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…



Friday, 31 December 2010

Harpenden Development Christmas Break

Bad weather stopped play before Christmas and a visit just before New year shows that not only is all quiet, it is also tidy. The normal hive of activity lies still, ready to burst into life again after the holiday break. Much of the groundfloor concrete is now complete, and hopefully my next visit will show concrete where shuttering was earlier.

Let us hope the weather is kinder, so work can proceed at full speed.

Christmas Birds at Burnham, Buckinghamshire

Inside wood logs burning in the grate provide warmth and a friendly glow, whilst outside the kitchen window it is cold, yet somehow inviting. To humans inside it is a pretty picture, but for birds it is a time of hardship, but fortunately thoughtful humans have provided food for them in the form of nuts and apples. The range of birds was wide, there were great tits, coal tits, blue tits, chaffinches, nuthatches, robins, green parakeets, jays, collar doves, pigeons and wood pigeons, all in the space of less than an hour. Crows flew overhead, but kept their distance.

For the most part I kept very still inside and tried simply to capture them as they fed, but when I went and sat equally still on the window ledge outside it took only a few minutes before most of the birds returned – the need for sustenance overcoming their fear of me. Oddly the pigeons were the most wary, the blue tits were the first to return, even before the robins.

Walking the lanes it was far quieter, so human kindness was definitely having an effect – the birds were very reliant on the food we provided when so much else was covered in a thick blanket of snow.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Aftermath of Freezing Fog, and the Sun Shines

Peter Carr, a Harpenden Product Designer, and were due to meet up with Mike Benjamin at his studio in Watford, where he was going to give three of us an introduction to using Freeway for a day. For that reason we were up early and so was the sun for a change, and the temptation to stop and capture images of the frost-rimed trees was irresistible.

I phoned Peter as I was leaving and from his suggestion not to hurry, I realised that even before meeting him there was time to stop and capture some of the scenery. After we had met up Peter was hoping that I might get some shots of his Bamville Cricket team’s pavillion by the Harpenden Golf Course, so a few more opportunities arose! Fortunately the traffic to Watford was light, so not much time was lost.

After the Frosts, Concrete Pouring in Harpenden

Thursday was scheduled for the pouring of the concrete for the ground floor at the Jarvis Development in Harpenden, after the hiatus caused by recent unseasonably cold and frosty weather. I made myself known to James Blackie the site Manager and the Project Manager for the sub-contractor.
I arrived too late to catch the first mixer arriving, but not so late as to miss the pouring. There were many more trades on the site this time, and Sean Mooney, the Project Manager for Toureen Mangan (currently the main subcontractor on site) took me to see the extra step he was taking to ensure they could pour with impunity, he had sealed the area beneath with frost blankets and installed Calor gas Space heaters!

It was interesting to see a trident-style mini flame thrower being used to clear some of the snow that had accumulated in some parts of the shuttering, as well as some workmen using magnets to collect stray steel wiring from the same recesses.

The crane was also active transporting beams from their storage area to the next section to be shuttered, and all around were small groups intent on sawing timber, creating new shuttering and vibrating or smoothing out the concrete.

When possible Concrete Mixer lorries were exiting the site as the next was arriving to take its place, but there did seem to be some occasions when traffic delayed their arrival, which was a shame with such a tight schedule due to the cold spell returning soon.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Mike Benjamin gives DNA members a Freeway Lesson

Here is an example of how DNA is working together for its members – Mike Benjamin invited three of us; Mark Wilkinson, Peter Carr and I to join him in his studio to give us a run through on how to use Freeway in the creation of websites without getting our hands soiled by HTML code!

We all arrived slightly later than intended due to the super early morning light on frosty trees and hedgerows due to freezing fog from the last couple of days – each one of us had images that we had stopped to capture! We soon began to get down to the business of learning from Mike, and he took us gently up the slope. Peter obsessed about getting us all to sample his mince pies, but we used our own mince-pies (‘eyes’ for those unfamiliar with Cockney rhyming slang) concentrating on what Mike was showing us as we each sampled his tea, coffee and biscuits as we followed his tutoring.

For lunch we all adjourned to a café in the nearby shopping precinct where conversation continued covering a wide range of topics in addition to Freeway. The picture above was taken on our return where Mike and I showed Mark the use of iChat and an AIM name for remote training. That we were all in coats is no reflection on the temperature in Mike’s studio, we did not remove our coats as we felt we had taken enough of Mike’s valuable time and were soon intending to leave.

The atmosphere in DNA, The Design Network Association seems very reminiscent of the early days of DIG, the Digital Imaging Group, whose last vestige is the ProDIG list, a similar self-help group.

Awesome Ausom

Writing a technical book nowadays is beset by the problem that the technology is evolving constantly, such that a statement made today is probably out of date the day after tomorrow!
This was illustrated by a warning I made after a small amount of research and placed it in the side panel of Mac OS X for Photographers. Malcolm Park in Melbourne, Australia dug deeper into the issue of bootability between PowerPC and Intel Macs around October this year; some two years after publication of the book, and closer to five years after I first started writing it.

Here is a link to what he had discovered <http://www.ausom.net.au>. It appears in the December Newsletter. Malcolm was kind enough to draw my attention to his conclusions, and I am happy to acknowledge his findings, I am pleased to note he found the purchase and reading of the book thad survived this error on my part. During our email correspondence he wrote: "I think your book is worth reading & I certainly do not regret acquiring it for my own library."

The Internet and email shows us that we can benefit from the reach it provides, and is a worthy addition to the printed word in books. I for one could not live without it.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

TGB Treecare comes to Caddington – despite the Weather!


I know that TGB stands for TG Buxton, but watching from the warmth of my house, I reckon the initials should stand for either ‘Thoroughly Great Bloke’ or ‘Truly Great Bravery’! To start climbing trees in sub-zero temperatures with the snow actually falling can be considered beyond the call of duty, but here is a series of shots of the man at work. There was the obligatory tea-break midway through, but anyone begrudging a man for that should be tried for War Crimes!

The work was carried out with precision and thoughtfulness, fully justifying the terms ‘surgery’ and ‘care’, and without any unnecessary bravado. At the size the images will be viewed the sleetlike snow, falling constantly, is not apparent, but I can bear witness to that – this man earned every penny for his morning’s work.

A Merry Werry Cold Wednesday in Wendover


The Aylesbury Concert Band braved the cold weather once again to perform for the good people of Wendover alongside the High Street Christmas tree. There was a good public attendance, possibly augmented by the nearby skating rink providing an added attraction for the children. I don’t think the audience are fully aware of just how difficult it is for musicians to play when their instruments are largely metal and the air is so cold – this is a wind band, and jaws, lips and fingers all freeze; when you add the layers of clothing to the mix, freedom of movement is further reduced, yet this small band of players of all ages produces wonderful music.

I think Wendover owes the band a warm welcome on a balmy summer evening to repay them all for the discomfort they must have endured to give us such an enjoyable evening. I was humming or singing the verses I knew – repetitively! Thank you.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

East Common, Harpenden Roadside Leaves

With sunshine slanting low through the trees, the frost was barely melting on the leaves beside the road, and this enhances the texture and shapes. I swapped lenses from the 300mm I had been using to capture the crane to the 100mm macro and walked slowly along the kerb looking for alignments of leaves and groupings, and how the light fell when it did to capture some of the beauty that was at my feet.

During the minutes I was there, several people passed either walking or cycling or driving past, some spoke to say good day and one woman asked what I found to photograph, she was surprised when I showed her some of the images on the back of the camera, and remarked how beautiful some were when seen close-up. She told me she would now be taking out her camera in future when out walking.

As I left the area to return to Caddington I drove past a cottage in bright sunshine and with its white fence strongly lit, and just had to capture its charm, so parked at the side of the lane for just long enough to walk back and take a shot with the 24-105mm lens on my other camera body.

Sunny Views of Tower Crane, Harpenden

After the first snow of this winter season just the day before, the sun shone out of a crisp blue sky, so despite the cold breeze I set off for Harpenden Common to capture shots of the tower crane hard at work at the far end of the town, glistening bright white against the rich blue, in the foreground gulls and crows would occasionally swoop into view.

The challenge was to have a foreground that showed the viewpoint, but did not dominate the scene. I needed a high enough shutter speed to ensure the crane and birds were reasonably sharp, but the depth of field was narrow enough that the cars were none too sharp, so you were drawn to the crane in the background, at work in the Jarvis and Toureen Mangan development at the north end of the high street.

Having captured the shots from the common, I then took a few more from the far side of the high street at the entrance to the site to accentuate the rich blue sky beyond, and the stark white of the buildings to the front.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Harpenden Site Visit - Shuttering for Ground Floor

On the vague suggestion the sun might come out, I took a chance to visit the Jarvis Development, as the Project Manager had said they were preparing the shuttering for the later pouring of concrete for the first floor.

Sean Mooney was on a break when I arrived, but I met up with him in Esporitos, and he very kindly bought me a cup of tea and we discussed the stage he had reached. He was far less optimistic over sunshine and he was proved right, but I went ahead to capture this stage as this would soon be passed, and once the concrete was in place what is below would be lost.

I covered the whole site on this visit, from every conceivable angle, I think on future visits I will need to go part way up the tower to capture meaningful angles.

Ashridge – Late Autumn Colour

There is still to be found new growth amidst all the yellow and gold of the passing season’s leaves, and I chose to brave the cold wind and mist to capture some of it in a drive from Pitstone Hill to Ashridge Forest.

I also spent some quiet time watching a bird feeder from as close as I could get with the only lens I had at the time, without stopping them from feeding, I managed to just about capture them at a high ISO, and enlarging and lightening them afterwards!

I had set off from Pitstone Hill to Aldbury then into Ashridge Forest where I stood rooted to the spot close to the holly bush as the light became poorer and I got colder, but my stillness won the birds over and they flew in to feed, mainly blue tits but also a nuthatch, the holly leaves and berries in the background gave a seasonal feel.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Afternoon at College Lake


After a long and enjoyable day with Catherine, Lizzy and Tim, I got up somewhat later the following day than usual and despite how late in the season it was, I decided I would pay a visit to College lake, near Bulbourne.

Another change I made was to walk round to the left and go clockwise around. This way round there are numerous hides and several spots offering high viewpoints of the lake, and I took advantage of the second gap I came across. I witnessed the rescue by a male duck who prevented another male from drowning a female, and several not dissimilar situations where gulls seemed to fight over coots  that another was shadowing. The latter situation seemed as if it might be that the coots were more efficient and more accomplished fishers; I think the gulls were either there to steal from the coot, or fish  where the coot was successful.

I also noted that when the cormorant was landing or taking off, it was quite cavalier in its attitude towards the smaller birds that might be in its path, an attitude that seemed to be shared by the gulls. The most serene of the birds were the pochard and swans.

I never expected to be seeing the profusion of birds on the lake so late in the season, and bathed in such warm sunshine. Despite the recent high winds and rain there still a lot of leaves on some of the trees, though sometimes even more on the ground in numerous varied colours, with occasionally a carpet of silver leaves. As the sun sank lower, casting ever longer shadows the golden rays picked out some of the hides or individual bushes or trees, whilst as the sun set a flock of ducks swirled high above the lake, and as I was leaving the low sun drew shadows on the side of a white van.

College lake,teasels, cormorant,gulls, coots,pochard,swans,ducks

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Invited Back!

A day after the visit to the new development site in Harpenden, I got a call from the Toureen Project Manager asking would I like to return – another one of those .009 nanosecond hesitation moments before accepting! I gathered the weather was closing in the next day, and as I was all prepared I asked whether I could come over shortly.

This time though the viewpoint was higher, the light was lower, so the shots were less exciting, but they were meaningful as they provided an overview and told me more about what I had shot from outside the day previously. I now understood more of what had been happening at the far side of the site, which had been unclear from my previous viewpoint. These shots completed the story of the previous day. I got to meet two more of the men on site; Bob the Crane Operator and Sean Mooney, Toureen Mangan’s Site Manager, and James Blackie, the Jarvis Site Manager, very kindly took the shot of me part way up the tower crane.

It looks like I’ll be back to tell more of the story of this development. So thanks to all who made this possible.

Monday, 15 November 2010

A Tower Crane Comes to Harpenden

Jarvis are working on a fair-sized site just behind the High Street at the north end of the town.

It is as you enter from Luton that you first glimpse the crane towering above the trees, but it is hard to grasp why it is necessary for such a tall crane. As you come closer the reason becomes apparent, the site is long and thin and to deliver concrete to where it is needed and avoid the concrete mixers from unnecessarily interfering with local traffic these mixer vehicles approach down a tiny alleyway to the edge of the site then feed a hopper which is then hoisted and swung to where it is needed. A lower crane cannot move in these confined spaces, but a taller one can because the angle of the arm is so steep.

The hopper has an elephant’s trunk to pour the concrete where it is needed, and an ingenious tilting skid allowing it to be filled directly in manageable doses directly from the mixer lorry. The mixer is therefore present for the entire time it takes for the hopper to be filled and emptied until the nixer’s entire content is exhausted, so it is a three-man operation: the driver, a signaller to let him know when to pour and when to stop whilst the third man folds the trunk and tips the hopper and swivels the chute. To minimise the amount of concrete spilt on site, there is a skip at the side to deal with the dregs after each delivery to the hopper.

I have tried to capture the elements of the process and to convey just how tall this crane is and what a splendid piece of kit it is with its smart cab, all its cables and counterbalances, and how the operator has a bird’s eye view of both ends of the hopper’s travel from mixer to where it is being poured over the mesh of steel reinforcing cages. It is a non-stop process, except for when the mixer has to drive out when its load is finally exhausted, and another has to take its place.

Work – I could stay and watch it all day! Well, photograph it!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

London Luton Airport Breakfast Network

Getting up in darkness when you have only had about three and a half hours sleep, is not to be recommended, but meeting people on as many occasions as is possible is an absolute essential for a Sole Trader, so get up I did, and I very nearly even had a full breakfast, but I reminded myself this was a Breakfast briefing!

I surprised myself by managing to make it leaving on time and thus arriving at Putteridge Bury about a quarter of an hour early. It was not long before the room began to fill, and I was meeting and chatting to a trophy manufacturer who was helping to set up a new database for the company he had newly joined. Then I got into conversation with someone offering Energy management and conservation services, followed by a security expert who was ex-Metropolitan Police, a Corporate Liability consultant, a Finance Officer and Marketing Manager for the Airport. Across the table was a representative of the local hospice Charity Fund Raiser – altogether a very varied collection of local business people there to listen to the speakers and link up with potentially useful partners in the future.

The talks themselves were largely to discuss how to look at ways to reduce one’s environmental impact, avoid waste and consider the finite nature of our resources and nurture them illustrated by the savings that could be made by monitoring our activities and our energy and material consumption. There was a large and receptive audience but with the entirely normal reluctance to enter into a dialogue with the speaker.

Once the speeches were over there was a further opportunity to move around and continue conversation, and I took this opportunity to grab some of the more intimate groups of people engaged in animated discussions either standing or still at the tables. A measure of my efforts in networking was that I ran out of business cards, now, whether anything comes out of this will be the true measure of any success.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

DNA Informal Gathering at the Secret Garden Café

Several members of the Design Network Association met for an informal gathering in St. Albans, close to the Cathedral. This was the first for quite a while.

When Peter Carr and I arrived somewhat late, it looked more like everyone had become impatient waiting for us and was having supper instead. It was very laid back, so we greeted the others and then repaired to the next room to obtain something to eat and drink ourselves. A short spell was spent chatting before Mike Benjamin then introduced each of us going around the room, so we all had an update as to what areas of expertise each covered, then he updated us as to future plans and we discussed how we might try to improve our links with the University of Hertfordshire at Hatfield, and later discussions revolved around Mike offering to help other members get up to speed in the use of Freeway to build websites.

The outcome of the latter was that Mike said he was willing to arrange this at a later date, and the former would be discussed with a lady at the University. Later still Mike ran through some websites he had created using Freeway, and also showed an amusing parody of Master Chef on YouTube, and Tracy showed us a short video his son had made for a Lego competition which was well received by all present. Printer Richard Cockerill gave us all some calendars.

Even later five of us refreshed ourselves at the Peahen further into the town, before setting off for home. Somehow I hope I can get some sleep before a Networking breakfast that starts in Putteridge Bury at six-thirty in the morning – it is now coming up to 2am! So, Good night, or Good morning!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Charlie Milligan – 60th Bash

I first knew Charlie when I was at a London Colour Lab, which was well before I set up on my own as SOLUTIONS photographic, and I was honoured and delighted to be invited to join him for his party amongst his family and friends on Saturday.

Arriving early I decided that I would learn something of the area around his daughter’s flat in Leinster Square, so started taking shots at 3200 and eventually 5000 and 6400 ISO, in what I refer to as unavailable light photography! Using flash in such circumstances loses the ambiance. However no one says it is easy; I was still having to shoot full aperture at 1/30th or less! I do not have the steadiest of hands, but I assured Charlie I would not be using flash and later when at the party, we were outside and I took fewer shots simply because the light was even lower than my threshold!

I spotted the new city bikes and learned from one user that he was finding it more convenient than taking his own bike into the centre, but had so far been very lucky always finding a docking station space at the end of his journey. I learned something of the local history from a plaque on the fence in deep shadow, and admired the architecture of a nearby church and spotted the cosmopolitan nature of the area served by restaurants and shops.

I managed to wrongly note the number of the door, but fortunately my mobile served as a remote doorbell by my ringing Charlie! He introduced me to members of his family, and I learned that he and one of his friends and I had all studied at the London College of Printing at the same time, though never met at the time!

The highlights of the evening were the opening of some presents, the fireworks, the launching of magic lanterns, and the moving speeches by Charlie’s children. The stalwart work put in by Gee should not go unreported, she did all the cooking and preparation then followed it up by doing all the washing up at the end. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and very memorable evening for which I feel privileged to have been invited.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Marsworth then Ashridge

I am basically not an early bird, but when I hear a really positive forecast of a bright start, I am prepared to take a risk and get up before dawn. This makes for a long day, but does not give any guarantees.

I headed first for Marsworth Reservoir and put the 7D with 300mm onto a tripod with the Induro gimbal head and lugged this all the way to the far side reedbeds, alongside the Grand Union Canal and set myself up to wait and watch, there was a great variety of birdlife, some of it very fast, small and close, and due to the large area of reeds, a lot of activity was a good distance away, but this environment was very different from nearby Tringford. This meant the herons were landing and taking off from water as opposed to dead trees, so they looked very different.

As the sun rose the full range of Autumn colours appeared. I stayed patiently in the one spot for a couple of hours, happy with a few new and colourful images, then set off back past Bulbourne Lock, and College Lake, and just before reaching Pitstone Windmill turned off right along a road I had never travelled before. What a revelation! The rolling countryside that presented itself was magnificent, and I soon learned that this gem was far from unknown. I was in Ashridge, an area of outstanding beauty and variety. There was even a car park, close to Pitstone Hill, and this turns out to be the Ridgeway and is jumping-off point for a number of circular walks or trails.

One classic farm amidst this setting was Down Farm and atop a nearby Pitstone Hill the views on such a day were breathtaking, seeing a church spire amidst all that autumn foliage, and a hot air balloon over Mentmore Towers, and all those people enjoying the warm sunshine was a delight. When I took to the road again, I found myself in Aldbury.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

SRB-Griturn – Precision Engineers


I visited a small Precision Engineering company in Bedfordshire that proves that manufacturing can still take place in the UK. This company formed from two others some seven or so years ago is well-known in the photographic industry for supplying filters, step-up and down rings, and other photographic components. It is less known possibly for the other products it produces, often for other companies.

Even I did not know it produced specialist motor bike parts – it makes products that prevent a bike from flipping over in the case of an accident; if the bike goes down it stays down, which can save the rider from serious injury, whilst also lessening damage to the fairings. I did however know that they produce almost the whole of some high quality bows for the serious archer. They have several products either under development or in small scale production for the new breed of videographer working with movies using the latest crop of digital SLRs from Canon and Nikon.

In the accompanying gallery of images taken during a quick visit to the works, I show the solid block of aluminium from which are manufactured the components of a gearbox in a follow-focus system for Shoot35 Limited, and an intermediate stage of a bow part, and the finished anodised piece.

Not only do they have sophisticated CNC machines and skilled engineers to operate them, but they also have an anodising plant so that components can be finished to a high degree. I am very grateful to Director Terry Fogden for giving me some time to see some of the work he and his team are working on currently. This is a small company that is not standing still in this time of economic difficulty; it is diversifying and by producing a range of quality products and services. Since they are working on something for me, I am hoping that I can continue to capture some of what they do in images and words to show others what a small British company can produce – it is not all gloom and doom!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Another Visit to the Reservoirs

Getting up early for a change, because of the confident forecast of a bright and frosty start to the day, gave me the chance to visit both Tringford and Marsworth lakes, and being there early gave me a chance to capture swans both taking off and landing. I also got a couple of shots of a grebe’s successful catch whilst on Marsworth.

Back on Tringford the herons were also taking to the air and one in particular caught my eye as it seemed young and also bright white, not grey like most of the others. There were already two hardy fishermen out on the lake, and Bob, the bailiff was busy tidying and cleaning the frost-encrusted boats. I soon spotted Rob’s line was curved under tension, so watched and waited for him to reel in a trout, he later reckoned it to be around three pounds, and he worked hard for it!

To Bob’s dismay the cormorants were on and around the lake in abundance, and he is likely due for a very sore throat as he bellows like a rutting stag to scare them off, but several landed on the water at the far side from the landing stage despite his displeasure. There a few tern flying leisurely but consistently around a small inlet, so I can only presume there was food around.

Bob rowed me out on the lake for a spell as he inspected the banks and the far end of the lake by the pumping station, and for a while the wind dropped somewhat and the sun began to warm us, but that soon changed as the wind direction veered and got up in strength just as we returned to shore and by that time having just drunk a cold coke I began shivering so I called it a day, and it was only half-past one!

I have split the shots into three galleries: Fisherman Rob’s catch with herons and a grebe, A swan taking off, doing a circuit and landing, and another taking off and flying past.

Woburn Park

This week has seen two surprise visits to my front door; the first was husband and wife, Tim and Audrey who had been builder for us and child minder to both my daughters. They had moved to Lincolnshire several years back, but had now returned to the area, though I knew they had planned to move back, I was unaware that they were already here. We had a great hour of catching up, and I am thrilled they are back among friends. The second surprise was John Bennett, a photographer I have known for at least twenty-five years, but last saw about two years ago.

During the short time he was here he mentioned that the deer in Woburn Park were very visible and it was the rutting season, so as I had already cleared work, I grabbed a hasty lunch and set off for Woburn. I had presumed it would be difficult to catch sight of the deer, but that was far from the truth, they were very much out in the open and close by were some three or four fine stags and countless does, some near, many more in the distance. The sun was shining from a cloudless sky even though it was quite late in the day. I suppose I was there for around an hour and a half, and really grateful to John for letting me know.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Ampthill Park Autumn Visit

Saturday afternoon and although sunny some of the time, it was chilly, but as the evenings are drawing in, it prompted numerous people to head for the slopes and woodland of the park, some with children, some with dogs, some with both, and many just like me, alone.

Despite the numbers, it was a vast open space with a surprising amount of green for the season. I expected far more browns, yellows and golds than I found. I was also surprised by the chestnuts on the ground and in the trees that had not been picked by the public or the squirrels. I did however find some colour and also a strange fungus looking like a golf ball on a tee.

I learnt that Lord Kitchener had called for more training camps, and the Duke of Bedford had obliged and one such encampment was constructed within the park. Now the pursuits within the grounds were far more leisurely, and two memorials give thanks to those who made it possible.

The views from several vantage points are stunning, providing views of the lakes and towers of Marston Moretaine and Stewartby.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A Sunny Autumn Day

Autumn in England when sunny, cheers the spirit; it is a time when farmers plough their fields in readiness for the next season. The landscape looks far cleaner and tidier somehow for all this effort, and I took the opportunity to capture some of these labours.

Also it may come as a surprise to many, but there can be a lot of colour to be found at this tail end of the year – in gardens and the hedgerows. I set out to capture this and along the way learnt about an unusual occurrence where a lone dear had suffered an identity crisis and thought itself to be a sheep, sadly I learnt this rather late in the day and the deer was lying down, but as you can see, it is entirely at ease amidst the surrounding sheep.

Autumn is generally noted for its golds, but red leaves and shades of reds with hints of green also abound. The difficulty capturing these in the hedgerows is that a breeze coupled with the difficulties finding suitable unmuddy places to shoot from make this rather hit ‘n’ miss, so a good deal of ‘chimping’ and erasing has often to take place; composition is often tricky as the wind blows leaves out of frame at the very moment when the lighting is just right and intervening branches and other leaves have been blown aside.

Taking photographs in the lanes and byways of the rural Home Counties can attract queries from the locals, some of whom are surprised that you find beauty in what they see as mundane, but in this way I often find myself invited to take a look at other attractions and get directed to even more interesting locations. I have learnt a lot in this manner, and had some very fascinating conversations. Had I not been photographing tractors in the field, I would never have learnt about the lone deer by way of example.

The flowers at the end of the gallery were taken after sunset, showing just how versatile the modern digital camera is under low light conditions.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Stockwood Discovery Centre Clears for the Next Season

On my visit to the gardens at Stockwood it was apparent how much work has been put in to clear the beds and tidy the hedges in preparation for the next growing season. Many of the beds were clear of all plants and the hedges were trim and all the lines were clean and clear cut.
Every so often some lone flowers were clinging to life and displaying their last blooms before autumn arrived and gave way to winter. Some of the leaves were now vivid red, others had every shade from green to gold. I found one bush that had become home to a dozen or more ladybirds, with one of our non-native ones flying from one leaf to another frequently, and very adeptly – I was amazed that he could land on the underside of another leaf without a moment’s hesitation.

I also spotted a lone dragonfly at the entrance to the long greenhouse that led to the grapevines. I was lucky to spot a couple of squirrels scampering on the lawns and by the trees. Leaves have always fascinated me, and one tree here had three very different colourways of leaves, but were consistent at a particular branch level. I was surprised to still find Morning Glory in several places within the greenhouses.

As it had rained the previous night several flower heads and leaves had raindrops and this always adds to the charm as does sunlight shining through to reveal the veins and make the leaves glow. Another aspect that appeals are the abstract shapes and repetitions found in nature, so leaves that emanate from a central core or clusters of similar shapes hold an interest, and this can be seen noticeably in this gallery of images.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

An Ampthill Leafy Wall

On my way to my accountant, I find a wall of red leaves that screams out to be photographed.

Images from such a source proves ideal for background images when creating cards; these can be for simple messages of gratitude, or for a wide range of other purposes, so I keep collecting.

There was also a very large spider, a shield bug and some fascinating seed structures. Leaves hold an enduring fascination for me, and the challenge is to capture the curves, the texture, the detail and the colour in pleasing compositions – the leaves may die, but their images remain for so much longer than the moment.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Later the Same Day…

Satisfied with my forensic diagnostics around dawn, I then made my way south from mid-Bedfordshire down towards the reservoirs at Tringford, Startops End, Marsworth and Wilstone to see what I could find. I believe the bird whose picture is the first in the gallery to be a partridge, this was taken near Beckerings Farm, Steppingley.

I spotted that on two reservoirs the Grebes were fishing successfully and then taxiing along in a great flap before swallowing their breakfast fish. I also spotted a seagull which had been equally successful, but it was far more laid-back over the event. The cormorants were out about in the air singly and in pairs, and the greylag geese were in abundance both in the air and in the water. Other birds spotted were a lone pied wagtail I think and possibly a chat in the trees, and I just caught a mass taxiing of coots making an amazing racket. Lastly I was barked at vehemently by a black dog called ‘Banjo’ who I think took exception to my long lens but later wanted to lick me to death! His owners were charming and we chatted for some time before rain stopped play.

Saturday Forensics – or why I should geo-tag!

About two years ago, I took what to me was an interesting landscape from within some woods looking out on a valley with an open sort of gateway displaying what was described as ‘Conservation Walks’ on the right hand post.

For the life of me, I could not remember exactly how I arrived at the spot – all I knew was it was a long walk along a potholed muddy track, then a long uphill trudge through woodland. Metadata came to my rescue – I had a few other photos taken a time earlier, for which I had capture times and which were of locations I recognised. The discrepancy was around a quarter of an hour, and I knew that on the day I took the shot I had been quite lucky that it had not rained for some time, so I was able to drive deep into the woods.

I spent a long time poring over the grainy image of a map in the picture and trying to match it to Google Earth, and finally I was fairly sure I had a good clue as to where I needed to go and so I was up before dawn to see whether I could find the starting point – the unmade road.

Half an hour into my journey and I set off from my last known location of the preceding image, and driving along a road for which I had some recollection. I came to an offset crossroads, but turned right; this did not feel right so I turned around, this time taking a right turn; a dogleg left and right from my original direction, this seemed more likely and, when a turning appeared on my right that led uphill towards the treeline, I took it. After a further half-mile with trees either side I recognised the track! I was now within a mile of my destination. However, the rain of the last few days had filled the potholes and after about half a mile, I realised that there was nowhere to leave the car without blocking the single lane track, and the puddles were extremely deep and increasingly slippery. Were I to be stranded here, the chances of telephoning and rescue were slim, so I started the long reverse to where I could finally turn and go back. I now knew the location which is what mattered most! I will return.

I must get hold of GPS data for landscape and wildlife images!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Food Tourism Networking Event

Putteridge Bury Campus of the University of Bedfordshire put on a networking event to which I was invited, and since I had been doing a food retouching job only last week, I felt perhaps it was ordained! John Sentinella offered to pick me up in his Jaguar which was a difficult offer to refuse, but the journey turned out to be far longer than we had expected due to a motorway incident further up the M1 resulting in all our local roads being brought to a standstill – a trip that should have been barely fifteen minutes was closer to an hour!

We had a few moments to chat before going in to listen to the three speakers and then returned to eating, drinking and more networking in very congenial surroundings. In the very dim interior of the lecture theatre I took a few quick shots at 3200 ISO and later brought this down to a mere 2500 ISO – what freedom! No flash, yet the ability to capture the ambiance with comparative ease without bringing attention to myself.

This was hardly my field, but I did manage to talk to a few people with whom there were possibilities for future business opportunities – who knows?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Marston Vale Forest

I needed to check out different subject matter for my 300mm prime lens, so I took myself off to Marston Moretaine and what was the Millennium Park, now Marston Vale Forest. Part of the area borders on a lake formerly a claypit and it is a wonderful wilderness for bird and insect life. I entered the Nature trail via the wooden boardwalk above reed beds, and soon found several dragonflies zooming around and landing on the wooden railings.

What I really wanted though was to capture these flying, not static and foolishly thought that patience could prevail by focussing on one that had landed and then to capture it at the moment of takeoff! What a forlorn hope, I got very used to erasing blank images because my reactions were way too slow to press the shutter in time. So I made my way to the water’s edge and tried my luck following them once they came into view, but standing and trying to keep track of them was equally fruitless. I moved to another spot and waited; again there were only fleeting visits.

I walked on and then found a spot of grass fronted by reeds and finally put down a groundsheet and sat and waited, this was far more productive, an I soon recognised a pattern emerging as to where they flew, and where they hovered, and got my first two shots, one was chopped half off, but the other was average – but I had done it! Now to repeat the exercise.

I stayed there for more than half-an-hour and got a few more opportunities and a bit of ‘chimping’ showed I was getting better shots, and I tried upping the shutter speed to ensure sharpness. Eventually I felt I had succeeded in my aim, and had earned a cup of tea.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Goodwood Revival Meeting 2010

Once again I received tickets to visit the annual Revival Meeting at Goodwood, and this time Toby Savage joined me for the visit on the Saturday. His outfit, all white topped with a pith helmet was of considerable interest throughout our day!

The weather according to the forecasters was for a ten percent chance of a shower and that the day would start bright with cloud cover increasing from around midday and slowly clouding over completely in the afternoon. It turned out far better than that and was very warm indeed with some exciting racing.

This meeting was a great opportunity to give the Canon 7D and 300mm prime lens a chance to shine. it succeeded beyond my expectations, the shutter was very responsive both initially and in the subsequent burst, so fast that it was hard to consistently only fire a single frame, and the sharpness of the 300mm f/4 was impressive.

It was difficult to accurately segment the shots into neat compartments so I have simply divided it into four sets to keep things in manageable chunks.

Toby and I had two surprising meetings, one was when during a friendly chat with two men on the bank before Madgwick corner, we found we were talking to an Art Director who had used Charles Settrington when he was a photographer – Charles  is the owner of Goodwood, now Lord March. I come to be invited to Goodwood due to my connections with Lord March from those days.

A short while later I made a remark about the quality of the artwork above a crepes vehicle, and then we sat down to eat a burger and chips. Two men joined us at our table and it only turns out that one was the designer of that very artwork and owner of the vehicle, which it turned out Toby knew from the vehicle's earlier life as an ice cream van, and both men were owners of several of the concession vehicles and both were Leicester men like Toby! What a small world!

Once again I gave Lightroom a chance to help me out with the near darkness of the 'Earl's Court Motor Show' – at 2500 ISO!

Whilst waiting to extricate ourselves from the car park we were further treated to another air display by a pair of Spitfires, and it worked – it did lessen our frustration at not moving!
Set 1
Set 2
Set 3
Set 4

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Halton House Heritage Day

Sunday morning saw me driving towards Aylesbury to take a look at Halton House, once built for and owned by one of the Rothschild Banking family, which at the beginning of the twentieth century was given to the RAF and became an Officers’ Mess for RAF Halton, a training station for Boy Entrants.

They were holding a Heritage Day and opening to the general public, I found the architecture fascinating, and extremely challenging with countless people milling around all equally interested in taking photographs. I was really pleased to be able to correct converging verticals from the raw files in Lightroom and to handle the low light levels with comparative ease. How liberating to be able to switch from as low as 100 ISO to 1600 ISO and do all the shooting handheld and without any additional electronic flash. I was so amused by one painting that despite it being dimly lit I took a shot, the painter, Turner has captured the surreal scene with great humour.

Jaguar enthusiasts brought along a series of exquisite specimens which gleamed in the bright sun on the lawn in front of the house, and joined by a baby Austin. The whole show was run by young serviceman and women who were charming, cheerful and helpful.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Luton Hoo – Artist’s Day 2010

I arrived in dull weather, and it even drizzled with rain, but it did not deter me or several others, but certainly as the weather improved, more people arrived. I soon came across on artist called Martin who was covering over a sketch of Amy Whitehouse in preparation for his canvas to take on his work capturing the Mackenzie Moncur Greenhouse. I later returned to see the work taking shape. It was at this time that I took a shot of a wood pigeon unperturbedly sitting on its nest above Martin!

The flowers and vegetables were nearing season’s end, but still there buds to be seen. I noted that the pollinators on some flowers were wasps, and on the beans I caught sight of a hornet! The marrows and squashes were in abundance and sadly several had been gnawed, I suspect, by rabbits. One installation which got a lot of interest was a suitcase of memorabilia with speeches of the World War II era drifting across the garden.

I very nearly missed the Artist Steve Parkes working away in the Dairy which had become an Art Gallery for the weekend. I was very pleased to see the Apple Cart had been completed and assembled – it looked superb. One artist who stood out, or should I say ‘kneeled’ was working on some excellent large pictures of the ladies on the Produce stall - I was most impressed with how with a few deft strokes she had captured one person whom I immediately recognised, even though she was not present at the time.

‘The Conservatory’ was preparing for a Wedding, and with its manicured lawn in the other half of the Walled Garden, looked splendid in the sunshine. The grapes hanging in bunches in the end greenhouse looked very tempting, but I resisted.

Luton Hoo, Walled Garden, Pumpkins, squashes, Artists, ‘The Conservatory’, Apple cart,Steve Parkes,Martin,Mackenzie Moncur greenhouse

Junction 10a of the M1 Motorway

Some means must be found to ensure that this roundabout is replaced by the latest the opening of the London Olympics, because after this point in time there is no major leverage that can be exerted over central government for their part in the funding for the construction.

Luton, and the surrounding area need full access both to the town, and to the M1, as well as good access between Harpenden and Luton. So every positive action must be taken to circumnavigate all the bureaucratic hurdles placed in the path of the means to make both the Airport Way be a single entity from the M1 junction 10 to the fork that serves the Airport and the route to Hitchin, and for there to be a free-flowing route in both directions for Harpenden and Luton Town Centre.

I visited the small display in the Luton Arndale Mall to speak to members of the Luton Council and Contractors, and the resulting conversations were deeply depressing – I got the general feeling that everything had to go at the pace it has always gone in the past. I did not get the feeling there was any sense of urgency.

We need Dynamism here, this is absolutely critical – it is far better to have tried and failed than never tried at all. Luton has this one great opportunity to be the saviour of London at its hosting of the 2012 Olympics, Luton could be the staging post for the visitors, and thereby secure the future for all the embryonic businesses as well as many existing businesses located or locating in the university town of Luton, Capability Green, the Airport, the businesses springing up where Vauxhall used to be.

We need a Freddie Laker or Richard Branson to say here is a Group/Consortium/What you will that is making the bold decision to get this ball rolling for a 2012 opening, that causes absolutely minimal local disruption and links Luton directly to the rest of the world.

Where there is a Will there is a Way. Luton will never again get a better chance.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Stockwood – Season's Final Floral Fanfare

The morning looked favourable lightwise, and I knew that the end of the floral season was fast approaching, so I cleared as much off my desk and gathered my camera gear and set off for Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton.

I have noticed in the past that if I go out on a whim like this it often prompts phone calls from clients to give me work, and this was just such an occasion – I had been taking photos for no more than ten minutes, when a call came in from a photographer wanting me to quote on some retouching on some food shots he was shooting. He was happy for me to finish shooting before looking at some shots he would be sending me.

It was surprisingly warm and I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of colour still around, although some areas were full of very similar colours. I took a fast wander through several different gardens and one of the greenhouses, and I have managed to find some sixty images to remember what is likely to be the final flourish of this season’s colour.

I think the quote looks like being accepted, so two very different retouching jobs this week is quite encouraging as retouching has been thin for a while. There has been more diagnostic, consultancy and training work of late.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Aylesbury Proms in the Park

Aylesbury Concert Band may have lost 'Community' from their name, but the show proved the Community spirit was not lost, there was a very good turnout to hear and watch them play a varied content of music.

Certainly I was very much part of a small family community with my son-in-law's family along to hear my younger daughter playing saxophone in the band. Seeing her was somewhat less easy, as her music stand and music prevented a good view. I do feel that when the stage is raised, the band need to be tiered so that everyone is seen better.

The sound quality was excellent, the lighting was excellent for viewing, but borderline for taking photos unaided, and I nearly gave up, but I am pleased I persevered – thank goodness for the Canon 5D MkII and its ability to record at ISO 2000! Tim, whose birthday it was, handed each of us a piece of cake in the interval.

I am sure from the crowd response we were not the only ones to have thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

Bledlow Ridge

Travelling via Halton and Wendover, I paid a quick visit to Bledlow Ridge, fascinated as much by the name as anything else. I was close to Stokenchurch which I had heard was where Red Kite had been re-introduced a few years back, but I was caught out by being unable to find somewhere to park the car, when a pair were gliding low above me, and by the time I had managed to tuck my car in, they had soared into free air well out of my range, but I have included a single shot as an aide-memoire.

Nearby was West Wycombe House with its Mausoleum and Caves, infamous for its wild parties and debauchery in times of yore – Lord Dashwood and friends such as Benjamin Franklin held legendary parties for the Hellfire Club members in the caves below the Mausoleum. I did try climbing to the Mausoleum through a field, but the last stretch was too treacherous for my smooth-soled shoes and my long lens. The views were spectacular but in the direction of the sun, so difficult to capture at that time of the afternoon.

Saturday Afternoon with Tringford Fishermen

Saturday afternoons can be relaxing and rewarding. The robin returned, a tree caught a fly and was later retrieved by the unusual use of a claw hammer and branch, the herons were caught in flight and Phil caught some trout. Bob very kindly rowed me out to the bottom of the lake, an area which is rarely fished with any degree of success. I noted that the herons are now taking to higher vantage points in the trees, and spending less time on the partly submerged branches at the water’s edge.

Bledlow Ridge

Travelling via Halton and Wendover, I paid a quick visit to Bledlow Ridge, fascinated as much by the name as anything else. I was close to Stokenchurch which I had heard was where Red Kite had been re-introduced a few years back, but I was caught out by being unable to find somewhere to park the car, when a pair were gliding low above me, and by the time I had managed to tuck my car in, they had soared into free air well out of my range, but I have included a single shot as an aide-memoire.

Nearby was West Wycombe House with its Mausoleum and Caves, infamous for its wild parties and debauchery in times of yore – Lord Dashwood and friends such as Benjamin Franklin held legendary parties for the Hellfire Club members in the caves below the Mausoleum. I did try climbing to the Mausoleum through a field, but the last stretch was too treacherous for my smooth-soled shoes and my long lens. The views were spectacular but in the direction of the sun, so difficult to capture at that time of the afternoon.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Up the Downs – Dunstable

This write up is well out of kilter, because it is what happened last Thursday morning. I visited a local precision engineering workshop at Icknield Way Farm, SRB-Griturn. It was on the way back that I decided that I might take a quick look up a steep path to the top of the Dunstable Downs. It had rained a day or two back which made the going tricky, and although I was taking it easy, I lost my grip and went down very hard, giving the camera and lens a very hard knock as well as my upper leg on one of the wooden steps.

I checked the camera and lens and fortunately all seemed well, what I did not learn till much later was that the jolt dislodged some specks onto the sensor, which is one reason for why it has taken me much longer to process the files for three galleries of images. I now have to find the time to give the sensor a very good clean!

The weather was not ideal for landscapes, so I was taking the hike as much for the exercise and interest as for taking photographs. It was whilst I was focusing on a small blue butterfly that I got the fright of my life – a greyhound came bounding at me at high speed, and I jumped out of my skin – to guffaws of laughter from the dog’s owner! What a specimen that dog was. I believe Harry the owner called him Marley, and the smaller dog was Meg. I think it should have been called ‘Greased Lightning’ because it was a hell of a mover! That was a nice way to get some unexpected shots. Harry told me that only two years ago the dog was at death’s door, well I have to say that is far from the case now; he is a wonderful specimen.

I took even more care going downhill and back to the car, and later in the day made off in the car for Hampshire and my sailing trip from Bosham to the Isle of Wight.

Bailey’s Hard, Beaulieu

On the way back from sailing down at Bosham, I called in on Gloria and Richard Holmes at their converted brick factory; the first time in a long while sadly. They have a lilac bush that is a focal attraction for a wide range of birds. I managed to see, blue tits, great tits, nuthatch and a robin.

The hard was once a boatbuilding site like the much more famous neighbour – Bucklers’s Hard, and is now a very peaceful backwater, home to a canoe training centre with a small jetty and a bench with just a few moorings in the Beaulieu River.

It was a very nice way to catch up with Gloria and Richard before heading for the M25 and home.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Trip to Bosham and Beyond

I have been looking forward to this trip for some time now; Bob Marchant had asked Adam Woolfitt and I whether we would join him and go sailing – sadly, Adam was not available as he was going to be at Aldeburgh. Bob introduced me to another sailor who would be joining us – Brock. I came down to Bosham from Luton on Thursday and we went out to a local fish and chip shop to collect our supper, where we met another photographer, who seeing my camera started up a conversation with us both.

One of the amusing moments on the first night was setting up ‘PooCam’ – Bob had created a camouflaged video camera and was setting it up to catch the persistent dog owner who had been allowing their dog to mess on Bob’s verge. Sadly it was not a conspicuous success, as when it was on, it completely swamped the broadband preventing any connection to anything else, as well as having a very poor image quality.

The following morning we collected our gear and once Brock arrived we set off walking to the Sailing Club to catch the tender to take us to the boat’s mooring. It was not long before we were making our way along the channel under power,. Once we were well clear of the moorings Bob and Brock showed me how to help ready the sails, and it was not long before we were pulling past West Post and seeing Portsmouth and making for Priory Bay.

The sky which had started as edge to edge clear blue sky soon gathered clouds, but for most of the outbound trip we had sunshine and just occasional cloudy spells, we had a great lunch at anchor before setting sail for home, during which I was allowed to take the helm, with only one minor mishap. Both the sailors were happy to entrust me with control for probably a quarter of the trip back, which was gratifying. After an enjoyable supper, a good read, and a night’s rest, I set off for Beaulieu, and then home.

Thanks, Bob, for a great two days – I enjoyed every minute of it.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Tringford Pumping Station

Unlike many reservoirs the Tring trio of Startops, Marsworth and Tringford serve to ensure that the Grand Union Canal has enough water at its highest point, so the three reservoirs are used for storage and Tringford Pumping Station supplies the canal.

Originally the means by which this was done was by a Beam Engine, later supplanted by a diesel engine and now by electric pumps. There is therefore a large volume of free space within this Grade II listed building which British Waterways plans to use to house free standing offices that do not rely on any structural support from the original structure. I felt that photographs of the interior prior to the installation would be a worthwhile record, and am hoping that this can be arranged, so today I took the first of some external shots.

I then took a stroll to the nearby end of the Tringford reservoir and at the hide took some shots of a typical pastime for the lake, the walking of dogs, and a view from the hide before returning to my car parked at Little Tring bridge, where I took a quick shot from a tender belonging to one of the moored narrowboats of the bridge itself, over the Wendover Arm of the canal.

Whilst in the area, I met up with Billy the Baker, and Bob the Bailiff who was fishing from the bank and was able to record the catching of two rainbow trout, both of which were returned to the lake. Although showers were forecast, it was simply very windy with fast scudding clouds, and no rain.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Cat-sitting Week Starts

After acquiring a cat for a week’s sojourn with me, I just had time to pay Stockwood Discovery Centre another swift visit, before going off to Clophill for an afternnoon’s photographic trip around historic Clophill. I spent less than an hour yet spotted a furry hoverfly and flowers that were still in their prime and others that were hanging on for the end of summer. Shapes and patterns still caught my eye, hence the cycle rack as an endpiece.

Remy the cat I shall be looking after, sadly has to remain indoors, so I have to me more careful to keep doors and windows less open that I’d like, I just hope he can appreciate the less regular feeding pattern he may have to endure.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

An Afternoon Walk around Clophill

It is not every day that you get invited to tour around an area with such a knowledgeable guide as I had this afternoon, in Andy Fox. Andy knew the names of the birds we came across, the history of the places we visited and the types of aircraft that flew over. He is both a keen fisherman and a skilled photographer, and we had a great day with interesting conversation and a good deal of exercise,  punctuated by a fair amount of laughter.

The weather surprised us both because when I arrived, it was dull and overcast, with a warm wind blowing, but as it turned out this gave us great lighting, often fleeting, which sometimes meant one or both of us darting up or down hill to be in the the right position for a particular shot, which despite the vast open space often meant we crashed into each other. We met only one other person at Cainhoe Castle, and a family group at old St. Mary’s Church, during our three hours in the country.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Putteridgebury on a dull day

I knew that the chances were low that the sun would be shining, but nevertheless I took up John Sentinella’s offer to show me around grounds of Putteridgebury in his lunch hour. It is a College that is now part of the University of Bedfordshire, and he is connected with the Knowledge Hub.

The grounds are extensive with lawns, an ornamental pond, and numerous trees planted by dignitaries and royalty over several years. There are two mulberry trees, rather than bushes, but sadly one has suffered badly with a large branch having been brought down by recent winds. John offered me one of its fruit as I had never tasted one, and very sweet it was.

 My guide was showing me around and passing on some of the history, and took me to its very own observatory used by the local astronomical society. during our walk John mentioned they had Muntjac in the grounds and I even managed to catch sight of one, albeit in the distance.

They have beehives, rabbits and numerous birds, the only missing feature was sunshine! But I enjoyed the fleeting visit and the splendid Lutyens architecture and Jekyll landscaping.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Wendover Woods Trip

I met up with Lizzy and Tim for a walk in the woods. Wendover Woods is a vast tract of Forestry Commission Land that is beautifully organised and maintained. The road is in good condition and it is a fair drive to reach the centre, wending its way through the trees with occasional laybys and some automatic ticket dispensers before you arrive at the car parks, Café and toilets. When we arrived, there were plenty of parking spaces still available.

The café staff are young, numerous, cheerful and helpful, and we dropped in for some drinks before setting off. We strolled in dappled sunlight past the car parks and through a grassy area with several groups setting up gazebos, tents and barbecues, with families playing football and all thoroughly enjoying the warm weather and open spaces.

Soon we took a left through the trees and entered a long winding gravel path with wild flowers, weeds and bushes either side, and it was soon time to take out the camera to record the abundant insect life. The dragonflies like miniature helicopters flew around us at one stage, but never settled in our sight and travelled at incredible speed. I was not lucky enough until much later, to get a shot of one, and even then it was at a distance and incredibly well camouflaged.

There were several different species of butterfly, and some specimens were showing distinct signs of wear on their wings, presumably from the high winds and rain we have experienced of late. There were not too many aphids, but ladybirds abounded as did hoverflies and what seemed like a battle-tank style fly, full of barbs and armour. I am presuming from a slight similarity to the smaller hoverflies that several I shot were female – their eyes were separated in the middle. In one part, there were several crickets and grasshoppers, all congregating on some dry dead leaves.

On our return, the numbers of people had increased substantially. We stopped at the café for a meal of toasted panini, and drinks, before having a last twenty minutes walk in a different area where we larked about testing our balancing skills. Since Lizzy and Tim were planning to watch the Liverpool-Arsenal match on Sky at a pub, we parted and I spent a pleasant last hour at College Lake, where I got shots of a fly becoming supper for a damselfly.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Caddington Leaks

In just over a week the village has sprung two Water Mains leaks, the first outside the Fish and Chip shop, the second right outside my front garden. I was working when the Balfour Beatty two-man team arrived to trace it, but they had yet to find it when I started to make a photographic record of the work. The sun was low on the horizon, and fortunately it had stopped raining.

When I spoke to ask whether they minded my taking photos, I got to learn that it had been they who had last year repaired my stop cock, and they had no objections so long as I ensured that if they transgressed Health & Safety regulations would I warn them and make sure I did not attempt to take any photos until they once more complied.

For being allowed to photograph Joe and Ivor at work, they were duly rewarded a cup of of tea and coffee midway through the evening! By the time they had found the leak and capped it, it was dark, and they had three more jobs to complete, all in St. Albans, before they could call it a day. Fortunately they told me all were far simpler than this one. I bade them good night to offload what I had taken.

The picture story is in the galleries to the right.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Three Counties Afternoon

I went to Tringford Reservoir first because a friend John was fishing at Marsworth, and as I returned to Tringford I took a look at Startops reservoir and spotted that due to the  low level it almost resembled a muddy beach, and a heron was perched on one leg on a branch over the stream entering the lake.

Bob, the bailiff for Tringford, was taking the opportunity for a spell fishing, so I took a couple of shots in case they were of use to him later in the month. I stayed awhile before setting off to Maydencroft Manor to meet up with Tom Williams to collect a camera I had lent him and to let him try out using my 80-400mm Sigma on his newly-acquired 550D.

He had friends around, so after a cup of tea and a chat; with lens handed over, I asked whether he objected to my taking a wander round the gardens again. He was fine with that, so I strolled around and spotted some discarded peacock feathers before I caught up with the owner, he was very quiet for a change! I came across a lovely cock strutting his stuff, looking as if he had fluffy boots. I then drove off down Maydencroft Lane towards Charlton, birthplace of Charles Bessemer, the inventor of the Besemer Converter.

I stopped for a while in the lane where I came across first a really tatty butterfly and fleetingly a beautiful and tiny blue specimen. I tried in vain for a while to get a shot of it and meanwhile found a similar sized butterfly with a beige underside with beautiful spotted detailing, only to find that when it opened its wings, it was the elusive blue one! Whilst following the butterflies I also spotted a cricket.

I took some shots of straw bales in a sloping field and later caught sight of a family taking to the field with children on their bikes. I called in at the Windmill pub for a swift half of cider by the stream in Charlton where they were rearing some ducklings, before returning to Bedfordshire near Wandon End as the sun was low over fields of ripe wheat.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

An Entire Gallery of Hoverflies

As a direct result of helping Adam Woolfitt to solve what looked like a terminal situation with his computer, he asked me to meet him to collect a present to say thank you for saving him from having to pay out a hefty sum for a new motherboard. We met on a garage forecourt at Hemel Hempstead where he gave me a pistol grip and electronic cable release that he had personally made up in his home workshop.

At the handover we both practised using the grip to take macro photographs of some local hoverflies, and he learnt just how hard it is to capture these, sharply focussed and free from motion blur, but it proved the grip would work. That was Sunday and so today, Tuesday, I spent a break from the computer to give it a full and thorough-going test in my garden, first with his loaned Sigma 180mm macro without optical stabilisation and with the smallest extension ring and then with my Canon 100mm with stabilisation.

The first row were taken with the 180mm, and the rest with the 100mm. If the longer lens had had stabilisation, it would be easier to work because of the extra distance from the subject, but it is far heavier and the lack of stabilisation is really noticeable.

I was operating using a standard Canon 550EX Speedlite which meant it was very easy for the flash to be inadvertently shielded by intervening leaves above the hoverfly, resulting in lost frames due to severe underexposure! However, the grip proved its worth in allowing me to have a more balanced camera platform, and I am pleased with the gallery of images I succeeded in capturing. I will add, some images have been cropped for compositional reasons.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Tringford Herons, Ducks and Geese

Not all the pictures this time are mine, and I think it should be obvious – colleague John Sentinella was down at Tringford for a spot of fishing earlier on and returned, and when we met up he suggested he’d give me a hand whilst I photographed from the opposite bank for a change. I lent him one of my cameras and he turned it on me!

Between the times when he left and returned, Bob Menzies took me out in one of the boats so I might be closer to some of the herons, and even he was surprised by how close we came, I was lucky to get quite a few shots and I now know a little bit more of their habits.

I shall also be working on a series of images of the fishermen’s landing stage and moorings and the lake to create a panorama. Whilst we were on the other side, I managed to get low down by the overflow to take some of the shots of the greylag geese and also a swan and a Grebe.

Before leaving I went towards the reeds where I captured damselflies, and finally a group of ladybirds.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Apple Cart Renovation Coming on

At Luton Hoo’s Walled Garden there was a lot of activity cutting back on those plants that had fruited, mending fences, painting of doors and windows, making a gate and renovations to the Apple Cart are coming on apace.

The pumpkins, squash and marrows are all showing healthy growth, and bees and hoverflies were in abundance, giving me a chance to practice getting ever closer to record their incredible detail, and I did manage once again to capture some in flight, which is really challenging.

The figs got a serious haircut to encourage their growth, as did the leaves that surround the office window – these are the leaves which go from green to red and then white.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Catching a Tern Diving

I should preface this piece by saying it is well out of chronology, the images were captured around three weeks ago.
Startop and Marsworth reservoirs normally seem favoured by the Common Tern and they generally swoop and dive, but when John Sentinella and I were at Tringford reservoir recently we saw a single tern as opposed to several, that came and hovered reasonably close by before diving.

On the first occasion it did happen very close, but we were ill prepared and were only able to stand by and watch, but once alerted we spotted the same visitor on more than one occasion thereafter.

Here is a selection of shots from the second encounter. I did not manage to capture the moment of entry and exit from the water, but nevertheless, it is a reasonable sequence that shows this elegant bird in action. In every dive we witnessed the bird was unsuccessful, whereas the swooping technique seen on the other reservoirs seemed more successful.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

A Cycle Ride through Caddington

Taking exercise on a pushbike with a camera was a way to capture some of the flowers on show. I also met up with my erstwhile Bookkeeper to see how she was faring. There were not as many flowers around as earlier or later in the year, but still enough for a gallery of thirty shots. A few passers by acknowledged my presence and one lady who had wondered what I was doing even invited me to come into her garden once she knew what I was up to.

She now has a small card of a shot I took with the words ‘Thank You’ which I hope will give her some pleasure. She had mentioned that her poppies were particularly good earlier this year and that she had taken a photo herself to remember; so the card showing one of her geranium will add to her memories.

Friday, 23 July 2010

A Morning Visit to Stockwood Discovery Centre

During my last visit I met one of the gardeners, a very knowledgable and extremely helpful lady, who today I learned was called Jan, and she had pointed out the Morning Glory which that morning had been a delight, but sadly was no longer showing despite some extra watering. This morning’s visit was as much to capture that display as anything else, but I found that I was able to find locations where it was much easier to get really close to bees and hoverflies, so I was in my element – even capturing hoverflies in flight!

The various different Morning Glories were a delight, offering numerous shapes with varied lighting and colours, even the leaves alone were worth capturing. I am really pleased with what I was able to record of such fleeting moments.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

High Colour in Stockwood

The Stockwood Discovery Centre was bathed in Summer sunshine for most of my recent visit, and after a short conversation one of the staff, offered to show me the Morning Glory which she said had been looking wonderful earlier, but sadly they had retired for the day, but the lady offered to water them in case they graced me with their open presence a little later. It was not to be, but I stayed awhile in that greenhouse and after waiting for the sun to come from behind clouds, I felt I could have benefitted from a watering!

I was remarkably lucky with finding bees that allowed me to get in close as well as a butterfly, and the range of flowers that were in full bloom was exquisite. There was an exhibition of sculptures on show from Robert Bryce Muir, some of which I found very interesting – his display in one of the greenhouses runs through till the end of October. What held my interest was the patina on the first figures, and the reflective panels right at the end of the greenhouse. I hope Robert feels I have done them justice. The Centre has put on some interesting exhibitions here, and these add to the variety of what can be seen in this well-run amenity of which Luton should be rightly proud.

Another Essex Consultancy Visit

My task for this visit was to format and partition a new drive to allow scheduled backups to take place every night on the newly added drive. Knowing that there would be spells of forced computer inactivity whilst this took place, I set about my other task – that of passing on as much knowledge of both Photoshop and Lightroom as I could, but inevitably there were times either when a phone call came in or there was too small a gap to meaningfully use, so I would take the opportunity to grab some photos in my client’s garden – the twelve shots in this gallery are the result.

Monday, 12 July 2010

An Afternnon Visit to Windsurfers

Unfortunately, the shots of windsurfers on the Brogborough Lake are out of synch, as I was busy getting the shots of the Musical together, and also a recent trip to Tringford Reservoir with John Sentinella has yet to be processed as I also have to prepare for some training trips to Godalming and Calne and put a church image into a 360˚ panorama for Martin Evening.

The morning these images were taken was brilliant sunshine and a stiff breeze blowing, but I just could not make that, so had to make do with a far duller afternoon with occasion bright sun, but it was good practice for me. There was one jump I missed getting and one I just about caught!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Alice in Babraham Wonderland

Catherine invited me along to Babraham School to see her girl's Holly and Poppy in in their School Musical Show of Alice in Wonderland. It was well worth travelling over to watch and the weather for it was beautiful. I arrived at the school early to park up and awaited Catherine, and when she arrived we collected the girls to go for something to eat and drink in nearby Sawston.

This gave me a chance for a chat beforehand and we had fish and chips and a drink which we partly consumed in the car before returning to the school grounds where by now dozens of parents had now arrived and were milling around outside and chatting whilst inside the hall was being readied.

Once we all poured in, one parent was setting up a video camera two rows back but after checking his viewpoint realised he would be better off moving to the front, whilst I altered my position from the front to one row back, the end result was that one seat was left vacant immediately in front of me and I now had a better, uninterrupted view of the stage.

I tried to capture the expressions of the children that helped tell the story, and also spot the small amusing interactions when things went slightly wrong; I just loved one small girl's reaction to having done something wrong and she put her hands to her face to suppress a giggle.

I was extremely fortunate in the natural lighting which was provided from outside. The show was tremendous, with lively music and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Goodwood – Festival of Speed 2010

Thanks once again go to Lord March for his kind invitation to the event, and for laying on such wonderful weather!

The journey down was uneventful and although Catherine and I were arriving later than I had intended, it was the Saturday of the event this year and so was far less crowded on arrival than would be the case on Sunday.

The normally full Supercar paddock was almost bare, but offered a great opportunity to take a good look over the Pagani Zonda; one of only two cars present! The installation in front of Goodwood House was minimalist giving the impression of a bow to display two Alfa Romeos, a sleek roadster and a vintage racer. At this stage in the day, there was not a breath of wind to flutter the flags atop the roof. Later with a breeze Dougie Lampkin was to be found doing wheelies and stoppees along this very roof having presumably once again ridden his charger up the grand staircase!

The dry weather had turned the offroad section to desert and the four-by-fours were kicking up the dirt as they took to the banked bends and the leaps, coating everything nearby with fine harsh sand just not wanted by digital cameras! We listened for the mobile telephone call that would let us know that Lizzy and Tim had managed to make it to join us. This was one year when we gave the Rally circuit a miss, because of Tim's injured leg, but we did reach the set off point for the Shuttle Service and the queue stretched for at least sixty yards, so when we received the call we set off back down the hill and met up in front of the house.

I had planned to be down there for the Red Arrows, but instead watched from a lesser standpoint halfway up the hill where we multi-tasked by also watching the motorbikes doing wheelies. Part of my time was spent in the VIP enclosure where Catherine and I met up with Simon Diffey, one of the drivers racing, and Lord March who mentioned that he had actually tried to get hold of me, but had lost my contact details, so I presented him with two, so that both he and his PA had a record for the future. Hopefully this may mean another visit to help with Lightroom and Photoshop at some time. We all stayed till the very end; reluctant to leave this wonderful place, but all good things must end and eventually we left Lizzy and Tim to make their very long journey across fields to reach their car and we made our own trip back to the car and back home.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Serendipity and my Trip to Windsor

I had made a loose decision to drive to Windsor for opportunities to take more photographs, and so passing along Pepsal End lane and finding the source of heavy black smoke I had seen rising beyond Slip End, it was somewhat surprising that I pulled up simply to dial 999 and report the torching of a car. I then drove on, before thinking: hey, I am a photographer, maybe by taking shots before the firefighters arrive may just be useful. So, I parked up. grabbed one of my cameras and ran the half-mile back!

I managed to take a few shots before the fire appliance arrived, and started back to the car, but seeing the firefighters arrive, I captured them putting out the fire and continued my journey.

The route I wanted to take was on country roads, not motorways, so I was soon on my way towards Hemel Hempstead; I had passed the Aubreys Hotel when I spotted a couple hitch-hiking, so I pulled up and offered to take them to Hemel. Ironically, they were American and travelling in exactly the wrong direction for their chosen destination – St. Albans. But when they told me it was not their highest priority I asked would Windsor be of interest, both were delighted to say yes! So we introduced ourselves all round and I continued to Windsor. When I reached Burnham and it was not clear how to reach Eton from their I got Jane, my SatNav from the boot entered ‘Eton’ and we all laughed when she asked to me to turn around when I switched her on! I did so, but it looked all wrong so I turned around again. We managed to find a parking bay that would be free for two hours, and decamped.

We walked into Eton and on to Windsor after a detour to the Brocas, and then after a short time together we parted agreeing to meet back at the car before the two hours was up. We all had a great time, met back up and returned to their hotel where they kindly bought me a drink and we sat and chatted, and played with my cameras as I showed them how to get shots with a narrow depth of field. Altogether, we had all had a day that none of us could have foreseen, and really enjoyed each other’s company.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

A Tuesday Visit to Tringford Reservoir

The weather was too good to miss and after clearing the small amount of work and diverting the phone to ensure I did not lose an opportunity for some more, I collected my camera gear and set off for the reservoir. There was a variable breeze and two fishermen were already out on the water, There was not a lot of activity, but enough to keep my hand in. Ironically, when the fishermen decided to come in we chatted and I told them I had not captured much of interest, and as they left through the woods I caught sight of a Red Kite, and soon spotted there were a pair soaring above the trees on the far side where earlier I had seen dozens of rooks.

I spotted a heron on the far side and managed just two shots of it in flight, and then got some shots of a grebe fishing and managed a halfway decent shot of him with a tiddler in its beak, he was not having the success he had a week or two back when I saw him with a crayfish.

I tried to see just how close I could get to damselflies and if I could capture them in flight; I certainly never managed both together! I also took a walk along the trout stream, but without any conspicuous success.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Aylesbury Community Concert Band at Cublington Fête 2010

It hardly seems a year since I last came to Cublington Village and their fête, but once again I came to watch and listen to the band in which Lizzy, my younger daughter plays saxophone. I did feel sorry for the players whose instruments were metal as it was very nippy and even had there been much sunshine the band were ensconced in the shade of a yew tree.

The concert was in two sessions, and I also found watching people try to lift a series of wooden bricks fascinating and seeing the youngsters entertained by Smarty Arty. The whole show, which included Morris Dancing in the Arena, was constantly promoted by the roving compere complete with straw boater.

Both Tim, Lizzy’s husband, and I were lucky with finding books to buy. I enjoy taking photographs of people at work, and although band members were playing, this is an excellent example of work. I have tried to capture the feeling of concentration and I am always impressed by the dexterity and dedication shown by a group of such diverse ages.

Ironically, the day proved very full before I even arrived at Cublington as I came via Tringford reservoir the Grand Union Canal and a farm where some steam engines were being prepared for an event on the Sunday. All of which subjects I found fulfilling.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Afternoon Visit to Luton Hoo again

Having spent a very hot and humid time at Butterfly World in the morning, I returned home to re-hydrate and offload about twelve gigabytes of raw files so I had space to take yet more photographs. Then I set off to pay a late visit to the Walled Garden in particular to see how the restoration of the farm cart was proceeding. I can report that the three main participants are doing very well indeed; there were just two this day, but there was much rubbing down of the old paintwork from the wood and ironwork and that the rear spring section was now all painted – black for the metalwork, Luton Hoo green for the wood.

Elsewhere the warmer weather had accelerated the growth of thistles which Charlotte Phillips herself was digging up, the pumpkins were now planted out, and Alex Hines was duly watering them with a hose that also gently watered a few on its own along the way! For another volunteer planting out, she was able to use a watering can confined to sprinkling only from the spout!

Another volunteer was busy tying up recalcitrant plants whilst bees danced attention on the blue flowers that they obviously took a particular shine to their allure.

It would appear that one Verbascum was being sacrificed to the Mullein caterpillar in its desire to propagate its moths; and they were feasting to the very obvious destruction of the plant, but the caterpillars were very striking in yellow and black looking as if they had some resemblance to Bibendum, the Michelin Man.

Even though a late visit it was a great chance to capture several different types of bee feasting as they pollinated, so very satisfying.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Butterfly World

It was a small group visiting the Stockwood Discovery Centre Luton from Essex that said I should visit Butterfly World at Chiswell Green, near St. Albans. They had said: "You must see the wild flowers!" I turned into the drive from a country lane and was gobsmacked! Before you have even arrived at the entrance to the complex, the drive is lined not with grassy banks, but banks of every colour of wild flower – reds, pinks, purples, blue, green, yellow and orange – all set against the clearest of blue skies and high cumulus clouds. Since there was not a lot of traffic, I put on the hazards, and spent at least five minutes just taking shots of what was there!

The complex is still young and not yet finished, but it was welcoming, well-organised and the architecture stunning. It seemed quiet and people free at first as I looked out at the giant beehives that are the loos, the alfresco restaurant area, the garden centre with its arched roof, the gardens with giant plant pots and a trowel. Before I left the entrance area, I had taken a few closeups of a caterpillar one of the staff had been tending in a small container of I believe willow leaves.

I headed for the Tropical Butterfly house, and all changed – I was prepared for the heat and humidity; I was totally unprepared for the hubbub! The greenhouse was full to capacity with screaming and shouting schoolchildren amidst fluttering dozens of butterflies. I assume butterflies are deaf, or have a high tolerance for noise! I concentrated on trying to capture the main attraction, and if possible butterflies in flight – in the end I caught just one mid-flight! After a while as I moved up the greenhouse, I noted that a few more patient youngsters were standing still in the hope of a butterfly settling on their hands or heads, one boy in particular had several settle for a short time on his hat, and a girl, maybe his sister insistent I capture the event, but every time I turned to capture a shot, the insect took off; to his dismay. I tried at least three times and felt really sorry that he was unlucky, finally I managed, and showed him the closeup on the back of the camera. He was amongst a small band of hopefuls that did stay in one spot and was quiet.

I stayed awhile with sweat dripping off me, trying to get shots of some of the larger specimens, but they were less inclined to remain in flight. When I finally came out, the cool fresh air was a delight and after turning around to capture the drying breeze all around, I strolled around the various garden, some of which were complete, many still under construction or simply not yet fully grown. I wandered through terracotta tunnels and on the other side of an upturned giant pot came across a similarly scaled box of matches. The walls were adorned with embedded dinky toys and other artefacts of a consumerist society, such as a headless Action Man, but also there was an old book with an open spread beneath a bank of wild flowers and the clear sky.

There is much to see here, and it deserves success, but the best of the wild flower display will not last long – I am glad I came when I did, and I will return as there is just so much to see, and photograph.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Afternoon at the Pirton Open Gardens Day

Before leaving the Stockwood Transport Show, John and I went around the Discovery Centre where I warmed myself up for the afternoon shooting in Pirton, at their annual Open Gardens Day, and what is the first thing I do is photograph an old motorbike!

The first garden I visited belongs to an artist, Maggie Barton, whose house and garden are a delight, she seems multi-talented as she sculpts, makes mosaics and stained glass objects and if I heard right, also paints. In her copious free time she also tends her compact garden. Entering through her front door I then went into the small circular area around a tree, the garden was I believe the best tended of all those I visited, and her other work was to be seen all around.

I did my best to visit all the gardens, but that was a tall order having arrived at around half-three, and in all there were gems, and I hope I have done justice to what was on show, I even spotted a fairly un-shy pigeon at the end, I also spoke to some interesting people and one other photographer whom I may yet meet again.