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, 28 April 2017

A Friday Afternoon in Westcott

Dull Weather fails to dampen the spirits of Children or the Birds in Westcott at the end of another week and the beginning of the Bank Holiday Weekend. I had hoped to get some shots of Red Kite flying over the Park as the children charged around the Play Area, and parents sat and chatted, but it was not to be, and also the sun was hiding behind grey clouds that might just give a shower.

I also took shots from two angles of the rocket that stands at the entrance to the Venture Park, that hints at the erstwhile Airfield’s earlier role as a Rocket Research Establishment.

I did manage to later capture a Song Thrush and Jackdaw, and my persistence, (or patience!) was rewarded by getting a glimpse of a Red kite, some blossom and a couple of young lambs, I also learned that if I manage to wrongly assume the monopod is in the boot of the car, then the Carbon Fibre Tripod with just one leg extended can work reasonably satisfactorily, but note to self – Check more thoroughly in the future!

Monday, 24 April 2017

Birdlife at Tring Reservoirs

I met up with the Tringford Water Bailliff, Bob Menzies and a few Anglers at the Tringford Lake, and one of their number just leaving felt there was a chance of kingfishers along the Trout Stream, so despite never seeing any in the past, I decided I would fight my way through the nettles and see whether I might have better luck – to no avail. But, I did spot a Mallard Mum and her ten-strong brood keeping a low profile for safety in this secluded stretch of stream.
I then crossed the road to the path between Startops End and Marsworth Lakes, where I met far more of interest; a Crested Grebe that had dived with success and come up with a freshwater Crayfish that he spent some time with before consuming it. Later I was to see a pair of Grebes begin their ritual dance, but there was poor synchronicity and they seemed to mutually accept they were not meant for each other, and swam off in separate directions!
On the main Lake at Marsworth, a mother Mallard seemingly had been less successful in keeping her family safe as she was in close attendance to a single chick. I twice missed the noisy takeoffs of two pairs of swans, but placid singletons were easier camera fodder. Having spent some time by the lake at Marsworth, I returned to the car and found two Bluetits flitting between the branches of a Hawthorn tree and some tall spindly grasses, so I added them to the shots I had been taking on the lakes.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Westcott Park with Dog, Sam

I had some time to photograph an energetic dog called Sam, whilst at the Westcott Play Area, and despite no intention of emulating Eadweard Muybridge, I did find the running action equally fascinating. So, amongst the shots I took of this dog, there were actions that did not appeal to me aesthetically, whereas Eadweard would have included them as they told him more about the actions he was recording. Hence I offer them merely as attractive representations of a dog at play, not as a descriptive and authoritative series of defined motions!
The reason for my having the camera and lens was that I was hoping that I might capture some shots of the kites that often fly over the Play Area, but in this I was far less successful, as a singleton only flew over, once the thunderclouds had arrived and rain threatened, but I include the few shots I managed in the gloom.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Stewartby Lake Walk

In the past I have often tried to capture the patchwork fields of Oilseed Rape as an early sign of the end of Winter and the burgeoning flourish of colour to the fields and this has been a year when I have not taken any notice of  these cloths of gold, so when a chance came to go out and see whether there were some such fields, I found myself thwarted. There are few hills to give some height to view from, and in this part of Bedfordshire, the crop seems rare, but it had been my intention on this journey with my camera.

I did spot a singular large field, but it was not particularly accessible, and it was in very flat land, so at most would provide a slit of yellow against green and brown, with no undulations and the sky was boringly clear of clouds against the sky. Plan B beckoned. I parked the car by an entrance to the circular path around Stewartby Lake, where I thought there might be some activity on the water from those celebrating the Easter break, but the lake was a serene calm, so of no interest to the sailors of dinghies, so after a quick reconnaissance, I selected my 24-70mm lens and took a walk along the path, widdershins to essentially capture the Spring blossom and the young leaves which lined the way.

Occasionally, there were a few small white butterflies with a flash of orange, an abundance of midges that would find my exhaled breath an attraction, the brief sighting of small birds just darting across my field of view and a small hovering furry insect that defied my ability to record its presence, all around the songs of birds was ever present, but they were largely out of sight. I wandered slowly along keen to capture the small indications of red against the whites of Spring blooms, the textures of sunlight on the wrinkled young leaves and sprigs of blossom against the pale blue sky. The discarded bricks at the water’s edge that defines the foreshore of this vast wound where clay had been extracted for the brickworks whose signature four tall chimneys still stand in the derelict expanse that remains from that time.

It did provide me a small glimpse of a landscape –  in a  scene that caught my eye; a lone swan in the mirror-like calm of still water with a distant stand of tall trees, sadly with an arc of discarded cans in the shallow water, but a picture nonetheless. During the walk I was passed by a couple of cyclists and runners doing laps of the lake and two of those, exercising their dogs alongside for company. Altogether a not too disappointing gallery of images from the short trip.

Monday, 17 April 2017

An Early Morning with Martin Evening

I had not met up with Martin for quite a time and with his living close to some world-renowned Bluebell Woods, we decided that despite it being slightly too early for the best of them, it was a day we were both free, so I drove to his place and we set off to Dockey Wood.

Out taking pictures in the low morning sun gave us an opportunity to catch up and indulge in an activity which gave us both pleasure. These woods have now been fenced off to help preserve them from the public entering all along the roadside, so now there is a designated entry gate and within the woods, branches have been laid to form ‘hedges’ to try to keep the public to the paths and so lessen the flowers from being trampled thoughtlessly.

Initially we stayed close to the right hand edge of the woods, so we had the the low slanting morning sun streaming in and forming stripes from the shadows of the trees. Martin took several different viewpoints whereas I at this stage kept close to the same spot as I was experimenting with using the long telephoto lens to try to compress the distance and in transferring my gear from my car to his had left the ideal head behind and was suffering somewhat to get the best stability. The reality was that I should have opted for a shorter focal length lens!

We returned to the car after a while and headed to a different location, and I used my 24-70mm to capture some gnarled tree trunks which gave me far more fun with searching for shapes that my imagination found as animals, and that occupied me for quite a time, before we moved to yet another location – this time with some very wispy almost floating young green leaves set against a stand of tall tree trunks. sadly by this time the sun was hidden making it difficult to capture in the very flat lighting.

We then stopped for a lunch break at the Visitor Centre before heading back. It was an excellent way to spend some time together since we last met up at the Photography Show at the NEC. It’ll be interesting to see whether viewers of the gallery can spot the ‘animals’ I saw in the gnarled shapes of the tree trunks! I found a horse, an elephant with Snoopy on his shoulders, a lizard, a camel, a ram and an old lady in a green scarf, holding hands with a young girl with blonde hair! Sorry – no prizes!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Brogborough in the Sun, and Later, Wind!

At the beginning of Sunday there was little wind and the slight chill was soon swiftly dealt with by the sun from a cloudless sky. I had trimmed the side and front lawns the day before, so I strimmed the edges first, hoping that the small back lawn would be dry enough to be cut once that was done, I also trimmed the bush at the side to give it a chance keep that tidy.

I saw the occasional gust of wind spin the whirl line, and ruffle the buddliea, so began to wonder whether the lake at Brogborough would be windy enough to excite a few sailors to take to the water and more in hope than certainty, gathered my camera gear to go over there to see whether there was a chance of some action. Earlier I had put out one batch of washing, and bumping into my aide-memoire of the laundry bag, realised the second batch was sitting in the drum, having long-finished its cycle and should also have been outside in the drying sun!

Out in the garden again, I noticed that there was now a distinct breeze, so it began to look a tad more promising for some windsurfing activity. I returned to the task of putting lenses, tripod, and gimbal head together and laid out some snacks, which happened to be exactly as I had left them, when I returned several hours later, from my time at the lakeside! All down to an excess of Anno Domini!

With the car loaded, l set off, and on my arrival at the car park found there were several cars, vans and trailers, and enthusiastic people rigging; even some keen types already out on the lake, and there was definitely more wind here than back at Marston Moretaine, but it did not seem strong enough, to bring out the jumpers. It did however promise good strong lighting.

I did not immediately start setting up, but wandered to the slipway to see who was out there, and noted that several were simply going up and back, which was a direct result of the relative calm. There were also some on stand up paddles. I returned to the car and got out the gear checking to see whether I could manage with just a ball head, but it was not as easy as using the gimbal, so reverted to that. As the day progressed, the wind, though always fitful did get stronger, and a certain Colin Hunt did start jumping, which was a bonus I had not expected! I was caught out twice, only managing to get the end of the action and not centred!

I also returned to the car when there was a lull, to put some suntan lotion on my exposed arms.

There was so much activity on the lake that afternoon that getting the pictures up on the blog is somewhat later than I had anticipated…
It will take quite a lot of wading through, but not nearly as long as it took me in the preparation, but I hope the the sailing participants feel the wait was worth it.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Last Weekend’s Final Photographs, Using the 24-70mm

Having had a weekend checking out the weighty 150-600mm Sigma lens, I continued the round trip from Marsworth Reservoir to Welwyn Garden to return it to Sigma and having friends living in Letchworth, returned via them to Marston Moretaine. We had a long chat to catch up on all the news over cups of tea and biscuits, and as the sun lowered we went out into the garden, where I was shown a very neat way of capturing rainwater to fill two large butts for watering the large number of flowers and plants that graced their garden.

This was too good an opportunity to miss, and so once again out came the camera, this time with the 24-70mm f/4 with the macro facility. During this time Stuart was discussing what was planned going forward, and was about to remove some reeds by a pillar when he realised they were several duck’s eggs in a nest hidden within, I then heard the story behind the duck’s visits to the garden – now he knew the reason why!

I continued capturing for cards several groupings of flowers that I came across as I walked around, and the gallery of twenty images is the result, but till now I have not had the time to process them due to examining all the long lens images from the weekend. It was good to see Pam and Stuart to catch up and I hope there will be a time when both of them can come and visit me, in the meantime I have several nice pictures for use in cards of varying shapes to remind me of this busy weekend.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Sigma 150-600mm Sports Lens Testing II

Two disparate areas of interest photographically for me are the capture of some of the skills of Windsurfing Sailors at Brogborough Lake, and the Hopeful capture of the successful dives of a Kingfisher at Marsworth Lake, one the Tring Reservoirs, so on the weekend opportunity, courtesy of Sigma Imaging UK, I borrowed the 150-600mm Sports-designated lens to check out on my Canon EOS7D MkII.

In the previous paragraph I highlighted the word ‘hopefully’ in connection with actually managing to even see a kingfisher, let alone capture one in a photo. I might equally have qualified the windsurfing activities at Brogborough, but at least I did have an idea there might be enough wind to entice some to the lake, the fact there was not enough for some serious jumping did not preclude my checking whether this heavier version of this lens range could give me the quality I seek. On both occasions the locations blessed me with very reasonable lighting levels, which meant successful shots would give me a good airing in galleries on my blog.

The lens alone is heavier than my current combined weight of camera and equivalent focal range lens, so this was a slightly negative element in my decision for considering the Sigma, but weather-proofing, quality of resolution and added features available, were higher in my considerations, because I do want the best quality I can afford within my limited budget. Both the chosen activities for the period during which I had use of the lens were absolutely the Litmus Test to gather the details that were important for my decision-making.

If only there were a scientist who could come up with an industrial process whereby molecules of Helium could be embedded within high grade aluminium without reducing the material strength so make it considerably lighter, this might enable lenses of this quality to be no heavier than those of lower build quality! 

The additional weight of this lens when carrying the camera on a tripod, with levelling head and gimbal meant that my Arca Swiss plate worked loose on my journey back to the car from the Kingfisher location, fortunately I had been checking, so no disaster befell the kit, but I voiced my concern and found Sigma do have an answer to this in the form of an Arca Swiss plate secured to the foot firmly that is way better than my own plate that is effectively adding extra leverage which was what caused the loosening. So, I feel this is an essential item to complete the kit.

Although the sequence of images was not one long burst, but a series of meaningful single and burst shots that recorded the unfolding event, I have taken them out of the overall day’s shots to stand alone, because they gave me so much pleasure, and although some are almost duplicates, it meant I could fill a natural grid without any blanks.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Sigma 150-600mm Lens Test at Brogborough

Given the opportunity to check out the Sigma version of this exceedingly useful focal Range, I set out early for the Brogborough Windesurfers’ Lake, and duly set it up on the Heavy Gitzo tripod; it was at this point I realised that since it is designated the ‘Sports’ version, it was designed for being counter-balanced by a camera body with a battery pack, so since I was using my 7D MkII, when fully racked out to 600mm, I was not completely balanced on the gimbal head, I was lacking that expected weight. My current Arca Swiss Bars  were just that bit short, but it was not a deal breaker, but worthwhile learning!

I already knew that my Digital Holster was not going to hold this lens on my camera body, where the Tamron was just a neat tight fit and yet still very compact and a reasonable weight.

I knew from the lack of sufficient wind, I was not going to capture any jumpers, but found that the day was given over to the ‘Sea Vets Club’ and there were to be a series of races around a course marked out by buoys (I later learned from Barry Rivett, that these buoys had been dragged quite a good distance from where he had placed them earlier that morning!)

I set up the tripod and lens and was able to take a few shots of the non-racers who were on the water when I arrived. I certainly noticed that the weight meant that generally this was beneficial in terms of stability, and had the wind been as strong as the recent visit by  ‘Doris’ it would have definitely been less affected than the lighter Tamron lens. Purely incidentally the sturdy metal and rubber-covered lenshood was quicker to attach than the plastic one from Tamron, and gave more security.

I was investigating whether the lens would give me better quality of sharpness over the Tamron, and handholding it to shoot low-flying red kites at Westcott near Aylesbury, it certainly seemed that it was likely, but the extra weight and my general unsteadiness proved that this was not ideal when handheld; really the minimum would be to use a monopod, whereas I can hold the Tamron for reasonably lengthy periods satisfactorily, when necessary. Shooting the windsurfers was always going to be from a tripod, and the Gitzo gives a really firm platform.

What do I look for when testing a lens like this? Well, the windsurfers provide me a really good idea of how a lens performs by how highlight detail in the foam and spray that is inherent in such images is recorded, and how much or little I have to adjust to make this convincing. It will always be difficult on a dull day, but a well-performing lens will still make the wake and waves realistic with a small amount of careful tweaking of exposure. I was luck this Saturday, that the sun was often out, and I feel this lens does just have the edge, but it is a close run. It is really solidly built and it is far heavier, but since I want the ultimate quality, I feel I need to find the wherewithal to make this purchase.
For the Gallery of shots taken from the boat on the water
Once I had shot enough images to judge the quality I could expect of the Sigma long lens, the opportunity to go out in the boat and take shots of the racing surfers at close range and from the water, I packed up the long lens and grabbed my 5D MkIII with the new 24-70mm f/4 lens to put myself in the picture from an often moving boat for lower angle shots. The boat was pilotted by an accomplished windsurfer who also happens to be a photographer, so he was able to place me in good positions without proving to be  hazard to the racers, yet close enough to get interesting shots, and get wet! My trousers were thoroughly soaked, but only in one shot did I see two obvious blurred blobs from water splashes! My camera, when at speed and rushing headlong into waves, was held aloft with my right hand and the strap was often wrapped around my left!

Some of the time I did have some sunshine and from a good direction, but not all the while, but the shots have a different feel when taken closer and from a lower level than when ashore, and having a knowledgable pilot certainly helps.

I hope I might get another chance, but only if I have my waterproofs on! It was a thoroughly enjoyable time, and I do now have good idea of how the Sigma performs, which was the point of the visit, but I also know that the 24-70mm f/4 is very competent for close-quarters work, but I did often hanker for my trust 24-105mm for the extra length when out out on the water.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

DigiCluster at Watford Town Hall

Peter Carr and I went from Harpenden to Watford for the evening networking gathering at a new venue, Watford Town Hall, and fortunately the car Park we have used on previous occasions was familiar territory, but the journey’s navigation was provided by Peter as he sat beside me with a GPS app on his new iPhone. Peter seems determined to test my knowledge of the car’s width by choosing a route involving the narrowest of restrictive traffic-calming roads, and I invariably gently nudge the kerb as I pass through –  perhaps he considers this to be the price to pay for doing the navigating for me!

Despite early crowded roads as we left Harpenden, we made fairly reasonable time and were certainly not the latest of arrivals. As we left the car park we met a fellow delegate, who had already done a complete circuit of the building searching for the correct entry, and the door we selected for entry proved to be correct so we all entered and signed in! Obviously yet another navigation test; and we passed.

We were treated to cups of tea or coffee before entry to the hall where we were welcomed by Manny Lewis. From there Syd Nadeem took over to introduce our speakers with a brief synopsis from their LinkedIn Profiles, which later was to gives all a laugh when introducing Howard Hughes with a brief History of his namesake, but the profile was from way before Linked In was even dreamed of! It did mean Chris Farthing was let off lightly, but later in conversation he did own up to a girlfriend named Penny!

The discourses from the Speakers was concerning the recent free WiFi link to Watford Town Centre, and Introduction to G-Cloud, the Internet of Things and the means whereby data could be streamed vast distances very much faster from embedded sensors that had long lives due to much lower consumption or even from being solar-powered. There was also a short Q&A session and some short videos to get the messages across, We were also introduced to much improved methods of procurement with much shorter lead times and fewer restrictions and were invited to consider taking a look at the new means of tendering that was now available.

At the end of this session, we were once again treated to a selection of Pizzas and a range of drinks as we then spoke to the speakers and amongst our fellow colleagues. I hope that the pictures I took give a taste of the evening, though the blog does not proved smells and flavours. I did make an observation, I learned that Josh Bolland’s listening stance is a precursor to launching both his body arms and hands when he is ready to launch int animated speech, so for your added delectation, I give you this ‘tell’:
When you see this stance you know he is listening, and is tightly coiled ready to launch into an answer…

Unscheduled Visit to Stockwood Discovery Centre

On Monday night a crown fell out, so Tuesday I managed to get an appointment to have it restored, this meant that the opportunity arose for me to pay a visit to the Gardens and Greenhouse at the Stockwood Discovery Centre. Since the sun was also out, it made the journey from Dunstable to Luton seem like a very good idea, so in case I was delayed and could not make it back to Marston Moretaine for a scheduled networking evening with Peter Carr as we were going to a DigiCluster event in Watford at the Town Hall in the evening, I made sure I had my ticket and camera ready for the eventuality.

I spotted the blossom on the trees which could be shot against a blue sky, I took those shots before seeking out Jan the gardener for anything new that was sprouting, as it turned out I found a number of subjects of interest before I needed to look for Jan, and in that short time, I was beginning to feel the warmth, so the greenhouse for the present was not a high priority. Most of what I found early on was close to the ground, so the groundsheet was pressed into service to allow me to kneel on the ground.

Jan quickly pointed out several flowers or shoots I should take a look at, and I set to. Later I also took a look in the greenhouse, but surprisingly there was less there than outside in the gardens, and I was there too late to consider travelling back and therefore made tracks for Harpenden and Peter Carr who was finding a 3D design of spoons was frustratingly not going to plan, but eventually it succumbed to Peter’s persistence and the stage he had hoped to reach quite a while beforehand was concluded.

I had not had a lunch and was grateful to accept his offer of toast and honey before we headed into the afternoon traffic and headed for Watford.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Brogborough a Warmer Day on the Lake

Warmer in the sun, but the biting wind soon drove it away, before dying down and causing the windsurfers to come in for a break. I had taken the opportunity before heading for the lake to take advantage of the wind to take to the lawn by the side of the house and cut the grass further back than I had managed earlier in the week when it had been the highest since the end of last year.

When I arrived at the club car park, I took stock of the wind direction and having put the camera together headed back out of the entrance and into the field beyond the brook and found a spot where I would be able to take shots with the sun on my subjects as they came towards me to gybe – it was at a point where I could set the tripod a bit lower down the bank and stand with some support from the bank behind me. Although there were times that I had the lighting helpful where they actually turned I was often looking straight into the sun, which did put the sailors in silhouette!

I did lose some time because unbeknown to me my spirit level had come adrift from the levelling head and dropped into the long grass at some time in the journey from the car park, so after setting up the tripod safely, I then retraced my steps to search it out, from where I last knew it was still attached. I then made my way back to the camera looking to right and left and finally just fifteen yards from where the camera was I finally found it and re-attached  it to begin shooting. I was very relieved, but knew I had to find a way to ensure this never happened again.

Once again I tried to take sequences of the gybes, and was also lucky to capture a few jumps from some of the number, and I have separated one sequence performed by one of the younger members of what I described as ‘bunny hops’ – I believe performed specially for my benefit, I have created a separate gallery of that sequence, so once again there are two galleries from this blog entry.

Since I had been lulled into setting out in the warmth of some sun, when that disappeared and the windsurfers with it, I headed back to the car park, and packed up as I only had the early afternoon to shoot as I had fellow photographer Adam Woolfitt coming over as we were both going to the NEC, Birmingham for The Photography Show early on the Monday with yet another photographer, Andy Fox. The galleries and the write-up are therefore somewhat delayed. The trip to the show was very worthwhile for all three of us, in particular for me as I discussed the spirit level issue with the designer of the product!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Marsworth Afternoon Birds

It was warmer, and here at Marston Moretaine the sun came out briefly, so I thought it might also do so at Marsworth, and despite the lack of leaf cover, I might just get a chance to capture a shot or two of a kingfisher, however, though I did see the sun occasionally and on three occasions I did spot kingfishers in horizontal flight, but I suspect I was too visible and they passed me by or went behind the shrubs on the opposite shore.

As I walked between Startops End and Marsworth lake, bumble bees and midges were in abundance, and then as I came towards the Grand Union Canal I spotted a pair of courting swans – but, fleetingly! There were a small number of anglers but being a Monday only a handful of dog-walkers and one other photographer. As I settled to shooting in the hope of spotting a stationary kingfisher, I was visited by a Grebe, who came reasonably close and every half minute or less he would dive, but although I attempted to catch it as it dived, I was always too slow, but I did discover its ‘tell’ – it would fold its crest flat just a moment before diving, but knowing this I was still too slow! But maybe another time.

I caught sight of a Chaffinch and was lucky enough to get a single shot uncluttered by twigs, and a pair of Coots in a noisy chase, and later the Grebe achieved success and well within my field of vision, and I have created a gallery entirely to cover the event; I was pleased for it and felt equally rewarded by being able to record it.
So, on this occasion there is not one, but two Galleries.

Click Here for the Grebe's Success Gallery

Monday, 13 March 2017

Beancroft Road Floral Bonanza

Spring has definitely arrived in Marston Moretaine and as I walked to the Co-op to collect a roll for my lunch, I asked of two residents whether I might capture the splendour, and met with a favourable response from a man in one and a lady in the other, both were happy to oblige me, and so I returned for the camera, forsaking my lunch for the half-hour so I could do the shots justice before the sun moved, (or disappeared knowing my luck!).

I chose to take the 5D MkIII and the 24-70mm with macro lens and the 200mm f/4; this lens to ensure that with the longer shots I could obtain a soft background, and possibly capture some of the blooms on the trees by the bus stop, before they died. This was where last year I got some good shots of the Starlings and Sparrows, with an even longer telephoto – the Tamron 150-600mm, a whole month later than these shots on similar blossom! I used both the standard range and the macro facility for today’s shots when using the 24-70mm.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Two Intrepid Aberdonian Bikers Head for France

I have known Gordon Burgess (sorry Professor Gordon Burgess!) for many years and I learned from him that his son, Nick was planning to go for The Grand Tour of Europe with friend and fellow biker Chris Lamont. I therefore suggested that he mention to them that they would be most welcome to spend the night at Marston Moretaine before heading for Dover the following day to catch the Ferry – the offer was accepted and they arrived in the dark and I got them to put their bikes in my garden as it is high-walled and would mean they were secure from prying mischievous eyes. They were far later than planned as they had not anticipated that much of their motorway route is down to 50mph in the Midlands and Southern Counties due to almost incessant roadworks.

I made them coffees and we sat and chatted into the early hours after I had cooked a couple of pizzas, and in the morning they took up my offer to shower with relish, and I prepared further cups of coffee and porridge for Chris, and just Frosted Flakes for cereal for Nick.

For the delectation of my younger daughter and her husband, past bikers themselves, I got Nick to write down the details of their machines, and in so doing learned Chris had been riding for short of a year whereas Nick had four and a half years’ experience – Chris’ ride was a 2016 Yamaha MT07 Tracer, and Nick’s was a 2011 Kawasaki ER6F (CBF650).

They could not be described as travelling light and certainly seemed well-equipped for the rigours they will face over the next few months, and I wish them every success, Nick seemed interested in my suggestion that he try to put together a blog so that others can follow their progress, and dare I say it? – their adventure! They very generously left me with a bottle of wine a packet of After Eights and some White Chocolate Magnums – Gratefully received and most appreciated.

Perhaps the gallery of images of them packing gear onto their bikes will serve to whet the appetite of any followers they attract as they set off on their journey – Bon Voyage!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Marston Moretaine Crocuses and Daffodils

Tuesday heralded the arrival of sunshine and walking to post a letter I caught sight of crocuses and a couple of daffodils on the triangle of grass by the flower box, and so on my return I grabbed a camera and two lenses to take shots to add to my collection of images for use as greetings cards, where often I create space within the composition to carry the relevant message – seasonally relevant images are always handy, and those composed with space for text is always useful, and this group was no exception, some also lend themselves to squares where any message is carried above or below. The challenge was to keep low and close-up, so lying down was essential since it had rained the night before, and I used two lenses: the 300mm prime and the 24-70mm both with and without using its macro facility.

They were taken before the visit to Peter Carr, but those took precedence purely because in bringing them into Lightroom meant they could be dealt with straightway, and I could return to these later, which is what I have now done. If it helps others with ideas then the gallery will have served a purpose.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Harpenden Visit for Engineering Technical Help

I needed some technical help from Peter Carr, a Product Designer in Harpenden as I was trying to ascertain why my levelling head was not going fully into the base of my gimbal head; I was unsure whether it was down to the levelling head or the gimbal and I knew he had a micrometer so could get to the bottom of which item was the issue – the conclusion we drew was the gimbal head base was domed internally, so the flat end of the male thread was stopping the pair from closing fully. I had come across the problem on Doris Day at Brogborough when the pair were loosening whilst I was shooting. On my next visit to the Lake I solved the problem by cutting myself a cardboard washer, now I knew the reason.

Peter needed to walk his dog, so we both went out and chatted as we took a circular route from his place around the Park at Batford Springs and back. Not unnaturally, I took my camera and just the 24mm f/1.4 with macro, which allowed me to take a few shots and create a single-page gallery, and also explain how useful this recent purchase had been in hopefully resolving which of my two dedicated macro lenses I put up for sale to help in the purchase of the Sigma 150-600mm lens I was considering buying. I think I will be parting with the Tamron 90mm MkII, so should any reader of this blog be interested, do not hesitate to contact me, it is mint condition, but since I have the Canon 100mm and this 24-70mm with macro facility it is an extravagance to keep all of them!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Sunny Saturday at Brogborough Lake

After the serious ‘Doris Day’ wind, a light breeze and sunshine brought out more windsurfers onto the water, but it also meant I would not be capturing any jumping as this was a day for the larger sails, it also meant that I tried to record sequences of shots and they were longer which meant that within the gallery, they would often be across a page boundary.

I also took many more shots than appear in the final gallery, which is why it has taken longer for them to arrive on the Web, but I hope those featured feel it was worth the wait.

During the time I was at the water’s edge a pair of Canada Geese decided there was too much activity for their liking so they took to the air, and I was lucky to capture them with a windsurfer beyond which was pleasing. I also spotted some beautiful clouds, so I made that the first image rather than let it be lost in the true timeframe several pages in.

It may have been sunny but standing by the tripod and not moving much meant I was well covered in layers as the wind still had quite a chill, however those with large sails worked so hard they were very much warmer!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

A Very Brief Visit to Stockwood

Returning from Marsworth, I needed to warm up and I was close enough to Luton to consider going there via Caddington, so that was the route I took and came across a recent accident on the distinct right hander before the village; the Police and Ambulance were on the scene. My only thought was it was a bend that demanded respect and the offside of the car going in the same direction as myself was damaged badly, so may well have been wide rather than tight to the kerb…

In the village I parked up close to my last home to check on progress and after more than a year, I could see that  it must be close to completion and is now considerably larger than when I last lived there! I picked up some food from the Co-op and headed for the Discovery Centre Gardens, to visit one of the gardeners, but despite my last visit being only a few days, I armed myself with the camera in case. There were far fewer visitors now that the School Half-term Break was over and the weather was deteriorating, and after my meeting I took a few moments taking close-ups of the evidence of new life heralding Spring 2017. Just as I was leaving the Greenhouse, what I can only presume was a Robin shot towards me and disappeared to the far end in a blur as it passed; I was too slow to see where it went despite a quick look around out of piqued curiosity, but it did give me a wry chuckle as I locked up  and headed home in a slight drizzle that became sleet by the time I was back on the M1 northbound.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Early Start at Marsworth – Brrrr!

The forecast tempted me by suggesting there was a good chance of sunshine, so I togged up with layers of clothing to ensure that I could withstand an early start and be down long enough to get a chance of getting a shot of a kingfisher at Marsworth, despite the lack of leaf cover. Not only did I take the long lens (150-600mm), but I also took along the recent acquisition the 24-70mm with macro feature, and since the first two and a half hours a kingfisher only gave me high speed flypasts, some of which he ended by diving behind the few bushes that have leaf cover, then often as long as ten minutes would pass before he emerged and continued in the direction he was initially headed!

As forecast the sun arose and for a period it kept the light levels reasonable, then clouds would intermittently pass in front so I was kept busy pushing up the ISO speed, then trying to remember to bring it back down as they cleared. When the kingfisher arrived he stationed himself on a branch that was just out of sight from the camera on the tripod, so I had to hastily up the shutter speed and release the camera, and shoot handheld, and my hands are never steady in that situation, with the added problem I was shooting almost directly into the sun, so he was largely in silhouette, but he stuck around and was successful, and dived a further two times after devouring the somewhat slimy fish – I am not sure whether it was its innards or something from the water, but the bird was still trying to clear the slime after down the fish itself!

I kept myself energised as best as possible by photographing some of the other birds that came into view, (Mallard Duck and Drake, Robin, Wren, Moorhen and Coot, either with the long lens or the short, on the 5D MkIII. When I finally set off I met up with another photographer clad in all the proper camouflage gear and we had a short chat before I headed back to the car. I took the opportunity to drop by the Stockwood Discovery Centre Gardens on the return trip, calling in at Caddington to see progress on my old home, buy a roll for my lunch and some veg for a casserole later in the week.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Doris Blows in at Brogborough

Waking to warnings of high winds, meant that after a long wait for winds of sufficient strength to encourage Windsurfers to make or find the time to leave work on a Thursday, at last that day was here. I phoned Sam to check whether he had heard from any sailors, and learned three were scheduled — that was promising! I checked when they might arrive and gathered early afternoon, so I let him know I might see him later — that was hardly the full truth, I had made up my mind to definitely make it!

I then assembled the camera and lenses I planned to take along, but put the 70-200mm on the 5D MkIII and the 150-600mm was already on the 7D MkII, taking along a 300mm and a couple of other primes to cover the distances that I might need to cover, but as it turned out my first choice proved to be those I used — the 7D on the Gitzo tripod, and the 5D MkIII slung around my neck, for handheld closer shots.

The wind at home was fairly blustery, and fairly strong, but later on the road to Brogborough Lake it was considerably stronger, I presume to it being less built-up than within Marston Moretaine. When I met up with Sam, he reckoned it was the worst he had ever seen it, and he was not exaggerating! I drove over and on arrival opened the boot to assemble the tripod and gimbal head, and Doris blew the boot lid down on me!

I spotted Sam and he told me three were getting knitted up and one was already on the water, so picked up the gear and headed towards the bank, but since the wind was directly on the shore and the larger breakers were sending the slime inland, I put the tripod down a fair way back! It was not long before there were generally at least two out on the lake, and for a change I operated on the basis of shooting as often as I could because with the best will in the world shooting was very hit and miss, because I had to keep one shoulder against the tripod as the wind threatened to blow it over. Also, I had to keep resetting the levelling head as one or more tripod legs dug into the muddy, water- sodden ground — it certainly was not easy keeping the surfers in shot.

Every now and then a squall would come up, and I had to break off to keep my kit safe, but as one passed, I'd be back out and shooting again, also,if my subjects came in close, I would forego the camera on the tripod and shoot handheld, which as I find it hard to accurately synch the two bodies some of the true chronology is awry. I did get a few jumps and sequences, and was reasonably satisfied with what I did capture, but at least half of what I shot was binned, but I am really glad I made the effort, so I hope they give those who had braved the weather some pleasure.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Stockwood Discovery – the Gardens and Wildlife Exhibition

One of the first semi-professional Digital camera bodies I bought was the Canon EOS 10D, and at around the same time I bought the 70-300mm Macro for it and now it has been lying dormant in a rawer for some time, only coming out when my daughters' children and I go out with a specific intention to spend the time taking photos.

As a result of finding one of the gardeners at the Stockwood Discovery Centre has been inspired by seeing some of the shots of flowers she has tended, she recently expressed her desire to buy a digital camera for herself and take up the hobby. Since she has generously allowed me unprecedented access to the greenhouse over the last few years, when I learned of her intention I let her know that I would let her have the camera body, memory cards, battery and charger, but that she would need to buy a suitable lens herself.

Today I fulfilled that promise, then took a further wander around the Discovery Centre and learning from her that the British Wildlife Photography Winners' Exhibition was on, I also took a quick look at the images taken by numerous very talented photographers that were on show. Two stood out for me, one incredible shot of a dragonfly emerging from its pupa, the other a simply wonderful underwater shot of a Mallard Duck taking a look beneath the surface at a fish swimming by. I reckoned the standard and variety was even better than last year's submissions.

All the shots I took this morning were using the 24-70mm with Macro facility, and it only let me down very slightly when using it at full aperture at 24mm in the exhibition area; the minimal barrel distortion was corrected in Lightroom when in Develop mode and was a mere +5% which means it would be a few seconds work creating a correction preset for when working on architectural images, which was not really what made me purchase this lens, it was for flowers and leaves where such distortion would never present a problem.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Marsworth – Early Signs of Spring

The first bright day for a while, and fairly warm with it, after three dismally grey days.

I knew I had left it rather late if I thought I might get a chance to take some shots of kingfishers, another photographer whom I had met before had taken some shots before my arrival, but though he stayed a further hour or so, neither of us had any further luck – I did twice see one fly by, so instead I thought I’d try getting a friendly robin to take seeds from my hand. He made three tentative flights toward my hand, but spun away at the last minute; on the fourth he did land, but just as swiftly spun round and again headed back to the nearby branch!

The Mink that lives in the hollow of a nearby tree trunk leapt noisily from the water  early on, and headed home on the surface, then disappeared from view, and a very skittish Grey Squirrel tore along the half-submerged tree trunk and disappeared up a tree to my left. A Wren paid me a fleeting visit and twice a Magpie came for a short spell.

Surprisingly for long periods there was no birdsong at all, just the gentle swishing of the trees interspersed with the noisy flapping of Wood Pigeons, I caught a few glimpses of a Bluetit, but he gave me no chance to get a shot.

I tried in vain to get the Mallard drake to take seeds from my hand, but he did not trust me at all, though if I dropped any seeds, he would dart closer just to grab it, muttering all the while. I left soon after and the couple came up to where I had been sitting and feasted on the seeds I had put down for the Robin. As I returned to my car a shot of a lady and her dog presented themselves in silhouette against the setting sun, as did a different Robin as I walked along the path between Startops and Marsworth lakes.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Wilstone Grey Day – Mainly Ducks

Not the most exciting of times, early February, but it was to be dry in the main, so I gave it a try and drove down to Wilstone Reservoir,parking by the Cemetery Garden but I had no idea that the water level would be fairly high, meaning little chance of seeing waders across the water in front of the reeds at the near end. By the time I had reached this point toting the heaviest of my tripods it was too far to go back and change to a carbon fibre one.

It was a mistake that made travelling slow and I shall feel the effect on my back tomorrow for sure, but after taking a few shots of a heron amongst the reeds on the far shore, I decided I would make my way to the Hide (at the farthest point from where I started!) I did spot a young Grebe that was diving moderately close in shore, so stayed awhile to lessen the burden of the heavy tripod, before continuing.

I was alone in the Hide, and the least interesting birds, the Coots, were the closest visitors and the Lapwings the most distant, but eventually a few teal came moderately close as did some Wigeon, so it was considerable effort for little reward, so eventually having rested, I took the tripod and camera for the return trip, returning via the field path which was less muddy.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Forest Centre – Afternoon Sunshine

Trying to restore a damaged operating system involves long periods of waiting, and watching a mostly automated operation, and lacks any appeal, especially when the sun has made its first appearance for a while – today was such a day and the temptation to do something more meaningful was way too enticing, so I grabbed cameras and lenses and headed out to the nearby Forest Centre to see what wildlife was around. I had not brought boots, which proved a severe limitation as it was very obviously muddy which limited where I could go. There was birdsong aplenty, and none of it exotic, and despite my generously spreading birdseed in several attractive spots from a photographic standpoint, no birds seemed in any way interested, perhaps as worms were close enough to the surface and easy pickings.

After a walk that took me close to the turbine along navigable paths, I returned and made my way to the walkway through the reeds, checking along the way on whether my seeds had proved tempting, but they seemed intact. Perhaps out more in the open might prove more enticing, but there even the berries were still in reasonable abundance, so perhaps this outside larder here was well-stocked! I returned past the birdfeeder and spotted that a grey squirrel was out beneath it picking up the seeds dropped from the hanging baskets above by some of the visiting bluetits, so I took a few shots of it and them, though the area was largely in shade.

Whilst in that area, the clouds created a circular shape as if the thumb and forefinger of a hand were describing a circle, which I found was interesting, and later as I returned towards the car a robin was singing its heart out and being answered from across the walkway, which I found touching; I left him some seeds in the angle of a branch to say ‘thank you’ and wished him luck.

I returned to the more mundane task of continuing with trying to restore one of my computers.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

First 2017 Visit to Stockwood Gardens

Having recently acquired a new lens, the 24-70mm with Macro, I needed to give it a good test, and photographing flowers in the Gardens and Greenhouse at the Stockwood Discovery Centre was the ideal opportunity to see how effective this one lens would be in a real situation. Unfortunately the current spell of English weather was less than ideal – for most of the time it was drizzling gently with spells of slightly more continuos rain. There was also a sporadic wind which meant composing a shot was often fraught.

Also, sadly for several weeks one of the leading gardeners, Jan was off having damaged her hip whilst moving a large compost sack, and this was to be her first day back, and it was my last chance this week to get down to the gardens. Naturally at this time of year there is not exactly a profusion of pristine leaves and flowers, but I have never been completely bereft of subjects on even the briefest of visits, so I did do a good deal of walking.

I came across Jan whilst she was being brought up to speed with what were to be her priorities going forward, and I just said a brief ‘hello’ and asked whether it might be possible to take a look in the greenhouse, and she replied that would be later, and her briefing continued as I turned once more onto my tour, I did take a detour into the Fernery for a spell when the rain got heavier, which allowed me to dry my camera and take shelter for a spell.

Altogether using the lens proved very successful and despite the low light levels and my need sometimes to up the ISO to 3200˚, the 5D MkIII was able to handle that with comparative ease with just a minimum of noise. Later Jan’s briefing tour was over and we walked the length of the greenhouse as she took in what was needed and pointed out a few flowers she thought might be of interest, by which time she was off till the following day leaving me to lock up when I had finished.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Serene Afternoon for Marsworth Wildlife

I had cleared the decks and had the chance to be out in crisp winter sunshine, sadly not quite as attractive as the day before which had magical mist lying at low level, but you cannot always be so lucky – it was already after noon, but I headed south for Tring reservoirs for the first time this year partly to meet up with Tringford's Water Bailiff and partly to satisfy my want glands for some photography.

Bob would would be down later as he was in Aylesbury for a while yet. I was parked along the wide paved area close to the path dividing Startops End from Marsworth Lake, and decided to travel light with the 150-600mm on a monopod, even though this made for a less than steady means of support, it did allow me more freedom, and I soon spotted a group of three swans, of which two showed early signs of amorous interest, there was tentative interest in mimicking each other's actions, and the lighting was good from my vantage point along the path; perhaps the third member of the trio was looking for hints as to how to proceed?

I stayed awhile here to see what I could capture and this did mean that a couple stopped to chat and watch alongside, and a single birdwatcher fixed his scope on the reed banks beyond and behind me in the hope of spotting a Bittern. The reeds were way too distant for my 600mm and a mere monopod.

Later I turned right and wandered along towards the lock and the small grassy area with a bird feeder slung from a tree above memorial flowers, to see a few bluetits and a robin. Later I spotted a brief glimpse of a grey squirrel and of greater interest a lone kingfisher, before returning to meet Bob and another angler at Tringford where we discussed Bob's fears for Silverstone Race track, and I headed back before sundown.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

New Year Concert – Eaton Bray

The Aylesbury Concert Band returned to a popular venue for this concert, and a pleasant afternoon concert was indeed why it proves popular for both the Aylesbury Concert band and the audience at St. Mary the Virgin, Eaton Bray; it was nearing full capacity by the time I arrived, and I was more than half an hour early!

The main reason I was able to get a good seat was because the front row was almost on top of the players! Because I was so close there was little call for a lens longer than 200mm, so the 70-200mm was on the 7D MkII and the 35mm f/1.4 was on the 5D MkIII. I did originally have the 100-400mm on the 7D MkII, but two shots with that was enough to tell me to take it off. Another really excellent feature of this church was the lighting, which was excellent. The only drawback was that being on the same level as the band meant a number of the musicians were obscured by the music stands. I did ask whether it might be possible at a future event that I might be allowed to shoot from the Organ Loft and was delighted that it would indeed be possible. Now if only I was in possession of a cloak of invisibility such that I could also operate from ground level as well!

The choice of pieces was very much to my liking with a number of rhythmic foot tappers, such as the arrangement for Bach’s Toccata and Fugue, as well as the beautiful and melodious, Romance from the Gadfly with a solo by Erica. One of the highlights of the evening was the irrepressible Rupert Johnston who played the Rondo from Mozart’s Horn Concerto No2 in Eb – for those who do not know Rupert’s story, I suggest you acquaint yourself, because he is remarkable, and inspirational. This is one of the reasons I chose the picture of him playing his solo piece with Conductor Rob Wicks to head this piece. (It is both very sad and yet heartwarming, Google his name to learn more.)

I had learned from my daughter that they had been rehearsing Radetzky’s March, but it was not on the programme – I learned why, when the concert concluded and the audience were told they were to be featuring as the Grand Finale. No one was disappointed!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Biddenham Anniversary Trail – An Investigative Visit

Even though it was a dull day, I thought it worthwhile taking a look at the Lottery Funded Anniversary Trail at Biddenham to see what possibilities of wildlife photography might exist there. I entered the trail opposite the Golf Club.

I took a stroll to the left when I had entered, going clockwise for a short distance before deciding it was a tad more promising in the opposing direction, and I followed the main track with excursions down to the riverbank every so often, but the only birds I came across at first were magpies, perched on posts on the right, and long before I got near they took flight to the high trees on the farther shore. 

I met dog strollers along the way and there were three anglers two of whom I did engage in brief conversation to ascertain what had been sighted in terms of wildlife and learned little beyond that it was not visited by many kingfishers, the most promising information was a sighting of an owl, in daylight; from a lady with two dogs she was training, one of whom spent a deal of the time running sideways – a trait she was trying to eradicate, though meeting with little success to date! The angler I did not chat to I did take a shot of as he was exceedingly well-camouflaged!

At one stage I thought I spotted either a butterfly or moth which came as something of a shock as the weather had hardly been conducive to their survival, but before I had a chance to get close enough to see exactly what I had seen it had disappeared. I stayed awhile to see whether I might catch a further glimpse, but without any success. I thought I spotted a distant swan slowly approaching, but as it drew closer it turned out it was a part-submerged, upturned plastic boat! 

Only after a trip to beyond the Mill bridge and back again did a milky sunlight break through the cloud cover, and it was at this stage that I spotted a fox a considerable distance away, since I only had my 300mm lens with me, it was wandering stealthily across the field and I tried to anticipate where it might come closer and walked in the general direction, but when I got a clear view of the field again the fox was nowhere to be seen. For this reason and the lack of colour in the few shots I did take, I converted them to black and white for the gallery.