Wednesday 31 August 2011

To Autumn II

A couple of abstracts of these two-inch-wonders that appear over night in the current mild, moist conditions.

Sunday 28 August 2011

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, and everything else that accompanies Autumn, is catching up on us.

Saturday 27 August 2011

Over the Rainbow

It has been a classic sunshine and showers day today, so another ideal opportunity to test the G12.

With the dramatic grey skies and the intense sunlight, the rainbow(s) easily became over-exposed in auto mode, so after a few experiments, this image was taken at 1/125th on f3.5. Following up with conversion of the RAW file, it provided a satisfactory record of the scene although the noise in the sky was a little more than I would have liked.

Thursday 25 August 2011

Buzzards and Hawks

The morning rain had passed through and the sun had once again put in appearance in the beautiful blue sky, albeit still dotted with the odd fluffy white cloud. The afternoon had finally turned into something nice enough to venture out for a walk with mutt.

No sooner had I got out of the car than I was alerted by the call of a buzzard, in fact, three buzzards jostling with each other high above me. Quickly scanning the sky with my big lens, I was able to grab a couple of shots before they vanished from sight. Moving quickly to a more suitable vantage point at the edge of a stubble field, I hoped they might just venture back into view for a better shot.

I waited but nothing. Not even the 'keee' call but out of the corner of my eye I became aware of something else. Something a lot smaller. Something actually quite substantial for its type though and it was making haste through the stubble. With the big lens on my DSLR, I needed to revert to my G12 and unfortunately had to grapple with a reluctant zip in an attempt to extract it from the small bag I always carry with me. This fumble was taking too long and I was forced to pick up this gallumphing privet hawkmoth caterpillar before it disappeared forever into the leafy field edge.

I knew exactly what the consequences of this action would be - a curled up 'if I stay still that big bird won't get me' pose. The caterpillar should have feared not, as this big bird certainly wasn't going to attempt to eat it and the other big bird wasn't going to get it. Afterall the buzzard had gone and they don't pick off caterpillars as a rule. In fact, all I could hear above me were the last few swallows of summer chattering plans for departure.

Again I found myself waiting, a pastime common for those who enjoy watching nature. This time it was for around twenty guarded minutes. Guarded, as I didn't want mutt haplessly running over the coiled caterpillar thus resetting the 'uncoil timer'

Finally Sphinx ligustri, our largest resident hawkmoth, gathered enough courage to fire up the little engine again and off it motored on its quest to find a safe place to bury itself for the winter, just as I heard a 'keee' overhead.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Masters at the Minories

Work by Miranda Hart

Work by Miranda Hart
I have finally managed to get to see an exhibition just before it is due to close at the end of this week. I had been keen to see it as in part, it focused on Book Art - one of the other hats I wear along with photography.

Having completed graduate studies in Book Art at LCC, I too have explored the possibilities and stretched the boundaries within the art. So naturally I wanted to take a look at the exhibition of work produced by the graduating Masters students at The Minories in Colchester.

I was particularly drawn to a body of work by Miranda Hart, (illustrated above) influenced by the stories of her fathers' journey through Africa. Using materials sympathetic and appropriate to the subject matter, her work had a thought provoking quality, renewing my desire to once more, stretch the boundaries of 'the book'.

The recently completed album featured here on my blog, is just one direction in which I take my book art. However, I am equally happy to discuss any ideas for book commissions of a more unusual nature too.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Preparing for Spring

With the onset of drizzly rain, the summer appeared to have naturally come to an end today. This indicated high time to begin preparing for Spring. Sensibly, now is probably the best time of year to check over the bird boxes and put up new ones. Thus I decided I really should check over an old bird box that has been sitting around for a couple of years ever since a family member moved house and the bird house moved too.

However, this is no ordinary bird box - this is a bird box with a camera in the attic. (Well, did you expect anything other from me?!) During the house move, one of the cables that powered the little camera got broken, and it has been sitting awaiting repair ever since. Fed up of tripping over this vacant residence in my utility room, I bit the bullet and ordered a new cable for it just yesterday (along with a couple of other fieldcraft products for another on-going project) I was delighted when, as promised in an email, the box arrived within the delivery window this morning. Well done Garden Nature! Into the bargain I got a real live earwig in the box, which I also thanked Garden Nature for when I emailed them my praise, to which came the reply,
"Great news that the earwig arrived safely, baggage to follow!"
(At least it made me smile on this dismal day, thanks Simon!)
Oops, I digress. So, first I must check that the camera will still work. Next I must decide on a suitable location for this des. res. Then I must screen the applicants - robins or tits? Followed by final fix and electrics. Finally I must sit out the Autumn and Winter and hope that a little feathered friend will like the new residence come the Spring. And if it doesn't? Then you and I will just have to wait another year before the next chance to watch 'Avian BB'

Monday 22 August 2011

Bespoke Handmade Albums


Enlightenment on the postings of
9th June and 20th August

Album showing specially commissioned images and reproduced images.

Some time ago I received a commission to produce a bespoke book/album for a 40th birthday and over the past months I had been supplied with a steady stream of family photographs, background material from both friends and family and the all important memories.

As many of the photographs were old prints, these had to be scanned, in some cases, restored and also suitably adjusted for reproduction in the finished album. Later digital images were not a problem, of course.

Slip case and book spine.

Whilst discussing the project, various stories came to light and in particular, the life story of a favourite teddybear. I suggested that it might be nice to photograph said bear and incorporate the new images into the album.

Teddy Edward was secretly delivered to me back in June and he became a model for the day, hence the posting 'VIB Photoshoot' (Very Important Bear of course)

The scenarios that he was placed in were acting out the stories that had been recounted. Illustrated here, having being thrown in a bin by big sister (She is remorseful now!).

Several other photographs were taken, some having special significance, such as were used to create the end papers. Scans were taken of, amongst other things, greeting cards, letters and, (something we have all done) the inscriptions inside the special books from her childhood. It seemed only natural for this to become the title of the book, the spine showing one such inscription.

The layout was formulated- this one being fairly free-form (I had been reliably informed that that the recipient was not someone who fell into a 'formal layout' category) Although free-form, it actually takes a lot more planning and thought to produce a successful progression than a repetitative one-image-per-page layout. Once proofed, the A4 format album was printed onto high quality art paper, using archival inks, thus ensuring a long life. As this had the format of an album rather than a formal book, a brass screw post binding method was used, with bi-folded leaf covers. (Future books might lend themselves to a hand stitched, case bound format, again all produced in-house).

So the big day arrived on Saturday and Teddy Edward was finally able to reveal his experience as a VIB model to the world.

If you are interested in commissioning a similar bespoke book, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will be happy to discuss your requirements with you.

Sunday 21 August 2011

RSPB Birdfair 2011

Simon King

Jonathan Scott

One day just isn't enough!
Unfortunately we didn't actually arrive at the showground at Rutland Water until lunch time and there was no way we were ever going to get around the whole show and find time to sit in one of the hides (that will have to be for another day).

Shamefully I can admit, that the only birds I saw down a camera lens yesterday were cardboard cut-outs set up deliberately so we could drool over the amazing 500mm lens on a 1D mk IV, set up on the Canon show stand for potential purchasers (that will have to be for another day too).

My main aim then, in the short time we did have there, was to get a seat in a couple of the guest lectures for two naturalists whom I greatly admire, buddies from the Big Cat Diaries days, Simon King and Jonathan Scott.

I remember first watching Simon King on TV way back in the 70's and apart from being exceedingly envious of the amazing wildlife opportunities he has had over the years, he has to be admired for his amazing camerawork and his endearing presenting (or should that be en-deer-ing, in the light of his Autumnwatch rutting coverage?!) I am obviously not the only one to appreciate his easy-going presentation, as a long queue had formed outside the lecture marquee some time before he was due to speak. He didn't disappoint either and provided us all with fuel for thought as well as great little wildlife challenges to have a go at.

Jonathan Scott followed on stage with an up-date to the story of the Mara's big cats. As well as being a highly knowledgeable naturalist, he is also a previous winner of the Wildlife Photographer of the year (as is his wife Angie). This ensured a spectacular presentation of stunning images from the Mara, something that for me was quite personal too. I had been fortunate enough to be part of a small group, spending a week in the Mara accompanied by Jonathan, a couple of years ago. To have on hand, his knowledge and expertise in all things Mara and photographically was the finishing touch to this must-do photographic travel experience.

So, as I said, I have no bird pictures to show from our day out, only these couple of record shots, further testing the ability of the G12. Whilst it coped quite well with the difficult lighting situation - black-out marquee and stage lights, there was a need for the digital zoom to be brought into use and that is when the noise began to take the edge off the clarity of the image. It is becoming clear that the handy little G12 is definitely better at one end of its range than the other.

Saturday 20 August 2011

A Happy 40th Birthday to Victoria Griffin

Teddy Edward would like to wish his best friend
Victoria Griffin,
a Very Happy 40th Birthday!

PS. Ailec Photography would like to add her best wishes too
and just to reassure you that Teddy Edward was impeccably behaved during his little visit away from home.


Wednesday 17 August 2011


For today in particular, this is not quite the hairy-legged shower companion I had in mind.

Monday 15 August 2011


...does it always seem to be a beautiful day outside, when I'm tied to my computer processing the images, taken on the day out, when the weather was not so favourable?

Sunday 14 August 2011


I have been 'commanding' for around twelve months now, and I still can't get used to it. As an established Macintosh user, I had become accustomed to saying in my head; 'Apple - C' copy; 'Apple - V' paste and so on, for the other keyboard short-cuts. So when I upgraded my very old Mac for a new Mac last year, I gave up a well-used and tired keyboard for a swish new one. It felt lovely but there was one thing that just wasn't right.

To those who are equally familiar with the old Macs they will recognise too that that little mark of individuality, the apple, had vanished no doubt under the guise of conformity, and been replaced with 'cmd'. It doesn't even sound nice when you try to say it in your head. If anything, cmd when said in your head just makes it feel that the gaffer-tape gag has been put in place to ensure you can't say it out loud. Apple is a much nicer and happier word to say, (and is much more fun when teaching youngsters too) Even if cmd is said out aloud as the full word - command, it has a pompous air about it, and as much as I would like to command my computer to do what it is told, sometimes, I do feel that coercing it with apples was much nicer.

I have to admit, I still hear myself saying 'apple' and get annoyed when I can't find the key, so somehow I don't think I will ever become a commander.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Friday 12 August 2011

Water Under the Bridge

Since this time last week, so much water has passed under the bridge.

Let us hope for calm on the other side of this narrowing.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Regular Little Looter

I want to expose an habitual looter.

Having picked up the habit some number of years ago, this unstoppable creature will cruise the wet and murky border between two very different areas, ensuring that those who 'did have', definitely become the 'have nots'. The 'did haves' choose not to visit this underworld in a bid to recover what was theirs, instead, finding it simpler just to replace the items that have gone astray.

Showing off the haul from this morning, the looter was reluctant to reveal her face on camera.

(PS What does this say about the local golf club?!)

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Monday 8 August 2011

English Countryside via Canon G12

A montage of close-up images taken during a countryside walk, to test the ability of my new Canon G12.

(By clicking on the image it is possible to see a larger version in another window)

Sunday 7 August 2011

Cambridgeshire Guided Busway Opens

The beleaguered Cambridgeshire Guided Busway was finally opened this morning.

Although the opening day had been widely publicised, the actual ribbon cutting ceremony appeared to have been purposely kept low-key. Only the dignitaries and those specially invited to travel on the the first bus, plus a few first ride hopefuls and the usual smattering of press were at the St Ives park and ride facility early this morning, to see this long awaited and controversial transport service formally opened.

Launching two years later than planned, the busway route is over 24 miles long with around 16 miles being guided, making it the longest of its type in the world. It links Huntingdon and St Ives to Cambridge with the hope that commuters will move over to the bus in an attempt to ease the rush-hour congestion on the notorious A14.

On this bright and sunny Sunday morning, the first fully laden; air conditioned; leather-seated; wi-fied; power-socketed; greenfuelled bus set off at 8.37 on the 20 minute drive to the Cambridge outskirts. Perhaps drive is not quite the correct term, as for in part, the bus guides itself. The drivers have had to go through special training over the past few weeks, to teach them go against their instincts and not to hold the steering wheel during these guided sections.

Now it remains to be seen whether it will be the white elephant that the sceptics predicted or whether it can put the past behind it and overcome all the issues, regardless of the on-going court battle between the County Council and the construction company.

Let's also hope it might become something of a tourist attraction, for all the right reasons of course.

Ribbon cut by Cllr Ian Bates
Member for Growth and Planning

The once important ribbon has done the job and been forgotten
- hopefully the busway problems will be forgotten just the same.

BBC News coverage

Saturday 6 August 2011

England v Wales, Twickenham. 6th August 2011

Having really enjoyed watching the England v Wales Rugby World Cup warm-up match at Twickenham from behind the G12 today, I was also pleased to get back to see the results of this 'test for the day'. Questions like, How quick is the shutter? What is the refresh time like? How would the zoom cope? all needed answering.

Happily the shutter is like lightening compared to the old p&s, Refresh time is a bit slow for sports action as I often missed the actual kick whilst waiting for the previous preparation shot to buffer, but then I was purposely testing single shot mode in automatic. (Multiple shots and manual tests will come later.) The zoom though is pretty good with many of the shots taken on the day, moving out of the optical zoom and into the digital zoom range. An example being the one above, with Johnny Wilkinson preparing to give England the first three points of the match.

However, in my haste to stand up and cheer this early lead, I forgot I had my finger on the shutter button and the resulting picture appeared. A happy accident I would say, as I love the mottled and colourful pattern. (I know, I know, it's not Rugby!)
Meanwhile the shots in the optical zoom range prove to be quite capable of telling the story, although they will never perhaps make it into print on the sports pages*. That won't be an issue though as I have no plans to sit alongside these guys anytime soon.

Whilst it was perhaps not the most exciting of games for all those dedicated followers, just being there was excitement enough for me, having never before been to a rugby match, let alone an International rugby match.

Needless to say, we were delighted to come away with an England victory, for Johnny Wilkinson being named man of the match, and me starting to get to know my G12.

*Sports pages Some great pictures from a great vantage point with a great lens!

Thursday 4 August 2011

Changeable Weather

After the 30 degrees of yesterday, came the rain of today, and with it a frustrated mutt and me. Mutt because she really wanted a walk but refused when she realised it was raining, and me because I couldn't get out to play with my new toy.

Finally this evening though, the rain eased off just long enough for us to take a stroll around the park but in the process finding ourselves stepping over myriads of rain-loving gastropods. Here presented an opportunity to test out the theory that the new camera could take an image just 1cm from the subject. Following a couple of aborted attempts due to the snail recoil mechanism being triggered by the camera twitching the grass blades, I resorted instead to a distance of around 5cm from the subject. Reviewing this image in processing, it was possible to see an interesting reflection of the grass blade showing up in the water droplet on the shell. Clearly a good indication of what might be possible with a little more time and finesse being employed.

With an HD movie function as well on this little bundle of joy, it was the next thing to play with. Anything would be better than the offering of the weekend, and whilst that slow camera was trying to cope with a fast subject, this faster camera was of course having no problem with this slow subject.

Crouching so as not to put my knee onto the wet grass, I didn't act as the best tripod from which to record the action, but for a first attempt, I am amazed at the clarity in comparison with the last offering. I will obviously have to practice my cinematography skills and I will definitely have to get to grips with iMovie but it is all exciting stuff.
(Sorry, uploading seems to compress the file here which makes it less clear than the original)

So, exciting possibly isn't how some would describe our weather; hot one day, wet the next, but if it didn't change like it does what on earth would us Brits have to talk about? Or for that matter what would a photographer be able to choose as a subject?

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Into Retirement

On a day when the car temperature sensor hit 30 degrees, I chose to hit the air conditioned shops. Making straight for a favourite department store, I was happily on a mission to buy, rather than just looking longingly at, a successor to the p&s role.

I am pleased to announce that 5D mkII now has a baby sibling - a G12. Just like any anticipated new arrival in the family, there is already a familiarity with the way it might behave, but now begins the real getting-to-know. There will be highs and lows during this settling in period, I know but in general I am excited about the increased abilities of this useful, photographer's companion.

So what of the old p&s? Well, it will be put into semi-retirement during this change-over period and then maybe full retirement. It will be hard to do as it has been an excellent camera along the way. It was my entry point from an SLR into digital around nine years ago, choosing it specifically because I was told it would 'Keep SLR users happy' And it did just that. It has travelled many thousands of miles including trips to Europe, America and Africa (twice). It has been around the clock at least twice, if not three times. I admit, the deteriorating battery life has been a bit of an issue by switching off at critical moments, but all in all, it doesn't owe me anything. Even when it was demoted following the arrival of my first 5D it still proved useful for the situations where a full-blown camera would be a problem. G12 will be thrust into such a situation this coming weekend, so it will be interesting to see just how the new arrival performs.

I will leave you with one last thing. As I was leaving the customer service till, the assistant instructed me to keep the receipt.
"The camera is guaranteed for one year and the (store brand) camera bag is guaranteed for five years"

They do say it is hard to put a value on some things but old Sony, you were invaluable.

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Quality Control

When returning from a visit to Bulgaria recently, some good friends had kindly selected some unknown delicacies from the duty free shop for us as they 'looked interesting'. The packaging informed us;

"Ipek Pismniye serves its traditional Turkish desserts meticulously that fits the public taste since 1954. Ipek Pismaniye that is grateful its succes to the experience in skills in years together with the pure and quality material used continues its service without compensating the quality to date from the date it was established. Ipek Pismaniye that was established in 1954 by Mr. Lutfu Canigenis produces delicious Pismaniye. ... Ipek Pismaniye feels the honour of serving Turkish food quality and taste to the people of the World"

Once we had put down the magnifying glass to read this 4pt enlightenment, we excitedly opened the pack, all hoping to cure our curiosity and enjoy what appeared to be beautiful spun-sugar domes filled with a chunky hazelnut paste.

We removed some deflated pillows of frothy matter...

We cut into this Turkish dessert...

Clearly, all of their proud Quality Control employees are supplied with magnifying glasses the day they begin work to ensure 'service without compensating'

I'm sure Trading Standards here might have something to say about the use of ISO Quality Control if it were UK produced.

Good job we could all have a laugh about it though.

Oh, and all joking apart, they did actually taste quite nice.