Sunday, January 26, 2014

Big as a Bus

Weighing in at around 36 tons and as big as a bus, Humpback whales are a wonder of nature.  They typically travel around 25,000km each year, spending the summers feeding on krill and small fish in polar waters before migrating to tropical or sub-tropical waters in the winter to breed and give birth, which is where most of their positive interactions with humans occur.  Prior to the International Whaling Commission ban on commercial whaling in 1966, however, their interactions with humans weren't so great as their population had been decimated by 90%, but since then numbers have recovered to an estimated 80,000.  Over the next couple of months there are a couple of events celebrating these gentle giants, World Whale Day on Maui, Hawaii on February 15th and Whale Fest in (lovely but not as tropical) Brighton, UK, over the weekend of March 14-16.  Later this year there will also be a meeting of the IWC, and I for one sincerely hope that the conservation of whales and other cetaceans continues to be an important issue amongst the myriad of problems facing the world's oceans.     

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Most of us, most of the time, go looking for waves on four wheels.  Whilst I'd certainly love to arrive at a remote surf spot by boat, bike or boots more often, the reality is that more often than not I find myself throwing my surfboards in or on a car and driving.  I almost always wish that I was going in a Land Rover.  Big but not really big enough to easily transport surfboards inside, expensive and thirsty for fuel,  they're probably not the most practical option but the day-dreamer in me loves the idea of driving along miles of deserted beach scanning the waves for a perfect set-up, fording rivers and settling down to sleep in a roof tent at the end of the day.

Developed in 1947 by the Rover car company in an attempt to skirt post-war materials rationing and make up for the drop in sales of it's luxury cars, the Land Rover was designed to be a light agricultural and utility vehicle, something of a cross between a light truck and a tractor.  Intended only for a short production run of two or three years until the luxury car market had recovered, Land Rover developed into its own successful brand and in 1992 Land Rover claimed that 70% of vehicles produced were still in use.  The original Series I was designed to minimise the need for materials that were still rationed following WWII (such as steel), and to use simple production techniques and tooling; the bodywork was handmade from an aluminium/magnesium alloy (called Birmabright) which is still used today due to it's light weight and resistance to corrosion, and flat panels and constant radius curves were used to make it simpler to cut and form by hand around simple jigs.  The chassis was welded from box-section steel for ease, and the first vehicles off the production line were all offered in a single colour option of military green because the only paint that the company could get hold of was army surplus.

Perhaps it's because of their iconic design and the fact that each successive model has remained true to their original utilitarian function that Land Rovers are still so desirable.  It's certainly not for their top speed or road tax band.  But having seen one of these boxes on four-wheels as the workhorse carrying so many epic overland expeditions (on the search for surf or not) across deserts, over mountains and through jungles, it would be difficult to put any other vehicle at the top of your dream kit-list when planning a trip that you want to title an expedition.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Farewell, Dear Friend

Earlier this week the one hundredth and final issue of The Surfer's Path magazine was pushed through my letterbox.

The arrival of the centenary issue should have been one of celebration but instead it was, for me at least, a sad occasion as I read the accompanying letter from the magazine's publishers.  I first picked up a copy of The Surfer's Path sixteen years ago as a young teenager.  It was issue 6 and it had a dark green cover if I remember correctly.  It had a lot of words in it and different photos to the sort that I was used to seeing in the other surf magazines and it cost a bit more too, so my young, short-attention-span, bright colours and fast music angled brain probably didn't really get it.  As I matured and my understanding of surfing and the culture that surrounds it developed I would pick up a copy of The Surfer's Path more and more often - a look at the bookshelf at my Dad's house where my collection of early editions is archived would probably be a good indicator of how my surf-centric brain developed: the frequency of more tabloid, "here and now", surf publications tails off to be replaced by a magazine that carried much broader, deeper content.  This was a magazine that spoke to my absolute and all consuming obsession with riding waves and started in some way to satiate my appetite to know more.  It's pages were filled with trips to places that I'd often never heard of - far-flung corners of the map where there might be waves but there was definitely a story, sparking in me a wanderlust for far-away coastlines that has had an enormous impact upon my adult life, and for which I am incredibly thankful.  It taught me about the value of the marine environment, where waves come from and about the history of surfing.  The Surfer's Path taught me that there was more to this whole watery escapade; much more.

I'll pull-up short of descending into an essay on the knock-on effects on "bigger picture" surf culture of big surf companies cutting their marketing budgets and the rise of free surf content on the internet.  Now's not the time or place.  What I will say, however, is that the world of surfing is going to be a bit thinner, a bit flimsier and without doubt a bit shallower without The Surfer's Path spreading interesting and thought provoking articles with beautiful images selected for their artistic merits and their story-telling qualities.  This good stuff will certainly still be around, but we might have to search a little harder for it and may not be able to pick it up, curl the edges of the pages, stuff it in a bag before a bus trip or put it on a shelf to revisit in many years time.

Thank you to The Surfer's Path for informing, entertaining and inspiring, to it's editor Alex Dick-Read for your service to surf culture and to all of the photographers, writers and subjects who appeared in it's pages for showing me just what's possible if you put your head down and paddle hard.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Take A Trip

I've never been shy about the fact that, when given half a chance, I'll shoot analogue over digital for my personal photographic work.  I kind of feel that the images produced look more like the photographs that I grew up looking at, and when I'm making memories for myself rather than shooting imagery for a client or editor then I'd rather the resulting photographs hold that warm haze of nostalgia.  To that end, more often than not I have an Olympus Trip 35 camera crammed into my pocket or rattling around in my bag.  I have a selection of other 35mm SLRs that I'll carry as my "prime" analogue camera, but the little olympus is ever-present and as a result when I finally put a roll of film in to be developed I tend to get back a set of prints spanning several months, and usually with a good few keepers in there.  

Porto, where Portuguese Port comes from.

For a camera that you can fit into your pocket, the trip is hard to beat.  Olympus produced over 10 million of them between 1967 and 1984, so there are loads of them kicking around and you can pick one up for between £5-£25 on that popular interweb auction site or in a charity shop or car boot sale.  They have a fully automatic exposure and you can set the aperture value, but the main bonus is that these little beauties are solar powered and so you never need worry about running out of batteries.  You get sharp, rich images which is great, but what's even better is getting that feeling of nervous anticipation when you collect a set of prints from the lab; what was on this film?  Did I set the focus right?  Was that roll of film that I found at the back of the fridge expired or not?  As a pocket camera to get that childhood feeling of making photographs and achieving a different look to your photos without having to use a filter app on your phone, I can't recommend taking a trip highly enough.   

Isaac, way back before he became a lean, mean, sock eating machine.

Kate looking back at Honister Pass, The Lake District, UK.

The Rialto, Venice.

Only one guy out.  
The trips small size makes it nice and discreet for shooting out of the way waves and then leaving your camera under a towel on the beach.

Donkey, Atlas Mountains, Morocco.  Cross-processed slide film. 

Mackerel and colourful crates.

Port Isaac, a place that I don't photograph enough.  Cross-processed slide film.

Summer feet. 

The Souk, Marrakech.  Cross-processed slide film.

One of Venice's many beautiful basilicas. 

Jarrad is a mate of mine from Western Australia.  He's been working in London the past few years and goes long stints without watching the sun set into the sea.  When he visited earlier this year it reminded me not to take that daily gift for granted.

Probably safest not to touch or eat these.  Autumn woodland walks.

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