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, 22 August 2017

Bamville at Home to Carpenters' Arms Cricketers

Bamville Cricket Club only have use of the ground for playing on a Sunday afternoon, as they share the pitch with the local Golf Club, and the parking of cars is in a former ‘Three Horseshoes Public House Car Park at East Common.
On Sunday two local teams from Carpenters’ Arms and the home team Bamville were playing, and the forecast was for Showers, and on my arrival, I thought perhaps I might be lucky as the sun was shining…
I assembled my camera and lens with little time to spare before the Home team took to the pitch and play began. I was determined to ensure I caught the first over, and in my haste, I forgot two items, my ideal glasses for viewing the back of the camera and a second lens for any more general shots, Peter Carr who was scoring, I thought would be heavily involved in that all afternoon, but shortly came over in my direction, and I asked whether he might at least rescue the lens from my car’s boot, which he kindly did; I managed however to forget to ask for the more vital second item, my other pair of glasses!
The first few shots looked an interesting sequence from which to create an animated GIF, and so after taking the shots on the day, I actually wasted some considerable time trying to do just that before the task of gallery creation, hence the delay in these reaching the blog.
That is getting ahead of myself. I started shooting from outside the clubhouse moving slowly round the boundary widdershins. Occasionally taking some shots using the 24-70mm lens handheld, and here I must apologise as the clocks in the two different camera bodies are not in synch, so some of the shots are not correct chronologically, but I manage to keep forgetting to reset them!
I was happy to have got one shot of airborne bails reasonably early, but sad to miss a a splendid catch. Also, though I did get another bails airborne shot, Some of the fielders seem to possess eyes in the backs of their heads and align themselves between the action and myself, and moving and resetting the heavy tripod often takes too long, and on occasion this afternoon, when I did do so, they moved with perfect synchronicity! And a certain Law came into play here as a clean bowling occurred at the crease completely obscured from my lens.
There was one youngster whose talent really shone through and impressed me despite his diminished stature; he seemed a good all-rounder, had great style and oodles of energy, but looked very disappointed to be out – at that time; not a happy bunny. I have subsequently learned his name is Ashish Padki; if he perseveres, I reckon he will be someone to look out for in Cricketing circles – he reminded me very much of the young Lewis Hamilton.
The rain did not hold off to the end of play and as the first drops fell, I moved ever closer to the clubhouse to protect the camera and lens in changes of over. It was also getting darker which would have forced me to increase speed and suffer more from noise, so I ended watching from the shelter of the clubhouse, later bringing the car over to put the gear back in. Only the second cricket match covered this season, but thoroughly enjoyable still.

Monday, 21 August 2017

A Visit to Luton Town Centre

My reason for the trip to Luton was for an eye test; as my right eye, which for most of my life had been dominant had shown to be suffering the onset of a cataract a year ago, and was beginning to show a further slight degradation. After last year’s update I began keeping two pairs handy at all times, to cater for the different priorities involved in my activities. For driving at night in particular the pair with that most recent prescription was essential, as the halo caused by oncoming bright lights was at its least and the long distance resolution was also at its keenest. The bifocal element was less than ideal for a glance at the dashboard.
However, this same lack of clear focus at shorter distances still, was a more severe handicap when using the review screen on the back of my cameras – it was this aspect that caused me the greatest concern and why on this morning I appeared at the Optician’s with a camera, an iPad and numerous earlier frames with a variety of earlier prescriptions to help me define those different needs to the optometrist Vijay Hirani, who had been so understanding of my eyesight and those requirements over several years.
The pair which had had the best overall balance for both distance and the dashboard was absolutely fine for daylight driving, as in sunlight the margin for distance was more than adequate. It also had the distinct advantage that viewing the images on the back of the camera was spot-on. I had a bright red spectacle case that therefore contained this second pair when driving most of the time, and then came with me when I reverted to using these for general use with the best long distance pair within.
My meeting with Vijay was somewhat protracted, but really helpful and the end result was the joint decision to arrange an appointment with Bedford Hospital for the cataract operation on the right eye which would, for the near future, resolve the balance between the two, with no immediate need for an operation on the left eye.

After a trip around the central Mall, I came outside to the area in front of the courthouse where my eyes took in another example of Luton’s ongoing planning failure – it provides an excellent area for people to congregate with initial good and attractive design, then spoils it with crass lack of thought thereafter – there are abundant and colourful flowers and in a curved area of bricks it has attractive insets, it then obscures three out of four of them with vast and heavy, unsightly bins, with no further thought for aesthetics of the initial design – the Planners need to visit the Opticians en masse, the verdict from this report is – Must Do Better! Also, there is absolutely no excuse for a broken moulded concrete step to be replaced by the laying of a ‘blob’ of tarmac – Come on, Councillors – Get your act together, set an example!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Cross Keys, Pulloxhiil – Classic Vehicle Show

A friend of mine from my earlier villages of Slip End and Caddington told me of his intention to visit a Classic Car event at the Cross Keys, Pulloxhill to display his excellent Jaguar saloon car, and suggested that I might be interested in joining him there, and it seemed a photographic opportunity not to be missed. John told me he would be arriving at around nine o’clock, so that was going to be the time I would aim for, and I was only late by a few minutes.
The Public House is blessed with a handy sized field behind its premises, and has hosted the event over a few recent years, and today local broadcasts and previous visitors ensured that with such excellent weather, the field soon filled up with exhibitors’ splendid classics and visitors own very varied marques, with some vehicles definitely not classified as cars, such as trucks, fire engines and a smattering of bikes and a Massey Ferguson tractor from a bygone age.
I first met up with the aforesaid John (Sentinella) to thank him for mentioning the display, and to catch up with each other’s news, then I took a stroll down the lines of exhibiting cars to get a feel of what was on show, and occasionally stopping to chat to the owners. As the numbers of visitors increased, I made a few more sorties returning some while later and sitting with John where we had a drink and something to eat under the shade provided by umbrellas supported from the arms of canvas folding chairs. Once the field was nearing capacity, I wandered again, before once more returning such that John might get the chance to look around. I had a long chat and saw some excellent photos from the owner of a car used on many occasions to promote a scene from Fawlty Towers.
During this next stint I began to wonder whether I might locate the owner of one of the two Fire Engines and ask whether I might be able to climb on top to get some shots of the cars from a higher viewpoint, but for some time no one was around. When one man returned, I tentatively asked whether this might be possible, to which he surprised me with his response that he had let me do just that at a Luton Hoo show many moons ago, and it would be just fine! I remember the event and the request, but was amazed that someone should remember me so specifically from some nine years previously, so David Rowell, you deserve ‘an Honourable Mention’, and I humbly thank you for offering me the same courtesy once again – thank you; it was most appreciated.
Since returning, I have turned the panorama into a Zoomify item that allows you to zoom around the image and get a good idea of the datail present in the image made from a dozen individual handheld frames.
Later I was to meet another gentleman with whom I chatted for some considerable time, and who pointed out his splendid and rare Nissan 260Z; the conversation was widely varied and most interesting. I am most grateful to John for bringing the event to my notice, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the day; in great company and splendid sunshine.
I hope it comes across in viewing the gallery of images displayed from the link in the main headline to this piece.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Brogborough Lake – Only Occasional Gusts

Having not been to the lake for some time, I decided to go despite the wind being fitful and not overly strong. When I arrived there, there were a surprising number of sailors out on the lake, but after only a short while the wind lost much of its power, and the clouds began to roll in.
However there were some reasonable gusts every so often, so patience was required, it was the opportunity for some of the more skilled to practice general control and gybing, and here the wilful wind took its toll, the sailor would choose to initiate a turn only to find that at that precise moment the wind needed to complete the action, had deserted him! I was watching one person in particular and he was caught off-guard several times and I avoided taking the last moments out of compassion, but finally, I decided just the once to keep my shutter-finger pressing for the dying moments when the sail hit the water; full marks for perseverance though!
Due to the numbers on the water, I also tried hard to take shots of groups as much as individuals for compositional purposes and for the picture that would head the piece on the blog. I did take short series of one sailor with outstretched arm, and later found it to be Mark Maryan, who through his company has helped sort out my pensions situation, I love his sense of humour in choice of company name – Gee7; it has a certain resonance for me, for it was during the time of that summit in London, I was airborne in a Twin Squirrel helicopter taking photos over the city, which can be seen by using the blog’s Search box and entering: ‘Aerial London’ (omitting the inverted commas). It was a wonderful experience that came about because an aerial photographer for whom I was giving Photoshop tuition offered to take me up with him, and he generously gave me a spell controlling the pilot, to get some specific shots I wanted, using: “Nose Up, Nose Down, Nose Right, Nose Left…” and so on, to allow me to compose less randomly. It was a wonderful experience I would love to repeat, though I imagine it is less easier to do with the current situation regarding security.
The shots from this afternoon will likely not be too exciting, but might at least be of personal interest to those participating, as a record of their enjoyment.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Parked at Warden Street to Photograph Aerobatics

I had heard there was a possibility of the Red Arrows paying Old Warden’s Edwardian Pageant a Flying Visit, so I picked a spot at the end of a long cul-de-sac at Warden Street in the hope that I might just be fortunate, but I was unlucky on that count, though I still got shots of biplane aerobatics, large flocks of birds, mainly taking advantage of farmers ploughing their fields. The road I was in was very narrow and where I was parked was local residents turning circle I soon learned, although everyone was very friendly.
I met a charming couple who lived in the last cottage before the gate to a large farm, who were the first to use this spot to turn their car round, and I learned he was a Nikon Man, who forgave me for my own choice of Canon equipment! The lady asked whether I knew when the Red Arrows might arrive, but I was unable to help, I learned from the man that he would be looking out for them whilst mowing the lawn, but a short while later it was his wife whom I spotted with a mower, so I joshed with her that he had meant he would watching his wife mow! A few moments later he came out with another mower, so I asked whether he had been rumbled and had felt guilty so followed suit! It turned out he was mowing the tougher stuff, whilst his wife mowed the more level areas.
Since there was not much human flying machine activity, I brought out my macro and photographed some of the wild flowers, I also spotted a seed being snagged by a spider’s web, and the owner felt his luck was in and retraced his footsteps shortly after when he found it was a false alarm – possibly a bit miffed by being disturbed unnecessarily!
Whilst waiting for a possible arrival of any aircraft, I took opportunities to photograph some of the wildflowers nearby and one horserider returned to her parked car that was present upon my arrival, and visited the stabling beyond the gate I was parked across. When she was ready to leave, I helped and was duly thanked, for guiding her reversing by my car. A little later still another lady rider arrived, entered the stabling and came out leading her young male, brown spotted cream horse, and I opened the heavy gate for her, and grabbed a few shots of him. I later found her on a phone leading him back and hearing comments saying she was “OK…” suggesting she might well have taken a fall, I enquired, and learned the horse had been bitten by a horsefly and ended up kicking her in the stomach and grazing her arm; she was definitely still in considerable pain, so I opened the gate entirely on my own to save her from more strain. She said it was not the horse’s fault, and certainly from the brief shots I took of their return, his equine body language suggested he was concerned.
I did get a few shots of some biplane aerobatics, and a Lysander, a plane type I believe my father flew over to Holland from RAF Tempsford in WWII, though the gallery is more about flora and fauna and an afternoon in the English countryside – fairly relaxing.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

A Mentoring Session at Stockwood

Jan Tysoe has been an Important Gardener at the Discovery Centre in Luton for some years, and recently retired. During the time I have been visiting she has helped me by showing me some of the plants she has tended, and often rescued. I made a special visit to the gardens to help her when she came, not to labour, but to take photographs with her newly-acquired digital SLR camera and lens – I was here to return the favour.

Jan texted me to say that she was by the Water Feature, so on arrival, I headed there wending my way through the throngs of families by the cafeteria and the play area. She had a friend with her sitting on the nearby bench, I joined them and hand Jan a small card device I had made specially to get across the idea of Reciprocity; the way to maintain the same Exposure, by balancing the size of the Aperture against the length of Time the shutter was open for any given amount of Brightness in the image. I then explained why she might wish to choose a particular Aperture so as to define the Depth of Field, and use this to make the subject of her photograph stand out from its background.

I had created two strips which could be moved in tandem for any given exposure to display a pairing of Shutter Speed and Apertures and explained why she might choose a wide aperture such as f/2.8 for a narrow depth or f/22 for a wider depth, I only touched lightly upon the limitations of the shutter speed for the freezing of any motion. I gave her the device to work with later. I did however move to some nearby blooms to explain how for any focussed distance the aperture chosen defines a depth that extends slightly further behind than in front of the focussed point. At this juncture I also explained that for this exercise setting Aperture Priority was important and set the camera for around f/8 and to give her a good chance of successes, I left the ISO speed at 1600˚ which was where I found it, but did say in passing that was a tad high for the camera body I had given her a while earlier, a Canon 10D and might result in some noise in the pictures.

I also tried to impress her the importance of framing her picture and using half-pressure on the shutter button to acquire focus from the centre, then place the subject within the frame. To get this message across, I asked her to place the flower first on the right of the frame, then the left and explained how this might be important for composition and possibly later to add some text for say, a greetings card.

After this, we began strolling around the gardens, with my occasionally giving further suggestions as to viewpoint and backgrounds, or when she was intent on a particular picture grabbing a few of my own and sometimes showing how and why I had taken the individual frame.
The time we spent was all too short, but hopefully helpful, and I look forward to her results; meantime here is the small gallery I created at the time.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Waddesdon in Sun & Showers

I was invited by my daughter to visit Waddesdon with her two children for a Day with Scooters, and naturally another visit to the splendid setting of house and gardens, the first this year was an opportunity I was not going to miss. They now have a car park area in the lower part of the park, and one then takes a coach to the fountain roundabout that is the start of the main drive to the front of the house, one of several houses belonging to the Rothschild Banking dynasty. The guide we met was bubbly, helpful and on seeing the scooters, she said if we hand these to the driver, he will stow them in the front of the coach, and after taking the ticket from us we boarded, with the two children heading straight for the back seats!
Soon the coach filled with other families, but on that coach we were the only ones with scooters, and seemingly we were early as when we reached the drop-off point we only saw a couple of others with scooters in the distance by the house. We headed for the small tent to get our maps for the ‘Tour de France’ trail and chat to further, friendly volunteer guides – you are made to feel warmly welcomed at every turn.
My daughter had prepared lunch for us all, so we headed for a bench and whilst she prepared everything the two children happily scooted back and forth along the path, eventually coming to sit down to eat and drink, then we consulted the maps and began the trail, after the first stop which had been reasonably level, the path sloped more steeply and the boy’s brake on the rear wheel proved difficult to slow down safely, so for a spell he had to walk (not what he had hoped), but we were not killjoys: we had already had minor spills and with thin summer clothes, knees and elbows are easily grazed.
Every so often I took opportunities to take photographs, though generally close at hand should mishaps occur. The two of them found a den that appealed and later when the rain came all of us found welcome shelter there.
We broke for tea where we did have a minor disaster with our little girl whilst trying to sit on the chain between heavy iron barriers managed to pull one over on herself, which did open the floodgates for tears, but fortunately though she did receive a bump, it was mainly the shock that caused her to sob.
As we collected or drinks and both children had ice creams, it began to rain and we sat down at the front of the house, with both children seeking temporary shelter beneath a table! We donned wet weather gear and headed for the children’s ‘base’ before heading back to the trail after the rain, and soon the sun returned.
On completing the trail we headed once more to the tent for the collection of their trophies. It was while we were there we noticed the three step plinth, on which some parents were placing their children for photos – one inventive father placed his child on the top step, then dived his head beneath her legs and carried the child off on his shoulders! I was impressed by his lateral thinking!
We left after a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. The gallery of images has flowers, leaves, butterflies, bees, landscapes, and colour.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Dull Day, and Tiniest of Butterflies

At Lunchtime, I put out some washing and spotted three of the tiniest of butterflies, or maybe moths, I now have the task of learning just which?

Certainly the eye structures would possibly point to some sort of day-flying moth, but either way I had never seen such colourful butterflies of that small size before, so when I also consider the wing structures maybe this is another pointer towards moths. With the camera out, when they disappeared, I concentrated on a few bees instead, until they returned. When one settled on the wall, it was no larger with wings open, than the mortar between the bricks!

In case anyone reading this happens to know, I would be most grateful to learn; it was certainly good practice at trying to shoot such energetic and small insects, and in the end, I was grateful that the camera body was the 7D MkII as this has flash, and being so dull, this at least gave me a slight chance of seeing what they looked like close up. I did try without using a high ISO, but the success rate was poor.

A postscript – The tiny moths are Mint Moths, which is confirmed by where I found them – close by a patch of Mint!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Insects that caught my attention…

I have spent time using Google to try to find out what the weird insect (in positions 30 and 31 in the gallery) was that looked so fearsome with this tall antenna with the red stripes, and wondered just what its purpose was. So far I have been unable to find anything close, but since many of the times  I have put up galleries of images from this macro world that I find so interesting seem to have appealed to the readers of this blog judging by the visitor numbers when they have appeared, I am genuinely interested to know just what its name is and why it has this ‘mast’ aloft? It seems at once ungainly, and threatening.

 The two very flat butterflies/moths were flying around in the shadows of the thicket then landing and lying absolutely flat on the leaves. I did catch sight of other butterflies but they were far to restless and unpredictable for me to get any shots, and I was lucky to catch the cricket/grasshopper at all as he was bounding for cover and only stopped for a second or two. At least the ladybird was decent enough to keep out in the open, and though he momentarily took to the air, it was only to another nearby thistle.

For all the abundance of insect life, what was surprising was the lack of birdsong; I rarely saw any birds, and in the two or three instances they were fleeting trips across the pathway and at a good distance, I did however hear the call of the woodpigeon just the once – “My toe hurts Betty”, but no reassuring return call from Betty.

A light aircraft was in an oval loop presumably doing occasional ‘circuit and bumps’ and every so often cutting his engine to be able to understand how to restart should any emergency occur in the future. When I hear an engine die, it always grabs my attention, as my heart misses a beat!

During the entire ride and when I stopped, I never saw another human, though there were frequent reminders of the passage of horses. I wish they would at least have the courtesy to move to the edges when the call of nature beckoned, as to avoid these hazards I invariably had to navigate potholes or loose gravel. My human fellow travellers might also have taken their cans and bottles back with them as it makes it harder for authorities to fund these paths when also having to pay for, or find volunteers to carry out the task later.

I did wonder whether there might be a lack of variety, or a poor choice of vegetation in this landscape that accounted for the distinct lack of birds – I have more birds and greater variety in my pocket handkerchief back garden. Starlings in abundance, Jackdaws, Magpies, Sparrows, Pigeons, Bluetits on occasion, Blackbirds, surely this is down to what has been seeded in this obviously reclaimed land?

Cycle Ride to Wood End

I decided to take a trip into some of the wilder parts of the local area that were inaccessible by car, so put the camera and lenses aboard the bike's front carrier basket, alongside a few tools to avoid any bike-related mishaps and a broad-brimmed hat to keep the sun off when was not riding, but shooting.

I found the route signposted well for locations, but not quite so helpful in terms of distances, and headed towards Cranfield. I arrived at a wide junction of paths where the hedgerows were alive with a variety of butterflies, hoverflies, bees, ladybirds and some strange orange-red beetles.

I caught the latter at a very opportune time in that I was able to record a scenario played out across the natural world, the selection of a mate and the intrusion of a jealous rival determined to undermine their successful coupling. I have since learned it has actually acquired the name of “The Hogweed Bonking Beetle”– so, whilst I continue to complete the gallery of the rest of the afternoon’s shots, I leave you with a sequence of shots where the Red Soldier Beetle lived up to its new moniker!

I also found a very strange butterfly, that could well have been a moth, and another very strange form of beetle, with a somewhat scary appearance.

It was extremely hot, and not being in prime physical fitness, I was grateful to stop cycling, cool off, don my wide-brimmed hat and capture the lives of this range of insects. It was during this period that I also spotted an overflying heron, but a wideangle/macro lens was not the tool to capture this bird! I stayed in this one location for the entire shooting on this occasion, then packed everything back into the front basket and set off for the return trip to Marston Moretaine.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Unexpected Gallery of Garden Interest

 had a need to show the effect of a narrow Depth of Field to illustrate how to throw an image of a flower away from its background and suppress detail beyond with a pleasant soft blurring, popularised by the term ‘Bokeh’.

According to the Law of Unexpected Consequences, which I might have  expected given the season and the warm weather after some rain, I became distracted by the hum of bumble bees pollinating some of the flowers, and the very typical flight pattern of the humble hoverfly – a particular favourite of mine. Instead of two minutes outside  before returning to process the aforementioned couple of shots, I spent my lunch half hour following the hoverflies and a couple of large green flies, possibly green bottle flies, two of these spent a short while just looking at each other, before flying off.

 The Buddliea is just coming out which should mean a splash of colour from visiting butterflies, but for now, I just spotted three; a Cabbage White, Comma and Red Admiral. None stayed long, obviously there are more developed Buddliea elsewhere! Last week whilst I was mowing the lawn which was covered in clover flowers, the bees were making the most of it before I finished clearing it to reveal the grass, and it was interesting to note the density of bees increasing as their food source was diminishing, and I was careful not to injure them, which meant I was forever stopping and starting to give them the best chance to survive.

I hope that last night’s rain and today’s warm sun puts some green back into the khaki  lawn that has been prevalent for the last month or so. I cannot complain about the opportunity to get another gallery of images to the blog, so the time taken was not wasted.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

The Aylesbury Concert Band, Fairford Leys 2017

It is that time of year again when the Aylesbury Concert Band play at the Fairford Leys Fête, right in the centre, with all the fun of the Fair, a Helter Skelter, Bungee Bouncing, Carousel, Cake Stalls, Hot Dogs, Candy Floss, and on the Bandstand, the headline event of the afternoon – The Aylesbury Concert Band to play bright and popular music.
I have been coming for the last three years and thoroughly enjoy the afternoon, listening to the music, and capturing the moment for the band which includes my younger daughter playing Bass Saxophone.
On this occasion I was using the 5D MkIII and the 24-70mm and the 100-400mm, it is one of those occasions when composition is not too easy, as it can sometimes be very difficult to avoid music sheets coming into frame when trying to feature the player and their instrument, or a pillar intruding, so very often I resort to framing in varying formats.
I hope the shots show how the Band enjoy playing at this venue – it is a very small bandstand and it cannot be easy playing in such a tight space, I for one thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon’s music and the challenge of recording the players.

A Trip Towards Cardington

Many moons ago, my father had been Deputy Station Commander at what was then RAF Cardington, it was his last posting before retirement, and now the latest chapter was beginning at ‘The Cardington Sheds’, with Hybrid Air Vehicles newly-repaired and modified Airlander, she was no longer confined to the hangar, but now is tethered outside whilst each new flight’s data is analysed before taking to the skies again for further testing.

I drove out to see her and work out where it might be possible later to take shots of her in the air, and in order to assist me in my aim to be around when it was airborne I managed to enlist the help of one of the nearby neighbours who has promised to give me a call when there seemed to be activity and the possibility for takeoff – I am near enough to drive over in time to be there with her hopefully just taking off.

Since my trip on this occasion was to find a suitable location to park, I decided to come to the airfield perimeter and at least get shots of the craft on the ground, and it was while there with my camera that I met up with an engineer from HAV to chat about Airlander and explain my personal interest, and was grateful to him for at least accepting my card to pass to those in charge of publicity. Even before then I took other shots of activities nearby where a farmer was watering his crop, as well as long distant shots of Airlander that showed its relationship with the famous sheds, and also I was pleasantly surprised by the abundant butterflies and bees at the margin, allowing me to get a shot of Nature’s flying insects with our human attempt in the background.

I will be back!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Brogborough Hot Afternoon – Dragonflies Abound

Far too hot to be indoors, so in the afternoon, I resisted no more and grabbing my camera and the lenses most likely to come into service for capturing dragonflies, hopefully in flight, I set off for Brogborough lake. I chose the 100-400mm Canon lens with the 1.4 Converter and initially I mounted it on my lightweight Silk Road tripod with the gimbal head, but it was too restrictive so every so often I undid the quick release and worked handheld.
I also gave up the attempt to capture them in flight; they were far too energetic for that, and also far too erratic. Without consistency in flight I had no chance, so tried to find  the most likely spots for them to land and I spent more time watching than viewing in the camera, then moved to the most likely standpoints. The amount of activity waned for a period; so they do run out of steam! I now noted that a few were alighting on some of bricks and concrete presuming that the heat was restorative, so I was back into shooting mode, so I began to get a few shots in, but often at too far a distance, and working with the 1.4 converter meant the autofocus was hunting and on several occasions failed to lock on, so my overall success rate fell, but without the extra throw the distance meant heavy cropping.

I had opted for the full-frame 5D MkIII plus the converter, but perhaps the 7D MkII with hindsight might have been a better choice, I will try that combination to decide for the future – my life is full of compromises and experimentation, which has its fun moments. For the time spent, I was happy with the results.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

A Quiet Afternoon at Marsworth Lake

I met another photographer as he was leaving a spot where we have both in the past caught sight of kingfishers, and he mentioned that earlier he had spotted a couple of voles and duly put out a fairly substantial quantity of food in the form of seeds for them, and a couple of different Robins had felt Christmas had arrived, but a while later when the Robin had been elsewhere finding fresh food in the form of damselflies, on of the voles returned, and I managed to get one moderately sharp shot which heads this narrative.

Very early on I managed to get a shot of a Pied Wagtail who also seemed to favour a similar diet, but my most frequent visitors were two Robins, one ringed, one not, the unhinged one is the one I meet most often, and he seemed to be constantly checking different ends of his territory, crossing the water on numerous occasions, it seemed he was performing a round robin!

It was one of the quietest spell for visiting wildlife I have encountered at Marsworth, and I suspect it has been because with little water flowing and a large surface coating of blue-green algae, it is not easy for many birds to spot the movement of small fish beneath the surface, so in my selected spot easy feeding is not possible to fishing birds are seeking sustenance elsewhere.

I moved to another more open spot and tried to capture circling Common Tern as they dived close to the reeds at the point where the dividing path between Startops End and Marsworth lakes meet the Grand Union Canal, but overall they were way to fast for me to follow with any degree of accuracy – from my observation one bird was successful on every third or fourth swoop, but the catch was small on each occasion, and was swallowed swiftly so I managed no shots with its prey. It was a t this spot' I got involved in conversation with passers by and whilst chatting with one gentleman, he spotted something drop from my tripod and I was most grateful as it was the small hook at the bottom of the tripod centre column from which to hang steadying weights, and fortunately it caught the light when I parted the grass, and I was able to retrieve it, as I had not seen it drop!

Not the most productive of sorties, but I had never seen a vole before, so that at least was a bonus.

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.