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.
October 24th -At the other end of the day, the evening was chilly and clear. It was dark by 6:10, and as I crossed the Anchor Bridge into Brownhills, I couldn’t resist this shot of the canal near Lindon Road. I love the contrast between the vehicle lights, water and trees. This is a classic Brownhills view, and one all Brownhillians will know and love.
October 21st - I love night photography, but I’m not terribly good at it. I love the way familiar places change totally at night. The senior citizen’s flats opposite Holland Park and the fuel tanks of the Tesco depot on the Pelsall Road don’t really register as aesthetically pleasing in daytime - interesting, but unremarkable. Shroud them in darkness and discharge light and they come alive. I think I’m starting to get the hang of this winter thing at last.
October 16th - I found myself cycling after dark tonight. This will happen almost daily as the nights draw in over the winter. Good lights - front and rear - are essential for being seen, and also to see by. I have a Hope Vision 4 on the front, and this is my field of view with it on medium output. It’s a good LED light which has seen a lot of use, and enables me to spot night time hazards before it’s too late. These vary from potholes to puddles and even animals like foxes, pheasants, rabbits and badgers. Riding at night is a visceral experience, but exhausting as the concentration required is huge.
October 6th - A late return from Telford gave me another chance to shoot Walsall in the dark. The weather had been awful, and Walsall was largely cold, wet and deserted. Spotting this view from the ramp on Walsall Station, I couldn’t resist it. Station Street is still a little bit of ‘old’ Walsall; despite the pedestrianisation and new buildings, I imagine this is a lot like Walsall before the town planners wrecked it.
August 6th - an afternoon visit to a good friend in Walsall turned into an early hours night ride home. It seems ages since I last did this. Flowing liquid through the streets at 1am was a delight and very, very exhilerating. Walsall Wood was eerily quiet, with only the waiting taxis showing any sign of life. I love this time of day. Must do it more often.