January 21, 2017
So today I went out to try out the new Zoom H6 and do a little field recording (in an actual field). I’ve got some audio I want to capture for an animation project I’m working on and had some specific sounds I wanted to try and get.
I’m generally aware of how close to flight paths I am but christ I didn’t choose the best place today. Knowl Hill is lovely, great scenery and generally quiet but it’s got the Heathrow flight path far too close and it’s dead in the path of the local airfield from which came a constant swarm of helicopters and biplane. Regular joggers and cyclists didn’t help much, trying to get a recording of some Red Kites and ended up with both Red Kites and the sound of a cyclist loudly clearing his throat as well. Slightly spooked a gang of power hikers while I was setting up at the side of a path, clearly the sight of a hairy man with a briefcase full of cables is a little offputting.
The H6 itself is bloody amazing. I tried out the XY mic which gave a wonderfully clean directional recording, I got some good clips of crunching ice, squeaky gates and footsteps through leaves, although I need to practice a bit more to get the levels right. Going to attempt to go deeper into the Chilterns (and check the map for airfields) in a couple of weeks.
Field recording face:
The lovely device with it’s furry hat:
September 4, 2016
I’ve been kicking through the long grass, ferns and ant battalions of Burnham Beeches recently. Working in Bourne End has it’s positives but the same spaces every day begin to lose their interest and the hard walk up Hedsor Hill which on a good day is bracing becomes a chore when anxiety is tactlessly scratching at my nerves. Work became hectic and I needed an escape so I’ve started driving out to the beeches. It’s not such a trek, and I probably get more use of my time as traveling on foot I lose the first 15 minutes of any journey just getting off the industrial estate and into the countryside.
I had forgotten what a varied and beautiful environment it was and there’s so much of it I’ve never explored. In an hour’s walk I can find meadows, deep woods, beautiful swathes of foxgloves and inquisitive deer, although only the latter on days I forget my camera. My ankles have seen more insect bites over the last couple of months than in a long time but I’ve renewed my love of this tranquil seclusion which I live so near to but rarely visit. If I can keep my focus now that autumn is here I’ll try and spend a couple of hours with the camera and field recorder putting something a bit more involved together.
Here’s a selection of recent shots of the wildlife of Burnham Beeches. Full set is here.
May 27, 2016
Christ I’m behind on blogging, unemployment would make this easier but then who would pay for the electricity?
Back in February I accidentally found a nature reserve in Oxfordshire – Jubilee Meadows near Wootton. I was up visiting a client who has an amazing office round the corner which overlooks a beautiful river (we were watching kingfishers out of their office window). As I tend to do I had turned up far too early and was too awkward to call them and ask if I could come and see them before we had planned so I just wandered round the area for a bit looking for public footpath signs (always a promise of adventure). I’d driven through Wootton and seen an amazing early morning view of mist over a flooded meadow so went back after the meeting (which was lovely) for a lunchtime wander.
Only saw one other person in the couple of hours I spent there, although it was February and quite cold but plenty of rabbits enjoying the peace and casting me begrudging glances for my intrusion into their quiet wilderness.
Here’s a video slideshow with some audio I recorded on the day.
The full set of photos is here. Here are my favourites:
March 17, 2016
It’s been a long year already and bought some unexpected changes, some harsh but which have over time worked out for the better. I’ve been putting off writing this for a good few weeks and that’s probably a good thing as I now have a better aspect on everything. A little distance helps the focus.
At the beginning of the year I had a checkup that came with the unpleasant news that my diabetes had become far worse over the previous year. This was particularly shocking as prior to this it had been under control to the extent I had been given the official “sod off, you don’t need our help any more” from my doctor. At the time of the checkup it was worse than when I was first diagnosed and seemingly in decline. Since then I’ve made some severe changes to my lifestyle (which was hardly excessive to start with) which will hopefully have put me back on track, I won’t know for a few months until I next see the doctor.
More importantly (to me), I have been struggling with my mental health. This is not a recent thing, it fluctuates like a wonky LFO in a cheap synth. Over the last few months the lows were getting lower and the highs were not happening, I’m actually grateful for the doctors appointment for the diabetes because it enabled me to bring it up without needing to make a specific appointment, which I wouldn’t have done. In a hilariously understated middle class manner I mentioned I sometimes felt a bit sad (translation: spend a lot of my life crying in car parks) and was there anything he could do. I’ve been referred to a counselling service and am currently doing an initial course of CBT. This is really helping. I’m in no sense ‘fixed’, nor do I expect to be but I am dealing far better with things that I have been previously, I am incredibly relieved to have started this process. At this point I’ve been diagnosed with depression and generalised anxiety, I have problems with self esteem (or would do if I had any at all). I’m getting better.
I was initially wary of mentioning my mental health online, especially on this blog which is superficially about my art and photography but I feel it’s important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s had a massive impact on my life and has certainly influenced my creative output to a severe extent, predominantly by crushing it for a long time. Secondly, one of the reasons I finally spoke to my doctor was because I had seen other people publicly discussing their mental health problems and how they deal with them (among others Wil Wheaton, Rob Delaney and John Green). There is a stigma here, one I have felt deeply and they had helped give me the impetus to finally do something to try and fix my situation. While I am not quite at the level of those mentioned above I hope by openly and frankly discussing the subject I can in some small way help the discourse and possibly convince you to seek help if you need to. Seriously, feeling a bit sad on an all to regular basis? Go talk to someone. Always stressed, never sleep? Go talk to someone. Feel trapped in your own body and constantly screaming inside? Go talk to someone? Crying in your car five days a week? Go talk to someone.
It sounds so easy when you’re well “Go talk to someone” but I know it isn’t. If you are already struggling it can seem a massive scary challenge, especially if you are struggling with anxiety or social phobias. But please try, it can get easier. When I first spoke to my doctor I had all these fears about what was going to happen next. Would I be thrown out for wasting time? Would I be made to take terrifying drugs? Would I be laughed at and publicly ridiculed? None of these things happen, instead a very kind, patient and incredibly non-judgemental lady from the NHS talked to me for a while and helped me work out what would happen next. I’ve had nothing but kindness and care from the people who have been dealing with me.
I will talk more about this another time but for now I just want to say again, if you are struggling please talk to someone, it doesn’t have to be your doctor (although that’s a good starting point), just tell someone you can trust, it’s a starting point. It can get better.
There’s a lot of words there for something I was intending to get into one short paragraph, I should probably split this into two separate entries, but I’m not going to, this was intended to be an entry about photography and work/life balance and dammit it’s going to be.
Short break? Here’s a picture of a horse:
One of the biggest causes of woe (as has been chronicled here before) is my work/life balance and the anxiety that comes with it. As I’ve been discovering over the last few weeks this is a difficult and complex relationship which isn’t going to be fixed overnight. Back in January I had this plan (which I’ve since abandoned as bullshit) to work double shifts for a couple of weeks at a time then take an entire day off to go exploring and be alone with my thoughts. The idea being I would get a proper work free, responsibility free break. This was my first attempt.
I planned in advance where to go, Scott had told me about a bit of particularly beautiful forest in the Chilterns (near Turville) where he takes some amazing photographs. Scott even sorted me a map which I left at home because I’m a dick. Because I’m slightly less of a dick I had roughly memorised the route.
I set out at 8am at the starting point (outside St. Mary’s Church in Turville) then immediately panicked because I had my first telephone appointment with my mental health supporter at 9am and there was no phone signal. So I drove round for an hour and eventually made my way halfway home to a car park in Henley which had reasonable signal.
10am tried again. Annoyingly I’d missed the best sunlight and the beautiful frost which had covered the hills had mostly melted away. I did not give up. I followed my route saw some amazing scenery and the first proper moments of calm in a long time. I saw few people but those I happened upon were without fail friendly and welcoming.
After a while it became clear I had got lost. Mostly because I had been walking the circumference of the same field for 30 minutes and had no clue which way I should be going. After explaining this to a disinterested horse (see above) I had a bit of a panic. Initial feeling was to give up, find a car park to cry in then go home. Instead I opted to follow footpaths at random to see where they took me. This was infinitely better than crying in car parks, I strongly recommend it as a course of action.
It was a good day. I checked my email more than is sensible, I checked my voicemail more than is necessary, I thought about work more than I wanted, but I didn’t give in, I didn’t go back to work halfway through the day, I didn’t take any work calls, I took some reasonable photos and I found some personal space. I need to make this part of my regular existence but that’s a battle I still need to fight.
Things I learned:
Here’s some of my favourites:
March 5, 2015
I went back to Checkendon on a grey, drizzly day. Not what I’d hoped given how long I’d been meaning to find time to return. It’s not that far from where I live, but it’s just far enough to be a little too far to drop in just to trek across a field to see if a sculpture is still there.
Last year ended badly. Work had been going downhill at an increasing velocity and was starting to veer out of control. A combination of unfortunate circumstances and direct unpleasantness left me rinsed out and with self-worth in negative figures. January looked bleak, January always looks bleak, I needed to do something positive before complete disintegration.
One of my more insidious mental wrongs is the feeling that I need to be given permission to enjoy myself. I’ll think of something nice to do and rather than do it I put it off until work is good and bills are paid and the garden is tidy and the car is serviced and a thousand other things which have no connection or bearing on the situation. I want a grown up to tell me I’m allowed to go out and play, but I’m the grown up now and I don’t feel qualified. As an antidote to the horrors I planned to make a list of the local, and less local places I’d been wanting to take an hour or so out to go and photograph, book half a day off every couple of weeks to go and spend some time alone with a camera.
I didn’t quite have the mental momentum to actually book any time off, but as a middle ground whenever I travel to a meeting, I check my list and see if any of the locations are in the region. As it happened a few days later I had a meeting in Reading, which isn’t actually that close to Checkendon but it was in roughly the right direction so I took the opportunity to drive out there afterwards. I had no luck, driving around lost for a while I gave up and went home. Fortunately, my previous set of photos had been Geotagged so I dug one out and programmed the details into the sat-nav for the next opportunity.
The next opportunity came a couple of weeks later when visiting a friend in Oxfordshire, Checkendon was just a short detour from my route home, I set out from Wallingford in bright sunshine, which quickly gave way to clouds, then rain, then hail. I considered quitting and going home, but I give in too easily so I persevered. As I turned onto the B-Road into Checkendon I immediately recognised the high verge on the right and spotted the sculpture staring sadly across the field to my left. Being constantly afraid of being told off for parking where I shouldn’t I drove about half a mile down the road to find somewhere safe to leave the car.
The land the sculpture sits on is, I believe, private land. It’s clearly used quite heavily by the local youth for somewhere to loiter as there’s beer cans and litter scattered all around the base of the sculpture and piled up in front of the barn which seems to be deflating in slow motion, most of the roof now sitting on the ground. My anxieties vacillated between being told to “get off my land” and being mugged by drunk teenagers. My intention had been to take my time and try and get some really good shots but constant drizzle and restlessness sent me away sooner than I would have liked. Still getting to grips with the 7D, out of practice and with an unforgiving sky most of the shots are flat and lifeless, but a few of the close-ups give a good feeling for the stark solitude of it all. I will return.
I trekked back to the car feeling more positive, spotting some of the first snowdrops of winter making a cautious foray through the tangled hedges of Checkendon.
Snowdrops and solitude.
The sculpture in question is The Nuba Survival, which has thrown me slightly as I always believed it was called the Nuba Embrace. It was created by the English sculptor John Buckley. It’s in a field in Checkendon beside a collapsing barn. It’s emotive and thoughtful aided greatly by it’s odd location.
If you know of any other artworks in unexpected locations (preferable in the South East, UK) please let me know and I’ll try and visit them.
February 7, 2014
For a while now I’ve been tracking and photographing the wild trolleys of the urban plains of Maidenhead. You can now view my journal in it’s full splendour online:
Submissions are open and welcome.
October 30, 2010
Hello! I started writing this a couple of months ago (early September), but got interrupted by the birth of our son Alexander. To further complicate life we had an office move and some rather stressful work situations. It’s now nearly November and the first time I’ve looked properly at my website. I’ve decided against finishing the full review of the day, partly through failing memory but mostly, having re-read the unedited version it was dull as fuck. I want to post the remainder anyway because it was a truly ace day and it’s nice to have a reminder. This is why I am not a professional blogger.
Our baby is due in the next few weeks so I’m confined to the local vicinity for the next couple of months. My first War in the Park was a great last day out of the summer and a good chance to catch up with London (and Southampton) friends who I really don’t see often enough.
I went up with Emily and Katie, unfortunately Lady K couldn’t make it as ready-to-burst pregnancy doesn’t fit in so well with guerrilla festivals and sitting on muddy ground for hours.
War in the Park is an annual outdoor event featuring poetry, spoken word and unplugged acts, the official description:
We take over a space in a park which we announce a day or two before.
We advertise it by hijacking phone-ins on Radio 1 and XFm.
We book the best acoustic acts and the most amazing spoken word artists.
We book rock, industrial, metal and electronic acts and force them to play totally unplugged.
We get people to burn stuff.
This is WAR.
100% free, 100% untraceable, 100% uncontrollable.
This year WitP was in an abandoned playground in the corner of Burgess Park (Camberwell, just off the Old Kent Road).
Due to overplanning we turned up half an hour early. Tried to find a cafe of some sort but didn’t know the area at all and were both too damn lazy to work out how to use the apps on our phones to find the nearest eating facility. We walked aimlessly down the Old Kent Road hoping to find somewhere that matched our annoyingly middle class requirements. We walked the wrong way for about 45 minutes, passing nothing but manky looking KFC clones, ‘Saunas’, assorted religious buildings (lots of ‘Holy Ghost’ churches), hardware stores but nothing edible. Walked back the way we came and found plenty of options two minutes from where we started. After a bit of procrastination we went into a Bolivian restaurant which turned out to be pretty much targeted at the local Bolivian community. Food was excellent (mountain of roast pork, potato and something I had never seen before), occupants were friendly and had a chuckle at me when I tried the chili sauce which nearly killed me.
Stopped on the way back to the park for supplies. We bought a 2 litre bottle of something that looked like a soft drink called “SELECTO!” it was technically a soft drink but was fucking horrific and contained sugar than should be legal. I managed to drink the entire bottle throughout the day for lack of any other option. The next day I had a bastard of a SELECTO hangover. Not great.
We were about two hours late to WiTP, we wandered around aimlessly looking for it eventually bumped in to Yvonne and friend who pointed us in the right direction, conveniently right beside where we had started in a disused playground area with a raised area to one side, almost like a magical glen of drunk musicians and poets.
The gig itself was marvelous, a great mix of bands and poetry, unfortunately I don’t remember the names of most of the acts but everyone was ace. We turned up just as DeathBoy were about to start, Adam on acoustic guitar and Scott (cheating a little) using a battery powered speaker for backing. Lost Again, Parasite and So I Said You Died, DeathBoy worked well as an (almost) acoustic act managing to get across the energy and emotion pretty well without amplification.
Next up were the bombastic Bleak with typical style Anton took to the stage area wearing a cowboy hat, mirrored shades and smoking a large cigar. A more traditional setup than many of the other acts a Bleak acoustic set is not far removed from a Bleak plugged in set. The band played a storming set of their very own style of blues rock with Anton storming round the park in his theatrical manner, during the set he held up a herbal viagra pill and swallowed it with much ceremony. Musically they were as together as ever with Tim perched on the stage/raised area doing his usual guitar wonder, Yvonne devoid of her usual full drum kit giving it some on a hand drum and Rachel’s backing as brilliant as ever. This was Tim’s last Bleak gig (and IAI gig) before moving to Berlin, very glad I made it.
I Am Immune opened with a rather too pissed Pete apologising to the audience before they even started both for his state of drunkenness and that they were an electro-rock band so might not work so well as an acoustic act. They held it together pretty well to start with, with Pete balancing rather precariously on the raised bit above Tim and winning the day by turning round during the set yelling “I’m taking it to the bridge” before legging it to the little wooden bridge behind the staging area.
…. and it’s two months later and I can no longer remember much detail from the day. I really enjoyed some of the poetry, which is a nice change. This Is Radio Silence were staggeringly good. A poet chap convinced the audience to help him achieve the first ever poetry based stage dive. My camera died just before This Is Radio Silence came on. We got home in on piece and it was a lovely day.
Here’s some photos… The full set is on flickr here.
… and then the camera died 🙁
August 31, 2010
For my birthday we went for a walk round the assorted attractions/historic monuments of Runnymede. We visited the Air Force Memorial first (after accidentally interrupting doggers in the car park). The memorial is a beautiful work of architecture and incredibly peaceful and moving. We managed to not destroy the peace. Didn’t manage to see the other monuments as got a little caught up with the logistics of the day and failed to get a cream tea as the cafe was packed. Had a look round the gallery opposite the tea rooms which I absolutely love.
Big thanks to those that came along.
I am Bob. This is my blog. It is an outlet and a substitute for real life. It contains my art, photography, illustration and thoughts on mental health (I deal with anxiety on a pretty much constant basis).
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