Sorting through some of the piles (and piles and piles... 30,000+ last time I counted, and that was over five years ago) of slides taking up more than their fair share of space in my office, I discovered these pictures, shot in 1994 between Edale and Hayfield in the Peak District:
It was the first time I'd gone out to shoot something specifically for a mag - a route guide for Cycling Plus. I spent the better part of a late autumn day on the most scenic sections of the route with a friend of a friend from Manchester (whose name, I'm ashamed to admit, I've long since forgotten) and a 35 litre rucksack full of spare layers and all the camera kit I owned at the time (one body, three lenses, a single flashgun).
Looking at the pictures nearly 13 years on, I'm struck by what's changed - and what hasn't:
- full lycra and a hardtail... not something you see all that often now. Anyone who's been riding for a while will spot the Bonty hardtail, Mint Sauce helmet stickers and toe clips and straps. The eastomer-sprung RockShox Quadra 21 forks were cutting edge (and rubbish), too. Keith Bontrager, Mint and RockShox are still going strong. My old toe straps now help tie the bike to the roof rack.
- we picked the best bits of trail, I set up a shot and it was re-ridden until I was happy I'd got what I wanted. I still do that.
- I didn't worry too much about the direction of travel. If a shot worked better riding the route the 'wrong' way round, that's the way we shot it. I still do that, too (I'm aware that some purists think this is somehow misleading, but I'm ******ed if I'm going to pass up a great shot because the rider's pointing in the 'wrong' direction).
- I focussed manually, beacuse I had no choice - the F801's AF was laughably slow and completely incapable of tracking anything that moved. Despite owning cameras with cutting-edge AF now, I still focus manually most of the time, too.
- I set the exposure manually, after years of habit. Hey, guess what...?
- I still have the F801 with which I shot these pics, but in the intervening period I've got through a frankly obscene number of camera bodies: a second F801, an F90X, an F80, an F100, two F5s and a D100. I also still have one of my F5s and an F6, plus my D40X, D200 and D2X. All told, that's a body a year. Eek.
Seems old habits die hard, eh?