I am a network engineer working for a Derby based ISP. When I’m not pushing packets around the internet, I dabble in web design and a little coding. When I’m not hunched over a keyboard, I like to get out into the countryside. I am a part time landscape and outdoor photographer, some of my work can be seen in the header above. My other hobby is field archery. Most weekends I can be found out in woodland honing my skill with a bow and arrow.
My 2015 archery season got underway properly yesterday at the Castle Bowmen open shoot in Woodhall Spa. I’ve already done a couple of friendly shoots this year but nothing too serious, although I wouldn’t exactly call yesterdays attempt serious.
I knew it would be hard work, when l started the car to defrost it at 7am the temperature gauge said -3c. Travelling to Woodhall Spa, the temperature went as low as -4.5c. At the start of the shoot, the temperature was -2.5.
Shooting in cold temperatures is always hard work, it’s difficult to keep the muscles warm enough to keep them free, it didn’t help that after two targets we were already stood around waiting for the group in front to clear the targets. Not what you need when it’s that cold. The problem with standing around is that the muscles get cold and each shot is essentially the first shot of the day, you don’t get in to any sort of rhythm. All this resulted in me getting off to a particularly slow start.
By lunchtime, the temperature had increased in to positive numbers and we’d let the group in front have a good head start. I started getting in to a rhythm and my shooting started to improve. At the end of the day, I managed to piece together a score of 590 from 36 targets. Not exactly record breaking, but an average of just over 16 per target and good enough for second place on the day and only 26 points off 1st place.
I’m happy enough with the result, and its a fairly modest start to 2015. I’m off to Woodend Field Archers next weekend. It’s not a course I do well at usually as a lot of it is out in the open which makes distance judging hard for me. I’m hoping to do a lot better than my last performance on this course though.
Onwards and upwards…
I’ve been debating whether or not to get a couple of reusable hand warmers for a year or so now. When I’m out shooting in winter I really need to keep my fingers warm. Up until now I’ve been using the disposable type, the particular brand I’ve always used are Little Hotties. Up until last year they’ve been perfectly good, but the last two boxes that I purchased from Costco have barely got warm. I’ve ended up using two pairs just to get enough heat to keep my fingers from freezing. I’m not sure what they’ve done to the active ingredients but they’re definitely not as good as they used to be.
I’d been looking at the Zippo hand warmers and also the S-Boston version. I’m a big fan of zippo products and have used their lighters for twenty years. Zippo products are known for their quality and lifetime guarantee so I figured the hand warmers would be up to the same standard. The S-Boston hand warmers are a similar design but have an electronic ignition system and are designed to be turned off when you’ve finished using them. Having said that, they are significantly more expensive than the Zippo.
Coming up to Christmas last year, I was struggling for things to list as gifts I wanted, so I decided to throw one of the Zippo hand warmers on the list. I was given one as a gift by my mum and Kay was also given a pair of them.
I didn’t have to wait long to try them out. The first weekend of January we were out shooting in freezing temperatures, so we fired up the hand warmers set off out in to the woods.
The first thing I’ll say about the Zippo is that it lights easily while you’re at home. Lighting them outside with even the slightest breeze is a lot more difficult. I did eventually manage to get them all to light, so I dropped them in their little pouches and stuffed them in my pocket. Having used them for the whole day, I can say they do get warmer than the last batch of disposable warmers I’d been using, but not by a whole lot.
One of the group I was shooting with had one of the S-Boston hand warmers. Compared to the Zippo, that thing was nuclear. It was so hot that you could barely touch it when it was outside of the leather sleeve it comes with. As I only had one of the Zippo hand warmers at this point, I decided to order one and give it a go.
As I mentioned earlier, the S-Boston hand warmer is significantly more expensive than the Zippo. The best price I found on the Zippo was £12.99, the best price I could find on the S-Boston was £25.99. Those of you with quick mental arithmetic will have worked out that it’s double the price!
Again, I didn’t have long to wait before I could test it out. The first Sunday after it was delivered we were off out shooting again. When we set off, the temperature was -3c. It dropped as low as -4.5c on the way there but was back at -3c when we started shooting. It was the ideal day to test the hand warmers. The temperature never got above freezing all day and we did a lot of waiting around. A guarantee that you’re going to be cold.
The S-Boston has an electronic ignition system that makes it a breeze to light, inside or out, wind it no wind. Thirty seconds and the thing is lit and warming up.
I had a Zippo in one pocket and the S-Boston in the other, and ideal test situation. Having been outside all day with the two products, I can honestly say there is no comparison between the two. The zippo did keep my hand from freezing, but definitely not that warm. I spent most of the day swapping the S-Boston from one pocket to the other to keep both of my hands warm.
In my opinion, the S-Boston is definitely worth the extra cost. The only thing I can fault the S-Boston for is the battery cover that holds the batteries for the electronic ignition system. When sliding the warmer in and out of the leather sleeve it comes with, the cover has a habit of coming loose. I’m not sure if this is because the sleeve is new and quite right. I’m hoping it gives a little over time and this little annoyance goes away. I have since replaced the Zippo hand warmer with another S-Boston and relegated the Zippo to the role of backup.
If your in the market for a reusable hand warmer, save yourself the cost of the Zippo and order the S-Boston straight off the bat.
As I start 2015 and try to get my photography organised, I’ve come to the conclusion I have way too many on-line galleries to upload my images to. I currently have around 8 or 9 places I upload images to, including Flickr, 500px, Behance, Nikon Image Space and a few others.
I want to get that down to 3. I’m not sure which 3 I want to keep but I need to reduce to the amount of time I spend maintaining these site, so some of them have got to go.
The first place I upload my images to is my personal website which can be found at http://www.andybettsphotography.com. If it’s part of a personal project or an image I think is strong enough to be added to my personal portfolio, it goes here first.
The second place I upload my best images to is http://500px.com/andybettsphotography. Again, only my strongest images get uploaded here, and if you’ve ever browsed through the images on 500px, you’ll know why that is.
I also have an account on Flickr but I’ve found myself using this less and less lately. I am a member of a few groups and sometimes upload my attempts at new techniques here in the hope of getting feedback to perfect them.
The last place I plan on uploading my images in 2015 is my Behance prosite. This is an online gallery space that you get free when you sign up for any adobe creative cloud plan. The sites aren’t particularly high traffic but they do get viewed by by a lot of other creatives and the community is a good source of ideas and inspiration.
The on-line image spaces that have slipped by the wayside this year for no particular reason are Nikon Image Space, a self hosted koken install, photobox gallery, and redbubble. Hopefully less galleries and sites to maintain will mean more time actually taking pictures.
Happy New Year
I didn’t fancy any of the NFAS shoots that were organised for the first Sunday in August so I decided to give the Artemis EFAA shoot a go. It was another field round, the same as the previous two EFAA shoots at Artemis so I thought it would be good to see if my archery has improved this year.
My first attempt of the field round earlier this year resulted in a score of 234 (I shoot an AFB or LB as the IFAA call it). For those of you that have no idea what constitutes a good score for a field round, let me add some perspective. The World, European, and British records are 383, 370 and 380 respectively. As you can see, I was quite a bit short of a respectable score.
To make matters worse, the second time I shot the field round in June my score actually dropped. My second attempt yielded a score of only 198. To receive an A classification, a male AFB archer is require to score 250 or more on a field round. As you can see, I needed some improvement.
This time out I was determined to at least get past the A classification score of 250. Things started off well, I manage to put 3 scoring arrows on the first target and put two on the 80 yard target (albeit from 60 and 50 yards). This was better than my last outing at least and after 14 targets (out of 28) I had a score of 138. I wasn’t going to set any records but at least it was on track to get me over the 250 score I wanted.
Towards the end of the day, tiredness began to play a part. Lapses in concentration and form started to result in some pretty poor shots and my score started to suffer. At the end of the second 14 targets I’d dropped two points on the first round to give me a final score of 274. Not all that great but at least worthy of an A classification.
Whilst I didn’t set any records, a certain Mr Meeson that I shot the round with managed a massive score of 395. Those of you paying close attention will realise that score is good enough to take the World, European and English records. One day I hope to get somewhere near that, for now my next target is to break 300.
It’s taken me a while to get around to writing this, mainly because I’ve been so busy since I got back but also partly because I wanted to let a little time pass so I could give a more balanced account.
The picture above is of our accommodation for the week, a small collection of holiday gîtes collectively known as La Logerie. There are three gîtes, Rose Cottage, Lavender Cottage and Camellia Cottage. There is enough space to accommodate 23 people, however there were only 12 of us on this occasion. They are owned and run by a lovely couple called Brian and Gill Jones. You can find more information about La Logerie at their website. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in the Poitou Charentes region of France, I can’t recommend this place highly enough.
This would be my second trip to the EBHC, the last one being in Austria in 2010. This time out I was a little more prepared and I knew what to expect. I would also be shooting in a different style, moving from bowhunter recurve to Longbow.
With the competition starting on the Monday, our journey to Confolens started on the Friday night. We headed to Folkstone to catch the eurotunnel to France. This was my first trip on the tunnel and I have to say it’s much less hassle than a ferry, not to mention much quicker! I’m not a big fan of ferries personally and I’ll definitely be using the tunnel for any future trips to the continent. From getting on to getting off, the whole trip was about forty minutes.
We arrived in France at about 3:30am. A quick stop to top up the fuel tank and fit the headlight adapters and we were off. The drive to Confolens would take us about seven hours.
During the journey we received information that bow inspection would be open on the Saturday afternoon. It was originally only open in the morning. We decided to take advantage of this and get registered and equipment checked before getting to our accommodation, this meant we would have a free day on the Sunday. After travelling for 7 hours or so with the aircon at a steady 19C, we stepped out of the car in Lessac into 30c heat with 75% humidity, it was a bit of a shock!
Registration complete, we headed of to La Logerie to unpack and chill out for the rest of the day.
Sunday was mainly spent chilling by the pool with a bit of practice thrown in for good measure. Everyone was preparing for the start of the competition on Monday. I however wouldn’t be shooting on Monday, it was my rest day!
Sunday evening was the opening ceremony and as usual we were following zee Germans. The heat made it less than pleasant in the town square of Confolens. Soon after the ceremony was finished we headed off to find something to eat and some cooler air.
On the Monday morning, everyone was heading off to the archery village for the first day of competition. I decided to head down there with Kay to get my bearings and figure out what I needed to do the next day. Once everyone was on their way to the courses I headed back to La Logerie to figure out what to do for the day.
The weather had cooled a little and there were a few rain showers about so my initial plans of spending the day in the pool had to change. People had been talking about a village nearby called Oradour-sur-Glane. It was about an hours drive from where we were stopping and is known as the martyred village. Nazis killed the entire population of the village in 1942 and the village has been left untouched as a memorial since that day. I decided to take my camera and make the trip over there, but that’s a story for another post.
The competition proper started for me on the Tuesday. The first day for me would be a normal animal round, three arrows shooting till you hit. Very similar to NFAS but the scoring is slightly different. It wasn’t a good day for me. From the first five targets I only managed to get 20 points, pretty appalling! Things did pick up, but the damage was already done. At the end of the day, I had scored 382 points. This was only good enough for 51st place and put me halfway down the field, 100 points behind the leaders. The rest of the week was going to be a fight now, the best I could hope for was to get back in the top twenty.
The second day would be another animal round, and I’d now be shooting head to head (grouped with other competitors with the same score). The second day went better than the first day. I started to shoot much better, somewhere close to a normal performance for me. I ended the day with a score of 432, about 50 points in front of the rest of my group and good enough to lift me up to 36th place. Things were looking a little better but there was still a lot of work to do.
The third day was where things got interesting. Up until now, it had been standard animal rounds and the scoring makes it difficult to make up points. This would be a 3D standard round where two arrows are shot and both are scored. This removes some of the luck involved in the animal rounds and puts more emphasis on form as you have to make the shot twice. I had an extremely good round and ended the day with 257 points, this turned out to be the 4th highest score on the day. It was better than I hoped, it lifted me from 36th place up to 19th.
The last day was where it could all change, a one arrow 3d hunting round. I’ve only shot one of these rounds previously and that was in Austria in 2010. Despite the fact I knew what to expect, it still makes me nervous. After my great round on the two arrow I was confident going in to the last day and I wondered how much higher I could get now I was inside the top 20. I knew another good round could lift me up to the top 10. I had a great group on the last day, but unfortunately I think I was trying a little too hard and put too much pressure on myself. I put in a pretty average score of 190 for the day and ended up slipping back a place to 20th.
After some initial disappointment at my performance on the final day, I am actually quite pleased with how I shot during the competition (not including the first day). To finish inside the top twenty in Europe isn’t too shabby. Having played around with the results spreadsheet and removing my nervous performance on the first day, I actually would have finished in tenth place.
I’m looking forward to the World Bow Hunter Championships next year in Hungary. I will do a lot more practice in preparation for this, my only concern will be the heat. The average temperature during the day in France was 26 degrees, it’s expected to be 30-32 degrees in Hungary and I don’t deal well with heat!
I look forward to putting myself up against the best the world has to offer in 2015.