Friday, November 16, 2007


Hiatus, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

I'm not sure if it's the dictionary definition or not, but you take one of these when the disk with your photos crashes, and you have to boot your computer into Knoppix while ddrescue attempts to recover your data. In some ways, it's quite nice to be using Linux again, although most of my photo software was on the damaged drive (and works in windows in any case) so I'm having a bit of a break from flickr and processing photos while the recovery runs. As Knoppix is a livecd, running from a RAMdisk, there's not much point in setting up permanent alternatives either, although I did make sure that ddrescue's logs go to a permanent location.

In other news, we should be moving house soon, and the fact that I *can't* do much photography stuff is, if I'm honest, probably helping to get more packing done, so it's not all bad.

Lastly, Mr. Boncey has an interesting blog about his experiences of cycle commuting (he seems to have started at roughly the same time of year as me). I found it on CycleCluster, and thought it might be worth adding my experiences from my commute to the general fund of knowledge too.

I did the first couple of days of my commute in cotton t-shirts and generic baggy shorts. I found quite quickly that I'm not fit enough to do 8 miles each way at a decent clip and not sweat. I also found that cotton gets wet, stays wet, and rubs under your rucksack very uncomfortably. For that reason, I invested in some "proper" cycling tops, which wick sweat away, dry quickly, and keep me feeling comfy.

I like the "road" style jersey myself, fairly slim cut, and two or three useful pockets in the back. People not wanting to look too hardcore could go for a technical t-shirt, or "freeride" style top. Although opinions very, I'd say get them brightly coloured, and make sure they have decent reflective bits on them (or suplement with something like this). Loose tops will flap about at speed, so unless you're a pootler, or incredibly self conscious, a degree of snugness is good.

In terms of shorts, what you wear really depends on what you carry, and where, in my experience. If you're using pockets, cycle specific baggy shorts make a lot of sense, because they're cut to allow things to sit comfortably whilst you're in the riding position. I favour Altura's "Ascent" short myself). I supplement those with either cycling shorts (cheap Decathlon ones) or dhb bib 3/4 longs in winter, worn underneath the baggies.

Incidentally, you can find some useful rules of thumb for Winter/cold weather here - (see "Knowing How Much is Enough"). I like a short sleeve jersey with a l/s base layer myself, although long sleeve jerseys can be good too.

Whether you need padded shorts or liners will depend very much on your ride length, saddle/bike type, and how comfortable you are - I reckon they're a worthwhile purchase, but then I ride a road bike with a fairly unforgiving saddle.

On Gear
Even in summer, you'll need gloves - they protect your palms in the event of a fall or crash, and help soak up some of the vibration from the road. If you ride straight bars, especially using grip shifters, they'll stop you ending up with blisters too.

I favour Specialized's BG Comp mitt - the body geometry padding works fantastically well, and my hands feel far better at the end of the commute than they did in my old mitts. In the colder weather, I've simply added Altura glove liners underneath. The jury is still out on this - my fingers are warm enough, but I'm not sure the liners will last more than one winter.

A nice addition to a saddle bag is a tri-bag - these are small, top tube mounted bags that sit just behind the handlebar stem. I use a Topeak one with a rain cover that holds a small cycle spanner and a glueless patch kit, it'll also fit a mobile, keys or energy bars too. Keep stuff in here that you might want to get to mid ride without having to get off and go into the saddle bag.

Also on my bike are;
  • an Exertec saddle bag with spare tube, spanner (to fit seat tube clamp and saddle adjustment bolt) and glued patch kit. On a more modern bike, this would contain a multi-tool, but my bike (aside from the handlebar stem) is entirely allen key-less meaning that a spanner for each bolt is necessary. (I'm a fairly firm believer that it's a good idea to be able to tighten/loosen anything on the bike as necessary, wherever you are).
  • Blackburn Mars 3.0/Quadrant Light set (plenty bright enough to be seen by, but if your commute isn't streetlit, you'll need a more powerful front light to see with).
  • Kryptonite Cable Lock - basically because my bike is locked up in a fairly secure building - if I left it elsewhere, I'd add a good D lock to that.
  • Pump - riding a road bike, you'll quickly realise that there is a reason that cheap pumps are cheap, and that's because they can't get your tyres above 60psi (if you're lucky). When you're looking for pressures of 100-120, I recommend this Topeak Road Morph G as the best portable pump I've used. 120 psi is easily achievable using it, and it doesn't start to leak air/become impossible to move above 40psi either. It's only downside is the mounting bracket (it mounts to the front, rather than side of the bottle cage bosses, meaning you have to give up a bottle cage to mount it, or use the supplied (and admittedly very good) zip tie kit). I carry a Revolution mini pump as an "enough air to get me home" back up too.
  • Last, and probably least, I have a ping bell - I'm not entirely sure why, as everyone ignores it, other than people of a certain age (who probably remember what the sound means).
On other people;
I think my favourite response to my saying that I was cycling to work each day was a friend who said "Well, I think you're very brave" in the tone of someone consoling a friend with a serious disease. As Boncey says, I've been surprised at how much fun I've had, even at my lamentable level of fitness (and how rapidly that has improved). My commute is currently 8 miles, give or take, and I honestly reckon nearly anyone could do it. The key to the route, as Paul Dorn has said, is not to think like a car driver;

"A big reason why many people don't commute by bike is because they think like motorists. As drivers, they know that the quickest way to get from Point A to Point B is by Route C. Unfortunately, Route C features abundant high-velocity traffic, plenty of potholes and rough pavement, a few steep hills and several dangerous intersections. Not very attractive even for a seasoned cyclist, let alone a beginner. ...

However, there just may be a Route D that runs parallel to Route C. Route D features slower - and thus less abundant - traffic, and is flatter with good pavement, more trees, interesting scenery and many smiling pedestrians."

Obviously there were no TfL maps for me, but the guys at my local bike shop suggested a great route, which is the one I use every day now.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Confiserie, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

You might be surprised to know that this particular patisserie & confiserie was still in business, judging by the state of the sign, but it is. It's in Chartres, just off the Place Des Epars, and splendid it is too.

L'Esperance, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

This sign feels like something of an icon to me, although there are many in this pattern all over the area of the Perche. Although L'Esperance is on the excellent Michelin road atlas of France, it was sadly missing from both Tom Tom europe and the (truly dreadful) folding map I bought on the ferry. We were fortunate indeed to encounter a motorcyclist in Remelard who was able to give us directions, and offer a cheery "Bonne Route!"

It stands at the cross roads where "Forest View" is, and as such marked the start of a lot of memorable trips, and the return to what felt like home for the weeks we stayed there.

Tour Group
Tour Group, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

This is the sort of candid I normally do, i.e. somewhat accidental, and largely due to people being in shot. I've spent a fair bit of time going through the shots from Notre Dame, trying to whittle them down somewhat. It's hard with such a spectacular location, so there'll be a few more yet, I'm afraid.

These arches are one of the many incredible features of the cathedral. The artistry and skill with which these individual pieces of stonework are carved boggles the mind.

Lastly, here's an addition to my "Best Side" set. People taking photos of other people fascinate me, and I've neglected that particular interest for a while lately. Hopefully I have a few more to add to the set on the memory cards from my travels lately.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

France, Digitally

Marked, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Just to show that it's not all film, here's a quartet of digital pictures from my holiday in France a few weeks ago. I enjoy digital sometimes, and like the D70 (with it's Agfa Optima custom curve) a lot.

The shot above was taken on a walk near Forest View - basically you turn left out of the entrance, and head up the hill to the road running through the forest. I was on foot here, but it's a great ride on a bike too, with an 8km run up to Bretoncelles available once you leave the forest, or a leisurely freewheel back the way you came. The markings are, I assume, something to do with forestry - I never saw anyone working in the woods while I was there, although there was a sign for a forestry company on the opposite side of the main road.

Meadow, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Walking up the road to the forest, you'd have passed this meadow, and the farm pictured below. The meadow is a shot I'm quite disappointed with, as I'm convinced there's something better to be had from this, although none of my shots captured it.

Ferme, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

You can see the same field pictured in "Meadow" in the lower part of this frame, I assume it belongs to the little farm you can see nestling in the trees. I love the colour in this one, I have to say, and it's a testament to the quality of the D70 that it renders this scene so nicely.

I've placed this shot with the one you see below to contrast the colour rendering used for each shot - I felt the forest needed to be more muted than the greens and yellows of "Ferme" (I'd have shot it on a neutral film like Astia, had we been doing things on 35mm).

Stop, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Pedants may wonder "Why not Arretez?" I don't know, is the honest answer. I'm very pleased with this shot though, I think the muted colour suits the light and tone from the forest really well.

Posting these was a bit rushed, as a 10 minute job I had to do for work at 8pm last night turned into an hour of head scratching and database querying. Prior to that, I had, of course, decided to re-wrap the handlebars of my bike (Bike Ribbon Cork Plus, and I went for C35, thanks for asking). In fact, I'd not only decided to, I'd already taken the old wraps off :/

Wrapping the bars didn't take too long, and as with any little bike maintenance job, I learnt a fair bit doing it (largely what not to do next time, sadly). I'd recommend Park Tools' repair how-to on the subject as an excellent resource for the first timer. (I wrapped using the method described for making the wrap self tightening on the dropped part of the bar, as I ride here a lot). The tape feels lovely to ride with - much grippier in the wet than the thin, shiny ribbon that was on the bars, and more comfortable because of the extra cushioning provided by the fairly thick, spongy tape.

Incidentally, I was unimpressed by Bike Ribbon's finishing tape - use electrical tape, as you'll end up covering the finishing tape with it anyway.

Today also marked my first commute with rain all the way - not as unpleasant as I thought it would be, although the gate in Bruntwood Park (a nice, traffic free cut through) was locked, causing me to have to retrace my steps, and cost about an extra 5-10mins on my journey.

If anyone's interested, my cycleometer (thanks Kellogs) shows that, including this morning's commute (3 journeys, as I only fitted the unit on Monday night), I've done 1hr 52mins on the bike, 24.53 miles, at an average speed of 13.14 mph, and a top speed of 23.71 mph (probably downhill, with the wind behind me).

Monday, September 3, 2007

The End

Place Des Epars
Place Des Epars, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

...Or at least, the end of the DVD Forums photo a day challenge, in any case. I could have completed this sooner, if I'd stuck to my original plan of dev'ing each film at the end of the week. It was the last roll, of HP5+ that threw me though - some unseasonably nice weather, (or a bit nice for shooting at 400ISO, anyway) and then a period of not having much time to shoot meant that it was finished very late. Anyway, the roll provides the last shot of this year's challenge, so perhaps the waiting wasn't all in vain.

The shot above is one of two considered for the 30th - this rather conventional view of the Place Des Epars won out in the end at least partly because of the desire to show off some APX25. The light this day was incredible too, making this a better choice perhaps than the other contender.

Lux, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

The last shot of this year's challenge is this, taken in the Gite at Forest View, largely to fulfil my 5 shot a day quota for the last day of the challenge. I do like the light and shade of this, and I'm a sucker for a lot of space in the frame, so this ends this July's shots from me.

Friday, August 31, 2007

La Bas

La Bas, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

I must apologise for not posting context for my more recent images - I've been a little bit busy, largely repairing my daughter's bike (every time she falls off it, she seems to lose a piece from it).

Most recently, she managed to mess up her front brake (in that one side came off completely - the housing carrying the cable through, I think it's called a brake noodle, had also broken). Using bolts &c supplied by the excellent Bicycle Boutique (in Manchester, just behind the Sugden Centre off Grosvenor Street) I've made them good as new.

Bicycle boutique also supplied the natty new brake hoods I've fitted to my tourer (my main commuting bike). New tape for the bars will be the next treat this bike gets, I think. I rode my hybrid again (the bike to which I was fitting mudguards) yesterday, and was amazed by how sluggish it feels compared to the tourer - the seating position feels somewhat odd too, after riding drop handlebars.

This week will mark the second week of my commute to work on the bike, an experience I've largely enjoyed, despite occasional and momentary bowel loosening terror thanks to my fellow road users. I'm not sure how many car drivers read my blog (or how many people full stop), but in the interest of fostering greater understanding;

1) Yes I do know there's a cycle path. I generally prefer to use them when they aren't so pitted and potholed that bits fall off my bike when I ride through them. I also prefer not to use that one where the camber is so steep that I end up fighting it alll the way just to stay off the kerb. I also don't like using the ones with broken glass strewn liberally across them. Rest assured I do use them when it's safe to.

2) I do have to come away from the side of the road/out of the cycle path to pass parked cars. I try to do this in good time because I don't want to suddenly swerve in front of you. I'm sorry that I'm straying into the bit of road you regard as yours, but I'm not up to jumping vans/cars/lorries in a single bound just yet.

3) Yes I am quite a long way from the kerb. I do this because when I cycle nearer to it, some people (not you, I hasten to add, I'm sure you're very responsible and considerate) take it as an invitation to pass me with barely a cigarette paper's width[1] between me and their vehicle. Cycling where I do also gives me room to manouver out of your way/someone else's way should there be a need to. I might also be keeping out of glass/potholes/grids. I'm not trying to annoy you, I promise, as I'm very aware of the discrepancy between the sizes, weights, and speeds of our vehicles, and an annoyed person + their car is not a combination I'm anxious to deal with.

4) It does help if you don't roll your car into the marked cycle waiting bit at traffic lights. If I can get in there, I can clearly indicate whether I'm going ahead, left or right to you, and I know that you or another driver isn't going to turn left in front of me. Speaking of traffic lights, whizzing past me, nearly sending me flying, just so you can arrive at a red light two seconds before me seems a bit pointless, don't you think[2]?

5) If you're waiting to pass me, please do so by following about a cars length behind, if not more. Sitting just off the right side of my back wheel means that I can't turn right (I may need to), that a pothole might bounce me into you and reduces my capability to give us both room in the event of something happening ahead. Please also pass me giving plenty of room (at least half a car's width is terrific), for the latter two reasons.

6) A huge thank you to the many considerate and patient drivers I've encountered - I try to acknowledge people that wait for me to pass parked vehicles &c where I can - it is much appreciated. Sadly, I only have to encounter one person who isn't like you for something very bad to happen - hence my somewhat defensive style of riding.

[1] This happens particularly often on narrow roads - if you can't pass me where I am, it is not safe to pass me when I'm nearer to the kerb, believe me.

[2]Grey Xsara Picasso, Turves Road, Cheadle last night - I hate people who pass me next to traffic islands - neither of us have enough room in case of emergencies, and the draft from passing so close can quite easily send me into the kerb or another car.

No picture post last night, because I finally got 'round to developing the roll of HP5+ that has the last of my holiday shots, and PaD shots on it. I've decided to go back to my roots with this roll, and dev in 1+29 LC29, which you may remember (or not) was where we came in with this whole homedev lark. I'm not sure how many rolls I've done in total, but there's still something very satisfying about unspooling the negs and leaving them to dry - I guess peering at them trying to figure out what you have is the closest film comes to chimping.

I shall be scanning the cut negs tonight, and then hopefully posting the final days of the PaD challenge.

Monday, August 27, 2007

It Happened Like This...

Quarante #1
Quarante #1, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

We start today with a nearly matching pair of photographs, both of a lovely bit of sweeping road that eventually joins the D11 (I think) heading for Remelard. This shot was taken from the saddle of the bike kindly lent to me for the week by the proprietors of Forest View (Vue Sur La Foret). It shows just some of the beautiful countryside nearby, of which you'll see more in future posts. The camera in use is the marvellous Olympus XA2, ideal for sticking in a jersey or shorts pocket for when you're out and about.

In any case, these shots have jumped the queue somewhat in being posted because of something that could be of interest to you film shooters. I've mentioned before that I quite often scan my black and white negatives in colour, largely because I like the tones it gives. The shot above is scanned normally, i.e. the scanner set to colour negative, and the scanning settings to 24bit colour. (The film being Fuji's lovely Superia 100).

Quarante #2
Quarante #2, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

This frame has been scanned with the film type set to black and white negative, and the colour settings at 24bit colour. It gives a slightly off kilter, cross processed feel to the shot, I think.

Limite Bains Surveilles
Limite Bains Surveilles, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

We do the PaD shots from this post in reverse date order, beginning with this, representing the 28th of July. This is one of a number of shots I took at Quiberville, a town we stayed at for one night to break the journey from Dieppe to Remelard up a little. There'll be a little more of Quiberville to come, as it's quite a lovely place.

Bon Voyage!
Bon Voyage!, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

The 27th was the day we travelled down to Newhaven, and looked quite unpromising for the required 10 shots from the day. I took some of motorway service station picnic tables (which you won't be seeing) - however, having arrived a bit too early for the crossing, we took a break at Seaford, which is as beautiful and photogenic as one could wish for, and you will be seeing more of it. However, today's photo a day choice is this sign from the port at Newhaven, which has obviously seen better days.

One thing I keep forgetting to mention in these posts is the story of the roll of T-Max from which the shot above came. I reached the end of the roll in mid winder stroke, and foolishly tried to advance to the end of the stroke - this only accomplished pulling the end of the film from the spindle in the canister. At that point I had 36 frames of PaD material loose inside the F3, and in the interests of taking only what I needed, had left my darkbag at home :/ With necessity being the mother of invention, and all that, the camera was opened in an improvised darkbag consisting of my blackest sweatshirt, under the duvet of one of the beds in the gite, and the film taped back onto the spindle and rewound. It doesn't seem to have done any harm to the images, although I was worried that some light might have leaked in.

Darkness, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Lastly, we have this, from the 26th, and quite possibly the worst day of this year's PaD for me. It threw it down all day, and the only shots I got were two of this rusty lamp post in the centre of Manchester.

In other news, regular readers will be pleased to hear that the mudguards are now fitted to my bike - taking the wheels off (rather than threading the 'guards around them) really helps, and I recommend that approach to you whole heartedly. Also make sure that you have the chain and derailleur ready to go back to their normal position when you put the back wheel back on, as no one likes to hear swearing like that at that time of day.

I've also acquired a Nigel Dean touring bike (drop bars, but slightly less rigid frame than a true racer, and full mud guards &c) on which I commuted to work last week. If all you've ever ridden are mountain bikes or hybrids, I recommend trying a road bike - they're very good fun indeed.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Shopfittings, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

So, back to the July Photo a Day challenge, with this shot from July 22nd, now that all the films are processed and scanned. First off is this shot, taken on the Manchester Flickr group's meet a few weeks ago. I took about 16 frames at the meet, and eventually plumped for this view, down a rainy street in the Northern Quarter.

It was great to meet some other Manchester photographers, although I'm not sure that the pub/photography balance wasn't slightly off...

Untitled, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

This is the first shot I took of this gentleman, (I really have to start asking people's names) and the one I liked the best, I have to say, which makes it July 23rd's photo of the day. A thoroughly nice bloke, and a great character.

Untitled, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

This is the second uploaded shot from the 23rd, and I really struggled to choose between the two. Here, he's explaining to a curious customer (the F3 I was using not being a discrete camera) that grocery is only his day job, and that he's really a model "...for corn plasters..."

Larger versions of this are at the lab now, and I'll be dropping the prints off to him hopefully at some time next week.

The next two shots are both taken with the FE, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AF-N, and Efke KB100. This isn't a film I've used before, and I think I like it. July 24th's shot is this one, a chance opportunity I spotted on the way back from the city centre.

I think I've mentioned before that I'm not overly keen on the "candid" "Street" photography aesthetic in my own stuff, I'd far rather ask, and engage with people a little. However, I do like the combination of the billboards and the guy eating his sandwiches by the canal.

I find the advertising around the "Origin" building site rather annoying, (I suspect that I'm not the target demographic, having said that). It's nice to see its pretensions punctured slightly by the lives of Mancunians going on around it.

63, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Another shot from the FE + 50 f/1.8 AF-N + Efke KB100 combination rounds off this post, with this photo representing July 25th. This is a fairly stereotypical urban grime shot, which I guess bookends nicely with the shot that opens this blog post.

Again, I must apologise for my absence from posting and commenting - I will, however, offer the advice that fitting mudguards to a bike is a job best left to your bike shop. Believe me.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Victory, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

We begin today with another digital shot of the War Memorial at Aberystwyth, on Castle Point, as featured in previous posts.

This is a detail of the Victory figure on the top of the monument. For more details, and an overall view of the piece, see this post.

Chairs, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Here's some more Adox CHS25, souped in APH09. I really love the look of this film, and I quite like this shot. It was originally intended to be part of the "Legs" project, but I ummed and ahhed about whether the Leg-ness of it was plain enough for it to belong there. My feeling is that the subject is far more the chairs as a whole, and so it wasn't included.

The picture was taken just off Oxford Road in Manchester, outside Felcini's restaurant. The canal towpath affords a nice low viewpoint, and I couldn't resist one shot making the most of the lines in their decking. I must return here again, as their chefs a) wear whites and b) often take their breaks outside.

It Came From Outer Space
It Came From Outer Space, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Another Adox CHS25 shot - this time in Barbolli Square, Manchester. Not one of my best, but I do like the large sculpture that dominates the left of the frame. This photograph is an attempt to convey the otherworldliness of the stone in this setting.

Diamond, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Lastly, some Velvia, and a detail of Krek's piece on New Wakefield Street (you can see another part of it in "E for Eyes" and "O for Orange"). I really like this piece, it's so rich in detail that one can have any number of photographic takes on it.

Sadly, the place that the LCE on Picadilly Gardens used to send my slide film to has gone bust. Whilst I can still send stuff to Peak, I suppose, I think it's a bit of a shame, and probably indicative (although I wish it wasn't) of where film is headed.

Lastly, I apologise for my absence in terms of posting and commenting lately - I've been away for a few weeks (France, Bognor Regis, Somerset), and then busy processing the films (4x rolls of black and white of various speeds). I hope to resume a more normal pace soon :)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sea Fog

The Dragon at Corris
The Dragon at Corris, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

We're chronologically mixed up today, I'm afraid, with the later photo first in the blog. This little dragon and wall were taken at the Corris Craft Centre, which we passed on our way home.

The dragons are incense burners, made by a local potter, and there's a few in the centre around his shop. I chose this dark coloured specimen against the light wall for my picture, and although not the sharpest pic I've ever taken, I quite like the whimsy of it.

Sea Fog
Sea Fog, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Here we have a view in black and white (specifically Adox CHS25) of the sea fog pictured in yesterday's Velvia pic. Again, the Adox film, R09 developer and Vivitar lens have combined to produce this fabulous vintage look - this is a combination I really like.


Shirley, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

This shot is one I'd meant to take all that week, and represents the 19th of July in the DVD Forums Photo a Day for July Challenge. The person in it is my friend Shirley, who finished work with us in that week, moving on to what I hope will be better things for her.

This is the frame I like best out of the five I took, as I think it shows her character better than any.

Lunacy, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

You have no idea how much I wish I'd spotted this on the 18th, instead of the 20th. Still, even though I have no EXIF, I'm not about to cheat, and that probity places this image of the Cornerhouse's sign as the photo for 20th July. I've no doubt a degree of lunacy was beginning to set in for all of us at this point, with pictures being seen wherever we looked...

Flower, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Lastly, here's my image for the 21st. As has become par for this PaD, it belted down all day, so I put the close up filter on the 50mm, and wandered the garden looking for likely subjects.

This flower was the one I liked best from the frames I took.

In terms of shooting for today, rain and an office move kept me from accumulating too much, although I'm hopeful of a good shot from the two(!) I managed to take, both on the FE, leaving my frame counters at 18 a piece.

I'm away from my computer for a couple of weeks now, so I won't post anything else for a while. Those of you participating in the PaD, keep going - I will be, and flickrites, I hope to catch up on my commenting &c in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Qualities, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Reasoning, Causality, Planning, Humour, Mirthfulness and Wit. I guess at this point in the Photo a Day for July Challenge we might feel at the end of our reserves of each, although I have fairly positive memories of this day (18th July) so far as I recall.

The choice today was between a number of "Around the Home" style macros, and a couple of shots of my beautiful wife's fantastic legs. Given that, going for this detail of a phrenology head might seem a somewhat odd choice, indeed, looking at the words written, I'm tempted to agree.

However - there is a better composition of the legs shot though, and a number of weak points in the one I took on the 18th, so I'm leaving it for now, with the hope of retaking it later in the month.

PAD shooting so far today has been entirely done on the FE, with the frame counter now reading 16. I'm reasonably confident of some good stuff in those frames, so not overly worried about shooting anything on the F3 at this point.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Mystery of Floor H

The Mystery of Floor H
The Mystery of Floor H, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Tuesday 17th's shot from the Photo a Day for July Challenge is this, one of only 5 taken this day, mostly of the same location, and on the FE only because of a shutter problem with the F3 (resolved, touchwood, with the replacement of the batteries).

I'm not entirely happy with any of the pictures from this day, and I think my experiment with placing all my eggs in one basket can be accounted a failure on that basis. My usual approach is to shoot 2 or 3 ideas each day, and that, over the course of the challenge, seems to have been the better approach to take.

In terms of PaD progress today, we are at 18 frames on the F3, and 11 on the FE.

The Seaside, Again

Traeth Borth Beach
Traeth Borth Beach, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

This shot is the familiar (by now) one of my kids messing about on the beach. I guess one difference here is that behind you, as the viewer, and me, as the photographer, is the seating area of a rather nice pub, which is very civilised, I'm sure you'll agree.

I rather liked Borth, although the missus was unimpressed. It has a the air of a place that's seen better days, like a lot of British seaside towns, sadly. Despite that, it retains a certain charm, and the people we met there were lovely.

Aberystwyth, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Last of today's digital shots is this one, of the Aberystwyth sea front.

Beautiful, isn't it? I really like this part of Aberystwyth, although the town itself has something of a split personality in many ways, with the feel of the place changing entirely once you cross the bridge going away from the seafront. You can get some sense of just how nice the weather was from this picture, I hope, it really was beautiful.

The End
The End, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Here's another shot from Aberystwyth, this time a detail of a walkway that extends out into the sea from the prom. My kids loved swimming from and to this, and spent a fair amount of time doing so, when they weren't in the paddling pool up on the prom. This particular shot is another taken on Fujichrome Velvia RVP - bit blue, isn't it?

Pier, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Lastly, at least for today's Welsh shots, is this view of Aberystwyth's pier. This is such an imposing, dominating structure that I thought it would be interesting to place it in the very side of the frame.

Monday, July 23, 2007


Boxed, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Kicking off last week's shots from the Photo a Day for July Challenge is this bit of architectural detail from Manchester's Northern Quarter. This represents Day 16, and was vying for it's spot with a more straightforwardly attractive architectural picture. This one won out in the end, largely on the strength of my gut feeling about it being the stronger (albeit less obvious in its appeal) of the two.

This particular week of shots will be all Ilford, as the FE was loaded with FP4+, and the F3 with HP5+. Both films were developed last night in 1+4 Ilfotec DD-X, and scanned this evening, hence the late post, and lack of anything else, as I'm a bit tired.

In terms of today's PaD shooting, the FE is on 6, and the F3 16. The F3 has a roll of HP5+ that I loaded on Sunday, and the FE a roll of Efke KB100, a film I've never shot before, and will be interested to see once it's been developed.

The FE is mostly city fragments, and the F3 some portraits of the staff of a fruit stall in town, who were kind enough to allow me to take their pictures. I'm beginning to get the hang (although the developed film may tell its own tale) of focusing the manual focus Nikkors on the move, and was able to shoot as the guys moved around serving customers - I'm hopeful for some good stuff from those frames.

Lastly, you might have noticed some additional links on my PaD pictures - there are links to the relevant day's tags, so that this year and last year's pictures can be compared. Overall I'm pretty pleased, myself, and don't think the comparison is too unflattering to my photographic progress so far.


Flesh, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

This photo represents 14th July in the photo a day for July challenge. I've complained before about the photographic blight that is Saturday and Sunday most weeks, so I'm afraid this post consists of two items from the genre we might term "World of my Garden".

That said, I'm quite pleased with this one, taken with the FE, Nikkor 50mm and a Jessops +4 dioptre close up filter. The close up filter is an odd beast, imparting a sort of dreamy soft focus feel to almost everything, which I thought suited this gently decaying fuschia flower.

This may well be one picture that's better in black and white, as I think the intense colours of the flower might have overpowered everything else in the frame.

The title was originally "Sins of the Flesh", but got cut down at the point of uploading.

Rose, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

I'd not intended this to be a double post (or even a post at all), but I was knackered on Saturday night, and developing on Sunday, so here it is.

Sunday the 15th saw another day of being stuck inside, so the close up filter went on again and I worked 3 or four frames of this rose, from some flowers I'd got for the missus on our anniversary ( on the 13th). I liked this best of the bunch (arf!) because of the dark space around it, although I have a number where the flower fills the frame that are quite appealing too.

This Sunday (22nd) was spent at the Manchester Flickr Group meet - I managed to finish the roll of HP5+ I had on the go at the time, and to take a further ten frames after that, so hopefully Sunday 22nd's pic is somewhere in there.

Both rolls from last week were finished yesterday, developed at about 11:30pm, and cut ready for scanning this morning.

My hands still smell of fixer too - the stink of creativity, as I believe it's known in some circles :)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Pancake Cook

Pancake Cook, Manchester
Pancake Cook, Manchester, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

We reach Friday the 13th of July in the Photo a Day for July Challenge today, and this is my choice from the pictures taken that day, a portrait of a beautiful young lady who was working in Albert Square on a very rainy lunchtime. This portrait will also form part of my White Suit Project.

I was determined to use the 100mm f/2.8 lens to take this shot, because a 50mm would have been a bit too short (that sort of focal length distorts the face slightly if one is too close). The result is a slightly cramped composition, that includes less of the pancake stall than I'd have liked. Whilst I was trying to keep the lens under cover, I succeeded in positioning my neck directly under a dripping edge of the stall's roof, but it was the best position for the shot to be taken from. Whilst I'm complaining about my technical ability, I'll also mention the film, which I'd have liked to be less grainy, but I couldn't have shot slower film than 400ISO in the prevailing light.

Despite my shortcomings, I really like this portrait - she has a relaxed, confident air that really leaps from the frame, and I must express my thanks for her time and patience while I took her picture, and for her permission to do so. I'll be dropping off prints of the two pictures I took to her next week, hopefully.

In terms of shooting today, the FE is at 26, and the F3 at 23. An opportunity I thought might have arisen today didn't, hence the low count on the F3. I also have a horrible feeling that a lot of my stuff on the FE is rather dull urban space type fillers, but still, hope srpings eternal. I did leave moo cards with someone whose portrait I'd love to take, so hopefully I may have something good for at least one day next week.


Another four shots from Wales today, beginning with this interior shot, taken with the DVD Forums Monthly project for June ("Legs") in mind. I tried to have the chair legs echo the lines of the tiles here, which took a lot of moving around of chairs whilst squinting through the viewfinder. I'm not entirely sure it was worth it, but still. I guess fannying around with furniture reaches a point of critical mass - a shot has to be taken, so that the effort doesn't, at least, feel wasted.

Oh Buoy
Oh Buoy, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

This photograph, and dreadful pun, comes from the beach at New Quay, Ceredigion. The vivid green of the seaweed and algae is pretty true to life, believe it or not.

Another interior shot rounds off the trio of digital Welsh pictures today. The light, and arrangement of the pictures caught my eye here (notice how the window light falls in a swathe on the diagonal of the frame). It's simple, but quite satisfying, I think.

Post and Chain
Post and Chain, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

We finish again with a film shot, taken using Adox CHS 25 and developed in APH09. This post is on the same part of the beach as the buoy featured earlier, and its texture and detail would catch anyone's eye.

I'm going to print and frame this particular picture, after which it will be offered as a prize (I suspect a fairly low placed prize, but still) in a charity auction. I really like it, and I hope its eventual owner feels it has some appeal.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It's Funny How they Follow You Around the Room

Today's Photo a Day for July picture was taken on my way back from the Blank Canvas exhibition.

This is a detail of the large piece that replaced the Stevenson Square Robot - essentially, it's a giant blue monster. I took a number of straight on, documentary type pictures of it, but nothing really clicked until I started to look for detail. This isn't my finest moment in this year's PaD, but I don't think it too shabby. Irritatingly, I could probably have come up with something better, had I thought quicker on my feet, as I got chatting to a fellow film shooter about cameras, and I daresay I'd have gotten a portrait if I'd thought to ask.

I'm hopeful for better things from today's shooting - counters are at 20 on the FE, and 21 on the F3. The F3 is largely portraits of one of my friends and co-workers, who is moving on to better things at the end of the week - I'm hopeful that I can mark the occasion with a decent portrait.

Hold Fast

More than You Can Chew
More than you Can Chew, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

My photo a day shots are now up to date (squarely one week behind), so you get four shots from Wales today, you lucky people.

First among them is this, a bit of debris from the beach at New Quay. I wondered about this broken net, positioned as it is near the rock. Do people try to catch rocks? Is that a good idea with such a flimsy net?

Planks, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Here's another shot of the door featured in my last set from Wales. This is a D70 shot, and whilst it lacks the punch of the Velvia, in some ways, I wonder whether a more muted look is better suited to the gentle decay of the paint and the rust of the hinges.

Beach, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

This piece of beach is slightly further along from the the broken net featured earlier. I liked the colours, and the way the lines in the rocks curve around into the fence restraining the rocks behind the beach.

Hold Fast
Hold Fast, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Lastly, here's some lovely Adox CHS 25. I took a few shots of this seaweed encrusted post, but this version on Adox' film is the one I really like, even though it amounts largely to a silhouette.