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…



Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Brogborough Windy Tuesday

                    My car was collected to get a service, but there was sunshine and quite a strong wind blowing, so I packed my camera and three lenses, and took the camera bag to the lock-up and my bike; I had hoped that I could put the camera bag in the front basket, but sadly it was not possible, so instead I put the individual items in separately, in so doing did not add any extra compact flash cards as I was not expecting to have large numbers of likely images; it was after all a Tuesday afternoon. 
                    I returned the camera bag to the house, donned my helmet and folded my trousers into my socks and set off for Brogborough Lake, and the fact that I have had a cough and cold for a week now meant that I found myself noticeably weaker on the pedals and I was heading into the wind. Assuming that the wind was unlikely to shift through 180 degrees that at least was a crumb of comfort for the return trip.
                    On arrival, I found the gates were open, but there were not too many vehicles, however there were several sailors out on the lake and the wind was definitely of a reasonable strength, but the overall number of visitors was not large, so I was not reckoning on there being much photos ahead, but I got out my camera and headed towards the water’s edge, and having taken just a few shots on my general purpose 24-70mm, swapped it for the 100-400mm, and soon found some more enticing subjects for the longer lens. Having no support, not even a monopod, I soon drew up a wrought iron chair and sat down to shoot which was less of a strain, as the wind was strong enough to be noticeable when holding the camera to my eye for any length of time.
                    I was also having to take more shots due to the amount of wind that was affecting my framing, and this was where my failure to bring a spare CF card was going to limit  the time I was going to spend shooting. That lack of foresight really made me feel very annoyed with myself! The card had 32GB which in my pessimism had seemed more than adequate, but I had made no allowance for my taking more shots due to the wind, or that the weather might be conducive to my taking a greater number of images. That was poor professionalism and it really irked that I should make such an inexcusable mistake.
                    I soon packed everything back onto my bike and headed back with a following and very welcome wind behind me, and once back settled into levelling horizons, lightening deep shadows and holding highlights when I had been shooting towards the sun, it was certainly noticeable that shooting handheld did make for more out of kilter horizons compared to shooting from a tripod.
                    Altogether, a satisfactory afternoon’s shooting, with albeit more images left on the metaphoric cutting room floor!

Friday, 13 April 2018

Foggy Stockwood Discovery Centre

Ex-Stockwood gardener Jan and I met up to take photos in the gardens. She brought along her newly acquired macro lens and I had got a call earlier whilst it was still raining and I was about to set off, and I thought: Despite her desire to get more experience with the lens, she might be calling to say that the meeting was off due to the weather. I had misjudged her – the call was to see whether I might be calling it off due to the conditions. Both of us were willing to take the chance on it improving as it happened, so I started the car, and headed South, but I did choose to to use the country roads! By the time I entered the car Park at the Centre, the rain had stopped leaving just a foggy day, and one small benefit – there would be lots of raindrops on the leaves and flowers, and a soft light retaining more colour. The downside being that invariably we would need higher ISOs and steadier hands as shutter speeds would be marginal. Jan had arrived only minutes before and was just stepping out of her car as I initially came alongside, though realising the cars either side were perilously close, I took another slot with more space.
We both then headed for the entrance where Jan was greeted warmly by the staff, before we then headed into the gardens. At first we simply chatted as we walked around to see what was there that warranted photographing, I took out my camera and Jan then took the opportunity to catch up with a few of her erstwhile colleagues before returning and pointing out some plants of particular interest. That would often mean that we would get engrossed in one area and the other would wander further afield, time would pass and then we would find each other, share our captured images, then Jan would point out something I had not spotted. Members of the public who recognised her would chat and learn she had retired, or other staff members would involve her in conversation, it was obvious she was very fondly remembered and they were happy to see her back as a visitor. Every so often I would help her with some of the settings on the camera, or offer suggestions for framing. It is always a delight in offering guidance to those keen to learn more about improving their picture-taking and Jan has really enjoyed gaining a greater understanding of how to improve upon the pictures she takes, which I find particularly heartwarming.
Jan was very handy from my angle as she knew where to expect the new signs of growth, and headed for those, so I would look to see where she went next and head on over to see what she had found. This meant we found ourselves covering different corners, some I have rarely visited, like the chickens, where she recounted some of their history; we also visited the historical area where she explained how some of the horse paraphernalia on display were not all hung in the same orientation, an error which I found particularly poor on behalf of the Museum Staff, as this area is important educationally and should be displayed without ambiguity as this is a really vital resource which needs to be interpreted accurately, I learned that despite her making the point, no one had corrected these errors; that actually angered me as it devalued the display and history has to be reported accurately for it to be of value. Visual History is more powerful often than verbal or written history, so it is vital that it be seen to be correct. This section of the grounds was too dark to consider the taking of photos handheld, but I did make an attempt in the case of one small animal.
We returned to the gardens and by the exit took advantage of some of the items displayed for sale, before moving to have hot chocolate and Caramel shortcakes and a relaxing chat with my swapping out her card to my camera, so she could view her work on a larger review screen, and also for her to view some of my shots, before we both headed in different directions, having enjoyed our time together capturing the ongoing season in the gardens, one of Luton’s gems. On this occasion it was school holiday time, so was very much alive to the sounds of young children enjoying what discoveries they find; which in some cases was simply to run around in a safe environment!

Saturday, 7 April 2018

André and Home Brew Hydrofoil Board, Brogborough

I heard that André was back out on the lake at Brogborough with his latest update to his own design of hydrofoil, and despite it being both dull and cold, I got a message to him that I would dash round to get some some shots of the board in flight. 
The wind was fitful, and apparently had been stronger before my arrival, but since he was prepared to go out once more, I hastily set myself up using the Benbo tripod with the legs in the water, and when I was happy with its stability, I attached the camera to the gimbal head, which was the EOS 7D MkII and the 150-600mm Sigma Sports lens, and was ready by the time he had launched.
I took some incidental shots of one other windsurfer to set myself up, then kept André in sight following him out to the distance and then back in again, capturing a few occasions when he was airborne; each occasion was short lived, but what I noticed was he was successfully level once up.
The session did not last long, and once he had brought himself ashore, he Sam and I chatted about what appeared to be the limiting factors, André was very honest in his assessment of his level of hydrofoil experience and confidence being a factor, but we all agreed we were impressed by his board and his control, and seemed to conclude that it was the shape of the tail wing that might well be the weak point in the design, so he will be making this flatter in the next iteration, rather than being entirely curved throughout. This would seem borne out by the study of a commercial design.
I look forward to the next version, and we all hope that occasion will be blessed a more constant wind, and sunshine!

Warner Brothers Studios – Digi-Cluster Networking

JB Cole UK, and Clock, a leading Hertfordshire Digital Agency, arranged the second visit of Creatives to the Warner Brothers Studios at Leavesden under the Digi-Cluster banner.
Dan Dark, the SVP, and Managing Director of the Studios was introduced to the audience of Creatives from all corners of Hertfordshire and others close by who come to these networking events, who welcomed those present, explained a short history of the studios in this location, setting the scene for why this group had been invited by also showing a few clips from recent blockbuster films that had been shot on this plot. He also made a point of how the complex was able to handle films of such a wide range due to the extensive and varied facilities available and the very large pool of experienced and talented people employed or brought into the site, and he extended a warm and genuine offer from the evening’s attendees to consider working alongside the facilities available. He also told of a recent occurrence where a member of the audience had brought along a young, but hitherto unknown man, who though disabled to a degree was able to shine in the environment offered at Leavesden to everyone’s pleasant amazement; pointing up how unless tapped, many such talents remain unexplored.
Before Dan had to leave for other important business, Syd Nadim asked the audience whether there were any questions they would like answered, and as per most audience faced with this opportunity, there was a deathly hush for a moment, so I asked how the expansion plans envisaged by Warner Brothers and alluded to by Dan were faring in the current hiatus caused by Britain’s Brexit issues? There was an amused reaction from the audience, and Dan assured all those present he had every confidence in the quality of creative talent in the UK, which he praised as being the finest anywhere in the world, hence why they chose this location, and its closeness to the London milieu of Soho with all the talent for World Class post-production.
His answers were well-received and was shown by the audience’s applause that followed. There were two 90-second pitches followed by a relaxed interview by Syd Nadim of Katy Howell, who had an interesting story to tell with its up and downs; it came across well and certainly explained her undoubted success, I do feel it worth mentioning from comments I heard expressed, which was that the speakers could have benefitted from being ‘miked-up’, as I did hear from some who were seated further back, but who were too polite to voice their concerns, that much of the content from the two 90-second Pitchers, Helena Baker and Liz Kirman, and the Katy Howell tête-à-tête was too low a volume to be heard, but by the time I heard this snippet it was was too late, as I gleaned this from comments during the Pizza-eating and drinks session afterwards, so I mention it here, so it is learned for the future – had I not been able to hear, I would have said something, but on this occasion, I failed miserably, sorry; one can hope that the shy audience are bolder in the future, and that the organising team ask the question of those at the back, so all can benefit from the full import of the messages from the evenings.
Fortunately, there was still good interaction between those who attended, and I hope I have captured some of that in the pictures within the gallery; I always enjoy capturing the hands used in speech communication as this really adds to understanding!
Thank you once again for the hard work put in by the teams from JB Cole UK and Clock, both behind the scenes and at the venue, and I hope that those attending got as much out of the evening that keeps the interaction fresh and meaningful for the future.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Easter Sunday Stewartby – Flora & Power

I felt I needed exercise and despite the light being flat and therefore unexciting, I decided I would go out to cycle around Stewartby Lake and took my EOS 5D MkIII and the 24-70mm and 100mm Macro, the latter being really handy later, but not so much as a macro lens, but as a longer prime. The intention was to cycle down Station Road to the gate into the encircling path around the Forest Centre boundaries which was firm; what I had not expected was the level of standing water across many parts of this track, but the very first person I met was a cyclist who was covered in splattered mud, who had stopped and waited for me to make my way through the kissing gate. Before he ventured through the gate we chatted and he mentioned the parlous state of the path in some areas which explained the generous coating he and his mount had suffered!
I headed off having thanked him for his useful insight into the journey I would be making, and the going for the first stretch was puddled, but not a hindrance, but as I cycled further many of the puddles extended fully across the path and even into the once grassy boundaries, which had since been churned by the wheels of bikes, prams, buggies and the boots of countless walkers; many of the cyclists I noted had not dismounted judging by the depth of the narrow ruts they had created. I chose to dismount, and in some cases take wide detours so as to not worsen the situation for others. Where the water was shallower I walked the bike through slowly. I came across few people in the early stages of the ride, but soon spotted a couple atop the bank at one of the numerous viewing sites of the enclosed wildlife areas. The couple were knowledgable birders and both had binoculars and were naming some of the species of birds that were visible beyond, either on the small lakes or on the banks at their edges, it turned out that the husband was also a photographer and used a 400mm Canon, and in our conversation I mentioned kingfishers and he showed me a shot he had taken at Rye Meads Nature reserve that he had put on his phone.
I left them and continued my ride and after several negotiations of larger puddles entered a wooded section close by the railway line, where a lot of coppicing and hedge-laying was being done and it was at this stage I got out my camera and started taking shots of the signs of new growth against some remnants from the preceding autumn, the only sadness from my point of view was the dismal lighting for most of the time. After travelling some distance around the lake, meeting a growing number of families with young children who were following clues on posters to some of the features to be found along their route, I began to hear the roar of high-powered motors which at first sounded like bikes or Go-carts, but soon were revealed to be powerboats. Fortuitously I had run out of interesting new growth and came round to the enclosed area belonging to the Watersports Club, so headed beyond their entrance gate, and started taking pictures initially with the 24-70mm before changing to the far more suitable 100mm, but way short of what might be considered a reasonable length lens for the subjects.
After a while taking shots from this vantage point I waited at the gate hoping I might be able to ask someone whether it would be possible to enter at a future date; I caught the eye of a lady called Sue who had the bearing of an official and learned it would be possible to enter the enclosed area, and the club were due another Powerboat Meeting in three weeks time. I shall be back with a far more suitable lens on that occasion – my 150-600mm!

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Oakley Bridges – In Passing

I wanted to check out the Harrold-Odell Country Park, and before I arrived there thought I would stop off at the Bridges over the Great Ouse at Oakley, despite the sunshine rapidly fading behind the oncoming clouds.
Fortunately there was a tiny place to park at the far end of the series of bridges, with the church at the opposite end of the straight. The sound of bird song had attracted me as I parked, since I had been driving with the sunroof open. Although I did manage to grab a couple of shots of the songbirds, they had retreated to a distance once I had  got out of the car and fetched a camera – I had some birdseed with me, so I put some out in a few spots that might prove to be both lower and with clearer backgrounds, but my subjects were obviously wise to that subterfuge and happy to collect that reward once I had departed!
Now that I had a camera out silence reined for a while and when some birds returned they kept their distance, and the sun all but disappeared, but nevertheless I persevered a while longer and got a shot of a distant windmill which I had not remembered from an earlier visit to the weir here.
I continued on to the Country Park, where I took a cursory look around outside before going into the Visitor Centre where I picked up a few leaflets to look through later, but on leaving the restaurant area to return to the car, I had not noticed how drastically the weather had changed for the worse, it was fairly tipping it down and in the short dash back to the car I was drenched – putting a very definite end to any more photography, unless there was a submarine nearby! It took the entire trip back to dry myself out, and I was very thankful I had not set up the camera here, but simply taken a walk to the water’s edge, before looking for any pamphlets. The rain did ease on my way back and was only spitting as I took the gear from the boot, and back inside. It was not a wasted trip in that it had impressed me as a worthwhile location for another occasion.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Brogborough Lake – Windy – Hardy Few

I headed for the lake at Brogborough in the hope that the wind and a few signs of sun might attract a few windsurfers onto the water. Upon arrival it was very far from crowded; compared to a good day of wind and sun on a Friday, it would not be much of an exaggeration to say the car park was deserted. But undeterred I headed for the clubhouse. Inside there was the sound of animated conversation, but no one in the main entrance area, so I headed for that corner from which the sounds of voices came – the reason for the gathering in that smaller room was soon very evident as in the corner was a roaring stove and the gathering there were enjoying its warmth and chatting animatedly.
I joined them there for a short while before venturing out to my car and began assembling my camera and tripod as there was one sailor on the lake and talk inside of others due out soon. Since originally it had been my intention of trying out my newly acquired Benbo tripod, one of whose unique features being the ability for its legs to be immersed in water safely, before I set up my more conventional tripod, I pulled this from my car and brought it in to show off its equally unusual ability of being locked into any position by the application of a single lever. I pointed out its corollary, that undoing the selfsame lock could equally, result in a total collapse with everything flopping to the ground, so one’s camera kit was somewhat compromised if care was not taken!
On this occasion I was unable to use it in anger as the means of camera attachment is solely by a 1/4in Whitworth, not the heavier professional standard 3/8th in Whitworth and all my various heads were of this larger size, and the small conversion adaptors failed to lock correctly due to their depth. This is a great shame and had been assured of these adaptors being usable, which I found not to be the case, regrettably at a cost, in using one to check it out, the overtightening had resulted in it becoming jammed and in attempting to use a screwdriver to extract it, it simply sheared! So for the present much as I wish to use that tripod, I can see myself having to either persuade the manufacturers to provide a means of using the larger standard screw thread, or returning it, which would be a shame.
Soon I had the camera mounted on my Gitzo with the gimbal head and the Sigma 150-600mm down on the jetty, so I was clear of any intervening bushes and moderately low. By now there were three windsurfers on the lake and not long after, Sam was taking to the water with a different hydrofoil board than I had seen him on before, so I was about to see how the pairing performed in the somewhat gusty wind that prevailed. It was not long before he was up and clear of the surface, though not always parallel to the water, and there were geese on the lake close to shore who had probably been enjoying the lack of human activity over the last few weeks; the sight of Sam riding high spooked them and they lacked Air Traffic Control for they headed directly across his bows, missing collision by a couple of wing-feather width! Something to which, I was not only a witness, but was fortunate enough to even capture!
By way of confirmation that the geese were not aware of windsurfing activity on this lake they were spooked a little later for a second time and also a cormorant  took off from the lake and headed elsewhere, which probably the local fish community were more than happy to watch, as these birds very often maim the fish they seek without successfully catching them to devour, much to the annoyance of any anglers.

Unusually, on this occasion, there are many near duplicate images, but the numbers I had edited neatly filled the gallery pages, so I saved much time by not culling as many as I would normally for the sake of speed in getting them up onto the blog.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Quid pro Quo – Only Narrative–No Gallery

An amusing occurrence this morning made me chuckle; but some background beforehand…

When I moved here I had a toaster that was absolutely ideal if you purchase the standard loaves from your average supermarket; the slices simply drop in to the slots and “eh, Voila!” a minute or so later, it pops up toasted. I buy my bread from Aldi – their Malted Bloomer loaves, and they come just a fraction too wide for the toaster. Incidentally they came tops from Customers.
  Now, I enjoy the company of birds, and my regular visitors are Starlings, so in the spirit of friendliness, I pull open my fridge, undo the wrapper and pull out either one or two frozen slices and carefully cut a slither from one end, putting the offcut in the morning sunshine (if available!) and load the new-sized bread for toasting. By the time my toast is ready, it is loaded in the toast rack, and whilst that is cooling, I open the back door and stand on the threshold breaking the crusts into starling-beak-sized bits and throw them outside the window so I can watch the frenzied feeding activity that follows.
On this occasion, whilst the toasting is taking place I witness lumps of moss dropping outside the back door, so out of curiosity I venture out and look up; and there are two very energetic starlings clearing my gutters of moss, I chuckle gratefully, and mumble my thanks, as the now-startled Starlings promptly take-off to seek moss elsewhere presumably for the lining of their nests, whilst I consider that it was their way of thanking me for their daily bread – ‘Starlings Gutter-Cleaning Services!’
A few minutes later I broke bread into more manageable sized pieces and threw them out to thank my feathered friends, and though they do not read blogs, at least I have offered my thanks for their generosity. For anyone who consider starlings to be simply black, I suggest they look more closely, for their coats rival Jacob’s ‘Coat of Many Colours’! When you ever have the good fortune to see their group-flying coming up to dusk, you realise these birds really are quite special – their murmurations prior to settling to roost at night are a splendid sight to see.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Marston Moretaine – Bus Stop Birds in the Bushes

 
On returning down Station Road, having posted a letter, the cacophony of birds in the bushes by the bus stop was to tempting a sight to ignore, so my return trip was at a brisker pace as I considered grabbing my medium weight tripod putting on the gimbal head and the Sigma 150-600 Sports lens and seeing what I might catch in the sunshine.

When I returned equipped, I noticed that there were the first signs of blossom on the branches, and the chirruping was still as busy as when I had passed before, so I just hoped that my presence was not going to be the kiss of death to my chances of capturing some shots of the birds I had spotted earlier.

To give myself a good chance, I had brought along some seeds to establish I was there to show my potential subjects some generosity, and I liberally spread handfuls close to the bushes but at a good distance from where I had set down the tripod.

The bushes were a mass of fine branches, which I knew would make it tough to capture the birds without intervening branches coming between myself and the birds, but there again it was probably also the reason why the birds felt moderately secure. It was not too long before some of the birds began returning, giving me a chance to see what I could capture, there seemed to be house sparrows and starlings as far as I could tell, with the very occasional pigeon coming in, but though I was not going to take shots of them in the bush, When one settled on a nearby roof ridge, I did sneak a couple of shots since it’s arrival in the bushes had caused a few starlings to make a swift exit, leaving them bare of birds.

I stayed a while and was occasionally involved in conversation from passers by, my next door neighbour heading home to collect her children from school, and a mother and young child, who informed me the bushes were hers, so I showed her and the boy a couple of shots on the back of the camera.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Search for Signs of Spring – Stewartby Lake

Having recently had the first cataract operation, I have not been out with my camera long enough to create a gallery of images, but this afternoon, as the sun was forecast to shine, I gathered a camera and three lenses and headed for the lake at Stewartby, in the hope I might be able to record the first tentative signs of Spring.

Certainly upon my arrival, it did not look too promising. Undeterred, I walked slowly in the counter-clockwise direction, with the 100mm macro on the 5D MkIII, looking into the largely hawthorn bushes to right and left; every so often venturing down paths that led down to the foreshore on my left, or the more dense right side, which had a few paths that led to the outer boundary at first, and later to a brook deep down beyond steep banks, where I did not venture!

I slowly gathered images of occasional attempts at hedge-laying; I was unconvinced that what I saw was likely to be too effective, but I am no expert. I find that very often the dying leaves in hedgerows, are full of rich colour, and on more than one occasion I captured those. There were some new memorial seats along the path, with some excellent incised carvings. I was able to capture some fresh blossom and even a lone daffodil;  I had hoped for more and better shots and some more sunlight, but nevertheless I felt rewarded by what  I had managed from such unprepossessing beginnings, and soon my phone beckoned with its harsh staccato beat to let me know that the next eye drops were due, and I still had to get back to administer them. It will be tougher yet on Saturday, when I will need to carry a freezer block with me when I visit the NEC.

A lone and very chirpy blue tit caught my eye from high in a leafless tree, but it needed massive cropping to get the shot, but it’s a tribute to the Canon lens that I was able to resolve it at all!

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

St. Mary’s Church Visit - in the Snow

At last some sunshine to accompany the Snow! Snow on a cloudy day is just not worth photographing, but really comes alive when the sun catches some of the crystals; the sparkle gives the snow form, and life, and this morning was a good time to walk to Marston Moretaine’s parish Church, which is just a smidgeon different from many village churches, the main structure lacks a tower. A short distance away and out of kilter with the church proper stands the buttressed tower, there is a weird myth surrounding this involving the Devil lifting the tower and tossing it away from the body of the building, and thus far, I have seen no real explanation for the odd juxtaposition of the two structures, but my cursory and ill-informed observation would suggest that both appear to be of different ages and style.
The history, or lack thereof does mean that it is very different from the average Parish Church, so merits interest. I decided it was worth capturing whilst it still has a carpet of snow surrounding it, so I took a wander around, sadly some more interesting views would have to await a later afternoon, as several of the views I was able to capture whilst the snow was moderately fresh were not lit to advantage, and having made a single circuit, clouds were massing to remove that vital ingredient sunshine, which was marked by the ringing of my phone bearing a message from one of my daughters.
The Tower appeared to be a meeting point for pigeons and doves, and the graves themselves were severally decorated with Spring flowers, but sadly the frosts and the burden of snow had caused these floral tributes to take on a sad demeanour, but it was definitely apparent from their numbers, that relatives were keen to keep their forebears in mind. One such was a balloon gently swaying to the light breeze with it’s handwritten message of love to a departed grandparent. What I noticed which was a surprise was how several were marked with headstones whose dates were surprisingly recent considering there is a planned new area for graves on the outskirts of the village, which pre-supposed that this cemetery was close to capacity, I therefore concluded that some must be family plots.
It was a brief visit, but I had been waiting for that vital conjoining of snow and sun, and was not disappointed, I also managed yesterday to gather some small expanses of virgin snow in case they could later be used to adorn a future Christmas Card, since for the last few years, snow has been notable for its fleeting appearance in our winters, and I always enjoy using recently captured images.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Stockwood Discovery Centre – Is Spring on its Way?

I met up with a former gardener for the gardens at the Stockwood Discovery Centre, Jan, to see what our chances were for capturing in photographs, any early signs of the upcoming Spring – at first sight with much of last year’s former glory removed along with any weeds that survived our lacklustre Winter, the prospect looked doomed to failure, but when we looked more closely, there were many signs of new growth, even signs of bloom – there were small clusters of Snowdrops in a couple of different spots.
At this time of the year without the leaf coverage some of the intricate twists of the branches can be seen to form beautiful shapes which become lost to sight when the leaves arrive. Some of the leaves on show on the day were variegated which always adds to their beauty especially when these fresh delicate colours are set against the more saturated and darker colours of older leaves. Grasses from the previous season dry and curl, forming interesting whorls, but are often difficult to capture when there is a wind as one naturally wants minimal depth of field to isolate them from their background, but you are fighting to  get them with minimal movement – high failure rate – but I did get a shot!
Occasionally, I would look around and Jan would be nowhere to be seen, yet on another occasion, I would spot her in deep concentration moving in close to some plant that caught her eye, it was interesting to note how she spotted items of engineering interest in much the same way I spot small details that have no other connection than the shape or the light falling on them sparks the idea for a picture.
We eventually decided that the warmth of the restaurant was calling, so we sat and chatted with one of her friends over cups of hot chocolate and looked on the backs of our cameras at shots we had taken, then headed for the exhibition area where the British Wildlife photos were on display, which were stunning, we also took a wander around the display of vehicles where I learned yet more of Jan’s varied past employment with Electrolux and her time at the Riding Stables in this same complex. I learned a little bit about the nature of the chain on a horse’s bridle and bit, when she spotted it had not been fitted correctly, and duly corrected it and explained its use. As I write this piece I learn that the shot she took of  the Prancing Horse adorning the front of the Steam Engine is now a card for a friend of hers, so already her visit to Stockwood has been profitable!
When we then headed out the sun had been out for a while, but it had had no effect on the temperature, it was bitter still, and the wind was far more noticeable once we were beyond the walls of the Gardens, Jan returned my Macro lens, but I was sad to learn the lens I spotted and suggested she might find useful had not met with the same pleasure as the micro she had borrowed from me.
The time spent was enjoyable and I came away with some interesting images despite my first impressions of what we might find.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Sunny Broglake – Roxy Takes the Upper Hand

Man’s best friend does not always let the Man take the lead – I witnessed Roxy give Sam the runaround – she had decided that it was Sam needing the exercise, so though she would run after the tennis ball; more often than not, she would either run further away then drop it or arrive beneath it, let it land then let it lie where it fell, with Sam calling in vain and having to walk to reach it – she was getting him well-trained!
I had come over to see whether the sunshine coupled with a light wind might entice some takers for a spot of windsurfing; Sam had prepared his board to do some hydrofoiling had there been some sailors taking to the water, but it was not to be. I had also been on the look out for any birds that might visit as there was one singing its head off, but no sooner than I had a long lens on the camera, it decided no mate was coming so went his merry way!
So all I have to remind me of the brief visit was a chat with Sam and a few shots of his interaction with Roxy.

Monday, 5 February 2018

For Sale – Acratech GV2 Ball Head


Note: This item is not hyperlinked to a Gallery on this occasion; it shows several views in a single fair-sized pdf, to return here use your Browser's back arrow.
I have found this to be an excellent choice for use with the Tamron 150-600mm lens on either my 5D MkIII or 7D MkII body, but having now purchased the Sports version of the Sigma similar range lens, I have found it can slip after a time with this far heavier combination, and this is also probably aggravated by this lens being far stiffer to zoom.
It is therefore a ‘horses for courses’ situation not a flaw attributable to the quality of the product, I am having to re-assess what I need for the Sports 150-600. I learned after using a loan version from Sigma that the original shoe was not man enough, so immediately bought the longer foot which is Essential (not an Option in my book!).
Purchasing the Sigma Sports version was also not a criticism of the Tamron – it is an excellent lens and performs well for me still. Its advantage is in its far lighter construction, so if hefting long distances with it to reach your subjects you will welcome the benefits! Unless you are either a masochist or an Olympic weightlifter carrying the Sigma and solid tripod any distance you will need to remember after the shooting, you still need to have the energy to return to where you left the car! Hence why to date I have not parted with it.
Back to the point, I am considering purchasing a larger and way more expensive head so will need to defray some of that cost so I am reluctantly considering this is the highest value item with which I am prepared to part.

It is fairly priced at £270 – Interested? Reach Me Via Comments

It is a PDF of the series of unretouched images that I have taken showing its features and condition of the head.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Late January – Brogborough Sun & Wind

          Finally a weekend comes along with wind and sunshine at the lake at Brogborough, and hardy Windsurfers can make the most of what late January has on offer. The really keen ones were on the water by the time I arrived at just after eleven.
          I set up the heavy Gitzo tripod, with the 7D MkII and the Sigma 150-600mm Lens on the gimbal head to the left of the foreshore, so that I was in a position to make the most of any sun that might appear as forecast. What I had not foreseen was just how waterlogged it was, so I changed my shoes for boots with some tread on them! Later I even moved the tripod because as I followed the action I was making a lot of mud from my constant changes of position, when panning. 
          I was not expecting exciting jumping, but was pleasantly surprised by capturing a couple of the sailors lift off from the water. Sam’s dog provided me with rolling activity presumably to have a good scratch! In order not to delay any more from getting the gallery of images up on the blog I will keep my narrative to a minimum as tomorrow is an important day when I pay a visit to Moorfields at Bedford for my initial visit to sort the cataract in my right eye. 
          There are a lot of gallery pages, hopefully covering everyone who was out on the lake, so for those in a hurry I have put a few headliners to whet the appetite.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Aylesbury Concert Band, St Mary's Eaton Bray 2018

I collected my daughter and her Bass Saxophone from near Aylesbury and headed to the first concert of the 2018 Aylesbury Concert Band  season at St. Mary’s Eaton Bray;  this concert takes place in the afternoon, and on this occasion it was bright with occasional glimpses of a shy sun. We collected some sustenance before going to park at the church.
Even though we were in good time, we were far from being the earliest of arrivals, and the car park is more than adequate and only a short walk with my camera gear and my daughter’s large heavy case. We both then separated to assemble our respective  kit and I investigated where to sit so I would be in a position where I had a good viewpoint and would not be obtrusive.
Once I had decided on what would be the most useful lenses, I then took a wander around to see where I might get the wider opportunities of varied images during the rehearsal since once the Concert proper was in play, moving around was not an option; I would then be reliant on using different focal lengths to suit what it was I wanted to capture, whereas I am able to choose my viewpoints provided I am not a distraction to the players.
During this period of moving around I was somewhat surprised by the sight of a butterfly, and I later learned they are not such a rare sight, as they often overwinter in the church!
I also wondered whether I might be allowed to shoot from the Organ Loft, and I was not disappointed, the gentleman in overall charge very kindly unlocked and switched on the lighting so I could negotiate the narrow winding staircase. The actual entry to the Organ was protected by a glass door which did somewhat surprise me by its presence! Fortunately, no damage was sustained either to the door or myself, but it did come as an unwelcome surprise!
It is a very tight fit for the Organist up there, and it was difficult to get to the centre, so for the empty shots at the rehearsal, I was not dead centre, but later during the first number of the concert, I did squeeze further in to take a few more meaningful shots with the audience present.
I found at one stage during the concert a lovely juxtaposition of one player with the Tuba beyond giving her a well-deserved halo! I also captured a few other light moments during the afternoon, and also found that in one angle from my position I was able to benefit from the blur of intervening musicians that allowed me to play with the differing rendition of that particular musician as the colours were so pleasing.
Although, the scene looks bright, I was quite surprised how high I had to raise the ISO to capture many of the images; I was generally barely a single stop from full aperture, and often shooting at 1/13th of a second, using 3200 ISO! I frequently refer to this type of work as ‘unavailable light photography’! But that’s part of the joy — a challenge!
At one time the gentleman in charge (sorry I do not have the name) spotted I was taking a shot of the Organ and kindly offered to put on a light to improve it further! It is a truly magnificent structure, but it was not featured treating us to its sounds, which was a shame.
And the most enjoyable piece of music from the afternoon — Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Wilstone – The View from the Hide

Despite the recent wet weather I had decided that I would visit Wilstone Reservoir to see what bird life I could capture. and to that end, I parked in the Car Park, not as in the past at the small layby near the Cemetery, so that I could reduce the distant travelled carrying the fairly heavy tripod. To further avoid the worst of the mud, when I reached the bridge, instead of taking the route through the woods I skirted the edge of the field instead which was far less muddy and lessened the risk of my falling.
On my arrival at the Hide it already had three occupants two of which were photographers, the third a birder equipped with binoculars. I set up the tripod with as little noise as possible to avoid disturbing the others, but this made the task somewhat lengthier as I was very conscious of the noise I was making, but finally I was happy with the height and worked for a while until I realised that I was restricting my angle of view to my right which was the best direction for lighting, so I made some readjustments with as little noise as possible, and settled to take shots of what I found, two of the others then spoke saying they had spotted a grey wagtail, but it took me quite a while to find it, as it was a good distance away and dwarfed by the geese it was near.
The wigeon was one of the first birds I spotted for myself, then there was a White Wagtail, and Teal and then several Lapwing, the latter being the bird of which I took most shots.
It was darkening and the temperature was dropping and I realised I had the trek back to the car to negotiate and so gathered up my kit and left the hide and headed homewards.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Sun & Stewartby Lake – Sailing

I needed a fix of photographs having suffered withdrawal symptoms due to poor weather after the Christmas festivities, and now was greeted with a real chance as the sun was shining in clear blue skies. I reckoned that despite the cold, Stewartby Lake might offer either wildlife or Sailing. So that was where I headed as it was not exactly early, and the distance was negligible. I took a variety of lenses, but opted on the 150-600mm Sigma on the 7D MkII, and the heavy Gitzo Tripod and Gimbal Head since from car to the lakeside was no distance at all.
And as I had hoped there was activity on the water, so I was soon set up and shooting, with occasional glances around at the activities of others, mostly families with youngsters , or  people out to give their dogs and themselves some exercise, and quite a few runners of both sexes out to work off the excesses of the recent holiday break, some of those noticeably puffing from their exertions! I was in a spot off the path with a reasonably wide angle of view, and in the lulls, I did look around to see whether I could improve my position, but the spot I had selected proved to be the best as any spot beyond had narrower views or the iron fence came into view in the lower half of the frame.
I was surprised that with such a lack of wind, just how fast some sailors managed to achieve, and ironically when they all retired from the lake, the wind rose. I was rewarded with a fair number of interesting shots and came away very satisfied and even bagged a few shots of the wildlife, albeit fairly tame stuff. I also found a few people stopped for a friendly chat; so altogether a very worthwhile afternoon.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Marsworth January 2018 Reservoir Visit

After several days with almost no sun, this day held promise, but the high wind did require some thought be given to how to reduce windchill; in sheltered areas this was less of an issue and with no rain. I set off south via country roads in case trunk roads were congested or suffered from wind-related accidents, and headed towards Tring Reservoirs.
 I chose a heavy corduroy overcoat and my fingerless gloves with silk gloves beneath. I can say this was indeed a good choice, because when topped off with a woolly hat that came over my ears, I was not in the least bothered by the cold! The wind did dictate a heavy tripod, so my load could not be classed as light in weight, and necessitated changes over which shoulder I carried the assembled Gitzo-mounted, 7D MkII, with the 150-600m Sigma lens. This was as much to check nothing had worked loose as to give me a rest.
On the journey I was called back by a government-sponsored survey that seemed almost impossible to avoid, so although I concentrated on road safety, I put less effort into choosing the route I was taking and no sooner had this been completed, my phone rang again and it was the Water Bailliff for Tringford Reservoir, so I stopped in the wide entrance to a caravan park to take the call. Before leaving I spotted the Ivinghoe Beacon’s iconic shape in the distance so decided to grab some shots with it on the distant skyline before continuing, since Bob was just leaving having been there for some hours, so there was no hurry.
I had forgotten to bring my key to the parking area which was a shame, but at least there was plenty of space due probably to the cold. I assembled my gear and headed towards the canal, and found myself able to cover River and Canal Trust making their way through the locks which made interesting images of their transit. The reed beds had suffered a battering in the last few days of heavy wind, but every so often those that still stood made interesting pictures, and were a sufficient challenge to capture, as were a Pochard and Gull, and so rather than lump the three disparate groups of images into a single gallery, I have given them a gallery each, which are Canal Trust Transit, Pochard Preening, and Attempted Gull Landing Aborted.
So here are their Links – Click on either of the images to reach the relevant gallery thumbnails.
It was good to be outside taking photos again, this day at least had some sunshine!