Monday 30 January 2012

The Rot Has Set In

During walks out with mutt at this time of the year, it's not uncommon to still come across the odd countryside crab apple tree with the last few rotting fruits scattered on the floor beneath its bare branches. Yesterday, however, when out on a new walk, I was stopped short by the pervading fruity smell of apples. Apples, yes, but not the lovley fresh fruit bowl aroma we all enjoy. This was the aroma more often encountered when the left-over core has been sitting around for a little too long. To be truthful, this was the smell of rotting apples.

It was quite easy for me to literally, follow my nose to the edge of a garden, where an enormous heap of the fruits lay wasting away under the branches of a surrogate tree. They ranged from recognisable red, through shades of yellow to rotten russet. For the person who tended this otherwise immaculate plot, they probably didn't realise the impact of the statement they had made by this action.

Looking at the incredible heap of smelly colour made me feel very sad. Sad that such a valuable crop had been rejected, when all about us, there is a move for consciousness regards our resources. I still remember, and not that long ago, when such bumper crops would have been willingly shared around friends, with choice fruits being carefully wrapped and stored for gradual consumption during the coming seasons, thus making welcome savings in the household budget. Perhaps this image should serve as encouragement for all of us to consider our actions regards current fixations for the perfect and expensive alternative.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Just Isn't Cricket

Over the past 25 months, I have been on an alphabet quest with my old mum. I can hear you asking, what? Well, since moving to the region nearly four years ago, she has been keen to get to know the area better and one way was month by month, to find then visit a local place for each letter of the alphabet. It has been an interesting pastime as well as a bit of fun. Trying to find places with interesting names was always the challenge. Sometimes a bit of artisic licence was required to fulfil the quest (such as X and, next month, Z, although we were dandy for Q!) However, we are fortunate, even due to the lack of Y's nationally, to have a rather interesting Y in our region.

The custom has been to find a village sign to stand in front of and take a 'photo for the record'. These have ranged from authoritarian, "name" + please drive carefully / reduce your speed / please observe the speed limit signs, to community notice boards and, as today, beautifully carved village green signs. So, after sitting my old mum on the bench, conveniently positioned in front of our penultimate sign, I decided to take a closer look at the scene of rural idyll portrayed upon it.


It appears the man of the match at silly mid-on has a dolly. The cherry being something to do with the maiden over with the night watchman then getting a googly...

I'm sure the ladybird is having a rather nice winter rest!

Saturday 21 January 2012

Winter Weather and Deer Drama

Approaching our chosen walk location this morning, the blackening sky made a dramatic backdrop to the old pheasant cover strip running down the side of the field, just as the last blast of sun lit up the few remains of maize stalks. No longer much use to conceal the ambling birds, the maize now serves only to provide the odd choice seed and a convenient location for game feeders. Drawn by this dramatic contrast, I stopped the car to catch a few shots, whilst in the back, mutt squeaked in anticipation of a dash through this strip for the forbidden quarry.

As expected, the rain quickly moved across and the sun dramatically disappeared, forcing us to be imprisoned in the car for as long as the deluge gave sentence. After a snug 20 minutes for me and an exceedingly patient wait for mutt, it was clear the rain wasn't going to allow a weather parole. Feeling defeated, I decided to move the car to a stopping place at the other end of the walk offering a footpath with a modicum of cover, so as to at least get the daily exercise under way.

Poor mutt, she was going to have to be patient for some while longer. For as we made our way back down the lane,
I was presented with a dirt flinging deer derby as a herd of fallow deer raced away over the crest of the hill.
With no apparent antlered leader or matriarch, I watched for twenty minutes or so, as this herd of young deer ran aimlessly from one end of the field to the other, twice contemplating the dare of a mass lane crossing. Thinking better of it, the herd, ranging from melanisitc to menil, appeared to gather around the single white deer as if by some form of magnetic attraction.

After catching their breath for one more moment, the secret nudge was given and, with the now familiar sight of flashing rumps, off they shot again - all thirty-eight of them.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Sun Dog

Image enhanced to reveal detail.

Yesterday ice crystals were the focus of my image. Today there are ice crystals in a very different form.

Whilst out enjoying my walk on another crisp, bright, sunny morning, I wasn't too surprised to see some cirrus clouds in the otherwise clear blue sky. However, I was surprised to see the feintest show of a rainbow next to a bright light, to the right of but at the same height in the sky as the sun. I knew that this phenomenon would be caused by the light catching the ice crystals in these clouds high up in the atmosphere, as back on 11 December I featured a moon halo formed by the moonlight passing through ice crystals high up in the atmosphere. So a similar circumstance, although this time caused by the sun.

I do recall seeing this occurrence before but had no idea until I checked it out on my return home, that it is known as a Sun Dog Details here. I was unable to see the corresponding spot to the left of the sun today, but was delighted to see this one none-the-less.

After a few minutes, the rainbow-light disappeared as the sun moved up in the sky, sending it's warmth the melt the frosty covering on the ground around me.

Monday 16 January 2012

Now, This is Winter

Not that I'm complaining but surely more of this (as we had this morning) is what we really should be experiencing in January, rather than the 12 deg. temperatures we have been getting of late?

Sunday 15 January 2012

For Those in Peril...

Union Hall fishing fleet and Tit Bonhomme in brighter times

From today there will be an unhappy space at the quay in Union Hall

Our thoughts are with family and friends of all those sadly lost today,
and tragically, so close to the place of safety.

Saturday 14 January 2012


On a beautiful crisp, frosty January morning, me, other half and mutt were out in the countryside, enjoying a walk around a ploughed field when other half pointed out that we were being watched.

A Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) buzzed us on it's way to the next vantage point.
Up until very recently, the sight of a Buzzard over the fields of East Anglia would have been a rarity but now, these large raptors put in a regular appearance.

Parting Shot

Or to be strictly correct, 'arriving' shot. Another from the series taken of the Golden plover seen at The Warren on the day I arrived in West Cork. Surprisingly, it made it onto the back page of a West Cork newspaper upon parting on Thursday.

Thursday 12 January 2012

Tearful Departure

Well, not quite, although I am always sad to leave West Cork, even for all the rain and wind that gets thrown at me whilst I'm here. However, I'm leaving knowing that I will be back before too long, and as I may have mentioned before, there were once those who left, knowing that they would never come back. To them, the Fastnet was known as 'The Teardrop of Ireland' as it was the last glimpse that they saw of their homeland as they sailed across The Atlantic to America and a new life.

So, on my last evening in West Cork, I found myself up on the Head taking a look out towards The Fastnet Lighthouse, some seventeen or so miles away. As dusk was falling, longer exposures were required to capture the scene and with the breeze that inevitably hits this exposed point, it was almost impossible to capture the perfect shot. Even using my (albeit lightweight) tripod it was actually worse than hand-held, which this shot ended up being. So here is a challenge to make me come back- the perfect shot of the Fastnet.

For now though, it is back East.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Dramatic Arrival

Rainbow over Rath an Bharraigh

As my current visit to beautiful West Cork draws to a close, I will take a moment to reflect on when I had arrived and travelled from the airport last week.

Having stopped off at Long Strand to take a bracing walk along the beach in the blustery, tail-end-of-a-storm conditions, I was forced to take shelter in my car as a heavy shower came racing in from across the sea. As I sat it out, this wonderful scene appeared before me, the sunlight just catching the stonework of the little church at Castlefreke, whilst the rainbow completed it's arch further to my right.

How wonderfully dramatic! And I didn't mind for one moment that I hadn't managed the desired 'blast along the strand'.

Monday 9 January 2012

Portrait Photoshoot

Click on images to enlarge

I was recently delighted to be asked by an aspiring young film director, Kenya Brading, if I would take some publicity portraits of her to accompany her latest project -
Fleeting Lights.
This is to be "an experimental film exploring the body, the soul, and the breath" and will be for her graduation project at the Met Film School, Ealing Studios in London.

Kenya is truly inspirational with her work, has wonderful creative flair and a positive sense of direction, thus it came as no surprise that she knew exactly the location she wanted for this photoshoot.

As we had a very small window of time for this session, we seized the moment on a very chilly January morning when the sun provided us with a wonderful low winter light, ideal to reflect the fleeting lights theme. Given her reluctance to be 'the other side of the camera' she was a perfect model, who despite the cold, was happy and relaxed about her role, and which ultimately reflected in the final images.

Kenya initially chose these images to use alongside her project, which you can find out more about by clicking here

Sunday 8 January 2012

Evening Calm

Rineen, West Cork

In the still, early-evening chill of winter, the beautiful, haunting call of a lone curlew echoed out over the water...

Thursday 5 January 2012

Winter Bird Watch II

Numenius arquata
Rock pipit
Anthus petrosus
Stonechat (f)
Saxicola torquata
Troglodytes troglodytes
Heamatopus ostralegus
Hooded crow
Corvus corone cornix
Herring gull
Larus argentatus
Mute swan
Cygnus olor

With the changed
weather today, I was able to partake in a spot of calm birdwatching on my near-by strand this morning, followed by a visit to peaceful Lough Hyne this afternoon, in the hope of observing some interesting behaviour by the herring gulls. However, there was a failure to perform, as a bagful of bread supplied by a passing visitor was far more tasty than fishing for their own supper.

It was surprising how quickly quite a little collection was made in this candid snapshot album today. Whilst most of the birds were merely common species with some being purely coastal dwellers, I am still really hoping to see one not so common red-beaked member of the crow family whilst I'm here in West Cork. I have actually seen it once before during the winter months, but annoyingly didn't have my camera to hand at the time. Needless to say, I would be 'chuffed to bits' if I did see it again.

I will keep looking.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Winter Bird Watch

With a continuation of high winds plus the rain today, it was not very conducive to removing my camera from the bag. Thankfully though, on my drive from the airport yesterday, I was able to stop at one of my favourite spots in West Cork for winter bird watching. Whilst the summer months support a vast array of species at The Warren in Rosscarbery, the winter brings extra flocks of visiting birds.

Arriving late afternoon, just as the sun was beginning to drop behind the high banks that enclose this lagoon, I sat and watched for some time as a huge flock of golden plover, all facing up-stream, paddled in the receding tidal water. Alongside them was a smaller flock of lapwing who were less perturbed by the vehicles passing along the lane that leads to the quay. The plover, on the other hand, would take flight at the slightest sound of an approaching car, providing plenty of opportunities to marvel at this avian mass performance. Meanwhile, a redshank continued to paddle in its search of a tasty meal, oblivious to the fuss going on overhead.

Also looking for a meal was a permanent resident that is regularly seen at this spot, the grey heron. Patiently it waited, occasionally making a controlled but sly move, as it observed the goings-on around its feet. That patience was finally rewarded with a wriggling fish. Meanwhile, the little egret paddling nearby (pictured above), gave up on its search, instead taking off and engaging in a short airborne spat with another egret.

By this time, the light was fading and the thought of a refreshing cuppa brought this particular visit to an end.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Vagaries of Low Fares Airlines

Today I was pleased to be flying off to my favourite escape in West Cork for a few days, 1. for a rest, 2. to grab some photographic opportunities and 3. to finish up doing domestic maintenance. However, to be in with any chance of getting to even just the 'all other passengers' queue (Who feels they are mugs rather than smug when standing in the priority queue?) I had had to go through a now familiar and exhausting routine...

To book a ticket
Input an unrecognisable captcha.
How many bags are you taking? Do you want priority boarding? Insurance? Text notification? Would you like to buy a new bag? Have you read the terms & conditions? Are you really sure you don't want insurance? What about car hire?
Give us your contact email - twice please. Oh, and your mobile number.
Now (rubbing hands) payment please? Forget the price we told you before, we are going to stitch you up 'cos you don't have our cash passport (Ha ha ha!) that other card you had that used to allow free transactions - that is sooo yesterday!


Card declined

Breeeeeathe Get card unblocked

Go through the process all over again

Yep, ok this time. What about a hotel?

Phew, just leave me alone!

Then later...

Tell us you will turn up on the day. Input the reference code, you know, the one in that email you can't find. You remember your date of birth but bet you can't remember your passport number? United Kingdom is hidden in the list by the way.
Are you sure you don't want to check in another bag?
Now use a piece of your paper so we can tear it up and keep a third of it to add to a big pile of paper.

Sooo, you checked in a bag this time? We don't really like bags, unless they are a bit big or a bit heavy. (ha ha!) Stand with that bag in this long queue behind that late-comer who is on the last call for Rimini and can't find their paperwork. Tsk!

Is that your cabin bag? Can we weigh it and then do a Cinderella trick with it in this tubular frame. Ok. That lady behind you - the handbag has to go inside your already fit-to-burst wheelie-case... Lets shout that instruction at you again as it appears you don't speak the same language and then it will make everyone look at you.

Step over loudly sighing, squatting lady trying to do magic with bags, to wait with fellow passengers on the cold damp stairs (surely not naughty stairs?) whilst the really nice cabin crew do a 10 minute blitz through the newly arrived plane for us.

...Don't you just love low fares airlines?!

Well, actually, I have an undecided 'yeast extract' relationship with them.
I play their game, and to date, I haven't failed to arrive in my destination.

Oh but the best bit? Todays exceedingly windy weather meant a battle with 150mph head winds which, annoyingly for the airline, made us late but thankfully spared us the cheesy fanfare upon landing.

Sunday 1 January 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

The year ahead may not always be straightforward but here's wishing that we all might achieve our goals.