Tuesday 31 May 2011

Evidence of Rain

Finally, we have had some of that life-giving elixir!

(I just knew that cleaning my windows the other day would bring on the rain.)

It may only currently be coming as sample size sessions - a taster of what is possible, but we can actually say we have had some rain. So, coupled with the warmer weather we have been experiencing for a number of weeks now, it has created the ideal conditions for some other amazing natural wonders, fungi.

I trust that the sample size will progress into full size soon, as boy, is the rain needed here in the East.

Monday 30 May 2011

A Southend Bank Holiday

On trying to capture the feel of a Spring Bank Holiday in Southend on Sea, I could have chosen the fast food stalls; the garish tat for sale; the crowds of people.

No, I chose to focus on three individuals and their own relationship to the surroundings.

Sunday 29 May 2011

Fallow Deer Spectrum

Whilst taking some friends on one of our favourite walks this morning, we were hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the white fallow deer that we have in these parts. Instead, we were treated to a line of eight deer (five captured in the picture here) bouncing through a fading rape field, and headed up by a melanisitc male. The opposite end of the spectrum, but none the less, a delight to our visitors.

Friday 27 May 2011

Bouncing Mutt

Excuse me for posting a picture of mutt again, but here is the old girl doing something else she loves.

In a hip-high field of wheat, where normally just a tip of a tail is visible, mutt goes into bounce mode, in the hope of finding something to chase. The wheat waves around as she madly sweeps between the plants, then suddenly she springs up, ears aflap, dropping back down as suddenly to begin the next sweep. This comical behaviour will go on for around 10 minutes or until the little clockwork motor runs down and she flops down onto a cool and shady area of grass, to pant her way back to 'fully wound' - off she goes again!

What a great way to exercise mutt. She does all the exercise and I just stand and watch with amusement, or on this occasion, my camera. This photograph was a little difficult to capture, due to the unpredictability of her movements, but thankfully she presented me with ample opportunities to bag the shot.

Thursday 26 May 2011

Au Revoir! Obama leaves the UK for France

United States Presidential Jumbo leaving Stansted Airport
on Thursday 26th May 2011

With President Obamas in-bound flight being rescheduled to last Monday night, my hope for being able to capture a decent day-time shot of Air Force 1 had been narrowed down to the departure flight for sometime this morning. Taking a gamble on the actual time, I arrived at the vantage point just as the helicopters dropped him back into Stansted Airport. How was that for judgement? Unlike on Monday, I was not alone at the spot chosen to photograph the Presidential aeroplanes.

Air Force 1 (80001)

Presidential plane for First Lady (20201)

Presdient Obama departed first, in Air Force 1 (C-32A) at 9.15 for France, with the First Lady following him shortly afterwards in a second plane. And you thought Air Force 1 was a Jumbo? Well, yes it can be, but the name Air Force 1 actually refers to the plane which carries the President and not a specific plane. Although it might be a talking point for a while to say I watched as the planes departed, neither of these planes were the one I really wanted to photograph. I decided to wait a little while longer and as anticipated the Jumbo 28000 rose from behind a line of trees.

Finally, a daylight opportunity to photograph this individual aircraft. However, in less than thirty seconds, it had passed by and was sweeping out into the cloudy sky, but unlike on Monday, I managed to get it pretty much right. (Would have been even better if I hadn't decided to leave my tripod in the car)

Reflecting at the end of President Obamas 2011 visit to the UK

My thanks go to the guys standing nearby me during this plane-spotting event, who, being tuned to aircraft frequency on their radio, kindly gave me the thumbs up when the action was due to happen.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Documenting Work in Progress II


Yesterday I returned to take progress photographs of the farm building you may recall, that I featured five weeks ago.

With work now under way, they have stripped away the old cladding and replaced the old timber-framed lean-to with a new steel framed single span frame. The gang, ready to start fixing the new cladding, were doing this with great caution. Starting with the sheltered sides, as the current high winds would make roof work highly dangerous.

Winds can also cause an issue with photograph-taking, mostly with things staying still long enough to keep them in focus, but on this occasion, wind worked to my advantage. The recent spell had cleared the air, to give a beautiful crisp light, and so on a sunny May afternoon, the next record picture was taken.

The light lifts the mood from the first shot and raises the anticipation for the completed building.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Obama Slips into UK Under Cover of Darkness


Air Force 1
All best laid plans...

Having planned my moves for the arrival of Barack Obama for Tuesday morning, yet again, it seems an Icelandic volcano is responsible for putting a spanner in the works. I remember going to a particular photographic location to document the lack of aircraft in the sky, after airspace was shut down last time due to an unpronounceable billowing cone. It was eerily silent but was actually delighted to hear the birdsong.

Monday night found me prematurely back at that spot, following the news that the Presidential arrival into the UK had been brought forward. This time, the location was unusually quiet due to temporary suspension of normal air movements but helicopters were already hovering. Practice shots taken earlier in daylight would not be much help now, but it would still be worth a try. I walked to my vantage point and no sooner had I set up the camera on the tripod, than an intense light caught my eye. Could this be it? I had hoped for a practice shot in the new lighting conditions, but no such luck. It was go for it, as at 22.15, Air Force 1 slipped surprisingly quietly down to the ground. Needless to say, there were all the usual issues which are clearly visible in the picture above. Not one I am proud of.

Knowing that AF1 is always accompanied by a back-up plane, I waited for a second shot. This time, a more interesting, slightly more artistic effect but there will be no awards for these I'm afraid. Just goes to prove I can't get it right all the time.

Thanks Grimsvotn volcano

(Judging by the amount of light visible from the windows, I somehow don't think Obama and his entourage were given the little speech-
"We will shortly be dimming the cabin lights. This is normal pactice when flying during the hours of darkness")

Monday 23 May 2011

VIP Visit

I know someone who won't be flying into Britain courtesy of 'you know who' tomorrow, even though he is coming via the Republic of Ireland.

Sunday 22 May 2011

Rain, Please!

Little did I realise back in January, when I was bemoaning the fact that it was raining yet again, that now in May, we could definitely do with some of the stuff, judging by this wheat field.
Whilst West Cork really showed me what rain is, East Anglia hasn't seen any significant amounts for over two months.

I cleaned my windows today, so that should bring it on!

Saturday 21 May 2011

The Wind that Shakes the Barley

On a beautiful summer-like, yet only May morning, I was being mesmerised by the beautiful effect of the wind blowing through the barley fields.

I have always loved that smooth shimmer as the green or golden ears of barley bend and sway in the wind causing an urge to want to touch or stroke the whole field, as a blanket made of velvet. Impossible of course, but then in these dream-like surroundings the reality is...

...suddenly shattered by three police helicopters flying towards me and who deviate slightly to take a look at mutt and me in the middle of the barley field.
"I only have a bag full of p**, honestly, officer!" was all I could think, before the unmistakable sound of not one but four Chinook helicopters noisily and rhythmatically chopped the air, shaking me and no doubt, the field of barley with the pressure waves.

Later, once back at home, I was alerted to a distant sound, recognisable enough for me to grab my camera and dash out into the garden to see first, a Sea King helicopter, followed by a (United States Marine Corps) Chinook,

followed by two (Met) police helicopters, followed by three more Chinook helicopters. Who knows what they were up to, but what I do know it was the wind that Chinook the barley!

PS. After a bit of searching it seems I am wrong with my identifications. Sea King, infact (2 x) Sea Hawk, Chinook, possibly Sea Knights, and it is all to do with the Obama visit next week (a fact which had completely escaped me.)
To confirm, I was carrying a bag of p** .

Thursday 19 May 2011

More Irish Musicians

A light situation of a different type here, but one that works to the photographers advantage. 

This girl was part of a group playing at the very wet farmers market in Skibbereen a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately they had been supplied with a canopy to fend off the elements on what was a very overcast day. It could have been a canopy with a dark or coloured roof which would cause exposure challenges. Instead, the creamy coloured canvas acted as a huge diffuser, so what light there was, was evenly spread over the scene.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Bell X1 Gig Photography

The challenges of low-light level photography.

1. Camera choice: DSLR or point and shoot?
    (Point and shoot as it is less bulky and I didn't want to be ejected as press)
2. Find something to use as a camera support.
    (Useful rails around auditorium staging)
3. Pixels- as many as possible.
    (Problem p&s is only 5mp)
4. ISO setting; fast enough for low light, but without causing too much grain.
    (Problem p&s automatic setting = grain)
5. No flash.
    (Were you one of those people who didn't know how to turn off your flash on your point and shoot when you had expressly been told NO flash photography? Result- one burned out head of the guy in front and a blackness somewhere where the stage should be!
I'm a photographer who would rather use techniques that didn't use flash, so no problem here. Thankfully these days, people use their mobile phones to record such events and this has appeared to stop 'the menace of the flasher')

    (Not too bad but would love to use my DSLR really- unless I can achieve the G12 off my wish list)

Oh, and Bell X1?
Fantastic, as always.
   (Can't understand why the British haven't fully embraced their talents yet though!)

Bell X1
Scala, London

Paul Noonan "How are you are this Tuesday night?"

"The Queen is in Dublin, and we are here, so it's kind of exchange
programme, 'cos we're the closest thing to Royal at home...

...we did stay at Travel Lodge Carlisle, last night though.
I don't know where she was?!"

Monday 16 May 2011

Ducks Howl

Spotted last summer and couldn't hold back any longer from finally sharing it with you.

Sunday 15 May 2011

Flower of West Cork

One of the most beautiful sights of West Cork can be appreciated during the summer months. There is nothing more stunning than the blue sky and the azure sea, framed by the orange of the montbretia or the lusturous rich red-pink of the flower of West Cork, the fuschia.

It is around now, the hedges having filled out with the green leaves, that the delicate pendant flower buds make their appearance. At the moment, it is only the hardiest or most sheltered specimen that sports the fully open flowers, the rest remain poised to burst open over the next few weeks.

Just as the fuschia, I too am poised to burst open in a few weeks time, with Cambridge Open Studios. So please do pop in to see me when I am 'in full bloom' during the weekends of 16/17 and 23/24 July, where you will be able to see more of the wonderful things West Cork has to offer.
Click on the link below to see more   


Saturday 14 May 2011

Normal Service Resumed

Now that I am back at my normal computer, I can start to properly edit the images I took during my latest visit to West Cork. Whilst there, I did manage some editing of a fashion on my relocated, old, slow, G4 Mac with an off-cast flat screen. This is actually a considerable upgrade from the old iBook I had been using and filling my hand-luggage with each trip. So, whilst it is frustrating hitting the 'go' button and having time to go and make a cup of tea during the wait, it is not half as frustrating as the screen. As I have left my 'good' screen coupled with the replacement Mac Pro, it was a case of finding a spare screen to leave with the G4. The only one available was an old Sony, once used by my better half, but discarded due to 'the odd colours'. Nothing that a bit of careful setting up couldn't sort out - or so I thought.

Once into the settings, I found that the red and blue channel were adjustable but the green channel actually did have nothing to declare by being impossible to adjust. This left the screen with a rather strange colour cast that fluctuated according to how long it had been turned on. I fast came to the conclusion that this was not going to be a permanent option for a computer used predominantly for photographic and design work. A replacement is to be found and I will gladly confirm that the screen does indeed have 'odd colour'.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate my good screen, with a clear sharp image, that also has a regular liason with a Colormunki. The above image was one that I chose to work on whilst away, but needed a total overhaul before it would even see the light of another computer screen. However, with a re-jig back here, I can post it with confidence now.

Looking back on the images from the past few days, it is clear that they are rather odd in places, and for that I do apologise, but I am also pleased to announce that normal service has now been resumed.

(My thanks must go to the neighbouring beef farmer who kindly allowed me to tag behind him one morning so I could fulfil the last part of my documentary study, before pulling it together for the summer show.)

Friday 13 May 2011

Note to Self...

...avoid a repeat of the most depressing holiday-homegoing experience.
More depressing even than packing up and leaving wonderful West Cork to drive to dreary Dublin Port for the huey Holyhead ferry and then the monotonous motorway drive home:- 

Knutsford Motorway Services, M6 southbound

Even if nature calls (and I think mutt had the better deal here with a large grassy area smothered with rabbits) drive on the few extra miles to the next services as the conveniences at Knutsford leave rather a lot to be desired, starting with broken appliances, missing essentials and, well the list goes on. No amount of plastic flowers around the basins could even begin to make it better.
Hot food; a £3.60 kids deal, chargrilled chicken (re-microwaved), fries and drink (thankfully subbed with tea) was the only thing still available in the evening that didn't include the dreaded bread accompanyment.
Excitement; watching a hi-vis crew with trolley-loads of gear including a film camera. (Would love to see their footage!)

So, to the manager of this 1963 vintage service area, who had her picture so proudly displayed outside the ladies & gents:-

Sorry, but the classiest thing at Knutsford Services was the tag on the end of the teabag string.

PS 15.5.11
Judging by the write up in the above link, perhaps I should have chosen to stop at one of these, instead of me purposely driving past at least three of them in North Wales, due to my view formed on this establishment a few years back?

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Weathered the Storm

A little over a week ago, my local beach was a beautiful sandy playground for mutt (see posting Dog and a Rope). Now it has had tons of slimy seaweed dumped on it and hundreds of moon jelly fish stranded amongst it.

This is all thanks to the high tides (in association with the moon) and the strong winds swinging back round to south-westerlies. When I say strong, I mean strong - straight off the Atlantic, and stand up straight if you can, sort of strong. Coupled with lashing rain, hail and even thunderstorms, it put an end to the spell of beautiful Easter-time weather once and for all. Needless to say, this particular visit to West Cork hasn't been the best weather-wise.

However, I have weathered the storm and I am pleased to say that Snow White (see earlier postings) has also weathered the storm. Sadly, the seven dwarfs deserted her a few days ago, but even with wet footings when the high tide came just within splashing distance, she has stood her ground. If you care to observe the above picture, you can just see her, standing alone on the far side of the beach.

There are now two questions that remain to be answered.
1. Who built Snow White? (Latest theory is it was a camper-van-load of young people who were around for a few days over Easter.)
2. Will she still be standing when I return in a few weeks time?

We shall see.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Long Strand

Long Strand, West Cork.

A blustery, sea-spay-laden Monday evening walk along one mile of empty sandy beach.

The only thing following us - our own footprints.

Sunday 8 May 2011

Baltimore Fiddle Fair

This weekend has seen the annual Fiddle Fair taking place in Baltimore, West Cork.

Recognised world-wide as one of the very best traditional and folk music festivals, for over fifteen years, it has drawn in reknowned players for gigs in various locations throughout the village. Impromptu sessions also take place in the bars and it was one such session I attended this afternoon.

Just as the rest of the weekend, the weather has been pretty atrocious with wind, rain and even hail, all giving what it had to send the Guinness-drinking audience, scurrying for cover. Thankfully, this particular group had already settled themselves into the corner of one of the bars, ensuring their instruments wouldn't succomb to the tuning difficulties of the damp conditions.

The photograph I have selected sums up the essence of the session.

Saturday 7 May 2011

Skibbereen Farmers Market

This was the occasion of the 10th Anniversary Farmers Market at Skibbereen in West Cork and to mark the day, there were extra events arranged. Live music, kids treasure hunt, best dressed dog contest (we spared our mutt the indignity), magician and face painting. It was all to be a fun event, but sadly the lovely weather failed to put in an appearance.

Head gear was therefore the order of the day, and there was a variety on show. From the impromptu, and opportunist to the downright snazzy. All were appropriate to the situation but what was clear, that despite the rain, it was still possible to wear a smile.

Oh, and there were still lovely organic cauliflowers, home baked bread and farmhouse cheeses for sale, as usual.

Friday 6 May 2011

A Dog and a Rope

About the only real photo-worthy action seen down on the local beach today was our own mutt.

She was running round and round in circles and thrashing a little bit of rope around as if grappling with a live snake. Who would have thought that this would give her so much enjoyment.

So, for once she was the subject of my photograph rather than getting in the way of my photographic subject.

Thursday 5 May 2011

A Touch of Sun (not)

In Ireland, these roadside shrines are always beautifully maintained and this one, which I pass regularly, has been treated to a winter boost. I have to admit to carelessly switching my attention from the road to the subjects of this makeover, whilst driving by recently.

Recalling a recent matter of a supporting lady and an alleged fake tan. Here's one supporting lady where sadly, the colour used out of the tin was clearly a touch too...

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Caution, Little People at Work

Four of the seven new
pebble columns

On Monday I posted a picture of an amazing beach sculpture. On Tuesday I flippantly wondered if this new sculptural beacon would gain a nick name. Today, I am going to name it Snow White. Why? Well literally overnight, seven new small pebble columns appeared adjacent to the impressive main column. The name therefore seemed only natural.

These single columns of pebbles are also pleasing as a scultural form but despite asking around my neighbours, no one seems to know who is responsible.

 The only conclusion I can draw is that it appears the 'little people' have been at work!

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Tuesday 3 May 2011

Baltimore Beacon

Our new sculptural beacon, whilst impressive in its construction from beach pebbles, is not quite on the grand scale of Baltimore Beacon.

This white-painted stone beacon is found at the entrance to the harbour at Baltimore in West Cork. It was built following the 1798 Rebellion and forms part of a series of lighthouses and beacons dotted around the Irish coast.

The locals call it Lot's Wife, after the biblical story of the woman turned into a pillar of salt. I wonder if our beacon will assume a nickname?

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Monday 2 May 2011

Artist Unknown

This amazing sculpture has recently appeared on my local beach and it is my aim to find out who the artist is.

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Sunday 1 May 2011

West Cork Countryside

Following the earlier image of the English Countryside, this one by comparison, takes us far west, to Ireland. Sadly, on this overcast and rather breezy May Day, the vibrancy of a different yellow blanket that smothers many of the hillsides here, is somewhat dull.

Gorse, unlike the valuable rape, is in flower for many weeks, and is considered a problem, to the extent where whole hillsides will often be seen on fire, in an attempt to control this prickly problem.

Now that the cold East wind has brought some much-needed rain, I won't be able to enjoy the one lovely thing that the sun encourages from these rich egg-yellow flowers - the scent. If you haven't experienced it, then take yourself to the nearest patch of gorse on a sunny day and immerse yourself in the wonderful coconut-like aroma. Far, far more pleasant than the indescribable smell from the rape fields.

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