Friday, 26 December 2014

It’s time for the Christmas expedition again

After the failure of last year’s Christmas expedition, this year I decided not to go too far away from home. While rain and snow are not much of a problem for me the wind is a different matter.  The design of XOXs roof means it catches the wind so this trip I planned to make use of the shelter you get when surrounded by trees. And having one of the biggest forests in the UK only 2.5 hours away from home the Galloway forest park was an obvious choice and as a bonus it is a dark sky area, I think the only one in the UK
I had a problem finding a campsite for the first night out as most of them close for the winter so I ended up 30 miles away from the forest, but it gave me somewhere to aim for, so after a lunchtime start on the Tuesday before Christmas I arrived at Garlieston camp site before it got dark, after a most unpleasant journey with the rain lashing down, the road side fields flooded and a lot of surface water. Even the campsite was awash the owner having to run pumps to keep the water level manageable.
But XOX had no problems and Ash and I settled down for a nice night, until the gas ran out! 

Now on an ordinary camper or caravan this is not a big deal right?
Just go to the gas locker and change tanks. Not so easy on XOX. The gas is carried in a sort of U shaped bracket behind the nearside back wheel and the bottle has a webbing belt to hold it in place. Now as you can imaging all the !ӣ$%^& from the wheel gets plastered all over this belt and the bottle so getting it undone and the replacement one fitted is a gloves and swearing job at the best of times, add that to doing it standing in 2 inches of flood water, in the dark using a head torch to see what you are doing, and with the rain poring down, made it a proper sod of a job to do. But I managed and the kettle was soon boiling away again.

Up and about quite early on day 2 meant all the chores where done, Ash walked and we were on our way by 10 and I was experimenting using Google maps on my phone to do the navigating with.
 Bigish success, Google maps works very well indeed, but the 12 volt  USB charger I have is only 1/2 Amp so it could not keep pace with the battery drain, it kept going flat, not too much of a problem this time as I left it on charge while walking Ash and going to look at things that interested me.

Red deer where the first attraction, the forestry commission has a feeding station and they have a hide close to the road that you can watch the deer from. There were only 4 when I was there but they looked as nice as they usually do even when butting heads. 

Then a drive to a forest track and a short walk took me to the “Black Loch” that has a very odd looking, sculpture? folly? Thing?(see photo they are all clickable BTY)
But this was a good place to have brunch (I know how to upset people with the smell of bacon and eggs wafting out over the forest lol) and them off again to “Ken-Dee Marshes nature reserve” 

Nice place with 2 hides although I only went to the nearest one as it was quite a long walk from the car park. I did manage to see a Red Kite on my walk there and lots of small birds on the feeders that I will need my mate Malcolm to identify for me as I haven’t got a clue about 2 of them.

By the time I was on the road again the light was starting to fail so it was time to find somewhere to spend Christmas Eve. A small forestry side road was just the job. Trees on both sides but not to close (no “widow makers” I did look) so a nice and sheltered spot to spend the night.

Well!! spend the night is not quite right, as it was 3ish when I stopped so what to do with the rest of the afternoon and evening? An early evening meal, some audio book time (off to a galaxy far far away) and by then it was dark enough to get the camera and tripod out for some star shots. By the time the battery ran out in my inverlometer (posh word for timer) it was 10ish and a good time to open one of my x-mas presents.(the shape gave it away) That turned out to be one of the nicest malt whiskeys I have ever had (thank you, You know who you are).

A very wet night with hail stones bouncing off the roof hard enough to wake me up at 3.30 but for all that I slept until after 8, some tea and then opened the rest of my presents, Thank you Sheila I tried it out by walking Ash down the track with the hood up, and Sue the hat is great I had it on all the way home.

Then all packed up we went exploring again, I had to detour around a flooded road to get to Gatehouse of Fleet and then on to Kirkcudbright and a viewpoint called “Solway view”, even though it was X-mas morning there were a few too many people about for me to be comfortable with, so brunch was Marmite on toast with tea of course, in a lay-by and then I decided to head home.

My water carrier was leaking, (unknown to me) so the carpet in the back of XOX was wet and the power problems meant I could not use my toys properly and that was very frustrating as I wanted to see the images I had taken over the last few days, so home and a shower sounded nice.
It was a good trip all together. The weather on Christmas day was lovely and as usual I learned a few things.

If you have toys you want to use you need the proper power supplies to keep them working.  ½ amp chargers are no good for smart phones or tablets.

When the leisure battery is down to 11.8 vaults, (I had a proper volt meter with me this trip to keep an eye on it) Then 30mins with XOXs engine running on tick over will put it back to 12.2 volts (why do wild campers need a generator?? Just run your engine) and water containers don’t last forever buy a new one.

Well that was my latest trip for 2014 apart from some daytrips around the lakes between now and New Year. Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope it has given you a taste of what life is like for me. Have fun and all the best for 2015 make it a good one. I intend to one way or another (there is a song in there somewhere time to watch “Coyote Ugly” again I think).

Thursday, 26 June 2014

XOX goes to work

Well it is the time of year when XOX has to earn its keep, "SHOW TIME" and one of the main reasons for choosing a Defender as my camper was its ability to tow the 3.5 tonne trailer used to carry all the gear for the events we attend around the county. This is when we sell our photos, get people interested in the photography courses that we run and now, our new studio that will be opening soon.
All hooked up ready to go

Last weekend we were at a very local event and only needed to travel 3 miles to get there but once the marquee is up, and the car parked, there is it no moving it until the end of the 2 day show.
As you can see  XOX is parked close behind the marquee and the basher attached to the car and marquee to make a covered walkway between them and, if the weather is bad, then we have sides that clip on to keep the rain out although the weather was kind and they where not needed for this trip out.
I got to try out my silver screen for the first time and it works very well indeed. No condensation in the front of the car at all, even boiling many kettles of water for tea and washing up as XOX's facilitates were used by 3 of us. That's a lot of kettles!
It was the small marquee we used for this show, 5m wide and 4m deep. At other events we have the choice of  using the big version, 8m wide and 5m deep. During the show the curtains are closed to hide the car.

The Art by Camera Studio WOW!!! Exciting times! The building is being refurbished at the moment. The electricians have finished and the joiner will have completed his bit tomorrow, then the painters will be coming in. So, in about 2/3 weeks time, Sue and I will have our very own studio/gallery that we can run our courses from and also hire out the studio to other photographers who want a studio for a day with all the lighting gear/backdrops/props and, us, if they want some help. It can also be used as a meeting room for small groups and will be a permanent place for our framed photos to hang.

That's about it for now. We have a lot more shows to do this summer so XOX will get a good workout and I am planning a few more trips out and about to see what we will see and take photos of.

Thanks for looking


Sunday, 13 April 2014


We got invited for a day out last Wednesday  to watch "M Sport"testing out one of there rally cars by one of the marshals (Thank you Ray). Exciting stuff in real life much better than watching on the telly.
It was an early start getting to the forest for 7.30 so we could be in position before the forest track was closed and the testing could begin. A 6 mile long track and we were about at the halfway point but there was no mistaking when the car had started its run you could hear it miles away.

We wanted to try and show the car in action and to give a feeling of the speed it was travelling at and one way is to use a panning action at a slow shutter speed to have the background blurred but keep the car in focus

Another way we tried out, catching the car on a corner with the lose gravel spraying from the back wheels.
(It is a white car under the golden sheen of mud)

Or close up action?
We soon got into the habit of taking the shot and turning our backs to the spray of gravel (my jacket needed a wash when I got home)

Or even closer?

Even XOX got a bit muddy and that was just driving to the spot we where given. But as always it was lovely to be able to make tea and have somewhere warm to sit between runs.

Click the photo for a bigger image.

Thank you for looking


Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Let's stay local this time

I decided that the first run out to try the new lockers out would be local, so I had a long weekend around Coniston. I also needed some more local photos for our 2014 collection of prints/cards so an ideal opportunity. I have not spent much time in the southern Lake District so I went exploring.

The new lockers worked a treat with everything fitting in nicely and room to hold more when I am on a longer trip.

The board and edging came from Dormobile so is an exact match for the galley and I followed the same sort of styling so they make a matching set.
Working with this type of material is a far cry from my normal work so a big learning curve for me and if I was to use this material again I would change a few things but on the whole I am very pleased with the end result.

The dining table sits nicely on top of the drawer and the runners are rated at 40 kilos so they will take me leaning on them a bit and they have a locking mechanism when pushed shut, plus the top stows away nicely against the window when not in use.

A nice welcome to the campsite in Trover when I got there Friday lunch time  (not going wild yet I still want power this time of year) so after getting settled in I took Ash for a walk. That turned out to be a lot longer than expected. I had to gave myself a crash course on using Google maps on my phone, panicking as the battery was running low and I was just a little lost. But I only walked an extra 3 miles to get back to the campsite. (Naughty boy don't go to strange places without a map you know how to use, smack wrist). I enjoyed my tea when I got back, Phew I was tired, but the wind dropped down so I was in my bunk for the night with the lid up and the vents open. very little condensation, what a  big change from my last trip out.

Saturday morning it was off to see what Coniston Water looked like. A bit windy for nice photos so it was an exploratory day to be ready for a proper photo shoot later on in the year, but I enjoyed the run around Coniston Water.

Although I have a lot of "not very good photos" of Coniston Water from my run around I liked this one the best. This couple where making water colour pictures sitting on the end of this jetty sketching and having great fun.

Another good nights sleep in my bunk and I was ready to wake up as it got light,

Sunday and I was up early as it was the day the clocks changed (at one point I had 4 clocks in XOX all telling different times most confusing) I was on my way home, but me being me, yes it was the scenic route that I chose.

First stop was a lovely little spot called Yew tree tarn. right next to the road and at silly o'clock there was nobody else there but Ash XOX and I..

Then it was off to try XOX out on probably the most difficult road in the UK

This is the start of the road to Wrynose Pass. Not for the faint hearted and definitely not to be done in bad weather. even in a very capable 4X4 it was something of a challenge. but we managed and look what I found at the top.

I bet this guy must have had great fun bringing a Lotus up here. Yes!!! boys toys I know.and  XOX in the background.

Cracking view from up here.

So over the top through Hardknott pass where I was wishing I was in low box for some of the descents and then on to Wastwater.

What a lovely place Wastwater is. The deepest lake/water/mere in the Lake District that attracts divers to have a look at it from the bottom side up so to speak, but I enjoyed the look of the top side down thank you very much. With its steep sides to the East and to the West accessible places where you can get down to the waters edge and enjoy the view of the surrounding fells and Ash can get a drink.

So it was time now to tell my satnav to take me home but TomTom decided that we would have to pass Ennerdale to get home and I could not resist a one mile detour just to have a look.

 Nice place again, just a bit windy for nice reflections even with a 20 stop ND filter on, not much you can do about smoothing out the water in these conditions
but I will be back on a better day.

I had a very nice long weekend all in all. I need more clips and S hooks for XOX to sort things out and I missed being able to listen to my audio books when I am parked up so that is something to look at before my next trip

If you have been following along you will know by now all the photos are click-able and if you would like to buy prints or greetings cards of any of the photos, just email me by putting richard@ in front of and I will get in touch with you.

Thank you for looking


Monday, 17 February 2014

Did it,Done that,Been there.

Well after my disappointment at X-mas I was determined that as soon as a weather window opened up I would have another go, and last week the opportunity arose.  So on Sunday XOX, Ash and I headed off again to see if we could get to Ardnamurchan this time. A straight shot with no over night stop, just a steady run up there leaving home at 8ish and we arrived at Kilchoan at 3ish after a nice uneventful run with a good audio book to keep me amused.

 The weather was not great, overcast and rain but I had to stop for a few shots on the way there.

Great little site, lovely warm welcome and I got settled in for the rest of the day. I think this was the only night I was in my bunk as the wind was not too bad, but the other nights, it was sleeping plan "B" on the floor, as it was just too windy to have the lid up and the condensation inside meant that it was raining on me every time the wind snapped at the canvas.

I had forgotten how much "fun" driving on single track roads is and with the light dusting of snow I got to practice my off road steep descent driving techniques in some parts but being in XOX this was not a problem, the ride height gave me a distinct advantage seeing over high points and through corners.

Although talking to one of the locals he was saying that on a ordinary car the shock absorbers only last half the normal time using this type of road daily.

A happy 3 days later after going all over the peninsular seeing what there was to see,

This lighthouse is the most westerly point on the UK mainland

 Ash having a great time on the lovely white sand  beaches running all over the place, but alas no otters although I did find some tracks on one of the beaches.

I got out of the wind for this slow water shot by hiding behind a big rock and giving it a 25sec,exposure.

 All the photos are clickable if you hadn't noticed by the way. If you would like prints I have them for sale just get in touch. To email me just put after richard@artbycamera

It was a treat to see the red deer down beside the road and in easy range for the 400mm lens.

As you know if you have been following along with our adventures this was the first proper trip and living in the car for a few days has shown me a lot of improvements that I need to make. A new design for the side lockers being the most important. I need to insulate behind the locker and leave an air gap to help with the condensation that has caused such a lot of distortion to the existing ones

So what is next? Well I want to sort out the lockers before I do anything other than day trips and by then the weather should have improved, but it will be somewhere on the west coast of Scotland. I like the isolation and the space. I would not like it all the time but for a short break it is wonderful.

Until next time, Thank you for looking


Sunday, 2 February 2014

Day tripping

After the disappointment at Christmas I have been having to make do with "day trips" while I watch for a weather window to get away for a few days, but as I live in the Lake District it is not all bad.

Boxing day Ash and I went for a walk to Hayswater and found this old barn about half way there and the bad weather help to set me on a different track with my photos.
I have always liked black and white photos and after reading a book on HDR Mono photography that was me hooked.

So we have been doing day trips, not many photos worth posting to show for it but a combination of B&W and colour can work well

It was lovely today to be out and about in the cold knowing that the night heater was on in XOX and the kettle was just about to boil for tea when the shafts of light came through the clouds sending me out to get this shot and then back into the warm to enjoy my tea.
This weather has to change soon (I hope) it has been wet and windy for so long now we need a break,.

Not many changes to XOX lately. A new starter battery has been fitted (ouch! they are not cheap) and next week heavy duty back springs will be put in place as I am running around almost fully loaded most of the time and XOX is nose up at the moment. The lockers that I made have been a big disappointment with the damp weather making the wood swell. I should have known better but I was hoping for the best. The back of a car is the worst place ever for real wood to be, with the huge swings in temperature and humidity the wood acts like a sponge and changes size to the point where the drawers will not fit nicely. So I will be replacing the lockers with faced MDF boards when I find some material that matches the galley.

I have been very pleased with the fuel consumption getting 25 MPG knocking around town and 30 MPG on a long run, considering I am running with a fair load on board I think that is quite good.

DVLA have not seen fit to reclassify XOX as a camper so my fight with the insurance company goes on, but there may be a way round it by going about it a different route, we will see.

If you haven't notice yet all the photos are click-able to give you a larger view.

Until next time dear reader have fun and enjoy yourself we only have one life, live it.


Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Expedition No1 Disaster

I got off to a good start everything loaded and we where off to Ardnamurchan at 10.30, after Ash had a good run in the forest. A nice uneventful journey with a good audio book to keep me company all the way to Loch Lomond where I found a nice lay-by just north of Luss to spend the night in. No alcohol just in case I got moved on by the boys in blue although I doubt anybody would care I was parked there this time of year but just to be on the safe side
A good sleep and I was up, feed and watered, Ash given a walk the full length of the lay-by so we were ready to roll by 9ish the snow line was getting lower but all well, until the bump into a deep pothole broke the back window!!!!(No I haven't heard of it happening to anybody before either). I thought at first it had frozen over it wasn't until just outside Tyndrum that bits started falling out and then another bump finished the job. The RAC were not a lot of help glass is not something they do, but they did put me in touch with Autoglass they could not do anything there and then, it would be Friday (this is Sunday btw) before they could fix it if I stayed where I was. I couldn't, there was glass all over the back of the car and no way could I sleep in it, I was parked at The Green Welly shop and by this time there was a blizzard going on so I decided the best thing, was too ever so reluctantly, abandon the trip and go home. the glass fitter got a smiley at that and said that was fine they could replace it Christmas eve if I was at home. I used one of the covers I use in the roof and warpped it around the back door and started back down country with the night heater going to keep the car warm.

Hay Ho that's the way it goes but I was not a happy camper. I have been working my way towards this trip for months and even with the gales that where forecast I was going to risk it, but for it all to get screwed up by a pothole!ӣ$%^&*().

But I will be having another go, but this time I am going to work with the weather I will keep my eye on the forecast and if I see a window of good frosty weather without the gales coming up I will be off to try that again (that is the nice thing about being self-employed! yes I can) so hang around otters, as Arnie would say "I will be back"