Sunday 31 August 2014

Day 31 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Old timbered buildings"

Suggested by - Ray via Facebook

"love those old buildings in your area..The houses etc with timbers olde English. Let's see how you represent this"

Well, I may as well go out with a flourish on the last day of my August Challenge!
One picture of twenty pictures. It just serves to show what a wealth of old timbered buildings there are in Saffron Walden alone, without going further out into Uttlesford.

There are some quite remarkable medieval buildings - the Old Sun Inn (R3P1), the old Youth Hostel (R3P5)... all from a period when timber framing was the way the buildings were constructed. Some of these buildings are further embellished with special plasterwork, traditional to this region. A fine example of this pargeting can be found on the gable of the Old Sun Inn (R1P3)

However, there is one image above which is quite notably out of place in this set.

It is now my turn to challenge all of you to tell me which one it is.

In the comments below, just write the row and position (as I have done above) of the one you think it may be. Obviously I know some of you already have the knowledge so maybe if you are an expert (Martyn!) then perhaps hang back and see what others might choose. Please don't say why at this point, just the number. I will reveal the answer on Thursday night at the viewing evening at Design Essentials. Those answers given here will go into a hat with the others on the night. Do come along for a chat, if you can, to see if you are right, and also to see the results of the challenges all of you set for me - this will be your show just as much as it is mine!

Thank you all for a great month of challenges and all of your wonderful support!

Saturday 30 August 2014

Day 30 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Oldest football team"

Suggested by Nigel via blog

"Something to do with the oldest football club in Essex - "Up the Bloods" "

"It used to cost sixpence to come and watch me"

"Well it costs a fiver to come and watch me now - I guess you had better go and ask for your money back after today!"

That was the conversation between a past player, Sid Boyton and current no. 3 player, Jamie Solkhon as they chatted at the end of the FA cup match at Catons Lane this afternoon. They may be separated by age but they were certainly united in their love for the game of football. Both playing the same position, they started discussing football boots.

"Bet you would never wear a pair like this!"
said Jamie as stood on one leg flashing a day-glo yellow boot in front of Sid.

"No! I went into a shop where I was shown a pair that were something special, nice supple leather. At (what is now) £7.50 that was more than a weeks wages to me. Do you know? I still have those boots and they are as good as ever!"

Sid, at 88 years young and life member of The Bloods, admitted he isn't able to get to as many matches as he would like as he can't manage the cold any more. It was just as well it was a pleasant late summer afternoon for him to enjoy the match today. This fine weather also brought a great turnout of supporters to the gate, where the sign 'The oldest club in Essex. Formed 1872' proudly reminds both home and away supporters alike, as they pass through the turnstiles to pay their fiver.

I can't comment on the standard of the match today, as my knowledge of football is...well, pretty sketchy. I know when a goal is scored (and there were four of those today - well sort of. 1 score each and 1 disallowed each). I also have to admit that this is the first FA match and even, the first live football match I have ever been to. I thought I might feel ready to go home at half time but something compelled me to stay and watch my home team in the hope they would maintain their early lead and go on to win the match. Sadly it wasn't to be and the disappointing draw result means a mid-week replay for all the lads. I'm not sure Sid or myself will be making the return trip to Welwyn Garden City, but I'd like to wish The Bloods "Good Luck!"

Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September.

Tomorrow, Day 31 - the last day!

"Old half-timbered buildings"

My grateful thanks to:
Martin Johnson (Chairman) Andy Player (Club secretary) Sid Boyton (Life member) Jamie Solkhon (Player)

Friday 29 August 2014

Day 29 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Peace / Quakers"

Suggested by - CJ via Twitter

"how about 'peace' - ties in with the Quaker heritage but also sets against SW as the base of Cromwell's Army..."

Back on Day 14 , I mentioned the fact there was a link with Quakers and Saffron Walden. Indeed, when we moved to the town nearly 30 years ago, we discovered the legacy of the Quaker heritage, even to the extent that there were limited opening hours for the pubs and the one off-licence that was in the town. (It is all changed now!)

Here, perhaps we need to know a little about Quakers. To quote the Quaker website:
"Quakerism is a way of life that is shaped by a deep commitment to peace, simplicity, truth and equality. This commitment is rooted in and nourished by our experience of silent and attentive worship and grows from a belief in the sanctity of all life."
The Quaker way has links with the puritan life which prevailed during the Commonwealth Period, and it was during that period that Oliver Cromwell visited Saffron Walden. He is said to have stayed in the Old Sun Inn whilst he was in talks with the New Model Army.

Perhaps you are asking, what is the connection then between my image today and the challenge? Well this evening I took myself to a little jewel in the crown, tucked away at the medieval end of the town. Bridge End Gardens is a garden that has been restored in recent years, to bring it back to how it might have been during the time when the Gibson family commissioned it. This is the same Quaker family of Gibsons who also built the house that we live in now and which I wrote of on Day 14. The gardens are a peaceful place to enjoy - either the horticultural delights, or getting lost in the splendid hedge maze or even sitting watching outdoor theatre, as I have also done on many an occasion. Indeed, as I walked around the garden tonight, there was a performance of 'Britain in History' being performed by the Shake a Leg Theatre Company, which is based in the town. Quietly wandering through the garden behind the temporary auditorium, I came in on the performance just at the point they were re-enacting the facts about...who other than Cromwell! I couldn't help but linger a while and enjoy this 'managable history'

Once the 20 minute interval was announced and just as the last of the light was disappearing from the sky, the audience got up from their assorted picnic chairs and wandered back and forth along the little paths which were now lit up with floodlights. The charming gardens took on a completely new feel and it was this alternative view of these peaceful, Quaker-founded gardens which I chose to capture.

Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September.

Tomorrow, Day 30 (Penultimate Challenge)

"Oldest football team"

Tower Poppies

A couple of weeks ago, I had to make a visit London and whilst there, I made a point of dropping by the Tower of London to see the Tower Poppies.
This post is acting as the perfect bridge between my Carver Barracks challenge post yesterday, and my Peace/Quaker post for later today.

Well, what can I say?




I will just let the images speak for themselves...

Somewhere there is my poppy - this is where you can buy one too...

Thursday 28 August 2014

Day 28 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Carver Barracks"

Suggested by - Wendy via Facebook

It is not an unusual occurrence to see uniformed army personnel in Saffron Walden yet this doesn't cause alarm amongst the townsfolk as it would in some towns, for we live alongside Carver Barracks as our neighbour. Located on the former RAF Debden airfield, the barrracks are currently home to 33 Engineer Regiment and the 101 (City of London) Engineer Regiment, bomb disposal units. Originally built just prior to the second world war there were a couple of custodians of this base, including the American Airforce from 1942-45 and the RAF, before it being handed over to the Army in 1974. Since then there have been Dragoon Guards, Royal Hussars, and in my time living in the town, the Royal Lancers, finishing up now with the Royal Engineers

Over the years I have been inside the base to visit army friends and to attend assorted events, although sadly in July I missed one big event - the Open Day a great way for the army to showcase what they do, and for the local people to show their support for these brave soldiers. And support they do! For example, on the occasion of the one of the homecomings following a tour in Afghanistan, the town turned out to welcome them back, applauding as they paraded through the town. Sadly though, there was no joyful reunion for a number of families. As with any conflict, there are always casualties.

On a drizzly grey morning, I was escorted, in a perfectly friendly manner, to a place a short walk inside the fence and beyond the guard room (where I had reported at 9am as planned). It was a large square, currently used for parking, but could possibly be turned into a form of parade ground. Around all four sides were buildings, each, I was told, taking the name of a person lost in the course of their duties in Iraq. It brought it home but what I was really there for, was to see the new memorial to all those bomb disposal personnel who had lost their lives in the course of their duty. Still to be completed, the carved stonework panel depicting a sapper in action, was set into brickwork, with two brickwork arms reaching out on either side, in a manner that could be seen as providing one final hug for those whose names are currently being cut into granite panels, and which will be fixed on either side. I asked my military guard, if he knew how many names were to be on the panels and who the artist of the carved panel might be. Not to be defeated, he escorted me to the QMs office where I spoke to an equally friendly officer who filled me in with a little more about the memorial. Apparently the carved panel was commissioned a few years ago and is being re-incorporated into this new memorial. He admitted though that he was equally stumped on the artist and the sad tally of who were to be included on the panels. He felt it his duty to find out for me, and when I am furnished with this information, I will duly update here.

As the Union Flag fluttered above the memorial which stood silent this morning, I couldn't help but stop and think of those who had paid with their lives, in the quest for a peace that may ultimately flutter through, and in a hope it might be appreciated throughout the world.


Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September

Tomorrow, Day 29

"Peace / Quakers"

My grateful thanks to the personnel at Carver Barracks

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Day 27 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Oldest used building"

Suggested by - Kay via Twitter

"That time again!!! Love the challenges last year! May I set u the challenge of Uttlesford's oldest building? And to confirm, a building still in use and not a ruin."

Having lived in this cosy corner of North Essex for almost 30 years, I have come to know many of the local landmarks and features. One such landmark being the incredible Prior's Hall Barn at Widdington. With this area of Uttlesford being rich in medieval buildings, it's no surprise to find this barn - one of the finest surviving examples of of its type in the East of England, and I couldn't but fail to be impressed on the occasions when I have visited it.

"But?" I hear you say...Yes, I know, it is old and not a ruin but is it in continual use? Well, no, but over the other side of a flint wall adjacent to the barn is another surprise. Prior's Hall Farm is a beautiful family home, full of charm and character, and under the blue skies this morning it looked friendly and inviting. Clearly a building with history, and a history which I wanted to find a little more about as I had been directed to it by a local historian, indicating that it could well be the oldest (continually) inhabited building in the area, if not in England. With a heritage possibly dating back to the late tenth or early eleventh century, this building of saxon origin, pre-dated the beautiful medieval barn by four hundred years or so. Hard to believe - but there was evidence. Maggs, the lady of the house was so kind as to point out the features that had led previous owners and historians to determine it's heritage.

Running ground to eaves next to the front door was a a band of exposed stonework, and which was mirrored at the other end of this north-facing side of the house. With long thin vertical stones punctuated by long thin horizontal stones (see example e) these features were a clear indication of saxon architecture. The presence of a v-shaped stone window arch and a solid semi-circular arch, now incorporated in an end wall corroborated the evidence.

As I stood in the sunshine in the beautiful gardens, listening to the robin singing in the nearby fruit tree, I chatted to Darrell on the cordless phone that Maggs had handed me. He explained to me more of the fascinating history of this Grade 1 listed building, from involvement with William the Conqueror, to Edward III, to the manor becoming part of the estates of New College, Oxford. All far more involved than I can write here in this short post. As we chatted I looked back at the manor house and clearly there were medieval and later additions, but for me, this fascinating evidence was good enough to allow me to present to you what is probably the oldest, still in use building in Uttlesford, my picture showing you the beautiful detail of the saxon quions, set against the backdrop of the medieval barn.

Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September

Tomorrow, Day 28

"Carver Barracks"

My grateful thanks to Darrell and Maggs for allowing me to photograph a corner of their beautiful home, and also Martyn for the inside historical information.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Day 26 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Stansted flight"

Suggested by - Ian via Facebook

"Your challenge is to photograph the longest scheduled flight to/from Stansted"

Well, I have to admit, this was certainly going to be a challenge (as well as fun), as to start with I would have to find out which flight it might be. Thankfully, the cat was let out of the bag a little so I guessed it was a commercial flight rather than a passenger flight, FedEx being my first hunch. With a bit of digging around online, it was possible to find out where FedEx flew and it was clear that it was a flight to the American continent that was possibly going to be the winner. A closer look revealed that FedEx2 out of Memphis was measuring up to be the longest with a distance of 4381 miles and a time of 7 hours 38 minutes. I was on to it.

Next would be the tracking to ensure I was in the right place at the right time. Now that bit was easy as once I knew which flight I was looking for, there were several apps available which tracked them. I chose to use flight tracker and first thing this morning, I logged on to begin my watch.

At several times throughout the day, I checked the progress and it appeared to be not too far off the scheduled times. My next plan was to decide on my spot to capture the shot but this was dependent on which way the planes were taking off and landing. Having taken shots of important arrivals at the airport before, I had a shot in mind and set off with my trusty photographer's assistant and my new assistant in training (aka my visiting big sis). As we made our way towards Stansted Airport, it was clear that my hope for the planned shot was going to be thwarted as the planes were landing at the Stortford end. Not for the first time this week, plan B was put into action.

Killing two birds with one stone, we were able to walk mutt along the old railway line - now The Flitch Way footpath and bicycle trail, which conveniently took us right under the flight path of the approaching planes, but this wasn't a good enough spot. I knew it was going to be a scramble up a bank to a raised spot I had used previously as a plane spotting vantage point. What I hadn't planned was slipping back down said bank into a crop of tenacious burdock, much to the amusement of my assistant in training. Undeterred, I pressed on to the spot, my jumper and worse still, my hair being full of burrs. (What I do to carry out these challenges, heh? And I have to say, the burrs certainly do what they are designed for!)

Setting up my kit and checking the app on my phone, I knew it wouldn't be long before the plane was due (and hopefully the one the challenger had in mind). We watched as the various 'low fares airlines' followed in one behind another, and then I had the alert from my assistant in training - "Plane coming!" Sure enough, it was sporting the colours of FedEx and I had just this one opportunity to accomplish my challenge to photograph the plane.

It was odd to think that I had tracked this very plane since it had left in the early hours of the Memphis day and now here it was, close enough to see the crew in their seats. As it came in on final approach, I was able to prove the moment with the landing gear down and verify the plane as the registration was clearly visible on the side of the aircraft. And to corroborate that, the screen grab proved the time (give or take my camera being out by a couple of minutes). So I would like to think it was a clear case of 'Mission Accomplished!'

Oh, and I might just keep on my assistant in training, seeing as she very kindly removed the burrs from my hair!

Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September

Tomorrow, Day 27

"Uttlesford's oldest used building"

My thanks to Addo for apps suggestions and Gillian for being the necessary hairdresser.

Monday 25 August 2014

Day 25 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Teens"

Suggested by - Claire via Facebook

"Teens: I've often wondered if they find it as much fun as the rest of us living in this rural idyll!"

I should have known, it IS a Bank Holiday afterall! Yes, the rain put the dampers on the shoot I had planned for today so it had to be plan B. Actually, plan B was just as enlightening as I spent a couple of hours in a local coffee shop, chatting to two lads I had met at the skate park just last night.

When I knew I had the challenge to speak to teens, a bit of advance planning would be required to ensure enough time to obtain the appropriate permissions for potentially using the images of minors. The next move was where to find a sizeable group of teens willing to chat. Having done shoots at the One Minet Skate Park before, I knew there would be skaters quick to raise their hand to having a photograph taken, so off I went over the weekend, armed with the consent forms, and I wasn't let down for takers. All I instructed was, 'be there from 11am - no form; no photo'. However, just to be on the safe side I went back with a spare couple of forms to recruit a few more hopefuls only last night.

"Hi, I'm Brad by the way"
A tall lad in a beanie hat switched his roll-up to the other hand, as he offered me his right hand, which I duly shook. What a polite lad I thought, and we entered into a fascinating conversation about the whole skating scene. He is rightly proud of it, along with all his group, who were just rounding off their 'Lords of the Swords' 2014 tour at the park. At 19, he was at the upper end of the teenage spectrum but he had 13 and 16 year-olds around him, as well as a skating sister he might be able to recruit into chatting with me, in return for some shots of them in action at the park. We arranged they would be there from around 11am, unless the weather had turned wet, in which case, he would message me at 12 to arrange plan B.

This morning I went to the world class park at 11am but the only shoot I could do was to show how it could have been something quite exciting.

I realised those others who had also shown willing were unlikely to turn up in the rain (I apologise if you did) and I left to ponder my next move. True to his promise though, Brad messaged me at 12 and planned a meet with him and any friends he could muster.
Sitting in the coffee shop a call came through "I'm running late, I'm so sorry"
Not to worry, we had plenty of time, and I was just grateful that someone was keen to chat about teenage life in this rural idyll. Sadly, as it would have put an element of balance on the discussion, his sister was unable to make it but his 16 year-old friend Josh was on his way. As we sat and waited, Brad showed me their winning submission to the
Lords of the Swords - 2013
- How cool was that! I was really being impressed by the dedication of these lads.
After a little while, Josh arrived, and I have to say I was utterly gobsmacked as he walked the 3 miles from a nearby village, in the rain! Gosh - serious thanks here guys!

Over a couple of coffees and a cuppa, we chatted about the skating community and how the presence of the skate park had turned their lives around. They commented that alternatively, many of their peers would just sit on The Common listening to music or go to The 'Tem', the local pub favoured by the younger community, otherwise, there was very little else for teenagers to do in the town. However, both Brad and Josh had been introduced to the skate park by friends, and prior to that, were in a situation where they had no motivation to do anything, not even wanting to leave the house. So, when did the view about living in the town change?
Brad told me that it was when he was round sixteen he realised he didn't like the people - no specific sector of the people but he just felt he was "living in that area outside of the venn diagram" I could envisage what he was meaning. Going to the skate park he felt understood and accepted.
"Don't get me wrong, it is a safe and comfortable town but there are no opportunities here. I have to venture to Cambridge or London for those. The only thing here for youngsters is the skate park"
Josh agreed, there wasn't much to not like about the town although he did reference that there were rather too many of his contemporaries who didn't know how to behave and he didn't like that. I found that an interesting admission.
So what would make Saffron Walden a better place for teenagers? Both agreed an arts facility where the cultures favoured by the younger residents were available, such as the planned Hub. Even I could see the importance of something like that. Thankfully, with the wider world being accessible via the internet, the place wasn't as isolated as it could otherwise be and for now, that would be ok.
And where would they rather be then? For Josh, he dreamed of ending up in London, whilst Brad was setting his net wider and dreaming of going to New York, where the skating culture was the big pull. Good luck lads - may your wishes be fulfilled!

How fascinating! These were just some of the views of two teenagers but already I am sensing a far bigger story out of this and I know I am going to be back amongst these great kids very soon, even if it is just to repay them with the action shots I first promised them. I don't think this is the last of my association with the skating community.
Huge thanks Brad and Josh!

Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September

Tomorrow, Day 26

"Stansted flight"

Sunday 24 August 2014

Day 24 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Chess in Uttlesford"

Suggested by - Richard via blog

"Chess in Uttelsford (sic)".
Your move...
(NB I know you like to be creative so chessboard patterns in flooring, walls and buildings or any chess related thing can be considered!)

Having first Googled chess in Uttlesford and then chess in Essex I was beginning to draw a blank. All of the clubs in Essex appear to be in the south of the county and the nearest local club seems to be over the border into Cambridgeshire - not much use then. My mind started to think of other solutions - a chequerboard floor...and I knew there was one, in Audley End House and so a visit to our local mansion looked on the cards. That was until a friend alerted me to the presence of a large outdoor chess set in grounds not far from the English Heritage property. It was worth a try - hoping there might be some players willing to be subjects to put the playing pieces in scale.

Sadly, there were no contemplative players out in the afternoon sunshine (which actually struggled to make an impression on the chilly air). Instead I was alone with these black and white armies, waiting; facing each other in their regimented way for a battle to commence. And commence it did but not in front of me or how I expected. Suddenly a huge bang and then the rattle of machine gun fire echoed out along the calm Cam valley, as if World War II was breaking out. In fact you could say it was - in a fashion. Being a Bank Holiday weekend, English Heritage had arranged a family event "World War II Soldiers and Spies" at Audley End House, and which explained the unusual occurrence. Once this had dawned on me, I settled back to grabbing a few more shots from different angles before surrendering and beating my retreat - back home for a cuppa.

Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September

Tomorrow, Day 24


Thanks to David for the tip-off for todays challenge!

Celia Bartlett Photography @ Design Essentials

Bear with me whilst I take you back through a few recent images...

Day 20 August Challenge 14

Day 22 August Challenge 14

Tour de France 7th July Police presence

Tour de France 7th July Race leaders

Carnival Procession 

Carnival Procession

You may or may not recall them, so why have I picked these out?

Well, they just happen to be a few that created quite a bit of interest when they were posted online over the past couple of months, and I am delighted of course. However, what would make me absolutely delighted would be for you to join me when I put these and a whole selection more of the 'Summer in Uttlesford' images on display in Design Essentials during September. There will be framed pictures, prints, greeting cards and books all associated with The Carnival, The Tour de France and of course, my latest work, The August Challenge.

Do remember of course, that the August Challenges were set by you, so this is also YOUR exhibition!

Without further ado here are the details:

Monday 1st September to Saturday 27th September

Design Essentials
13 Market Hill, Saffron Walden, Essex

If you can, join me for a chat and complimentary glass of wine on the special viewing evening...

Thursday 4th September from 7pm

See you there!!

Saturday 23 August 2014

Day 23 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Dance in the square"

Suggested by - Alice via FB

Tonight was the annual August Bank Holiday 'Dance in the square'

(Will write a little more once this is posted in a few minutes!)

Ok, I'm back! Due to the late finish of the event, I allowed myself the luxury of posting the images before I completed writing - I'm sure you will allow me that?

Thankfully it was dry this evening for this annual event - I recall last year being rather a washout. Mind you, it was still pretty nippy out in the night air - some dressing for the weather, others dressing for a night of dancing. Whichever was chosen, it seemed that everyone was having a great time at this free event, which takes over the market square and is put on by the volunteers of Saffron Walden Initiative.

Over the years there has been everything from a soul night to jazz night although this year, it was the covers band Van Gogh's Ear which provided the music - everything from Elvis to Robbie Williams. Young and old, the dancers did their thing to the songs from across the decades, until the clock on the library had passed 10.30 and then the totally civilised event ended with everyone lending a hand to move the tables, which had bordered the square, back into the town hall.

What a community!

Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September

Tomorrow, Day 24

"Chess in Uttlesford"

Friday 22 August 2014

Day 22 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Composite of land to be lost"

Suggested by - Simon via blog

"How about a composite photo of the open farmland to the east of Saffron Walden soon to be despoiled by unsustainable development, thanks to the combined efforts of our elected representatives and planners at Uttlesford District Council.

Possibly not your greatest challenge, but at least, it will provide a record of what we have lost for ever.

When I throw out the request for challenges for me to take on, I make it my policy to try not to reject any suggestion, unless it is clearly isn't within the brief. I will never reject on the grounds it might be difficult, but being difficult doesn't just relate to the execution of it, (and this one was going to be a bit difficult) it can also be due to the subject matter itself. When this one popped up, I knew it would be one that could be emotive amongst my potential viewers. I wasn't going to reject it on those grounds, as it would just amount to a form of censoring. I would prefer to allow everyone their view, whilst I merely provide an impartial backdrop to it. So maybe this post could be seen as failing the challenge - I will accept that but equally, hope you will understand.

Nationally, the housing shortage is creating quite a stir and equally, proposed developments to resolve the problem are proving just as contentious. Saffron Walden is not immune to this and I will leave you, the reader, to Google the comings and goings of the matter, as there is much available.

Following a short shower of rain this evening, I took myself to the area in question to capture just a snippet of the farmland spoken of, and reflected on the need for housing and the potential loss of greenbelt. Never an easy task. I thought of how the town has has already enlarged and filled so many building spaces in the 30 or so years I have lived here. Towns will always have a changing face. However, what needs to be carefully thought through is whether the final decision is for the good of the people and the town as a whole. Those in the determining roles are charged with making such decisions, and we and future generations will have to live with it. In that case, we can only hope it is all considered carefully and with understanding.

As I watched the sun go down over both old and new housing areas in this corner of town I just thought how fortunate I was to live in a lovely part of the country.

Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September

Tomorrow, Day 23

Will be drawn from a selection in the morning

Thursday 21 August 2014

Day 21 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Employment"

Suggested by - Hilary via Facebook

When the suggestion of employment came in, my heart sank somewhat as I couldn't initially see how this connected to my request for challenges related to Uttlesford. However, the challenger eventually pointed out to me that it was one of the first facts she had read about Uttlesford - Stansted Airport is the largest employer in Uttlesford.


Anyway, instead of showing you a trail of girls in 'process blue' business dress heading to work for a certain low fares airline, I thought I would simply provide a pretty image of the interesting airport building, designed by Sir Norman Foster, and all lit up by night. So by nature of the shoot, I apologise for a rather late post tonight.

Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September

Tomorrow, Day 22

"Composite of land to be lost"

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Day 20 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Uttlesford wildlife"

Suggested by - Ca via Facebook

Those of you who regularly follow my blog will realise that this challenge would mean I would be able to indulge in the one thing I'm really passionate about - wildlife. Sadly, work has got in the way of this pleasure of late and I haven't been able to go out and spend the time in the field or blog about it. (Wouldn't it be lovely if I could combine work and pleasure here? Where are those commissioning editors who need wildlife shots and articles?!!) ...I digress. So with all the wonderful wildlife there is around in Uttlesford, how could I show it all here in one go? Simply, I can't but I can recommend catching up with The Essex Wildlife Trust which aims to protect all wildlife for the future and also covers the Uttlesford corner of the county.

So here today, I select one particular aspect of local wildlife that is dear to my heart (excuse the pun).

For a number of years now, I have been watching a particular herd of fallow deer not too far from my home. It usually involves arriving at my hide location in the hours of darkness and waiting for the dawn activity to begin. I have watched the coming, and sadly the going of the splendid white buck and usually caught the annual rutting activities. Many hours I have sat silently in the chill of the morning, waiting for some spectacular activity that would allow equally spectacular shots (actually, I'm still waiting for those). As with any wildlife photography, it takes time, patience and dedication to reap the rewards with a stunning photograph, unless being lucky just happens to gift a stunner to someone who may have a camera with them. It is possible to get some cracking shots of deer in the public parkland setting, and yes, I have done that but I'm more interested in the shy and elusive deer. They are much more of a challenge to me.

By following this particular local herd, I have got to know where their deer paths run and where their scrapes and rutting stands are. This means that my hide can stay in the one spot, although I'm seriously contemplating hiring a stonking 600mm for the approaching rutting season, just to gain a bit of distance without encroaching on their territory. It actually won't be very long before rutting kicks off though. Indeed, for the challenge this morning, I was watching as two sub-three-year-old bucks were testing their prowess with their single pronged antlers, in what would probably be their last season with the maternal herd. However, I didn't spy the big daddy of them all who is yet to start rounding up his group of ladies. This year, I am going to start the rut watch much earlier than previous years, to ensure I don't miss a trick. The weather plays a big part with the start, the colder temperatures triggering the annual behaviour. I will endeavour to bring regular updates to this blog, so if you have just the vaguest interest in deer then do drop by and see what might be happening.

This morning, as I sat in the warming morning sunshine, watching the last of the swallows skimming low over the ploughed field, a peaceful calm descended over the little corner where I sat. Apart from the very distant hum of the M11, I could hear nothing else except the sound of the real birds - not even a raucous metal bird punctuated this silence. Just then, a doe, still resplendent in her distinct spotty summer coat and camouflaged against the ploughed field, struck off from the ruminating herd and I took the opportunity to fire off a few shots. Being so close, the sound of my shutter alerted her and she made a comical backwards glance at me before pronking off across to the cover of the nearby woodland.
Just magical!

Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September

Tomorrow, Day 21


Tuesday 19 August 2014

Day 19 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Ugly building looking pretty"

Suggested by - Michelle

"An ugly building in Saffron Walden which becomes beautiful because of the way you photograph it?
the ugly building. Like the factory opposite tescos..."

OK, so I admit, apart from Photoshopping it out of the image, this eyesore of a building that most of the population of Saffron Walden look at on a regular basis, is never going to be made to look beautiful as a whole. In fact, if I hadn't have used litter for my Day 6 "Blot on the landscape" then this would have been the one to feature for that day.

I dropped by this morning, prior to my trip up to London to see the "The Tower Poppies" amongst other things, but mutt had decided to do her usual thing on a day when I am restricted by time - she runs off, and so, my attempts at solving the beauty issue this morning were mutt-limited to a hasty 10 minutes - definitely not long enough for this makeover! However, upon my return from my London visit (and wow! were those poppies something? A blog for that soon) I swung back to the spot I had been to this morning. The light began to turn to the warmer colours of a sunset and I hoped there might be some nice reflections to be had. Sadly, the sun wasn't in the best location and so another approach was needed.

For the third day on the trot, it seemed as though a bit of trespassing might have to be contemplated but in the end, I was able to stay outside of the anti-trespass fence (it was like déjà vu - just a more substantial deer fence) My approach was to be, if I couldn't make the whole building look good, then I should focus on just a little bit that might look good in its own way. I tried framing the rampant self-seeded buddleias with the the forms of the broken windows. I looked at the glittery patterns around the exposed and rusted wires of the broken 'georgian glass'. I studied the shadows of the fire escape on the profiled tin walls. I looked for beauty in the decay. And then I saw it. The shape in one particular broken pane of glass appeared to resemble the form of an angel. A slightly deformed angel, I grant you but it made the windows take on a different form. The window to the right of it was still intact and the stripes of the venetian blinds were just visible, creating a pattern in the panel. The window to the left bore the spraypaint of the graffiti and the tag of the 'artist', creating another patterned panel.

Here, whether you appreciate it or not, was a triptych to the beauty of decay.

Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September

Tomorrow, Day 20

"Uttlesford wildlife"

Monday 18 August 2014

Day 18 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Shadwell Wood, Ashdon"

Suggested by - Celia via Twitter

Let me in!!

This is what I was faced with this morning, when I finally found the secretive Shadwell Wood near Ashdon, and I certainly wasn't going to be able to squeeze in through a badger pipe!

There were few indicators on the OS map regarding even the name, let alone the entrance to this wood but it was obvious I had approached it from the wrong direction when I came face to face with a deer-proof fence which surrounded this 17.5 acre ancient woodland. Unlike many of the other woods I visit locally, deer are positively kept out of this wood as they would do untold damage to the young shoots of the coppiced trees and also eat all the flowers, notably the oxslips. Managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust, this woodland has an enviable collection of Spring flowers (wrong time of year for me today with August being one month that isn't even mentioned as being best for visiting) Today, I was with the deer - on the outside and so I copied their reasoning and trekked along the deer track which followed the perimeter of the wood, my theory being, if I followed it for long enough I would find the gate. I was beginning to kick myself for forgetting to bring the OS map with me and with no mobile signal, I was unable to do a search for a map that way too. And so me and mutt (and yes, I found out later that she wouldn't have been allowed in anyway) ducked and dived under branches and through nettles (I'm still feeling the late-repeating stings even now) until I got to a point where it appeared I was in someones garden, and that someone was busy in their greenhouse...with the potential of spotting me. Having done a bit of illegal exploring yesterday, I wasn't too keen to go on and get told off for trespass, so I made the decision to turn around and go back the way I had come.

There was only one thing for it - I took myself off home and made the cuppa that I was gasping for and whilst sitting enjoying it, I carefully checked the map and the website to see if there was any more information of how to get into the wood. It wasn't the clearest but I had overlooked a little piece of information which may have been useful so I determined that I would return later in the afternoon for another go. Sadly rain showers and other work thwarted my attempts but now I have discovered this new little oasis, I will certainly be going back.

As I said before, I do just as much learning whilst undertaking the August Challenge as perhaps you do, and that is what I love about doing this. Here for you, is a picture of a deer fence and badger pipe, not quite what I had in mind but then often these challenges throw up something completely different and new.

Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September

Tomorrow, Day 19

"Ugly building looking pretty"

Sunday 17 August 2014

Day 17 - August Challenge 14

Challenge - "Howzat!"

Suggested by - Nick via Facebook

"Howzat! (any Sunday)"

Plan A - visit one of the lovely idyllic village cricket greens that are dotted around this corner of Uttlesford, and take a few shots of a game in action.
Plan B - given the rain this morning, take a brolly to said cricket green and capture the raindrops bouncing off the wicket.
Plan C ...never thought I would need a Plan C but Plan C it ended up being.

I had done a bit of fixtures searching prior to this shoot but it appeared that most league matches are played on a Saturday, with friendlies on Sundays. One team was putting out a Facebook plea for players during this holiday period and others had no apparent fixtures for Sundays. It would mean I would have to visit each of the local greens today, in the hope that there might just be one match on the go. Off I set in lovely sunshine, the earlier rain having disappeared, calling by the first green, and probably the most stunning location of them all - in front of Audley End House. Nope. To the second. Nope, third, nope - but they did have a huge banner saying 'Players Wanted'. On to the fourth, nope and by then I was beginning to wonder if it was the earlier rain which might have 'stopped play' but guess there would have been players milling around if there were plans to play. One last green to try, and as it is also an idyllic example, it would have to be the one to provide some form of image to remedy my requirements.

The pavilion at this particular green (which will remain nameless and the reason why will become clear) is of the typical pavilion type - white match boarded walls with a scalloped-edged porch. Outside the scoreboard was securely padlocked behind a plywood door yet strangely, the un-roped-off wicket wasn't secure...neither was the door to the pavilion. It was ajar, and at first I thought there might be someone in, so I gingerly peered in through the window, taking a couple of shots of the cricket equipment lying about inside. Unlike on Friday when I was after a reflection, today the reflection was not helping me. There was only one thing for it - a bit of urb-exing, well sort of. Now positive that there was no one coming and going, I slipped inside and rattled off a few shots. The safety helmets hung on the wall, the cricket stumps laid on the bench alongside the score numbers, the bales on the ledge of the sash window, the umpire coats hanging on the hook...they weren't going to be used today. As quickly as I had gone in, I left, having touched nothing. I apologise to the club for inviting myself in, but I did pull the door to behind me has I left!

Plan C - capture the essence of cricket at a local green. (Sorry, due to security issues I couldn't show where but I assure you it was within Uttlesford.)


Today's image and all the other images from my August Challenge will be on display in Design Essentials during September

Tomorrow, Day 18

"Shadwell Wood"