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…



Saturday, 28 December 2013

Bright Winter Saturday Sun

Late morning, and I gather my camera gear and head off into bright sunshine blue sky and wispy high clouds. I am going beyond the Lower Luton road heading towards Tea Green and I spot a kite soaring high, but I soon lost sight of it, and have to content myself with landscapes with trimmed bald hedges. In the narrow lanes it is not possible to avoid the flooding from the recent heavy rain, but I drive calmly to ensure I am not forced to drive through them by oncoming cars.

Am I alone in observing that four-by-four vehicles force me into taking to the mud, potholes and soft verges as they leave a full two feet clear of any such hazard? It would seem that unless they are farm Landrovers, the ‘almost saloon’ four-by-fours seem to consider that it is infra dig to get their wheels dirty, and that I must be a ‘Towny’ driving a saloon car, and should therefore expect to dirty my wheels and be scuffed by hawthorn branches! I was driving with consideration, yet these same drivers rarely held up a hand in thanks, yet every saloon car that I either slowed or stopped for, waved in grateful acknowledgement.

I was never to see a kite or buzzard for the rest of the day. I captured landscapes in the main, before passing the River Lea at East Hyde where I decided to stop as the bridge was thronged by stopped vehicles and people gazing across the fields. I spotted the heron in the far distance, and later a Little Egret, and I took a chance to change from my 70-200mm to the 100-400mm and was lucky enough to catch sight of him beyond a pair of swans, and on the second occasion of it flying, managed to get two shots before bad light stopped play.

As I climbed the hill beyond, the sun was setting behind a large tree, and a father and son pair of cyclists stopped alongside for a refreshing drink after the climb, which meant a nice silhouette or two to round off the afternoon.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Christmas Day at Babraham

Jonah’s Family Christmas – Babraham

Once again, I was honoured by being invited to join Jonah, Catherine, Holly, Poppy, Carla, Paul, Carol and Barry for Christmas Day. I arrived after midday through my losing track of time despite being woken at just after seven, having only retired to bed after two the same morning! For the first time for a very long time it was a Christmas Day that was bathed in bright sunshine, so the journey over was very pleasant and rather than having Classic FM on, I was treating myself to a CD of varied recordings that were my personal favourites.

The last track had not finished playing when I reversed in through the lodge gates, so since this was one of my all-time Rock greats, there was no way I was going to cut off Free as they played ‘It’s All Right Now’ full blast with plenty of Bass, so I continued with my rhythmic pounding of the steering wheel, and foot stomping till the very end, little realising I was the subject of an iPhone movie directed by Holly from within the house!

I gathered all my presents and gear, and tried ringing the bell, and knocking, but finally opened the door and joined the family throng. There were hugs all around, followed by a swapping of gifts and we soon found ourselves gathered in the kitchen which glowed from the bright winter sunlight streaming through the windows. We later moved out to the lounge to chat and watch Holly and Poppy practised playing a game of table netball, and excited chatter soon filled the air as many of the presents were opened and discussed.

To make way for the repast to follow several of us took a walk to view a new housing estate then back to the High Street, where I grabbed a shot of the words beneath a statue to  Jonas Webb before continuing to follow other public rights of way and along the side of the fairly fast flowing Granta river, passing a both a bridge and weir before crossing one after the Babraham main house and entering a churchyard. The principal reason for taking the shot of the statue’s inscription was in case I could somehow use it in relation to Jonah, however Paul and I were both intrigued as to who this man might be; it turns out he bred a new strain of the previously rare Southdown sheep he had bought from a Sussex farmer which seems to have become one of the predominant breeds in this country and around the world. In wandering amongst the graves we came across members of his family buried in the churchyard.
Noting the flow of the Granta beneath the nearby bridge, it behoved us to play Pooh Sticks, before choosing to walk further along till we reached a security gate for the Institute – there was a contemplation to walk beyond and through the grounds, but we resisted the temptation, though nevertheless this still attracted the interest of a security patrol, so we had a friendly banter with him before returning the way we came. By the time we arrived back at the lodge, Carol and Barry had arrived and Jonah and Catherine had the table laid so after further present-opening we sat down to savour the fruits of their labour. There is nothing like a brisk walk in the fresh air to work up an appetite, which made space for us to eat our fill and enjoy the spread before us and the sounds of much laughter soon filled the room.
We played games such as Articulate and Charades to more hilarity, and I continued to take pictures and display them on the iPad as they were taken, this may have let the lads down through a lack of total concentration on my part as the Lads lost to the Lassies after a close fought battle. In Charades, it rapidly became the Carla and Paul Show as the rest of us were no match for either of them. Sadly all good things come to an end and Carol and Barry were soon bidding us farewell, and I was concerned that Holly and Poppy were due to be up very early the following morning, and the lounge was to be their bedroom, so it was not long before I was doing my round of thank-yous and heading for the door and the drive home; this time to the more sedate sounds of Classic FM and the increasing amount of rain.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Sawston Village Concert – Trinity College

As a family we all headed for the centre of Cambridge and grabbed a quick snack before making our way to Trinity College Chapel in light drizzle. We were all looking forward to listening to the choirs, in particular obviously the one in which Holly and Poppy were performing, and for us to join in.

We had to queue for a short while outside, which gave us a chance to catch up on news, before finding seats from which to get a good view of the girls. I had hoped I might be able to photograph the proceedings, and simply took a handful of shots before the service started, but the first announcement that was made was no mobile electronic devices or cameras during the service, so I confined myself to taking shots afterwards to add to those I managed beforehand.

As we came out into the vestibule I took shots of the beautiful statues and the magnificent organ, whilst waiting for the girls to ready themselves for the return, and it was now no longer a drizzle outside, but a downpour! So reaching the cars in the car park was very welcome. The service was well-organise, beautifully sung and the harp playing was excellent, my only disappointment was that there had not been a raised platform for this instrument such that the audience could have seen the harpist at work. One piece she played managed to sound like a plucked Lute or Mandolin, which I found very unusual, and in conversation I learned I was not alone in this thought.

Friday, 13 December 2013

PENHA Fundraising Meeting – Adulis Restaurant

For the second time this year I found myself being invited to an evening in aid of the Charity PENHA, held once again at the friendly Eritrean restaurant, the Adulis in Brixton Road, close to the Oval Tube Station. There was to be traditional music and dance from the Horn of Africa and the traditional coffee ceremony and the opportunity to watch and listen to Vanessa Champion who spent some time in Uganda to see the work being done among the pastorialists of the region.

I arrived early enough to be present as they set up for the evening, which meant I was able to watch the dancers practising and this gave me a chance to see whether I might be able to improve upon the shots I took at the first event back in June. At that time I was using the Canon EOS 5D MkII and the highest ISO I used with confidence then was 2000 ISO and I struggled very often to shoot faster than 1/30th of a second. Adam Woolfitt very generously allowed me to borrow his MkIII for the evening, which entailed a full day accustoming myself to the different way of working. I learned in that time that the differences between the two versions were substantial. My testing suggested I may well find it viable at around 6400 ISO and this was confirmed very soon. As the evening progressed I pushed things further.

One other difference on this occasion was that I set up my iPad on the bar and plugged in CamRanger, which gave me a good chance to review shots I had taken as well as provide others the opportunity to look at the shots I took within a few seconds of my taking them. Many found this intriguing and it allowed me to become involved in conversations about this 'magic'!

I felt very welcome as many of those in the restaurant knew who I was and said how much they liked the shots I had taken on my last visit, however their names escaped me, but several of the faces I did remember.

Zeremariam Fre spoke to introduce the evening to the guests and explain a bit about the work being done by PENHA and how it differed in its approach and explained that the audience would also hear from Dr.Tekeste Ghebray the former  Executive Secretary / head of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) about his involvement, and also how later Dr Vanessa Champion would relate the story of her recent visit to Uganda with some of the photos she had taken when amongst the Pastorialists and where she saw first hand what PENHA were not only advocating, but putting into practice.

Zere and his wife also spoke of what was happening during the evening, of the Dance Group, the Coffee Ceremony the food on offer and the various hand-crafted goods that were on display and for sale, all in aid of future work by PENHA. A point that was stressed was how in this group of countries were many whose differences were in conflict, yet were brought together by this organisation.

The Ethiopian Dan-Kira Dance Group were very energetic and despite the difficulties of operating at such low light levels and in a confined space, I did manage to capture some of the infectious spirit of their display. Many of the audience were tempted on the dance floor amidst great applause, and the dancers from the audience were not all in the first bloom of youth! The rhythm and volume were infectious and irresistable!

One group of girls from an NHS HR company were present because one of their number was going out with a member of the dance group, and they asked me to capture them on camera, and even insisted they take a shot of me with one of them; modesty prevents me from showing this shot and also I had 181 acceptable shots and so one had to go and that was the victim! It exists on the Cutting room floor, and anyway I was not told her name…

Vanessa introduced me to a very interesting Architect who listened carefully to my concerns related to the Chaulington project and gave me a very interesting idea to try to solve issues that surround this local plan and how I might create a competition to arrive at a solution. Anyone who is interested in what is an excellent idea for the development for Vauxhall's current Vehicle Storage Area with almost no local resistance, but needs to resolve numerous external issues first, enter "Chaulington" into a search engine. I was buoyed up by this architect's answer, so much so that I have passed his comment back to my contact at Vauxhall; I must now get his name from Vanessa!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Chaulington – thus far

The various partners concerned with formulating the plan for the sale and redevelopment of the former Vauxhall Storage area at Chaul End, announced that on Friday and Saturday they were returning to the Community to show and discuss where they had reached, and what they had put together since the last gathering.

Sadly, I felt the community response was poor, and I felt that the appearance of apathy was not entirely to be blamed on the residents of the local villages and hamlets; I think that the small card that was distributed was poorly designed with no clear focus on what was to take place, and when I visited I made just that point. The map detailing the clearer idea of what was to be put forward needed to be the main feature and considerably larger – the invitation to visit had to catch and hold the recipient’s attention on the journey from letterbox to recycling bin. Timing was also poor; the competition from pre-Christmas shopping was always going to be a disincentive, especially after a week at work.

I visited on the Friday and read the content of the display boards overnight and on Saturday morning taking my notes along for a brief discussion just before closing on the Saturday afternoon. There were points I felt were not given prominence and some questions I had, that were not answered, and the response I got was that some were not items for that stage in the process, and this I am afraid I do not accept. Unless certain aspects are fully resolved at the start, their power to be implemented is diminished, if not completely lost when only introduced towards the end of proceedings. This area is severely disadvantaged currently due to past mistakes. It is essential that these are tackled head-on as prerequisites before the development is considered, before an even greater burden is heaved upon the surrounding communities.

The whole idea of developing this land with a large residential component has very few detractors and a lot of goodwill, because Bedfordshire needs more housing and the location has numerous benefits. The scheme has a power rarely seen in this context, and it is this power which needs to be wielded to remove some of the problems that currently exist and ensure a far better integration with less negative impact on the lives of those who live in the areas of Caddington, Slip End, Chaul End and Aley Green. It would seem that all to whom I spoke were already assuming that some issues were totally insurmountable and were not even going to be fought against; well that is not good enough!

Chaul End lane as a route, although it has issues (pun intended) at both ends, is a vital thoroughfare, and so to hear of only negative changes envisaged due to safety concerns was unacceptable – that route needs its solutions implementing prior to the added burden of the extra traffic from some three hundred more dwellings are added to the mix.

I also saw no ground rules set for the introduction of workshops and/or offices interspersed into the plan other than centrally in a so-called flexible unit; that shows no imagination as to how communities develop organically. A new community of the size envisaged needs places for work opportunities within walking distance with space for transient traffic for delivery/collection, there needs to be a level of self-sufficiency built in, especially to cope with the effects of being snowed in during winter. I asked the question of what the changes in micro climate might be expected by the change of use, and I was offered the answer that this would have been considered empirically by experts – I was distinctly worried by that response as the experts’ handiwork I have encountered in this locale over some thirty years leaves me underwhelmed to the point of despair.

Caddington and Slip End suffer from a completely misplaced Postcode, or rather as Julian Lyon pointed out: a bad misreading of postcodes by reading only the first part of the numbers. This needs addressing (pun intended again!) for the entire area including the new development, so that this is not perpetuated.

I saw no mention of stages of construction, and it seemed to me the work needs to be staged, to allow the community to grow at a pace that allows it to blend with the existing structures, so they can adapt. The construction phase will be the most disruptive to the existing community and the less this impacts negatively, the greater chances of successful overall integration.

There are rules in rural areas that make lighting paths difficult, but I suggested that it would be worthwhile taking a look at a lighted pathway from Sawston to Babraham in Cambridgeshire which is a very successful and much welcomed recent addition, that is used by cyclists, pram and buggy users as well as walkers.

In the past when discussing this project I have referred to this area of Bedfordshire as being:  “…a Museum of Crass Mistakes of Poor and Inadequate Planning…” I feel here is an opportunity to break out of that mould. To that end the ground rules must be laid down at the outset, they are well nigh impossible to be implemented further down the line. This project has value to all concerned and must be viewed in this light. Future generations need to be proud of what is done here, I just hope the opportunities are grasped.

As I have stated earlier, I may well be leaving the area, but I would like to think that I may be able to still offer constructive suggestions that make this area a good place to live.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Retouching, Research and Guidance


Retouching has held a fascination for me from my earliest days practising photography – I was working for a studio just off Hatton Garden in London, and this was and still is the very heart of London’s Jewellery manufacturing, obviously famous for diamonds in particular.

We worked for various companies producing their catalogues and for my part I was creating compositions of rings and brooches and these were propped up by various means to give depth. At that time our methods were often crude as we were using  plasticine and pins and mainly tungsten lighting creating considerable heat so they could sag or even fall over during the invariably quite long exposures! If we were lucky then it was simply that either the  pin or the plasticine would show, if we were less lucky then it was a reshoot! We invariably worked with 10 x 8in colour transparencies which did give us the opportunity to have them retouched by a local company, Gilchrist; it was a balancing act as we judged whether the additional film and processing was less expensive than retouching. There was also another aspect: There were occasions when it was not possible to avoid nasty reflections of adjacent items, due to how tightly we had to pack them into the composition and I would often have liked to have these treated, but our clients were disinclined to spend the extra.

This desire for higher quality would ultimately bring me to a rival of Gilchrist, Longacre Colour Labs, where within a year of joining them I became their Sales Manager. This in turn would lead me to set up ‘SOLUTIONS photographic’ and by the time the digital era had arrived, I was doing my own retouching using knowledge I had gained from watching the retouchers working with dyes and bleaches and duplicate transparencies. Clients that I had acquired from my earlier photographic work now became clients using digital technology.

Two very interesting things happened this last week, one involving technical guidance which I provided remotely for a client I first met by travelling to his villa in Provence for five days’ training in connection with Photoshop; this time it involved Lightroom and also help with ascertaining why his website was no longer providing pinsharp images from his work. I produced a web gallery of his pictures that both viewed fast and were razor sharp, the other was providing another client who was now producing 1/32 Scale figures for World War One and Two aircraft, the retouching of an aerial and insulators on a Spitfire for his catalogue cover. This was not simply to draw a line between a post behind the cockpit and tailplane – this required research by both of us so that what I added was as authentic as possible for the marque of the modelled Spitfire.

Both clients were pleased with my work, and importantly I enjoyed the challenges involved and will soon be visiting Chichester to provide further help with Lightroom and his backup strategy for the former, possibly next week.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Autumn Colours & Misty Landscapes

I had spotted one stretch of road between Whipsnade and Dagnall where the trees still had some leaves and the range of colours in the right light were worth trying to capture, so after a short stop along Bison Hill, where I took a shot of a misty valley with Billington church in the misty distance, I searched out a spot to park the car so that I could walk along the road beneath the arches of trees to capture the hues in the milky sunshine.
The gallery is really a series of experiments in composition, orientation and I shot the views both with cyclists and cars and empty, as the sun varied in intensity with the shifting movement of clouds and mist.

Then I travelled to Aldbury where sadly the sun had disappeared as had the autumn golds of its trees, and on to Wigginton, and the canal, before heading back.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Discovered a Late Autumn Surprise at Stockwood

I rarely travel anywhere without a camera or even cameras! Such was the case when I returned from a meeting at the University of Bedfordshire, where I had been demonstrating the opportunities offered by Camranger. I decided to pay a visit to the Stockwood Discovery Centre to say thank you to Jan one of their Gardeners, for providing the earlier opportunity to photograph the Aston Martin Virage.

Rather than leave my camera bag in the car, I took it with me and found three gardeners working in the main greenhouse, amongst them Jan, so I was none to surprised to learn from Bridie that there was not much left to photograph. However, it was Jan who proved me wrong, by pointing out some berries which I had failed to spot, and having taken out the camera and the Tamron 90mm macro, I found there was yet more to be found if I troubled to look, so both Bridie and I were wrong!

After a brief chat with all three, Sam the trainee being the last of that number, I took my camera around and found enough material for some sixty shots that came into view illuminated by the low-angled sun, and the surprisingly bright, and clear blue sky. The contrasting hues on individual autumn leaves and the sharp edges of variegated holly leaves was simply hard to resist. The earlier rains had flattened the grass so individual golden leaves provided an interesting colour counterpoint as did the shades of brown with their strong veins against the blue of the sky, and the backlighting of green leaves against the deep shadows of beds beyond.

Jan had also pointed out the early catkins, which by being fooled by the recent mildness were likely to become victim to the frosts that would come long before the Spring that they would normally herald. This deviation to give thanks was rewarded handsomely by what I managed to capture in the short time I had spent.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Day of the Visit to Canon


The day started for me at 4.40am, when the alarm I had set at around 12.30 the evening before gently sounded from my bedside table. I had shaved before retiring, laid out my the clothes I had planned to wear and downstairs the place was already set for breakfast. I was out and up and brushing my teeth within the first minute of finding and switching off the alarm on my iPhone.

I rarely start a day without breakfast and this day was no different, having finished I gathered up my camera and briefcase and was out of the door mentally ticking off the checklist I had in my mind and that the keys and wallet were in my pocket before closing the front door behind me. The car needed all windows and mirrors wiping of rain before setting off for the M1 and my meeting with Adam Woolfitt in Muswell Hill. I made good time in typically heavy but moving traffic, and so on arrival in London and ringing Adam’s doorbell, I was earlier than planned. This meant that Adam had to open the first floor window and let me know he would be awhile! We had a chat and I joined him with a cup of tea, before making our way to the bus stop for the journey to Highgate where we took the tube to London Bridge.

We navigated the maze of passages to the main concourse where in the time we had spare before our meeting with Geoff Dann and our train, I took out the camera and experimented with trying to capture an effect I had once used for a brochure for Barclays International to tie together a series of their Banks across the continent – people blurred to capture there sense of speed as they hurried to work. I remembered that I had found one particular speed to give me just the right effect, and I set about seeing whether it still held true – and it did (I leave others to find just what shutter speed that was!). I also took some shots from the base of the Shard in the dismal light of a rainy London day, and Adam needed to find something to eat, so for a while we both went downstairs to walk around in the comparative warmth and then we returned to wait for Geoff and then we all set off for Reigate.
There upon arrival we found there to be no taxis in sight, but after a short while we found the taxi’s office and were soon on our way to Canon, the fare was remarkably inexpensive, but we learned later, there had been an intention for a shuttle service from the station provided by Canon! The building is splendid adjoining and connected to the former Woodhatch House set in wonderful countryside. We all signed in and were shown to where we were offered refreshments and informed where everything was to take place, everyone was welcoming and cheerful, and we sat down for a spell to decide which demonstrations we would visit, and our first was to learn about Flash techniques. This was hosted by Andy Kruczek and Dave Newton and featured model Louise and owl, Peanut, and proved to be both entertaining and informative, so we also joined for round two later. Interspersing our day with visits outside to practice taking shots of some wild birds brought along for the day and we were able to use a variety of different long lenses.
We also listened to to a talk by Marc Aspland, Sports Photographer for The Times, but we somehow managed to miss the talk on Landscape photography by David Clapp, which was a shame. However, it was a splendidly enjoyable and productive day for which we were very grateful to Canon, who were fantastic hosts. We phoned the cab company for a lift to Reigate station, but after a wait during which we spoke to one driver it was then we learned that Canon had laid on a Shuttle bus to and from Redhill! However we were far from alone in not learning of this because the driver informed us he had only had one taker and had just returned from taking him back to the Station, so we clambered aboard together with a charming Indian who turned out to be part of Canon’s Localisation team.

I did however have one disaster; as I managed to leave my briefcase in that vehicle but only realised once in the station, which caused a drama so Adam left for London without me and Geoff stayed with me as we tried to contact Canon and the driver – very fortunately all turned out well and after several phone calls I learned that it had been found and would be sent on to me, but not that night. I was very grateful to those who sorted this all out, and I now will wait for its return by post. Phew! Geoff and I got separated at the Underground, because I needed to top up my Oyster card, and I journeyed on to Adam and Penelope’s where I was treated to dinner, somewhat later than planned, but thoroughly enjoyed. After bidding then farewell, I headed home. A memorable day.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Lilley Bottom, Sheep and Kites

The Sunday was promised to be bright and sunny, but chilly, so I had travelled with several layers to allow me to spend a good time at the chosen location, that I had already visited twice before.

I parked the car as carefully as possible to ensure the farmer and workers could still reach the field with ease, and I set up the EOS 5D MkII and 300mm plus 1.4 Converter on the Gimbal head atop my tripod, and set off up the hill after passing through the kissing gate. I knew the field to be steep and very wet, so wellies were de rigeur, as were fingerless gloves and a scarf.

The right of way led up a winding just visible track, and I knew from my last visit that it headed towards to a plateau and beyond to another gate that led to a track through the woods. I stationed myself just below the plateau for a while, before moving to the plateau where I spent the rest of my time  there.

Although I had been overflown by a pair of kites as I prepared my gear, they flew beyond the valley and for the first half hour I was entirely alone with only a distant sight of kites, the occasional crows and pigeons, and no animals in sight, but I knew that sheep would be making their way across to this end of the field as the day wore on, and soon I saw a few leisurely heading my way. With their arrival also came first one, then a pair of red kite, but they were soaring way too high for me to capture anything more than a dark speck, so I watched Ryanair and Easyjet aircraft and a few private jets make their way to land at Luton Airport, hoping that they might pass close to the faint moon in the sky beyond, but they were far lower, and the moon was moving higher, so no chance! I did grab a shot of the moon itself in case  I could use this later.

As the sheep arrived I alternated taking shots of them and the kites, and continued doing this and watching the sun cast ever longer shadows in the valleys around me. Ironically, the constant sun did actually raise the temperature just a bit, such that I actually felt warm, but as the valley grew darker, and the sun lowered, the thermals that kept the kites aloft presumably died because eventually I saw them no more, and I gathered my kit and returned to the car. I had watched the sheep appear from one end of the field, meander past me, and they now were headed back in the direction from which they had first come. They had fed, I had taken pictures, all was well in our world. It was hard to reconcile this with the terrible desolation and destruction that faced the Phillipines after Typhoon Haiyan; our recent skirmish with high winds was but a whisper compared to what they had faced.
Photoshop is a handy little program when it comes to making wishes come true! I had hoped I might capture a kite within the same piece of sky as the moon, but that was not to be; however using Blend If and a flipped version of one of the shots I did realise my small wish!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Town & Country Sponsor Caddington Fireworks Display

I arrived at Caddington School way too early as I thought the Display would likely start at 7 or 7.30, so having set up the tripod, I had a long wait before the fireworks started. Where I parked happened to be over a blocked drain which was not visible when I pulled up, but was very obvious when I emerged from the car as it was probably at least six inches deep, so before I had been but a few moments my shoes and socks were soaked through, and my feet were to remain that way for the duration as I donned my wellingtons!

The rain had abated, but the grass of the playing fields was muddy underfoot, but this did not dampen the spirits of those who came along, children of every age seemed not even to mind if they fell over in the sodden grass as they played with their multi-coloured light sabres in mock fights, or simply waved them around to delight in the strobing effect.

Cadets seemed to have been detailed to curtail gatecrashers and minor misbehaviour in the gloom. The air was alive with the incessant chatter of children enjoying themselves and the numbers steadily increased as the time moved closer to the start of the show. The temperature slowly dropped as the wind rose, and I begun to regret not having worn a sweater below my anorak. I had not anticipated that I would have to constantly wipe the lens of condensation between each shot, which meant losing a lot of shooting time as I selected exposure times from eight seconds to twenty to try to get the precise effect I was seeking. I also moved to three different locations to add variety to the end result.

I was using ISO 400 when I started, but eventually settled on 800, and I used apertures of f/8 to f/11 and exposure times from five seconds to twenty seconds, and the lens I used on the EOS 5D MkII was the Sigma 12-24mm and I also varied the focal length over the time.

At the end as I was packing up the camera I met with the School's head, Sue Teague, who shared an interest in photography, but I saw none of the staff of Town & Country, but there again I must have been all but invisible during the time I was shooting. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Aston Martin Virage


It is not every day that you get a chance to photograph an immaculate sports car in ideal lighting conditions by simply being in the right place at the right time. Without at that stage even meeting the owner, I learned that he had granted me permission to take photos of the magnificent machine. There it was, in the shade, with autumn colour all around, and dappled sunshine filtering through the trees and bushes; there it was in all its white pearlescent serenity, without any signs of dirt, perfectly positioned to allow me to capture its beauty.

I took a total of sixteen photos and none were wasted. It was some time before I learned the name of the owner, and managed to speak to him and thank him for the privileged opportunity. He would be only to delighted for me to show him the shots I had taken, so we arranged to meet. He is an extremely busy man, but he suggested I visit and show him some prints. I had to wait patiently until he was free enough to give me the time to take a look and he was thrilled with what I showed him, and gave me an order for some enlarged copies. A few days later I returned to present him with the shots he had ordered; one of which was a collage of the pictures I had made into a Web Photo Gallery within Lightroom initially, for which he had been equally thrilled.

From that meeting, he asked me to please keep in contact as he would very much like me to take further shots of the interior, and of the engine compartment. He was able to proudly tell me that he had taken close friends and family to Gaydon to see the car being prepared on the Production line, and to meet some of the engineers who were working on his future dream possession. I feel sure from his enthusiasm at that time, there would have been as much pleasure for those technicians, as for his own entourage, since they would have known the person to whom it was ultimately to belong and realise he would appreciate the skills they had brought to bear in the car’s production.

What a coincidence that his name bore the same initials as the Car Manufacturer’s founder, David Brown!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Cricketers, Caddington Fire Pics


A minor fire develops in a chimney at the Cricketers Public House to which the Firefighters attend with some serious Fire Appliances, because it had to be tackled from above. The men put up an impressive and colourfully lit display with a tall extending platform from which to tackle the fire.

I had come across it by pure chance as it occurred right outside my front garden, and I spotted the bright and flashing lights and was fairly assaulted by the loudspeakers as Control were speaking to the firefighters over the appliance radio. Had I not come down at that precise moment from my office, I would have missed the show entirely, so it was a bit of excitement to end the day so I grabbed my widest lens, the 12-24mm Sigma and popped it on the Canon 5D MkII and set it at 3200ASA and grabbed me some shots!

So here 21 shots later are what I captured.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Luton Hoo Arts Butanica – Preview


I was invited to the Preview of the Weekend’s exhibition of Botanical Illustration being held in The Conservatory within the Walled Garden at Luton Hoo.

I got there early to capture the build up of guests observing the works on display and discussing what they were seeing. I also took advantage of the opportunity to give another airing of CamRanger, by placing the iPad on the end of the bar so that others were able to see the images I was capturing shortly after I had taken them. This gave me an opportunity to discuss what exactly I was doing and how it was being achieved. It also gave me an idea as to whether shots were sufficiently sharp as I was shooting on the borderline of acceptability due to the low level of lighting overall and the high ISO I was having to use. Many of the shots were as low as a shutter speed of one-fifth of a second!

I certainly was not expecting to produce large prints from the shots considering I was using neither a tripod or flash and I was using ISO 2500 or greater to give me the best chance. I had some interest in CamRanger from some members of staff from Luton University which I am hoping to follow up in the future.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Neighbourhood Plan for Caddington and Slip End


This weekend has been devoted to displaying the possible plans for future development of the Caddington, Slip End and surrounding local areas. The venue for these discussions is the Heathfield site, which is itself a subject of the discussions. Another feature was an update of what was gleaned from the earlier consultation with  local residents over the Chaulington Scheme.

I visited on the Friday evening and was a little disappointed in the number of those present – because those who had given up their valuable time to be there to answer questions and who were working on the project were in the majority, which I feel sure they found dispiriting. It was self-evident that considerable effort had been expended on the work that had been going on behind the scenes. I was intending to put up a photo of the map that was on display, but I see that it is available, (though without the designations of the possible development sites) on the CaddSE site. <http://caddse.info>

When viewing the above or any other links in this item, use the back arrows in your browser to return here.

I have produced two PDFs from the plans that were on view that show the added details presented on Friday and Saturday, here is close-up view of part of the map *: 
Click in this image to view it larger in your browser

I did find that much of what was presented did seem somewhat open-ended; at first glance I thought that certain designated areas had more defined development intentions than it transpired. I also felt that they were too dispersed, which seemed to suggest that speed of implementation was considered inevitably to be a slow process over a protracted period of time, whereas my view was that a bold assessment of the defined future should be placed on the table for 2018, and that a path to that future should show the line of least resistance, set against the future targets five years beyond that. Means should be found to ensure that unnecessary delays had penalties attached.

By way of an example of fairly avoidable bad planning I explained that in the case of the Busway route, one only had to look at the original reason for that route when it ran trains, it was chosen because it did not disturb residential areas, whereas if a bus is to provide a service it needs to be close to those various residential areas. For trains A to a reasonably major terminal B, speedily and frequent is a target, but for buses it is for there to be several minor stops and is better represented as A to Z ,with the rest of the alphabet between, with schedules that used different combinations of stops that represented the best assessments for some A to Z trips, having alternative minimal stops, with others for more inclusive travel, even including Request-only points. The route in the current case should have involved a crossing of the A505 such that Caddington, Slip End, Chaul End etc were part of that route.

One overarching snag to the Neighbourhood plan and the Chaulington plan is Chaul End Lane, and I have yet to hear of a resolution to that issue. Several previous short-sighted plans have made this an issue that is far from easy to tackle. The Tesco site, the single carriageway A505 stretch, the No right turn junction at its junction with Chaul End lane –  all these contribute to present problems. When you add in the Junction 10A roundabout linking the A6, and the fact that the locals of Slip End and Caddington suffer the noise of the M1, yet have real difficulty in reaching the Motorway quickly themselves, one begins to realise that a seriously bold and different approach to the future is needed for this neighbourhood.

I noted that one of the questions that had been asked was whether bridleways/ ccycle routes improvements for the area should be provided through local tax increases, and there had been surprise that people should largely be against this. I feel if our postcode was unlinked from LU1, then one might find villagers more amenable to considering such a proposal more favourably.

Local residents should definitely read the relevant information provided on site regarding the Neighbourhood Plan – <http://caddse.info> provided by the CaddSE N-Plan Steering Group. They provide a detailed map of the area involved as a link from the above website.

I feel that the guidelines for each site should have been suggested at this stage, because then residents can make a valid assessments of each, whereas at present these are far to vague, no reasons for their designation has been supplied, so only those immediately adjacent have any valid understanding of their merits or demerits, or of any knowledge of current ownership or plans for those areas by the landowners. I think that before the community as a whole is asked for their opinions this information should be supplied.

I may have missed them, but I saw no Assessment Principles, but since the Chaulington discussions seemed well-attended, that should provide a useful guide to the assessment principles at least from the residents side, then the local parishes and local authorities should add their considerations. Only at that stage should the allocated sites be reviewed overall by the residents for their own rating.

I shall be interested in the conclusions drawn from this consultation.

* The second PDF I created can be found here:

PS. I do not own copyright for any of the images reproduced in this piece. They are only provided for convenience

Saturday, 19 October 2013

In the Rut – Woburn Park


The weather was forecast to be generally bright and warm, with an outside chance of showers, so outside I went, to visit Woburn Park and see what I could capture of the deer there at the time of the annual rutting. Since it was decidedly nippy when I set off I was wearing a Guernsey pullover, it was not long before it was being worn tied first around my waist and later, more practically around my neck! Also I could have forsaken one camera and allowed myself only two, but I suppose I could do with the extra exercise, so perhaps the added burden was no bad thing.

The early part of the visit was in an almost cloudless sky, but clouds rolled in and on occasion even seemed to threaten rain, but it brightened again, but with somewhat milky sunshine. When having walked through the woods and passed the lake, I found that the verdant landscape was entirely bereft of deer, and speaking to one of the gardeners I learned they were all over the far side. That turned out to partly true, as some walkers ahead of me had spotted a stag beyond the wire, so I did manage a few shots before walking across the vast empty grassy area and came in sight of the private stone bridge, that led to the main House, where beyond another lake the main gathering of deer was at the water’s edge. At this point the right of way takes to the road, and back into woodland and rolling hillocks interspersed by smaller lakes, and here were several more lone males, but these seemed to be of an older generation.

They seemed very laid back; several were very relaxed about the rutting game, apparently moved to give the occasional deep-throated bellow, but had resigned themselves to doing this occasionally, very half-heartedly and whilst lying down; leaving the field free to the energetic young bucks! One had taken to the high ground close to the main House, and having made his stance and bellowed in the direction of the House, then strolled down to inspect the crowd. Around this time I also spotted other stags strutting their stuff and chasing the occasional does, and just asserting themselves. I saw just one encounter between two bucks, but sadly it took place partly shielded by one of the many wooden structures built to protect young saplings. On a few occasions I spotted one male threatening another, but the second male gave way each time, perhaps I was too early, that for now each male was testing others, and the real trials of strength would come later.

I had walked beyond the main herds, so began to head back and before leaving took a few pictures of the last roses and the lowering light filtering through the leaves that were just changing through their rainbow colours in the twilight of summer, to the golds and browns  of autumn. I had spent a very pleasant afternoon and felt reasonably satisfied I had captured something of worth.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Breezy Brogborough


Wind and sunny spells were forecast, and so I considered that the chances were good that some brave souls might venture on the lake at Brogborough to surf the wind despite the air temperature being way lower. As I approached I caught glimpses of the stretch of water, but no signs of windsurfers and began to think that perhaps my surmise was wrong, but as I turned into the entrance I saw that the car park was not empty.

I then saw Tony Tiffen, but as I was wandered to the foreshore sans camera, I saw no one on the water, but a few boards close to the edge; so there was a possibility of action. I then strolled over to the main hut where inside I spotted a couple of wet-suited figures talking and eating, and joined them to learn that they had in fact been out much earlier and were due out again very shortly, so I left them as they discussed who was faster and that a race might be imminent. I hastened to grab my camera and assemble it with the gimbal head, but they were far quicker, and by the time I was ready and set up they were a good distance away. In order to hep me in assessing the shots I chose to set up CamRanger, so the iPad was propped up in my camera bag alongside me, and as took the first shots, I was able to view the results on the iPad screen rather than the camera back.

Initially I chose to shoot from the bank, not too far from the slipway the windsurfers launched from, but at their closest the surfers were too distant, so I shortly gathered my kit up and headed to the Ampthill Anglers’ stretch of waterfront to the left and beyond the car park where again I chose a low angled viewpoint right down close to the shore. I was also shielded more from the wind here, which meant I could withstand the cold for longer, bearing in mind unlike the surfers were exercising, I was clutching cold metal and sat still.

I stayed there for a while before returning when the clouds overhead began to look menacing of a possible downpour, and I thought it preferable to be closer to shelter. Fortunately, the clouds passed without a drop of rain, so after a spell doing more shooting from a spot midway between my previous locations. It was during this spell that I got chatting to an ex-surfer whose wife very kindly offered me a warm cup of tea and duly returned with one a few minutes later. After shooting from here for a time I went into the shelter of the reception area and ordered a bacon roll, and I listened to the banter of derring-do from the earlier pair. I had taken a bare couple of bites from my roll, when I lost sight of my plate and asked around whether anyone had moved it off the sofa – one of the wet-suited protagonists then asked whether I had eaten anything of it to which I responded, “Just two bites” and he said “I just removed a plate which I spotted a dog had been sniffing at a crumb, and took it off him and put it on the hatch.” I thought for a moment they were taking the Mick, but soon realised the dog had in fact got the better of me as I had been concentrating on my gear and their banter! Very generously, I was offered another one.

I went out for one  last spell of shooting before leaving.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Summer’s End in the Country?

Is Sunday the very last day of this Summer? It looked strongly as if this was to be, so I determined that I would take the opportunity to be out and about with the camera; more correctly with two, one, the EOS 7D with the 100 - 400mm and the other the 5D MkII  with the 24 - 105mm. I set off heading towards Dunstable and just by the Mansfield and Streetfield Schools entrance I parked up, because the tractor was in the steep hill  field where I had spotted it ploughing on the Saturday, and here was again this time ‘dressing’ I believe is the term. Having taken a few shots, I was waiting whilst the tractor was hidden from view when I heard a different sound coming from the direction of the Schools’ playing fields, as I approached, I spotted a radio-controlled helicopter between the trees, and grabbed a quick shot before entering the grounds to get a better look.

I saw the man handling the craft, with his back to me and thought I’d try to get some shots looking over his shoulder or at least with him silhouetted in the foreground, and I then did my best to get shots of the chopper in flight, I kept shooting till I saw him land it and as it did so laughter broke out from behind me – they thought I had missed out and and were also amused that the controller had never known I was behind him; I was surprised they were behind me as I had no clue there was anyone else around, though I was not in the least disappointed with the shots I had taken. I showed him a few of them on the back of the camera, then took some more shots of a smaller helicopter and a truck, before returning to grab more shots of the tractor. I was while I was doing that the man caught up with me and asked could he some of the shots and gave me his email address, I promised I would send him the URL of the blog, and he was happy. I also spotted a very happy cyclist as I left, presumably because for the last half-mile it had all been downhill, and she was coasting at a fair lick!

I then headed for Dunstable and on towards Tringford where I called in on the anglers, before moving on to Wilstone where I was lucky to capture a Migrant Hawker spotted initially by some birders.Later I was to see a juvenile heron as well as a more mature one standing at the water’s edge alongside a lapwing. I also spotted a swan aloft and another revving for takeoff. It was however sad to see just how low the water was at Wilstone due to its leak.

I felt contented by the shots I had taken in the warm October sun under a blue sky with puffy fairweather clouds, and headed back to watch what turned out to be a very exciting Korean Grand Prix. I was highly amused by Lewis Hamilton’s radio message to his team after several fruitless laps close behind the Sauber of Nico Hulkenburg trying his utmost to get past – ‘Anyone got any suggestions?’

Monday, 30 September 2013

Bamville Cricket Club – Last Match of 2013

Traditionally Bamville Cricket Club celebrates their last match of the Season, by playing tow teams from within the Club, that way Bamville Club cannot lose. On Sunday they were blessed with bright sunshine for most of the day, and it was pleasantly warm, and Peter Carr, the Club Secretary invited me along, and he would be very pleased if I would take a Club Team Picture for that season, I duly came along together with my cameras, and I also chose to check out CamRanger again.

Because most members would be unlikely to have eaten lunch a splendid buffet was being laid out as I arrived. Rather than confining myself to only taking pictures of the match in progress, I took the opportunity to take informal pictures of many of those attending, both players and and friends and family.

I tried to make sure that I shot the very first ball being bowled, and from then on I was trying to anticipate when the bails were dislodged by keen bowling and was pleasantly surprised by how many of such shots came my way that day – I cannot be sure that the batsmen who succumbed were quite as thrilled as I was, to capture the moment of their downfall, but I was unashamedly thrilled when I managed to do so! I even longed for the classic shot of a stump flying, but that was not to be.

Taking photos of a cricket match is certainly a fantastic way to make a rod for my own back in terms of post processing as I have to be constantly trying to anticipate when a memorable picture is going to occur, so there will always be a mountain of shots where anticipated action fails to materialise, and one simply adds to the total of images one takes, and not only that you may miss something if you choose to keep deleting at the time of taking. For that reason I would recommend that hard drive manufacturers sponsor Cricket as a great way to fill large discs!

Thank you very much to Peter for inviting me, and a very big thank you for the hospitality and company, both were absolutely excellent, and an especial thank you to the lady who made some fantastic chocolate brownies.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Stockwood Discovery – Autumn

The gardens are being prepared for the next season, but this afternoon did not seem like autumn, it was like a warm summer’s day, and I felt hot rather than cool, in part due to the relatively high humidity, but also due to carrying a fairly weighty camera bag then running back and forth while trying to check out further use of the CamRanger. I am still facing re-registration issues, but I am now directly in contact with the ever-helpful developer, Dave Pawlowski, as he has invited me to beta test the product, and somehow I will endeavour to help him cure this irritating recurrence, he also says he is working hard to help me overcome a related missing component related to WiFi. This is already a very polished combination of a hardware device and app that allows both the capture of images remotely from the iPad, or in the Client mode allows the iPad to show the shots on its screen as they are taken remotely.

It was in this mode I was trying to gain further experience by allowing others to see what I was shooting as I went around with just the camera and CamRanger, moments after I had taken them. I want to be able to use both the Remote Control facility where the camera is on a tripod and aimed at either a landscape or wildlife, or close-up on some insect, so I do not represent a distraction, or I am simply trying not to cause camera shake yet able to focus accurately and appropriately for a landscape. In other situations similar to a recent networking event, where it was handy to leave the iPad in view as I took photos of the attendees, I use the Client mode. I was asked at that event whether it were possible to send the images to the large screen they were using, to which I responded: “Not presently; but that I was hopeful”. A further use is to facilitate post processing by reviewing the small Jpegs on the iPad alongside the Mac and doing the culling that much quicker.

Going around the gardens at first there seemed little on display to create a worthy gallery of images, but on closer inspection, both literally and metaphorically I was pleasantly surprised. There were no less than three specimens of the striped red, gold and green beetle resembling a bejewelled ladybird on the last of the lavender being cut back by Jan and her apprentice gardener, Sam. Seemingly it was not an insect they had come across before whereas I had seen some before, though I cannot recall precisely where. It turns out it is chrysolina americana. It seemed a shame to be evicting some of the established insects and losing the wonderful aroma that pervaded the air where they were working. I did later spot a lone clump in isolation.

I also spied a lone and careworn butterfly, some funghi, some still lush ferns, some sunflowers and bright red, and bright white berries of differing species in the gardens, before insanely visiting the greenhouse sauna to see grapes and the voluptuous leaf shapes and cacti. When I came out I was as if I had been caught in a monsoon – I was sodden!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Design Festival, London


Geoff Dann, a London photographer and I decided to take Friday as a day to tour around the City towards the end of the London Festival of Design; in my case to take pictures, Geoff’s to talk to some of the participants and take it as it came. As I write this with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight we chose our day well, but this was not certain as we set off for the South Bank in cloud, but surprisingly after taking our time walking to the Millennium Bridge, often referred to as the ‘Wibbly-Wobbly Bridge’ due to its somewhat ignominious start in life, we headed for the ‘Endless Stair’ and as we arrived so did the sun!

This was an intriguing structure paying homage to MC Escher and his famous stairs, with a very clever wooden structure made from American tulipwood, designed by  Alex de Rijke, founder of architects dRMM. It can apparently handle ninety-three people safely at any one time, but there were not that number of visitors when we arrived, so around seven of us had the entire staircase to ourselves; not long after we had explored its heights, several large school groups arrived with mayhem in tow. We moved on visiting a Swedish contingent here to promote their City for next year’s City of Culture complete with carved blocks of ice, and the Malaysians with seemingly schoolchildren dancing and surrounded by numerous movie cameramen. Not far from the itv Studios was an excellent statue in honour Sir Laurence Olivier as Hamlet and further along the Embankment we came across a few skateboarders in a brightly-graffitied concrete playground amidst the mushroom-like supports of the structures above.

Further along was an Ali-Baba figure dispensing a vast cloud of bubbles to the obvious delight of young and old alike; the children rushing and reaching to follow and burst them amongst the trees, and the parents and other onlookers with their phones and cameras, both video and still – there was not a glum face to be seen.

The London Eye was now magnificent against the bright blue sky inviting all those crossing the Thames and passing the statue of Boadicea (Boudicca) and her chariot to point their lenses across the river. From there Geoff and I plunged into the subterranean depths of the London Underground where Geoff felt he was entering a Space Movie or James Bond set with all the structural pipework on show to the commuting public. The internal architecture is certainly brutal and harsh, but I find all the shapes and texture fascinating, and so reaching the platform was not speedy, especially as we took the wrong direction more than once! Next we headed for the Brompton Road area.

Leaving South Kensington Station we strolled the streets entering some of the listed venues of the festival, but only when we arrived at Cassina were we to find ourselves spending much time talking to the exhibitors and photographing what we saw; their showroom was intriguing, and the lady was eager to tell us about the furniture that was on display on both floors. By now it was also time to find somewhere for light refreshment and the spot we chose allowed us to remain in the bright sunshine and be served by an extremely attentive but unpushy waitress and whilst waiting, watch the world go by, and chat, I savoured their roast corn and Geoff, their Chicken paté. From there we headed for the Victoria and Albert Museum, supposedly the hub of the event, but we found their permanent exhibition to be of more interest and we also walked around the ornamental pool, before heading back to Moorgate and the Studio.

It had been a very worthwhile and relaxing day and it was hard to believe from our tour that we were in recessionary times, but the reality for both of us is that in our commercial world it is hard to find lucrative work, despite our best efforts, but we hold our heads high and work hard to keep clients happy and seek new ones to fill the gaps left by those whom we no longer retain.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Goodwood Revival in the Rain!


From all I can gather I believe I chose the best day to visit the Revival Meeting this year, for although we even had spells of sunshine, the rain was somewhat intermittent, and the cloud cover lifted allowing aircraft to display. The personal highlight of the flying was to see a Canberra, for this was one of the aircraft I had worked on when in the RAF, and I had always been impressed by the later versions with Triple Starters that had the most stunning rates of climb after only a very short stay on the runway.

I had hoped to be accompanied by a multi-talented all-rounder – photographer, author, blogger, whirlwind PR Lady, and talented organiser, Vanessa Champion, but work proved more powerful than play, and it had always been chancy settling on the Friday, since it is a weekday. I took along a publisher and Rugby photographer at the last moment instead.

The enclosure that provides an excellent view of the exit from the Chicane, was my first vantage point, but I also spent a short time in the grandstand within the enclosure and also on the roof of the Pits. But this was a day where the ever-present threat of rain dictated that shelter be near at hand. I met an interesting American, Harold 'Howie' D. Grant who had a car or two racing there, and he pointed out one of the cars and said he'd be happy to buy some pictures, so I duly obliged, and met up with him a few more times and he introduced me to his charismatic driver. The green car was unusual in that it had four tyres at the rear.

During one of the spells of brightness I met up with Patricia Rayner and Keith Duerden of Image 2 photography; friends of longstanding, since I had first met them when Keith headed up the Photographic Unit of Mobil in Victoria. Keith has a long history of photographing motor racing, having watched and photographed Stirling Moss racing at Goodwood when he was his own mechanic! He has a large collection of  black and white photographs from a past era of the sport, and has a website selling his work, and is currently working on the publishing of a book. We all met up at the ‘Earls Court Motor Show’ pastiche and then strolled, chatting to visit the static display of aircraft, where we came across Tracey Curtis-Taylor and Amanda Stretton and the ‘Spirit of Artemis’. Tracey is due to fly solo from Capetown to Goodwood, and a film crew were setting up as we came upon them, and so this offered me a chance to capture some of the proceedings.

On my later return to the trackside I turned round at one stage and there was a favourite TV star of mine just feet away, Honeysuckle Weeks, who has been expertly teamed with Peter Kitchen in ‘Foyle’s War’, I just had to overcome my natural temerity to ask could I take some quick photos, but I could step no further back, so I had to make do with the camera and lens I was holding, the 100-400mm, and do my best to use the wide end, but she was so relaxed and unfazed, that I did get a few shots. I learned a few things she has planned and I mentioned that she was certainly blessed with a beautiful name by her parents. By her side was Peter Sandys-Clarke who it turned out had also had a role in Foyle’s War, but I had to embarrassedly state I did not recognise him, he was very accommodating and accepted my apology with great grace, saying he fully appreciated the reasons for my failure.

I was persuaded to set off early to avoid the imminent rain, which proved to be a good decision as I gather we missed the quagmire that befell those who stayed on till later, and that the following days were severely marred by inclement British weather.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Watford Creative Technologies Cluster

These events put on by Clock and West Hertfordshire College have been extremely enjoyable and interesting evenings, and this Tuesday’s event was no exception, in fact for me it was particularly so because a photographer came up to me and said he remembered me from more than ten years ago, during his time as an assistant at Mill Yard Studios in Luton. I apologised to him, Paul Meyler, for not showing signs of recognising him and he then explained that he remembered the times when I used to visit the two photographers to show them examples of retouching. During these visits he was apparently in the background which explains why I would have been less likely to remember him.

At the last event I had been surprised to see a photographer I had done work for even further back, and she was coming for the first time; we have been in touch ever since she, Patricia Rayner had been assistant Senior Photographer at Mobil in Victoria. Her husband, Nick was present this evening, whilst Patricia was working on the photography of the previous day.

I had taken Product Designer, Peter Carr, but both of us had been late in leaving, so upon our arrival, there was already a filling hall of other Creatives and members of Clock’s staff, and up to the right of the stage was the Star item of the evening – SwipeStation. Peter and I mingled, but I quickly dug out my camera and began attaching Camranger to it and switching on my iPad and selecting its ad hoc network; this seemed like the ideal opportunity to put the iPad into Client mode in the eponymous app and make each shot I took appear on its screen as I went around shooting. This made it far easier for me to engage in conversation as those intrigued by what I was doing would ask about how it was done. It also gave me confirmation as to whether the ISO speed was up to the rigours of shooting in such low light surrounded as we were by black painted walls! The best compromise for quality was to set 3,200 ISO and use an aperture of f/5.6 and hope that I could hold the camera steady at the resultant shutterspeed!

It was not long before we were called to order and Syd  Nadim, CEO of Clock introduced himself and explained how SwipeStation came about and then handed over to Sam Fresco to give us a fuller story of what it was all about. It was a bold venture that required considerable exploration of numerous disciplines and technologies – a steep learning curve with no guarantees of ultimate success, but they won through. Sam told the story from early almost Blue Peter style mockups to the final product and how it had gained them several blue chip clients along the way – Yates, Pepsi and Red Bull.

Next on the floor was Ben Barrell who gave us an insight into Future Fest and a very intriguing look at Cyborg and how a man, who was only able to see in black and white was given the means to ‘hear’ the colours of his surroundings. The evening was rounded off by more networking, delicious pizzas and more drinks. Unfortunately on this occasion Peter and I were unable to continue along to the Bodega.

An Afternoon around Stagsden


It seems a while since I took this group of pictures, but life got in the way, with a few tribulations that involved a boiler sparking out, however that is now behind me, so I have now set myself the task of trying to write up what happened on that weekend.

It was a day that began with the typical early morning mist that signifies Autumn, but warmed up remarkably quickly to present blue skies and puffy white Cumulus clouds which gave Hay Lane a full appreciation of its name, this was the Big Country, largely flat, though with hills rising and falling along a largely straight road, so I pulled over to capture the hill itself and later, the small hamlet that had grown up around a farm and small pond. I wandered with my long lens into the undergrowth beyond the pond on the offchance there might be some wildlife lurking in the scrub or thicket, and did catch a fleeting sight of a dragonfly and a butterfly, and noted the raindrops still on the long grass from the night before. I soon wandered back to the edge of the pond where I was pleasantly surprised by the clarity of the water and the numbers of small fish.

As I wandered back towards my car, I fell into conversation with one of the hamlet’s inhabitants who said I might be interested in capturing one of his sunflowers which had started life with just one flower head, but as the summer progressed had developed green towards its centre and then its edge to produce a total of four flower heads all conjoined. He invited me to see other flowers and also apparently a cluster of twenty four self-set sunflowers. It turns out he had been a Seed Merchant’s lorry driver before retiring to this quiet rural spot miles from anywhere. After a stroll through his garden chatting and my taking pictures, he set off with his wife and I continued to Stagsden which if I understand the sign I saw had once been known as Stachedene.

As I wandered around its church I noted that when the clouds drew across the sun, the angle was very well suited to capturing the building lit and some trees in shadow, but also the clouds were gathering more and so the chances of getting a shot were steadily diminishing. I did succeed in the end.

I then headed back out into the countryside and spotted a dried up pond with a large Weeping Willow, well that is the wrong order – I spotted the Willow and the depression and assumed a pond, but found it dried up. I drove then to the weak bridges at Oakley and the weir on the The Great Ouse, and it was there that I heard the distinctive sound of an older engine and just managed to grab a shot of this red car with its horizontally-opposed twin engine.  I completed this trip by wandering quietly along a path and under a fallen tree towards the weir. It was interesting to note it had obviously been decided to leave the tree over the path, which probably gave great entertainment to children playing here.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Late August – Mainly Dragonflies


I had short visits to Marston Moretaine, Brogborough and Marsworth but have combined all the images into a single gallery as overall I was disappointed for several reasons, in part due to timing, part through poor planning and also because I felt I had not done justice to the subjects. I was pleased ultimately by managing to finally succeed to capture some of the dragonflies in flight, but it made me admire those with infinite patience and greater skill than myself.

The park at Marston Moretaine was fairly busy with young families with both the very  young and the children of school age coming to the end of their summer holidays, so the air was full of their high spirited sounds, but also the subtler tones of walkers deep in conversation several with their dogs in close attendance. I chose to delve into areas less-frequented braving hawthorn bushes to reach the shoreline of the reservoir in the hope of finding dragonflies circling the reed beds, as in the past they had been present in large numbers, but on this occasion they were conspicuous by the paucity in their numbers. In contrast there were numerous butterflies; blues in the main, and some which were minuscule in size, the one in particular I managed to capture because it was less flighty I was hoping I might show its scale by bringing my fingernail alongside, because its wings when closed were no larger than my index finger’s nail.

I returned to base via Brogborough, but there was little wind and fewer surfers. My later visit to Marsworth was primarily in hope that I might catch sight of kingfishers, but as on so many occasions, the subjects this time were dragonflies in abundance, which meant a possibly greater challenge, though with not quite the same reward, but here I was not alone as on my way I came across Merv, who had the same hopes as myself, but the portent was not good as we found another somewhat dispirited photographer who had been an hour already with no sign of a kingfisher. He can feel consoled that we remained there for more than four hours with just two fleeting visits, but neither of us were able to get any shots!

But during our stay we were visited briefly by what we suspected was a Sparrowhawk seemingly fishing! Also a Robin, a Yellow Wagtail and lastly a Blue tit. Obviously there were numerous pigeons and also a pair of female Mallards, so we contented ourselves honing our skills trying to get shots of dragonflies in flight, but they knew us well as they hovered only fractionally shorter than the time it takes to focus, or they visit us far more closely, knowing full well that our long lenses have no chance of capturing them when they are two foot away – so they obligingly hover at that distance, for four or five seconds!

I am convinced that all wildlife is trained by camera and lens manufacturers to recognise our kit and tantalise accordingly.