December 17th - In the dark nights and half-light days of winter, decent lights are needed. Searching, bold white in front, and strong red at the back.
In the darkness of the footbridge at Ogley Junction, I noticed how effective they were. Wouldn’t be without them.
November 13th - Heading home from work late again, I hit the canal for a bit of a mental challenge. It’s been a hard couple of days, and night riding in a darker than usual environment is really good for clearing the head. I wait until I get to a dark spot, then kill the lights for a bit. It’s great fun.
This image is taken without flash, and this is how it looks from the bike.
The front light I’m using at the moment - a Hope Technology Vision R4 - is great, and bright enough to stun a badger. Here, it’s on the lowest of three ‘trail’ settings, and it’s more than adequate for tiding in woodland at night.
As soon as the weather clears, going to try it out on the Chase one evening…
October 25th - I didn’t come home until darkness had fallen, and coming up the Chester Road I felt like trying my night riding skills out in Shire Oak Park. I felt like it, then I remembered the stiles I had to get my bike over. And it was raining. It would be muddy. Perhaps not.
I think my night riding skills are probably still a bit rusty for that just yet. Maybe in a week or two…
October 19th - Photography fail. I spun around Brownhills at sunset to get some night images in; fully equipped with tripod, I caught some good shots, or so I thought. It had just rained, and the air and landscape were clear, wet and hard. It was lovely.
Sadly, after taking this picture at Clayhanger, I knocked the camera into program mode and all my other shots were fuzzy rubbish. Must take more care next time.
Still, the sunset was lovely, and the canal as still as a millpond…
Septemebr 24th - I came home after a late finish at work full of cold. Still struck low with the weekend’s bug, the going was hard. The dusk fell during the commute, and I became painfully aware that we’re now in the few weeks where drivers seem to be re-learning to drive in the dark. I don’t understand the psychology at all, but up until about the end of November, driving standards at dusk will be very poor. Left hooks, getting pulled out on, overtaking into oncoming traffic. All tonight. I had bright lights and a generally decent road position. There must be a reason for this, I see it every autumn.
Be careful out there, folks. You never know what’s lurking at a bad junction or beyond the oncoming headlights.
November 24th - Finding myself in the dark of Chasewater, the only real light was in the mist over the water caused by the heavy rain. Realising the wind was from the east, I decided to see what the camera could do on a long exposure. It was really very dark, but I set shutter priority and set exposure to the maximum 8 seconds, with the camera stood on the dam wall. I’m fascinated by the results. I don’t know anything at all about photography - I usually just let the camera do it’s thing, and have worked out how to get decent results by trial and error without really understanding the process. Of late, I’ve started to get more adventurous, and the little camera seems a lot more versatile than I thought.
As a side issue, I note the water level of the lake has shot up: looking at the level on the pier woodwork, it seems to have gained about 300mm - a whole foot - in November. With the land saturated, I guess all the runoff is now pouring it. I’m seriously wondering if the lake could be near full by New Year.
November 17th - Winter, cycling in darkness. I really can’t stress this enough, but lights, folks, lights. Lights are about being seen - creating a moving point of highlight in a dark world. In an urban environment, that’s all you need: to this end cheap LED blinkies and such are perfectly adequate. In rural environments, and for moving at speed off road in the dark, good forward illumination is essential. The better the light, the sooner you see hazards, the faster you can potentially go. I use an LED light by Hope, of Barnoldswick in the UK; it’s their flagship R4 model, and is very bright indeed. This is a non-assisted photo and shows the light spread on a medium setting. I have a very bright rear light from the same company. I love Hope’s stuff. They keep me safe at night.
October 5th - As I noticed yesterday, the dark evenings are on their way. Once more incontrovertible, it was dark at 6:40pm as I cycled up Clayhanger Road. Grim, dark and for boding, This is what many commutes will be like for the next few months - time to start carrying the gorilla pod again.
October 4th - I was accompanied by a forgotten companion on my return from work this evening - nightfall. It was 6:45pm, and nearly dark when I arrived home. A little bit of a shock to the system. This made photography difficult, as I hadn’t got a tripod or gorillapod on me. Sweeping down a dark and deserted Maybrook Road, the dusk made for an interesting shot with the camera sat on a street cabinet. This part of town - on the Walsall Wood/Brownhills border - always seems deserted. Even in the daytime.
September 22nd - Since we’re around the autumnal equinox, the sunsets get quite reasonable, just as they do at the spring one. Returning home through dark lanes, lights on full and feeling cold, this was my first taste of cold-season cycling. I find riding in the dark fun, challenging and mentally exhausting, and this ride more so, as I hadn’t done it for so long. But the sky was my companion, and it was beautiful. You’re never alone with a good sunset.
November 9th - I came back from Lichfield along the backlanes through Wall. Despite a better day weather wise, it was again now drizzling and wet. I was looking for more photographic inspiration, and found it at Harehurst Hill, looking towards the twin TV masts of Sutton Coldfield. I just wish I could capture the distant lights better.
November 8th - Oddly, a few minutes later, I found myself stood in the rain and dark, experimenting with long exposure shots of the A461 Lichfield Road. I’m not really happy with any of the results, but some are interesting. It’s actually very difficult to catch the essence of traffic at night, and I’m thinking hard about ways to do it.
November 7th - a drizzly wet, frustrating day. I took lots of photos today, but only a couple of ones I took of Nuneaton Station came out anywhere near good enough to use. I was in Leicester for work, which necessitates two trains - one between Lichfield TV and Nuneaton, and one from Nuneaton to South Wigston. I don’t normally mind this journey at all - it’s relatively quick and Nuneaton isn’t a bad station to change at. The London Midland service down the Trent Valley line which is normally excellent has been lousy so far this week, and on my way home, wet, tired and irritable, my train was cancelled. Faced with waiting an hour for another train that may not turn up either, I thought hard and got a train into Birmingham instead, and from there another to Shenstone. Two hours late I arrived home.
Life can be trying sometimes.
Octyober 31st - I tried to get a shot tonight of the spectacularly beautiful Four Oaks Church, which is stunningly lit at night, but my photos were horrid. The Four Oaks Pub itself, however, fared better. Night photography is a very black art and I still haven’t got to the bottom of it. Use of flat surfaces and self timer is a must, although a Gorillapod is handy. This shot was taken with the Gorillapod wrapped round the bike crossbar whilst leaning against a tree.
October 28th - In contrast, doubling back over Springhill and Shire Oak down into Walsall Wood, I stopped to admire the lights southwest towards Walsall. Somehow, I didn’t quite capture what I wanted here, but this view is iconic to me, and maybe a camera can’t do it justice. I’ve admired the lights stretching out before me here on many an occasion, and find it engaging and captivating, yet I think it’s a view not many ever notice.