Thursday 31 March 2011

The Truth About Lions BBC 2

Romeo, King of the Marsh Pride

Watching these two programmes on BBC 2 last Wednesday 23rd and again last night, rekindled some fantastic memories for me.

Back in October of 2009, I took a trip to the Masai Mara where I was fortunate to spend an afternoon observing the now famous, Marsh Pride. This was a treat in itself, having followed the stories of this pride on several series of The Big Cat Diaries. But to be there in the company of big cat expert and award winning photographer, Jonathan Scott, it couldn't have been much better. (Although an earlier mishap might have caused us to miss the Marsh Pride but more about this another time.)

Jonathan was accompanying our delegation of Canon photographers for the week-long trip, imparting his expert knowledge, both about the wildlife and on how to achieve the best from wildlife photography. As we sat quietly in the 4x4, only a matter of feet from a realxing Romeo and his 'three graces', we learned from Jonathan, amongst other things, the way to recognise the individual lions. The whisker marks are as individual as our finger prints and the blackness of the nose indicates the age of the lion.

We were able to capture some amazing images during this afternoon with the pride, but only gaining just a tiny glimpse into the lives of these lions that Jonathan has been expertly following for over thirty years.


Romeo, King of the Marsh Pride, is available as a high quality framed giclee print, by sending a request via an email through my website.

It may be still possible to catch last weeks programme on iPlayer
and this weeks programme will be available for another week

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Exhibition at i2 Art

Exhibition of work by

Ailec Photography


i2 Art


26 - 28 Church St
Saffron Walden

Until 30th April
Tuesday - Saturday 10 - 5

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Supermarket or Bazaar?

Whilst out on business with my better half, I was left waiting in the car (as seems the norm!) in a town we have never visited before.

When I looked up, I found myself doing a second take with this juxtaposition.

Monday 28 March 2011


How lovely it is to finally see everything budding and bursting into growth, following a week of wonderful spring weather.

Sunday 27 March 2011


On a Sunday bumble around the lanes, I had stopped to look at something completely un-related but my attention was soon turned to a notice, gaffer-taped to a blockwork wall.

Being just out of reading distance from the barrier and thinking it might be a planning notice, human nature got the better of me and I ducked under the barrier to be enlightened...

I did consider looking around for the 'Candid Camera' catching nosey people but decided a prompt retreat might be the best option.

Saturday 26 March 2011

Flew Down into the Garden... Again

I am delighted to say that I am getting a regular little visitor to the patio again. The wren has made it through the winter.

Despite the diminutive stature, it has one of the loudest calls and I can't fail to hear it before I see it. Hopping around over the moss-covered bricks looking for insects, it can become camouflaged against the comparative mountain of brown leaves in the corner. Then it hops again and the current game of hide and seek is over.

Until the next hop.

Friday 25 March 2011

This is the House that Jack Built

Earlier in the week, I observed some busy activity in the jackdaw community. It started with the bird strutting on the ground in front of me, eyeing up a stick, snatching it up and flying off to a nearby perch. This could only mean one thing. Nest building. For some time, I stood and watched with my p&s, waiting for the moment the bird would reveal which front door this new piece of furniture would have to fit through. All of a sudden, it made for the seemingly smallest knot hole in a plane tree. How the bird and the stick fitted through so easily is probably a secret that only it and the most experienced furniture removal men share. Needless to say, the p&s was inadequate for capturing this activity, so I would return the next day with 'the big one'.

During my walk next day, I observed a second nesting site, this time in a dead tree trunk. For a while I watched the birds going backwards and forwards, this time fitting sticks in through the gap of the broken trunk, with the finesse of a furniture removal man you would opt never to employ again. (Even birds show skill levels). Lifting my camera with the 400mm lens, the jackdaws suddenly became cagey and downed tools as if they suspected I was an H&S inspector. My idea that jackdaws would be willing subjects was obviously wrong and the only way to really observe would be under cover. However, a camou-hide in the middle of my neighbourhood dog-walking paradise might raise some odd comments. So, for now, I think I will just continue to observe in passing, but I can't leave without showing you:

This is the nest that jackdaw is building

Thursday 24 March 2011


Upon my return from a successful shopping trip to buy the new ball head for my tripod this afternoon, I found I was able to put it straight into good use.

One of the many local wood pigeon had left a different kind of calling card on my kitchen window. At only one foot wide and surrounded by glazing bars, it must have been an unfortunate encounter, as the more usual targets are large patio windows.

By clicking on the third image for an enlargement, it is possible to see what stage of open (or closed) the eye was at the moment of impact. As there was no dazed bird on my patio, I can only think the pigeon is roosting somewhere this evening but nursing a blinding headache.

Out with the Windolene tomorrow.

Wednesday 23 March 2011

A Problem with Three Legs

Today, a small and seemingly insignificant piece of plastic broke off the head on my tripod, causing a case of 'droopy daffodils'.

Sadly, as the head will no longer stay in position (it just wants to tip forward all the time) it has rendered the tripod u/s.

Happily, the up-side is, I now have a legitimate reason to go out and look for an upgrade replacement ball head.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Naturally at Home?

On my way to the park with mutt this morning, I passed a group of workmen busy removing a sick old beech tree. Whilst two men stood below, the third was around twenty-five feet above, cutting off limbs, dropping them to those below then letting his natty little chainsaw swing down casually from a cord that was around his waist. He didn't seem at all worried by his position, just as the squirrel I had watched from my bedroom window earlier, hadn't been worried about carrying a pillaged bird-table peanut in his mouth, whilst running at speed along a telephone wire.

They both looked equally at home - man in a squirrel's environment and squirrel in a man's environment, but I think I know which one looked more naturally at home.

Monday 21 March 2011

Noisy Neighbours

Is it any wonder he has such a smug look on his face after his rather noisy Spring activity?

Saturday 19 March 2011

Taking Life for Granted

We are fortunate that we have a healthy life, here in the UK. We take it for granted that we can go to bed each night with no worries about the possibility of contracting a life-threatening ilness over-night. We take it for granted that we have clean drinking water always in plentiful supply.

A trip to Africa some months back, opened my eyes to exactly how fortunate we are.

We always had mosquito nets provided for our beds (although we checked for holes before use!) Many Africans do not have this simple but essential aid to prevent contracting malaria. They cost around £10 to supply but this is beyond the means of many families.

We always had clean bottled water. Many Africans will walk for hours to the nearest dirty, disease-ridden water hole every day, to fill several 10 gallon plastic containers, before the long back-breaking treck home. This is often done by the children before they (if they are fortunate enough) go to school. A local doctor told us that probably 30% of her patients presented with ilnesses that could be prevented if they had access to clean water.

We saw a simple solution- the colloidal silver terracotta water filters. These locally made clay pots were lined with colloidal silver that acted as a purifier as the water filtered through the terracotta. So simple, and yet the smallest family-sized version, costing around £15 was again way beyond the means of most of the people.

Comic Relief supports these simple but effective measures for saving lives in Africa 

Having been there and seen how their lives could be transformed with these simple actions. I knew I should put my money where my mouth is.

By asking you to simply add your name to my Red Nose Day 2011 page posted yesterday, I will donate £1 for each name added between Friday and midnight on Sunday. 

Go there now!

Thank you.

Friday 18 March 2011

Red Nose Day 2011

I challenge as many of you good people as possible to LEAVE YOUR (real) NAME and country of residence in a comments box on this Red Nose Day page. (Pseudonyms and anon won't count as don't a suspicious long list of names appearing only seconds apart!)

From 00.00hrs on Friday 18th March 2011 until 24.00hrs on Sunday 20th March, I WILL DONATE £1 TO COMIC RELIEF FOR EACH one of you who does this.

Go on, dare you!  By doing this you are sponsoring me and this 'doing something funny for money' doesn't cost you a penny!

PS. You don't need to sign in to do this and no one should be able to get back to you via this page unless you leave a live link.

Thursday 17 March 2011

Photographic Exhibition 19th & 20th March

Cute. (Masai girl, Kenya)

Photographic Exhibition

Fowlmere Village Hall, Cambridgeshire

Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th March 2011

10am to 4pm

As I have dropped off some of my framed and mounted prints today for an exhibition that will take place this weekend, I can give you advance notice.

This photographic exhibition is to raise funds for Fowlmere Village Hall in Cambridgeshire. (Reg. Charity 284524) and has around twenty photographers taking part.

There will be framed and mounted photographs on display and for sale, taken from my Images of Africa portfolio. It will also give those of you who visited my Open Studio last July, a second chance to see or buy these pictures.

It would be lovely if you could spare a moment to pop along.

Many thanks.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

'Elf 'n Safety Goes to the Grave

Following my posting on 9th March where I stated that I was dying to know what had prompted the sign to appear outside the cemetery in West Cork, a friend has just enlightened me. She says

"This has just happened so it is the talk of the place. It is an age long tradition here in Ireland that family members or friends dig the graves - in fact, it is an honour to be asked. There is uproar over this latest Health & Safety regulation to be imposed. Protests to be expected!"

"Unfortunately it seems that ever more restricting Health and Safety regulations, both sides of the Irish sea, don't look set to die a death any time soon.

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Sunny 'Sarfend'

Today we thought it might be a good idea to show some visiting Americans the delights of the British seaside. For one reason or another we had to go to Sunny Southend on Sea or 'Sarfend' as the locals call it.

One thing that failed to make an appearance was, well, as you can see, we couldn't see. We took a ride on a little train, 1.341 miles out into the Thames estuary on the longest pleasure pier in the world, where neither Southend or the north coast of Kent were visible.

Just four of us were fool enough to make the trip into this cold damp nothingness and opted to take the return ride just five minutes later.

Monday 14 March 2011

It's a Starling

A visit to Stonehenge at the weekend gave me an opportunity to get up close to a bird that used to be commonplace in all of our gardens - the humble starling. Gone are the days when they were always first in the queue for the breadcrumbs. That accolade now goes to the bird-scaring wood pigeon. Bird-scaring because small birds can apparently mistake their profile for a sparrow hawk, according to someone I spoke to from the RSPB. The RSPB also state that

"Long term monitoring by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) shows that starling numbers have fallen by 66% in Britain since the mid-1970s. Because of this decline in numbers, the starling is red listed as a bird of high conservation concern."

Whilst the numbers of this glossy mimic have declined, I didn't think they were so scarce now as to prompt the comment I overheard whilst I was taking this photograph. A middle-aged British woman, whom I thought would have remembered the abundant years, said

"Look at that bird on the fence! I don't know what sort it is though?"

I'm afraid I couldn't help but lower my camera, turn to her, smile and say

"It's a starling".

Sunday 13 March 2011

Horse Power of a Different Kind

Sundays are when like-minded people get together and here, at a suitable staging post, three local Scooter groups had gathered. They were all off to Epping where other scooter groups from all over the south of England were going for a meet. I caught up with them as they were about to set off on the next stage of their journey. 

This departure had the feel, I imagine, of how it was in times long ago when the old coaches set off on their journey from here. Refreshed and ready to go today, they left in a sweeping two by two line, with the slow coach at the rear. However, each beast now has at least ten horse power rather than just the one of the past.

Cambridge, Colchester & Haverhill Scooter Clubs

Image 2297

Image 2295

Image 2298

Image 2302

Image 2303

Image 2308

Image 2309

Image 2317
By clicking on the image, a larger version will open in a new window.

All images are copyright Ailec Photography and may be only used subject to the appropriate permissions. Please submit requests via the contact link below.

All images are also available as prints by quoting the image number via the same link.

Saturday 12 March 2011

Wiltshire Wild Life

Today, whilst visiting a popular location for congregating flocks, my camera lens was drawn away from the main subject by this occasionally observed, infectious spring behaviour. What causes these migratory visitors to jump in such a manner has yet to be explained.

These same visitors were also seen pinching the air so as to trick passing observers that this collection of stones was already in their grasp and apparently is performed as a warning not to attempt to steal this idea from them.

(They always said this place was a mystery.)

Friday 11 March 2011

Back to the East

I have returned to the East, leaving behind these beautiful azure seas.
The brown sludge of the East Anglian coast just doesn't have the same pull I'm afraid.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Before I Leave West Cork... last ahhh as another new calf arrives. Only twenty more to go.
A farmers work is never done.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Signs of the Times

Whilst out on a mooching kind of drive around West Cork today, these signs made us take a second look, although I'm dying to know what has prompted the need for the last sign!

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Update from West Cork

One month on from my last visit to West Cork, the bovine year has progressed. These young heifers born late last season, were enjoying their last chomp on the headland grass this afternoon before being ushered down the lane to pastures new.

The old girl featured in my bovine pedicure blog, finally gave birth today and I hope I might be able to see mum and calf tomorrow.

The new-born with the long legs, also from before, is up and about in the barn with all the other new arrivals, and will probably go out grass in the next couple of weeks- that is if the weather behaves itself. Rumour has it that snow is forecast for St Patricks day next week. Coupled with a spring tide, it could prove to be an interesting few days.

(Apologies for the 5MP p&s images again)

Monday 7 March 2011

Gone West

Today I am happy to say I have gone West again and to those observant people amongst you, no, I'm not in Sligo.

I'm actually back in wonderful West Cork and this fishing boat bears a registration mark just to confuse you. As you may (or may not) know, West Cork boats normally carry an S registration mark but this guy has 'gone fishing' outside the home territory of the vessel.

Sunday 6 March 2011

Frustrated Photographer

Over the next few years, the little instamatic was able to provide me with a school-girl record of my holidays and visits, My friends also had the use of similar cameras on these occasions but the resulting envelopes from Bonusprint contained images of a very different style. Whereas I was scorned for not taking yet another snap of what I considered to be, silly face-pulling teenagers in front of an obscured national monument, (nothing changed there then!) I was striving to capture a perfect picture-book image of the monument, such as those I had admired in travel books. Clearly with much still to learn, I was looking for the picture though, and this is about as good as it got from a 126 negative.

I would set up photo shoots, on this occasion, a bumper crop of home produced apples becoming the subject. How silly it seems now, a fixed focus, poor grade lens in what amounted to a plastic box, with a big plastic cube temporarily fixed on top. This would allow four attempts at flash photography. The cost of processing and replacement flash cubes ever constant in my pocket-money world meant the photo shoot would consist of one, maybe two shots at best.

However that dreaded thing, parallax was the ruination of so many of what I had hoped to be, lovely pictures, I soon became a frustrated photographer. Each time I received an envelope of new prints in the post, I would take them to retired lady I knew to get an opinion. Miss Round was a member of the local camera club, so any word of praise from her would be considered an expert appraisal but I fear all too often she was being kind! I would explain what I had hoped to achieve, what I had seen but failed to get and what should have been in focus and wasn't. Over a cup of tea one day she gave me an important recommendation.
"You will need to get a much better camera to do that"

I had a goal.

Saturday 5 March 2011

Photographic Progression

It would be 1977 before I got my hands on a fixed focus, unbranded instamatic that took 126 cassette film but it was a camera. Surplus to extended family requirements, it was handed to me on semi-permanent loan and so I was able to call it my own. I was chuffed.

Whilst the whole experience of using such a camera lacked emotion, (wind on; raise to the eye; point; press shutter - unsatisfying clicky-thud; job done) they fulfilled the need of the masses who seldom wanted more than just a 'proof I was there' shot. 
My first image out of this camera was just that- a rather chilly Silver Jubilee street party on 7th June 1977.

It will win no awards, it will never make it into the national archive, but it was my next foray into photography.

Friday 4 March 2011

In the Beginning

Where did I begin with photography?
Well, right here with this picture of a dear old cat called Judy.

One May evening when I was barely twelve years old, my aunt threw down a challenge.
"I wish we could get a picture of my cat lying here on this hedge"
I thought for a while, ran back to my home nearby, and breathlessly asked my dad if I might be able to borrow his camera. Fully expecting a straight refusal, he calmly asked me instead what I was planning to take with it. I had to explain as quickly as I could, concerned that the fickle feline might decide to change her location of repose. Mindful of the urgency, my dad felt it was still important to take a moment for a quick lesson in how to use the Agilux agifold, loaded with a 2 1/4" square roll film.

As he set the basics, he gave me piece of advice which was incomprehensible to me then but has got me out of trouble on more than one occasion since.
"If you don't know what F stop is going to be right, set it on F8 as a good measure"
With the camera opened up, wound on and set at F8, all I needed to do was calculate focus, point and then press the shutter.

On my return to the location, I was relieved to find said cat still doing what they like doing best. So after judging the focus (no auto-focus here) I positioned Judy in the viewfinder, held the camera as still as I could and squeezed the shutter button. In a moment of recklessness, I dared to wind on the film for just one more picture, and that, as they say, was that.

As was the norm back then, it was some months before the results of my photographic initiation were revealed. It was as it was; a cat on a hedge. But no one had warned me about parallax. I had thought that Judy would be beautifully positioned in the middle of the frame, instead, she was down and left a bit. (Actually, a nice bit of rule of thirds!) This was lesson number two, don't trust what you see in the viewfinder unless it is a TTL. (TTL came much, much later for me though) F8 had done what it needed- allowed a reasonable focus on the subject and thrown the background out of focus a little. Here was my first photograph.

So, I began with a cute domestic cat, and never in my wildest dreams then, would I have expected myself to be looking down the lens at some amazing big cats in their natural surroundings, some thirty-five years later.

I feel exceedingly privileged.