September!

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Hello! I haven’t written for ages. It’s that typical conundrum of when life gets busier, it seems harder to write about – despite having plenty to write about.

In the past couple of months I’ve been busy with a few work projects – summer is a busy time, and August and September is usually busy for all of us, with the added load of an exhibition this year. It was postponed in the early stages of the first lockdown, and had been scheduled for May that year. It will finally go ahead in just over a few days, for the length of September. That’s been a lot of work for a number of us at work, as well as our long-suffering and multi-talented designer.

The exhibition prep has meant research, writing, editing, image sourcing, image licensing, and layout design. I’ve enjoyed many of these processes, and it has been particularly enjoyable it being a team effort – lots of rough edges have been refined through iteration. What we are left with is a corpus that I, as I think we all are, am pretty proud of.

The main issue now – apart from the actual hanging at the gallery, which is a whole world of little things to get right – is that I am just too close to the project to be unashamedly proud of it. It’s hard to emerge from a project like this and want to promote it or talk about. Too much work has gone into the finer details of it to be able to step back and admire the size of the work achieved. I think that will happen once it is hung and mounted and I can literally step back and take it it in

Work should wind down ever so slightly towards the end of September and into October – though this natural, cyclical wind down also means time for those projects which were so rudely shoved aside for the meat of the year.

We did also manage to get away for a summer holiday last month, to Cyprus for just over a week. When the possibility of flying as double-jabbed adults arose, we booked (surprisingly reasonable) flights and followed all the advice and procedures, and managed to get out to stay with M’s parents for a week of food, wine, sunshine, exploring, photography, and just chilling out. It was just the week we needed. I took a lot of photos that I’m really happy with – it’s funny how going somewhere exotic and which has reliably good weather just allows for interesting photographs. That’s short-sighted of me, I know – I live in London and could go out and find good photographs any day of the year in any conditions. But this trip to Cyprus, photography felt easier.

Last time I was in Cyprus I was – and it feels weird to say this, on a number of levels – in a monochrome phase. It was December, so the general environment at home was subdued, grey and a time of shorter days. But somehow my photography around that time was almost exclusively black and white, too. It just suited my mood, or offered a more accurate representation of my mind’s eye. And so visiting Cyprus then, over Christmas and at the tail end of the year, I carried my black and white mind’s eye with me. It worked: some days were crisp and bright (and pleasantly hot!), and even others that had clouds still lent themselves to nice black and white shots.

I took my Minolta 35mm camera then, and a roll of black and white film. But I also shot with my dSLR set to monochrome (in RAW+JPEG though, of course, allowing me to visualise and export in B&W, but also to retain full-colour files to edit later, such is the magic of RAW files). This combination led to some nice contrasty, grainy shots of a country I had never visited before.

This time around it was a time for colour: possibly a different mindset, or just going from summer here to Summer-with-a-capital-S there. I had recently worked out how to program my own Canon Picture Style, the sort of ‘filters’ built in to Canon cameras which lend a certain look to a shot. I’d made one specifically for big, colourful, contrasty, punchy pictures. I called it big’n’bold. And it turned out to be a really good one to use for the majority of shots in Cyprus in August. Big, bold blue skies. Crisp white clouds. Oversaturated yellows. Orangey evening skies.

It’s not the perfect style for every shot: it doesn’t render skin tones very successfully, so I had to switch back and forth occasionally. But this wasn’t too hard. And, as with the monochrome shots I mentioned above, shooting in RAW+JPEG once again meant I had one ‘instant’ set of images in one style, mainly for Instagram posts, as well as a backup of all those images which I can spend a bit more time on in Lightroom to create a cohesive set of shots with details tweaked for each image.

My one photographic regret in Cyprus this year was not taking my wide-angle lens, the 10-20mm model I picked up earlier this year. In the same was as I fell for the ‘nifty’ 50mm f1.8 many years ago, and swore by it for most situations, I now find I ‘see’ in the 10-20mm in a more natural way. So often now I find that my previously widest lens, a 24mm, is not quite wide enough to capture a whole scene, whether in a confined space, or as a streetscape where I want roofs and roads all in one. When I find myself having to take 6-9 shots as a set for later stitching together, I know I am missing a wide angle lens.

Of course, luggage was limited, so the bulkier 10-20mm lens stayed at home. As did the Minolta, this time (which, in a nice contrast with the above passages, this time has colour film inside!). But still: I’m very happy with a good load of pictures I took on this trip, and I will enjoy revisiting them in the coming weeks and months, first as objects to edit and refine in Lightroom, and then hopefully in the pages of the inevitable photo book I create.


I had some other miscellaneous things to cover:

I’ve run my first couple of Parkruns since before the pandemic, and enjoyed them both. The first – the wonderfully flat Victoria Dock route – saw me break my 5k PB by some margin, which felt great. A recent regime of, in July, running every day*, and then in August trying to run in 30c+ temperatures in Cyprus, has given me a basic level of fitness that seems to mean I am finding myself running well with little effort, for which I am hugely thankful.

* This silly endeavour was brought on by my pal Sam Bail and I am grateful to her for the nudge to do it. Settling into a rhythm of not thinking ‘will I run today?’ but ‘when shall I fit my run in, today?’ was good and felt healthy both physically and mentally. Some days were a drag, but most were good, and some especially so. I covered 200km in a single month, which is huge for me.

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I have a few draft posts that sit here trembling and unsure of whether or not they will see the light of day. A recent Beau Miles YouTube video in which he shows and describes some unfinished but not meritless videos has inspired me and reminded me of the old adage: the perfect is the enemy of the good. So I may do a drafts roundup.

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On a not-unrelated note, Megan Hallinan recently included a passage in her blog that indicated that, just like everyone, she at times questions the point in writing at all, and even alludes to an alternative timeline in which she simply stops writing. As someone who, without fail, gets something – inspiration, humility, humour, hope – from every single post she publishes, it came as a shock to me that this resource could possibly be finite.

Somewhat selfishly, I have carried this point in my head ever since I read it, and am using it as an inspiration to just write, as well as to indirectly tell her how important her blog is to me.

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As usual, there’s a bunch of other stuff I could think to add, but I’ve hit more than a thousand words (and, unfortunately, so have you), and that feels plenty for now.

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