At last …

… credit where it is due, Nikon have finally done the decent thing.  Earlier this week I took delivery of a brand new Nikon D610 to replace the three year old, and seriously flawed, D600.  A few days later the invoice arrived – total cost £0.  I am of course delighted and the last few nights I have been re-studying the many-paged manual in earnest.  Not that there is any difference between the two models (at least none that I can remember) but I had grown seriously disaffected with the camera and the brand.  Sitting on the shelf, the subtleties of its dials, buttons and menus are soon forgotten.

It remains to be seen just how much I will use it.  The Fuji X100s is still my weapon of choice not just because it is small, easy to carry about, beautifully retro and produces such wonderful results but because it is so intuitive – yes, it too comes with a many-paged manual but I rarely look at it.  The dials are entirely consistent with a ‘proper’ camera and the menus easy to navigate, which prompts the question, will I be able to resist the rumoured 24MP X100F.

Enough of the hardware – the skies above Northumberland have been putting on a show this last week and here they are.  The stills are captured with the Fuji and the videos with the even more diminutive GoPro Hero 4.  The first two are time lapse recordings across the neighbouring fields and the last, a ten minute edited drive in the Elise from Hexham to Warkworth Golf Club (across country via Corbridge for fuel, Fenwick, Whalton and Morpeth):

Hexham sunset ... Hexham by night ... Hexham skyline...

A week of change …

This is a collection of images from a week of change.  Down the Birkey Burn there are signs of leaf fall and the woodman has been wielding his axe.  In expectation of some autumnal rides, the Scrambler has been fitted with a new FEK (fender eliminator kit) and front indicators to replace the ugly chrome originals.  The sun has emerged but the temperature has dropped so the Elise has got its hat on and walks down the Tyne and Derwent have been illuminated by a bright low sun.  The competitive golf season is near an end for another year – change is in the air.

Messin' about ... Walk along ... FEK installed today ... Woodman spare that tree ... The Birkey Burn ... Perfect morning ... So much neater ...

Photo Challenge: Blur

This is a lethal combination: 135bhp in a car weighing just 740kg in the hands of my middle son, Matt. He spent too much of his upbringing in the company of a madman behind the wheel (:-)) to be trusted with such exotica. More relevant and nearer the truth, my bank balance would not stand the premiums if he were added to the insurance.

Consequently, in this image, both man and machine were stationary and the blur added retrospectively – a much cheaper, virtual solution:

Matt and Elise...

(click on the image to enlarge)

The devil …

… is in the detail.  This is blatant self-promotion but I trust I will be forgiven. I have been working on another promotional poster for Golf in the Wild, trying to convey its real ‘charm’ i.e. it is about much more than golf.  The detail in the image connects with some of the topics – the Great War medals belong to my maternal grandfather whose exploits appear regularly throughout; the AA (Automobile Association) badge is the one that adorned all of the family cars that I grew up in and with, starting with this one; the ignition key with Lotus badge is from here and connects with the motor racing of the 1960s and 70s, a teenage obsession that is referenced throughout; the background images are from the Armistice Day edition of the London Illustrated News, the day my great Uncle Billy was buried; the card in the top left hand corner is from Uncle Charlie’s collection, one of the many from his lady friends; the rose is just a rose.
Golf in the Wild ...
The ‘On sale here’ text box is ‘cunningly’ positioned to be replaced with an alternative text label e.g. book signing at The Gale Centre, Gairloch – 13th April 2015 🙂

The Outer Limits

I have been sat too long at the keyboard again this week so I became determined to take some ‘exercise’. This is not exercise in the conventional sense as it involves playing around in the garage, my second home. To be precise I am cleaning underneath the arches, the bits of the beloved that nobody sees; this is an annual ritual.  Emerging from the garage into the light, I chanced to look up and see this cloud formation above the trees. It reminds me of The Outer Limits – to be precise Series 1, Episode 4, The Man with the Power. A man’s anger is transformed into a menacing cloud which ultimately wreaks vengeance upon the subject of his resentment. This line of cloud looks like it might become something else – like I say, I have been at the keyboard too long in recent weeks. (best to click on the image to enlarge as the tree looks very fuzzy in its compressed state).

Above the trees

It is that dead time of the year in the northern hemisphere. This morning the temperatures have risen but the rain and heavy clouds have returned. One way of alleviating the winter blues is to plan adventures for the rest of the year – I am Googling around planning three at the moment. And then, a tweet from Craig Potter announces a new Elbow video. Album #6 cannot be far behind – suddenly, there is a spring in my step:

Motorcycle diaries

This is one of the earliest photographs of my mum; she is stood next to her dad’s motorcycle and sidecar with the infamous Mrs Kipper securely fastened aboard in furs and compulsory hat.  Mum looks to be about four so I would guess this is the summer of 1927 – no helmets for the passengers in those days, the speed of the bike, the state of the Hampshire roads and Mrs Kipper probably militated against any dare-devilry: “Slow down Fred my hat’s coming off!”

Motorcycle diariesAs a teenager there was never any possibility of me acquiring a motorbike – “too dangerous; not to be trusted; you would break your neck” are just a few of the phrases that echo down the years.  Judging by my subsequent exploits in a Mini 850 my parents were probably right, nevertheless, it is odd that my mother, raised with motorcycles, should be so set against them (Peg was always Chief Whip).  She passed away in May 2012 and in a final act of rebellion there I was, just a few months later, taking my CBT and buying my first motorbike.

This was the start of an unexpected journey – my RV125 Suzuki Van Van is a sensible, modestly powered first bike, ideal for roaming the back lanes of deepest Northumberland with none of the effort required by a pushbike.  Feeling moderately confident on two motorised wheels and embarrassed by the ugly learner plates, I decided it was time to acquire a full licence.  This is a complicated process in the UK but suffice to say I am old enough and therefore deemed sensible enough to acquire the full Category A licence which meant supervised riding on a significantly more powerful Honda CBF600. The first time out on one of these machines, scales fell from my eyes – so this is what all the fuss is about – four wheels moves the body, two wheels move the soul – I was hooked.  No longer a ‘nice to have’, the full licence became an imperative.

Honda CBF - Newcastle

It has been a long and testing summer which involved re-learning how to behave on the road with two wheels after developing 45 years of bad habits on four.  The experience has been enlivening and frustrating, culminating in the on-road test which I finally passed this week having previously gone through the rigors of the theory and manoeuvrability tests.

And so to the real point of this post – an electronic thank you to Newcastle Rider Training who had the wit, intelligence and patience to teach this old dog a new trick.  In order of those most exposed to my limitations – many thanks to Kevin, John and Neil – in particular Kevin whose patient tones I can still hear through the headphones as I invented yet more ways of doing things wrong.  If you live in the Newcastle area and want to learn to ride a motorbike, these guys are the best.

Now I have the wonderful prospect of trading in the 125 and acquiring a meatier machine – if you are aware of the design connection between a certain bike manufacturer and the Beloved, you can guess where I am heading next 🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

Following on from an earlier post, these are a couple of photographs of the Beloved’s innards.  The weather has been dire these last few days so anything that keeps me occupied inside is welcome:

Elise 135 Series 1 Elise 135 Series 1

Continuing broadly along the same theme, the movie Rush has just been released in the UK, the story of the 1976 F1 Championship fought out between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. There was a time when getting ‘inside the ropes’ at F1 was open to everyone prepared to fork out a few shillings for a paddock pass. This provided the opportunity to photograph cars and drivers ‘up close and personal’, limited only by my ability to afford the necessary rolls of Tri-X Pan. This is Niki Lauda as I prefer to remember him, before the ravages of time and fire took hold – still a young lad finding his way:

Niki Lauda(click on images to enlarge)