I am Rod Wynne-Powell, and this is my way to pass on snippets either of a technical nature, or related to what I am currently doing or hope to be doing in the near future.

A third-person description follows:

Professional photographer, Lightroom and Photoshop Workflow trainer, Consultant, digital image retoucher, author, and tech-editor for Martin Evening's many 'Photoshop for Photographers' books.

For over twenty years, Rod has had a client list of large and small companies, which reads like the ‘who’s who’ of the imaging, advertising and software industries. He has a background in Commercial/Industrial Photography, was Sales Manager for a leading London-based colour laboratory and has trained many digital photographers on a one-to-one basis, in the UK and Europe.

Still a pre-release tester for Adobe in the US, for Photoshop, he is also very much involved in the taking of a wide range of photographs, as can be seen in the galleries.

See his broad range of training and creative services, available NOW. Take advantage of them and ensure an unfair advantage over your competitors…

Friday, 16 March 2018

Marston Moretaine – Bus Stop Birds in the Bushes

On returning down Station Road, having posted a letter, the cacophony of birds in the bushes by the bus stop was to tempting a sight to ignore, so my return trip was at a brisker pace as I considered grabbing my medium weight tripod putting on the gimbal head and the Sigma 150-600 Sports lens and seeing what I might catch in the sunshine.

When I returned equipped, I noticed that there were the first signs of blossom on the branches, and the chirruping was still as busy as when I had passed before, so I just hoped that my presence was not going to be the kiss of death to my chances of capturing some shots of the birds I had spotted earlier.

To give myself a good chance, I had brought along some seeds to establish I was there to show my potential subjects some generosity, and I liberally spread handfuls close to the bushes but at a good distance from where I had set down the tripod.

The bushes were a mass of fine branches, which I knew would make it tough to capture the birds without intervening branches coming between myself and the birds, but there again it was probably also the reason why the birds felt moderately secure. It was not too long before some of the birds began returning, giving me a chance to see what I could capture, there seemed to be house sparrows and starlings as far as I could tell, with the very occasional pigeon coming in, but though I was not going to take shots of them in the bush, When one settled on a nearby roof ridge, I did sneak a couple of shots since it’s arrival in the bushes had caused a few starlings to make a swift exit, leaving them bare of birds.

I stayed a while and was occasionally involved in conversation from passers by, my next door neighbour heading home to collect her children from school, and a mother and young child, who informed me the bushes were hers, so I showed her and the boy a couple of shots on the back of the camera.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Search for Signs of Spring – Stewartby Lake

Having recently had the first cataract operation, I have not been out with my camera long enough to create a gallery of images, but this afternoon, as the sun was forecast to shine, I gathered a camera and three lenses and headed for the lake at Stewartby, in the hope I might be able to record the first tentative signs of Spring.

Certainly upon my arrival, it did not look too promising. Undeterred, I walked slowly in the counter-clockwise direction, with the 100mm macro on the 5D MkIII, looking into the largely hawthorn bushes to right and left; every so often venturing down paths that led down to the foreshore on my left, or the more dense right side, which had a few paths that led to the outer boundary at first, and later to a brook deep down beyond steep banks, where I did not venture!

I slowly gathered images of occasional attempts at hedge-laying; I was unconvinced that what I saw was likely to be too effective, but I am no expert. I find that very often the dying leaves in hedgerows, are full of rich colour, and on more than one occasion I captured those. There were some new memorial seats along the path, with some excellent incised carvings. I was able to capture some fresh blossom and even a lone daffodil;  I had hoped for more and better shots and some more sunlight, but nevertheless I felt rewarded by what  I had managed from such unprepossessing beginnings, and soon my phone beckoned with its harsh staccato beat to let me know that the next eye drops were due, and I still had to get back to administer them. It will be tougher yet on Saturday, when I will need to carry a freezer block with me when I visit the NEC.

A lone and very chirpy blue tit caught my eye from high in a leafless tree, but it needed massive cropping to get the shot, but it’s a tribute to the Canon lens that I was able to resolve it at all!

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

St. Mary’s Church Visit - in the Snow

At last some sunshine to accompany the Snow! Snow on a cloudy day is just not worth photographing, but really comes alive when the sun catches some of the crystals; the sparkle gives the snow form, and life, and this morning was a good time to walk to Marston Moretaine’s parish Church, which is just a smidgeon different from many village churches, the main structure lacks a tower. A short distance away and out of kilter with the church proper stands the buttressed tower, there is a weird myth surrounding this involving the Devil lifting the tower and tossing it away from the body of the building, and thus far, I have seen no real explanation for the odd juxtaposition of the two structures, but my cursory and ill-informed observation would suggest that both appear to be of different ages and style.
The history, or lack thereof does mean that it is very different from the average Parish Church, so merits interest. I decided it was worth capturing whilst it still has a carpet of snow surrounding it, so I took a wander around, sadly some more interesting views would have to await a later afternoon, as several of the views I was able to capture whilst the snow was moderately fresh were not lit to advantage, and having made a single circuit, clouds were massing to remove that vital ingredient sunshine, which was marked by the ringing of my phone bearing a message from one of my daughters.
The Tower appeared to be a meeting point for pigeons and doves, and the graves themselves were severally decorated with Spring flowers, but sadly the frosts and the burden of snow had caused these floral tributes to take on a sad demeanour, but it was definitely apparent from their numbers, that relatives were keen to keep their forebears in mind. One such was a balloon gently swaying to the light breeze with it’s handwritten message of love to a departed grandparent. What I noticed which was a surprise was how several were marked with headstones whose dates were surprisingly recent considering there is a planned new area for graves on the outskirts of the village, which pre-supposed that this cemetery was close to capacity, I therefore concluded that some must be family plots.
It was a brief visit, but I had been waiting for that vital conjoining of snow and sun, and was not disappointed, I also managed yesterday to gather some small expanses of virgin snow in case they could later be used to adorn a future Christmas Card, since for the last few years, snow has been notable for its fleeting appearance in our winters, and I always enjoy using recently captured images.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Stockwood Discovery Centre – Is Spring on its Way?

I met up with a former gardener for the gardens at the Stockwood Discovery Centre, Jan, to see what our chances were for capturing in photographs, any early signs of the upcoming Spring – at first sight with much of last year’s former glory removed along with any weeds that survived our lacklustre Winter, the prospect looked doomed to failure, but when we looked more closely, there were many signs of new growth, even signs of bloom – there were small clusters of Snowdrops in a couple of different spots.
At this time of the year without the leaf coverage some of the intricate twists of the branches can be seen to form beautiful shapes which become lost to sight when the leaves arrive. Some of the leaves on show on the day were variegated which always adds to their beauty especially when these fresh delicate colours are set against the more saturated and darker colours of older leaves. Grasses from the previous season dry and curl, forming interesting whorls, but are often difficult to capture when there is a wind as one naturally wants minimal depth of field to isolate them from their background, but you are fighting to  get them with minimal movement – high failure rate – but I did get a shot!
Occasionally, I would look around and Jan would be nowhere to be seen, yet on another occasion, I would spot her in deep concentration moving in close to some plant that caught her eye, it was interesting to note how she spotted items of engineering interest in much the same way I spot small details that have no other connection than the shape or the light falling on them sparks the idea for a picture.
We eventually decided that the warmth of the restaurant was calling, so we sat and chatted with one of her friends over cups of hot chocolate and looked on the backs of our cameras at shots we had taken, then headed for the exhibition area where the British Wildlife photos were on display, which were stunning, we also took a wander around the display of vehicles where I learned yet more of Jan’s varied past employment with Electrolux and her time at the Riding Stables in this same complex. I learned a little bit about the nature of the chain on a horse’s bridle and bit, when she spotted it had not been fitted correctly, and duly corrected it and explained its use. As I write this piece I learn that the shot she took of  the Prancing Horse adorning the front of the Steam Engine is now a card for a friend of hers, so already her visit to Stockwood has been profitable!
When we then headed out the sun had been out for a while, but it had had no effect on the temperature, it was bitter still, and the wind was far more noticeable once we were beyond the walls of the Gardens, Jan returned my Macro lens, but I was sad to learn the lens I spotted and suggested she might find useful had not met with the same pleasure as the micro she had borrowed from me.
The time spent was enjoyable and I came away with some interesting images despite my first impressions of what we might find.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Sunny Broglake – Roxy Takes the Upper Hand

Man’s best friend does not always let the Man take the lead – I witnessed Roxy give Sam the runaround – she had decided that it was Sam needing the exercise, so though she would run after the tennis ball; more often than not, she would either run further away then drop it or arrive beneath it, let it land then let it lie where it fell, with Sam calling in vain and having to walk to reach it – she was getting him well-trained!
I had come over to see whether the sunshine coupled with a light wind might entice some takers for a spot of windsurfing; Sam had prepared his board to do some hydrofoiling had there been some sailors taking to the water, but it was not to be. I had also been on the look out for any birds that might visit as there was one singing its head off, but no sooner than I had a long lens on the camera, it decided no mate was coming so went his merry way!
So all I have to remind me of the brief visit was a chat with Sam and a few shots of his interaction with Roxy.

Monday, 5 February 2018

For Sale – Acratech GV2 Ball Head

Note: This item is not hyperlinked to a Gallery on this occasion; it shows several views in a single fair-sized pdf, to return here use your Browser's back arrow.
I have found this to be an excellent choice for use with the Tamron 150-600mm lens on either my 5D MkIII or 7D MkII body, but having now purchased the Sports version of the Sigma similar range lens, I have found it can slip after a time with this far heavier combination, and this is also probably aggravated by this lens being far stiffer to zoom.
It is therefore a ‘horses for courses’ situation not a flaw attributable to the quality of the product, I am having to re-assess what I need for the Sports 150-600. I learned after using a loan version from Sigma that the original shoe was not man enough, so immediately bought the longer foot which is Essential (not an Option in my book!).
Purchasing the Sigma Sports version was also not a criticism of the Tamron – it is an excellent lens and performs well for me still. Its advantage is in its far lighter construction, so if hefting long distances with it to reach your subjects you will welcome the benefits! Unless you are either a masochist or an Olympic weightlifter carrying the Sigma and solid tripod any distance you will need to remember after the shooting, you still need to have the energy to return to where you left the car! Hence why to date I have not parted with it.
Back to the point, I am considering purchasing a larger and way more expensive head so will need to defray some of that cost so I am reluctantly considering this is the highest value item with which I am prepared to part.

It is fairly priced at £270 – Interested? Reach Me Via Comments

It is a PDF of the series of unretouched images that I have taken showing its features and condition of the head.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Late January – Brogborough Sun & Wind

          Finally a weekend comes along with wind and sunshine at the lake at Brogborough, and hardy Windsurfers can make the most of what late January has on offer. The really keen ones were on the water by the time I arrived at just after eleven.
          I set up the heavy Gitzo tripod, with the 7D MkII and the Sigma 150-600mm Lens on the gimbal head to the left of the foreshore, so that I was in a position to make the most of any sun that might appear as forecast. What I had not foreseen was just how waterlogged it was, so I changed my shoes for boots with some tread on them! Later I even moved the tripod because as I followed the action I was making a lot of mud from my constant changes of position, when panning. 
          I was not expecting exciting jumping, but was pleasantly surprised by capturing a couple of the sailors lift off from the water. Sam’s dog provided me with rolling activity presumably to have a good scratch! In order not to delay any more from getting the gallery of images up on the blog I will keep my narrative to a minimum as tomorrow is an important day when I pay a visit to Moorfields at Bedford for my initial visit to sort the cataract in my right eye. 
          There are a lot of gallery pages, hopefully covering everyone who was out on the lake, so for those in a hurry I have put a few headliners to whet the appetite.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Aylesbury Concert Band, St Mary's Eaton Bray 2018

I collected my daughter and her Bass Saxophone from near Aylesbury and headed to the first concert of the 2018 Aylesbury Concert Band  season at St. Mary’s Eaton Bray;  this concert takes place in the afternoon, and on this occasion it was bright with occasional glimpses of a shy sun. We collected some sustenance before going to park at the church.
Even though we were in good time, we were far from being the earliest of arrivals, and the car park is more than adequate and only a short walk with my camera gear and my daughter’s large heavy case. We both then separated to assemble our respective  kit and I investigated where to sit so I would be in a position where I had a good viewpoint and would not be obtrusive.
Once I had decided on what would be the most useful lenses, I then took a wander around to see where I might get the wider opportunities of varied images during the rehearsal since once the Concert proper was in play, moving around was not an option; I would then be reliant on using different focal lengths to suit what it was I wanted to capture, whereas I am able to choose my viewpoints provided I am not a distraction to the players.
During this period of moving around I was somewhat surprised by the sight of a butterfly, and I later learned they are not such a rare sight, as they often overwinter in the church!
I also wondered whether I might be allowed to shoot from the Organ Loft, and I was not disappointed, the gentleman in overall charge very kindly unlocked and switched on the lighting so I could negotiate the narrow winding staircase. The actual entry to the Organ was protected by a glass door which did somewhat surprise me by its presence! Fortunately, no damage was sustained either to the door or myself, but it did come as an unwelcome surprise!
It is a very tight fit for the Organist up there, and it was difficult to get to the centre, so for the empty shots at the rehearsal, I was not dead centre, but later during the first number of the concert, I did squeeze further in to take a few more meaningful shots with the audience present.
I found at one stage during the concert a lovely juxtaposition of one player with the Tuba beyond giving her a well-deserved halo! I also captured a few other light moments during the afternoon, and also found that in one angle from my position I was able to benefit from the blur of intervening musicians that allowed me to play with the differing rendition of that particular musician as the colours were so pleasing.
Although, the scene looks bright, I was quite surprised how high I had to raise the ISO to capture many of the images; I was generally barely a single stop from full aperture, and often shooting at 1/13th of a second, using 3200 ISO! I frequently refer to this type of work as ‘unavailable light photography’! But that’s part of the joy — a challenge!
At one time the gentleman in charge (sorry I do not have the name) spotted I was taking a shot of the Organ and kindly offered to put on a light to improve it further! It is a truly magnificent structure, but it was not featured treating us to its sounds, which was a shame.
And the most enjoyable piece of music from the afternoon — Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Wilstone – The View from the Hide

Despite the recent wet weather I had decided that I would visit Wilstone Reservoir to see what bird life I could capture. and to that end, I parked in the Car Park, not as in the past at the small layby near the Cemetery, so that I could reduce the distant travelled carrying the fairly heavy tripod. To further avoid the worst of the mud, when I reached the bridge, instead of taking the route through the woods I skirted the edge of the field instead which was far less muddy and lessened the risk of my falling.
On my arrival at the Hide it already had three occupants two of which were photographers, the third a birder equipped with binoculars. I set up the tripod with as little noise as possible to avoid disturbing the others, but this made the task somewhat lengthier as I was very conscious of the noise I was making, but finally I was happy with the height and worked for a while until I realised that I was restricting my angle of view to my right which was the best direction for lighting, so I made some readjustments with as little noise as possible, and settled to take shots of what I found, two of the others then spoke saying they had spotted a grey wagtail, but it took me quite a while to find it, as it was a good distance away and dwarfed by the geese it was near.
The wigeon was one of the first birds I spotted for myself, then there was a White Wagtail, and Teal and then several Lapwing, the latter being the bird of which I took most shots.
It was darkening and the temperature was dropping and I realised I had the trek back to the car to negotiate and so gathered up my kit and left the hide and headed homewards.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Sun & Stewartby Lake – Sailing

I needed a fix of photographs having suffered withdrawal symptoms due to poor weather after the Christmas festivities, and now was greeted with a real chance as the sun was shining in clear blue skies. I reckoned that despite the cold, Stewartby Lake might offer either wildlife or Sailing. So that was where I headed as it was not exactly early, and the distance was negligible. I took a variety of lenses, but opted on the 150-600mm Sigma on the 7D MkII, and the heavy Gitzo Tripod and Gimbal Head since from car to the lakeside was no distance at all.
And as I had hoped there was activity on the water, so I was soon set up and shooting, with occasional glances around at the activities of others, mostly families with youngsters , or  people out to give their dogs and themselves some exercise, and quite a few runners of both sexes out to work off the excesses of the recent holiday break, some of those noticeably puffing from their exertions! I was in a spot off the path with a reasonably wide angle of view, and in the lulls, I did look around to see whether I could improve my position, but the spot I had selected proved to be the best as any spot beyond had narrower views or the iron fence came into view in the lower half of the frame.
I was surprised that with such a lack of wind, just how fast some sailors managed to achieve, and ironically when they all retired from the lake, the wind rose. I was rewarded with a fair number of interesting shots and came away very satisfied and even bagged a few shots of the wildlife, albeit fairly tame stuff. I also found a few people stopped for a friendly chat; so altogether a very worthwhile afternoon.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Marsworth January 2018 Reservoir Visit

After several days with almost no sun, this day held promise, but the high wind did require some thought be given to how to reduce windchill; in sheltered areas this was less of an issue and with no rain. I set off south via country roads in case trunk roads were congested or suffered from wind-related accidents, and headed towards Tring Reservoirs.
 I chose a heavy corduroy overcoat and my fingerless gloves with silk gloves beneath. I can say this was indeed a good choice, because when topped off with a woolly hat that came over my ears, I was not in the least bothered by the cold! The wind did dictate a heavy tripod, so my load could not be classed as light in weight, and necessitated changes over which shoulder I carried the assembled Gitzo-mounted, 7D MkII, with the 150-600m Sigma lens. This was as much to check nothing had worked loose as to give me a rest.
On the journey I was called back by a government-sponsored survey that seemed almost impossible to avoid, so although I concentrated on road safety, I put less effort into choosing the route I was taking and no sooner had this been completed, my phone rang again and it was the Water Bailliff for Tringford Reservoir, so I stopped in the wide entrance to a caravan park to take the call. Before leaving I spotted the Ivinghoe Beacon’s iconic shape in the distance so decided to grab some shots with it on the distant skyline before continuing, since Bob was just leaving having been there for some hours, so there was no hurry.
I had forgotten to bring my key to the parking area which was a shame, but at least there was plenty of space due probably to the cold. I assembled my gear and headed towards the canal, and found myself able to cover River and Canal Trust making their way through the locks which made interesting images of their transit. The reed beds had suffered a battering in the last few days of heavy wind, but every so often those that still stood made interesting pictures, and were a sufficient challenge to capture, as were a Pochard and Gull, and so rather than lump the three disparate groups of images into a single gallery, I have given them a gallery each, which are Canal Trust Transit, Pochard Preening, and Attempted Gull Landing Aborted.
So here are their Links – Click on either of the images to reach the relevant gallery thumbnails.
It was good to be outside taking photos again, this day at least had some sunshine!

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Creating the Final 'SOLUTIONS photographic' Christmas Card

I have created my own greetings cards since I was about fifteen or so, the first of which was an invitation to my sixteenth birthday, based upon the ‘Your Country Needs You’ poster of Lord Kitchener, exhorting the viewer to enlist for the First World War. It was a crude line artwork based upon a self portrait and even cruder representation of my pointing hand with the words ‘My Party Needs You’. I had no idea that some sixty years later I would still be printing my own cards! To digress; I was once at lunch with a Designer and we were entertaining a client around this time of year in a restaurant, when during the conversation my client the Designer was introducing me to his client, and said he was giving me work such that one day I might be able to buy my own Christmas cards rather than for me to have to keep making them, which statement has amused me from that day to this!
Since at the end of the financial year I shall be closing my company, the cards from now on will be devoted to family and friends’ birthdays, anniversaries, the gaining of degrees, the births, deaths and marriages of those close to me, I therefore decided I would try to record some of the steps in the process. Obviously the very beginning is where I look through recent images trying to kindle some idea for the theme of the card, I like to use reasonably recent images, and also sometimes I will set out to capture these very specifically.
The card for this year’s Christmas celebration was taken only a week ago, specifically with space for the words (my elder daughter gets really worked up about my adorning pictures with words), but that’s another matter – fathers have a duty to embarrass their daughters! I have done my fair share over the years; oh, and my granddaughters! The obverse image was taken at my younger daughters recent Concert in Aylesbury and the Vicar was exhorting his congregation from the pulpit and I took two shots, one with his hands clasped at his waist and then when he threw them apart to make a point. I simply merged the two and added the simple word ‘Peace’, and to add impact blurred all the background save the Crucifix beyond him as the image portrayed the very message I wished to convey too.
Photoshop came to my rescue for the merging and blurring on that image, and I found a suitable font, Dobkin Script to add the correct reverence to the message and then since I wanted that image to be the obverse, I selected all the layers and transformed it using rotate canvas, before then extending the canvas below to 200% vertically to then add the copy of the Holly image with its text into the new space. The text for the front was composed of two layers once I had enlarged all the Capitals slightly larger on one, allowing me to colour up those initial caps to simulate gold leaf. Separating the caps from the body text was done with a mask on the uppermost of the text layers.
That image was then brought back into Lightroom where I created a composite page of nine cards which I printed onto a sheet of Super A3 Premium Semigloss paper, well six sheets to give me 53 final cards – one unfortunately I glued the paper insert to the wrong side, which would have meant the gesticulating vicar would have become the the front which had not been my intention.
It is the sixth A3+ that then is the subject of the gallery for the next steps I took to complete the operation. My trimmer is just too small to do all the trimming of that size sheet, hence my resorting to my trusty scalpel. (A further aside – all my children learned to use scalpels from a very early age!) The first trimming is to separate the images so that they can be creased and folded to have the plain paper gummed to the back of the obverse vicar image. Each of the now white-bordered cards are now taken to another of my cutting boards where for the first time I adopted a different method to achieve the creasing (I wish I had thought of it a long time ago!) my main cutting board has the healing surface on both sides, but I realised that the other had a glossy very hard plastic backing, which I stuck just at the edge of my kitchen work surface, and then used the ruler to hold the line between the two images carefully across the hard, sharp edge of the cutting board, so that once aligned, I could use my thumb to crease the paper firmly to make the final fold really accurately.
Next step was to use the convenient raised edge of the trimmer to hold the folded card as I applied gum from a Pritt stick along the back, then before it dried out I slipped a plain white sheet of paper, pre-cut from an A4 sheet up against my fold then once correctly positioned I pressed it down firmly to stick it, folding it up then putting it under the guard, aligning the fold to the guillotine cutter’s edge and trimming off the surplus on all three sides. Now the inserted paper exactly matches the images and it can be easily written upon to carry the message for each individual recipient, where the back of the print does not take kindly to ballpoint pens and would smudge.
The other fifty odd cards were turned to JPEGs at the size I was printing them from the original master, and obviously I had to write a message apologising for the slightly less personal greeting, due to both time and cost restraints, but should they wish to print the file out it would still make a very acceptable print that they could place on strings or shelves along with others they received.
Over the years I have been doing my own cards, it has been my pleasure to be receiving an increasing number of similarly hand crafted cards rather than those that have less personal messages, and this has been a delight, and where the mass-printed ones will not all be kept, the handmade ones I still have, and cherish.

Should any readers of this blog like to see a copy of the final image, here it is in JPEG format:
Please note the image is my copyright, you may print out a single copy to view it, but please do not distribute it, especially as it does not represent the final quality of the original images

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Aylesbury Concert Band at Fairford Leys

Saturday morning was spent printing out Christmas cards for Family members and those without computers and their ilk, and I prepared these for printing out on Super A3 paper, which was highly efficient, and probably conserved ink which is always a benefit, and I managed to get a reasonable way forward, before I had to consider going over to help transport my Baritone Saxophonist daughter from Westcott to Fairford Leys for their Annual Christmas Carol Service in the central square. We arrived with time to spare and with no navigational errors, and this allowed for some time spent chatting before offloading the large and heavy case.
It is always enjoyable to arrive early enough to be able to wander around the band as they warm up, but though under the circumstances on this occasion, ‘warm up’ was not really on the agenda, since it was a bitterly cold afternoon, and neither instruments nor players work at their best when lips freeze to the mouthpieces and breath constantly condenses within such that the music has to be interrupted to be removed from the pipes. Playing many of the instruments in gloves does not add to the enjoyment, but is preferable to  tearing skin from the fingers! Fortunately the English are Stoic and display a stiff upper lip, possibly due to them being physically frozen!
When the audience applauded the resultant sound from gloved hands does not resound from the walls around the square, but my impression was that they enjoyed the event and certainly sang well in some of the popular traditional carols, and the band members seemed to be battling well with smiles and occasional laughter between numbers.
The final arrival of Santa pulled by a Four by four rather than sixteen reindeer was greeted with genuine enjoyment; the Christmas season is now well under way. When I made the return trip later in the evening, the roads were definitely icy, so the forecast of snow for Sunday seemed to be guaranteed, and when I awoke this morning, it was more than a smattering, and in fact was still snowing, an opportunity which I was not going to miss as snow has been largely absent over the last two winters, so hopefully I can top up my store of such images for future Christmas cards.
A Merry Christmas to all those who visit this blog, and may the time be spent in the relaxing atmosphere of family – who knows even with a chance of some snowballing, sledging, skating, and the building of snowmen!

Monday, 4 December 2017

Aylesbury Mayor’s Carol Concert

Aylesbury Concert Band gather at St. Mary’s Church to celebrate the start of the 2017 Christmas Season with a Carol Concert put on by the Mayor, Councillor Tom Hunter-Watts. At this time of year all those involved are heavily involved with commitments of every conceivable description, and this can be family involvement with schools and the stresses of preparation for Christmas then you add in the English weather and road closures, that everyone can come together in a festive spirit at this time is a minor miracle. I came over from the Bedford area to bring a Baritone Saxophonist; my daughter to the venue, and guess what her two children have been ill and off school, and disrupted her plans for work, but we still made it by the skin of our teeth, and the good fortune to find a car park that had spaces free.
The church was full of various different groups rehearsing in separate areas of the church, as I found out in my journey to pay a comfort visit before I could concentrate on getting my camera gear up and ready. I took a wander around to decide on viewpoints and found these were severely limited due to the number of reserved seats, but settled on the end of a row of four seats in front of the sound engineers’ desk manned by Richard Watkins and a colleague from Taliesin Musicraft. Both were busily setting up mikes and lighting amidst the throngs of participants and early-arrival audience members and families of either the band members or the children participating in the event.
Amidst this there were church staff milling around, and the band were soon assembled and running through pieces that were to form part of the concert – well-organised chaos reigned, and I started taking shots of the musicians from whatever vantage points were possible, at least at this stage free to roam, whereas soon it would be time to sit down and be well-behaved.
Somehow the afternoon progressed from last minute rehearsal into performance, and I was not sure when the transition took place except for the arrival of the local dignitaries, and after a most enjoyable time spent shooting, chatting and singing with gusto, I then went in search of, and found a lady from the States who had spotted me working and asked could I take a shot of her with someone from the council. I was able to take a few shots slightly away from the hubbub, and hope she will be happy with the results. Lighting on this occasion was at the edge of possibility for good images, especially as I do not use flash on such occasions as I want to preserve the ambience of the occasion, and my hands are not the most steady!

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Steppingley Reservoir Red Kite Visit

I had looked at maps to decide on where it might prove worthwhile to take advantage of the sunshine, and settled upon Steppingley Reservoir. I had not factored in the bitter wind, so when I arrived I was not as prepared for the cold as I should have been. Also upon arrival, I realised this was a spot I had previously visited, and had been slightly disappointed, but nothing ventured; nothing gained…
After a preliminary walk to the entry to the fields, the first decision was to add to my clothing, as the windchill was already getting to me! I added a woolly hat and a hooded jacket and my fingerless gloves with silk gloves underneath, then gathered the lightest carbon fibre tripod with the Acrotech head as this would offset my intention to use my heaviest lens, the Sigma 150-600mm Sports. Also, I took along my electronic shutter release due to this tripod’s choice due to the lesser stability.
I negotiated the downhill track taking to the grass alongside, to avoid caking my boots with claggy mud and at first investigated heading towards to thicket to skirt to the left around the banked reservoir, but soon retraced my steps and crossed the brook and headed for the right and some newly dug channels and then climbed the bank and headed right at the top. I came across a couple of anglers and asked how they were faring, and learned they had only recently arrived themselves, they were able to suggest where I might find a good chance of spotting the local wildlife, which they said included deer and in the fields they had just spotted some hares. I thanked them and made my way around anticlockwise, before heading towards the bank on the far side to enter the woods. I passed another pair of anglers, one of whom had caught a single fish which somehow had been considered of less import than having some late breakfast! I left them chuckling amongst themselves and carefully made my way down the bank again and entered the woods.
I had barely entered the path into the woods when I spotted two small muntjacs which immediately took fright and headed deeper into the thicket, I never saw them again. As I once again took to the grass margins of the track, I spotted red kite circling above, and then a small farm vehicle approached me, I hailed it in greeting and the driver pulled to a halt and switched off the engine, I asked whether there was much wildlife to be found hereabouts, and he said there was some, but was not able to elucidate much further and soon restarted the engine and went on his way – at least I learned I was not to be evicted!
For a while I attempted to get some shots from the cover of the woods, but this was far from easy, so I eventually moved to end of the track where it opened onto the field, and found that some of the birds were interested in prey within the field, so were far lower. I wished I had made this decision earlier, as the sun was becoming increasingly hidden by clouds. It was interesting to note that there was a high concentration of pigeons that moved en masse from one end of the track between one tree in the field and somewhere beyond me, every ten to fifteen minutes. Later another observation I made was that sometimes the red kite would adjourn to a clump of trees at the wood’s edge and the crows were not be fazed and remained in the same branches, the only lesser bird I saw chased by the kites was a jackdaw. Part of the reason the kites were often down at ground level was some carrion in the field, and on one occasion I saw one of their number with a small bird that was being devoured on the wing, but I could not be certain where it had been caught.
With the sun increasingly cloud-covered I retraced my steps to the reservoir, and continued widdershins and before leaving, spotted the two anglers I first met so I went to see how they had fared. I learned their names were Paul and Jay, and we chatted and found they had been less fortunate than me, having caught no fish at all. Like me at Marsworth, they had befriended a robin and had fed him some of their bait, so I took a shot of him as he took the occasional nibble. I showed them that shot and others I had taken of the kites and we chatted before I set off back to the car. I made the trip at a good pace which meant I was far warmer when back at the car than when I had set off!