2021 week two

Ah, the optimism of these early weeknotes. I know by now that some weeks I won’t have much to say, and that some weeks I will barely even remember to try and start one. But it’s a nice habit to try and strike up. I’m not sure when is best to write these – it seems ‘right’ to me for the week in question to be Monday to Sunday, and so it follows that these should be written up on the Monday. Doing so on the Sunday evening would be a bit snake-eating-its-tail: I’m still very much in weekend mode on Sunday evening.

Anyway.

Managed to keep up a pretty consistent week of running. My new shoes continue to put a spring in my step.

I have joined Strava’s monthly challenge of running 100km in January, and I am pleased to say I’m well on my way there after a strong start. I only have another 5km or so to do and more than ten days to do it. It won’t be the first month I’ve achieved this but it’s a decent total to aim for.

I did also join the 200km challenge, but that will remain just that: a challenge. Maybe I can aim for it later in the year when the days are longer. I did run 800-odd kilometres in 2020, so if I can hit a thousand this year, that would be a good thing to aim for.

The most enjoyable run of the week was Sunday’s, where I deliberately wanted to take myself (and my new trail shoes) off-road. I fired up Rungo (a brilliant navigational app where you plug in a route and it provides turn-by-turn directions in your ears) and pointed myself towards some green spaces near Finchley. Is Finchley a place? Near there, anyway.

I knew there were a few golf courses around there, but there also seemed to be fields and nature reserves, so I hoped I would end up there. And I did! Having run about 9km on roads, I suddenly took a turn down a muddy bridleway and the next couple of Ks were incredibly muddy and wet. At times I was splashing through ankle deep liquid mud. The rest of the time it was sticky, tacky mud. It felt great.

I passed a handful of families out walking dogs etc, but my goal of going for a long run which didn’t take me into town and the busy places turned out very well. 

I managed to make it a neat half marathon – just over 21km – which is a distance I can just about do if I decide I am going to. And I’m so glad I found some proper countryside vibes and returned home muddy, scratched by brambles, and full of fresh air. My trainers were trashed, of course, but they cleaned up well enough.


Running aside, I have managed to stay home about as much as I can.

It’s hard when the weather is bright and I want to be out taking pictures. But I scratched that itch this week by taking some still life type shots around the home. It’ll do for now.

I ween myself on Flickr – beautiful light-filled shots of streetscapes (many taken in the before time, I am sure, as I follow a lot of film photographers or those who remaster and reupload older shots) and it makes me yearn for those environments and conditions.

I find myself spending probably more time watching Youtube tutorials of people editing in Lightroom than I do actually editing in Lightroom. It’s helpful to see others doing it, but I do need to tip that balance back the other way.

I’m starting to move more towards picking out individual shots or small series and spending much more time doing selective edits for a specific upload or project. This helps me hone my skills in particular areas, and hopefully produces good, one-off results.

I am so much more used to taking an entire travelogue-type series of shots from a trip or a long walk and applying similar edits to the whole set to give it a uniformity, so it is good to try and focus on a small handful of shots instead, or even just one individual shot. 

I’ve even started to think along the lines of going much further back into my archive and finding similar – one or a handful of shots – and giving them a new lick of paint using techniques I now use and find natural that I didn’t when I originally took (and possibly edited) the shots.

It’s quite a mental somersault contemplating that a single image can be given so many different looks. Making the decision to do something quite stark, like making it monochrome, or doing a heavy crop, feels so definite and final. And yet of course I can re-edit the same image a number of times. It’s a lot to wrap my head around.


I’ve started hacking together an /audio page at this domain.

For years I’ve collected random field recordings of specific places that had a nice sound to them, trying to capture what it is to be there in a similar way that I am compelled to take photographs. I don’t often succeed – recording audio, like taking a wide angle photo of a scene, often reveals that the small parts of that scene which are appealing to you are in fact nearly drowned out (visually or aurally) by other more ordinary elements which your brain had tuned out.

Much like zooming in or cropping out a photo to allow the viewer to focus on the elements you find most appealing in a scene, creating a decent sound recording of a place requires ‘zooming in’ on that sound, e.g. ensuring that any other distracting sounds are as minimal as they can be.

It is possible to do some EQ and filtering in post-production, but it’s not easy to polish a turd when it comes to making field recordings.

With that all in mind, I wanted a place to call my own where I can stick those field recordings that most ‘work’ in my head, or that most capably take me away to the place they were recorded. I also have a handful of more musical or compositional tracks that I’ve enjoyed mucking around in Garageband to create. I’ve a lot to learn there, but by the same token I have dipped into it on and off over the years and have a basic enough understanding of how the software works to make it possible to come up with a track or two that make me smile.

A final point: there will be a mixture of Soundcloud and self-hosted tracks on the /audio page for now. Soundcloud seems to be the de facto place to stick audio and music, but the website (and app) are appalling and riddled with spam and weird UX and UI choices. (It reminds me of Flickr in the post-Yahoo!, pre-Smugmug days where every upload was greeted with spam comments and all kinds of signs of a lack of care.) But part of the reason I’ve sat on some of these recordings for so long is not having anywhere to put them.

Now, inspired by a few self-built, self-hosted websites, I’ve decided to just make my own place to put them, rather than relying on third parties with their ads and their spam and their clunky interfaces.

It’ll take a little work to get everything over here, and I want to make sure each file has decent metadata and looks neat. But it’s a start for now.


And finally, I’ve been reading usesthis.com for ages – it’s a site that poses creative people a series of questions and collects their tools and how they use them in their work and life. Usually computery tools. Often nice pens and stuff.

The last question is usually along the lines of asking what that person’s dream setup would be.

Often it is half-invented sci-fi daydreams of some near-future, no-expenses-spared version of what they already have. Sometimes it’s a variation of “well I’m pleased to say I’m almost there…”. But the answer to this latest post by music video producer Ninian Dorf just took me away with its simple but perfect scenario:

What would be your dream setup?

Early morning. A great view in a window in front of me. A good desk. Just peaking on my first coffee of the day. A great idea in my head.

Wonderful.

  • Hi Paul,

    I also collect random audio from random places. I sometimes wish I had a better recording set-up than my phone, but it’s nice to be able to listen back. I’ve got some from the Paris and London Underground systems, and a bunch from walks where I was drowned in birdsong.

    Great idea to put them up on a page!