Northward along canals


in Daily updates, Oxford, The outdoors

Canalside house

By the fading light this evening, I took an unusually interesting ten mile ride. Initially cutting due north, I veered west until I found a canal I’d never seen before: lined with narrowboats and punctuated with weirs and numbered red brick bridges. After about four miles, I found myself at the intersection with the Oxford Canal. I tried an offshoot path labeled ‘River Thames’ but was rapidly foiled when the path narrowed almost immediately, became composed of unstable dirt clods, and proved to be flanked with shoulder-high stinging nettles.

Once you get more than a couple of miles up along the canal, it seems like a completely different world from the residential and commercial parts of Oxford, as well as the kind of roadway-intersected countryside around Kidlington or Cassington. The houses, which vary in frequency along different stretches, have yards opening right out onto the waterway. Cats and children fishing seem to be common, and the general sense of direction that it is easy to maintain on roads falls victim rapidly to the gentle curves of the branching canals.

The light – between about 8:10 and 9:30pm – was that really lovely warm and directed sunset light, though still bright enough to support ISO100 handheld shots at 50mm or so, in the open spaces at least. The only trouble is that the sky is completely blown out in every shot. Perhaps a polarizer would have helped.

Riding on gravel or dirt track takes dramatically more effort than doing so on blacktop: basically constant peddling in my second-lowest gear in order to maintain speed. The feeling is rather more substantial at the end, however.

Since I need to be at Gloucester Green for the bus to London at seven, I should try to get to sleep early. This is unlikely. Being ill the other day (and sleeping fourteen hours) has completely thrown off my sleeping schedule. I find myself waking up ravenous at random times between three and seven in the morning, always a sure sign that it will take a concerted effort to get things on track. That will only be possible once these two upcoming trips have passed.

PS. To anyone considering replicating the ride above, I suggest wearing glasses. The canalside bugs seem particularly drawn to the eyes of cyclists, and a few uncontrolled moments could easily land you among the floating ducks.

PPS. With two days left in this round, please keep voting for Mica’s video.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

tristan.laing June 9, 2006 at 1:40 am

You know, one thing you can do to help with the A510 is use sunglasses as a filter. I did this last summer alot, and very much want to get a pair of sunglasses with the same colour so I can do it again this summer. If you use a yellow filter and auto white balence, or custom white balence, you can do intersting things.

Also, if you are blowing out your skies, push the exposure compensation to -1 or even -2, then lighten with curves. Kenrockwell has an excellent description of how to do this here:

Alena Prazak June 9, 2006 at 3:15 am

I really like the composition of this photo and the balance of color which moves your eyes around. The pink at the top and bottom is especially attractive.

McBain June 9, 2006 at 6:11 am

“To anyone considering replicating the ride above, I suggest wearing glasses”

My eyes! The goggles, they do nothing!

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