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…

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Station Road Front Garden Flowers

Marston Moretaine’s Station Road has many front gardens that are displaying a wide variety of floral colours and on a visit to the Co-op and Post Office, it was very noticeable how the bees were taking it easily in the heat, in particular, the bumble bees, they would often stretch out a limb to the next nearmost flower, and then simply stroll across rather than fly, thus expending far less energy and presumably keeping cooler, the lighter honeybees did this less often again this was possibly because conserving energy was less of an issue for these lighter-framed, lissom bees.
I decided that rather than stay indoors and consume litres of liquids to keep cool, well-hydrated to remain compos mentis, it would be better to grab the camera and try to capture these pollinators at work; little did I realise that the the strain of holding the camera steady and trying to follow these hard working fellows would in fact mean I would sweat profusely and find my eyes stinging and have to keep mopping my face to keep my specs clean, I persevered and captured some reasonable images that told these insects’ story and gave me a few more images for card ideas. At the time I had no idea that two of these images would be put to this purpose so soon – I returned home to learn from my ex-wife that a friend of ours had just been admitted to hospital to have a bowel tumour removed, so I created a card hoping that she might bee(image of!) soon well again. How dull life would be without some healthy paronomasia! – A game I frequently play with my younger daughter.
In a very short time I had the makings of yet another gallery of images for the blog and for future card ideas – on this occasion I was using the 5D MkIII and the 24-70mm lens with the handy macro facility, although the combination worked reasonably well, a better choice might just have been the dedicated 100mm macro due its wider aperture and continuous focussing range, where with the 24 to 70mm I was just on the cusp of needing to switch between 70mm and the macro range, it was a marginal difference between them on this occasion.
I then had to return to the furnace that is a house which is well-insulated and, without a murmur of wind made a passable thermos flask, in which to process the images into a gallery.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Brogborough Lake – Abundant Insects

It was seriously hot, and impossible to work inside without air conditioning, or even a fan, so in the afternoon I took myself off to Brogborough Lake, expressly to try to capture Dragonflies, in flight – it was not to be, despite numerous failed attempts as they were out in great numbers, and from my untutored observations, they were mainly seeking mating partners, and few seemed to bother to hover, speed and interaction seemed the order of the day – some would have repeat patterns of flight, but these loops would vary in height, so there was no easy way to synchronise my panning. I settled for spotting those that took a break from flying and settled on reeds or the foreshore.
Two men took to the water with paddles, one of those with a young son aboard for the trip. The water was generally still and very clear and in the narrow channels between discarded bricks and paving stones streams of small fish darted by first in one direction then turn about and back in the other, and despite not using a polariser I was able to capture this activity with comparative ease.
Damselflies also abound here, but I was less interested in them than their larger cousins, and there seemed to be two discrete sizes, the larger being slightly less in number. There were a few butterflies, but they rarely settled for more than half a second, and the few bees that were around also spent very brief spells on any one flower.
I initially used the 100mm Canon Macro on the 7D MkII, but soon swapped to the 300mm with 1.4 Converter, and both were well-suited for what I intended, but I think an earlier visit would prove more fruitful as with the afternoon heat these dragonflies had abundant energy to keep flying, rarely settling for longer than a few seconds. Just before leaving a small breeze came for a minute or so, and I just stopped and let it waft by as I stood with arms stretched to attempt to dry out. One of the nearby preening swans seemingly felt the selfsame urge; one or other had discarded a pristine feather which had two water droplets and was also moved by the small zephyr, so I took a couple of shots in case they might one day be used in a card.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Brogborough Lake – Wind, and Sun!

This combination was a Dream Come True! Wind for the Windsurfing Experts and for the up and coming hopefuls, and Sunshine for the most part to allow me the best chance to capture the skills of the participants. I was not disappointed; the action built slowly, but as the afternoon progressed, a few of their number began to take to the air rather than the water. I was waiting, and slowly I began to see hopeful signs that my wishes might well be granted. I would spot a few tentative jumps, and take note of the sail colours and patterns, and pan in hope that I might be lucky.

I am fully aware that  the demonstration of skills is not there just for my pleasure, but for their own personal training and development, and for those I try to capture them putting their moves together and understand what it is they are practising, I have learned to watch when say a gybe manoeuvre is about to begin, but more often than not this can happen far too close for me to be able to capture the full sail, which is a shame, because the drama is definitely there.

Fortunately my presence behind a camera on a tripod does act like a magnet for some, and I rarely let such moments pass without making avail of the opportunity, even if I am frustrated by a chopped off sail or board, and some such shots never see the light of day; it is all good panning practice. This day kept on giving, and a smile was becoming a permanent fixture on my face, whilst at the time I realised I was going to pay dearly for the coming days stuck in front of a computer, straightening the horizons, doing my best to tame the highlights and so preserve the bubbling foam created by the violent wrench exerted upon the water by the energy of the sailor, whilst retaining detail in the inevitably black wetsuits. I also like to see the faces of those whose skills I am attempting to record.

Slowly, I took note of those who dared to sever their bond with the water’s surface, and as the afternoon progressed I found more of those out their willing to perform, at least partly for my benefit. One young, star performer was definitely playing to the audience/camera for which I was more than happy to play my part by freezing the action for posterity.

I must try harder to contain my urge to capture so much of the action, as this particular gallery has taken way too much time to produce to the standard I am happy to display, but last Saturday was simply too good to miss, and I hope those who view this gallery gain as much pleasure as I did in the capturing and processing. It would be good if some of the images were ordered as A4 prints which would prove rewarding, and allow me to buy more bacon butties and cups of tea from Emma and Sam.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Polling Day Visit to Stockwood Discovery Centre

The Day started with a visit to the Polling Station to cast my vote, then straight on to get food items in Bedford, offload those and head on down to pay a visit to the Stockwood Discovery Centre. The rain which had been a feature in Marston Moretaine and the beginning of the journey to Luton had stopped by my arrival at the Centre, and a charming Chap spotting my camera seemed to be aware of who I was and told me he had just caught sight of a Chiffchaff in the gardens, but it had flown away after being spotted. When I asked about Jan’s whereabouts I learned she had told him I was coming down, so my camera was the giveaway!
I had by that time already spotted subjects worth recording so I continued adding to the tally. It was more than a quarter of an hour later when we met up. And she told me her news, she had handed in her notice and was retiring, she also told me how that news had been greeted; it had come as quite a shock to the management, as she is highly respected for knowledge, and her hard work, and will definitely be missed. I for one will find it less inviting as she has always been very welcoming and extremely helpful in alerting me to what is in bloom and of interest.
The earlier weather had definitely put off visitors as I think I spotted no more than half a dozen people as I wandered around, normally on a weekday there would be mothers pushing buggies or with young toddlers in tow, perhaps the election had also had an effect, and the sounds today were the numerous birds, and in particular on very strident blackbird, and every so often an aircraft taking off from the airport.
The effect of this calm, was that magpies and squirrels had come into the central area, and later as I was leaving I briefly got a shot of each amongst the empty tables outside the café. Jan had alerted me to some features of interest, and so I spent the time in the central area before moving into the greenhouse, and I was very happy with what I managed to capture before dropping into the petrol station to fill up at the economically priced garage just nearby and heading back up the M1 to Marston Moretaine. It was well worth the trip.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Silverstone – Williams F1 Racing 40th Anniversary Celebration

I had not seen photographer Mark Harwood for some time, and a chance occurred to meet up and for both of us go to Silverstone and to catch up while celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the Williams Racing Team.

Mark came up the night before so that we might set off really early, which gave us time to fill in the gaps and our chatting ate well into sleeping time, and sadly he found the birdsong at dawn somewhat distracting, so did not have the best of nights. Our journey over to Silverstone was only marred by late calls or misinformation from the SatNav, but was otherwise without incident and we made good time, and joined a short queue that moved reasonably smoothly, and we found ourselves chatting with several friendly strangers as it progressed to the bag-checking and after that with more banter with both the Specials and Regular Police with what I hoped was only pleasant banter from the regulars when referring to the Specials.

We spent some time in one of the grandstands where we could capture a flavour of the cars being displayed, as well as walking to both ends of the allocated area being used for the event, we also managed to get separated, with Mark wrongly assuming I might have gone back to the car, but a call from him on the mobile brought us back together where I was chatting to one of the many helpful girls there to provide any assistance we might need.

We did then go back to the car to pick up some food and a change of lenses for me. A day like this provides me with handy material for greetings cards so there are occasions in the gallery of images from the day, where the same shot has been composed in different ways to give space for messages, as the galleries I create are effectively my personal Photo Library.

‘The Wave’ building at the end is a panorama stitched automatically within Lightroom from eight individual handheld images. So, no image has ever visited Photoshop in this gallery.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Brogborough Bank Holiday Lacuna

Or in plain English – I managed to miss these shots first time around. The reason is simple, the numbering of the images reached 9,999 and so the rest started back at 0001 but in a new folder. Guess who failed to spot this due to too many other distractions such as watching the Monaco Grand Prix? – Guilty as charged m'lud!
Here they are, with less culling so I could get them out in the shortest possible time.
For convenience you can click here, or as before, on the headline text for the missing gallery of further images from the afternoon

No Picture Here! Nor any link, that will follow

I am hiding my head in Shame!

For those who were surprised and disappointed at not seeing their skills immortalised in full glorious colour in these blog galleries from Sunday's outing on the water at Brogborough, please be patient as I am about to put that right – due to the kind intervention of Mr Roy Hill whose son was one of those whose images lay unwittingly unprocessed on a Compact Flash card. I have made my apologies to him, and I shall now set to to rectify the appalling situation – forthwith.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Bank Holiday Sunday, Brogborough

Sunshine and some wind. This brings out a fair crowd on the water, and when I arrived the wind direction meant for a while the windsurfers were heading for the Club’s near shore at an angle with the sun at a reasonable angle; the wind direction did not favour jumpers, but certainly helped for speed.
I set up the camera and took advantage of the sun, moving right up to the foreshore after a while to keep my viewpoint as low as possible, later moving out onto the jetty. It was here that in a lull I spotted a girl taking shots of her boyfriend with a fairly short focal length lens, so I called out what make of camera Canon or Nikon? The reply meant I could offer to remove my camera body and let her take some shots using my lens, she accepted and so I put her body on and helped set it up so she could take a few shots. I hope it inspired her to consider a longer lens in the future. I hope also that I managed to get shots of him that he felt captured the spirit of his day on the water.
Cloud cover increased as the afternoon progressed and water does not sparkle in flat lighting and with no dramatic activity likely to occur my shooting came to the end, but not before being asked by one gentleman, whether I had managed shots of his son, so I made sure there were some. I also got chatting to a windsurfer who worked in Television, and I am fairly sure I had taken shots of him so my blog’s audience figures might also improve!
I returned home to face some time at the computer screen culling and post processing to create a gallery record of the afternoon’s activity, and also to try a second time to repair a puncture to my bike’s front tyre, so that I can cycle to the lake on occasion rather than bring the car, which will keep me active and breathing fresh air as with so much building going on in Marston Moretaine, the house is covered in fine dust which cannot be as healthy as the air around the lake.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Tranquil Brogborough – Flora & Fauna

The idea of the afternoon visit to the woods beyond the Windsurfers’ enclave was to try to get some better shots of the native hoverflies, but this proved a failure, partly because the sun chose to hide behind increasing clouds, and partly because when the single hoverfly I attempted to photograph was only hovering for nanoseconds, and also because I was way too slow trying to focus on it.
But in walking past some hawthorn bushes by the lakeside before I entered the woods I spotted a damselfly that became entangled in the fine filaments spun by an absent spider, it crossed my mind to attempt its rescue, but felt this intervention was not ethical; and I feel the outcome I subsequently witnessed validated my decision, he managed to extricate himself and I witnessed him flying off to a nearby reed, and I rationalised that he now had gained valuable experience which might well serve him well in the future. I have the record of his success and I was pleased for him.
I did attempt to seek out other hoverflies but with no success, but I did capture a large fly searching in amongst the dead leaves from last autumn, and some of the varied colours of lichen on a branch and a minuscule single flower on a dead twig on the sunlit outer reach of the woods. All the shots were taken with the 100mm Canon Macro with a 1.4 Converter on the EOS 7D MkII, some with flash assistance where I changed from Aperture to Shutter Priority to limit the effect of a slow shutter speed blurring the ambient light with the flash exposure.
When looking out over the lake I don’t think I have ever seen the water so calm, and in the distance I did spot a couple lazily enjoying the warmth on a paddle board.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Brogborough Photos – No Windsurfers?

The wind was so light that the Windsurfers at Brogborough would likely be practising their more subtle skills, or if less experienced simply making the most of a quieter lake to gain confidence, but for a change I was not visiting for their activity, but for something at a smaller scale involving skills in the air. When I sped through the woods carrying a heavy tripod with a long lens on my last visit, shafts of sunlight illuminated some of the gloom and the new season of hoverflies had arrived and were exercising their skills.
Most casual observers see them as dark insects occasionally hovering, then darting away at high speed. However, if you tarry awhile longer, you notice that the reason for some of the darting is caused by others of their species invading their space, and then both will spiral as if they were World War fighter pilots in a fierce dogfight. The other thing you might notice is that they are not black, but have the tiger stripes that emulate those of a wasp, however these beautiful insects are no danger to us, and in fact will land on your hand if outstretched beneath them in flight, or as one did on this trip actually landed on the barrel of my lens! They are exquisite flyers, and absolute masters of the hover. They have small un-muscled small winglets beneath their wings which counterbalance the motion of their wings to provide a natural damper (emulated, I believe in 2005 Formula 1 cars till banned, allegedly because Ferrari were never able to master their deployment, so protested their use by those who had mastered the technique namely Renault).
From my personal observations which allowed me to capture them in flight in the past, they will often hover for a while then with a flick move through 90˚, often cycling through the complete 360˚, oft times being rudely interrupted by presumably, others jealous of their skills!
On this occasion, the pilot I first spotted, was performing in front of me when without outside intervention he darted off, and somehow I got the feeling he was playing with me, so I swung through 180˚ and there he was, again at the same height as before, facing me once more! The more I photograph insects and birds, the more I am convinced they know more about us than we credit – kingfishers can often settle closer to us than we can focus with a long lens, tantalising us! Or ensure branches obscure our view. But as I have learned from anglers that have had kingfishers land on their rods, they have not necessarily learned about cameraphones!
I had arrived rather too late as clouds were increasing which resulted in fewer motes for hoverflies to exhibit their prowess, so overall I was not too successful, but I do now have a new venue. I also spotted what I described as the Central Flying School where the majority of the hoverflies were smaller, so possibly younger, and hovered with far less panache, with an occasional visitor larger in size and far more adept, joining the throng. The skilled ones seemed more often to be apart, and occasionally ‘bombed’ by other lone antagonists.

I did capture some in-flight shots, but far more numerous failures due to my inability to focus fast enough, so captured other items that intrigued such as the haunting face or new leaf and seed growth. I shall return, but as can be seen, I need the light to be on side for me to use the 100mm macro with 1.4 converter and ISOs which reached 3200˚K at apertures no smaller than f/7.1.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Brogborough – Sunshine on the Lake

In the morning, it was Choresday and a priority was ensuring I had clean shirts, and as I seem to have a problem of sediment from somewhere, possibly even due to too much soap powder, I tried to split the wash into two to keep the possibility of shirts suffering from the other items, but this added more time, and still the contaminant was present, so I was well behind schedule. I like to think of Sundays as restful, but sorting two washes was not helping. However, after the first wash, the wind seemed to pick up; certainly giving gusts that seemed harder than was forecast, so someone was on my side!
By the time the second set was ready to put out, at least one shirt was dry enough to be taken in, and suddenly I could contemplate a possible short visit to the lake at Brogborough; what I had not foreseen was that many of the regulars were on holiday, and scattered to all points of the compass, so as I arrived there were around a maximum of ten on the water, with actually less wind on arrival than I had left behind in Marston Moretaine, but there were occasional flurries and I decided it was worth a trek through the woods with a tripod, with the gimbal head and the Sigma 150-600mm atop.
Having made it to the far end of the woods and back out into the sunshine, the wind though still somewhat fitful did have some strength, and several of the windsurfers headed towards my location, so I gingerly clambered down the steep bank and into the undergrowth a bit, to give myself a reasonable angle of view clear of most of the trees and bushes. After a while the wind died down seemingly terminally, so I headed back at a brisk pace, with a young grouse zig-zagging across my path ahead of me for half the woods! I also noted that the recent warmth had brought out the hoverflies who as I had noted before would dance and hover in the shafts of sunlight that filtered through the canopy of leaf cover. I made a mental note that I should come back for this photographic challenge on the next warm, and free day.
I did get the opportunity to show some of those there a few recent prints, some of which windsurfers had been the subject.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Marsworth Visit with Andy Fox

Andy and I decided to meet up and visit Marsworth together, and despite mornings being more favourable, since he was tied up in the morning, we settled on meeting at Clophill around one o’clock to head on down.
Arriving at Tringford I parked up and we both set off towards Marsworth lake. There were numerous anglers out on both Startops End and Marsworth, and on the Grand Union Canal there were a few narrowboats going through the locks, one that was moored was unlike any other, so much so that Andy remarked that it was upside down as the superstructure seemed to be very smooth and resembled an upturned hull, made presumably in glass fibre.
We reached our destination and began setting up, and almost immediately Andy spotted a visiting kingfisher behind me, which we probably surprised and headed away from us. It was the last sighting we made for more than an hour, though we were visited by many other birds both on the water, and above us in the trees. The most frequent being blue tits, mallards, and wood pigeons. At one stage we heard a loud call, that sounded as if the caller was shouting “Nits!” which gave us a wry smile on several occasions, it turned out to be coming from what I took to be a lone mallard female, but Andy reckoned it was possibly a mallard/wigeon cross as it was speckled and differently billed.
We were also visited by the resident and beautifully groomed robin, whom I see fairly regularly, once again, in the lulls I attempted to entice to fly to my open hand for seeds, but today he made no effort. A while later we caught sight of a kingfisher doing a flyby who ducked beyond a fallen bush on the far bank. Then later still one landed in the bushes, but he was hidden from me by sunlit leaves, but in perfectly clear view to Andy as was confirmed by some three sequences of shutter firings. After that I saw another on a post beyond him, managing just two quick shots, one static and one as he flew off. Although we stayed on for some time we saw no more kingfishers, and since Andy was due for an evening out, we packed up and returned to the car, but not before I introduced Andy to some of the Tringford Anglers, and its Water Bailliff, Bob Menzies.
My visit was therefore less fruitful than my guest Andy, though enjoyable nonetheless.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Bamville Cricket Club – Home Season Opener

Sunday turned out to be moderately warm in the sun, and I certainly favoured sunshine for a Cricket Match, as the players always look good in their white trousers and sweaters when in sunshine, whereas under cloud they look somewhat drab.The Cricket Match I was due to cover was a team local to Harpenden, Bamville, which is a somewhat smaller club, with a small, but interesting ground, since it's pitch shares the space with part of the local Golf Course, which limits play to Sundays. All very English.

I arrived early to capture some of the setting up preparations, which included the Scorer for the day opening up the scoreboard to oust the resident spider, and using the manual for the new Coffee machine to learn about its as yet unfamiliar operation. After adding this talent to his vast experience as a top Product Designer and Cricket and Snooker Guru, he went on to fill the far less sophisticated Water Boiler — is there no end to this man’s talents? On a more serious note, Peter is one of a number of dedicated volunteers who help this friendly Club to run and provide enjoyment for those who play Cricket and socialise.

The visiting Team on this occasion was The Players and Jesters from Nearby St. Albans, and the opening batsmen were the Home team. I will let the pictures tell the story of the match as I am unfamiliar with the personnel, what I will say is the final result was close. I was disappointed that I missed at least two instances of the bails taking to the air, but I did manage to capture three others, as these are the moments that make a difference for a photographer.

I had arrived in just a shirt and welcomed the opportunity to slip into a pullover after the first innings, but even with this on, by the end I was starting to wish that the Home team put more bails into the air as the wind was by now on the back of my neck and had risen in strength and fallen in temperature!

I had managed to take several sequences that illustrated the shapes bowlers created and batsmen the contortions had gone through to find the ball and project it to the boundary. An afternoon spent in good company and providing me with the exercise of carrying a heavy tripod and camera, keeping my eye in, outside in the fresh air.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Caddington Front Garden – Riot of Colour

I returned to Caddington on my way back as I needed to get a bite to eat. The village is suffering badly due to ongoing diversions that have cut off the normal route north via Chaul End, and to avoid the worst section by the shops I parked a long way back, and as I walked along I spotted a couple of gardens worth grabbing a few photographs in, once I had collected some food. As I came closer to my old house, I spotted a familiar face, and Phil, whose name he mentioned whilst we talked, hailed me with: “I thought you had moved to Eaton Bray!” That brought me into conversation and the lady who had been with him took the opportunity to take her leave telling him she would catch up later. He was correct I had been looking initially in that direction, but I brought him up to date, and we chatted for ten minutes or so before I went for my food.
I put my food in the car, picked up the camera and returned to the two gardens and the majority of the shots were from this one front garden which simply looked as if someone had opened a hundred seed packets and spread them liberally in the front of the house, then taken a hose and sprayed them with liberal amounts of water and possibly fertilisers! I had simply never seen so many brightly coloured flowers in bloom in such a small area – it could only be described as a “Riot of Colour’! It cried out to be photographed,

I obliged.

Mainly Tulips, and a host of others to which I could not put a name, so now that I have managed to get the Stockwood Discovery Centre gallery up, I have put these up as a follow-on. I hope they will give others as much pleasure as I derived from capturing them.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

May 4th Gardens Visit – Stockwood Park

I had the chance to go down to the Stockwood Discovery Centre, despite the forecast showing only a slight chance of sun; what I did know was that a lot of growth would have occurred since my last visit, and I was unsure when the next opportunity might arise.
I made good time, though on arrival the gardener I was hoping to catch up with was nowhere to be seen, so I simply set to taking photographs initially with the 24-70mm lens with its macro facility, but after a while I realised that I could do with the 100mm, so I swapped over and carried on till the end wit that lens, using the 5D MkIII body.
I had taken quite a few shots when I heard Jan talking to someone else, and it was Bridey whom I had not seen for a while, I showed both some prints I had of the Grebe and its crayfish meal and the recent Kingfisher and its meal, then some of the shots I had just been taking, Jan kindly offered to unlock the greenhouse for me, and I went back to shooting, it was fully half an hour before I went inside the greenhouse, then started making my way out, Was able to thank Jan and it was not long before I felt it was time to make tracks, but no sooner than I had made that decision than a bush resplendent in white flowers caught my attention due to the amount of interest shown by bees.
I therefore spent some time trying to get up close and personal with these busy pollinators, and on shot which could be the parting shot was a bee who climbed away from a flower and came straight into my focus – shame he was flying away not towards me, but I am not complaining! I took a couple more shots on the way out and made tracks to Caddington hoping to pick up a snack to eat on the way back.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Brogborough Bank Holiday Sunday

My elder daughter whom I see less often sadly, as she is very busy and whose twin daughters are studying hard at Sixth Form College came over to see me, and I wanted to help her understand a bit more about photography and let her see a local venue at which I spend some of my time. For myriad reasons we were very late in arriving at the Windsurfing Lake, and I set up my earlier Tamron telephoto lens with my 5D MkII, so she could take a few shots herself. I set up my Sigma lens with the 7D MkII on a heavier tripod for myself.

The reasoning behind this was she would be capturing similar shots to me and she might even capture something that I missed! A little later in the year I know she would be happier with subjects such as bugs and flowers, and also this day was not the best of lighting nor conditions for the windsurfing sailors either, but we were both out together and we both had cameras.

At one stage a familiar voice spoke to me from behind and it was a windsurfer who had been instrumental in sorting out my pensions; he was promoting a show in Northampton and had been trying to get his posters in numerous and different locations, and had one affixed to his sail, so he wanted some shots of the poster in situ with a bit of activity, so here was a specific image I was to capture. Even an A3 poster is tiny when on a sail and in the distance, so much so, I thought it was a mere A4! 

Even though we were only there a short while, I still took a fair number of shots as several out there were practicing gybing and keeping control with little or no wind, so I was capturing sequences rather than individual moments, however they will be less exciting for others, but the participants themselves will likely find some value in them. The ultimate irony considering how little wind there was, was that the very first three shots are a jump, and I grabbed them without realising I had the compensation set for a two stop increase in exposure from when I had been taking shots of Starlings against the light! Lightroom came to my rescue! The third one heads this piece under the filename of Brogborough Marty McFly!!

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!