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…

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Tuesday 30 April 2013

Chaulington – the end of Act 1

I was intending to call it the conclusion, but of course that would be so wrong, as this is simply the start of a long road, the beginnings of the groundworks for the labyrinthine British planning process. It was interesting to see the preliminary outline that had been constructed from the various interactions the team have had with both individuals and groups of residents.

I frequently used to drive the road before it was routed around Chaul End, so this morning I took time out to take a stroll around the hamlet, to see the idyll that these residents wished to preserve; ironic to think that its very isolation was due to Vauxhall diverting the pre-existing through road to create the cul de sac, that they now want to preserve.

In the new venue at Caddington Village School, a summation of the ideas put forward over the weekend and earlier, were presented at breakneck speed to allow John Thompson to deal with their understanding of the neighbourhood’s priorities, and ideas that they had diligently coalesced. The first of these images were some of local teenagers’ work, highlighted by one Sam (I know no more than that) who had created a very detailed drawing with clear indications of his thoughts. At the end they handed out some printed pamphlets that gave hard copy for what had been in his presentation, which will provide thought-provoking bedtime reading.

One point that John mentioned was this development was to be to European standards, which I brought up with him and GM’s Head of European Real Estate, Julian Lyon before he left – I hoped that GM would try to ensure that there was some form of covenant drawn up that ensured that a major proportion, (possibly for 70% of the dwellings) had room sizes that met European building standards, because Britain’s standard minimum sizes fell far short of our European neighbours. I believe that GM are in a strong position to exercise their corporate morality in such matters when drawing up the rules by which developers must operate.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this project proceeds, because unlike many such gatherings, there was little or no animosity towards those making the presentation.

Chaulington – The Reveal

Tuesday Morning and the sun is bright, the prospect of the week ahead is for steadily rising temperatures, Spring is definitely coming to this part of Bedfordshire, to the hamlets of Aley Green, Woodside, and Chaul End, and the two villages of Slip End and Caddington. What do the residents anticipate the experts will make of their varied ideas and wishes? Have they come up with a completely new name for the development, or will the name used thus far help to link the aspirations of Chaul End and Caddington for the future?

Will there be a glorious compromise, or will they have realised that amongst all these differing views from the age ranges of those who took part, there is an answer that satisfies most of their desires yet did not actually come to them, but did dawn in the minds of the experts – they who walked the full length of Chaul End Road, who cycled a around the entire neighbourhood with fresh eyes – is there some really insightful scheme that will be put to those who attend tonight’s meeting, deeper in the heart of the village at the new venue, Caddington Village School in Five Oaks?

We can only await the Reveal.

Sunday 28 April 2013

Buckland, Mallard Family; Tringford Pochard Pair

Once again I set off with one subject in mind, only to end up with something different – in a word: Serendipity. I headed for Buckland and a puddle by the banks of the Grand Union Canal, with the idea of seeking out kingfishers. I was very surprised having left the houses of Buckland to see a vast industrial complex where fields had been last time I visited, I learned from an angler on arrival at the canalside, that when completed it would be Britain’s largest Milk Processing Plant!

I met up with a fisherman who had barely seen any bird life, who had caught a small bream before I arrived and a three-inch tiddler whilst I was there, so I decided to move on, returning eventually the way I had come when I spotted a young Mallard family swimming along the far bank close in to the reeds.

Just as I entered Buckland I spotted a duck perched on some gates, so got out of the car to grab a quick shot, and it was the second time recently I had photographed a Muscovy Duck! I made my way back to Tringford Reservoir where a pair of Pochard were swimming very close to the shore, and as I watched, the male would dive for tasty green weeds for his paramour and she would then swim up and take some from him; she never once dived herself, though she would dip her head in the shallower water close to the bank.

I lost count of how many times I failed to capture the male doing his dive, but I did finally get close to getting the shot I wanted of this activity. Bad light and a biting wind finally put an end to my attempts to improve upon my diving captures.

Saturday 27 April 2013

Chaulington – Saturday Morning

I was a late arrival to the Saturday session, but I wanted to get a feel for what was being discussed; to see whether there were any new insights into the Caddington and Chaul End residents’ feelings, and whether those presenting were really listening.

On balance I believe they were – there was mention of comments made in Friday’s meeting, but these were not offered to influence this group’s own opinions, the main speaker was careful to let the audience get their points across, and the microphones were taken to the member of audience speaking so their questions were heard by all.

I was amused by one point made in reply to a question relating to the possible timescale for any proposal, to the effect that acceptance of this possible option if liked, would obviously then preclude the possibly less attractive one that might be on the table if it were accepted sooner rather than later – a subtle play on the listener’s fears. Another suggestion that had come up in Friday’s session, was the idea of a focus to the area – a central pond.

I was slightly disappointed by one person who as he passed me by the door muttered: “A waste of time…”, perhaps his feelings would have been better expressed by speaking up, rather than leaving as he could have explained why he had felt that way – his voice would have been heard, both by the residents present and by those seeking local opinions. I would have heard him out – I had come to listen myself; to learn of others’ comments as much as to offer my own, because it is far from easy to come up with a proposition for this site, because of its location and find a balance between the needs of the county as a whole and the needs and desires of those already resident.

I shall do my best to be present for the Summation on Tuesday evening to learn of any conclusions drawn.

Friday 26 April 2013

Chaulington – Friday's Community Meeting

I had earlier decided that I would endeavour to get to the meeting prior to the advertised start time, in order to chat informally with the team gathering the community’s thoughts for the Vauxhall Storage Depot’s new life, but I was far from alone with this intention. The hall was very much alive when I entered and signed in.

I had seen some wonderful Cumulus clouds as I came through the gates and saw this as a good omen – blue sky thinking? So even before going inside I grabbed some shots of this portent.

I tried to learn who were the people to whom I needed to engage in conversation to learn something of what the experts had gauged could be presented to the audience. I, like a few, had expected more of their views of the options that were available, but we were told this was not the way this group behaved; they were consulting us before presenting any proposals – they were seeking some form of consensus from all our disparate views before looking at the idea of putting these into any loose pre-Planning proposal. They were going to listen first.

They would hear the views of those attending on the Friday and the Saturday, then go away and sit down amongst themselves to try to wrestle with the issues we saw, and any propositions we may have put forward, so they could then meet up with us on the Tuesday with a draft of what collectively they had understood from us were the important guidelines that should be adopted in any proposal that was to be put before the planners.

It was interesting to note how we were deflected from asking them for proposals, by their continued insistence they were listening first – they were not going to be accused of foisting their ideas upon us then ignoring our protestations, and it was not long before the dynamics of the discussions moved towards the positivity of the ideas as to how this piece of real estate could be re-incarnated into a cohesive community project, not necessarily entirely without dissent, but certainly with far less antagonism than meets most planning applications for Development.

I consider that this part of Bedfordshire around the conurbation of Luton and Dunstable to be a Museum of Crass Mistakes of Poor and Inadequate Planning, and I really hoped that here was an opportunity to break the mould and do something for which future generations would be proud of our achievement. Good Planning could have prepared the ground for really accessible routes between the M1 and the Airport, the Railway Stations, the University, the Industries of Luton and onward to Hitchin and Cambridge. Good Planning would not have brought the M1 Spur road to a roundabout serving the A6 link from Harpenden and St. Albans – just to name one example. The very moment the Olympic games was announced for London, a plan should have been submitted that separated these traffic streams and the funds requested from central Government to advertise Luton having hotel places, an Airport, and train service to provide a less expensive and viable alternative to being in London for the duration of the Games. Luton missed that boat (to mix metaphors) in Spades; an opportunity unlikely to return in our lifetimes.

My point is let us start way before the actual building by preparing the infrastructure to receive the development, and use a phrase from Winston Churchill: ‘Action this Day’ let us make a bold decision not to add another exhibit to the Museum, build on the will to make a positive contribution that I saw in the hall today.

I hope I was right in seeing blue sky, beyond the clouds, this morning. My glass is half-full.

Thursday 25 April 2013

Slapton Milieu

After a long spell of unusually cold weather for late April, warmth arrives, but still tempered with a strong wind, that in the shade still has a chill. Lunch over and desk cleared and telephone calls all made, I grabbed the opportunity and my camera and drove to the village of Slapton and on to the Grand Union Canal.

On the way, I stopped to get a shot of the church resplendent in its fresh coat of Portland or Magnolia paint; somewhat strange for a church, but it certainly stood out well in the milky sunshine!

I pulled in by the nearest bridge to Slapton Lock and did a limbo dance beneath the rails to get down to the towpath, not the easiest way with a camera and case, but certainly the shortest distance. As before I noted how well the lock keeper's cottage garden was tended, and noted it was appreciated by the bees, out for almost the first time in abundance this year. I had taken a look to decide which direction to take, and chosen that lock and cottage and beyond for a start, and later I returned and took the way to Horton Wharf Lock.

The sheep were quietly mowing the farm lawn amidst old and gnarled trees, some even venturing to the water's edge where the fence was broken, then beyond the cattle were also close to the canal side with the Whipsnade Lion cut into the chalk hillside of the Dunstable Downs beyond in the afternoon haze.

Sporadically the birds would come alive; there were swallows swooping low into the middle of the canal as were a group of common tern, pigeons and crows would also venture from the farm building roofs and off into the trees. I also spotted magpies, a robin and a chaffinch, and every so often the Mallard ducks would take to the air.

I met a couple from Kent on their houseboat, who had travelled from just south of Stoke Bruerne and were planning to stop the night here before continuing their ten day trip further south, they had been intrigued as to what I had been photographic, so I showed them some of what I had gathered by that time and we chatted a bit about what birds they had seen along the way this trip, before I left them to their tea, and the wife returned to her knitting, possibly for a male grandchild, judging by the colour.

On my later return by the houseboat the husband was inside, and caught sight of my passing and we exchanged waives.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

West Herts Technology Cluster

This is the second meeting I have attended as a member of the Design Network Association – DNA. I collected fellow member Peter Carr at his home and then gave iPhone Maps a chance to direct me to Watford to the College. We arrived later than intended due to my failing to realise I was in a queue for the wrong Car Park, but once the lady ahead took up the wasted space beyond her car we managed to get ourselves parked up and make our way to the hall. It turned out there was plentiful time to mill around and chat, and then walking towards me was a very familiar face, Image 2 photographer, Patricia Rayner, resplendent in red. A very pleasant surprise as I did not expect to recognise faces beyond those of Clock, our hosts and other DNA members.

I soon learned that Patricia knew the Allibones of The Way Forward, so this is indeed a small world. The guest speaker for the evening was David Birss, who was introduced by Syd Nadim, the Founder and CEO of Clock. Prior to the presentation, we mingled, giving me the chance to chat to other DNA members such as Richard Cockerill and sample a Spritzer and crisps.

David with Pebble watch on arm and iPhone in hand launched into his wide-ranging talk discussing the way technology was moving and exhorting us to take a different view; he suggested he was entirely at ease coping witch hecklers, but this audience were far too polite to heckle, but were happy to engage in dialogue, and I have tried to capture those who were unafraid to voice their opinions and add to the discussion. In the level of lighting once David started to talk I wanted to take shots that involved animation, but had to try very hard to choose moments when movement stopped momentarily as  even at 6400 ISO I was still often shooting at full aperture at f/4 and 1/8th to 1/10th of  a second, which I knew would involve less than 100% success! The audience on my side escaped capture by me in the main!

I am always pleasantly surprised by the quality that can be achieved at these low levels of light, as I endeavour to retain the ambience that comes from not flooding the scene with electronic flash and this venue has walls of unremitting black! David explained at one stage how he was connected from his watch to his iPhone to his MacBook, so I lent over and asked Syd whether he had his number, suggesting he gave him a ring, which he duly did and we awaited David’s reaction. You can’t take me anywhere!

After the formal talk was over we were treated to a wide range of excellent pizzas and more alcoholic and other beverages from a well-stocked portable freezer and we all gathered to network further. I wanted to grab a few shots from above, and Francesca Bonn, the College’s Commercial Manager very kindly took me upstairs, so I obtained an overview. before many of us took a stroll to a local Bodega, Peter asked directions of Claire Weston, and this was so animated I simply had to have a shot!  Syd Nadim very kindly bought us a round of drinks, and to round off the evening David autographed Peter Carr’s purchase of his book, and I learned that it was not Magic Roundabout’s Dougal lying across the mantelshelf beneath an array of candles…

Sunday 21 April 2013

Wendover Woods via Mansion Hill

Having had a hand in rolling the pitch for Bamville Cricket Club, and knowing that they play most Sundays in the season, I thought it very likely that they would be playing this Sunday, however, unbeknownst to me the season does not start till May! So where I was thinking of apologising for missing the first hour of play, it was not the case as, on arrival the pitch looked exquisite, but bare of stumps or players, the pavilion was still shuttered and two dog walkers had taken the place of spectators. The significance of this preamble was that I had come to give my 100-400mm lens  sports airing!

I had learned that woodpeckers could be found deep in Wendover woods, so I changed plans and headed there, because this was a lens that might do such subjects justice. I headed not to the main entrance but to a small car park beyond at Mansion Hill, and began the long ascent through the woods. There were the first signs of greenery appearing, and there were numerous small clumps of primrose in a wide expanse of grass, before the track narrowed.
The beauty of the woods is that however many visitors might arrive, you only have to keep taking tracks away from the main one, and the woods become your own. I saw just one couple ahead when I started, but soon they were lost to sight, then I would meet cyclists and dog walkers descending past me. Almost all exchanged greetings, and some even were happy to converse; often by mentioning my cameras or my lens and assuming that I must be in search of some exotic species, and what might that be?

My reply was the lens choice was more in hope. In return I would enquire as to what they might have seen, and in the case of those also armed with cameras had they found anything of special interest or specifically woodpeckers, but the answer was always negative. When I reached an open spot with a memorial plaque giving a map of the scene beyond, I was rewarded by the spotting three buzzards having a dog fight above the new housing estate, but they were sadly moving off even as I arrived. What surprised me was the overall dearth of birdsong, there were occasional spots where you could hear chatter for a minute or so before silence returned with only occasional breaks for the soughing of the wind in the trees. By far the loudest sound for much of the time was the Ice Cream Van’s call or aircraft overhead.
I took the elliptical Fitness route, but did not have the energy to take part; instead I took the sign’s message about taking care not to over-exert myself (after all I needed my energy for the return trip!) When I did finally turn back I managed to miss the correct turn and found myself dropping down far more than I remembered, but decided once I had realised my mistake, to just continue – what I did not know was that having dropped a good deal, this path then climbed and climbed back to the original route, so by the time I reached that point I was very much out of breath! It was at that point that I met a very chatty group of friends who were also descending, they were very easygoing and I walked alongside them and joined their conversation and I slowly got my breath back as we all made our way to the bottom. I pointed out where they might see primroses, and sadly did not get a shot of the squirrel that one of them spotted. We parted in the Car Park.

Hertfordshire Spring Wildlife

Setting an agenda when when it comes to photographing wildlife can often be frustrating, especially when your subject lives a life based on happenstance as is definitely the case when trying to photograph a bird that searches for carrion. If it is relying on roadkill, the demise of its prey is unpredictable, and I am certainly not going to drive around trying to oblige raptors by chasing foxes and rabbits with my car!

So in making a plan to specifically look for red kite within a short drive from home is always more in hope than anything else. I did have a location in mind, but on arrival with blue sky edge to edge, there was no sign of any birdlife or even birdsong – the only birds aloft, rose beyond the hill from Luton Airport! I hung around for thirty minutes, and took some shots of cyclists riding uphill towards me, and the lead man asked did I get a shot, to which I replied yes, but I was hoping for Red Kite, he shouted back head for Whitwell. I took his advice and drove downhill and just beyond Stagenhoe Bottom spotted to men chatting outside some cottages and was about to stop and ask them when beyond and above them I spotted a pair of Kites, so I found a narrow lane and parked up, only to see them head off higher and into the far distance.

I found that below where I had stopped was a ford and to the right extensive wetlands; it turns out it was some newly dredged ponds diverted from the river Mimram. A short while later, a man approached and he mentioned that there was a better parking spot just up the road, and he was one of those I had spotted chatting. It turned out that he lived in one of the cottages and he said I was welcome to come into his garden which ran down to the water’s edge. He was very amiable and chatty and was an ex-teacher, and he was able to tell me quite a bit about the local wildlife, suggesting other likely locations; one of which after leaving him I visited, and it was a pond I had visited before.

When I had parked, I quietly approached so as not to frighten any of the birds I saw both on the banks and in the water. The strangest bird was largely black and white with a red nobbly bit above its beak (there is probably a technical term for that!) I characterised it as a duck, yet it did not have an obvious duck’s bill. When I first saw it it was swimming low in the water, but it soon came ashore to give itself a grooming, and I therefore tried to get shots that captured its behaviour. Behind me on telegraph wires I spotted a swallow, and it spent a good deal of time singing, so I also took shots that allowed me to see its eyes. I was under the impression that swallows never landed, and I had never been this close to one before. I learned later that the strange ducklike bird was a Muscovy Duck, and what from one of my books seemed like a red-rumped swallow was in fact a bog-standard, vanilla, common swallow!
Later I was to see some longhorn cattle, flowers, a peacock, some black sheep and their lambs and a lone Pied Wagtail, before returning home.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Chaulington – An Update

Some Missing Info – New Phone number

PPS Group who have sent out a pamphlet inviting the communities of Caddington and Chaul End to a series of discussion meetings in Caddington, however inadvertently missed a zero from the contact telephone number, so this prompted me to put that right for anyone who reads my blog and wishes to contact the group prior to the meetings scheduled for Friday and Saturday the 26th and 27th of April.

That contact number is 08000 086 769.

I had never heard of Heathfield Hall, and upon querying this, learned that it was within the grounds of the former Heathfield Lower School. I think a map showing the location would not have gone amiss.Although I myself may well be leaving the village, I am interested in this development. The county is certainly in need of more housing, but for those who live here presently our concern is that the highest priority be to improve the road infrastructure that exists, so that with the greater call on these roads they are capable of still flowing. This needs to be addressed so that as house-building starts, the construction traffic is able to move on and off site causing minimal disruption to the existing population.

So, it is my contention the roads giving access to the development must be in place prior to any of the housing getting underway. This phase itself will be disrupting, but can be minimised by creating new roads, not simply widening those pre-existing.

It is very easy to see where in the past opportunities have been missed or decisions have simply been put off for one reason or another. The siting of the Tesco's Store prevented the A 505 linking to the A5, the Dunstable Bypass has been discussed over many years, my belief is the Busway should never have gone ahead, but with it nearing completion it is on the wrong side of the A505 to be ideal for this proposed development. Airport Way should never have joined the local traffic linking Harpenden to Luton – need I go on?

Let's not miss this opportunity to move forward. Public Transport will only be viable in rural communities when it properly serves those communities; they can only be run efficiently when probably around 70% full, so pricing should be aimed to meet or exceed that target, so whilst it does not, which is now, we must accept that the private car will provide that service, and to do so with the minimum of pollution it has to flow. This extra capacity has to come first, only in that way will this new development be welcomed. Also, existing businesses should be able to benefit both the future residents and themselves, and hopefully create more.

I would like this development to succeed, but it will need considerable understanding and imaginative planning to ensure that it meets with co-operation rather than antagonism, and in my personal discussions in the past I have to say I am less than optimistic.

Luton completely missed the boat in regards to the recent London Olympics, by not using the years from the moment that London's bid was successful to build a flyover or bypass for Airport Way, so that local traffic was not disrupted, and Industry, the University and the towns beyond were able to flow to and fro directly between M1 Junction 10 and to the Airport, with its roads to Parkway Station, the University and the out of town shopping park and Town Centre.

Get the infrastructure right this time, sort (well there is a plan!) the Junction 10 Spur road. Get good access and egress from the former Vauxhall Storage depot, improve the existing road by widening it between Caddington Village and the A505, and benefits will accrue. The other highway to be considered has to be the Information Super Highway to ensure there is fast Fibre Broadband to every building and mix business and other activities in, so that there is a strong sense of community instilled from the start.

I shall be coming to the meetings with an open mind, but numerous doubts, I hope I can be convinced that there is a genuine will to do the job properly from the start, and the commitment to see it through.

Sunday 14 April 2013

Spring at the Stockwood Discovery Centre

I know I like a challenge, but arriving so soon after the first signs of warmer weather after this prolonged cold spell was certainly ambitious if I had hope to find much to photograph in the gardens. I was certainly not going to walk away without at least giving it a try. From the several visitors who enquired what I was doing, or what I was photographing, it became obvious that I was seeing more than most! Two young boys were particularly inquisitive, and I learned a while later the possible reason; one of them had an uncle who was a photographer, so presumably he can pride himself that he has inspired at least one of the next generation.

I kept my eyes wide open and persevered trying to capture the first green shoots of recovery, and pressed my nose hard against my eyepiece and moved in close, often lying on the ground to give scale to what I saw; it was good to see that the bees had ended their winter holidays and were reasonably active. By the time I walked out of the centre, I felt I could metaphorically hold my head up high; I think that despite the gusty wind, and very variable sunlight I captured at least something of the burgeoning growth of new life in the gardens. And I did not ignore the lowly daffodil.

Saturday 13 April 2013

Misty Morning at Marsworth

I did not set a particularly early alarm call, because there was no real guarantee of a bright start, but as it turned out it was indeed bright and in many a field hung a blanket of mist, just a few feet above ground.

Arriving at the Tring reservoirs the mist still lay lightly across the reed beds between Startops End and Marsworth reservoirs, and the reeds hardly looked their best, but the light allowed me to capture some of the atmosphere nevertheless, and as I walked the path between the two lakes a robin kept flying a few feet ahead of me as I went along.

When I reached my goal, the lateness took its toll; I realised this by the muddy sliding marks in the steep bank leading to the water’s edge, and there was already another photographer ensconced with similar intentions. Justifiably he had the prime position, but though he had seen a kingfisher do a flypast it had not settled to fish. I set up my tripod alongside, and it was probably a further twenty minutes before we had a chance to get some photographs, and at that first visit, I did not even see it! To add to my chagrin, I then tried to look around for a better, less obstructed view and the kingfisher paid us another visit, so I missed that opportunity, but not so my colleague as I could hear from the rapid shutter firing! I certainly brought him luck.

I resettled and improved the position of the tripod, and managed to be in better luck a few minutes later, and it was around this time that yet another photographer arrived, and not long after, yet another – the lure of capturing the beauty of the kingfisher is obviously strong! Whilst waiting I took some other shots of the local fungi, a pigeon, and a chaffinch.

I later visited Tringford for a chat with the Water Bailiff and some of the anglers, before returning home for lunch.

Saturday 6 April 2013

Kingfisher Arrives After Patient Wait

I went to bed a full hour earlier with the firm intention of waking before dawn to see whether I could tempt a kingfisher to enter my field of view, but as I feared it was too early and I awoke after a mere three hours and then tried in vain to go back to sleep before the five-fifteen alarm went off, all I could do was doze.

As a safety net I had set my phone to back up the clock and I did not take advantage of the two minute snooze time, but got straight out, abluted and went downstairs to grab some cereal and a bite of toast and Marmite followed by marmalade and a sip from my pint of tea, leaving the majority for my later return.

I found that the cold wind and lack of sleep made carrying the tripod over my shoulder, the camera and lens round my neck together with the camera bag was hard going to walk along the canal to the reed beds and my chosen rendezvous.

It took fully five minutes to get set up, but even though I kept an eye out for my feathered friend, he was not to be seen – in the end not for another hour at least, though to be fair that was till he alighted on a branch; he did make a few fast runs past me training to match the flight of an Exocet missile! But I have never harboured the dream that I would catch a kingfisher in one of those flights – my eyes barely keep track, and to expect my hand and eye co-ordination to match that of a bullet in flight is beyond wishful thinking!

At last he landed on a branch all-puffed up as if he was just as cold as me, and I did react fast enough to just catch his departure, and note where he went. He was out of sight, but hearing a loud plop from the direction he had taken was a welcome sound, and I was rewarded by him alighting on the same branch with his meal and I succeeded in capturing the fish’s last few moments.

It was at least another hour before he returned, and by that time I was extremely stiff and cold, but he stayed around for longer this time, and sadly his successful fishing this time was behind numerous branches, as well as being beyond the traverse of my tripod head, because the only stable location was hard up against other branches.

I stayed for several more hours till my fingers were sore, my legs almost immoveable and the cold had reached my marrow! Whereas with my arrival I made it down in a single trip, I could not trust myself to do the scramble back up in less than three trips, and I felt very stiff as I took the long walk back to my car; The camera with its card of exposures seemed twice the weight! But mentally I was warmed by having got some shots that pleased me.

Monday 1 April 2013

Dagnall Pheasant, Startops Wagtails

I spent some time near Dagnall hoping to catch sight of Red Kite, but all I managed was a distant glimpse close to the horizon, and simply got colder and colder; not helped by the fact that despite my many layers I forgot to wear a coat! I did get a shot of a male pheasant that was bright in colour, another that was duller, and some even duller females.

I returned home for lunch before setting off for the Tring reservoirs, where as I parked my car I met up with Tringford Anglers’ Bailliff, Bob, his wife and a friend, we chatted for a while then I set off for Startops via the main road, grabbed a shot of the church in the distance in some sunshine, and then tried to follow a pied wagtail and a grey wagtail – it never ceases to surprise to me how it got its name as the most striking colour is bright yellow! They are the epitome of flighty birds, making short hops out over the water then back to bank just five metres further along, presumably they have decided to become my physiotherapist or trainer by keeping me on the move!

It was soon after that whilst intent on some bird or other that from behind I heard my name called, I turned around as I recognised the voice, and the face of the lady who called was definitely familiar but for the life of me I could not put a name to her face, and embarrassingly had to be helped to be reminded. I owe her such an apology because not only had she recognised me from behind, we have known each other for more than a decade! She has been the receptionist at Kevin Calvert’s studio for as long as I can remember. OK, I can say she was out of context, but it is still no excuse, so, if you are reading this – please forgive me – for a long moment I was completely at a loss. Also, I hope the cut from the dog’s lead which cut into your hand heals rapidly.

The Mallard ducks were in great flying fettle that afternoon, and as I left to return to my car and home I spotted one lonely clump of crocuses and some old man’s beard in the woods by the stream.

Bitterly Cold at Wilstone Reservoir

Despite a biting wind, I parked by the cemetery gates and took the long walk towards Wilstone reservoir, soon after I arrived I spotted a swan skimming low across the water in the distance in front of the line of trees and old duck shooting stands, but there was then a long spell with little or no activity till I spotted a hovering kestrel, but as I drew closer it dived down and was gone for more than half an hour before returning to hovering, and this time just a smidgeon closer, before flying to the branches of a tree, the spot was such that he was barely seen, but very fortunately as I moved closer he flew to a much better spot where I was able to get a clearer shot.

Beyond the stand of trees the kestrel was in, were two fields where Canada geese and Greylag geese were feeding and generally using as an airfield, and it was here I noticed that each flock had seemingly a Master of Ceremonies who spent less time head down than his subjects, and I presumed they were the lookouts. The two distinct breeds intermingled with little fuss. But when a new couple flew in to join those on the ground one was very vociferous in his annoyance at how they came in.

I then spotted two grebe who were showing definite signs of interest and began their courtship dance, but no sooner had they started than a group of swans started a ruckus and the noise spoilt the mood completely so the pair parted, and both resumed their diving activities and drifted apart, which was such a shame, but maybe another day we’ll both be lucky! The grebes to get it together, and me to be their witness.

Meantime a coot was busy looking around for suitable nest-building reeds, and some of the swans flew off to another part of the reservoir, and one couple simply floated majestically by.