Category Archives: Photos

All change…

Tentacles-for-WP

How this site (and me) have changed since its inception in 2012.  Loads of music has been uploaded, culminating in three short “releases”; Bucket of Tentacles (2013), Analogue (2014) and The Illicium Lure (2015).  I’m very proud of what I managed to pull together as a “solo artist” since starting to learn the piano and its more than I ever really expected, but I developed a new passion, running, which I’ve gradually started sneaking into this blog.  Like many things I’ve tried in life its become an all-consuming activity to the extent that there is no time for music and I unfortunately seem to have currently lost the desire.  I go running, in the mud, instead and haven’t touched my piano since around April 2016.

I’ve really enjoyed blogging to this site, so I’ve been contemplating how to continue with a running theme, and have now set up an alternative blog at www.allhailthetrail.co.uk

For anyone interested in my running exploits then please have a visit and follow.  Otherwise, thanks for following this blog and any comments along the way.  I expect to continue uploading Bucket of Tentacles style photographs now and again and who knows, maybe some more squelchy synth noises and horror beats will re-appear.

Bucket of Tentacles is descending to the depths from where it emerged.  For the moment…..

The Bucket

 

 

The Grand Hotel, and running from Croatia into Bosnia.

I’ve been posting lots about running recently, and whilst this will descend into my tale of taking a steep run from Mlini into Bosnia, I’m going to start off with some very “Bucket of Tentacles” style pictures of the Kupari resort in Croatia. Not your typical holiday photos, Kupari is a derelict hotel complex located to the south of Dubrovnik.

Back in the early 90’s, when I was mainly trying to step into teenagedom, there was a war going on to which I paid very little attention. It was the break up of Yugoslavia and during the early part, the luxury Kupari resort was captured by the Serbs and ended up being mostly ruined.  Now, standing awkwardly against a beautiful mountain/sea backdrop it is an urban-explorers dream.  Its completely open to the public and unlike the UK, not a warning sign or barricade in sight leaving you free to roam. So roam I did, camera in hand and visions of a post apocalyptic world in mind.  Here are a few of the pictures.

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Derelict building? Lets go through on our mopeds!

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Another holiday-snap taken from the Dubrovnik City Walls

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Not your typical holiday picture, but I liked the collection of people, particularly the gent on the left clearly worried about calf-sunburn.

Post-apocalyptic world out of the way, earlier that day I’d had another rather larger dose of adrenaline after planning to run up Malastica, a local summit rising steeply from the hotel we were staying in.

I made my way out of the quiet tourist areas and into “real” Croatia. Receiving occasional odd glances as an Adidas-clad runner pranced through the usually quiet roads, I carried on up the steep ascent as a thunderstorm blew it’s way in from the Adriatic. It wasn’t long before I was sodden, t-shirt clinging to me and looking up at what seemed like an endless stream of zig-zag paths leading to the summit.

This soon changed though as the cloud curtain opened up revealing the magnificent views ahead.

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A further trudge along the path and I arrived at the following sign:

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It didn’t look like too much of a warning sign (and I later translated this as “State Border”), so I stepped past it into another country.

Only a few metres in and everything felt more Bosnian. Embarrassingly not knowing much about the country other than there had been a war I wondered what life was like for people on the outskirts of this remote landscape.  I reached some kind of peak and took in the view. The glistening Adriatic Sea on one side, the coast populated with hotels and bars but circling round to a rolling mountain range. I sensed a wilderness I’ve never felt before. An unknown landscape staring at me menacingly/beautifully and me staring back:

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The path abruptly ended.  Looking ahead I saw a distant road and some buildings nestled in amongst the hills. I wanted to get there, but could see it would be a tough jaunt, no signs of any paths or trails, just natural grass, clumps of trees/brambles and sharp rock formations. Without my own full consent I clambered off the path anyway and headed towards the distant road.  This was tough terrain and very slow-going, and the reality dawned that I had only just dried out, I hadn’t seen any humans since the start of my ascent sometime ago and I was clambering over sharp rocks somewhere in Bosnia.  Common sense was restored and I decided to turn back. The kilometre I travelled off-track took me about 25 minutes and that was moving as fast as I could, such was the terrain.

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I carried on along another ridge which must have been the border between Croatia and Bosnia, regular abandoned outposts and walls reduced to rubble lined the edges of the paths high up in the hills.

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It was around about then that I introduced myself to a snake. Midnight black and about a metre long dryly slithering across the trail.  Realising we were both completely terrified of each other we parted company as quickly as we could going our respective ways with a nod of encouragement. Now running low on water and energy I reluctantly knew I needed to head back so weaved my way back down the rocky paths.  What a fantastic descent it was.

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Finally reaching a road I stumbled into a bakery selling chocolate milk and very large slices of pizza which truly was a dream come true!!

Later, I found out about the land mines….. warnings on wiki travel to not venture off any roads or investigate any derelict buildings.  Ignorance is bliss as clearly this would have added a new element of fear to the whole journey. As if I needed to worry about a little snake! Its hard to know how “real” the danger was and if there were any land mines in the vicinity – wouldn’t a country’s border be the “perfect” spot?  In any case, I made it back alive, with a wonderful life experience tucked under my belt!

All hail the trail!

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HDR Photos (Greenfield, MOSI, Media City)

I’ve been experimenting recently with High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, which is taking 3 (or more) photos at different exposures and combining them to get the best exposure range across the picture.  I’ve been using some software called Photomatix which came free with a magazine and has a few “painting” type settings which with various tweaking seem to give a surreal effect.  I really like the output, but i’m going to struggle to take a “normal” photo again!  So….. here they are…..

First up (and probably my favourite of the bunch) a couple taken around media city in Manchester, home to the BBC and ITV:

Media City Bridge

BBC Building

These ones were taken at Greenfield just a short train journey from Manchester on the edge of the Peak District (bottom one edited by Mat to get a better composition):

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Finally, on a wander round the city, I visited the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) and popped into the Cathereral:

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CHURCH

I really like how most of these turned out and the almost strange effect that can be achieved.  I think it maybe works better on more “human built” things than the natural world, but lots of future experimenting to do!

Ancoats

Ancoats

Since my Lumix GX1 suffered a heat stroke in Gran Canaria and I replaced with a GX7 back in Sept/Oct I barely seem to have used it.  When I’m out running I see so many things I’d love to photograph, but the two hobbies are very incompatible! I finally took a local stroll without my shorts and trainers instead armed with a camera and thought I’d focus on one particular area – the southern part of Ancoats close to Manchester City Centre.

Before I even knew I was destined to become a Manchester resident I visited here back in 2013 with work so spent some eerie time in the deserted/derelict Morning Star hostel and school which I mentioned in THIS POST.  Its a strange area on the fringe of the city, clearly industrial, but lots of deserted/derelict buildings with pockets of nice flats, kind of like the Northern Quarter has burst its seams and some hipsters have spilled over Great Ancoats Street clutching their Macbooks and little dogs.  I’ve not gone for beautiful photos here (ability problems) so just tried to capture the vibe of the area.  So, without further ado, here are a few snaps!.

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Anita Street, very clean and well presented considering the surrounding area!

Coffee

Nestled inside an old Mill, a coffee shop serving Ancoats Coffee.  A true hispter hangout.

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I wouldn’t try getting in here….

 

Car

The hawk-eyed amongst you will be screaming “That’s not Ancoats!!!” and you’d be right.  I wanted to try out keeping some colour in a B&W photo so here is my first effort.  This car is in the NQ right by Cord bar and hasn’t moved since I began living here.

George Leigh Street

George Leigh Street

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I too, wish I knew the way.

Smiths

Swift half down Smith’s?

So there you go.  It was good to get out with the camera again and also try out a few different editing techniques on the pics above.  Until next time…..

 

Hutamah

Starlight

Depending on which resource you consult, in Islam, Hutamah is the 7th lowest and worst level of hell reserved for the religious hypocrites. Whilst I don’t believe in hell (or heaven for that matter), I would hope that this place would be reserved for those that use these ancient texts as justification for evil and murderous plots.

Given that we are just a microscopic dot in both physical space and in the history of time I believe the universe is pretty much apathetic to the goings on of humans.

Here is a short noisy piece dedicated to Hutamah, purely on the basis it sounds a bit nasty.  I took a different approach here and improvised a basic TR8 drum track with heavy on-board effects which gave some kind of weird feedback loop to it all and then just played several synth tracks over the top and just tried to trim and piece it all together at the end (which actually meant deleting most of what I’d played).  So its just ended up as a bit of a noisy bodge-job, careful song writing all the way.  Here it is:

Another, more planned (i.e. its been written) and much nicer track on the go, just waiting for a collaboration with some bass lines from Mat.  Get on it!

Private Show (and some piano)

Private Show

I spotted this whilst out and about and had to get a picture.  The homeless man perhaps trying to enjoy a rare nice moment of life with a good read accompanied by some violin.  At least it gave me the title to this post: Private Show.

On to the point of the post, its been ages since I’ve recorded any piano, so here are a few pieces I’ve been playing in my lessons.  First up, is the start of Sarabande in D minor by Handel.  I played it a few times on piano and then switched to the strings setting and thought  it sounded better, so I recorded it like that.

Sarabande in D minor (Handel)

Here is the piano version too.

Next up is a piece I started learning over two years ago, but then gave up on it.  I picked it up again recently so thought I’d record it.  It is Bach, Prelude in C.  This has been difficult, firsty to keep up the consistency of the continuous rhythm, but then also inject some feeling into it because of its continuous rhythm, but here it is as a record of my progress.  The piece is fantastic, with some amazing chord progressions throughout.

Prelude in C (Bach)

Finally, a piece from Jazz Piano Pieces – Grade 2.  I bought the book because I wanted to try and do a few pieces that I can learn relatively quickly.  I’ve still found them tough though!

Contemplation (Tyner arr. Iles)

Just to finish off with a random picture, here is the outside of Victoria Station in Manchester City Centre.  Its an air-filled ETFE roof and looks great in the right light.  These couple of pics were from my new Lumix GX7, now at bargain price due to the release of the GX8.  I’ve not had much chance to try it out yet other than one quick wander round the city and I didn’t manage to capture much….

DStinton Victoria Station

Sun, sea and creatures lurking

Here’s a few photos from a recent trip to Gran Canaria.  I finally did some scuba diving which I’ve wanted to do for ages.  I had the fortune to see an octopus propelling himself away from me as quickly as he could, and also a type of ray going around his daily business sweeping gracefully through the diving group and disappearing into the vast ocean beyond.  Even the scuba instructors were impressed. Beautiful.

Rocks again

Clearly a natural creation of perfectly square rocks

Crab

I now realise crabs have incredible perception to danger.  The slightest movement and they scuttle into the nearest crevice waiting for another chance to come out and forage for food.  This pic took quite a bit of patience sitting still and getting sore legs just waiting for him to creep out from under the rocks.  Respect to any wildlife photographers out there.

Clownfish

A clownfish at the Palmitos Park aquarium

Sea view

Some more strange cubes

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This was an experiment trying out a different type of photography – High Dynamic Range (HDR).  It involves taking shots at different exposures and then blending them together so that you can see everything in the photo.  I know its not the greatest scene, but this is definitely a technique I’ll be trying out again.

Night view

The view from our hotel balcony (HDR photo again).

There is plenty of fish in the sea. I didn’t dip my Lumix in the big blue for this one.  I have (or had because its sold now) a cheapo underwater “action” cam.  It was good fun for a bit but you couldn’t really see what you were taking photos of so it was a bit of random point and shoot!

Hopefully a few piano pieces will be recorded soon to keep the blog slithering along.

The Illicium Lure (EP#3)

The difficult third album….. From what started as uploading a couple of sound snippets has turned into three years of music or noise uploads, loads of photos, and somehow a third EP.  Here is the latest offering of tracks recorded and uploaded over the last year, this time with some extras and a couple of minor remixes.  For the first time, this also includes a collaboration. Track 5 “Thalassa” features vocals written and performed by long term friend and band mate, Alistair Davies. Thanks Al!

The Illicium Lure

1. Lost (Self Inflicted Desolation)

2. Fleuve Parasseux

3. Streetwork

4. Interlude (Tango)

5. Thalassa

6. Cenotes

7. Interlude (Donkey Kong)

8. Number stations

9. Reload

How have “the tentacles” changed since the last collection of tracks “Analogue” in July 2014….?  I’ve continued piano lessons, learnt lots and hopefully added more musicality to some these tracks, certainly in Thalassa and Fleuve Parasseux.  Listening back, several of the tracks contain improvised synth editing.  I’ve always tried to maintain an element of improvisation on several of my tracks but listening back I have no idea how, or what I did in some of the parts.  It would be unrepeatable which I think is great but also slightly frustrating!

So another year goes by, Life goes on… some tough moments at work, got married, some great experiences along the way, and a whole new passion for running. Long live the tentacles!

Get a printed copy from THE SHOP

For the copyright purists, for (nearly) the first time I’ve ‘stolen’ a couple of bits and pieces, so here are the details: –

Track 1 – A mere use of a pre-set sequence from the Arturia microbrute, bite me.
Track 3 – The very premise of this track was recording artists from the streets.  I actually tried to make contact to ask permission but received no response.  Some drums and beat boxing parts are recorded on an iPhone in Manchester City Centre.  The radio intro/outros are pretty much all live street recordings.
Track 4 – A very short piece from a piano magazine introducing the style of tango. I enjoyed playing it so recorded it and solo’d over it!
Track 7 – The beeps and boops are recorded from me playing my 1982 Nintendo Game and Watch Donkey Kong, still working today, move over PlayStation!
Track 8 – Voices and number stations stolen from web postings on the subject. The whole track came together from listening to parts on the web and adding some random synth warblings and a beat… getting it done off the cuff.

 

Fleuve Parasseux

Time to get back to the roots of this blog and get some music up! Here is my latest offering – “Fleuve Parasseux”

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Fleuve Parasseux:

What’s that rubbish picture I hear you say?  Its a river of course, but I have taken the liberty of inconveniencing a few electrons and altered it using the free image “glitching” website available HERE

I love that we have access to fantastic technology, but then try and mess things up so that pictures look old, retro, faded and “glitched” or produce music then distort it to make it sound like its on tape, or add record scratches etc. Why do we strive for perfection and then try and quickly get away from it?

The track itself started as a piano piece which I recorded and then developed all the other parts around it.  Whilst uncharacteristically “nice” for the most part, I tried to add my own “glitch”.

New EP coming very soon including a collection of tracks from this blog, a couple of new “interludes” and an older track with new vocals all over it (not by me thankfully!)

 

Adidas Thunder Run

All it took was a quick email to “Men’s Running” magazine saying how I needed a night off the beer, and somehow I was in their team for the Adidas Thunder Run and had won a load of free running gear from Adidas! Needless to say I am now a walking advert for them – you’d see less stripes on a tiger!  For the uninitiated, the Thunder Run is a 24 hour trail running event where you compete either solo(!), pairs, or other combinations to run continuous 10km laps around Catton Park in Derbyshire.  Our team consisted four men and four women, three of each competition winners and two experienced ultra runners (Gary and Anne-Marie) to make it seem like it was a run round the park.  Which in effect, it was.

I rolled up early on Saturday morning to a bustling campsite and managed to find our team with a well established campsite, a kettle on the go and a selection of muffins and flapjacks baked by some of the ladies.  Gender stereotype alert, but as you would probably expect, the men’s baking contribution was ….. er…. nothing.  Although I did bring some teabags.

Here’s the team:

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Laura, Dan (me), Paul, Anne-Marie, Gary, Jade, Steve, Alexy.

Noon soon rolls along and Paul had jumped forward to do the first lap which he completed in a mud-busting 38:50 which was a fantastic time for the course.  The lap was followed by some frantic shouting for Jade who had a remarkable skill of not being found during changeover 🙂  I was next up and set off in the warm sunshine.  Gently jogging along the first field, it was all looking very comfortable but a sudden sharp right straight up a steep woodland path left any thoughts of this being an easy run right there at the bottom.  I’m a relatively new runner so this was actually one of the tougher routes I’ve done with lots of twists and turns, mud, narrow woodland paths and short sharp hills.  Defying the laws of physics I am convinced there was far more “up” than there was “down”.  I came in under 50 mins which I was pleased with considering the terrain.  I passed on to Laura, followed by Gary, Anne-Marrie, Steve then Alexy.  And so it went on.

Purely for reasons of me having a camera, I soon became the official team photographer.  We soon got into a routine with Paul being chief ‘spotter’ which meant standing a bit further up from the finish line then frantically waving when one of our team came in. This was a cue for me to stop thinking about bacon sandwiches and sleeping and to quickly get my camera ready to get a picture of the incoming runner.

My second lap kicked off around 9:30pm, so it was time for the head torches as by the time I finished the woods were pretty black.  This was my favourite lap and best time too (49:03), it just all came together and I got a nice comfortable rhythm going.  Shower, food and time for a quick sleep as I was up again at 4am in preparation for my final lap which started around 5:30am, but I still somehow managed a smile:

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The weather was kind to us apart from the final couple of laps for Alexy and Paul when it was completely tipping it down.  We finished up doing 25 laps (3 each and 4 for Paul), and it seemed everyone had a great time, each of us with our own level of experience and personal goals for running, from the ultra runners to …..er …… me.

Here’s us with our medals!

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Thanks to Men’s Running mag and Adidas for the opportunity to do this along with the free gear, it’s all great stuff. Thanks of course to all my team mates (and Stephen, our support crew) who were all a pleasure to do this with and made it a thoroughly enjoyable experience all round!

Check out my running page HERE on this blog for my running history.

The girls were busy posing for a photo, but it was front camera on all the time, sorry ladies:

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The plan:

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The Results:

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