Had my first real “oh shit!” moment last night.

I was running north to Ashington which is just up the coast from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. It’s a steady three hour run from Worksop and I was nearly there. I wasn’t running particularly heavy, we rarely do when  we’re doing shop delieveries with a single-decker;  it’s the backhauls that get heavy.

The weather had taken a turn for the worst and the rain was hammering down in proper sheets leaving a lot of standing water and quite poor visibility. I was passing a sliproad that joined the dual-carriageway that I was on and as per usual, some cars were filtering on.

Most cars are pretty sensible when pulling onto a dual-carriagway and adjust their speed to fit in around the truck (as they should). For some reason a fool in a tiny Micra pulled out about a hundred feet in front of me travelling at around thirty miles per hour. Fuck! I hit the brakes and clicked on the right indicator ready to pull out right… but there was a car accelerating up behind me in lane two and I would have crushed it by changing lane. I clicked off the signal and continue to haul on the brakes as hard as I could – because it’s so wet I wasn’t  slowing down very quickly and the suicidal car isn’t making any attempt to speed up.

I thought it was curtains for the Micra but I managed to haul down to his speed at only five feet from his rear bumper.  I’m get on the horn and the driving lamps out of anger but give up and just feel drained. Lucky I wasn’t fully loaded or there’s no way I’d have stopped.

He pulled off at the next sliproad a quarter of a mile further on without seemingly even registering a problem.

Drunk? Amazingly stupid? I don’t know. I would have destroyed his little car and most likely killed him and his passenger. It would be a horrible thing to live with.

I don’t get into many scrapes – my anticipation is usually pretty good but sometimes you can’t guard against the foolhardy actions of others.

I guess when you spend so much time on the road then incidents are inevitable but I’m really not looking forward to my first one.

winter

It’s here!

Zero degrees reading in the truck tonight and the first gritters were out and about.

Penmachno

I’ve been quite unfit recently – I sprained my wrist about six weeks ago mountain biking in Scotland when I fell off a wooden walkway and the front wheel dug into the floor. Ouch.

I can’t run because my knees are completely screwed. I’m awaiting some physio on the NHS which will hopefully point me in the right direction to getting them sorted, but for now I feel like a battered old git! Oh wait…

Anyway, since the weekend weather was so gorgeous and my wrist was feeling almost back to strength I decided to go and kill myself on a long cross-country bike ride.

I chose the Penmachno trail centre in North Wales – it’s in a quiet valley behind Betws y Coed and is very beautiful and not as crowded as some other trail centres. Also, being a trail centre I know the surface would be in good condition as opposed to fully natural terrain that might well be a mud bath after the summer we’ve not had.

The trail consists of two loops. The first loop is about 16km and has a lot of climbs and fast descents. I’d done this one before a few years ago on a different bike and it was a lot of fun. But the main reason for coming was the new second loop that had been built since my last visit. Loop 2 is an optional extra that adds another 14k of nice singletrack onto the main loop.

As expected the trail killed me and took me three and a half hours as opposed to the 2 and a half that it would take somebody who was fit. I had to take a lot of breaks, stopped to take photos and was very slow on the ascents. But hey, it was a great day out in the most beautiful scenery. I only saw three other people on Loop 2 and I really felt like i’d got away from it all.

The only downside is that I have a rather sore arse from my hardtail saddle, and my rear wheel got a bit out of true on the high speed descents. Fun on a hardtail but it’d be quicker on a full-susser.

The car park at the trail start/end point
The car park at the trail start and end point

About one third of the way around Loop 1
About one third of the way around Loop 1

About one third of the way around Loop 1

Almost at the top of the ascent before Loop 2 begins
Slightly further on

A section of boardwalk on Loop 2
Boardwalk on Loop 2

Boardwalk on Loop 2

Stunning scenery far out on Loop 2
Loop 2

Back into the woods on the return section of Loop 2
Loop 2

Loop 2

HDR photography

I used to love photography as it’s own passtime, rather than just documenting daily life and recently my interest has been rekindled somewhat. One thing that’s interested me has been High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography.

Basically this means combining several identical images taken at different exposure levels into one photo. I’ve tried taking one photo at correct exposure, and then one over exposed by two stops, and one under-exposed by two stops. The results are quite encouraging.

I didn’t have any bracketed photos such as this so I let our cat Biggie up onto our roof and followed him around until he plonked himself down and stayed still long enough for me to quickly fire off the three exposures.

Now a black cat sitting against a sunlit white wall isn’t an ideal photographic subject but for the purpose of experimentation it’s quite a handy high-contrast image. Also, I know it’s no great photo but that’s not really the point here – this is just messing about.

Anyway, here’s the results:

1) The original photo – you can see that the detail on the moggies fur is lost as it’s underexposed:

original image

2) The HDR image formed from three differently exposed images of the same scene. This image was produced using fairly mild parameters in Photomatix, and then some post-processing in Photoshop CS3. You can see much more detail on the fur and the highlights on the white wall aren’t blown out. However there seems to be a bit of a colour cast on the image. Hmmm, not great but a start. Also I think that there is a bit of camera movement in-between images. I was using a tripod but only a flimsy portable one which probably didn’t eliminate movement. I’m guessing that the cat moved slightly too!

HDR from Photoshop

3) A heavily processed HDR image produced in Photomatrix. There is quite a lot of controversy over such images as they seem unrealistic and over-processed but I feel there is still a place for that. The “aura” around the cat is an artefact of the process carried out in Photomatrix. This could be removed using photoshop if required:

Photomatrix HDR

Please bear in mind that I’m a novice at this technique and although the results have interested me I have a lot to learn.

change of theme

i got a bit sick of that orange and black thing so have opted for this nice clean design. I’ll probably change my mind again no doubt!

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