Monday, November 16, 2015

Your Jeans Are Over 100 Years Old

"For over 130 years 
Our celebrated and original XX denim overalls 
Have been before the public. 
This is a pair of LEVIS 
They are the original jeans 
And have a reputation for durability known the world over. 
Only selected materials have been used in their manufacture. 
Every garment guaranteed 
Exclusive XX special top weight denim 
And sewed with the strongest thread. 
We shall thank you to carefully examine the sewing finish and fit. 
Caution:  See that this pair bears the quality number which is XX and also our Trade Mark. 
Levi Strauss”
What do you wear on your legs, most of the time?  For an awful lot of people it’ll probably be a pair of denim jeans in one shade of blue or another, and they probably don’t take a second to think about them when they pull them on in the morning.  If the pair of jeans that you fall into is a pair of Levi’s 501s (which they could well be) then as well as getting dressed, you’re also getting into a story; 100 years ago, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina, Levi Strauss & Co shook hands with two gentlemen named Caesar and Moses and the agreement still holds today.  Caesar and Moses ran White Oak Mill, producing denim under the name Cone Mills and they had gained themselves a reputation for producing the best denim around.  The agreement with Levi Strauss and Co gave Cone Mills the right to manufacture the denim used by Levi’s to produce their Lot 501 jeans which went on to become their core product.  It’s odd to think that, as fashion continually evolves, one constant item in many men’s wardrobes is actually a piece of clothing that celebrates its 100th birthday this year.  

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Hallowed Ground

As a tribe, we gather in unusual locations.  Our meeting places, where stories are shared and surf culture is perpetuated are not, I would argue, in the ocean - that is where we surf.  In the water our conversations are often stilted and broken, interrupted by the catching of waves or made difficult by wind or distance.  The ocean is where the stories occur and where legends are made, but it is often the parking lot that is the incubator of our culture. Almost anywhere where you can surf there is space nearby to park a car, whether it’s on the roadside, in a large tarmac lot, on a patch of dirt, or in a clearing in the sand dunes or forest.  Sometimes where everybody parks is a walk away from the waves, but quite often the spot where you pull up, check the waves and get changed has a pretty good view of the surf.  It’s where, in mid-winter, surfers hunch over their steering wheels with the windscreen wipers squeaking across the glass trying to keep warm whilst drumming up the motivation to pull on a wetsuit.  It’s where we talk about the best sand banks and surf forecasts through rolled down windows, where we compliment each other on sick waves and look back at the sea whilst towelling off in the hope that it’s getting worse, not better, and where we take phone-photos to show our friends what they missed today.  Most photos of waves aren’t taken by water-photographers swimming with a housing or stood on the sand with a zoom lens, they’re taken by surfers stood in the parking lot; how many surfers actually walk back down the beach to take a photo?
It’s in car parks where surfers stand with a coffee in the morning evaluating how accurate the forecast was and rescheduling their day around planned surfs, and where surfers lean on bonnets or sit on tailgates in the evening sharing beers and talking story.  It’s in car parks where wax is gifted, where the secret of where car keys are stashed is guarded, and sometimes it’s where water-borne scores are settled.

The ocean is where we ride waves, and this is a personal and solo pursuit.  The beach is, more often than not, just the thin band of sand that we run across to get to the water.  For so many though, the car par is where we congregate.  It’s where we are “surfers”, not just a surfer.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Outside Food: Bashed Crab

Last summer I published a couple of posts with recipes and suggestions for food to be cooked and eaten outside in the fresh air.  This summer (because of various weekend weddings and work commitments) I had to snatch outside opportunities as and when they arose and so we ended up going on a few mid-week overnight micro-adventures, sleeping out in bivvy bags or just heading to the beach to make dinner rather than doing it at home.  Smashed crab isn't a recipe; it's an assembly and it's perfect for when time is tight and the decision to eat al-fresco is pretty last minute.  There is one condition/requirement though, and that is that you can only really do it if you're on the coast.  Here goes:
  • Buy yourself a cooked crab, preferably from the small boat fisherman who hauled in the pot.  I picked one up for about £5 from the fisherman who's cold store is at the top of the hill coming up from Chapel Porth beach near St Agnes in Cornwall.  If you're near Port Isaac (Cornwall) then you'll be spoilt for choice.  You don't want a picked or dressed crab though, as that takes away most of the fun involved with this grown-up finger food.
  • Pack a camping bowl, fork and teaspoon for each person, nut-crackers (if you have any), an old newspaper, a jar of mayonnaise, the remains of a block of butter, a fish-grill rack and corn-on-the-cob (from your fridge at home, or stop by a shop on your way to the beach).  Go to your shed and grab a pin hammer or a small axe and some firewood.
  • On your way to the beach, stop at a fish&chip take-away and buy a large portion of chips to share.
  • Get to the beach and find your spot.  Light a small fire (we have a little fire pit that we take with us, the size of a large cake-tin) if it's possible to do so without ruining someone else's enjoyment of the beach, and spread out the newspaper using pebbles to stop it form blowing away in the wind.
  • Sandwich the sweetcorn cobs in the fish grill and cook them over the hot coals.
  • Open the chips and jar of mayonnaise.
  • Start pulling limbs off your cooked crab and use the pin hammer or the back of the axe to get at the meat inside, then get to work with the thin handle of your teaspoon to get all of the white meat out of the legs, claws and shoulders.
  • Make a mess.
  • Wipe you hands on a piece of newspaper then wrap all of the crab shells, greasy chip paper and other waste up in the newspaper to take home and put in the bin.
  • Throw a few more pieces of wood on the fire and enjoy the rest of your evening on the beach as the sun sinks into the sea.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Excuses, Excuses

I have an apology to make to those of you who are dedicated readers of this blog, because over the past couple of months the regularity of my posts (which for over five years went out almost every Sunday) has wobbled somewhat.  The reason is that for a little over a year now I have been transforming the way that I work and building a business beyond my freelance work, and for the past nine months or so this project has often taken precedence - resulting in the frequency of my postings to An Tor Orth An Mor becoming a little erratic.  So, without further ado, let me introduce you all to Hailer; you can hold Hailer entirely responsible for the disruption to your Sunday evening browsing.

Hailer is a difficult entity for me to label easily, but it is essentially in the business of storytelling.  You could pin such labels as "content marketing studio", "digital marketing agency" or "brand growth consultancy" on it, and all are equally valid definitions and yet each one on its own doesn't adequately describe what Hailer does.  What Hailer does is craft the stories and imagery that define brands, grow followings and improve performance.  If you're interested in a more concise explanation and taking a look at the various client case studies then please head over and check out, otherwise I'll just be repeating myself in this post.  

The development of Hailer isn't the death knell for An Tor Orth An Mor, just a separation of my personal and freelance photographic work from the content that I produce regularly for a number of brands and businesses.  I intend to return to producing regular posts for this blog and am developing a new home for it (watch this space), whilst Hailer's "notebook" blog will feature syndicated client work and news.  If you like what you see on the website then may I suggest you give Hailer a follow on your social media platform of choice (instagram, facebook or twitter) so that you can keep getting more of the same.

Here's just a tiny taster...

Sharing adventures on the Cornish Coast with Cornish Rock Tors

Ongoing brand management and development for wooden surfboard makers Otter Surfboards

 Building an online surf magazine with an international following for Surf Simply


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

SAS, Somersault Festival, and a Sunshine Sandwich

It would be fair to declare this year's Somersault Festival, which took place this past weekend, a "Sunshine Sandwich" as the fledgling festival (now in its second year) enjoyed a Saturday of glorious British summer weather bookended on the Friday and Sunday by torrential downpours.  Boy, did it rain, but in true Brit-festival style though the audience simply pulled on wellington boots and ponchos and kept on dancing whenever the raindrops started to fall (sometimes sideways), causing steam to rise from the crowds in front of the main stage and the entire site to become a gigantic mud-pit.
I was fortunate enough to attend this year's event as an exhibiting photographer for the festival's chosen charity Surfers Against Sewage, and a set of my images of marine plastic pollution (a number of which were produced specifically for this exhibition) were displayed in reclaimed wood frames around the two SAS tents.  It was a real honour to be asked to exhibit for SAS, a charity who do incredible work campaigning for the health and ongoing protection of our coastlines and oceans, and it also meant that I got to attend the festival (and pitch our tent right next to my car in the "Artists and Guests" campsite - probably the only benefit of the fancy red wristband that I was given, but possibly the best considering the weather).  SAS hosted a number of talks in their big, blue, tent as part of their "Ocean Lectures" series with speakers including wooden surfboard maker James Otter, scientist and surf explorer Dr Easkey Britton, Finisterre founder Tom Kay, round Britain and Ireland solo sea kayaker Joe Leach and big wave surfer Andrew Cotton - who I led a very last minute Q&A session with onstage when SAS campaigns officer and festival lead Dom Ferris had to dash off to do a radio interview.  There were daily handplane making workshops run by Otter Surfboards, music workshops with musician Millie Upton and a very special exclusive performance by Rae Morris who played to a packed tent just before her appearance on the main stage on Saturday.  In amongst all of this the team of SAS regional reps and volunteers collected signatures for their Marine Litter Petition, sold raffle tickets and signed up new members from amongst the festival audience - they worked tirelessly despite some awful weather, and were a pleasure to share the weekend with.  There was more to Somersault than just the SAS tent, however, and I got to watch The Staves perform (they are wonderful, but every time I have seen them live it has rained so hard that I have been soaked to the skin), as well as the wonderful Mankala Band, Bombay Bicycle Club, Jimmy Cliff, Cornwall's very own Rogue Theatre, and the incredible Young Blood Brass Band who rounded out a great weekend of music and good times.  When the rain wasn't completely rodding it down, I managed to pull my camera out and fire off a few shots, so if you couldn't make it this year then you can see what you missed and make sure that you get in nice and early next year.  Enjoy:

It wouldn't be a music festival without some outrageous flower garlands.

A view of the "southern" arena, on the western bank of the River Bray at Castle Hill Estate in North Devon.

Somersault is fantastically family friendly, and there were heaps of little monsters dancing around.

Somersault's main stage on the sunny Saturday.

After the rain there were two footwear options available:  wellies, or nothing at all.

Rae Morris performing an exclusive gig in the SAS tent.

My "Colour Wheel" image on display outside the SAS tent.

"The Problem In A Nutshell" offering a bit of blue on the outside of the blue SAS tent.

My "Firing Squad" photograph showing a line-up of shotgun cartridges found on a Cornish beach, which probably originated on the east coast of Canada during their water-fowl hunting season.

Rogue Theatre brought their incredible woodland show to the gardens of the Castle Hill Estate.

Surfers Against Sewage's Marine Litter Museum (with an image of mine hanging above it) shows the age of some items found on beaches, demonstrating how litter persists in the marine environment for decades.

The wonderful team of SAS regional representatives and lead volunteers (flanked by Campaigns Officer Dom on the left and Reps & Volunteer Co-ordinator Jack on the right) who worked tirelessly all weekend in some awful weather to share the charity's message and engage festival-goers with their campaigns.  Thanks so much for having me along guys.  Please check out the wonderful work that they do and give them your support here.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Like a Leica

For the past few months I've kept an extra camera slung over my shoulder alongside my go-to kit.  It's a Zorki 4K; a Russian rangefinder that I stumbled across in a vintage store at a price that made it good value as a bookend, let alone a functioning camera.  The Zorki 4K is a soviet-era copy of the Leica II produced by the KMZ factory (Krasnogorsk Mekanicheski Zavod, which translates as "Krasnogorst Mechanical Factory"), and even takes Leica L-mount lenses although it comes with the acclaimed Jupiter-8 50mm f/2 lens (a Zeiss-Sonnar clone).  It was introduced in 1973 as a successor to the Zorki 4 which had been produced since 1956 (featuring improvements such as a modern film advance lever rather than a knurled metal knob), and was widely exported to the west until production ceased in 1978.  The camera is fully manual and has no light meter, so I've been making a best guess every time I've used it over this past spring.  As was to be expected, a few of the frames from that first roll of film were slightly over-exposed although I think that might partially be down to it being quite difficult to accurately set the shutter speed on my camera (you have to lift a small knob, twist it to match the desired shutter speed and let it fall into place, which mine doesn't always do particularly convincingly), however I'm pleased with the sharpness of the photographs that I did expose correctly.  Below you'll find a selection of the best of those photographs from the first film through my Russian-rip-off-rangefinder.  I hope that you like them.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Fly Fishing / Flicking Fluff

I am an awful fly fisherman.  I started “picking up” new hobbies to compliment surfing at around the same time that I started to get really busy with work (perhaps as some sort of subliminal rebellion against me giving up more and more of my own time), so not only do I not have enough opportunities to indulge and perfect them but they also all require fairly similar optimum weather conditions.  I should’ve taken up past-times more suited to stormy winter evenings such as wood-turning or learning to play the guitar properly. 

 Instead, a handful of times each year, I go out and wave a stick around the air with an ornate bit of fluff and a hook tied to the end of it.  Invariably I fail to catch a fish, but I enjoy myself and that is why I do it; learning to cast a fly and becoming proficient at it is a very zen-like repetitive process that requires a great deal of concentration and practice.  The “fishing” part when the fly is on or in the water trying to trick your prey into taking a bite is proportionally very small when compared to the total amount of time that you are fishing.  My flies spend most of their time in midair, whizzing past my right ear in ever-increasing loops as I try to build up enough line to cast out to where the fish (might) be.  Once I’ve got good at that I’ll worry about how they “present” or land on the water, which is a whole other issue.  

I don’t catch any fish but that’s not why I do it:  In just the same way as I rarely bring home dinner when I go spearfishing, the catching element of fly-fishing for me is just a possible pleasant by-product of spending a few hours under, on, waist deep in or next to the water.   

I did once unknowingly fly-fish for sea bass mere metres away from the British Prime Minister (he didn’t catch anything either) so I at least have a “fishing” story to tell in the pub, and of course there are all of those monsters that got away...  If I ever land one then you’ll be the first to know.