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…

View any Gallery by Clicking the relevant TEXT Headline

Thursday 29 December 2011

Boxing Day at the Holmes

I travelled to Burnham to my sister-in-law Glory and Richard’s house to celebrate Boxing Day with Virginia, back briefly from Mumbai, Alex once again on dry land, my mother-in-law up from Dover, together with assorted friends: Grace, Alex’s current girlfriend from Korea, Rechna from India, briefly Anders from all over the world, Ursula from nearby and Jan and Norman from London.

A more eclectic group is hard to imagine. It was a time of much catching up, reminiscing and jollity with some splendid food and wine. Sadly Renee, my mother-in-law was in pain and confined to a wheelchair and it has been a tiring time with all the necessary preparation for the holiday period, and Catherine chose to lessen the burden by not coming over at this time, so my time with her was to be the following day.

I hope I will get to see Virginia before she heads back to India, but I think it unlikely, but perhaps I might at least see Alex.

Westcott Christmas Day

I count myself very lucky to be invited to spend Christmas Day with my younger daughter, son-in-law, Tim, both his parents, and my first grandson, Joshua. Travelling cross-country was even quieter than normal, and the weather was mild.

It was very relaxing as Tim and Lizzy had had a good night, and all the preparations had gone smoothly, and it was not long before John and Sue had arrived which heralded the grand opening of presents, with Joshua following the tradition of all children of his age – enjoying the packaging far more than the contents! Everything has to provide relief from toothing pain or simply be introduced to the mouth: "Mouth, this is Paper"; "Paper, this is Mouth"!

John had a wonderful time introducing a series of ten numbered plastic mugs, ranging from small to large, that could be stacked to form a tower, and even more easily knocked down by small swinging feet and returned individually to the floor! Endless fun, interspersed with ever more paper as presents were opened.

We were all gathered around a log fire in the grate, and this kept the adults busy feeding it with new bits of wood varying from softwood offcuts to true logs via smaller branches, and this provided authentic crackling as well as louder cracks from time to time.

We soon sat down for a splendid lunch, to the opening of the Queen's Speech, at which point Sue chastised us all for not standing to attention during the National Anthem, however I am proud to say I had remained standing till Sue herself had seated. Lunch was a delicious beef joint carefully cooked to three differing degrees from rare to well-done to satisfy each individual's taste. This was followed by a Christmas Pudding that had been purchased at a recent Food Fair at Waddesdon, served with runny custard. Absolutely delicious in every respect.

All too soon, Sue and John were leaving. I then collected my night things from the car, stayed the night, and the following day set off for Burnham to visit my sister- and mother-in-law, and my niece and nephew.

Sunday 18 December 2011

Sawston Village College Concert

I was pleased to see that the morning’s fall of snow had melted before my journey across country to Sawston. Catherine had invited me to join her and Holly and Poppy at the school concert which was being held at Great St. Marys University Church in the centre of Cambridge. It was the girl’s first at the new school.

We joined a long queue outside the church, which grew to at least twice the length as we waited. Martin arrived to the obvious delight of the girls whilst we were there, and other mothers spotted Catherine and stopped by to chat. It only seemed a long time due to the cold, but soon we were making our way to find seats; I chose mine carefully to be able to see the girls clearly, but I was to learn later that there were places up in the balcony which would have offered a much-improved view – next year!

I could only take the very occasional shots from the pews of the actual singing without causing a distraction, so I concentrated on enjoying listening and singing. It was a very well-organised event and a delightful performance. Next to me sat a past Deputy Head and his wife, and she very kindly pointed out that the band were worth listening to at the end, rather than rushing out, which we duly noted. This gave me the opportunity for some more shots whilst various friends gathered to chat to either the girls or Catherine.

We then took a stroll through the Market place and visited Carlucci’s, passing the longest and possibly coldest, bare legs in Cambridge, belonging to Tina, as she stood outside a nightclub.
Poppy wanted to try her hand with the camera, once she and Holly had taken a look at some of the shots on the back of the camera – I am not sure which of the girls took the shot of Catherine, but the ladle and bowl were by Poppy, so I am hoping that the next generation of photographers might include one or both of them.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Last 2011 Visit to Foresters

This is likely the last visit in 2011 to the Foresters Development in Harpenden, and there was occasional sunshine, but it had rained a good deal over the last few days, so it was extremely muddy.

I spent some time covering the connection being made to heavy duty three-phase electricity cabling immediately below the Site Office Portakabin. I was intrigued by the clever shear bolts used to ensure a sound electrical connection; the studs shear when the intended torque is reached. The individual phases are shrink-sealed with a semiconductor material to ensure there is no crosstalk between the individual phases, and a conducting shield is then wrapped around the joints and bonded at each end by jubilee clips, before being covered by an outer plastic cover that is itself sealed at each end. The cover has two ports into which a mastic is poured that encases the connections completely weather-sealing them.

Nearby another man is grinding several steel reinforcing rods that were protruding from the edges of the pit where the electrical work was being done.

Elsewhere I took shots that finally showed some of the buildings more clearly now that the scaffolding is down, and that interior finishing was going in, and the work that was nearing completion at the back of the site, on the curving pathway.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Jarvis Foresters Exteriors Beginning to Show

Today's visit, again on a sunny day, showed me what had changed in the interim since my last visit. The trench newly dug on my last visit was now being populated with pipework. Many more kitchen and bathroom fittings were going in, and the floor tiles which had been down earlier, were all covered by protective rubber mats.

Windows which had been barely visible behind a lattice work of scaffolding and some deteriorating plastic sheeting were now visible to the world, so the final look of the buildings is becoming more apparent with each visit.

Beyond and to the left of the Site Office Portakabin, the garages now have the roof trusses up, here is one of the few places on site where scaffolding is still visible; the majority being behind the buildings to allow the renderers to work.

Whereas on most previous visits I would move around the various buildings using the outside stairs and ladders, today I did most of walking within the building using concrete stairs, so despite the bitter wind, I traversed the site in comparative comfort.

The unseasonable weather this late autumn is certainly a far cry from the snow that was here this time last year, and is probably very welcome for those still working outside.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Late Autumn at Stockwood

Most trees have now shed their leaves for another year, but if you look carefully there is still colour aplenty, as I discovered yet again on a visit to the gardens at the Stockwood Discovery Centre.
The mild nights of late and the heavy dews have brought out fungi, the added shelter of the walls and trees have kept a few more leaves than elsewhere and this year's weather has resulted in some added richness to the leaves' autumn hues.

There were still a few lone roses to be seen, and the weak sun had not burnt off the dew on many of the blooms. I was fortunate once again to be allowed to visit the greenhouse, so the gallery of pictures was augmented by some shots not available to all visitors, though nevertheless I still feel that even this late in the season, a stroll around this venue is extremely rewarding.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Foresters Losing the Scaffolding

It is good to see the brickwork more clearly and most of the blind gaps replaced by windows; the building show much more of their finished looks, and now that the render at the back has been completed, they were getting ahead with the same for the top halves of some of the buildings at the front.

On the left of the site a row of garages are nearing completion of the walls, and in the apartments many of the kitchen cabinets are going in and some of the bathroom fittings, elsewhere more of the plasterboarding is also going up, together with more of the wooden staircases.

Externally trenches are now being dug for some of the services, and the basement plumbing is even more apparent. It does not seem long before most areas will be weather-sealed, which will mean many of the workers will be inside carrying out their fitting whilst those outside will be concerned primarily with groundwork activity and very much at the mercy of our famous British Weather.

But just for today, we were treated very well indeed with sunshine the entire time I was on site.

Autumn and Remembrance

The weather for Sunday was forecast fair, so I was up and out early; not quite up with the lark, but certainly early enough for the mist to still be hanging around, and for me, it was early!

I knew only the general direction I was heading, as it seemed as if there was a corridor of early sunshine, and I meant to stay in the sun! Coming down the hill from Whipsnade and Bison Hill, the sun shone strongly on the roadside Indian restaurant, so I took the opportunity of its capture as there was a nearby lay-by just beyond the roundabout. I then continued towards Aldbury to the Pitstone Hill, before returning to Bulbourne and on to Tringford and the reservoirs, where I came across two more camera-toting photographers.

All the reservoirs at are at the lowest for several years, with Tringford falling victim to a score of cormorant who were manning a spit leading to the outflow towers and presumably gorging themselves on the hapless fish who had no depth of water in which to hide. Startops had many different varieties on the newly uncovered sandbanks, but most were lethargically preening themselves or dozing in the unexpected warmth of the sun. The most active birds were the gulls, the coots and the grebe, and just twice a pair of swans took to the air, I therefore tested my panning skills to capture them at takeoffs or landings.

Around the time of the two minutes silence the wind rose somewhat and there was a new chill in the air, and for a while I regretted not wearing fingerless gloves, but I soon found that dropping to the foreshore brought me slightly closer to the birds and out of the wind.

Later, I drove back to watch a delayed recording of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and first and third for McLaren and a welcome return to form for Lewis Hamilton.

Friday 4 November 2011

Craneless Foresters

The defining sign of the Foresters Development by Jarvis in Harpenden has been removed, and the void from which it rose to tower over the skyline of Harpenden, has been sealed up. Much of the scaffolding that laced the facades of the buildings, has now been removed, and now glimpses of how this development will look in its completed state are visible. White render is being sprayed and smoothed across parts of its surfaces.

Many of the internal rooms are being plastered and tiled and even fitted out with sanitary ware in the form of showers and baths, where floor tiling has been completed these read are now covered in large rubber mats for their continuing protection, wooden staircases are going in, as are internal doors, and outside at the far end tarmac has now gone down. Though there are still several months till completion, at least from outside the impression of how this enclave will look is becoming apparent, but the basement does give some idea due to what it is storing, just how much has still to be built in to achieve completion.

The work to be done is now far more detailed and time consuming, so progress will seem to slow down, even though this is far from the reality. Out at the back are changes that no casual passers-by will see at all, but it is taking shape.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Important Meeting with Jarvis Directors

Having worked hard to create photo reports of progress on the Foresters Development by Jarvis, just off the High Street in Harpenden, the dismantling of the crane gave me the vehicle to transport me, to the offices of the developers. Today, I had an important appointment with the Managing Director, Steve Cook.

I had originally been drawn to the site by the sight of the crane as I approached Harpenden back in November of last year. When I learned of its impending removal, I decided that I would attempt to create a time lapse movie of the work by shooting the dismantling one shot every ten seconds over the six or so hours that it took to be carried out, and compiling them into a movie. I was a time-lapse virgin, but I spoke to colleagues and read various articles and mentioned to the site manager, James Blackie that this was my intention, and he thought it might be a very interesting project, and discussed how the operation was to be planned.

Later when he saw what I had produced, he and several of his colleagues told me that it was a very interesting result and when I asked who I might contact at head office, they gave me their Managing Director’s name and contact number, and Jason said yes, he would try and put in a word for me. I then contacted Steve Cook on the following Monday and today at nine thirty I found myself in his office and soon after, in walked the Marketing Director Geoff Hollis.

Only time will tell whether I have convinced these two of my competence and value, but certainly I felt that the presentation went well, and I sincerely hope that at some date in the future I may be invited to tender for work with the company. Above is a photo of the headquarters building shot just the afternoon before.

Friday 28 October 2011

Scaffold Comes off at Foresters

After a day of rain, I arrive on site in glorious and warm sunshine, but hey, this is the end of October, and the clocks go back this weekend, Summer is officially over!

Somehow the site is not the same without the crane towering over all the work, where it rose out of the concrete two workers are clearing plugs from the skein of concrete, and the gap will soon disappear it is as if they are working on the crane’s tomb.

Elsewhere on site baths are now in in some of the apartments, kitchen units are in, tiles have been laid, and are now covered in hard-wearing rubber mats to prevent heavy boots from damaging them, and those areas not being worked upon are now locked, soon the work will be mainly confined to the interiors, and fitting out whilst the land outside is cleared and prepared for the final levels.

Possibly because it is school half-term there seem to be fewer tradesmen on site, so presumably dads are taking their kids out to exciting venues elsewhere, and making the most of this surprising good weather.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Canon Pro Solutions Show

I travelled to London to go to the Canon Pro Solutions show at the Islington Business Design Centre. What drew me to this event? I needed to gain an assessment of my damaged EOS 5D MkII, I also wanted to take a look for a replacement Compact Flash Card Reader, and meet up with colleagues from my past working with Adobe.

Ironically, it was someone from UCL (University College London) that I soon found myself standing alongside as he was listening intently to Andy Johnstone from Calumet, this was Ram, who I had not seen for at least six years, and he had also recognised me! We were both interested in the Certon drive enclosures Andy was demonstrating, so we concentrated on this before re-introducing ourselves.

In the ensuing chat I mentioned my recent construction of a time lapse movie for Jarvis and a planned meeting with Steve Cook, the managing director, when he told me that Jarvis are the contractors involved in the MacMillan Cancer building belonging to UCL, and he may be able to get me an introduction there. This will be a useful tidbit to take along to my appointment next week. I met Ram and his colleague from the Mortuary several more times, fortuitously at Philip Bloom’s talk about time lapse shooting!

The show provided me with the opportunity to introduce Andy to someone on the RKC stand with a handy piece of control equipment for doing moving time lapse shooting with a DSLR camera, that I considered ideal for hiring. Others I met were Ray Fitchett of Sigma, Steve Newberry of Adobe, Geoff Dann, professional photographer from Clerkenwell, Richard West and Kevin Dobbs from Nik Software and Andy Campbell from On One Software, Nick Millen from Canon, and several other familiar faces to whom I can never put names. It was heartening to be asked whether I was there working, but that seems to have passed, although Steve asked to confirm my details, as he may just have some one-to-one training possibilities.

Speaking to a Canon mechanic, it looks as if I can get my camera repaired which rounds off a good day.

Stockwood Floral Tribute

It is a testament as to the hard work of all the gardeners at Stockwood Park Discovery Centre, that I should be able to gather so many photos from one short visit in autumn sunshine, Sue very kindly allowed me into the sweltering heat of the greenhouse, but even outside in the various gardens I was able to capture the sunlight through the leaves and capture the veins in strong contrast and colour.

I found soft lighting on the wistful face of a statue, and the waterfall of dew on a red wall, and in the greenhouse even the bubble wrap provides an interesting backdrop and softer light behind some of the flowers. Both objects and leaves can cast interesting shadows, and at one stage a robin came to savour peanuts thrown by Sue, and I learnt she had safely reared a fine brood of chicks earlier in the year.

Altogether a worthwhile visit in warm sunshine and a slight breeze, amidst the chatter and screams of delight from youngsters at half-term.

Twins Twelfth Birthday, Peace Pagoda Visit

Saturday found three groups of our extended family head for the Peace Pagoda Car Park in Milton Keynes to celebrate the twelfth birthday of Holly and Poppy. Even though I had never been before, and needed guidance from others, I did manage to preserve my honour by arriving first!

The car park is in woods, with pathways leading off in many directions and once Joshua, our youngest member was ensconced in his buggy, we set off amidst lots of chatter as we caught up with each others’ news and recounted our reasons for taking so long to meet. We soon found ourselves out in the sunshine and in sight of the pagoda.

The setting is superb, and very calming, our birthday girls were soon picking up some of the messages that the winds had scattered beneath the trees, and after cursory reading from some returned them with reverence to the tree from whence they had been blown. In a straggling group we were soon back on a pathway that led us around the Willen Lake, with our groups ever changing their constituents, and Joshua gaining different buggy-handlers. There was also the natural high spirits finding outlet, which did result in Lizzy receiving an accidental elbow blow in her face. Fortunately, the pain subsided, and we continued our walk.

Once the circuit was completed, we then formed a convoy to head for a Sushi bar as a treat for the birthday girls, who love the carousel, and Joshua was not as settled after his feed as we had hoped, and that gave me a great opportunity to take him for a wander outside in the malls, and sing him songs from the repertoire of those whose words I remember and are within my limited range – I cannot claim that it is always works, but I do achieve a reasonable success rate! After a great family reunion, we got back into our cars and returned to Cambridge, Luton and Aylesbury. 

Sunday 23 October 2011

Southill Village Stores – Sue's Tea Shoppe

The village of Southill in Bedfordshire may be slightly off the beaten track, but it is close to Shuttleworth the college, and Old Warden with its Airfield, Museum, and Bird of Prey Centre. The Village is largely owned by the Whitbread family, which preserves its olde worlde charm. It is an ideal spot to break off from a ramble or cycle ride, and set back from the main through road is the small village store and tea shop, now run by Sue Richards. I called in there this Sunday afternoon in pleasant warm sunshine, and enjoyed tender ham, tasty Cheddar cheese, and fresh-baked bread with a pot of tea to wash it all down. (Click the the highlighted text within this paragraph to see further details)

Sue provides local produce where possible, freshly baked bread, home made cakes and a warm welcome  in a very English country setting, around the walls can be found art from local artists. On those days when the sun blesses us with its warm rays, there are tables in the front garden as well as those inside. This would be an ideal venue for small group meetings with food and refreshments at any time of year with Sue to provide these with her natural charm and easy nature.

Monday 17 October 2011

Other Work Continues on Site

Although the entire site was enormously interested in watching the crane being dismantled, because of the scale of the clearance, preparation and disruption that the operation entailed, I was very aware that many of the other trades had still got to work through it all. That included me, in that I was aware that several areas beyond the 10 metre exclusion zone directly beneath the crane were progressing, so once I had setup one camera to carry out the taking of shots every ten seconds so that I could create a time lapse movie, I then continued my general coverage of the work as well as obtaining full quality images of the dismantling, and this freedom of movement allowed me to capture the action from a much better lighting standpoint, especially as the fixed viewpoint for overall shooting was for a large part of the morning looking directly into the sun – not exactly conducive to high quality imaging. Another point was that I could also choose the focal lengths of lenses for the still shots as well as the viewpoint.

The much smaller gallery shows some of the other work either being done or well under way whilst the main program was unfolding. In some of the apartments the kitchen furniture was being installed, and the newly laid tiles were now covered by temporary sheeting of tough paper.

Sunday 16 October 2011

The Crane is Dismantled & Removed from Harpenden

On Tuesday, I heard the weather forecast was for drizzle in this area, so I realised that I would need to get some form of rain guard to put over the camera, so after l had located one, and purchased it, I put several charged batteries together with a series of cleared cards, and the new 32GB one for Wednesday's attempt to capture the dismantling of the Cerex crane at the Jarvis Foresters Development site in Harpenden. I also set everything up to check out my attempt to create a time lapse movie of the operation.

I joke about how I always seem to bring sunshine to the site, so the viewpoint I had looking directly into sun was based upon the grey overcast promised — the joke was bound to come back and haunt me, as no sooner than I had set myself up precariously in front of a dormer window window, and started, than the sun came out and gained in strength! I had started, so I would continue. How I cursed the sun. I also faced another snag, I still wanted to capture decent stills of the operation, but getting down from my lofty perch meant getting into frame, and risking jogging the tripod.

However, I did manage to get down and use another camera for other shots, and I also used the opportunity to grab yet another camera with a long lens on it, but this led to a minor disaster later in the day when one camera strap caught on my other camera and sent it sliding down the tiles and then a two foot drop to the wooden scaffolding planks, (though badly scratched, it survived to continue working), but that, my most expensive body is really unlucky and looks very secondhand!

I could hardly have chosen a more difficult task for my first ever venture into time lapse photography — wide angle view, making the action very tiny, shooting into the sun, precarious perch, no room to view the camera controls easily, every chance of jogging the tripod, and so cramped I could not get comfortable… no clear idea how to proceed after capturing the JPEGs, and having to rely on individual batteries, but I still rose to the challenge, I am now wondering whether I am going to get something worthwhile from all the effort.

I am still offloading the 32GB card, and then I have all the other shots to post process to create a gallery that covers that operation in slightly more detail, and certainly better quality, as the time lapse images were all shots as JPEGs. I am now writing several days later; the shots for the time lapse are now in three separate MP4 movies at various sizes, and all the stills are in two separate galleries. I have learned a lot, and realised a few mistakes I have made along the way, I have shown my family, a few friends and the site manager, and they all say that for a first ever attempt they are impressed, so despite my own misgivings, it would seem the outcome was a success — it has certainly kept me busy.

Wilbury Partridge Shoot

I was invited to cover a Partridge Shoot being organised by Dave Wilkinson, to whom I had been introduced by Bob Menzies and arrived before the appointed time to allow me to find out something of the protocols involved.

The gate was secured electronically, so I phoned Dave, who said he was barely two minutes away, and he was soon pulling up behind me. I followed him in and he showed me where to park, before showing me the meeting point, and some of the arrangements. He also asked if I might also take some shots of their cosy dining area and kitchen. Fortunately despite my not having the ideal wide-angle lens, my 24-105mm was sufficiently wide to get a few shots, despite operating handheld at 1/5th 1/10th of a second! This room was built into the corner of a vast barn, and the barn itself was very gloomy as despite the earliness of the hour, it was very dark outside in the open.
There was tea, coffee, and food prepared and laid out for everyone. As more people arrived, I was greeted by a few familiar faces from the fishing community including Bob himself. I was soon to learn there was a certain hierarchy — the Guns, then the Beaters, then the Pickers Up. I was very unsure where I came in this unfamiliar gathering. I did my best to listen and observe, and whenever possible try to get answers from Dave; not easy when you are acutely aware that he has higher priorities than you, and you do not know the ropes. I did what I often do under such circumstances, collected my camera, and took a few shots of the assembled crowd. After a while it seemed there was a full complement, so Dave gathered everyone to a flip chart he had set up, and explained how partridge-shooting differed from that of pheasants, and how we needed to be very silent when we arrived at each drive, and also exactly the Beaters were to be positioned and how they would move.
There was a trailer each for the Guns and Beaters, and these were brand new, as was a quad-bike to tow the bird trailer, I was originally told I'd be travelling with the Guns, but I found myself being invited to join Jennie in her 4x4, and I submitted willingly to having my travelling varied from the Guns trailer, to the cabin of a Land Rover, or Shanks 'pony! Ultimately I was my own boss, but I carefully sought out answers to avoid any incorrect etiquette or safety breach.

There was break for refreshments, cheese and cheese sticks, but as I was still running a course of antibiotics, I was unable to partake in the wine on offer with the Guns.
We had a break for lunch which offered pasties, the most generously-filled sausage rolls I have ever seen, coffee, and tea. This was the first time I was able to chat to some of Bob's anglers and Bob himself. We went for several further drives which also took us to Mentmore amongst other places. I have tried to capture some of what went on, but it was a shame it was so grey, as this made it very difficult to capture what I would have liked, as I had to use such a high ISO speed, and low actual shutter speed, and really my lenses lack the wide apertures necessary in this type of endeavour, but I thoroughly enjoyed my day, and tried to get a DVD's worth of images for Dave out as soon as possible making this galleries and write-up very late.

Sunday 9 October 2011

Jarvis Foresters 7th October Visit

This day’s visit means the last of the high level view point from the Cerex crane at the Foresters Development by Jarvis Homes, as this coming Wednesday sees the dismantling and removal of the crane which has dominated the Harpenden skyline for  much of this year.

A gentle breeze was what the weather forecasters described, but it still felt slightly more than that when I was close to the cabin height to get the last images of the work from this viewpoint.

There forthcoming departure of the crane has meant considerable change to the far right end of the site, as the earlier wooden gates are open and the future road entrance is now visible. Another change is that a bit more of the scaffolding has been dismantled, giving a much clearer view of the finished result. A wooden staircase has gone in in one of the end cottages.

Although upon my arrival the sun was out, by the time I was concluding the skies were lowering and the clouds looked threatening and few drizzling spots of rain were falling.

Sunday 2 October 2011

Hot September Day – Oxfordshire

The intention was to visit a part of the nearby country where Red Kite were supposed be prevalent, and in terms of seeing them I was lucky, but in each occasion, that moment was gone in a flash, despite my waiting around having stopped the car. I spotted a hovering kestrel, but even though the right camera and lens were to hand, and parking up close by was not a problem, it was gone, never to appear again. I had seen a pair of kites in the distance by a bridge, but they never returned, but from that bridge I was surprised to see very rusty, and twisted rails disappearing into the haze yet a red signal was alight, and in the opposite direction just buffers (Health and Safety gone mad?) I stopped at two bridges on the same line and I would surmise that no train has ventured on these lines since Dr Beeching took the axe to Britain’s rural lines in the Sixties. The twists I saw at the second bridge were certainly not the trick of a heat haze!

I took a walk along the canal near Thrupp, and the pubs along the way, must have been very welcoming of the unexpected trade due to the unseasonable warmth for the end of September. The stretch was full of narrowboats, and canoes, and the towpath offered the opportunity for fathers to repair their son’s cycle punctures, parents and grandparents to read their books and magazines, and several to take the opportunity to repair and paint their boats in preparation for the autumn and winter ahead.

I developed a raging toothache, and was very grateful that a village shop had some ibuprofen, and in this same village on my return passage I spotted a wonderful view accentuated by the lowering sun of a cottage just beyond a small pond and reed beds, with a few late flowering lilies; there had been a pair of mallard ducks, but my arrival sent them into the secrecy of the reeds. A little later in the return trip I came across some fields awash with pheasants, close by a drive beyond security gates, where a lone cyclist was leaving the grounds.

Friday 30 September 2011

Jarvis Foresters, Harpenden, 30th September

Blue skies, very warm – is it really the very end of September in the UK? I went round to the back of the site where work was going on with what I take will some garden area. Then I could see that an area on the far right which had largely been a storage area was now cleared to give access to the gates at that end. And, presumably to give space for the disassembly of the Cerex crane in a week’s time. The skyline of Harpenden will once again return to normal.

As I went around the interiors, tiles were going down now that the moisture levels had stabilised, and I saw that units for the kitchens were stacked in one room ready for installation and doors were having their hinges added, and a lot of the plastering was drying out. I did find one very strange sight – in one very small area that was being plastered the plasterer was equipped with stilts!

It seemed strange to me that it was the ground floor areas that were so much further ahead than the upper floors. It was not till later I noted that the scaffolding on the cattages at the end had been removed.

Thursday 29 September 2011

Waddesdon Manor in Warm Sunshine

I had wanted to learn something more about this well-known ex-Rothschild pile and its gardens, because Lizzy had been living close by for some time and loved visiting the grounds and also eating out at the restaurant. The plan was to take both cars so she could drop hers into a garage to have two new tyres fitted, and then to use mine to go to the house and gardens.

I was most impressed with how well manicured were the lawns of the park, and how the drive led its winding way to the grand house. We were able to park in the shade, which was handy, and once the buggy was set up, we strolled up the hill and I took shots of the views over towards Westcott; the one which was most meaningful was close by a statue of Hercules.

As we passed the fountain and turned towards the front of the house, it struck me how the Rothschilds family had often built their houses with very similar architectural features, and paid a great deal of attention to detail – the extravagance of the craftsmanship in some of the stonework is quite astonishing.

Although close up, the flowers can be seen to be past their best, the colour and formal arrangement was stunning, and the amount of ironwork to keep sharp grass edges was impressive. Volunteers were to be seen cleaning statue plinths with brush and washing up liquid, and small shears to keep the grass tidy, whilst supported above on planking to avoid crushing the grass.

Joshua slept through much of the time, but when he did wake, he stayed calm, only becoming restless when we returned to collect the car from the garage with its new tyres. I sadly, had to return early to collect a copy of my old log book and take it to the garage from where I was buying my new car. It fortunately arrived with just a day to spare, to complete my part exchange deal.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Birds, Tractors, a Windmill

An Indian Summer comes to the Home Counties, giving us warmth, blue sky and in the late afternoon strong low light on Wotton Underwood cottages and Quainton Windmill.

Actually the partridges which were very well camouflaged against the newly tilled field and the red kite were taken on a different day from the gulls following the tractor, even though the rich red soil looks similar. The second bird, which I believe was a buzzard seemed to be carrying either an egg or a stone as it buzzed the red kite. It is not unusual to see gulls following tractors, but the numbers were far greater than I have seen before.

Quainton is home to a railway museum and its popular attraction, Thomas the Tank Engine, and has this splendid windmill and sports a popular pub just below it. I just loved the bright low light on the yellow cottages in Wotton Underwood, so had to stop and capture it.

Monday 26 September 2011

Marsworth & Startops End Birdlife

For a change I took a wander around the other two Tring reservoirs, walking between Marsworth and Startops End. The water level was way down due apparently to leaks in the Grand Union Canal and Marsworth’s reservoir; the stream that enters mars worth was dry, and I spotted what turned out to be a blue-headed wagtail feeding in the drying mud by the reeds.

It was from the wooded divide that I got shots of  the heron landing amidst the tern at the water’s edge, I asked some of the anglers how the low water level was affecting their fishing, and learned that on balance it was adverse.

I was to see pied wagtails flitting carefully the same distance either side of where I was sitting and whilst watching them I was distracted by the sound of flapping and churning water, and was able to capture one grebe chasing another, and then facing up to each other and a wild fight ensuing. I returned to my car and Tringford where I met up with the bailiff and saw the wagtails again, this time on the end of one of the fishermen’s boats. Altogether an interesting couple of hours of shooting.

Sunday 25 September 2011

A Few Glimpses of Baileys Hard

I decided to give my car an airing, so drove to Baileys Hard on the Beaulieu River. This year has been a really poor year for bird life here, normally one tree in particular looks as if it grows birds, there were so many on its branches, this year barely any. Perhaps it is due to the menacing presence of a Sparrowhawk.

I had hoped that I might spend some time leisurely capturing examples of them in the branches, but it was not to be. What also did not help was that my sister-in-law’s white terrier who is old and deaf, mysteriously wandered off, and so much of my time and that of everyone in our group was spent wandering around the lanes and undergrowth in search of her.

It did not help that the telephone number on her collar was for an address back in Buckinghamshire, but fortunately my nephew took a call some time later, and we learned the dog had wandered all the way to Buckler’s Hard and the couple who found her had her with them in the garden of a Pub, so after two hours she was back safe and sound. We could all relax again.

So I managed to capture very little during my afternoon visit. I did however see a group go out in canoes from the nearby slip, and met one of the girls organising their training, the charming Viv from Liquid Logistics that are based nearby, who felt that my camera and lenses were more like weapons; I noted later that she features in their explanatory videos .

As this group left for their session, I spotted a swan serenely gliding by, but what is saddening is how presumably someone has fired a staple gun at its beak as you can see from an enlargement of its head.

Saturday 24 September 2011

Jarvis – Foresters Development – September 23rd Visit

Arriving again with sunshine, I took a look around with slightly less pressure this time, as my car was beyond the reach of Traffic Wardens. Certainly many more areas of the roofs are now clad in tiles, but I mistakenly thought some of the scaffolding might have been coming down to reveal more of exterior of the various buildings. On the right of the site, the Retail area was one that I had not really covered completely on my last visit, so this was my priority.

Speaking to one of the tilers working on the circular section of this roof, he told me he was determined to avoid any step in the cone with his work, unlike the other roof close to the entrance done by a different company. It was good to hear voiced such a sense of pride and determination to do a good job!

This Retail section of the construction, is not as far ahead in terms of the roof as other areas on the site, so I was see ing far more carpentry as it slowly begins to take shape on all the steelwork. The three dormers are nearing completion from tilers and carpenters, but have yet to receive their windows. Down below, window frames are being assembled by their final destinations, still shrouded in their protective polythene sheeting.

Ridge tiles and corner tiles were being cemented, and valleys and dormers were being flashed with lead or zinc, so that the completed areas were becoming weather-resistant. Cabling was going in in many areas, and plastering was being done, and in the basement even fluorescent lighting and signage was in use. Hidden around the back of the site, curved walling was quietly progressing in what is the gloomiest part of the site.

The Cerex crane, which has been the most visible feature of this development, is due for disassembly soon, but has proved so useful it has already had its stay extended.

Monday 19 September 2011

Changeable Weather at Tringford

The forecast seemed to promise showers in the morning with occasional sunshine, but it would close down around lunchtime, and the gusty wind was likely to be with us all day, well we missed the showers in the morning but were treated with a couple in the afternoon and the gusty wind was indeed with us all day.

There were two boats out on the lake each with a pair of anglers, one group was unlucky to catch no fish at all, the other managed three catches. The bailiff chose to try to fish from the bank and the fish just weren’t biting for him either.

We wandered down the stream, to check on the flow and whether this was affected by the fallen trees, but the flow seemed reasonable, but the water level in the reservoirs was very low, due in part to some leakage and a damaged lock gate on the canal. I was surprised to see a dragonfly, and a butterfly, since this has been a poor season for both for me, there were also more herons to be seen, at the bank and in the air. A couple of terns were using a technique I had not seen before, they would land on the water and then leap into the air and promptly dive after only a few feet, sometimes with success, but as often as not, no more lucky than flying and diving, but giving me a better shot at a picture!

I also was surprised to find a freshwater mussel, which had become stranded on the foreshore, so this was thrown into deeper water in the hope it would survive. Bob took me for a spell on the water whilst he fished from the boat, and I tried to get shots of the herons. Overall I think the weather slightly better than had been predicted.

Friday 16 September 2011

Roofs and Windows Make All the Difference to Foresters

There is little doubt that now the tiles cover a good proportion of the roofs at the Jarvis Development at Foresters, the buildings look more complete, even though inside there is still a way to go. It will not be long before much of the scaffolding will be removed, and then the windows in particular will be far more apparent.

In the early autumn sunshine there is a warm glow from the bricks and tiles, and there are numerous attractive viewpoints that give the whole development variety; it has been an interesting journey watching the whole complex come together, and it has been a pleasure to feel welcomed here as the work has progressed.

I didn’t have the time to cover too much of the interior work this visit, so I am sure I will notice a considerable on my next visit.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Stockwood Season End Colour

Before all the sunshine goes and the autumn winds bring the branches down, and flatten the blooms, I just had to get away from the computer screens for a break, especially as bright sunshine was casting strong shadows on my blinds.

My destination was Stockwood Discovery Centre Gardens and having sent some images of bugs to Jan, one of the gardeners, I thought I'd check she was able to download them safely, so I hastened to the far end where I spotted her. I asked was there anything of particular interest, and learned that there was indeed; it was a form of red lily, that had been brought in and planted somewhat in the shade of a climbing Morning Glory, and the gentleman who had originally brought it in had been somewhat pessimistic of it flowering – well I can report his pessimism is unfounded, for it has flowered strongly. Jan hopes it will last till the weekend for his visit.

I met an apprentice whom Jan is mentoring, who plans to learn enough to start up his own business, well, he has a good and generous tutor, so he is well-placed to benefit from his time here.

There was a dearth of visitors, so it was easy to get around and spend time sometimes for the wind to die down, at others for the sun to come from behind the clouds, but there was a surprising amount of colour, and numerous water droplets which always adds interest to closeups of flowers.

Whilst in the green house surrounded by scout wasps and apparently a single hornet, two calls came in, one that dashed my hopes of flying into Goodwood for the Revival Meeting, the other from Apple to help get to the bottom of problems besetting my iMac and Lion operating system – despite mentioning I was out photographing some five miles from home, I was asked was I close to my computer!

Friday 9 September 2011

9th September Visit to Jarvis Foresters Site

Parking in Harpenden is limited to one hour, sometimes this is rarely sufficient to gather images of progress at the development, and today the free space that appeared was being overlooked by a burly Traffic Warden; that meant I was under pressure to return precisely on time! It was very muggy, and this always makes it tough because my glasses steam up when in the basement.
I set the alarm on my phone, and putting on my Hi Viz Jacket, hard hat and steel-toecapped boots headed for the building site with alacrity. I tried to get the overall picture, before disappearing into the basement to see how all the pipework was getting on, then took the ladders to cover the tiling on the apartments, and some of the internal work such as the plaster boarding, and even plastering.
The electric cabling and high-pressure water piping is much in evidence, and many of the rooms now have their underfloor heating fully sealed, and the whole site seems very full as much of the material is now stored on site; it is often difficult to show what is taking place, because every area is becoming smaller as the rooms are partitioned, and the external structure is encased in a steel cage of scaffolding.
My alarm sounded, and sent me scurrying off the site to see the warden near to my car, I asked if it were possible to have a few more minutes grace, and he nodded, so I dashed back in for the last couple of shots, and by now the sweat was pouring off me, but he was as good as his word, and I dashed back in less time than I had asked for, declobbered and drove back to Caddington. Job done.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Windy Wednesday in the Walled Garden

I had had too much grief in front of the computer; I needed to get out, so even though I knew it would be rather late, and it was both dull and very windy, I took myself off to the Walled Garden at Luton Hoo.These winds were the precursor to autumn, or as the Americans would say Fall. I prefer autumn to the the more prosaic description to just the single aspect of the dropping of leaves. Autumn evokes the colours of the season, and today despite the inclement weather still had the colour of late summer flowers, and the leaves have yet to fall.

My patience was somewhat tried as some shots took several minutes of waiting for the lull in the wind, and nothing could be grabbed as I had little margin of error due to the low light level. And at the best of times patience is not really my strong suit, and these last few weeks have not been the best of times. I persevered, and the end result is more colourful than I had expected. Many of the volunteers had already finished, but there were still several hardy perennials determined not to be defeated by the weather, and they had obviously worked hard clearing the weeds and thinning out the plants and flowers that had past their best.

The handcart is nearing completion, and the next in line for refurbishment, now that most replacement parts have arrived, is the Drag Saw. It is hoped the handcart will be ready in time for the Pumpkin and Apple Gala Day, and certainly the Apples and Pears are the best I have seen, having suffered less from the ravages of wasps and the like.

Monday 5 September 2011

Bletchley Park Visit

I had made up my mind that despite the poor weather forecast for Sunday, a visit to the home of British Codebreakers during the Second World War was worth a trip since Lottery money had enabled some well-needed restoration. I set off in light drizzle, but by the time I arrived the tap was far more fully open. Outside I needed the warmth and the protection, but once inside, I needed neither, and taking my leather jacket off was impractical with my camera bag to carry as well!

Parking was being organised I am presuming from their ages, Air Cadets – I didn’t relish their task! Having bought my ticket, I headed for the hut displaying the Bombe, though looking at the gallery, my chronology has been sacrificed to offer a better introduction. The demonstration and explanation of the processes involved was very ably put across by some very knowledgable volunteers, and this encouraged lively audience involvement, as they explained how those who worked these machines relied as much on technicalities as human foibles to reduce the time the Bombes took to arrive at a decrypt of the transmissions from the German Enigma operators. We were looking at just one machine, it was explained that many more were working in the same room in their day.

Beyond this demonstration was a museum of various cypher machines Enigmas, and others. But for me the most striking exhibit was the statue to Alan Turing built from tiny slivers of slate, which I felt really captured the features of the great man’s face in a unique way. As a result I was not satisfied by taking just one picture, but several; I hope the sculptor, Stephen Kettle is pleased by my efforts.

During the course of this visit I came across no less than three ladies who had played their part in the work of gathering or processing this information for Bletchley Park. One such lady said they were told their ‘Y’-station reports were taken by despatch riders to Bletchley Park, however, she learnt that was not in fact the case – their signals were in fact passed via a Teleprinter terminal direct to one of the huts here, I have forgotten which hut it was she said.
I later listened intently to another ‘Y’-station operator, and learned another surprising fact as she demonstrated she could still read Morse today having stopped way back at the end of the War, and that was that though she qualified to read at 18-words per minute and had been capable of 28 or more, she never tapped a key at all! Also, which must have made it harder still, she never once listened to plaintext, it was always in blocks of five characters, so no guessing was available to help her, nor would she ever learn how accurate were records had been.
This lady, known as A253, was Merris Wood and she delighted the crowd of men in the small marquee for the Vintage Radio Society by her reminisces of her work and the equipment she had used; this sort of encounter made their day. Later I was to meet another operator chatting to a BBC Outside Broadcast team who were there to cover a program called the Code Breakers telling the story of Lorenz and Colossus, which sadly lost only a week ago, the leader of the restoration team Tony Sales. I visited the Colossus demonstration put on by a charismatic girl in a black hat who confidently spoke as if she had been there at the time (maybe she had just stepped from the Doctor’s Tardis, earlier that morning?!)

In the last long hut I visited, were the stories of the brave crew of HMS Petard who sadly died when capturing the Enigma machine from the crippled U-boat, U559. The two sailors, Colin Grazier and Tony Fasson did not receive their due mention because of the secrecy surrounding that capture, until many years after the end of the War; they were caught out by the sudden inrush of water that marked the end of the submarine.

When I came out of this hut, the rain had stopped and the sun was out thinly. A fitting end to a very enjoyable day.

Wednesday 31 August 2011

End of August Visit to Foresters Harpenden

Despite all the scaffolding that surrounds the buildings on the site, the overall shape of the Foresters Development by Jarvis just off the Kinsbourne Green end of Harpenden High Street, is very apparent with all the roof work that has been done of late. Many areas have both the Tyvek membrane and tiles laid, and many windows and Velux skylights have been installed. On one of the several false chimneys even the television aerials are up!

At the end of the month, the most noticeable sign of this development will be dismantled, the tall Cerex crane will be taken down, and Harpenden’s skyline will once more return to show just rooves, the church tower and tall trees. That does not mark the end of the work however, but certainly it does mean that completion is another stage closer.

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Tringford – Bank Holiday Monday

The water level was lowering all day at both Startops End and Tringford as Bank Holiday’s visitors to the Grand Union Canal gave the Locks a good working over, that meant greater water clearance beneath the moorings, and we were astonished by the appearance of a kingfisher who swooped across the water actually beneath the landing stage, and although at a lesser speed than I had seen it before, being so close, its angular velocity was incredible!

When I arrived it was fairly cold, but was sunny, but as the morning wore on the wind increased and it became mightily chill. The anglers were mostly lucky with their catches, but not everyone. One fisherman actually brought up a good sized crayfish on his anchor, and was looking forward to a very different meal that evening!

The swallows, terns and gulls were very active and one juvenile grebe was fishing very successfully, and for a change was not too far from the shore. There were a few herons flying, but certainly not as many as last autumn. The most striking behaviour from several of the fish was that they spent a considerable time at he surface sometimes with just their tail fins showing, but often much of their bodies visible, and there was a good amount of jumping sometimes twice in quick succession, presumably due to lice, and this was their way of trying to rid themselves of the irritation.

Brogborough Visit – August Bank Holiday

Not for the first time I have visited Brogborough with a specific aim in mind and ended up taking photos of a completely different subject. On Bank holiday Sunday I had every intention of trying to meet up with a fisherman I had met at Harpenden on the Jarvis Development site. The intention was to go clockwise around the lake, but on my arrival I was told that the wood had been cleared considerably to create a mountain bike course, and that I could approach anticlockwise from the Windsurfing beach.

It was to prove not possible and it also resulted in my getting a good soaking, but deepite not having the right lens for taking shots of the windsurfers as I moved through the woods some of the viewpoints seemed too good to miss, so despite my best intentions I have returned with shots of windsurfers, and a few shots of the insect life to be found thereabouts.

My trek through the undergrowth meant that I learned that beyond the woods was in fact private land controlled for shooting, so I shall not be using the route again. When I set off the weather looked reasonably settled, but as the breeze got up in blew clouds that brought a shower, and you do not get much cover beneath hawthorn bushes, so I got a dowsing.

Lizzy had earlier that morning got a text from Tim who had been sheltering from a shower with my grandson, which briefly said ‘under a tree’ – well, I resisted the temptation to call her to mention where I was at the time, especially since I was less lucky.

Sunday 21 August 2011

The Flying Proms at Shuttleworth

I have never before visited Shuttleworth for this event, and it was an opportunity to enjoy the company of my elder daughter, Catherine, to pay a visit to the Birds of Prey conservation area, and listen to some excellent music, with the added bonus of taking some photographs! I have divided the shots taken into three galleries,
 and Three

Unfortunately, due to other commitments, not the least being to pay yet another visit to Tringford reservoir, I arrived with barely a quarter of an hour to spend with the birds of prey, which really meant only see ing the range of owls; I was well late for any of the demonstrations. I did feel it was somewhat sad to see the owls tethered to hops all in a long line, and hear their plaintive calls, but I was amazed at the variety and size of those I saw there.

I had worried that having left Tringford as it started to rain, and because it had not let up during the rest of the time at home preparing ‘Brands Hatch coffee’ and other sustenance, I was envisaging a somewhat damp evening listening to the music, but I need not have fretted, as soon after leaving, the rain stopped, and as I neared my destination, the roads were completely dry. I took a couple of quick shots of the college itself; limited by the presence of a fire engine, which added nothing to the scene!

I parked the car and wandered down to where the last of the microlites were arriving and being secured, disgorging their occupants dressed in evening dress, and soon found myself in conversation with a man with a camera; it turned out he was a family friend of the singer for the evening, one Abigail ‘Abi’ Iveson. I also met another gentleman also toting a camera, and although we parted with ‘See you later’ I little expected to meet up again in such a large crowd. I spent quite a time trying to capture the aircraft as they took off, flew a circuit or two before landing and taking the next passengers for a flight.

Whilst waiting to meet up with Catherine who was making her own way from Cambridge, I tried desperately to capture something of the swallows ducking and diving low overhead, above the cars in the car park. I was very wrong about not meeting the two gentlemen again, for we all ended up in front of the stage in darkness, each trying to capture the ambiance offered by the lighting and the singer! I was even able to meet up with Abi’s parents and show them a couple of images on the camera back.

At the end of the show, I managed to capture some of the fireworks, despite not having a tripod. Altogether, a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Tringford and Flying Kingfisher

I wanted to check out the Canon 7D after it had been returned from Canon, having suffered communication problems with the battery! So Tringford seemed like a good idea. So it turned out, for I saw and managed to fire off shots of the kingfisher – zooming across the water about one foot off the surface, to all intents like an exocet missile. The first occasion found me shooting at 1/650th, and that was not fast enough. In case I got a second chance I set 1/800th, but even that is not fast enough to do it justice! And in the UK with only my lowly 300mm f/4 this is simply not enough.

But nothing will take away the pleasure of at last sighting a kingfisher through the viewfinder – it feels as an F1 driver must do when getting their first Championship points; now I am waiting for my podium finish either a static shot perched by a stream, or a sharp shot in flight.

It was the birds once again who seemed to be meeting success on the fishing front, rather than the anglers. I set off home just as the rain came, so that I could prepare for the afternoon trip to the Shuttleworth Flying Proms and evening with Catherine. I have to say full of foreboding regarding the weather, but I need not have worried, it turned brilliantly.