Monthly Archives: October 2013

Oct 30th: London Calling – Part II (Imperial War Museum, Duxford)…

The storm, St Jude, pretty much closed the rail network in the south west down on Monday 29th Oct. Instead of heading into London we went north instead to The Imperial War Museum at Duxford and what a place it is too!

It had been on my ‘must-visit’ list for yonks – so I was made-up with the switch. For anyone that hasn’t been there’s basically an airfield full of hangers crammed with all kinds of stonking (war) exhibits. In nearly three hours we did three of the nine monster hangers – so I guess it would be best to allow a full day.

AirSpace, the first hanger, is about the story of aviation in Britain and it has more iconic planes and helicopter in that you’d be forgiven for knowing; a Swopworth Camel, a Spitfire, a Mosquito, a Lancaster, a Lightening, Harrier, a Concorde and a bunch of others as well.

The Spitfire, the WWII icon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We skipped the next hangers where restoration work is being done and nipped into Historic Duxford, a small building outlining life on the Duxford airfield through the ages including some great stories about the famous airmen (including Douglas Barder). Anyone with a fancy to slip into a RAF uniform then head straight here – this is the place! Immediately behind HD is Hanger #4 which was used in the World War II. Currently it houses the Battle of Britain exhibits which is crammed with yet more icons including a Hurricane, a Meteor, a Hunter as well as a V1 (Doodlebug) and a Messerschmitt and then a Russian MiG.

The Meteor, Britain’s first jet-engine plane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further up the airfield again is the American Air Museum which is host to a full gambit of American planes ranging from a biplane right through to the stealth Blackbird. What is striking about the American exhibits is the shear size of the ‘modern’ planes. The Blackbird is especially impressive; in size, speed (Mack 3+) and appearance.

The USAF stealth Blackbird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly, we’d timed-out by this stage so it was the long walk back to the start past a bunch of passenger (prop) planes, the tower and a ‘clipped’ Shackleton standing somewhat forlornly on the tarmac. It’s a heck of a way to spend a few hours – I can’t recommend it enough…

Here’s a gallery of some of the planes in the AirSpace, Battle of Britain and the American Air Museum.

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Posted in Aviation, Heritage

Oct 28th: London Calling – Part I (Canons Asby, Camden, Covent Garden and King’s Cross)…

It’s half term so time to spend a few days as a family away from all the usual day to day stuff. Last year we went up to the North York Moors and hung out with the Goths in Whitby, this year we headed down south to London. Far from leaving the camera kit at home it’s a great opportunity to go off-piste and add a few travel, heritage and street photography images to the archive…Travelling down we veered off into the middle of rural Northamptonshire and dropped into Canons Ashby – an Elizabethan manor house in an 18th-century garden. A double quick stroll around the garden was all we got as we arrived bang on closing time – doh! The wall-clad ivy was a stark reminder – if needed – that we were well into autumn.

Autumn at Canons Ashby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For our first day proper we hit the City; Camden Lock to be precise. The contrast couldn’t have been more stark! Camden was rammed with everything and everybody. Halloween seemed like the running theme but really it was business as (un)usual with the mass of things to see and of course buy. By complete fluke – and good fortune – we arrived at the food stalls at lunchtime; nice!

Following a quick spin around the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square we were off to Covent Garden for a nose at the street life there which feels a bit like La Ramblas in Barcelona albeit in miniature.

Covent Garden, London’s answer to La Ramblas in Barcelona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, a trip to Platform 93/4 at Kings Cross was demanded by the young ‘uns. The hour-long queue to hang-off the famous shopping trolley was tons of time to snap a few shots of the impressive new roof at Kings Cross …

King’s Cross Station

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a gallery of shots…

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Posted in Heritage, Travel

Oct 28th: A Decade of Climbing and Calendars…

Whilst I’ve been working on Climbing:2014 I’ve been feeling in a rather reflective mood. Not only is Climbing:2014 my tenth consecutive climbing calendar but I’m now into my fifth decade of climbing. Both feel something of a benchmark. My intro text to Climbing:2014 reflects my feelings on both the calendar and on climbing and I figure it’s maybe worth posting it on-line…

Back in the summer of 2004 I had the bright idea of publishing a climbing calendar. At that time I didn’t know what that would entail or how to bring that simple idea to fruition. Neither did I give a second thought to where it might go in the future. To coin a phrase, I had a dream, and set off in pursuit of that dream armed with a camera and a bag of lenses, an address book, a shelf-full of guidebooks and a bunch of ideas. My mission was underwritten in my mind by a number of objectives which I came to treat as core values: produce a premium product; include an eclectic mix of striking climbing images from the UK, Europe and beyond; include images of both inspirational and aspirational climbing across the grade range; include all the disparate climbing styles; feature male and female climbers as well as heroes and non-heroes alike. And to make matters even more authentic feature seasonal images as well and take them in the month they were to appear in!

A decade on, Climbing 2014 is my tenth calendar and, save the last of the criteria listed above, my mission and core values remain as they were back in 2004. Not surprisingly, the decade has flown by in no time at all! Climbing is now even more polarised than it was: sport climbing is becoming middle-aged; many boulderers don’t own ropes, a harness nor rack; indoor climbing has a huge following and is an end in itself for a significant number; DWS (deep water soloing) is firmly established; hard trad is still alive and kicking although no longer is it just quintessentially British any more and training is no longer a dirty word, in fact, if you’re not following a programme and not using a stop watch then you’re not really training at all!

And yet, despite all this nu-skool agenda, fundamentally climbing is the same as it was, climbers getting it on with the rock! One glorious Saturday in August I drove north to the Yorkshire Dales to capture some images for the calendar. In the car, along with myself, was Paul Reeve, Steve McClure and Buster Martin. At the ripe young age of 50 Paul had just plucked an ascent of Cry Freedom (now reckoned to be F8c). Buster had done Bat Route (another F8c) earlier in the year when he was a mere 16 and Steve McClure, for his part, had nailed Batman (at F9a/+). I was struck by the disparate circumstances of us all but by the strength of the common bond that was climbing that wove us all together. I couldn’t help but take delight at that bond.

So, Climbing 2014 features yet another eclectic mix of images, some of firm classics and others of new routes that are likely to become classics of tomorrow. Climbing isn’t easy, nothing worth doing ever is. That a significant number of us are driven by the need for exploration is to our sport’s benefit. New developments are the life-blood of climbing; they fuel the inner drive of so many of us and help keep climbing fresh and exciting. I’ve no more idea what the next years will bring in climbing than the next person – but here’s to the journey wherever it takes us. And finally, thanks to all who have been involved with my calendars over the last 10 years – it’s been a blast.

So there you have it; my reflections of a decade of calendars. This being a photographic blog I can’t really leave without an image or two so here’s a few more shots of Neil and Claire on the somewhat ‘off radar’ Hanging out at Glastonbury at Castell Helen, images which were shot for the calendar on an absolute cracking summer’s day. It seems a lifetime away already…

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Posted in Climbing, KSP Publications, Photography

Oct 24th: Climbing 2014 is now shipping…

So, as they say, Climbing:2014 is now back from the printers and is now shipping…

Climbing:2014 is my 10th consecutive climbing calendar and man, has the time flown by or what! I’ve gone with the same landscape design that we’ve used for the last few years along with the glossy laminated covers and full bleed landscape images. There’s a year planner/poster included too within the calendar for inspiration and/or organisation. Oh yeah, and it’s the same killer price that it’s been for yonks – a quid a month plus a tad – that £12.99!

For a change the weather has been little short of amazing this summer and what a joy it’s been shooting in better weather. Not only does it lift the images but it’s opens up other venues and puts a smile on folks faces when they’re out climbing! I’m tempted to say – if only it were like that every year!

The front cover is a shot of a little know route on Castell Helen, – Hanging out at Glastonbury (E4 5a, 6a, 5c, 5b); Neil Foster is captured cutting a trad pose as he completes the traverse on P1 above a growing abyss. Kicking Climbing:2014 off with a seasonal image is a shot of a lone winter boulderer on Conan the Librarian (Font 6b+) at Mother Cap. More grit action comes in the (classic) shape of Trust (Font 7a) on the Fourth Cloud Boulder and Surform (HVS 5b) on the mighty leaning block that is Higgar Tor. Sandstone is the represented by one of the finest UK ‘red rocks’ venues which is St Bees whilst Sissy Crag down-under is the counterbalance down in the southern hemisphere.

Sport climbing action includes cave Route Left-hand (F7c+) at Gordale, Bat Route (F8c) at Malham, a mega project over on the Little Ormes and some pocket pulling madness in the Gorge du Tarn. That leaves some under-canvas action from the BBC’s (British Bouldering Championships) at Cliffhanger, some monstrously high DWS at Rhoscolyn and then some classic mountain rock from Dinas Mot in The Pass. It’s a pretty eclectic mix – as intended!

Copies of Climbing:2014 will be popping up at climbing walls/shops across the county pretty soon now. However, if you want you copy direct from the calendar stash in KSP Towers then you can order your copy from the KSP e-shop. Copies of the Climbing 2014 Year Planner/Poster can also be ordered from the KSP e-shop too.

Finally, to see the images in Climbing 2014 click here or to see the pages click through here…

Posted in KSP Publications, Photography

Oct 12th : Fifty shade of Reeve…

Climb 105 has just come out and it features a piece by Neil Gresham on Paul Reeve. Over the summer, Paul repeated Cry Freedom at Malham; especially newsworthy given that Paul is 50!

For those not familiar with the history of the route, Cry Freedom was so-called by first ascentionist, Mark Leach, because he spend 40+ days on the first ascent. Back then it was thought to be F8c, the first in the UK in fact. It slipped back to F8b+, perhaps largely as a result of a fast ascent by raiding Frenchman, ‘JB’ Tribout. Since then the list of folks who have had utter epics on it has grown longer and longer, so much so that by popular consent it’s back up to F8c.

It’s an interesting piece, well worth a read if you’re planning to climb hard into your later years. Climb used a couple of my shots to illustrate the article too…

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Posted in Climbing, Published

Oct 11th : The Printing Press was rolling…

Yep, the printing press was rolling when I left the works and the pages for Climbing:2014 were flying out the end…

It’s the final key stage in the production process which turns a set of images into a calendar. After the printing, there’s the glossy laminate to apply to the cover, then the trimming, the collation, the folding and saddle stitching to do and it’s a wrap – as they say. Fingers crossed, Climbing:2014 should be ready to ship in a week.

One of the benefits of using a local printer is that I get to see the ink going down onto the paper. And to a printing numpty (that’s me btw…) it’s both really interesting and pretty darned impressive. There’s more buttons and dials than you’d ever imagine and the press itself has the proportions of a giant photocopier on steroids. Ian, the printer, was very accommodating and we had an cracking conversation about climbing and photography as well as the colour of various rocks in the calendar including Sissy Crag (featured in December) down under.

As I left I went to grab a couple of snaps with my phone. “Is it ok if I grab some shots for my blog”, I asked. “Sure”, Ian said – “just make sure that you get my Villa badge in”. Given he was the man printing my calendar I figured it would be plain daft to pass any negatory comment – so I didn’t!

So here’s the snaps – complete with Villa memorabilia. Check out the proof and page pull in the viewing booth. If anyone fancies that they can name the crags in the shots drop me an email and name the two crags featured. First correct answer gets a complimentary copy of the calendar!

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Posted in KSP Publications

Oct 3rd : Gear Review Central – Part III, Rope Review…

 

My final major review gear review for 2013 – ropes – appeared in the August edition of Climber. Assuming you’re not a fully paid-up member of the Pad People (a.k.a. bouldering only brigade) you’re gonna need at least one rope to keep the wheels on your climbing waggon – maybe even two or even three depending on your particular climbing addictions!

The opening spread from the review…

It used to be simple; ropes were either 11mm for a single/full rope or else they were half ropes in which case they were 9mm. The basic structure of the kernmantle rope hasn’t changed a deal since 1953 when Edelrid invented it; the core consists of a number of twisted strands whilst the sheath is the outer and hence protective layer. All climbing ropes today follow the same basic structure. What does vary though, from rope to rope, are the numbers of the internal strands, the weave of the sheath, how tight the various components are during the spinning and of course what the diameter of the rope is.

Super skinny single ropes for sport climbing vary between 9.1mm and 11mm whilst trad ropes vary between 8.1mm and 8.8mm. Properties, handling and wear characteristics vary considerably as manufacturers prioritise particular strength/qualities over others. Thicker ropes are generally stronger and are more resistant to wear but they’re not as good generally to handle as thinner ropes. Impact force, number of falls sustained as well as dynamic and static elongation all vary too depending upon the design of the rope and hence construction.

The review featured six sport ropes and five trad ropes. Check it out if you need the full SP – meanwhile here’s the opening spread from the published piece plus a few shots of the ropes themselves and during testing…

And then here’s a selection of ropes and action from the testing…

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Posted in Reviews

Oct 1st : Climbing 2014 – gone to print…

The pre-press work has been signed-off and Climbing 2014 has now left the designers and is winging its way to the printers. That being the case, I should have a phone call in a couple of weeks max to tell me that the calendar is ready to start shipping…

Shooting the images for the calendar has been somewhere between great fun and intensely frustrating! The frustrating bit is the consequence of shooting climbing action in the UK and dropping onto a dry and/or sunny day which, here in the UK, is no small ask! The great bit comes in from going to some great places with some great climbers and watching them do some great routes. That in itself is also a tad frustrating for me as a climber – but hey, that’s my choice.

So, I guess you’ll be expecting to see some images and some of the action then – right? Yep, thought so – but all in good time! I’ve posted a snippet of the front cover below – a quick mobile grab shot from the laser proofs! The next step is when the printer proofs arrive so I’ll be back then with some more.

Meanwhile, I’ll get on the case with blogging about some of the other stuff that has been happening over the summer…

Posted in KSP Publications