Welcome

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…



Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year


To all those visitors to the galleries on my Blog, I hope that 2010 proves that with the right attitude, we can all work and be rewarded for our efforts, and confound all the Doom Merchants who would rob us of our smiles. Times are tough, but they need not be miserable. Recently my village suffered from a severe loss of services, and some continue to do so, but there are many even in this country, who are far worse off. Try to think for a moment of all those in that beautiful county of Cumbria, who are without their homes.
Think of those families and friends of soldiers and airmen in the hostile lands of Afghanistan and elsewhere far from home, and some of those families whose loved ones have been lost in the conflicts in other parts of this troubled world.

Be grateful for whatever we have.

If you would like to print out your own version of my Christmas Card, it can be found here:http://tinyurl.com/ydmuktn

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Snow and Village Life

Snow came to Caddington once again, overnight Thursday, and Friday dawned into bright sunlight. At first the sky was a dome of clear blue from horizon to horizon, the villagers were slow to venture out, but with camera and a second lens, I wandered around to capture the activity.

Several school-age children soon realised that this worth getting out of bed for. However to their evident dismay, this was ‘the wrong type of snow’ since it would not stick together, so snowballing and igloo-building was doomed to failure, but kick it and it makes a fine display!
It was a time for the very young to be towed on sleds by parents doing the morning shopping, or in one case (though sadly after I had put the camera away!) for some bright spark to ‘borrow’ Gran’s mobility scooter to tow a kid along the pavement at a much slicker, and effortless pace!

Dogs were walked, babies prammed, and toddlers swung, and smiles infected everyone, there was definitely a holiday spirit abroad. However, clouds began to form, and soon the sun began to be veiled, but before it disappeared totally, I did manage to capture some of the interplay of light and shade on snow-covered cars in the local garage, a lone starling singing from atop my own kitchen chimney cowl, a red letterbox with its ‘arm’ of snow, and a few examples of how snow can transform a mundane scene into something more magical.

But now it is Sunday morning, and as I write this, I have learned that what I believed was my boiler failing again, and my home telephone choosing to go on the blink, was in fact a village-wide calamity. Amazingly, an emergency committee has sprung into action, and volunteers are distributing small electric hotplates and heaters, from the Community Centre to anyone in need, and others are paying visits to the local elderly. The Gas supply will be out for the next few days, and we all need to turn off at the mains.

Snow has brought a sense of community in so many ways.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Aylesbury Church Concert

Having thoroughly enjoyed hearing the Aylesbury Community Concert Band playing in Wendover High Street, I wanted to hear them again in a church hall in Aylesbury town centre. Not knowing the venue I set off early, but the details I had were not correct, so I ended up walking around St. Mary’s, which was totally deserted, I tried phoning to get an update but there was no reply.

Not only that as the time approached for the start, and all the notices made no mention of any event that night at this church, it became obvious I was not in the right place, finally with only minutes in hand I got a return call which told me I had to go to the Methodist Church, but the description and directions matched the Wesleyan Chapel, which ironically was very close to where my car was parked!

The beauty of the venue was there was a raised balcony from which I could shoot and I could move around for different viewpoints. It was still on the borderline from a speed point of view – digital noise would therefore be a challenge, but I managed.

I also got a chance to sing, but I doubt I was heard above the band, even though I put my all into ‘Oh, Come All Ye Faithful’!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Wendover – Christmas Carols around the Christmas Tree

It was a foggy evening drive from Caddington to Wendover, and I was cutting it fine, so finding a space to park the car was none too easy, but I had seen the crowds forming so knew the destination, and a brisk walk never did me any harm.

The Aylesbury Community Concert band were there to play Christmas Carols, and I had just enough time to get myself ready to take some shots of the players. There was a good and cheerful crowd, and the playing was excellent to my ears, yet I could see that everyone was finding their hands and fingers getting steadily colder, which must make it hard to play an instrument.

The children were having a great time running round the War Memorial, quite oblivious of the chill, and probably equally oblivious of the music, except when it came to ‘Away in a Manger’ when they did burst into song!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Lightroom – Badges on the Grid Images

Recently I have found that some users of Lightroom are not fully aware of what all the badges on their pictures within Lightroom's Library module Grid display actually mean or do.

I have created a single A5 PDF document that explains their functions, so that it becomes more obvious just how informative as well as powerful this is. Adobe helpfully provides numerous hotspots with lists of the options that can be displayed as badges on each image. Technically the three small icons in the bottom right are the badges, but I have lumped all the items overlaid on the pictures under the name 'badges' for simplicity.

The items without a contextual list of choices of what to display have Tooltips to explain their function.

Overall, I hope that what I have explained proves useful. The PDF is in the Galleries section the right, titled 'Lightroom Badges'.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Vitamin B12 – Citroen flavoured

“Vitamin B12 has a key role in the normal functioning of the brain” – the Citroen B12 racing car from around 1924 has now taken hold of my nephew in much the same way! He purchased the car from racing driver Graham Capel, who personally delivered it to Alex. I was honoured by being asked to pick Alex up from Luton Airport so that he could be present for its arrival.

What a shame that the weather was so inauspicious; it was grey, dull and threatening to rain. We arrived after Graham, so I took a few photographs of the car on its trailer before going in to meet the seller. By the time I came in and was introduced, Graham had already learned that I had been a Marshal and regularly attended Goodwood, and he had fired Glory, my sister in law, with enthusiasm for the car, its history, and the idea of going to the Revival Meeting with the car.

The threat of rain, and our arrival, curtailed further conversation, so Alex, Graham and I set to, getting the car around to its new home. I took a few more shots, so we had a record of its arrival and handover. I also managed to capture the feeling of awe on Alex’s face and his intrigue, as Graham showed him photos, catalogue, advertisements and history that all added to the provenance of the vehicle; he was thrilled to learn he was being given these as well.

We just managed to get the car off the trailer and under cover before the rain. We then spent some time learning something more about starting the car, where things were stored and small points of interest. After Graham left we did some more manoeuvring to put the car securely in a garage.

I look forward to seeing the car restored and running on the road, hopefully in sunshine!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Sunny Day after the Storm

It is a week since I took these shots, and sadly the North of England has since suffered the heaviest single downfall of rain on record, with massive losses to their local houses and businesses, and the tragic loss of a policeman from a bridge collapse at Workington.

The Lake District has a powerful pull on tourists for its beauty, I do hope that those that visit in the near future will remember that such beauty can hide the awful tragedy wrought by the power of all that water. We need to fully realise and plan for our defence from the awesome power of Nature.

In the South, and in inland areas beyond the flood plains, we need to appreciate just how lucky we can be to not suffer from such cataclysmic forces. We suffered just a few tree branches blown down, but in Cumbria they lost livelihoods.

The sun was out early down here in the Home Counties, and blue skies prevailed with little hint of the destruction of the night before and what was to follow just a short week later, up North. I decided that work I had to do could wait, whilst I went out and took advantage of the warmth and sunshine to capture what was left of beauty in the nearby countryside.

I was lucky to be photographing a landscape when a rustling nearby turned out to be a badger! My camera was on a tripod, so I only managed to catch this fleeting glimpse of Brock in daylight. Its home turned out to be beneath the bole of the tree right in front of where I stood, shielded by ferns.

There were still signs of autumn colour, and a few hardy flowers, with even some optimistic buds that I managed to capture, as I and numerous others, took advantage of this brief spell of warmth and sunshine. I dedicate these images to those less fortunate.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Tunnel Vision

I am doing my bit here to redress the imbalance where good news travels less fast than bad.

Patricia Rayner, a friend and fellow photographer, whom I first knew when she worked for the Mobil Oil Company based in Victoria, London, now jointly runs Image 2 Photography.

Patricia is still taking award-winning photographs, having recently been honoured in the Industrial category of the ‘2009 British Institute of Professional Photography International Awards’ for this stunning image.


Whilst working on a shoot for VolkerFitzpatrick, who were fitting out a new underground station at St. Pancras International, Patricia was drawn to a rather drab tunnel at one of the platform ends. With her typical flash of inspiration, she created this stunning shot by the addition of a backlit human figure and later some work in Photoshop to change the overall colour.

I think you’ll agree the award was well-deserved.








© Image 2 Photography

Monday, 9 November 2009

Babraham Bonfire

Although the night was cold, at least it was dry. Although I had my camera with me, I had not got my tripod, so I took very few shots, and they were silhouettes, one of a mother and child and several of a couple conveniently placed between the dying bonfire and myself.

I visualised them as potential covers to a Mills & Boon romance! I thought they were fun.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Autumn and a Milton Keynes Car Park

Colour and beauty are not normally associated with Milton Keynes, but if that is your perception, you would be wrong. The car parks are bordered and divided by trees and shrubs, and have been well-chosen for their colour in autumn, as I found when I visited recently. Americans refer to our season rather too literally as fall, as this describes only how the trees and bushes shed their leaves. Autumn says so much more, as was demonstrated to me, and how I hope I have portrayed in this selection of images from the trip.

It was windy, and not always blessed with sunshine, so in some of the shots I endeavoured to capture the variations and feel for what was happening. When inside the Shopping Centre, I also tried to show how light played its part in highlighting architectural detail and how it gave long shadows when the sun was out.

None of these images have been into Photoshop; these colours are real, their intensity except in isolated cases, was as I saw them, the contrasts were provided by those who planted them, and I compliment those who made the choices, and those who have tended them. I hope I have proved that a car park can contain and display beauty for those who care to look.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

2CV Lomax Kit Car & Autumn Colours

My nephew Alex and I planned to meet up so he could take me for a ride in his latest acquisition – a Lomax kit car based upon a Citroen Deux Chevaux chassis and engine.

I pulled up at the house and there it was before me. There was nothing I recognised as a 2CV! To all intents here was a Morgan sportscar lookalike! I started taking shots of it before I met up with Alex, and the dogs soon attracted his attention and I was hailed from an upstairs window.

We then walked the dogs, chatted and I took pictures of leaves that took my fancy before climbing (literally) into the car for a trip to the Royal Standard of England pub; one of probably several laying claim to be the oldest in Britain!

When we pulled up in the car park, off came the bonnet cover to check that all was well in the engine compartment and that no leaks had appeared since Alex's recent overhaul.

There I got into conversation with two American photographers from New Hampshire, who later came outside to take shots using a wooden Pinhole camera, and we had quite an interesting chat before they left.

We both had a Ploughman's and Alex decided to check out their Spotted Dick; interestingly the waitress brought an extra spoon in case I wanted to share the sweet, but I declined, I was full enough.

We set off back to the house and then I was allowed the honour of taking the controls – the first and maybe the only person to be allowed the privilege, and for the first time Alex was able to see and hear his vehicle from the outside, and was massively impressed with what he saw and heard.

There was rarely bright sunshine, but for a late October day, the weather was exceptionally fine, and I was thrilled to capture some of the essence in the gallery of images that accompany this entry.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Sunny October in Essex

Friday finds me travelling around the M25 to Essex to help Pedro Silmon with optimising his images for storage and sorting within Lightroom.

During the course of the day which was exceptionally fine weatherwise, and with large catalogues to rearrange in Lightroom, I was afforded a few free minutes! This allowed me to grab some shots within his excellently tended garden. And what a garden! (Sad to report that overnight the rains did their best to consign the subjects of my photos to History.)

Not only did I get some great light on the autumn colours of the leaves and flowers, but I was spoilt by being able to capture a few more cloudscapes for my collection.

Pedro, until recently a creative director in magazines, is now a full-time,
professional garden and plant photographer. Unlike me can give a name in Latin and English for every plant I photographed, and his website goes live in mid-November. http://www.pedrosilmon.com

Monday, 19 October 2009

Stockwood – More to Discover


The Forecasters got it wrong. Well, either that or the sun was very shy this Saturday morning.

I also got it wrong – somehow I thought there was a wildlife photographer just giving a talk; I had no idea that it was a day's course for a group of a dozen photographers who had all booked for the session with Derek Henderson. So having stumbled in late, I stumbled back out again, giving him my sincere apologies, since I had only allocated a couple of hours at the Stockwood Discovery Centre before moving on to Luton Hoo's Pumpkin and Apple Gala.

Sadly due to my back giving out that was a trip I never made; I had great difficulty and a lot of pain when I tried to get low down and then get back up again. But I soldiered on to get as many shots in and around the centre. I was amazed to see so many flowers still in bloom and even raspberries were still to be found on the bushes.

I also learned just how small Venus Flytraps are, they are tiny! I managed to spot a squirrel actually in the act of burying a chestnut, and was pleasantly surprised that he did not mind my recording the event.

Even though milky sunshine was the best that was on offer, the range of colours was a joy to behold. Before leaving I visited the Couture restaurant and had a very reasonably priced cup of tea and a biscuit, and was heartened that it was well attended. This centre is somewhere for which Luton should be justly proud.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Luton's Stockwood Discovery Centre

It is amazing that Luton should be holding two prestigious photographic exhibitions in the one place, yet without two of its citizens with strong photographic connections knowing that both were being held. I knew of one, Shoe Fleur, because I had learnt from a friend of mine Colin Bowles that he knew of the artist from his wife Jennie, and when I saw it mentioned in 'Living Locally', I phoned Colin Bowles.

Colin did know of that one, so we arranged to visit it together; ironically when we came upon the greenhouse which housed Michel Tcherevkoff's photographic creations, it was locked! It turned out to be an oversight and was speedily rectified, and our entrance prompted others to enter and view.

We took a leisurely stroll through, admiring the vision that Michel had in the prints' concept and execution, and agreed it was an excellent idea to present them in the natural environment – my only concern was for the prints' longevity under all that bright sunlight.

We also took a walk through some beautifully tended ornamental gardens, and both of us broke off for lunch and returned in the afternoon, to continue to look at the displays, of ancient farming implements, archaeological finds, and vehicles (naturally, many Vauxhalls) of bygone eras but, I simply stumbled upon the Wildlife Photography Exhibition!

What a coup for the Discovery Centre! Yet we had no indication it was there. It was very well displayed and was quite fascinating, and was definitely the highlight of our visit. I cannot recommend highly enough that this place just has to be visited.

It is well-laid out, exquisitely tended with exciting areas for young children to both play and learn. The displays are copiously informative with interactive consoles and looping slideshows with a mine of information as well as sound effects to provide a background to static displays.

Luton should be justly proud of this centre which is open to the Public, and entrance is free.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

A Pheasant Autumn Day in the Country

Due to work, I have missed being outside in some of the best days in the last few weeks, so having watched the Suzuka Grand Prix in the morning I gathered up my camera and drove out towards Peters Green to see what I could capture.

In the hedgerows were numerous red and golden leaves often caught by the sun, and acorns and berries and these always make nice cards, so I pulled up on the verge several times to shoot these.

Having managed to grab a quick shot of a hen pheasant early on and a few landscapes, I set off left in Peters Green, and spotted a few more pheasants, and the local gamekeeper came by and suggested a much better spot, just a short way further down. I settled down quietly and was soon rewarded by a hen pheasant and then some cocks and even a curious rabbit.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Goodwood Revival Meeting 2009

There are several galleries from this visit,
Click the relevant link to view a particular series of images:
Fun
Brooklands
Richmond
My Guest, Toby Savage


It seems like a long time ago now, that fellow photographer, Toby Savage and I went to the Revival Meeting. Although not much of the last fortnight has been spent on paying work, I have been very far from idle, hence how ling it has taken to get these galleries up.

On the day we made very good time to arrive at the venue at around a quarter past eight, especially when Toby had driven down from Leicester. It was cloudy, but this did not dampen the spirits of those around us, everyone seemed happy to chat and before we had even entered fully we had already had several interesting conversations. We had also eyed up fascinating cars and admired the ladies and their costumes.

Once inside, we made a beeline for the Richmond lawn to say thank you to Lord March's Office girls who miraculously saved the day by sending the replacement tickets which I can only presume still lie in some Post Office Sorting Office gathering dust. The first aerial display began as we walked towards the Aircraft Display. The sun however was very reluctant to come out fully, and later due to time alterations the Vulcan appeared mid-race which coupled with low cloud was able to make less of an impact than it deserved.

Toby who modelled his outfit on a picture he had of his grandfather from the 1920s made a great show of being the Pukka Sahib and so I have devoted one whole gallery to some of his posing and a group of his son's friends.

In the Brooklands and Richmond Trophy races there was some splendid driving to watch with considerable excitement, and in another race; the RAC TT Race, Paul Drayson's E-Type Jaguar, car 20, performed a spectacular 360˚ spin directly in front of us, and was rewarded in that lap and the subsequent one, with rounds of appreciative applause from the crowd.

Lord March also introduced Buzz Aldrin and Stirling Moss, both were made very welcome by everyone, the Band of the Royal Marines also played and paraded.

Altogether, another thoroughly enjoyable day at Goodwood.

Brooklands Trophy,Goodwood Revival 2009,Richmond Trophy,Paul Drayson, E-type Jaguar,Toby Savage, Lord March, Buzz Aldrin, Stirling Moss

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Anthony Gormley's One & Other – Kelly Amoss

Kelly Amoss, schoolfriend to my daughter and minister's wife takes to the Fourth Plinth to get across a more selfless message in her hour atop the plinth in London's Trafalgar Square.

Lizzy was coming to visit and mentioned this was due to take place at 6 o'clock, so we rushed through the various chores, grabbed a hasty lunch and later set off for London, making good time travelling against the traffic to arrive just a few minutes late.

Kelly used a flip chart to get across her message to the assembled crowd of interested bystanders and members of her family, every so often throwing down chocolates which were wrapped with further messages.

A lady from the RNLI, awaiting their protegé to appear in the following slot, came over to our group and said she had watched several displays from the plinth, but this was the best she had witnessed, in the main because it was not done out of vanity but was entirely selfless, she emphasised her opinion by reiterating her feelings directly to Kelly herself when she came down from her perch.

I have tried to capture the atmosphere of the hour. This means my galleries of images from Goodwood's Revival Meeting have been delayed.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Walled Garden's Summer Coming to a Close

After my trip to the Garden this Wednesday, I had another meeting of the Design Network Association to attend, which gave little time to get a gallery of the images up, so I concentrated on the easy shots of the Bee Feeding.

Now I have had more time to work on the more general shots, here they are, and after bemoaning the fact I had failed to find any dragonflies, Chris, another volunteer with a far keener eye suddenly spotted one among the laurels.

We then walked around to the Dairy and found some more. I was really grateful to have such an observant spotter, so this gallery should really be called 'Chris' Selection!'

Without a doubt there is always something different to find in the Walled Garden; this time it was berries, chestnuts, rotting vegetables and fruit with butterflies and wasps.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Bee-feeding Time at Luton Hoo

The bee season is all but over, and it was only last weekend that I learned that the Walled Garden at Luton Hoo had many more hives than the the lone one seen in my earlier photos.
On Wednesday afternoon I learnt that the bees were due their last feed before the New Year, and I was very privileged to be allowed to don a suit and take photographs of the process.
The bees are fed a sugar solution to keep their energy up, and the amount they need is calculated from the weight of the frames, as far as I could tell.
What I was witnessing was one expert explaining to the other two the procedure as he took out the old feed container and filled it and replaced it in the hive. It was also found necessary to carefully move two hives into a sunnier spot. Notes were taken to record the operation and these were carefully placed in a plastic sleeve that was kept within the hive.
Christine had implied there was little to see, but I found the whole time quite enthralling, and I hope I have captured what occurred with some of the same fascination.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Mike Halycz, Graphic Designer – 1948 - 2009

Monday was the funeral of a friend and work colleague, Mike Halycz. I have worked with Mike over several years and shared numerous telephone conversations discussing a wide variety of varied shared interests. Though primarily a Graphic Designer, he was also a good photographer and because he could see his old town of Baldock rapidly disappearing, he was often out early on Sunday mornings with his camera and tripod, determined to capture the scenes before they were destroyed.

I used to send him images that I thought he might enjoy via email, and invariably this would prompt return responses or telephone chats as he would wonder how close I had got to hoverflies in flight, or how wonderful were the internal structures of plants and flowers. I shall miss our lunchtime or early evening chats.

Even though it was the first time that I met some of those business colleagues of his with whom I had conversed over the years, and members of his Norwich College friends, it was good to put faces to names. I felt very sad for his mother because, I knew how close they were, but was most impressed by how well she coped after the service, with all those who came over to have a few quiet words.

Cool September Sunday in the Walled Garden

After two really warm days on the Friday and Saturday when the Luton Hoo Walled Garden had a Research Day followed by an Artists Day, Sunday turned out cool, but that did not deter the crowds.

Sunday was well-attended, and I was able to meet up with my daughter and her twin girls, so they could savour the freedom of this venue. They very soon found themselves at a handicraft stall where they could colour up some cutouts and make flowers.

They got to see a jigsaw and lathe at work, and buy a few pieces for Christmas decorations. They also got to see some bees and a honeycomb.

They enjoyed jacket potatoes, beans and cheese with cold drinks, and we even managed to get them to run in opposite directions around the perimeter of the garden to give them some exercise!

Altogether it was a very relaxing way to spend an afternoon. My only regret was that I had been too tied up to visit on the Friday and Saturday.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Late Visit to Open Day

The Walled Garden hosted an Open Day in aid of two local charities – Keech Hospice and Grove House, but I was only able to arrive once the clouds had rolled in and many were considering leaving, though I did manage to capture some of the enjoyment being had by children jumping from bale to bale to the sounds of the Casino Royale Steel Band.

The music was not over loud yet carried well, allowing easy conversation amongst the groups in the marquee. Steel Band music is a very happy sound and seemed well-received, and the singer I heard had a very good voice, blending well with the tunes.

The two shots at the start of the gallery were actually taken the evening before when the sun broke through to the derelict building that can be seen along the tree-lined avenue to the Walled Garden, I have no idea what purpose it served, but I describe it as a bothy (sometime I must remember to ask just what it was!)

The flowers are largely coming to the end of their life this season, but I still managed to capture the beauty and colour of some, before I left the grounds.

Some August Luton Hoo shots…

It has been a busy time for various reasons and I somehow managed to miss a few shots on a card, but rather than lose them from the galleries, I have just put them up today, they were taken on the 19th August and showed just how much grew after the rains and a few warm nights.

Sadly, it has also been a time for deaths and funerals. My mother in law's much-loved half-brother, Derick Holden, known to all in the family as Deck, died after several year's of dementia and life in a Nursing Home. Uncle Deck was very talented before his illness, putting his hand to anything with great skill and diligence. Despite no upholstery training, he took on the restoration of a Chesterfield sofa, which is still in use today. He sang in various groups in the Southport area, and played the ukelele-banjo and piano. The family travelled from all points of the compass to celebrate his life, as well as lament the tragedy of his last years. My niece and nephew were back from India and the Mediterranean, so all was not gloom.

However I also learnt that a long-time friend and erstwhile client, Nick Zoller had taken his life, we presume due to depression caused by rejection of his novels and plays by publishers. Once again, here was a very talented man with whom I had a longstanding working relationship and friendship over thirty years.

Last week I also lost another designer friend to a massive heart attack, probably brought on by stress. I had known and worked with him for over twenty years, so the loss has come as a blow, especially since I had spoken to him after what he described as a possible heart attack on the Friday, and then when his phone was answered by his sister, I learnt he had succumbed a second attack on the Monday. Mike Halycz was one of those for whom work was his life, and he took it very seriously. Even though I have not worked for him for some time, hardly a week would go by without our having a chat.

In Mike's case, there was so much he intended doing which I had suggested he start on, and now he it will never happen, that fills me with great sorrow.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

A Trip to Norfolk

My desk was reasonably clear, America was not yet up, and the weather did not seem too inclement. There was a chance that the overcast might clear, so I phoned a friend to find out whether I might be welcome if I visited them.

Hearing I'd be very welcome, and that their weather might actually be improving, I gathered together my camera gear, filled up with petrol and was on my way. The clouds stayed with me till I was nearly there, when the sun came out.

Darrell was erecting a tower to prepare for some painting, and Jane welcomed me and opened their gate. I was offered a cup of tea, and having erected the tower, Darrell took a break and we sat around chatting, before I was taken on the 'Grand Tour'. I took the camera from the car, and was soon taking shots of butterflies in their front garden, and as we walked and talked there were squashes, raspberries, rose hips and beans that came to my screen.

Jane was particularly striking in her pink top and straw hat, and since she did not like my taking portraits, I chose to capture her as a figure in the landscape, for which she was admirable! I got treated to a long walk in the nearby copse and a further cup of tea, before the sun went down, a chill came on and it was time to set off back home. It had been a wonderfully relaxing time in a beautiful setting, but all too short; I just hope Darrell gets all his work done!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Walled Garden Lens Check!

I have been toying with the dilemma of which lens to get to cover what I consider to be the mid-range, and have finally plumped for the 24-105mm Canon f/4 lens.

I was aware of some of its shortcomings, having spoken to a few of my my professional colleagues. It does suffer from barrel distortion, but the amount is such that I can consider relying on the correction controls in Photoshop to take care of this in the most needy cases.

Today's visit to Luton Hoo's walled garden was therefore as much a lens testing day as one where I recorded the volunteers' activities and the flora. I used no other lens the entire time I was there, and was very pleasantly surprised by how close I could focus.

I felt the lens very much proved itself, I hope therefore others can enjoy the shots I captured.

Sunday, 23 August 2009


I wanted to find out whether I could gain a benefit from using a tripod and Acratech head in gimbal mode to shoot windsurfers in action, so I made a trip to Brogborough Lake and set things up.

It certainly took the weight which was a major benefit over shooting handheld with a long and heavy lens, but I think the Wimberley is likely to be a better bet, as with the Acratech, the friction is still too great. At the time I did not have the funds for the Wimberley, but I think that I am going to have to dig deep and get one to get the most out of my longer lenses.

I did however get some reasonable shots and was able to consider lesser shutter speeds due to the extra steadiness.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Adam Woolfitt Launches New Food Book

Adam Woolfitt, a well-known photographer, past Chairman of the Association of Photographers, and writer of numerous articles in the photographic press, has a new book out early next year, on the links between the food we eat and their countryside origins in Devon.

To help publicise the book he has built a website exclusively devoted to promoting 'The Devon Food Book' with several examples of his excellent photography.

I have added a link beneath my list of galleries, but to go direct, just click here!

Carol Trewin and Adam Woolfitt have already collaborated on two earlier books, 'Gourmet Cornwall' (published by Alison Hodge, April 2005) and 'Cornish Fishing and Seafood' (Alison Hodge, September 2006). Both books won the Gourmand World Cook Book Award for Best Local Cook Book in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

All can be ordered on-line from Flagon Press at:
www.james-crowden.co.uk

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Luton Hoo Walled Garden – High Summer


For a change, I managed to get up to the garden much earlier, which meant I was able to capture more of what was happening this Wednesday, the artists were sprinkled in every part of the garden and outside the wall to record the buildings and flowers in the bright sunlight.

I found a small group were taking a break in the cool of a walkway by a gate leading to the big house, now, the hotel – what they had not spotted, was that at the very end, silhouetted against a slightly lighter area, was a muntjac grazing quietly.

The volunteers were busy tying up the climbing plants, moving pumpkins away from the grass walks, and weeding, whilst the artists were sketching, drawing and painting, and occasionally moving to a new position.

A farm vehicle is being lovingly restored in one of the outbuildings, and it is definitely in the tradition of family heirlooms – by the time it is completed it will undoubtedly resemble the original, but like the knife that has had two new handles and three new blades!

Unlike the beehive itself, there was a general hive of activity all around the garden, with conversation drifting in the breeze.

It was indeed a very colourful scene, and I hope I have managed to capture it to advantage.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Mechelen Cricket Club Visit Bamville and Win


Peter Carr, a member of Bamville Cricket Club told me his team were playing at home on Sunday, so I asked whether he'd mind my coming along to take pictures at the event; he said I'd be welcome.

Sadly I arrived a little late, and the game had started, because I had been busy catching up on work after a busy week, mostly spent away from my email, which had amassed a mountain. The morning mist had lifted and the sun was out in strength.

I had my 150-500mm lens on one body and 70-200mm on another and the long lens was on my tripod to to check out how effective the Acrotech head was - it proved to be useful, if somewhat restrictive. At the end of the day I went back to handholding to give myself more freedom.

I have whittled down the gallery of shots from some 500+ shots taken to 180 that give some idea of the afternoon's play, with its interludes for finding lost balls, removing dog poo and supplying orange juice, with breaks in the game when I captured some of the moments of relaxation.

Sad to relate the visitors won, but it was taken in good spirit, it's a shame I missed an excellent catch, and at least three clean bowled players; I must get out of the habit of 'chimping' so often!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Aircraft Movements & Preparation for Shooting Interior Panoramas

On days when the sun is in and out of clouds, and the brightness changes from Gloom to Brilliance it is difficult enough for me to capture consistent lighting and colour balance, but even more difficult for the photographer with whom I am working. He is trying to capture the interior scene throughout 360 degrees, for panoramas.

Space was tight out on the pan, so once we had papered over the windows whilst within the hangar, Harrods Aviation personnel were preparing to move one similar jet into the hangar, so that ours could be towed outside in its place.

This involves the incredibly manouevrable and powerful Ferrari-red electric tug which moves close to the nosewheel, then clamps to it and winches it aboard a small platform and so lifts it off the deck for the tug to takeover the steering. Two marshals then watch the wings as the aircraft is carefully swung out from its parking slot and into the hangar. It is then unhitched, and our newly prepared executive jet is taken out into the intermittent sunlight for the day's shoot.

As this is the sixth aircraft to have the photographic treatment, things run smoothly and three more 360˚ panoramas have been shot by London photographer Ben Rice for his client; several of which have taken place at the hangar of Harrods Aviation at Luton Airport.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Planing Manor Road

Planing is the process where the top few layers of a road are cut off to allow for a new Tarmacadam surface to be laid together with a top dressing layer.

I was too late on their first day to capture this aspect of the work, so I decided to remedy that today and so this is a smaller gallery that contains shots of this process and many more detail shots that show the level of control these men have over their machines.

It was gratifying to learn that several of the men had taken the trouble to visit the blog to see just what photographs I had taken, and their response was favourable.

I hope everyone enjoys these last few shots.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Manor Road Resurfacing

Manor Road suffered badly from the snow and frost earlier this year, and a fortnight ago the village of Caddington were notified that there would be road closures to carry out major resurfacing work. From my point of view I saw this as a minor inconvenience and a great opportunity to take a series of photographs as the work was under way.

And so it proved. Naturally I could not cover the entire operation, but I have tried to capture enough of the mechanics of what went on to tell a story of the men and machines involved. I found them an interesting crowd, and during the course of conversation learnt of one man who even had his sons working alongside, so some of these shots represent pictures in his family album!

I sought the men's approval for the shots I took, and was accepted willingly, which made my task of creating an accurate report of the proceedings that much more easy, and enjoyable. The one operation I have been unable to capture so far is the initial 'planing' – the removal of the original top surface.

I am hoping that I may be able to take shots of that procedure tomorrow, my last free moment. Also, one of the men has promised he will let me know when they next carry out that operation at night, so I can get some more dramatic shots. That was an act of generosity that showed an understanding of what I was looking for, and showed that they appreciated what I was doing, for which I am grateful.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Aspects of Photoshop – A Talk for the DNA


Courtesy of Mark and Kathy Wilkinson, the Secret Garden Café in St. Albans became the venue for me to give a talk on Photoshop on Wednesday the 29th. Very aware that I had no idea how well Photoshop was known amongst the audience, nor the way in which it was used, I had prepared a series of files that would help me illustrate the versatility and power of the program.

After a preliminary talk on the new position of Photoshop for designers and photographers, I put up on screen the list of items I had prepared, and asked the audience for some guidance, before committing to giving any demonstration. This gave me a clue, and I did my best to provide some continuity between the examples I showed. I also suggested that I'd happily answer questions along the way.

I was glad that I had, because when I drew things to a close and called for questions I was deafened by the silence. This is always dismaying, and I am sure it is due to reluctance, but if no one breaks the ice…

I got two very kind emails after the event, and console myself that several people did take my card, so hopefully it went well. Mark made us all very welcome, and I must say a very great thank you to him for all he and his team did to make it all possible.

One photographer did tell me she had been photographing panoramas in Hitchin Market around the same time I was taking photos just few hundred yards away at the British Schools Museum.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Harrods in Luton

I have been back helping Ben Rice with the stitching of 360˚ panoramas again, this time at Harrods Aviation at London Luton Airport. Quite handy for me living just a short distance away in Caddington!

English weather was its normal unpredictable self – one minute cloudy another bright sunshine, but fortunately not when Ben was doing the HDR circuits.

The new assistant, Rob and I were working under a tented enclosure vaguely reminiscent of Colonel Gaddafi's desert home, to give some semblance of consistent lighting.

In the few moments of our first day I managed to grab some shots of the taping over the aircraft windows, and fortuitously the Harrods Aviation logo on the side of a van, that using Photoshop's 'Blend If…' facility allowed me to quickly create the first slide in the gallery.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Closer and Closer…

I have been fascinated by hoverflies for the last three years – I just have to photograph them in ever greater detail, and one of the greatest challenges is to capture them in flight, but above all, I am determined to do this by using the camera handheld and without any automatic means of firing the shutter for that precise moment.

With each series of shots I take I try to learn more about the insects themselves as well as know my own limits and try to push them further. I am slowly getting there. I have learnt that I cannot simply keep raising the ISO rating, I cannot necessarily shorten the distance between the camera and the subject, I know also that I have to increase the depth of field by choosing a smaller aperture, but then I need more flash power, but that means the picture loses the ambient light, so it looks as if I may need to use a second flash unit to give me that, and so it goes on…

Here is the latest series with some ladybirds and other bugs.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Walled Garden Big Lunch – Rain does not stop play


The forecast was sunshine and showers, and the day certainly started out in keeping, but it was not long before it flipped – to showers with breaks of sunshine, and boy did it come down! But this is Britain, and remarkably, everyone I saw wore a smile, and shrugged it off..

I could see that I somehow had to choose views that made the place look busy, so I would angle myself to find one group with another in the background! Once I had got a few shots like that in the bag, I then spent a few minutes in the Alchemy garden, where hoverflies and bees were busy…

I also visited the Cacti again, and some of the musicians, the Steel Band Drummer, and A Different Beat; with Bongos, since both were under cover, the entire time rain or shine, was accompanied by the rhythm of drums.

I managed to get stung by a bee outside the Cactus house whilst photographing some hemlock. This gave me my introduction to the St. John's Ambulance group, and one of them some paperwork to complete! An ice pack soon eased my pain, so thank you guys.

It was a good-humoured time, and water droplets adds something to flowers.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Dr Twigs Way Talk – Animals in the Garden

I arrived early at the British Schools Museum venue for the talk by Dr Twigs Way, and gave a hand with a few of the preparations and as it was very hot, I suggested that Terry Ransome lock the hall, and I would spend the intervening time keeping cool in my car, since it had air conditioning.

As I only intended to cool myself down then quietly read, I decided not to run the engine. What I had not anticipated was that I might nod off.

An indeterminate time later I came to and immediately turned everything off, but it was too late! My battery was as flat as it could possibly become; the clock gave a date of 00:00:1997, the radio read 'Safe'. Safe means I have to search for my entry code and reset it before I can hear Music or News on the move!

I pushed the car as high up the car park as possible and pushed it down again in what turned out to be a vain attempt to bump-start her. After the tenth time, by when I was reduced to a wet rag, I parked up and phoned the AA! However, I later cancelled that when I managed to find Terry had jump leads, she started first turn, so I gave her some three minutes of charge before starting to take photos of the guests.

A lemonade revived me and despite having cancelled the AA, I then got a call from the patrol man that he was ten minutes away – they forgot to pass the message on! I got on with the shooting, but after a delayed start hoping for more attendees, the talk began. And I learnt about some of our human idiosyncrasies when it comes to the keeping of animals within our gardens, large and small. The level of light was low, but I hope I have captured some of what took place.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

British Schools Museum, Hitchin

On the strength of photos I took for the Delmé Radcliffe Appeal Concert, I have been asked to take photographs for the Hertfordshire Heritage Fund of an event at the British Schools Museum in Hitchin. I made a preliminary visit on Tuesday afternoon and took some photographs showing a bit of the architecture and something of the exhibits on display to give an idea of what there is.

There is a small gallery to be found on the right.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Luton Hoo – Moth Hunt in the Walled Garden

It was a shame it was not as muggy a night as it has been of late, but despite that everyone was upbeat, and Andy introduced himself and Melissa to us all. I was surprised to learn that one of the participants, Anne already knew me from the time we were both living in Slip End!

Charlotte very kindly supplied us with crisps and Cider, and we were treated to a captive peppered moth, but later in the evening a native of the Garden was captured at one of the other traps.

I have tried to capture something of the atmosphere by having shots of some of those present as well as some of the specimens that appeared, tempted by our lights. I was pleasantly surprised by how many I managed to capture in focus. I can now accept Andy's assurance that not all moths are dull and grey!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Test Day for a Seamster

Ben Rice, a top London Photographer working for International Corporate companies had been asked to create a series of panoramas within a series of executive jets, and very kindly asked me to provide some technical help in their production – on site.

The location for the test run was to be at London City Airport at the Jet Centre. We met up in their Car Park at the start of the day; probably the hottest day in London for several years! I learnt at the end it had reached 32˚ C.

We had to go through a few preliminary security checks to go airside as we were to work in a converted container at the very end of the runway with the aircraft, a Hawker 800 close by. We soon found that its normal role was storage for bottled water, which steadily dwindled as we sweated our way through the day.

The first two tasks were to rig black fabric over the open end of the container, and for Ben's assistant to start papering over the aircraft windows with tracing paper to sort out the lighting for the aircraft's interior. Next was setting up two MacBook Pro computers and hard drives for me to work at to perform my brand of magic as the seamster.

Once that was completed, I joined Ben in the interior of the aircraft for the setting up of the panoramic head, after that Ben was on his own; at least until he realised that it was too cramped for a grown man to keep clambering over the tripod and camera in such a cramped space. He then sought out a willing and lithe young lady who between shots from beyond the tripod, would hide in the loo as Ben fired the shutter. Her transfer of weight was less disruptive than his, on the camera's stability.

There were three points within the aircraft to shoot the panoramas, and there were several sets to do with two different lenses, and after each run, I would be handed the card to extract the files from, and do the stitching, in two programs, Photoshop and PTGui, after which Ben and the client would run through my results until everyone was satisfied. We had a short break in the middle of the day and continued till well after six, and I shall make a further apology for spending much of the time stripped to the waist!

The Festival of Speed

Once again I am extremely grateful to Lord March for the invitation to visit Goodwood to enjoy a great day amidst the crowds on a glorious July day. Sharing the day with me was another photographer friend I first met whilst I was Sales Manager at a London Colour Lab, Charlie Milligan.

We arranged to meet at a Service station on the M25 at around six-fifteen, but Charlie came down the A3 from London and turned onto the clockwise direction, where almost immediately the sign told him the first such station was forty three miles along. Seconds later I managed to contact him, and said "…turn around and we'll meet along the A3. I am in a silver Astra…" He told me: "…a blue Passat…" a short while later, a 'dit, dah, dit,dit,dit' on the horn, and I passed him, We came off onto the A3, soon to find a small services, where we left his car and continued to Goodwood; arriving at seven-fifteen.

It was much cooler than earlier in the week, making it very pleasant. The supercar area was already packed and whilst I captured details from these, Charlie grabbed an English breakfast. After touring this area, we took in the cars from an earlier era, before taking a good look at the installation in front of the House. Before a long walk up the hill, we decided to visit the Qatar Airways-sponsored VIP enclosure.

You would think us celebrities, given the attention lavished upon us by a series of beautiful girls who descended upon us! Never one to miss an opportunity we stressed how much we would like to do photography for them, and the response seemed surprisingly positive! We both await our first commissions!

Onwards and upwards! Past the off-road 4x4s; shunning the charabancs, we walked through the forest section stopping at a couple of likely corners in the Rally section. The first spot proved tame, but not so the second, where we were soon greeted by a car at full-chat whose driver had decided the banks had to be gouged wider, and we were showered by rocks and chalk! Thank you, that made a great shot! Though I am sure I came with a black rucksack! We walked on through and out at the marshalling area at the end of the hill run; it was so packed we had no chance to view anything there, so we took a well-earned rest and a drink before venturing back through the woods to visit the F1 Paddock.

I am certain the crowds were fifty-percent up on previous Sundays, and it was hard to get clear views of some of the machinery, but no matter, the sounds, smell, atmosphere, the voluptuous lines of many of the cars and all the women made this a great place to be. I forgot to mention that on the way up, I managed to persuade a high sided truck owner to let me take photos from his roof, of the off-roaders 'yumping' and spraying clouds of chalk in their wake. Such is the warmth and hospitality of this event!

I also forgot to mention the 'Red Arrows', but here we did miss out because much of their display was behind trees.

The latter part of the day we spent some time using the VIP enclosure as a great shooting vantage point of the first corner, chatting and 'chimping' and meeting another photographer, Chris Jelf, who was there for Veuve-Clicquot. After more tea and dates, we left and then had the small problem of getting back to Charlie's car, which could only be reached from the southgoing A3 – a minor hiccough in a wonderful day. Thank you, Lord March.
Further Galleries from this event:
http://www.fntn.co.uk/rodwp/Goodwood_FoS09-2
http://www.fntn.co.uk/rodwp/Goodwood_FoS09-3
http://www.fntn.co.uk/rodwp/Goodwood_FoS09-4
http://www.fntn.co.uk/rodwp/Goodwood_FoS09-5
http://www.fntn.co.uk/rodwp/Goodwood_FoS09-6

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Helpful and skillful – SRB-Griturn

I needed a small adapter ring to fit a Canon ringflash head to a Tamron 90mm macro lens, and it needed a flange to prevent it from sipping off in use. Just down the road beyond Whipsnade is a company called SRB-Griturn and midway through a Saturday morning one of the joint owners, Terry was more than happy to sort me out something while I waited, from two readymade items and a small amount of machining, and the charge was very fair.

I have known the SRB element of the company for some time from their Luton days (and even earlier when there was BDB!), but in the short time I was there I learnt something of this small precision engineering company, Terry and James had been Griturn, which had in turn been Textile and Optical, before teaming up with SRB, and they have worked for comapanies such as the BBC, but they are fast expanding into other areas due to their purchase of an anodising company, they now do work for motorbike crash safety systems and bows, and are bursting at the seams in their present premises.

It is really good to see a British company in good health and deservedly so, they obviously have pride in their work value their customers, and treat them well – I now have a ringflash that does not drop off the lens from the wash of the wings of a hoverfly!

Appeal Concert at Maydencroft Manor

Friday turned out to be a far cooler day than Thursday, which meant that Bob and Franie's plans for the Delmé Radcliffe Appeal Concert was blessed with perfect weather. The venue for the concert was Bunyan's Barn at the Manor. Bob's major concern was for the bats that roost here; I for one hope they enjoyed the music we heard performed there.

At the critical moment, the main stage lights failed, but the audience were good humoured enough for this not to spoil their evening. A cow and a peacock however were not to be left out and added their piece, sometimes with an excellent sense of timing!

Bats willing, this concert venue could prove an attractive addition to the Hertfordshire scene, certainly the acoustics are good and the performances excellent.

Purely from my own perspective, the harsh lighting made it hard to take the best photographs, but I nevertheless hope that I have captured the ambiance of the event in those shots which appear in the gallery.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

A Very Hot Day

It was far too hot a day to spend sat inside a muggy office staring into a computer monitor screen, so having cleared the vital work, I took myself and a different lens and closeup ring setup, into the garden, to hone my macro skills on bees and hoverflies.

Neither were in profusion. Hoverflies were far too flitty for me to capture anything meaningful. I even tried adding a closeup ring to my 80 to 400mm lens, but the strain was just far too great to be workable, so it came down to using the middle-size ring attached to the 90mm macro. Soon however, the dearth of subjects forced me to consider going farther afield.

This had another benefit – between bouts of shooting I could return to the air-conditioning of the car! My blue shirt soon took on salty tide marks evidencing the times I was out in the heat and strain.

My journey this time had taken me to the small village of Charlton, home to the Windmill Public House, by a stream, and the birthplace of Sir Charles Bessemer, he of steel fame. I was so near to Maydencroft Manor, that later I chose to pay Bob Williams a visit. I found him, finally taking a well-earned break, and preparing for an alfresco supper. He has been planning a much larger event: a Concert in the grounds, in support of the Delmé Radcliffe Appeal for Friday evening.

If I thought it was hot, how must Andy Murray have found it playing tennis till after 10 o'clock to secure his place in the quarter final?

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Hot Wednesday in the Walled Garden

Arriving late, I strolled round outside the wall, and visited the potting sheds; I had decided beforehand that this was to be a day when I made use of flash, and I felt there was a good prospect of capturing honey bees at work.

My surmise was correct, and despite a few failures, I managed to capture some, but I have yet to succeed in getting both a good balance and no double exposure consistently, but perhaps this is where I need to invest in ringflash and let the flash take over more completely.

I was able to record a rather unusual 'straggly' poppy, and I also spotted that one of the water troughs had become an ad hoc hive for some of the bees alongside water boatmen rowing across the surface.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Windy in the Walled Garden

I arrived in Luton Hoo's Walled Garden reasonably early, and at first it seemed like a gentle breeze, but when trying to capture closeups of bees, ladybirds or aphids, it was a gale! Today was a day when using flash was helpful, but it was not always easy to keep a balance between the available exposure and so sometimes double-exposure occurred.

It was good to get in close on the bees, and the spiky plants they were pollinating lent an interesting contrast. The mating ladybirds should have been concentrating on their task of clearing aphids, but they had other things on their minds, so the aphids live on!

So, despite the wind, there are some quite interesting images in this gallery.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Cycle Ride Caddington

Yesterday I had it in mind to ride my bike again after a full year had elapsed, but it was not to be, but tonight, I had cleared my work and read my emails as well as some technical stuff and the sun was shining, so with pumped up tyres, I set off around Caddington.

I was spotted by a family who turned around and one of the young girls wished me a good bike ride, which was rather sweet, I thanked her and gave a thumbs up as I rode by. There were far fewer displays of flowers in the gardens than I had expected, but as I went around I did notice that quality had not suffered and having spotted some worthwhile photographing, I went back for my camera.

When I came back out the sun had retired behind clouds, but being bright this did not actually affect my ability to get some shots. I really enjoyed my cycle ride and several people did actually greet me and some even chatted.

Apologies and Thanks in Equal Measure

I crave forgiveness from the residents of Cublington for the extra 'b' in their name at a time when the bee population is falling in this country of ours, I also apologise for not noticing that the link to the gallery of ducklings was broken.

I was extremely grateful to learn that the strange tall plant found growing at Coldharbour Lane Allotments in Harpenden can now be named – here is the description from a fellow photographer, Geoff Dann who supplied this description; I quote verbatim from his email:

"From my days as a garden photog: Great Mullein - Verbascum Thapsus. I used to see it in far corners of walled gardens or at the back of herbaceous borders, its big furry leaves and tall spike of yellow multi flowers gives a big architectural stroke in the background. The leaves can be steeped in hot water to make tea or supposedly dried and smoked for respiratory ailments!? and in the past were used to stuff shoes like socks to keep feet warm, flowers render an oil to treat earaches, root used to treat cramps and convulsions, thought to be effective at warding off witches."

So to Christine and Joan, I hope you feel it was worthwhile mentioning it to me. And thanks to Geoff for giving me such a full description.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Cubblington Village Fête


At the last moment, I got an invitation to see the Aylesbury Community Concert Band play at the Cubblington Village Fête. I was given strict instructions to confine my photography to the Band, and I did my best to adhere to these constraints, but it must be understood that fathers are put on this earth for the express purpose of embarrassing their daughters, so if I have strayed…

The village was crowded with visitors and I arrived a little late due to how far away I had parked, so the band had been playing prior to my arrival, and this was a good way to locate them, as I could hear them long before my arrival, even over the train tootling around the field with excited children aboard.

This is a good band with an exciting repertoire and my feet found their rhythm with ease. Lighting was not ideal however, with often strong sunlight striping faces, but I hope I have captured some of the atmosphere. I also took a few shots of the Morris Dancers.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Sunshine & Showers

For once I was able to set off for the Luton Hoo Walled Garden this Wednesday earlier than one o'clock, but the journey did not seem promising weatherwise, as no sooner had I started the car, it began raining, and it got worse, but it did improve upon my arrival.

All the volunteers were sitting around inside the greenhouse, and for a moment I thought they were having an early lunch, and they all chose that moment to get up and leave! So much for my effect! – it had in fact been a short tea break.

I took a wander to see just what had progressed since my last visit and began taking photos, this time many were flash-assisted, though at times we had both sunshine and showers. Surprisingly, the variety and number of images I captured was good. I was able to get several interesting closeups of bees at work, and once again interesting patterns.

In the course of conversations I learnt that two volunteers had allotments in Coldharbour Lane, Harpenden, so at about three-thirty I set off there to view an enormous poppy and a strange tall unknown plant which would eventually have yellow flowers. At that moment the heavens opened, and we were caught in a very heavy downpour which persisted till our arrival at the allotments.

The second much smaller gallery shows what I managed to capture there.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

iPhone 3G S

Apple yesterday announced the latest iPhone and I watched the story unfold from feeds provided by Engadget with great interest to see just how much of rumours morphosed into reality, and was pleasantly surprised. The question now is just how much O2 in the UK are likely to charge, and whether at this price point I am prepared to jump ship from Vodafone whose overall coverage is so much better.
I have requested a PAC code, the means by which it is possible to transfer my current number, should I decide to take the plunge, so that the moment I decide to do the deed I know I am still contactable.
From the information I have so far managed to glean, the figures make good sense as the facilities offered meet my minimum criteria at last. Attractive as the 3G sounded, it failed to make it worth my while. I do have to admit however, that I would have been considerably happier had Vodafone stepped up to the mark – I think they will live to regret their decision, due to loss of their customers in the short term, but mainly that those people are committing to a minimum of eighteen months before they could be returned to the Vodafone fold, and O2 will have to underperform spectacularly for any such return to be contemplated.

I currently have an iPod Touch which has been a portable portfolio for a while now. Couple these features to extras now on offer with the new iPhone, and I know it will be hard to resist, so if anyone is interested in a 2G iPod Touch at the end of the month, do get in touch!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Saturday Sunset

Saturday evening found John and I going north to see what views I could capture of the islands at sunset. It was mistier than it had been on Friday night, when had I not been so late I should have stopped to take some shots, that evening the sun set on the horizon, whereas this evening the sun disappeared beneath the clouds well above the horizon. There was no breeze, so the midges were out for a feast – John and I and others around us were the menu!

A trip along the coast to Campbelltown

John and I went along the coast chatting about life in Scotland and general, and both of us with a keen eye on our surroundings both inshore and off, occasionally making facetious comments on the amount of traffic – three cars in the entire land and seascape, the first signs of anyone in half an hour! We stopped at times to stroll or clamber along the foreshore, and to wander around the harbour at Campbelltown, where John pointed out its Playhouse which like London's Windmill Theatre had never closed in its long life. We came across a jellyfish and just talked and walked whilst I took sundry photographs of the coast, our shadow, gulls and fisherman's clutter.

Later, we came across seals basking in the sun and rocks, and were amazed by the ventriloquism of the oyster catchers, their calls would seem to come from right beneath our feet, yet either the birds were nowhere to be seen or way across the beach or in flight thirty yards away! However, this did give me great opportunities to try to get shots of them in flight.

The seals we saw in a couple of locations, with one we had mistaken for a rock, decide to swim when he realised we had spotted him. At another spot seals shared the rocks with gulls, cormorants and terns, but except for when a crow disturbed gulls into flight, all was remarkably restful – everyone enjoying the sun and sky with just a faint breeze; enough to keep the midges at bay!

Day-old Ducklings

Michele unfortunately was on Nights at Campbelltown Hospital, so had already left for work when I arrived. John greeted me beaming and the years fell away, we both immediately recognised each other and I was soon enjoying a cup of tea and egg and chips. We chatted for a while and agreed we'd meet at six the next morning for breakfast. Michele arrived at eight thirty and we all chatted before she left to get some well-earned sleep. John took me around the farm and he spotted that one of his ducks had got her chicks and he told me they would be taken immediately to the nearest water, and soon we spotted her leading eleven chicks dow to the duck pond he had built. I started shooting their first day of life and their entry to water – Mum took them down a steep bank and they slithered and rolled into the water.

What an honour to be treated to this moment; it was fascinating to see this entire scene, and to observe one black duckling show its complete independence to the others, and to see how they immediately new how to travel around and forage or food. Mum just simply led them, they tended to stay close every so often as she moved around, but were remarkably free to nip off in every direction then return to Mum.

The last three shots in the gallery were taken on the morning of their second day of life and they were noticeably larger.

In and around the Cottage

John and Michele's cottage was beautifully appointed and their handiwork and that of their children abounded, pen and ink sketches, pens that John crafted, chairs he made and the work he had done around, made me feel I was lazy by comparison. Walking around with him, it was apparent just how hard he worked to keep everything working and how much care he exercised. Michele having worked nights would do some gardening before getting her sleep and being ready for the next shift, whilst John and I would take walks with Benny, their greyhound.

John mentioned that the dog was lazy and rarely ran, but I have a blurred shot to prove otherwise, and he certainly had a good turn of speed when going after rabbits, though each foray I witnessed ended with Rabbit 1, Benny Nil!

A Trip to Scotland

When I learnt that the weather was certain to be good over the weekend, I phoned Michele, whose husband had once worked with me many moons back. John became a photographer in his own right well before I set out on my own, and ran a studio in Manchester before starting rural life in the west of Scotland rearing pigs. I wondered whether I might visit, having only exchanged Christmas cards since they left London. Michele said I was more than welcome, so two hours later I was on my way – that was Friday morning.

I had no time to plan an exact route and relied on Jane, my SatNav partner, which turned out to be not my best move! Her route led me to one acceptable ferry crossing, and another possible one, but which turned out to be a muddy narrow track that led to a locked gate and a shoreline work site! That ferry did exist but was in a very different location and anyway by this time no longer running!

A friendly local couple were accustomed to SatNav explorers and gave me directions involving driving to the top of Loch Fyne and down to Tarbert, so I retraced some of my journey and took a new direction. I also took to using a map and was also being guided by my daughter Lizzy, who was by now charting my journey using Google Earth!

I did take some shots on the Gourock to Dunoon Ferry, but it was Saturday that I started taking more in earnest…

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Zoomify – an Explanation

I note from comments I have received from viewers of the 'Zoom into St. Tropez' item in my galleries, that many people are unaware that the Zoomify plugin is installed in Photoshop, nor do they know how it can be used, so I thought I would give a short explanation.

It uses components of Flash to do its magic, and it is a great little tool to allow photographers to put up a large image to the Web within a zoomable and pannable window (so I have just added two new words to your vocabulary! – but I am sure you get my drift).

In my case, when I had stitched the several views of the St. Tropez waterfront together, it was the ideal vehicle to use so others could get an impression of what I had achieved.

The plugin resides in the File menu of Photoshop from Export. Depending on how you have your menus set, you may first have to go to 'Show All Menu Items', but it is at the bottom of the Export list.

Here is the dialog box from where you control how Zoomify will display in the Web browser. You set where the components are to be saved, the compression you apply and how large the viewer window is to be. The plugin does the rest. It creates a folder and a file, which you need to upload to the Web.

It makes no attempt to personalise the end result, but with a small amount of HTML knowledge you should be able to alter the coding to allow the end result to fit into your own style. I just did some judicious copying and pasting to add a return link to my blog, just as I had to for the Lightroom-generated galleries.

I hope the foregoing helps others to do a little more with Photoshop.

Monday, 18 May 2009

St. Tropez Visit

I was lucky to get a short break to wander round the off-season scenes around the harbour, so here are some of my memories, I was fascinated by the concrete seats which covered some of the controls for the harbour plumbing that required a crane to lift, and some of the vendors determined to accost the few tourists. Overall, how friendly everyone seemed compared to high season. The paucity of boats meant you could see the waterfront buildings. The light and colour lends itself to the artists, some of whom have real talent and style; but not all.

St.Tropez – A Taster

When in Provence to give six days' one-to-one training, I did get some time off in the small French resort, and I strolled onto an empty pontoon and took a series of images handheld with the idea of stitching them into a panorama. I exported the series from Lightroom into a layer stack within Photoshop CS4, auto-aligned and auto-blended them before downsampling them to a manageable size for the export to Zoomify. It is now available to view from the Galleries, whilst I finally sort out the rest of my images from the trip.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Catching Up…

For several reasons, basically a full life, I have got very behind in keeping up with writing my blog, and getting galleries of images up. I have now come back from giving six days' one-to-one training in Provence, and have had to build a RAID 5 disk array to ensure I do not run out of disc space. I am now almost up to date, so there will be some images from a weekend trip to Axminster and on to Ringmore over the Bank Holiday weekend.

The trip to Axminster was to catch up with my ex-Assistant Chief Pit Marshall friend Peter and his wife Ann, then on to my brother, Mike and his wife Alison at Ringmore, where the day after we all visited the excellent Bolt Head Air Show.

So, not long from now there will be galleries to cover that weekend and some images from my free time when down in the south of France.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Preparation for Summer at the Walled Garden

Wednesdays are Volunteer Days at the Walled garden, and it's important I record the efforts of the stalwarts who put in valiant efforts to get the gardens ready for visitors. The early part of the day was misty and muggy, but I arrived with the sun in tow, and with no wind, it was muggy. The volunteers were taking a break gathered between two of the greenhouses. I greeted a few and set off ion search of images, and was soon rewarded, For a change because I was showing some to those in the Estates Office, I actually had some prints with me.

Meeting with one lady, I asked whether she might like to take a look, and I soon had a small gathering at the boot of the car, for an impromptu presentation. I packed everything up and continued on my rounds – the Gallery "Preparing for Summer" is the result of my afternoon's work.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The George IV, Amwell, Hertfordshire

I travelled to Amwell Nature Reserve hoping to improve my skills at capturing images of the bird life, but was once again disappointed by my results, but when it came to leave, I wandered back into the village past the church.

I took the opportunity to take shots of some of the scenes that greeted me along the route, and soon came across a small pub, The George IV. There were two family groups outside sitting beneath a fully laden magnolia. Not wishing to embroil myself in model releases, I simply took shots of the signage and flowers. As I was leaving, I came across the landlord to whom I showed what I had taken.

We got talkng, and eventually this led to my taking further shots in their enclosed garden area, and the table decoration and one of his charming daughters, who gave me permission to use one here. At some date in the future I may well get to take some shots to decorate their walls within, and take some interior shots…

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Several Delayed Galleries

For a number of reasons, such as preparations for a Business to Business Exhibition, several shoots have been held back before I could get around to creating galleries. Probably the earliest was when there was distinctly some sunshine and showery conditions and I chose to make the most of capturing two tractors at work.

I also paid a couple of very quick visits to Luton Hoo and Maydencroft Manor, at the Walled Garden, I met up with Chris Wilmott who is doing an Art Project, and the St. Albans Movie Makers who are recording much of the dilapidation in the greenhouses. On a calm day I took a few shots of the windsurfers at Brogborough Lake.

On another day blessed with beautiful light I took some landscape shots, some of which captured a rainbow, from which I also stitched a panorama. All these latest galleries preceded the exhibition at which Trevor Baylis appeared.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Innovation Day 2009 – Luton

Wednesday 1st April, saw me first paying another visit to Luton Hoo's Walled Garden where I was going to be following a three-man Amateur Film crew studying some of the dilapidation within the greenhouses, however I first met up with someone from the more prestigious BBC film crew who mistook me for a stills man for their Pre-Raphaelite film they were shooting. However I had already been refused permission to cover them, so I thanked him and explained that sadly I could not take any photos there.

I then bumped into Chris Wilmott who had previously invited me to join his team covering art projects for the Walled Garden and he introduced me to Joanna another member of his team, and we took a stroll around as he gave Joanna the tour. And it was during this time, that I met up with the St. Albans Film team and I shadowed them through the greenhouses as intended.

I came back for lunch and made for Basepoint to set up for Thursday's Innovation Day exhibition. Having ascertained that my reserved position had been honoured, I put a series of mounted prints onto the window behind my table, the rest were to follow in the morning.

Even though my arrival the following day was early, the foyer was thronged with people all intent on putting up banners and chatting animatedly and the car park out front was already full. I completed my own area and met someone from a nearby stand who was enthusiastic for one-on-one Photoshop training, and assured me he had every intention of arranging a session – not a bad start!

Once the show was underway, Mike Spring who had done the mounting of my prints turned up and bought not my book, but Martin Evening's latest CS4 title, it was only after the transaction that I realised it was my only copy! So, now I have to purchase another, since I will need it for the next round of tech-editing!

I was joined by Peter Carr who shared the table with me to promote DNA, and our first visitor turned out to be Jonathan Downing from Belfast, who had won an Innovation award and would be talking later in the day in one of the seminars. Around the same time Dr Abdul Al-Jibouri asked me to take photos of Trevor Bayliss, our keynote speaker – so I even got some official photography in. John Sentinella from Putteridge Bury was another visitor to the stand and he very kindly kept me supplied with water and even manned the stand in my absence at some of the seminars!

Peter and I were both most impressed by Jonathan, and I got to chat to Trevor Bayliss, OBE, as well as take shots of him with various people before going into his seminar, which was both amusing and informative, in which he hammered home the value of Intellectual Property and his exasperation with government on this aspect. Altogether a very satisfying day.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

London from the Air

I count myself extremely lucky. I recently helped an aerial photographer with his Lightroom and Photoshop workflow, and he generously offered a spare seat when he next flew over London in a Twin Squirrel helicopter; one of the few makes allowed over central London.

That opportunity was to arrive far sooner than expected, and even more fortunate was that I had made up my mind to purchase an 85mm prime lens, which arrived on the Thursday and on Friday, David was on the phone to ask whether I fancied an early start on Saturday morning. Hesitation was measured in fractions of a nanosecond!

We met at Denham Airfield at around 5-30, with low lying mist coming in patches. This was almost ideal for more atmospheric shots of the capital, and we set off at around an hour later. My side of the helicopter had a very small window for me to shoot from, but to shoot at all was a privilege, and we took off over Merchant Taylor's school with wisps of cotton wool shrouding the grounds, heading first for Tower Bridge. I was too reticent to ask for a viewpoint at this stage, so contented myself with contre-jour shots of it in the distance.

David was very generous with offering me some time over other areas, and the gallery that accompanies this piece is testament to the opportunities I had over the next forty minutes to capture various landmarks.

After landing and a drink and a chat with the pilot we stopped off in Denham village where I had a second, this time, cooked breakfast. When we parted, I phoned Nick and Patricia Rayner to see whether they minded my calling in. Both were happy to see me and it was good to catch up and Nick kindly plugged my iPod Touch into his HiFi, so we had a quick blast of 'Ca plane pour moi', and 'From Now on' - both of which Patricia appreciated as much as me!

I am not sure I have quite landed yet!

Friday, 20 March 2009

Innovation Centre, Butterfield, Luton

At the beginning of April, Thursday the 2nd, the Basepoint building is to hold a business-to-business exhibition for small businesses. It is titled 'Innovation Day 2009' and has been funded by Bedfordshire County Council and Luton Borough Council.

I shall be there. By way of preparation, I sought permission to take some photographs of the venue, so that I can have A4 images of the location on my stand. The gallery of images shows a few aspects of the centre from an architectural viewpoint; all images were shot using the natural available light, handheld, and depict just how pleasant the working environment is should anyone be interested in taking office space there. (Fiona, Kay or Pauline can be contacted in this connection by email to lutonadmin@basepoint.co.uk, or by telephone to 01582-434 200).

Provided all goes according to plan, not only will I be there to discuss what 'SOLUTIONS photographic' has to offer, but I should have a jar of homemade ginger nut biscuits that I will swap for business cards! Remember the date: 2nd April at Basepoint, turn left at the last roundabout out of Luton, heading for Hitchin, then left again. I look forward to seeing you on the day.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Northchurch Woods, and a walk along the canal

Sunday saw a day of milky sunshine and some warmth, so a drive into the country beckoned. I parked the car close by some woods that took my fancy because they lined a deep valley, and I soon discovered that at some time in the past, the owners had arranged low jumps for horseriders which made some interesting photos.

Later I continued and parked near the allotments to take a walk along the canal towpath. Clottishly, after changing to my wide angle lens I put its lenshood in my pocket, so that when I bent down for a low-angle shot, it was squeezed out, bounced twice on the edge before plunging into the fast-running water from the lock! I cursed my carelessness, and hopefully will learn in the future, not to repeat the mistake!

Walking along I mentioned my stupidity to a fisherman, who offered me the use of his net, and though I spent five minutes dredging the side downstream of where it went in, it was fruitless.

I spent the rest of the afternoon walking gently and occasionally chatting to some of the numerous others taking the opportunity to cycle, walk, run or boat along this stretch, there was a photographer using a Nikon who was in Fine Art Marketing, a few fishermen, and a family group who were interested in what I was shooting, and except for the mishap with the lenshood, it was a very pleasant time.

Holmbury St. Mary and Godalming


After a family Sunday with Catherine and Martin and the girls to round off Lizzy's birthday, I got myself prepared for a few days in Surrey, and some nights sleeping on other people's floors.

I did my best to clear all my phoning and set off on Monday afternoon to Holmbury St. Mary, near Dorking to stay with Nick Zoller from whom I learnt that the local church was erected by a member of the Waterhouse family (of Price, Waterhouse). We went out for a drive and found a place I remembered from a much earlier visit, Friday Street, but it was dark by the time we reached it.

In the morning I set off to Godalming where I was to give two day's training to an aerial photographer covering Lightroom and Photoshop workflow. He and his Latvian partner had two charming young children and I managed to capture some shots of them to leave them with some memories. On the Wednesday we broke off at lunchtime to stroll through the town, and learnt it was one of the first to have electric street lights.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Burwash and Grantchester

For the first time in a long while, I joined both Catherine and Lizzy together for day at Grantchester. Driving over was in sunshine, but it was not long before the forecast squally wintry showers arrived. The intention had been to go for a walk at Wandlebury, but when the clouds parted after lunch we made for Burwash – a farm dedicated to the crafts and to families with young children.

As we approached, the sun came through under thundrous dark clouds with that amazing brilliance that seems only to come after rain, I unpacked the camera as we arrived at the farm, and immediately tried to capture some of the intense colours and dramatic lighting.

Due to misunderstandings on my part, I then proceeded to muck up the photographs the others were trying to capture, but I am hoping I am forgiven. The rest of the gallery are shots of textures, lighting and family, taken there and back at Grantchester.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

American Girl Gives English Audience their Botanic History

American Botanic Researcher from the RHS Lindley Library, Annika Erikson visited the Luton Hoo Walled Garden project this Saturday to give an illustrated talk to visitors to the Arts Group, on Georg Dionysius Ehret and his connections with Lord Bute.

Lord Bute was a keen botanist who presided over the work of Kew Gardens, was Prime Minister for a period, and had Capability Brown design the gardens at Luton Hoo, where he lived.

It was interesting to learn about some of the artists and personalities involved in the beginnings of botanic art and the dichotomy between the art and the science.
The Portakabin venue was filled to capacity and the audience were enthusiastic in their appreciation for Erika's talk and slideshow.

I took the opportunity to take photographs of some the work being carried out in the gardens, and the people attending the talk. I met Chris Willmot an artist whose work on moths is going to be a feature in castings to be hung using the hooks which already exist for the support of plants along the dividing wall. I took some shots of the early examples whilst talking to the artist about his forthcoming project and book.

Cockernhoe Woods & Around

Having cleared my work, and with the sun coming in and out like a cuckoo clock, I decided to see whether I might catch sight of deer. It was not to be. Instead at Cockernhoe Woods I found a profusion of snowdrops, and a lot of fallen branches from the recent winds.

There are the dark greens of future bluebells to be seen and also catkins, it may be cold, but Spring is just arriving. I found a farmer spraying fertiliser and at the far end of the woods I caught sight of Luton Airport. The final leaf in this gallery seemed to depict a tuning fork and a leaf, suggesting 'In tune with Nature'.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Weekend at Bailey's Hard, Beaulieu

I was invited to my sister-in-law's and her husband to stay the weekend, knowing it would give me a chance to capture some of the wildlife and scenery of the Beaulieu River, I arrived towards the end of the day, with the intention of being up early Sunday morning to photograph the tits close to the back door, and also take a stroll into Beaulieu village for the papers.

I managed to capture some shots on the Saturday evening when the tide was out, and the following day, to begin with there was little sun, so I had both a high ISO speed and wide apertures to cope with, but later things improved, but bluetits are skittish birds, never still for more than a couple of seconds, so it was quite challenging, and so I erased several blank images on the camera!

I finally also felt guilty not helping with the wood burning, so gave a hand putting rotten branches on a fire in the nearby field before lunch. After lunch I continued shooting for a while before packing up for the journey back, reasonably happy with what I had managed to capture.