progress report 2

We’re over three-quarters of the way through 2016: A Creative Year, and it’s been a long time since my last progress report so here goes:

In March, I increased my working hours so I’ve less time and energy to devote to creative activities.

I recently spent a weekend sorting through the accumulation of stuff in my garden office. It was desperately in need of a clean, but in doing so I found a lot of stuff that I’ve never used so it was time to send it somewhere it could be utilised. I found it hard to get rid of things like sketch pads and paint brushes, that I’d acquired in the hope of achieving some creative dreams, and it was an effort to remind myself that getting rid of them isn’t the same as abandoning those dreams.  Anyway the space is more usable now, even if I’ve still to set up all the equipment again, so that’s a benefit.


In May, I took part in the Duxford Saturday Workshop’s members’ concert. It was an enjoyable day, with several hundred people of all ages performing in their groups, so the primary school corridors were full of people waiting their turn, practicing nervously. The mixed abilities ukulele group played Brain Damage from Dark Side of the  Moon. I’d been careful to practice in good time to warm my fingers up but unfortunately the knuckles of my left hand locked as they sometimes do, so I could only pretend to play along, which was frustrating.

Shortly after the concert, I started attending weekly music therapy sessions at Anglia Ruskin University through Cambridgeshire Music.  This is a fantastic safe environment to explore and experiment, so I’ve tried playing guitar, saxophone, piano accordion, and piano, sometimes solo but sometimes Susan accompanies me on guitar or piano. She’s very talented and can improvise effectively around whatever sounds I’m producing.

As a result of her patience and encouragement I finally bought a guitar, an electro-acoustic Washburn which I practice on at every opportunity. I particularly enjoy it when Susan and I make music together.

With the onset of the new school year, the Duxford Saturday workshops resumed, and adjustments to the timetable meant that I was able to join the beginners’  guitar group as well as return to the mixed abilities ukulele group.

The structure provided by weekly music therapy sessions and Saturday workshops  provides very helpful encouragement to practice, though I find that I’m neglecting the ukulele in favour of the guitar.


I’ve sketched a few times at lunchtime at work. It’s been pleasant but during the summer I spent too long sitting in the direct sun, and fainted on my return to the office.  no painting


I’ve still to complete the god’s view labyrinth sketch but I’ve devoted a lot of time trying to develop a path-following algorithm. I’m tempted to hard-code the sketch by running it once and saving the co-ordinates for the ‘people’ to follow, but that would lose the ability to pick randomly from a set of vector paths representing different labyrinths, so I’m loathe to take that route.


In what I now think of as ‘my ‘other’ job, I’ve been training other people on setting up websites using WordPress, but it’s not creative.


I’ve made several After Dark photography expeditions, exploring the streets of Cambridge city centre at night, which reminds me: I’ve still to post the shots from what I call the Dark Rain expedition.

I still haven’t done any light painting, and I have several other projects I want to try but I’ll keep those to myself for now. Off-camera flash offers a lot of interesting potential.

Friday, October 21st, 2016 coding, creativity, music, photography No Comments

mysterious dark despite a full moon

My most recent after dark expedition followed a day of rain but the evening was dry and unexpectedly(on my part) coincided with a full moon. There were even patches of clear sky, and as the evening wore on the bright moonlight mixed with other light sources to create an interesting jumble of types of light. I wasn’t able to capture the moon in its full glory, which raises questions of how best to achieve that.

I kept to a limited area, covering ground I’d explored on a previous expedition, but I still enjoyed it and saw new aspects. Some narrow spaces managed to escape the bright moonlight and thus retain their mysteriousness.

after_dark-7  after_dark-2  after_dark-1 I was intrigued and amused by some mannequins in the window of Zara that appeared to be folding their arms disdainfully and looking down their noses at me. Perhaps I was subconsciously remembering old episodes of Dr Who, but I also remembered one of my first tasks at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery was to help to dismantle a display in the decorative arts gallery which involved carrying ‘female’ mannequins. They were awkward to carry without holding them in ‘intimate’ places which I found embarrassing, much to the amusement of the female curator. So my response to the mannequins in Zara was strong, but I was pleased with the resulting shots:

after_dark-5  after_dark-4


Thursday, October 20th, 2016 photography No Comments

sticking point

By writing my recent progress report, I became aware of how little practical activity I’d achieved so far in 2016: a creative year, but I also remembered later that I’d taken some night photographs in Edinburgh recently that I didn’t publish here. For some reason, WordPress always reports an error every time I try to upload a photo from this shoot, but I’ll keep trying.

St Andrews Square was host to an installation by Groupe LAPS called Keyframes. It’s worth following the link to see other versions of this installation. But better still, go and see the installation in situ, it’s there in Edinburgh until 28th March 2016. Each stick figure lights in turn, giving the impression of movement, thussuccessfully combining static sculpture with animation, which, together with the soundtrack, made it an impressive piece.

And following that discovery, I went out on another night photography expedition, and I’m working my way through the resulting images this weekend, so I will post the results soon.



Tuesday, March 8th, 2016 animation, photography, sculpture No Comments

progress report

We’re over half-way through February, so it seems high time for a progress report on 2016: a creative year, so I’ll take a brief look at each area:

Ukulele, guitar

I’ve attended all four sessions of the Duxford community music group in the first half of the spring term, and the list of pieces to practice has grown each week. During this current half-term break, I’m concentrating on Frere Jaques, Everything Stops For Tea, Messing About on the River, 12 Bar Blues, and Brain Damage (yes, the Pink Floyd track from Dark Side of the Moon). It’s good to have a variety of numbers to focus on, but this has distracted me from  following the programme of exercises in Ukulele Aerobics by Johnson Chad.

On a more practical and slightly more public note, I’ve accepted an offer from one of the volunteers in the Cambourne Timebank scheme to help me develop my ukulele and guitar playing. We’ve provisionally arranged to hold our first session one evening this week.


The nights are still long so it’s a good time of year for low-light photography, but, although it’s been a relatively mild winter so far, I find it too cold to go out taking photographs without a specific event to reach, so I keep postponing my tentatively-planned expeditions. I got as far as buying two small torches for light painting but haven’t used them yet. Instead, I’ve read two of my photography books on using off-camera flash guns: Studio Lighting Unplugged by Rod and Robin Deutschman and Speedliter’s Handbook by Syl Arena. Yes, I know that reading about something isn’t the same as actually doing it, but I’ve hardly used my flash gun and feel very unprepared to start using this versatile piece of equipment without a lot of guided practice and experiment.


I seem to be bombarded with ideas for coding projects. Everywhere I go, I want to create a code version. The latest two ideas are: a drawing programme with a kaleidoscope feature, based on an exhibit at the Camera Obscura World of Illusions in Edinburgh that Mandy and I visited last week. Mandy found it very therapeutic, so a browser-based sketch written in p5.js seemed a perfect way to create one for her.

The second recent idea is a representation of a visual metaphor used in The Brain with Brian Eagleman, a documentary series currently showing on BBC. The metaphor was to illustrate the impact of multiple minute differences, and consisted of a box with several rows of mousetraps, each primed with a table tennis ball. Brian dropped another table tennis ball into the box which triggered a mousetrap into releasing its ball which then flew up then landed on another trap which then released its ball. Within seconds the box was full of colliding balls all landing on traps and releasing yet more balls. It seemed a perfect opportunity for some OOPs coding, but I’m daunted by the idea of trying to simulate the physics of spinning balls. This calls for a simplification.

Drawing and painting

No activity to report.


I’ve offered to help Laura, the organiser of Cambourne Timebank to set up a website for the scheme, and to illustrate the scheme by taking photographs and editing a video of activities.

In conclusion, I have achieved little finished output for the first seven weeks of 2016, but I have plenty of material to work on in the coming weeks. To keep myself on track, I need a thorough review and overhaul of my Trello board dedicated to 2016: a creative year.


Saturday, February 20th, 2016 coding, creativity, music, photography 2 Comments

a creative year

I’m giving 2016 a theme: a creative year. My focus for the year is to: develop creative skills.

I’n recent months, I’ve posted the results of my night photography expeditions, and I plan to continue these, branching into experiments with light painting.  In addition to photography, I’m keen to extend my ukulele playing, and I’ve arranged to start in a community music workshop that meets on Saturday mornings in Duxford. I’m also looking at other creative skills: drawing, painting and coding.

Prompted by a post on the Trello blog, I’ve created a Trello board for specific goals and tasks to help me focus on developing these creative skills.

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Thursday, January 7th, 2016 coding, creativity, drawing, music, photography 1 Comment

comberton duck pond and beyond the infinite

It’s not quite slit scan, but while I photographed the village duck pond on my way home from my most recent night photography expedition, I tried zooming in/out while I held the shutter open:

Cambridge Christmas-7
Cambridge Christmas-8
Cambridge Christmas-4
Cambridge Christmas-5
Cambridge Christmas-6

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Sunday, January 3rd, 2016 photography No Comments

christmas fun fair

Thanks to the distractions of Christmas and New Year, it’s taken me a while to process the photos I took of the Christmas fun fair on Parker’s Piece, but here they are:

Cambridge Christmas-1-2
Cambridge Christmas-1
Cambridge Christmas-2
Cambridge Christmas-3


Saturday, January 2nd, 2016 photography No Comments

….these just in….

In my recent expedition on Sunday evening, I deliberately avoided photographing the front elevations of famous buildings, but in doing so, I’ve got a series of more or less anonymous shots that leave me feeling underwhelmed. That’s a shame because I enjoyed the experience and I intend to repeat it but there are lessons to be learned for next time (see below).

Some of the later shots have water droplets on the lens catching the streetlights and creating starbursts, lens flare and other unwanted artefacts.
Cambridge After Dark-6

Cambridge After Dark-8

Cambridge After Dark-9

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Cambridge After Dark-14

Cambridge After Dark-16

  1. Be ready to pack everything away discretely so I can nip into a pub to use the toilet.
  2. Take an umbrella to hold over the camera.
  3. Shallow depth of field doesn’t look good in low-light images, so use a narrow aperture.
  4. Take the flash gun and long cable for off-camera fill-in lighting.
  5. Take a torch to experiment with light-painting.
  6. Take more time – don’t be in a hurry to get home (see point one).
  7. In the darker areas, keep the shutter open on Bulb setting, and try longer exposures.
  8. Experiment with photographing people.



Wednesday, November 11th, 2015 photography No Comments

another safe return

Sunday evening is still a good time to take photographs in Cambridge after dark, but because the sun set so much earlier than on my last foray, there were a lot more people in the streets. That’s not a problem, but I found myself taking a lot of shots from a low viewpoint, with my tripod set as low as it goes, so I had to keep a look out for people coming round street corners and potentially tripping over me or the tripod. Still, it meant that I chatted briefly to a few people and, by sticking mainly to the streets, rather than the river, there was more available light on this expedition, so my longest exposure was 30 seconds compared to eight minutes last time. I tried a variety of apertures this time, to see how a short depth of field looks in low light photographs, and the wider apertures, of course, reduced the exposure times. The whole trip, taking about sixty shots, was over in three hours and that was mainly because I covered a lot of streets.

I managed to take all of the shots that I’d planned, but I suspect, without having seen the others yet, that the unplanned shots are more interesting. A session of downloading and processing in Lightroom beckons.


Monday, November 9th, 2015 photography 1 Comment


Continuing the theme of low-light photography, I cycled to the next village to take some shots of poppies at twilight.



Saturday, June 27th, 2015 photography No Comments