Monsal Trail Time Lapse

On Sunday Jen, Owen and I travelled up to the Peak District to cycle the Monsal Trail with our friends Ali and Jaymi. It was meant to be a bigger crew, but some people dropped out with flimsy excuses. They really missed out though, it was a fun afternoon. The cycling was a polar opposite to Llandegla last weekend, even riding at my slowest (with Owen on the back of my bike) I was the one stopping and waiting for the others to catch up. There was plenty of time to chat whilst riding along and Owen seemed to like having people to interact with. He also enjoyed the tunnels, he was clapping as we cycled through them. The time lapse doesn’t do the views justice, the scenery on both sides of the trail was stunning – with cliffs, rivers, hills and old buildings to pull your eyes away from the trail. Naturally, the ride ended with a cafe stop at Hassop Station, for burgers and bakewell pudding.

Pistonheads Sunday Service at Silverstone: Damp on track

Being at Silverstone for the WEC race reminded me that I hadn’t blogged about the Pistonheads Sunday Service I’d attended at the circuit last month. It was similar to the event I attended last year, except it was wet. Very wet. I was leading the convoy of cars down from the Midlands forum and had to slow right down on the M40 due to standing water.

The weather wasn’t much better at Silverstone, with the first track session being cancelled. By my session the rain had stopped and the track was mostly dry, except for a river across the track where the access road to the international paddock cuts across the National Circuit, between Becketts and the Wellington Straight. Copse corner was also extremely slippery, it felt like the MR2 was understeering, but was ready to snap into oversteer at any moment. It took some delicate balancing on the throttle to keep on the track. I found it a lot trickier than the wetter trackday I did at Donington Park last year. The wet weather seemed to have put people off attending, so I managed to get some relatively clear laps, including the one in the clip above, and coping with different track conditions is all part of the fun!

When the MR2 had its MOT test recently the tester pointed out that it really should have a suspension overhaul before I do any more trackdays. Following on from the big bill on the BMW and my plans to buy a new bike, that may have to wait until next winter, so this short session at Silverstone may be my only track action this year.

Peak District Hoon

It is that weird time between Christmas and New Years Eve where you don’t know what day it is, I actually enjoy it, as I rarely have time off work with nothing planned. So when I saw that a group from the Pistonheads midlands forum were planning an early morning hoon to the Peak District, I ignored my own rule about not driving the MR2 on salty roads and joined them. Fortunately my Christmas gift from Jen was a chassis cleaner attachment for my pressure washer (I had dropped a hint) so I’ll be able to wash off the salt.

It was a clear, cold morning with a heavy frost and patches of mist/fog. The countryside looked beautiful. I should have been out with my camera but I was enjoying the drive too much! The slippery roads meant that the MR2 could easily keep up with the other cars, which ranged from modified MINIs to a Cayman GT4, which sounded awesome. Andrew’s M3, which I was behind for most the drive also sounded amazing.

We stopped for a cup of tea at Flash Bar Stores, in Flash, the highest village in Britain at 1,519 ft above sea level. Whilst we were inside the sun came out, so we retraced our steps and actually got to see what the scenery looked like over some of the twistier roads.

I did 150 miles in the MR2 and loved every moment of it, now all I need to do is clean it…

Pistonheads Sunday Service at Silverstone

Since Owen was born I haven’t been able to get out in the MR2 much, so when Pistonheads announced another one of their Sunday Service events at Silverstone, I had to go.

Rather than driving straight to Silverstone, a few of us met up between Coventry and Birmingham to drive down together. I’ve joined a few of these convoys previously, but this was much bigger – around 30 cars, ranging from my MR2 all the way up to a Porsche Cayman GT4 and a brace of Italian supercars. We took the scenic route to Silverstone, somehow managing to arrive all together, despite the group splitting up and following different routes. I made a time-lapse of the drive.

At Silverstone I met up with my Dad for breakfast and some tyre kicking, before heading out on track in the MR2. I had driven the National Circuit at Silverstone a few times previously, but I felt like I was faster than before, I expect that this is due to having a few more trackdays under my belt in the MR2. I really enjoyed myself, the driving standard was better than the same event last year, where Jen drove the MR2, and I was surprised to have the track pretty much to myself for the last few laps – perfect.

To finish off a great morning I followed my Dad back to his house – via the cross country route. I has been a long time since we’d both been out together in our sports cars, and driving together through the Cotswolds, with autumn leaves being kicked up by Dad’s Boxster in front of me, was just as enjoyable as convoying with the supercars or taking the MR2 on track earlier that morning. Including driving back to Coventry I did 170 miles in the MR2 and I can’t think of a better way to use 2/3rds of a tank of petrol.

evo GREAT DRIVES – Scotland’s greatest driving road

I only usually post my own work on this blog, but I absolutely loved this video by Henry Catchpole and the evo team.

The A93 and A939, from Blairgowerie, past Glenshee and the Lecht is my favourite driving road and it is good to see that one of my favourite journalists shares my view. Watching the film brought back good memories from when Jen and I drove this route in my MX-5 en-route to the Isle of Lewis in 2012. It also got me excited for my next road trip to Scotland in two weeks. It will be the first time I have taken the MR2 up there and I can’t wait to get it on the awesome highland roads.

That Aston Martin isn’t bad either…

A trip to the pub

This is my first go at making a video, so I thought I’d break myself in gently with a time lapse. Capturing the images was easy, I set the GoPro camera to take a photo every second, stuck it on the windscreen and drove to the pub (via the scenic route)! Winter in Warwickshire isn’t the most glamorous, or exciting of locations, but I got a new toy for Christmas and I wanted to use it!

The real challenge started when I got back from the pub with 2,500 images on the memory card, I had three options when it came to software, so I tried them all:

  • Lightroom – My photo editing software of choice, well within my comfort zone, I could import, back up and add my metadata to the images with two clicks, then process one image and sync settings to the rest. What I couldn’t do without adding plug ins, was compile them to a video at 30 frames per second, this is something I need to investigate further.
  • GoPro CineForm Studio – I’m always a bit vary with bundled software, but after a few teething problems (importing a folder full of images works, importing 2000 individual images doesn’t) I was able to get it to stitch the images together and edit the resulting video file, which I didn’t find too intuitive.
  • iMovie – Apple always seem to say how god Macs are for creative projects such as video, so their software was worth a look, although seemingly, to get the still images into iMovie they had to be imported to iPhoto. This integration is great, but only if you plan on using both, having said that iPhoto saved my bacon when I accidentally formatted the micro SD card in my camera, meaning I didn’t lose the first picture I took with the GoPro. Using iMovie I wasn’t able to stitch the images together faster than 10fps, with 30fps being what I needed, so I gave up on it for creating time lapses, but when it comes to working with multiple video files iMove seems to be the best application I have available, although I’ll need to upgrade it to export in 1080p high resolution.

In the end I used Lightroom to process the images and crop them to the 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, then GoPro CineForm studio to combine them into a time lapse then compress them to upload to YouTube. I can see video and especially time lapses being a big thing for me in 2013, it’s certainly got my creative juices flowing, so watch this space.