - here delaying the drop with a mid-face tail slide.

Pat from Surfboard Art Wales made the trip down and caught some screamers in the paipo category, switching between prone and kneeling and causing the judges to quickly glance at the scoring system.

Sarah Bentley, deserved winner of the "Most Stylish Human" award for making drop like this time and time again on a surfboard with no fins.

The twilight expression session saw all manner of wave-sliding craft in the line-up, including Ross Curwen and his trusty tray.

The mat finalists making walk to the waters edge at low tide, and considering how they might paddle a large, buoyant, bag of air out through shifty overhead surf.

Contenders ready!  The finless finalists.

Jimbo Bennet using nothing but rail to stick a drop that most surfers would be stoked on if they had a few fins in their board.

Finless friends, congratulating each other on a well surfed day and demonstrating the camaraderie that exists between the tribes.

Event Director Chris Nelson with Wooden Surfboard maker James Otter, watching the sun set on the last minutes of the grand final and a day of great surfing.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

El Maestro

"We had everything here, everything here inside.
All of our kit was here. Look – inside this women’s hat box was everything:  Goggles, leather gloves, t-shirt, and helmet – all here. You see?”
Juan Manuel Fangio

In the first decade of Formula One racing, before races were filmed or televised, Argentinian Juan Manuel Fangio won five World Driver's Championships - a record that stood for 46 years.  In the 1950s drivers wore minimal protective equipment, racing with no harness and often on circuits with no safety features.  In the clip below (from a 1980s documentary film), Fangio is in his sixties driving a Lancia-Ferrari D50 around a "temporarily closed" Monaco street circuit.  The car's fuel tanks were housed in the side fenders (between the front and rear wheels), just in case sliding sideways around a corner wasn't spicy enough in a vintage racing car wearing just a t-shirt and open face helmet.

"When a car goes well, and the engine note is harmonious, the noise makes a form of music; the driver is like a conductor…”

And what a conductor.  I guess that's why he was nicknamed "El Maestro".

Top image taken at the 2014 Goodwood Revival event.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Turkish Delight

The Blue Mosque at dawn.

Every holiday is a bit of a busman's holiday if you earn your living (or at least part of it) with a camera pushed up against your face, and I absolutely love that.  Documenting trips is how I learnt to make photographs and I still enjoy playing the tourist and the challenge of trying to capture the essence of a place in a few frames over the course of a few days.  

Because it's not "work", I like to set myself little challenges and mini-projects when I go away to make sure that I don't just go through the same motions as when I'm shooting back home; it's how I learn and develop.  When Kate and I travelled to Istanbul in the summer (we were hoping to travel on trains tracing the last leg of the Orient Express route but relentless engineering works forced us onto overnight buses instead) I limited my kit to a 35mm camera with a 50mm prime lens, a forty year old 35mm point-and-shoot compact camera and a few rolls of film.  I wanted to see how losing the ability to zoom in and out would affect how I composed my images and documented what I saw.  Inevitably there were moments when I found myself frustrated by the restrictions that I had placed on myself and there were shots that I knew could have been better when I pushed the shutter button, but I turned off my internal auto-pilot, found some work-arounds and moved my feet more.  Below is a selection of my favourites from a few rolls spent wandering this incredibly interesting and culturally rich city.

No genies.  I checked.

Power cubes for city strolling.

Aya Sofia (which faces the Blue mosque) at sun rise.

The incredible marble walls inside the Aya Sofia.

Arabian lanterns in the Grand Bazarre.

Carpets for sale.

A beautiful public fountain on the Hippodrome.


Dried fruits inside the Spice Bazaar.

And mountains of Turkish Delight.

There are millions of street cats in Istanbul.  This little guy had got himself stuck halfway up the stepladder outside a book stall in the market.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

3x Warmth

Storing, splitting and burning; if you find yourself heating your home with an open fire or wood burning stove this winter then you're pretty much guaranteed to get warm at least twice before you even place a log on the grate.  

There's something incredibly satisfying about having a full load of logs dumped outside your home and carrying and stacking them like a grown-up game of tetris in a log-store, leaving you looking upon a winter's worth of warmth in physical form at the end of the garden.  Splitting logs then becomes one of those pleasant daily chores; heading out with a log basket and knocking rounds down into sections small enough to burn well, and selecting the straight-grained lengths for splitting down further into kindling.  The axe is the oldest tool known to humankind, and using one on a daily basis through the cold months of winter is a pleasant reconnection to physical work that so many people lack in their daily routines.  And then, after all that, you get to build a fire and cosy down in it's flickering orange glow.  

I'm not actually all that disappointed that the temperature's dropped over the last few days and winter has started to make it's imminence felt.  For one thing it has given me a good winter project to be getting on with, as I didn't own a small hatchet for splitting down kindling (the felling axe pictured above is for splitting logs and, as the name implies, dropping trees) until I found a couple of really "well used" old examples in a local charity shop for a few pounds each.  They are in need of some restoration though, so at some point soon I hope to be able to post a "how-to" article if I do a worthy job and they turn out well.  

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Transylvanian Tales

The weekend of All Hallows' Eve seems like the appropriate time to share some photographs from a trip that I took to Transylvania over the summer.  Scroll down for all manner of spooky scenery, snarling animals, scythes and castles, but don't be totally fooled; Transylvania in summer is a wonderful destination for hiking and for every day of mist and rain that we endured we also enjoyed two of summer sunshine strolling in high alpine meadows.  Despite failing my usual primary criteria by not being next to the ocean, I can attest that it's well worth a visit.  

The cross on the mountain top above the town of Busteni is enormous, although it doesn't look it in the top left of this image.

Is Vlad a pig?

Sodden sheep dogs doing their best impressions of hell hounds.

Bram Castle: home of Vlad the Impaler and the inspiration for Dracula's Castle.

The Carpathian Mountains offer some stunning scenery.

Yup, scythes.  Less Grim Reaper and more hay harvest in this case.

Bram Castle.

Carpathian Bears.

Shifting sheep, come rain or shine.

Brasov.  They put a big sign on top of the hill overlooking the town in case you forget.

Transylvanian tracks and trails.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Surfing on the Silver Screen

I don't really watch all that many surf movies any more.  That is, apart from one four-day weekend every year in London when the London Surf / Film Festival is on and I binge on airs and barrels on the big screen.  The other 361 days of the year I usually click on any one of the handful of three minute web-edits that are posted on a near daily basis, and after about ten seconds I either get enormous work-guilt or I get bored of seeing the same old thing yet again and click away.  I don't think that I've got A.D.D. but my attention span for surf films without any narrative is definitely pretty short.  That's where the LS/FF swoops in and rescues me; a carefully crafted line-up of surf films balancing documentaries with adventure and art, feature length flicks with quality shorts, and all on a massive screen.  If anything is going to hold my attention more than the screen of my laptop, it is a full-size cinema screen in an auditorium full of hooting surfers.    

This year I had the pleasure of multi-tasking for the four days of the festival; I was invited to be the event photographer, as well as exhibiting both a selection of my photography and a display for Otter Surfboards.  It kept me good and busy, but I still managed to sneak into the back of a choice selection of movies and get my fill.  Here's a stack of images that I shot, alongside one film selection from each night for you to take a look at…

Thanks to LS/FF Directors Chris and Demi for inviting me along again and for putting on such a great festival.

This year the festival moved to a new venue at the Genesis Cinema in E1, and in one fell swoop both doubled its capacity and damn near filled it.

Surf photographer, cold water adventurer and plastic pollution campaigner Tim Nunn gave an incredible slideshow presentation on Saturday night.

5x ASP Women's World Champion Stephanie Gilmore paid the festival a visit for the UK premiere of the biographical documentary film "Stephanie in the Water".  She smiled constantly and and posed for photos for a good couple of hours with fans, as well as throwing some shakas with the big painted cut-out of Rob Machado produced by Chris from Makemake.

I carried the Otter Surfboards exhibition across London on the tube in a hold-all bag, and managed to bring it back to Cornwall in one piece too a few days later.  Thankfully my exhibition, on the other side of the corner, was delivered for me in a big cardboard box.





Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Way The Cookie Crumbles

Brad's backhand foam climb, somewhere north of Hossegor.

"We've got plenty of time, I'll definitely make my train." were the famous last words that I uttered as I walked backwards up the beach with Harry, still firing off shots of the rest of our friends surfing an empty, head-high peak on the beaches somewhere north of Hossegor.  We ran up the sand dune, got back to the car and set off along the track through the forest to rejoin the main road, both pretty confident that we would get there on time and that I'd catch my train.  Well, get me there on time we did, but I hadn't accounted for the queue that I would face at the ticket office which was clearly running on a skeleton staff.  I watched the clock tick down from quarter to twelve towards the departure time of midday; I was fidgeting, huffing and starting to get anxious.  With three minutes to go I left the queue and tackled the automatic machine which spat my ticket out at 11:59.  I ran under the underpass and up onto the platform where my train to Bordeaux was waiting and, just as I reached out to press the button to open the door, I heard the ominous clunk of the doors locking.  "Non, c'est parti monsieur.  Le prochain train est à quinze heures" the conductor shouted down to me, as I watched my train leave without me and taking with it any hopes of me making my flight home and getting back to work the next day.  Harry doubled back to pick me up, and on the drive back to Hossegor the exhaust fell off his car on the péage.  Clearly it wasn't our morning.  We limped back with the car sounding like a motorbike and rejoined the rest of our friends who were spending the afternoon watching the WCT surf contest, and I fired off a few frames of the world's best surfers in action.  
Sometimes a morning really doesn't go your way and there's nothing at all that you can do about it apart from try your best to make the most of the afternoon.  It's just the way that the cookie crumbles, but at the end of the day cookies still taste good.   

Julian Wilson, teasing me for missing my train 
by pointing straight at 12 o-clock.

Ol' green eyes on a nicely backlit green wave.

Contest winner John John Florence entertaining the crowd 
way down at the southern end of the contest zone.  
The beach was absolutely packed in front 
of the peak and the grandstand.

Miguel Pupo casting a shadow in round 3.

Taj Burrow and a rooster's tail.