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…



Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Creating the Final 'SOLUTIONS photographic' Christmas Card

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

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

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Aylesbury Concert Band at Fairford Leys

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

Monday, 4 December 2017

Aylesbury Mayor’s Carol Concert

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

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Steppingley Reservoir Red Kite Visit

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

Monday, 27 November 2017

A British L Bracket - Arca Swiss Compatible

On this occasion, there is no gallery of images, just the few here and the story behind them below.

I spotted a new and extremely useful bracket built for the Arca Swiss Quick Release mechanism featured on many professional tripod heads. It is designed specifically to allow those users who need to set up the level of their tripod just the once, yet swap swiftly between portrait and landscape orientation, it is sturdy and well-made, and it is made by SRB-Griturn in Britain.
It comes in three sizes, and the one I bought which is suited to the Canon 7D MkII and 5D MkIII is the largest of the trio. All are priced very competitively and I was able to visit the small showroom at their factory near Dunstable and check out which size I would need, and they also have an online presence as well as a printed catalogue which covers a very broad range of photography-related items.
I checked that it could be swapped from either side dependent upon which access was the most suitable, which is in fact with the upright on the left where the various accessories are likely to be fitted. Considering that the Arca Swill rail is primarily aimed at professionals this is very good value in this market and will be very appealing to wedding shooters and those shooting for the housing market sector.

I have no connection with the company beyond having dealt with them over several years and always found them to offer a wide range of kit at competitive rates, and they’re British!

Briefest of Visits to Brogborough Lake

It was sunny and Windy, so for the few, in this case by the time I arrived just two windsurfers were on the lake – Richard McKeating and Sam Barnes. Richard was practising his turns and Sam was checking out his choice of sails with his hydrofoil board.
I have no idea how long either had been out before my arrival, but the bitter wind was definitely keeping others from coming to the lake, and I could have captured a few more shots had I not delayed in setting up, so the paucity of images is purely down to my tardiness, so there is not much to see, and Richard had obviously decided that I was unlikely to visit so he brought his GoPro and wand to capture his workout on the water. I was not able to get much of Sam flying high, but I suspect that the wind speed was too high for the sail size as he came in for a smaller one soon, and both men decided that the cold was taking the pleasure out of the activity, so I spent more time setting up and  taking down than shooting, so the only other practice I got, was on checking out some black-out material I had scrounged off Steve White at Calvert’s Studio for when I might need it to take some movies at a later date.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Stockwood Autumn Richness

A few days ago I felt the chill of the coming season, but today, after a warm wind yesterday, the the wind had died but the warmth remained. From the abundance of berries, I had presumed that for a change, we might actually be in for a ‘proper’ Winter; with frost and snow, but then all change, and it is warm again!
I had several visits I needed to make in and near Harpenden, complete the payment of my plumber, buy an accessory for my camera and visit a colleague with a Mac issue. I was in Harpenden, and I had my camera onboard, so why not drop in at Stockwood Discovery Centre, since the light was so good; it was still early enough to miss the peak of the northbound M1 traffic, so I dashed in and grabbed a few shots of leaves and flowers in their autumn coats, bathed in the warm, low, slanting light of the rapidly setting sun. I actually found myself running on occasion to beat the sun, and get shots before it sank below either the trees or the walls of the garden!
I felt well-rewarded as I managed to capture sufficient images to create a two-page gallery, when adding a few shots outside the confines of the gardens. I hope they meet with approval, as I was pleased with what I managed to find.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Warm Sunny November Day

The Sigma 150-600mm Sports lens can have its firmware user updated, and since I have the USB Dock that makes the connection, I decided to download the Sigma Optimisation Pro software to check whether the lens firmware had an update. There was indeed an update, so I decided to see whether it had any effect.

I drove a short distance to Broad Mead which is close to the Chicheley Brook, and since this might have possibilities in the future for capturing images of wildlife, this seemed an opportunity to check out the lens, and the area. I spotted that there were two tracks one either side of the brook, I took a brief look at the right hand option that had a walkway with railings, presumably crossing over a stretch of the brook, but one it was lined with overhanging sting nettles and two, beyond that bridge, it looked very waterlogged! I returned and took the alternative path, and as I did so I met a man and young lady who may well have been an apprentice and since he spoke to me I asked whether there were wildlife opportunities hereabouts, but he told me he only visited to collect water samples, so was unable to help me.

This left hand path led to slightly higher ground and set-aside land around the field margin, it was far less muddy, and paralleled the alternative route with the brook separating each. There was a high pollarded hedge on this side, and the edge of the ploughed field had a very clean-cut edge suggesting it was very recent. I followed this path for some distance until there was a means of leaving the field to a narrow road beyond, and turning right spotted a small house with a kingfisher plaque beneath the gable, and since it would be really useful to find another possible site to see kingfishers, I knocked on the door, but no one was in, so I continued along the right of way through a gate and across a field which led to another gate on the far side, opening into parkland, and in the distance a large house with several greenhouses. I returned the way I had come and then took a look at the alternate route back, but I soon came to the flooded area I had seen from the other side, so retraced my steps to the car, and on this occasion met a lady who hailed me, so I stopped to chat in the hope she might know whether the kingfisher on the house meant this was a likely place to see them.

Ironically she had never ever seen one, though did tell me of a spot that her sister often saw them near Bradwell Abbey; so asking the question was far from fruitless. During our conversation there was a loud bang behind the lady, which turned out to be her husband closing a garage door, and he came over, and we continued chatting about the local birdlife – so I do think I shall be returning. I had taken a few shots up till then, and took a few more on the return leg, and the lens still functioned well, so maybe I will  be more adventurous and set up a few preset focus features going forward.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Aylesbury Concert Band St. Peter & St. Paul, Great Missenden

After a somewhat fraught journey to the Harvester in Fox Milne, which no doubt my son-in-law will no doubt delight in recounting whenever the opportunity occurs in the future, I finally arrived to collect my daughter and her baritone saxophone for us both to go to Great Missenden for her performance at St. Peter and St, Paul’s Church.
The church’s location is up a series of narrow lanes from the equally narrow High Street, and although the instruments can be offloaded by the church entrance the car park is quite some distance away back close to where we entered the village. I dropped Lizzy, Sax and my camera bag off, then drove back to park. However, (true to form as Tim would no doubt be reminding me later!) I learned I was not in the correct car park, as I realised on my return, and had to run and walk all the way back as I had not found a Pay machine to avoid an unwelcome surprise fine! As it so happened the car park was for visitors to the old people’s home, but fortuitously, the nurse was happy for me to stay as I had come for the concert.
By the time I returned to the church I was no longer cold, in fact quite the opposite! The rehearsal was underway, and Lizzy surreptitiously texted me to say there was a water I could drink, two rows back from where I was seated. It was very welcome, and catching her eye, I thanked her with a beaming smile! I then switched off the phone.
During the rehearsal I heard the solo Oboe piece which for me was the highlight of the evening. I learned it was its first performance and Alison was searching for someone to record it for her, luckily she was able to find someone who was able to do so during the concert proper. Later, I was hoping it might warrant a standing ovation, but despite my standing and trying to encourage the audience to follow suit, no one responded which disappointed me, since it was very deserving.

When the final encore subsided, I left my camera gear with Lizzy and headed back down the now, almost impenetrable darkness to the car park to collect the car, and return for Lizzy, the Sax and camera bag, take her back home, then head back to Marston Moretaine for me.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Silverstone - Race into the Night and Fireworks

 
Having done my best to avoid the M6 Toll once again, I found myself once again taking a circuitous route to head for Silverstone to meet up with my younger daughter and her two youngsters to enjoy some Formula Junior races and later, stunt drivers, before the main event the Fireworks Display.
I arrived at a layby on the A43 where I collected my ticket, in case I was going to have to pay extra for my car, as it turned out it did not matter and we travelled the last few miles together – parking alongside each other finally and then headed around the circuit where we had a good view of some of the races, when we moved again which gave us an excellent view of both the stunts and the Fireworks that followed. There were other families with young children and soon our two were following them and running around together; with minimum necessary guidance from the three adults.
Some of the racing we watched was very competitive, often with three cars abreast for  more than just a single corner, and on one occasion, this did not end happily with a loose wheel and tyre in its very own race along the tarmac before losing momentum and travelling towards a Marshal’s post. I have yet to sort through the images from the afternoon, so will complete this narrative once that task is complete. I spent some time experimenting with different settings to capture the essence of racing and stunts in the dark; so, many more failures than successes! The same was true of my capture of the fireworks – shots of this nature need a longish exposure to capture the trails, and as such are best taken with the camera on a tripod, but fortunately in the case of the fireworks there is an alternative after the event. Provided there is some space around any burst of a firework, the resultant images can be montaged back in a program such as Photoshop or Affinity Photo.
The stunts that were performed on the track after the presentations to the winners were performed under a clear full moon which rose from low on the horizon and became a part of some of my fireworks shot against the night sky.
This was a fitting end to the last couple of days in which I had driven from Bedford to Staffordshire and back down to Silverstone before returning home to Marston Moretaine. Subsequently I have spent several hours in front of a computer screen as I prepare and sort images for the galleries to go on the blog.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Staffordshire Visit, and a Country House

 
I tried my best to get to bed for an early start and part-load the car the night before, but there always seems a reason to be up into the early hours! I had printed out a list of Directions that I was hoping I would be able to follow, but the SatNav was of little help when it came to the M6 as there was collusion between the sign-posters and it to prioritise the Toll route which I had no desire to use. In order to not be trapped, I searched in vain for M6 only, but when the Toll appeared to be the only option, I tried to navigate blind by choosing places I thought might be on route, but was led a Merry Dance with no handy spots to park up safely to consult a map.
Since I was not driving fast the extra mileage was still cheaper, but I was not going to be blackmailed. And fortunately I still arrived before the appointed time at the Canal Cottages at Upper Haywood, and was greeted by mine host before he had abluted! I sat down to sip his proffered cup of tea, and get some of my overnight stuff from the car. Ben then offered me bacon and egg, and we began a longish conversation of catching up, since he had only just began to return to living in the cottage since his accident which had involved the breaking of both his legs from a simple fall in his kitchen.
Here was a man who had never visited a hospital, despite having served in war, worked on the railways, worked as a Warder in the Prison Service, been a coach driver and a Traffic Warden – all jobs with the opportunities for serious injury! He is still, at over eighty, an inveterate happy and optimistic man with a mischievous sense of humour; which was soon in full spate – he and I have never been able to be in each other’s company for more than five minutes without being fairly convulsed in hearty laughter. For this reason, I had to remind him that we had planned to visit some places he had told me would be of interest, and it might just be an idea to do this before nightfall!
I had three places listed on the back of an envelope from his last phone call, and we hit on a visit to a house steeped in the era of the Arts & Crafts era – Wightwick Manor. He had earlier mentioned it was pronounced very differently as ‘Whittuck’. I had no idea how far this was, and since I simply had to ask for “which way?” at every junction, I had no idea where it was exactly, and all this whilst both of us were chatting incessantly, which meant my only concern was road safety and Right or Left, or Which Exit to roundabouts?
There are two galleries, one really of Ben and the cottages, the other my trip around the House. After a night in his Campervan, it was an early start to meet with my daughter’s family at a Car & Fireworks Day at Silverstone, which is a gallery to come, later – much later!

Monday, 30 October 2017

An Abundance of Berries – Portent of Cold Snap?

In Marston Moretaine currently there is a strong showing of berries; red and gold, in the past this has been interpreted as a forecast of a cold Winter, so I wonder whether the bush telegraph is foretelling this as an outcome? Certainly as I took a late afternoon stroll to see whether the bridge over the old A421 might prove to be a good viewpoint to capture a future sunset, the birds were certainly very active and vocal, was their chatter all to do with their reading of the berries, and the possible onslaught of a harsh winter, and Nature’s response in offering the berries to fortify them in the time ahead?
As the sun broke through clouds then hid again, I captured the last of the leaves that still clung to the bushes as the majority now carpeted the ground, the berries provided foreground for the path that tunnelled beneath overhanging branches, and added colour to the black and rust, hooped railings of a bordering garden that shielded the trellis beyond.
As I returned with last of the sun’s rays only catching the very topmost branches, house sparrows flitted back and forth between adjacent bushes chattering incessantly amongst themselves and woodpigeons gently murmured but generally stayed hidden and stationary, geese overflew as did starlings and gulls, and the geese in the gardens of Moretaine Manor occasionally squawked in some local squabble by the water’s edge behind the hedge. I had hoped that as I was out and about with a camera I might be graced by a reasonable sunset, but that was not to be, but on hearing the chatter from the sparrows I had nipped to the nearby car and changed from the 24-70mm to the 100-400mm before there activity subsided for the evening, thus getting a few shots of them and a lone well-preened robin, which had he courtesy not to hide behind the tangle of hawthorn branches.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Brief Visit to Bogborough Lakeside Calm

Calm before the end of the beginning of Autumn; we are in that gap between the seasons, the temperature is still warm when the sun shines, but there is little wind to create a chill. Recent mornings have had heavy dews and the grass has lost the rusty patches of uneven mowing, and will be difficult to cut again effectively before the winds and coming seasonal rains. I cycled to the lake to drop off a print of Sam on his hydrofoil, and took a camera on the offchance there might be some late insects or leaves in autumn colours. I was lucky; I captured a single dragonfly before it beat a hasty retreat and twice found lone bees taking a last sip of nectar from some delicate clover flowers. There were a few fresh autumn daisies, some young hawthorn leaves amongst the dead and dying remnants from the passing season, punctuated with berries and rosehips and thorns.

I believe something I saw at one spot amongst the dew-laden grass was evidence of the webbing of the Small Ermine Moth presumably covering some of the larvae’s favoured food from predators and allowing them to gorge themselves in safety. The abundance of dew on blades of arcing grass bathed in sunlight is always pleasing to the eye as is the rich blue vista of sky with isolated small puffs of cloud above lightly rippled, equally blue expanses of the water glimpsed between the fading autumn colours of bankside bushes.

It was a brief interlude of peace before the onset of the winds and rain that precede our winter; I wonder whether this winter will be as mild as the last, or whether it will be harsher, as I appreciate at least a period of snow and frost as I believe it to be a definite health benefit, so if either do arrive may they be combined with some sun to create opportunities for my cameras, please!

The last image in the gallery, illustrates a saddening development in the Bedfordshire countryside, and it is not that Lego are expanding the size of their products, but that it has become necessary to fortify access to our fields from the incessant intrusions of despoilers of our green spaces by inconsiderate travellers, gaining access to farmers' fields and roadside spaces then wrecking them before moving on again to the next accessible and vulnerable location.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Jaguar Track Day — Castle Combe

John Sentinella, a friend from Caddington who owns a Classic Jaguar invited me to join him at a TrackDay at Castle Combe in Wiltshire. We had to be on the road well before dawn to sign on and attend the briefing. The roads were packed with traffic, and there was a slight drizzle, with many drivers often following others way too close, so it was not entirely surprising there was a coming-together — on this occasion not too serious, but all adding to the travel time.
We stopped off for a comfort break and a drink at the Chievely services, and managed to miss the correct exit, which meant a return trip to take the correct direction for Chippenham and ultimately Castle Combe! Fortunately by this time, the rain had stopped, and the sky was lightening, and we still managed to arrive in good,  time for the sign-on and briefing. Obtaining a helmet for my size was more of a problem, but I finally found one I could squeeze on! I put it down to having a good head of hair!
I had to take my camera gear from the car, because, there was no way it could be stowed firmly within the boot, but Helen who was manning the reception desk handily obliged by offering to stow them in her van, which made it easy to access for lens changes later.
Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful, and after John had had his trip with one of the instructors for a few laps he came in and I locked the camera back up and accompanied him as his passenger, later I was able t retrieve the camera, swap from the 24-70mm to the100-400mm to get shots of John and others circulating. It was during this phase that I got to chatting to a Nikon shooter, who very kindly got me a chance to go out as a passenger with a surprisingly tall driver in a very fast car that was very much a one-off — one of only twenty models of its kind, and the only one that was road-legal. This was Andy, and he and I duly hatted up, joined the queue, before hearing the lunch break being announced! But the result was fortuitous, as we were closer to the front of the twelve cars!
Being fairly recognisable toting a long lens meant that I was asked to take a shot of one young lady’s husband, so she came to the Pit entrance to act as ‘spotter’, so that was handy, and later, the Club’s head of publicity wanted some shot’ for their magazine, which is all grist to the mill.
The return trip was even longer than the outgoing, making it a very long day, but did not spoil what had been a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting time. Now to make a print of Jeremy Brennan in his car for his wife, as it is to be a present for him.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Brogborough Lake Sees Some Sun and Wind

Over the last few weeks a new feature has been seen within the Brogborough Windsurfing community — the introduction of a new feature — the Hydrofoil. Sam Barnes, who with his wife runs the Windsurfing Club on the Lake, took his delivery of one after a long, much delayed wait.
He has been gaining experience and understanding of the handling and is impressed with how it performs, especially in the mildest of winds; once up, he can stay aloft for the length of the lake, even if the wind drops, meaning less effort and thus more enjoyment. He sees this as a boost for the numbers attending over the year, since the time that can be spent on the lake sailing rather than waiting for stronger windy weather, essential with conventional windsurfing boards.
Not content with the delays involved in waiting for commercial hydrofoils to appear in the UK, one experienced windsurfer and confident engineer, trawled the Internet for ideas on the specifications necessary to build his own, and took the initiative to build his own, and on this last weekend brought his creation along, and despite much negativity from his peers actually lifted off from the surface. Yes, he found out that reading reports and experiences of others, does not negate the research experience of others’ long hours of trial and error, but though he has a long way to go before his device competes equally with the more established players in the field, André has produced a working model! I have photographs that prove this!
Sam feels that André will ultimately consider the purchase of a commercial product, I am less certain, I believe André’s passion and determination to succeed may well win through, and I really wish him success. Perhaps André may see something from my images that combined with what he feels when on the board allows him to understand just how his Hydrofoil is performing, or underperforming, I certainly hope so.  The gallery of images from the day also has some shots of other sailors’ sequences, and a glimpse of a buzzard that for a brief moment took an interest in those below, I wished s/he had come closer, so that I might have got some better shots, but was not too disappointed with those I managed at that distance.
I am sorry it has taken so long for this gallery to reach the blog, but it is down to my over-enthusiastic shutter-finger. I hope somebody finds it worth the wait.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Brogborough – André's Own Design Takes Off!

Now I do have some short sequences of André’s HomeBrew Hydrofoil and whilst I put together other shots taken on Sunday, here is just one occasion, in the hope that André or others might see what needs to happen next. I only spotted a few times when the board was level, which would seem to be the first issue to be tackled, and also in comparison to Sam Barnes on the commercial foil, the wake seemed to be more like the result of vortices where from Sam’s, it seemed more like simple frothing, but I am only making an observation, certainly not a comment based on any expertise at all in the matter!
I offer this single group to those who can glean something meaningful from the shots, whilst I gather a gallery together from the numerous other images I took from the day (and that could well be a while yet!)
Warning! They are not an exciting group of images, but they may offer clues as to what is happening at this stage and may point towards ways to improve how the hydrofoil performs. This group of shots just happened to be the longest sequence I captured; the truly level board shots were of very short duration.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Late Lake Arrival – Yet See Homemade Hydrofoil

By the time I reached Brogborough, the wind was dropping and most of the sailors had already left the water, but I first spotted Richard McKeating going out and recorded him practising various manouevres, but before I put any shots I took of these up I need to learn from Richard what is actually happening. In the meantime I learned of some interesting news about another windsurfer, André who has built his own hydrofoil, and he was also out on the lake, trying to understand its behaviour as it is very much still in the development stage, but despite some naysayers it does work, though needs further refinement.

I have no images of it in action, but during André’s chats with Richard and Sam afterwards I captured some shots of the device, and was most impressed with how much thought and effort has gone into its development and construction, and I listened intently to the discussions taking place around it. Hence this small gallery. I shall be watching this with interest in the coming months, and wish André every success in his endeavours.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Stockwood Discovery Centre, Garden Visit, and Exhibition

I have been searching for a photographer’s darkcloth, as a means of using the review screen on a dSLR in bright sunlight when trying to capture a movie of a windsurfer, since using the external monitor via HDMI does not react fast enough (perhaps I should rephrase that a bit – the monitor I have does not react fast enough!) For me to follow the action, I need a good handle on what I am looking at on the screen, so that I can pan accurately.
On this morning I visited the studios of Kevin Calvert where Steve White had kindly located a small piece of black cloth which would serve the purpose well, and he was happy to let me have it, hence as I was close enough to Luton, I detoured to Luton and the Stockwood Discovery gardens. Knowing this might be a possible chance to take a few end of season shots of autumn leaves and the odd few late flowers, I had the camera with me.
I was using the 5D MkIII and the 24-70mm with the macro facility and I took a few shots in the open garden areas, before spotting that the greenhouse was open, and checked it was not about to be locked, perhaps it was not the best idea, since while inside, the rain started. Undaunted, I tried to use the opportunity of capturing leaves and flowers with glistening droplets of water on them. In this at least, I was lucky that the rain dwindled to a light spotting rather than the downpour that had preceded; but I was still very wet and had to keep shielding the lens as I moved around.
I soon completed a meaningful number of shots and headed for the exit, where I learned that the Garden Photographers’ exhibition was on in the gallery,
so I took myself off in that direction, where with no visitors I grabbed a few shots of the display and then put the camera away to look at the images on show; my absolute favourite was the embracing poppies, followed by some wonderfully atmospheric landscapes, a beautifully lit man chopping pears, a humourous full-on portrait of a wild hamster. I may well visit again if time allows, but I can definitely recommend it, but as often before, was saddened that in the time I was there, there were no other visitors.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Marsworth – Low Water

I had not paid a visit to Marsworth in some time, and not visited or chatted to Tringford Lake’s Bailiff, so despite not knowing the likely weather conditions decided to put together a few provisions to eat and drink, making myself a flask of hot coffee, a Scotch Egg and some packets of crisps; the latter such that I had something to share with others should the need arise.
On arrival, I assembled the tripod, camera and lens, choosing the lightest combination for the tripod and head, in case the weather forced me to beat a hasty retreat, and the leaden skies certainly made that a very possible chance, but having left with only a minimal drizzle, I was still optimistic of a dull, but dry morning. Although there were signs of vehicles, after a brief visit to the landing stage, there was no anglers to be seen.
What was apparent was that the water levels of the lakes was very low; less than I had seen for sometime; the stream and pond at the entry to Marsworth Lake had obviously been dry for many days. At the far end of that lake the wind had caused considerable damage to trees and the scene that greeted me at my destination was almost unrecognisable due to  numerous large fallen branches; what had once been an expanse water, was now reduced to a barren riverbed, exposing lots of discarded plastic bottles and empty cans, evidence of careless humans amidst the natural weather damage, the habitat I had expected for wildlife was gone. I hope that the opportunity to clear the area of human detritus and much of the clutter of branches is taken soon, before the rains come making it much harder.

I felt that my chances of finding much to photograph were slim, and so it turned out – I only got a single, much obscured shot of a lone kingfisher, a foraging grey wagtail, and a fleeting grey squirrel, all in very low light levels. I came away with a really strong desire to somehow gather a group of us to spend a day having a massive clearout and hacking session to improve this particular stretch of bankside for the wildlife and our chances of photographing their return to this area with a better environment.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Brogborough – Windsurfing Hydrofoil

The wind has been up of late, and today the sun came along too — there was a chance that despite being a weekday, there could be windsurfing activity on the lake, even though last weekend had seen action on the South Coast. I rang Sam to enquire of the chances he might take to the water with his Hydrofoil board, and he reckoned that if a sailor were to come there was a possibility.
We agreed that he would let me know if one turned up. I got the call, but somewhat later, as my phone was charging downstairs, and I was upstairs, only coming down when I had finished some work. It was fortunate that I then spotted a missed call, so grabbed cameras and was off!
Someone was on their way, and Sam changed into his wetsuit, and I readied my gear, and it was not long before I was taking a few shots; I had hoped to do some movies with the idea of creating some animated GIFs from there, but with sun almost directly in my eyes, and no dark cloth or shield, that proved a non-starter, so I opted for stills using the 150-600mm Sigma. I had grown up using a Sinar and a dark cloth over my head, and had never before considered using one with dSLR, but today, it would have been invaluable!

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Buzzing Ivy by Moretaine Manor

I knew there was only a slim chance of windsurfing activity at Brogborough as there had been a big event over the weekend on the South Coast, so I put minimal camera gear onto my bike, so that the journey might at least serve as exercise, and any way I could check out signs of insect activity lakeside, then choose a different location thereafter. On arrival there was no action, so spotting that some of the windsurfing wetsuits had blown from the line, I did my bit and rehung them on the line to give them a chance to dry. Before cycling back, I cycled past the club area and headed to Lidlington, where a single pink rose swayed in the breeze with an ichneumon wasp resting on it, there were also a few what I took to be red wild roses, and a short distance away a tree laden with crab apples.

I took a few shots here, one of which was a giant concrete Lego Brick; an increasingly frequent sight in this neck of the woods due to the nefarious parking of itinerant travellers’ vehicles who seem to delight in wrecking any available green space that they can find before the authorities can muster the paperwork to evict them. I then returned to take a wander close by Moretaine Manor, which is now a hotel.

At the entrance is a large ivy bush, and it was alive to the silent activity of late pollinators, so my journey was undoubtedly not wasted. I put the Canon 7D and 100mm Macro to use capturing them and was there for a reasonable time before cycling back to create another gallery of images. The majority of the pollinators appeared to prefer the shade to the sunlit side of the bush, which meant having to operate at 1000 to 1600 ISO making it difficult to freeze them when in flight, and I am certain that if I were not there with a camera they’d have been in the warmth of the sunny side! I am convinced that all wildlife is fully aware of photographers’ kit, as when I take a long lens to a kingfisher spot, they perch close by me knowing that I cannot focus so close, or they sit on a branch at a reasonable distance from me, but shielded by a thicket of intervening branches and leaves.

But my trip did provide both exercise and some images, so it was an hour well-spent, and provided me with some card imagery as well as fresh air, now I need a piece of kit called Printer Potty ordered from the Internet to arrive so that I can put my printer back together, as it is taking up valuable space in the kitchen, stripped right back to its chassis! For anyone facing an overflowing ink reservoir on their printer, I cannot recommend the man selling this item, enough; he is absolutely charming, exceedingly helpful, and the product receives excellent reviews.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Marston Moretaine - Two Seasons?

It was as I took the path between the gardens to reach my Lock-Up, that I spotted a large spider weaving its Web across from one of the fences to the garage roof; He was bright enough (and considerate to even six-foot plus humans!) to weave it high enough to avoid any normal height humans from destroying his work. I noticed also fresh blossom of both blue and white flowers, more commonly to be expected around in Spring, and only a short walk further a wide expanse of hedge with the totally expected colours of red and gold. And there another equally large spider who literally as I watched left across a gap to start his; they seemed of the same species, and despite my referring to him as male, I have no clue as to the sex of either!
Not unnaturally, after having collected a tool from the lock-up, I broke off to grab my camera and record what I had seen, the afternoon was bright with feather-like clouds formed by the effect of crosswinds blowing across contrails between large Cumulus clouds, and although the sun was occasionally occluded by these clouds, overall the light was bright and really brought out the very definite reds of early autumn in the leaves in hedgerow, so I spent an enjoyable time capturing the work of the spiders, the white and blue blossom hanging over the back of one of the gardens seemed at odds with the season, both colours were mainly very fresh, and such a contrast to the red covering of the hedge.
It was amongst the blossom that I heard the buzzing of a bee, and when I spotted it alight of the white flowers, I caught sight of the most hirsute of bees, it was as if s/he was wearing a fur coat! Upon even closer inspection later in post-processing that at one of my chosen angles it looked to be wearing spectacles!

 Look closely at the picture that heads this piece

It was wonderful to be able to catch these shots at that very early autumn stage when in amongst the abundant red leaves were t be found young yellow and green fresh leaves to add extra depth to the range of colours, I hope those viewing the gallery will gain as much pleasure from the beauty I captured as I did witnessing them.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

The Chearsley Classic Car Show

There had been a possibility of a visit from the Battle of Britain Flight Lancaster, but on arrival and experienced the overcast skies and a forecast of rain, there seemed little chance, and so it proved, though a different option seemed to arise: that of a visit from the renowned DC3 aircraft, the Dakota, but that did not materialise either. The forecast rain did make an appearance though!
I went along with my younger daughter’s family and provided the transport and spotted the Fire Engine at the top of the field and hoped therefore to take another panorama, but I made a fatal error that meant that did not happen, but I did at least capture some of the atmosphere presented by the cars on show. I enjoyed the music from the tent and managed a few quick shots towards the end of the event, and took a few interesting details of the BMW hybrid i8 and spoke to its owner who lives a stone’s throw away. I also spotted the diminutive Corgi folding bike that derived from the military original, the Welbike (from the name of Welwyn; where they were developed for clandestine use during World War II) – I had seen one of these when a youngster in Putney, owned by a neighbour.
The rising speed of the wind put paid to the popular air-filled slide that the children enjoyed sliding down – the windspeed exceeded the safe limit for its deployment. Overall, the event was enjoyable and well attended, and the rain had not spoiled our enjoyment.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Goodwood Revival – Friday Visit

Martin Evening had received two tickets to the Goodwood Revival Meeting and I was joining him as his guest and doing the driving. The plan had been for me to drive to his home near Ashridge for five-forty-five, but rain-sodden roads, Friday morning traffic and my leaving slightly late meant I was later than planned. The trip down was uneventful and typical of a Friday morning, and as we travelled down the A3 nearer to our destination, it was obvious from the vehicle types in the traffic that many were heading for the same destination.

On arrival our first port of call was the Old Control Tower as Lord March’s guests, where we enjoyed a welcome cup of tea. Several of the staff there in the caravan and upstairs had been there last year, and some even remembered us; all were very welcoming. We had both been wearing hats as part of our costumes, but having taken them off when we entered and not been hat-wearers by nature, we both managed to leave without them! This only became apparent when it started to rain and we realised our slip-up.

We strolled among the throngs and by now we both had our cameras out, and Martin was keen to capture some of the exotic characters being portrayed as dancers, policemen, itinerant musicians, army, navy and airmen of British and American services. This year’s theme being Italian, meant Fiat 500s were in abundance, as were Italian beers and wines.
Martin tends to go for requesting his subjects to pose for him, whereas I prefer to be more discreet, as I feel it captures the subject’s imagination in acting their selected roles; so each to his own. I also have a greater affinity with the vehicles, having had thirty years as a motor racing marshal, so the challenge of capturing the cars on circuit was part of my aim. This meant we were not joined at the hip, and spent some of the time independently, then returning to the Control Tower for refreshments and chatting. On one of our return visits to the Old Control Tower, we met up with Lord March, who told us of a London exhibition of his work he was attending on Tuesday, and invited us to join him at the Private Viewing.

We had lunch downstairs later, and also took a walk to St. Mary’s corner, stopping off at various points to capture some of the cars in action, before taking a charabanc back to to main area. Whilst Martin took a wider walk around, I spent some time shooting cars at the Chicane, and was absolutely stunned by car 37 that looked like Al Capone’s and somewhat fragile, but deceived dramatically, as beyond all odds, it sped through the Chicane with seemingly no use of opposite lock - I am certain it was fastest in its category.

I met up with Simon Diffey after his session in car 22, but never found the other car he was driving in another class. Martin suggested we consider leaving before the end once I realised I was not going to be able to capture the second of Simon’s drives, and it proved to be fortuitous as just as we arrived back at the car, the heavens opened! The end of yet another splendid day at Goodwood despite the less than ideal weather.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Brogborough Sunday — Hydrofoil Windsurfer


I took a stab more in hope than expectation on Friday, but it was not to be! I had hoped to see Sam Barnes fly at Brogborough with the new Hydrofoil Windsurfer from Neil Pryde. On the Sunday morning just after nine o’clock I was in time to watch Sam take to the water. I still had a few more minutes wait before being rewarded by the success of much pumping and seeing the broad board lift from the shackles of the water and become airborne.
The somewhat fitful wind meant it seemed a poor return for the effort expended in its achievement, but I nevertheless was appreciative and happy that I had witnessed the event and eagerly awaited what I was sure to come. After a few more minimal leaps came a more sustained flight, which drew spontaneous applause from the small group of people gathered at the foreshore to witness this new innovation to the world of windsurfing in Britain.
I think I can say that we all shared with Sam in the exultation of seeing his success. As we continued to watch, and in the case of four of us with cameras to capture the growing confidence and expertise displayed by his pioneering spirit in impatiently waiting for this new device to arrive. Sam had waited quite a time for the Hydrofoil to arrive, and when it came the forecast was for a severe lack of wind frustratingly, but it did mean the elation today was really obvious and after a far longer flight, gave rise to a delighted whoop of joy heard from the centre of the lake!

I left the gathering before the end of play, and having packed up the car I spotted a refreshed Sam go out once again and almost immediately took to the air in one of the longest flights I had witnessed, courtesy of a stronger wind and Sam’s short rest for recuperation, but it was going to take some time to sort through the images I already had without burdening myself with yet more.