Wednesday 28 September 2011

Nature's Clock

As nature's clock keeps ticking away, it is still not time for this dandelion to release its seeds even though the whispy clouds in the blue Autumn sky mimic a breath of air sent to dislodge them.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Misty, Moisty, Morning

Sadly, no deer emerging from the mist this morning, so I will resort to a good old Autumn cliché image instead.

Monday 26 September 2011

The Skelligs - watch it on TV tonight

Puffin on Skellig Michael


Galway to Baltimore

Today, 19:00 on BBC Two (England, Northern Ireland only)
The Coast experts explore the wild west coast of Ireland, from Galway Bay to the Fastnet Rock, Ireland's most southerly point.
Neil Oliver traces the inspiration behind Columbus's journey to America and hears how an Irishman could have reached the New World nine hundred years before him. Alice Roberts explores the botanical puzzle of the Burren, a limestone landscape where Arctic plants grow next to Mediterranean flowers, and visits the monastery on the tiny island of Skellig Michael. Miranda Krestovnikoff finds dolphins in the Shannon estuary and reveals the secret ingredient in seaweed.

Those of you who regularly follow my blog will recall the visit made to The Skelligs on Midsummer day this year. Not quite the best of conditions, unlike the trip made Midsummer day last year where we had perfect conditions. Two trips to the Skelligs and I still haven't made it to the top of Skellig Michael to see the fantastic beehive huts so I have to rely on Alice Roberts from the BBC Coast programme to fill me in with what I have missed.

Although these programmes have done the rounds before, they always provide a fascinating watch and if you would like to see more of the Skelligs along with parts of West Cork, then I recommend you catch up with the programme tonight, 19.00 BBC2

Skellig Michael

Little Skellig

The programme ends up at the Fastnet Lighthouse - the 'teardrop of Ireland' - the last landmass of Ireland before America.
I can't wait to be back in West Cork at the weekend where fortunately for me, I can enjoy the reassuring flash of the 17-mile-distant, Fastnet Lighthouse from the comfort of my own bed, rather than a boat.

Sunset over the Fastnet Lighthouse

Saturday 24 September 2011

Oh Deer

06.38h. 1/10 sec. f9. 1250 ISO. @400mm

As I have mentioned in the past, we have a healthy population of white fallow deer around our area, so it has been no surprise to find that there are also a number of white bucks at various stages of maturity. Having watched the white buck lead the race through to the next field followed by a herd of over twenty keen followers this morning, I happened to notice another white buck bringing up the rear. Clearly he was at least four years old as the palmate antlers had developed but what was also clear was an odd undesired extra branch.

Closer inspection of this poor buck revealed that this extra branch was in fact a piece of wooden fencing material with an alarming amount of barbed wire entwined around both the wood and his antlers. Obviously not in the most comfortable situation, he thankfully didn't appear to be too distressed at this stage, although who knows how long it would be before it might cause a bigger problem. Unable to do anything about it, all I can hope is that one of his friendly brothers might kindly have a careful play-fight that will finally dislodge this unfortunate piece of baggage.

Thursday 22 September 2011

Golden Hour

One advantage to currently being on deer patrol is that I am able to experience what we photographers refer to as 'Golden Hour', as I did here this morning.

I'm quite often around to enjoy the golden hour before sunset but the golden hour after sunrise? That is a different story!

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Getting Wise

The sentiment is mutual. I'm getting wise to the movements of these wild fallow deer but equally, they are getting wise to this weird heap of green net curtain that arrives before sunrise every morning.

Call it beginners luck, but sadly the white buck hasn't put in appearance the last couple of mornings, and I'm sure it is down to his loyal does that mooch up to just a few feet away from me, before pronking back to the herd with the reconnaissance report.

This morning, the grass was just beginning to turn green from the nocturnal grey when I was excited to notice a glowing white deer emerging from the woodland. I could tell immediately by size that it wasn't what I was waiting for. I watched though, reluctant to waste a shot on a 4 second exposure, as it joined a couple of the menil deer who were camouflaged against the developing daylight-brown of the newly drilled field. Of course, I could have wound up the ISO but the payback would be grainy images and I want sharp. Instead, I contented myself to watch and wait, and wait. Just six deer put in an appearance before retreating to the woodland - a fraction of what I saw on Monday morning.

With that, the church clock struck seven in the distance, time for me to make my retreat until tomorrow morning.

Monday 19 September 2011


06.31h. 1/8 sec. f5.6. ISO 1250
06.25h. 1/5 sec. f5.6. ISO 1250
06.26h. 1/6 sec. f5.6 ISO 1250

"I'm going to photograph that big white buck during rutting" I said.

It seemed like a good idea at the time but I think I really had set myself a bit of a challenge this time.

Actually, I have been observing the doe herd for a few weeks now, so I knew where these timid creatures were hanging out but the white buck? That is a different matter all together. Ask anyone and they all know he's about and many have seen him in the past, but the question is, where is he, now that it is rutting season.

Preparing for this challenge involved many daytime visits to the location to find a suitable spot to set up the camera. It also involved the purchase of what can only be described as a large piece of net curtain printed with a camouflage pattern. I didn't hold out much hope of this being very successful but it was the most economical (and comical) way of hiding myself.

So, after consulting the photographers ephmeris last night, for the timings, I decided that today would be the first of many an early start in a bid to complete my challenge. Dressed in attire that would prompt the arm of the law to ask what I might be doing, I set down my tripod at around 06.10 just as the light was creeping into the sky. I didn't have to wait long before the first of the doe herd started to emerge from the woodland. As a photographer, the light was completely against me and so I just had to sit and observe through my viewfinder as a juvenile male play fought with a fallen branch. Before long though, I realised that the clashing sounds I could hear didn't relate to what I was seeing and so lifting the murky-green-curtain a little I looked over to my right and there was the glowing mass of the white buck in full battle with another of the more usually coloured fallow deer bucks.

I couldn't believe my luck- a few minutes wait, the big white buck and a battle all on the first day! But the light was still too poor. As I was checking the settings on my camera in a vain chance that I could start shooting, a group from the doe herd ambled across just a few feet in front of me. Giving my net-curtain blob a quizzical look, they knew full well that I was there as the light wind was also blowing the smell of me towards them. It was so tempting to grab a shot of these young ladies but I knew if I did, the shutter noise was liable to spook them resulting in a possible mass retreat of my main subject.

I had not to worry as the ladies swiftly made for the patch of woodland opposite in an attempt to escape the testosterone-rich scrap going on some distance in front of me. Tentatively squeezing the shutter button, I was then able to attempt the first shots of what is a spectacular sight. Lasting just a few minutes, I took a handful of record pictures of the battle on a less than satisfactory setting. The results above are testament to the difficult conditions. It was a gotcha though!

So you are asking, what is my next challenge? Well actually, I haven't finished here. This is only just the start. I'm a photographer and we are always striving to get THE best shot. Yes I have a record of the white buck in full fight so I suppose you could say I have fulfilled the challenge but now that I know where he is, the next challenge is to get close-ups and take more pictures with better light. Next time though I will ensure my remote shutter release is on the camera before I arrive to minimise camera shake. It is all step-by-step and I really hope I can present you with THE shot before too long. I've already set the early alarm again ready for tomorrow.

Sunday 18 September 2011


1/10 sec. f22. ISO 200

During last weekends landscape photoshoot in North Devon, a couple of waterfalls came as part of the package. Perhaps not the most stunning of examples but never the less, an opportunity to have play with settings.

As my previous two postings have involved messages and language, it seems appropriate to continue along a similar vein by bringing in interpretation.
Interpretation of a presented scene is usually left in the hands of the photographer although it should be considered that there are also schools of thought as well as the usual fashions or fads, and copy-cat offerings.

It has long been recognised practice that interpretation of waterfalls should be so that they are portrayed as silky trails, achieved by using a slow shutter speed. Granted, the effect can be quite stunning when used in the right situation. However, it is all too often used as the only interpretation and that is why I decided to put the style to the test.

Below are two examples. Slow speed to make the water silky. Faster speed to start to freeze the water. Faster again would reveal every individual droplet of water.

The question is, which do I prefer?
Well, amongst other questions, I must first ask, which style is appropriate to the location; does it portray the waterfall as I see it; do I want dreamy or do I want sharp and fresh?

So, prefer doesn't really come into it. Interpretation really is down to the individual photographer, individual viewer or individual location. I know which approach worked better in this situation and I actually know which approach I would normally start with... do you interpret it?

1/4 sec. f22. ISO 100

1/200 sec. f8. ISO 400

Friday 16 September 2011

The Language of Art

Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire, is famous for being the first meeting place of a young woman and a cabinet minister back in the early 1960s. Those meetings continued and later blew up to become known as the Profumo Affair. So, here is a house with an interesting history and, as I discovered yesterday, an equally interesting array of statuary.

I was fortunate to be able to visit this grand house (now in use as a top class hotel) and enjoy the beautiful gardens in the wonderful Autumn sunshine. During this visit, I was drawn to, amongst other things, the interesting statuary that was on display.
But why be drawn to these particular artefacts?
It occurred to me that, just as our own spoken language has changed over the centuries, so too can the language of art. Where words spoken by our forefathers meant something plain and simple, the same conversation spoken today could have completely different implications. For example, an additional amusing sub-message.

This could be why the two examples shown above were openly viewed with some amusement by more than just myself. The message given to us today by the statue in the first image is very unlikely to be the one intended, when the carefully sculpted form was first presented to an admiring public. Having also clearly suffered some unfortunate damage at sometime in its history, it added a further element of uneasy merriment to the encounter.

The second image, revealing a very bumptious male profile, gives a well-known talent show judge, an ex-prime minister and an irreverent radio DJ, amongst others, reason to breathe a huge sigh of relief regards their own profiles. This is an illustration of a now common subject of 21st century conversation.

So, is the message that, as artists we should be careful with what we do today as tomorrow it might be completely misunderstood?
No, I think we should speak for the moment and let the future generations query the intentions, just as the critical commentators who have gone before, be they accurate or otherwise.

One final word of the poor first chap. I do hope, for his own sake, that it might be the severed half grasped in his hand and it is that which explains the expression!

Tuesday 13 September 2011

If Trees Could Talk

Regularly passing a particular beech tree, I always admire the form and textures and marvel at the stately size of this grand specimen. Not knowing the exact age I suspect it would have many an historic tale to tell, as did the famous diarist Pepys who favoured the walk under this very avenue of trees.

Those stories will remain locked inside the heart of the timber. However the tree also wears a necklace of tell-tale code around its' girth. From fresh new narrow marks to marks widened and distorted as the bearer expanded with time. Each carries a significance for those who gathered beneath the wide-speading branches, be it a short-lived or life-long significance. From the mossy dark side to the sunny path side, their marks are there for all to see.

But this tree will never whisper their secrets.

Monday 12 September 2011


Rain shadows and sunshine shadows, both visible at the same time.
This summed up the weather experienced during a coastal landscape photoshoot in North Devon at the weekend.

Now to carefully extract all of the sand from my camera equipment.


... this image only provides half the story.
Whilst the wind is whipping the sand over the dune, just imagine you have your back against the roaring wind, flicking the grains of sand into your eyes as well as the camera as it goes whistling past, and then the rain threatens once more.

Friday 9 September 2011

30 Day Photographic Challenge

Day 1. Self Portrait
I am not fond of having my photo taken, so set up a shot that leaves a bit more to be found out.

Day 2. My Favourite Thing
In the absence of members of my human family...

Day 3. Shoes
Quite a cross-section.

Day 4. Something New
The G12.

Day 5. Animal
Being otherwise occupied all day, I had few opportunities to catch a shot of an animal- until the evening when the hares were hopping about in abundance (maybe that should be bunny-dance) Being sensitive to observers, they didn't hang about for long and knew just where to move to be into what I discovered as, the poor digital zoom end of the G12. I refrained from returning another time to gain a better image. After all, this is a daily challenge.

Day 6. Clouds
The previous day had produced THE most wonderful clouds and I was fearful that the blanket that shrouded our region was going to hang around for the whole day, thus creating a failure in this challenge. Thankfully the wind picked up high above and blew back the covering, reavealing these lovely cirrus clouds in the evening sky.

Day 7. My Favourite Colour
This could easily have been posted as a b&w image as the indicators are quite specific, but as I do like the colour so much, I thought I would indulge.

Day 8. Someone I Love

Day 9. Something I ate
Thank goodness the choice of bread for me has improved over the past twelve months. What went before was, well...

Day 10. Something I do every day
Well, almost.

Day 11. Flower
The common stinging nettle. Not a flower you would normally take a close look at. Take a look for yourself next time, they are dainty little clusters of star-like white florets.

Day 12. A place I visit often
Self explanatory.

Day 13. Reminds me of my childhood
 Didn't realise I had kept so much from back then.

Day 14. In my bag
Literally, but spared you the fluff at the bottom.

Day 15. Transport
Trains, planes and automobiles. Couldn't quite fit the middle one in on this occasion.

Day 16. Technology
All this technology needs power. This is just one of several gang sockets lurking under the desk to keep it all going.

Day 17. Something I dislike
This is the only image I have had to cheat with. I knew exactly what I wanted to photograph for this subject but unfortunately there had been a clean up at this location on the day. This then is an image I took a few weeks before when I had been taken aback by the mounting pile of cigarette butts on top of this prominent public dustbin.

Day 18. Sunset
I think you would have found a b&w sunset a bit dull!

Day 19. Night time
Walking whilst the camera was set on a two second exposure, produced light trails from two sodium street lights. The extra trails are due to the reflections within the lens. This could also be successful as a b&w image but the yellow light produced a ghostly quality to the street scene and is 'monochrome' enough to pass.

Day 20. Where I sleep
This is my space and that is the way it remains.

Day 21. In the fridge
Again, literally! Set the G12 on the timer but no way could it find a way of metering in the darkness- even with automatic flash set or the door being left open until the last possible moment. Had to resort to the old p&s on nightshot setting for the inset shot.
Just goes to prove that the light really does go off when the fridge door is closed!

Day 22. Something I drank
Very enjoyable!

Day 23. A gift someone gave me
On Valentines day 1984, I was given this wok. Unusual as it seems, it has been one of the most enduring and well used gifts that my special someone has given me.

Day 24. Something home made
These are hand made-home made. A selection of my hand printed and hand bound books

Day 25. My front door
'Kept for best' as we use the back door.

Day 26. View from my window
I love trees but we have a mass of wayward non-native acacia set to engulf a native chestnut.

Day 27. Something in my bathroom
In my bathroom I have a dripping tap.

Day 28. Something sparkly

Each day when I am sitting at my desk, from the corner of my eye, I can see the sparking bubble curtain in the fish tank.

Day 29. A pretty pattern
I judge this interesting rather pretty. The Autumn allium seed head proves a stunning subject.

Day 30. On the shelf
A very important collection on my kitchen shelf

The list for this challenge was provided by Christina - thank you. It has been interesting to decide each day, exactly how to fulfil the brief. Some days were easy, some days were hard, due to lack of subject or time restraints but all photographs (except the one mentioned above) were taken on the day.

For anyone thinking they might like to be a photographer, I recommend carrying out a challenge such as this. It sharpens the eye, the camera and post production techniques and gives great discipline to turn around a piece of work in a day. Try it!

365 Challenge? Well now...