A post that has been in Proof mode for far to long: September of last year!
The cycling focus for the past two years ended abruptly for me after the Tour Divide. I needed something else to focus on. Many would have ridden more, but I needed a break, something else to occupy my legs and mind. Running was the natural fall back, freedom to move in the mountains at a higher than normal speed, carrying nothing but what is needed. I’d already started racing the British Fell Championship races, so decided to finish out the series, the final race being a trip to Scotland to race in Merrick. Afterwards, we decided a little island hopping was in order and a chance to reccy the Jura fell race route which I’d planned to race the next year.
The fell race scene in the UK is wonderful. Good races, nice people, great venues for most of the time. But it can be tiring. Driving to far flung corners of the country at the end of a working week. Long fast motorway journeys, run hard and fast, then the rush to get back. I like the racing, I like how short and contained it feels in comparison to ultra racing, or even triathlon. However, moving fast isn’t always good. Rush rush rush. Push push push. Hurry hurry hurry. It gets tiring. Weighs me down. Makes me frustrated.
- Finish what you started. If I start something, finish it. No matter how mundane.
- Slow down life. Enjoy what is going on around you.
The trip to Scotland was going to be the starting point of action for both of these.
If you’ve ever walked with me, when there is nowhere to get to fast, you probably know how frustratingly slow I like to walk. What’s the rush? We don’t have to be anywhere. Slow down. I often walk, stop, look at something that interests me, then take a photo of it and move on. It’s easier than ever with the cameras we carry around in our pockets every day allowing us to photograph almost anything and share it with anyone we chose. Except that those images get looked at once, maybe by a few hundred people if you’ve lots of “friends” on social media. And if by looked you imply that they spent more than 0.5 seconds scanning your image to realise there is a cat in it and awwww cats are cute *double-click* *like* *whatever, where is the next cat/food/epic sunset*. It tires me. It saddens me. Photos should be relished. Not just flung into the digital void.
I’d already been playing with my fathers old Canon for a few weeks and decided to use it as my main camera for the trip. I’d my Leica W on order at the time, but sadly it didn’t arrive from Germany on time. It arrived the week after we got back, a shame, but a chance to take a load of images on film and remember how to use it again. Surprisingly, it did come back to me reasonably quickly. Looking before pressing the shutter button. Realising that the impact of the light on the film was something I’d have to take into account rather than thinking about it in post. Slow down. Think. Capture. Moving about venues with a prime lens is something I am used to – usually a 50mm, but of late 28 and 35. Having a choice of focal lengths in a lens confuses me. Too many options. I stutter and often fail to take the image that my brain actually visualises. Fine with digital, expensive on film.
When we came back I sent the film off to Ilford. I waited. I waited some more. After a few days I got an email saying “you’ll need to wait, we’re very busy”. I’d had the image of some men in brown overcoats drinking tea. Busy. Sure. This was my first real test in frustration, am I able to wait 10 days, to get images of something that I want to look at now. Turns out, initially at least, the answer is no. But now, a few months on, it has become easier.
The trip, if you take away the running in Merrick and on Jura, became a bit of a road trip inter-spaced with some distilleries and a lot of short ferry trips. We had a week, we camped, met some friends, saw some things, went on four tours. It was excellent. Some better than others, others more interesting than some. A boot full of film and booze to cart back down the border. A trip well worth taking.
What I mainly learnt was that I forgot that I like using a film camera. I like not having to look at a screen every time I take an image – chimping. I enjoy the waiting, frustrating, but the feeling of ripping open a package to look at prints – I’d missed that without knowing it. But prints, that is what I missed, separate to film, the actual physical image in my hand. I’ve not printed much over the past years, but that is about to change. We’ve a house that needs decoration. Blank walls, massive canvases.