Welcome

I am Rod Wynne-Powell, and this is my way to pass on snippets either of a technical nature, or related to what I am currently doing or hope to be doing in the near future.

A third-person description follows:

Professional photographer, Lightroom and Photoshop Workflow trainer, Consultant, digital image retoucher, author, and tech-editor for Martin Evening's many 'Photoshop for Photographers' books.

For over twenty years, Rod has had a client list of large and small companies, which reads like the ‘who’s who’ of the imaging, advertising and software industries. He has a background in Commercial/Industrial Photography, was Sales Manager for a leading London-based colour laboratory and has trained many digital photographers on a one-to-one basis, in the UK and Europe.

Still a pre-release tester for Adobe in the US, for Photoshop, he is also very much involved in the taking of a wide range of photographs, as can be seen in the galleries.

See his broad range of training and creative services, available NOW. Take advantage of them and ensure an unfair advantage over your competitors…



Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Stewartby Race Weekend – Saturday

Here was an opportunity not to be missed. Sunshine and for me, a new experience amongst a very different sporting activity, with new people to meet. Everyone I met was easygoing and friendly, reminding me very much of the atmosphere I remember from my time as a Pit Marshal with the BRSCC at various circuits around the UK. Although the names of the drivers and the classes of boat were unknown to me, the mixture of purposeful work being carried out and the outward calm and the generally informal atmosphere despite the obvious background structure to the day ahead was familiar to me from my thirty years with marshals and racing cars and racing circuits. I left that community to allow me to concentrate on building ‘SOLUTIONS photographic’ from the early days of the involvement of computers in photography.
This was the first real opportunity to see how effective the Benbo tripod was in allowing me to have a stable platform at the very edge of the lake. Yes, I had used it at the other nearby lake at Brogborough, but there it was still very novel, here I put what I had learned there into practice, and felt far more at ease with its foibles.
I learned I had packed too little to drink for the Saturday, and put that right for the Sunday. I met up with a very keen and knowledgable family of young brothers from Lowestoft whose mother I learned had been a powerboat racer herself, and since they were keen on photography, I promised I would bring along my second long zoom lens as one of them was fortuitously a Canon shooter, so that he could play with that on the Sunday, later I also lent him the use of a monopod, which I learned he was grateful for lessening the effect of its weight! That was my mistake I had forgotten he wouldn’t need an Arca Swiss plate for it, so got that out of my boot later. 
I am afraid I did not write down their names, but they seemed to know every participant, so their knowledge was vital, but only a fraction was retained in my failing memory but for what little I retained I was still very grateful. One very obvious observation was just how young many of the participants were, I also gathered that the number of competitors was considerably down on the past numbers due to costs and regulations, but I believe that the numbers will increase if the age for entry becomes bolstered by the development of these young entrants’ undoubted skills. I have some grandchildren who could well become interested if they catch sight of the age of those I saw performing!
I was somewhat trigger happy as I explored the angles I captured, especially so on that first day, so that largely accounts for the delay in these images appearing on the blog; I hope the wait was worth it. I now have to get my Sunday shots done.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Stewartby Spoiler Alert!

                    I have not taken photos of Powerboats racing at Stewartby before; the closest from the past was way back in the days of black-and-white and a 5x4 Sinar – I took black and white shots on 5x4 sheetfilm on the Thames of a first test of a speedboat after being built at a boatyard somewhere beyond Henley; panning a Sinar is really not an easy task. So at least I stood a chance with a modern camera! Sue Tassell had very kindly allowed me into the compound for the opportunity, and I was blessed with ideal conditions on the first of the two days’ event.
                    However, being a two day event, the time taken to produce the galleries covering the weekend means that the post production effort precludes a full gallery today, Monday, so I am simply posting a single teaser shot whilst I continue preparing a fuller photographic account of the splendid weekend.
                    When the galleries come, I am taking this opportunity to let everyone know that normally clicking the headline TEXT takes you to the thumbnail gallery, where the click on any individual thumbnail will enlarge the chosen image, however there is no gallery here.

The other point I shall make is that all images are my copyright, but if I am asked, and informed as to the filename of a specific image selected, a SINGLE image may be used just the once on Social Media uncropped, and complete with its embedded copyright message with a byline of “Image copyright of Rod Wynne-Powell, SOLUTIONS photographic”. I print A4 colour prints on Premium Semi Gloss paper, should anyone be interested.
                    Meantime my head will be down preparing the rest of the record of an enjoyable two days at Stewartby Lake.



Friday, 20 April 2018

BNI-Breakfast Radlett Park Golf Course

Friday morning was scheduled to be yet another very warm after Thursday’s forty-seven year record for this time of year, and it did not disappoint. Around a week or so earlier a DigiCluster member, Helena Baker had spoken to BNI’s David O’Dell, the National Field Manager for UK & Ireland to invite me to their meeting at the Radlett Park Golf Club.
I duly set my alarm for 04-40, having shaved and bathed the night before, and within three-quarters of an hour, the car had been packed and the SatNav set and I was on my way, reckoning that even with heavier than average traffic, I would arrive well early. I had not reckoned on the SatNav indicating my destination was on the right as I was in the High Street. I took that turn, but it had to be wrong as the area was completely built up, I drove uphill a short distance and spotting a lone pedestrian asked her the way, she suggested I go up the hill take a right and it would be on my left a short way further – said with no hint of hesitation, so I duly followed the directions and was still within a built-up area, so I went a little further hoping to reach countryside or another person; those directions offered, were with equal conviction, but were as unhelpful, I managed to find three further willing helpers, one of which did lead me into a golf course past a security bollard, but it was all but deserted, but I found a workman who told me it was the wrong Golf Club and he handily gave me the exit code so I could follow his directions, which began by pointing me back the way I had come! I can only believe there were stooges out there to point me elsewhere employed by a BNI rival! I certainly had the place surrounded. I almost expected everybody to be leaving as I was entering, I was so late; it has only now occurred to me that I spent as much of my time in the Radlett environs as I had taken for my my projected time of 39 minutes.
As I entered, David O’Dowd introduced himself, correctly presuming who I was and immediately did his best to reassure me and asked would I like tea or coffee. I was made to feel welcome, and at least had not been peremptorily blackballed for my heinous behaviour – Phew! Awhile later he addressed the rest of the delegates and calling me ‘Rodney’ to which I corrected him with ‘Roderick - Rodney is a Plonker!’ which resonated with at least some of the audience with some laughter.
It was mentioned I would be taking to photos as a record of the morning so long as no one objected, which later made one member check if I had his best side, so I was sure at least he had no objections. Everyone made considerable effort to make not only myself but all of the firstcomers welcomed, and the underlying structure of the event meant each person would have an opportunity to introduce themselves and was asked to observe certain time limits, but many had completed their narrative well-before timeout was called, and for those who did reach this cutoff it was generally drowned out by well-meaning laughter.
The whole morning was well-run without officiousness, and the presentations were brief and succinct, and the food provided was excellent. I hope that in the few photographs I took it gives a flavour of the morning’s meeting. Thank you all for an interesting morning. The journey back was so straightforward, I wonder whether my SatNav had been sabotaged, it was so incredibly straightforward; virtually a straight line!? – I hope I got everyone’s ‘best side’ not just Lawrence Conway’s!

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Brogborough Windy Tuesday

                    My car was collected to get a service, but there was sunshine and quite a strong wind blowing, so I packed my camera and three lenses, and took the camera bag to the lock-up and my bike; I had hoped that I could put the camera bag in the front basket, but sadly it was not possible, so instead I put the individual items in separately, in so doing did not add any extra compact flash cards as I was not expecting to have large numbers of likely images; it was after all a Tuesday afternoon. 
                    I returned the camera bag to the house, donned my helmet and folded my trousers into my socks and set off for Brogborough Lake, and the fact that I have had a cough and cold for a week now meant that I found myself noticeably weaker on the pedals and I was heading into the wind. Assuming that the wind was unlikely to shift through 180 degrees that at least was a crumb of comfort for the return trip.
                    On arrival, I found the gates were open, but there were not too many vehicles, however there were several sailors out on the lake and the wind was definitely of a reasonable strength, but the overall number of visitors was not large, so I was not reckoning on there being much photos ahead, but I got out my camera and headed towards the water’s edge, and having taken just a few shots on my general purpose 24-70mm, swapped it for the 100-400mm, and soon found some more enticing subjects for the longer lens. Having no support, not even a monopod, I soon drew up a wrought iron chair and sat down to shoot which was less of a strain, as the wind was strong enough to be noticeable when holding the camera to my eye for any length of time.
                    I was also having to take more shots due to the amount of wind that was affecting my framing, and this was where my failure to bring a spare CF card was going to limit  the time I was going to spend shooting. That lack of foresight really made me feel very annoyed with myself! The card had 32GB which in my pessimism had seemed more than adequate, but I had made no allowance for my taking more shots due to the wind, or that the weather might be conducive to my taking a greater number of images. That was poor professionalism and it really irked that I should make such an inexcusable mistake.
                    I soon packed everything back onto my bike and headed back with a following and very welcome wind behind me, and once back settled into levelling horizons, lightening deep shadows and holding highlights when I had been shooting towards the sun, it was certainly noticeable that shooting handheld did make for more out of kilter horizons compared to shooting from a tripod.
                    Altogether, a satisfactory afternoon’s shooting, with albeit more images left on the metaphoric cutting room floor!

Friday, 13 April 2018

Foggy Stockwood Discovery Centre

Ex-Stockwood gardener Jan and I met up to take photos in the gardens. She brought along her newly acquired macro lens and I had got a call earlier whilst it was still raining and I was about to set off, and I thought: Despite her desire to get more experience with the lens, she might be calling to say that the meeting was off due to the weather. I had misjudged her – the call was to see whether I might be calling it off due to the conditions. Both of us were willing to take the chance on it improving as it happened, so I started the car, and headed South, but I did choose to to use the country roads! By the time I entered the car Park at the Centre, the rain had stopped leaving just a foggy day, and one small benefit – there would be lots of raindrops on the leaves and flowers, and a soft light retaining more colour. The downside being that invariably we would need higher ISOs and steadier hands as shutter speeds would be marginal. Jan had arrived only minutes before and was just stepping out of her car as I initially came alongside, though realising the cars either side were perilously close, I took another slot with more space.
We both then headed for the entrance where Jan was greeted warmly by the staff, before we then headed into the gardens. At first we simply chatted as we walked around to see what was there that warranted photographing, I took out my camera and Jan then took the opportunity to catch up with a few of her erstwhile colleagues before returning and pointing out some plants of particular interest. That would often mean that we would get engrossed in one area and the other would wander further afield, time would pass and then we would find each other, share our captured images, then Jan would point out something I had not spotted. Members of the public who recognised her would chat and learn she had retired, or other staff members would involve her in conversation, it was obvious she was very fondly remembered and they were happy to see her back as a visitor. Every so often I would help her with some of the settings on the camera, or offer suggestions for framing. It is always a delight in offering guidance to those keen to learn more about improving their picture-taking and Jan has really enjoyed gaining a greater understanding of how to improve upon the pictures she takes, which I find particularly heartwarming.
Jan was very handy from my angle as she knew where to expect the new signs of growth, and headed for those, so I would look to see where she went next and head on over to see what she had found. This meant we found ourselves covering different corners, some I have rarely visited, like the chickens, where she recounted some of their history; we also visited the historical area where she explained how some of the horse paraphernalia on display were not all hung in the same orientation, an error which I found particularly poor on behalf of the Museum Staff, as this area is important educationally and should be displayed without ambiguity as this is a really vital resource which needs to be interpreted accurately, I learned that despite her making the point, no one had corrected these errors; that actually angered me as it devalued the display and history has to be reported accurately for it to be of value. Visual History is more powerful often than verbal or written history, so it is vital that it be seen to be correct. This section of the grounds was too dark to consider the taking of photos handheld, but I did make an attempt in the case of one small animal.
We returned to the gardens and by the exit took advantage of some of the items displayed for sale, before moving to have hot chocolate and Caramel shortcakes and a relaxing chat with my swapping out her card to my camera, so she could view her work on a larger review screen, and also for her to view some of my shots, before we both headed in different directions, having enjoyed our time together capturing the ongoing season in the gardens, one of Luton’s gems. On this occasion it was school holiday time, so was very much alive to the sounds of young children enjoying what discoveries they find; which in some cases was simply to run around in a safe environment!

Saturday, 7 April 2018

André and Home Brew Hydrofoil Board, Brogborough

I heard that André was back out on the lake at Brogborough with his latest update to his own design of hydrofoil, and despite it being both dull and cold, I got a message to him that I would dash round to get some some shots of the board in flight. 
The wind was fitful, and apparently had been stronger before my arrival, but since he was prepared to go out once more, I hastily set myself up using the Benbo tripod with the legs in the water, and when I was happy with its stability, I attached the camera to the gimbal head, which was the EOS 7D MkII and the 150-600mm Sigma Sports lens, and was ready by the time he had launched.
I took some incidental shots of one other windsurfer to set myself up, then kept André in sight following him out to the distance and then back in again, capturing a few occasions when he was airborne; each occasion was short lived, but what I noticed was he was successfully level once up.
The session did not last long, and once he had brought himself ashore, he Sam and I chatted about what appeared to be the limiting factors, André was very honest in his assessment of his level of hydrofoil experience and confidence being a factor, but we all agreed we were impressed by his board and his control, and seemed to conclude that it was the shape of the tail wing that might well be the weak point in the design, so he will be making this flatter in the next iteration, rather than being entirely curved throughout. This would seem borne out by the study of a commercial design.
I look forward to the next version, and we all hope that occasion will be blessed a more constant wind, and sunshine!

Warner Brothers Studios – Digi-Cluster Networking

JB Cole UK, and Clock, a leading Hertfordshire Digital Agency, arranged the second visit of Creatives to the Warner Brothers Studios at Leavesden under the Digi-Cluster banner.
Dan Dark, the SVP, and Managing Director of the Studios was introduced to the audience of Creatives from all corners of Hertfordshire and others close by who come to these networking events, who welcomed those present, explained a short history of the studios in this location, setting the scene for why this group had been invited by also showing a few clips from recent blockbuster films that had been shot on this plot. He also made a point of how the complex was able to handle films of such a wide range due to the extensive and varied facilities available and the very large pool of experienced and talented people employed or brought into the site, and he extended a warm and genuine offer from the evening’s attendees to consider working alongside the facilities available. He also told of a recent occurrence where a member of the audience had brought along a young, but hitherto unknown man, who though disabled to a degree was able to shine in the environment offered at Leavesden to everyone’s pleasant amazement; pointing up how unless tapped, many such talents remain unexplored.
Before Dan had to leave for other important business, Syd Nadim asked the audience whether there were any questions they would like answered, and as per most audience faced with this opportunity, there was a deathly hush for a moment, so I asked how the expansion plans envisaged by Warner Brothers and alluded to by Dan were faring in the current hiatus caused by Britain’s Brexit issues? There was an amused reaction from the audience, and Dan assured all those present he had every confidence in the quality of creative talent in the UK, which he praised as being the finest anywhere in the world, hence why they chose this location, and its closeness to the London milieu of Soho with all the talent for World Class post-production.
His answers were well-received and was shown by the audience’s applause that followed. There were two 90-second pitches followed by a relaxed interview by Syd Nadim of Katy Howell, who had an interesting story to tell with its up and downs; it came across well and certainly explained her undoubted success, I do feel it worth mentioning from comments I heard expressed, which was that the speakers could have benefitted from being ‘miked-up’, as I did hear from some who were seated further back, but who were too polite to voice their concerns, that much of the content from the two 90-second Pitchers, Helena Baker and Liz Kirman, and the Katy Howell tête-à-tête was too low a volume to be heard, but by the time I heard this snippet it was was too late, as I gleaned this from comments during the Pizza-eating and drinks session afterwards, so I mention it here, so it is learned for the future – had I not been able to hear, I would have said something, but on this occasion, I failed miserably, sorry; one can hope that the shy audience are bolder in the future, and that the organising team ask the question of those at the back, so all can benefit from the full import of the messages from the evenings.
Fortunately, there was still good interaction between those who attended, and I hope I have captured some of that in the pictures within the gallery; I always enjoy capturing the hands used in speech communication as this really adds to understanding!
Thank you once again for the hard work put in by the teams from JB Cole UK and Clock, both behind the scenes and at the venue, and I hope that those attending got as much out of the evening that keeps the interaction fresh and meaningful for the future.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Easter Sunday Stewartby – Flora & Power

I felt I needed exercise and despite the light being flat and therefore unexciting, I decided I would go out to cycle around Stewartby Lake and took my EOS 5D MkIII and the 24-70mm and 100mm Macro, the latter being really handy later, but not so much as a macro lens, but as a longer prime. The intention was to cycle down Station Road to the gate into the encircling path around the Forest Centre boundaries which was firm; what I had not expected was the level of standing water across many parts of this track, but the very first person I met was a cyclist who was covered in splattered mud, who had stopped and waited for me to make my way through the kissing gate. Before he ventured through the gate we chatted and he mentioned the parlous state of the path in some areas which explained the generous coating he and his mount had suffered!
I headed off having thanked him for his useful insight into the journey I would be making, and the going for the first stretch was puddled, but not a hindrance, but as I cycled further many of the puddles extended fully across the path and even into the once grassy boundaries, which had since been churned by the wheels of bikes, prams, buggies and the boots of countless walkers; many of the cyclists I noted had not dismounted judging by the depth of the narrow ruts they had created. I chose to dismount, and in some cases take wide detours so as to not worsen the situation for others. Where the water was shallower I walked the bike through slowly. I came across few people in the early stages of the ride, but soon spotted a couple atop the bank at one of the numerous viewing sites of the enclosed wildlife areas. The couple were knowledgable birders and both had binoculars and were naming some of the species of birds that were visible beyond, either on the small lakes or on the banks at their edges, it turned out that the husband was also a photographer and used a 400mm Canon, and in our conversation I mentioned kingfishers and he showed me a shot he had taken at Rye Meads Nature reserve that he had put on his phone.
I left them and continued my ride and after several negotiations of larger puddles entered a wooded section close by the railway line, where a lot of coppicing and hedge-laying was being done and it was at this stage I got out my camera and started taking shots of the signs of new growth against some remnants from the preceding autumn, the only sadness from my point of view was the dismal lighting for most of the time. After travelling some distance around the lake, meeting a growing number of families with young children who were following clues on posters to some of the features to be found along their route, I began to hear the roar of high-powered motors which at first sounded like bikes or Go-carts, but soon were revealed to be powerboats. Fortuitously I had run out of interesting new growth and came round to the enclosed area belonging to the Watersports Club, so headed beyond their entrance gate, and started taking pictures initially with the 24-70mm before changing to the far more suitable 100mm, but way short of what might be considered a reasonable length lens for the subjects.
After a while taking shots from this vantage point I waited at the gate hoping I might be able to ask someone whether it would be possible to enter at a future date; I caught the eye of a lady called Sue who had the bearing of an official and learned it would be possible to enter the enclosed area, and the club were due another Powerboat Meeting in three weeks time. I shall be back with a far more suitable lens on that occasion – my 150-600mm!

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Oakley Bridges – In Passing

I wanted to check out the Harrold-Odell Country Park, and before I arrived there thought I would stop off at the Bridges over the Great Ouse at Oakley, despite the sunshine rapidly fading behind the oncoming clouds.
Fortunately there was a tiny place to park at the far end of the series of bridges, with the church at the opposite end of the straight. The sound of bird song had attracted me as I parked, since I had been driving with the sunroof open. Although I did manage to grab a couple of shots of the songbirds, they had retreated to a distance once I had  got out of the car and fetched a camera – I had some birdseed with me, so I put some out in a few spots that might prove to be both lower and with clearer backgrounds, but my subjects were obviously wise to that subterfuge and happy to collect that reward once I had departed!
Now that I had a camera out silence reined for a while and when some birds returned they kept their distance, and the sun all but disappeared, but nevertheless I persevered a while longer and got a shot of a distant windmill which I had not remembered from an earlier visit to the weir here.
I continued on to the Country Park, where I took a cursory look around outside before going into the Visitor Centre where I picked up a few leaflets to look through later, but on leaving the restaurant area to return to the car, I had not noticed how drastically the weather had changed for the worse, it was fairly tipping it down and in the short dash back to the car I was drenched – putting a very definite end to any more photography, unless there was a submarine nearby! It took the entire trip back to dry myself out, and I was very thankful I had not set up the camera here, but simply taken a walk to the water’s edge, before looking for any pamphlets. The rain did ease on my way back and was only spitting as I took the gear from the boot, and back inside. It was not a wasted trip in that it had impressed me as a worthwhile location for another occasion.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Brogborough Lake – Windy – Hardy Few

I headed for the lake at Brogborough in the hope that the wind and a few signs of sun might attract a few windsurfers onto the water. Upon arrival it was very far from crowded; compared to a good day of wind and sun on a Friday, it would not be much of an exaggeration to say the car park was deserted. But undeterred I headed for the clubhouse. Inside there was the sound of animated conversation, but no one in the main entrance area, so I headed for that corner from which the sounds of voices came – the reason for the gathering in that smaller room was soon very evident as in the corner was a roaring stove and the gathering there were enjoying its warmth and chatting animatedly.
I joined them there for a short while before venturing out to my car and began assembling my camera and tripod as there was one sailor on the lake and talk inside of others due out soon. Since originally it had been my intention of trying out my newly acquired Benbo tripod, one of whose unique features being the ability for its legs to be immersed in water safely, before I set up my more conventional tripod, I pulled this from my car and brought it in to show off its equally unusual ability of being locked into any position by the application of a single lever. I pointed out its corollary, that undoing the selfsame lock could equally, result in a total collapse with everything flopping to the ground, so one’s camera kit was somewhat compromised if care was not taken!
On this occasion I was unable to use it in anger as the means of camera attachment is solely by a 1/4in Whitworth, not the heavier professional standard 3/8th in Whitworth and all my various heads were of this larger size, and the small conversion adaptors failed to lock correctly due to their depth. This is a great shame and had been assured of these adaptors being usable, which I found not to be the case, regrettably at a cost, in using one to check it out, the overtightening had resulted in it becoming jammed and in attempting to use a screwdriver to extract it, it simply sheared! So for the present much as I wish to use that tripod, I can see myself having to either persuade the manufacturers to provide a means of using the larger standard screw thread, or returning it, which would be a shame.
Soon I had the camera mounted on my Gitzo with the gimbal head and the Sigma 150-600mm down on the jetty, so I was clear of any intervening bushes and moderately low. By now there were three windsurfers on the lake and not long after, Sam was taking to the water with a different hydrofoil board than I had seen him on before, so I was about to see how the pairing performed in the somewhat gusty wind that prevailed. It was not long before he was up and clear of the surface, though not always parallel to the water, and there were geese on the lake close to shore who had probably been enjoying the lack of human activity over the last few weeks; the sight of Sam riding high spooked them and they lacked Air Traffic Control for they headed directly across his bows, missing collision by a couple of wing-feather width! Something to which, I was not only a witness, but was fortunate enough to even capture!
By way of confirmation that the geese were not aware of windsurfing activity on this lake they were spooked a little later for a second time and also a cormorant  took off from the lake and headed elsewhere, which probably the local fish community were more than happy to watch, as these birds very often maim the fish they seek without successfully catching them to devour, much to the annoyance of any anglers.

Unusually, on this occasion, there are many near duplicate images, but the numbers I had edited neatly filled the gallery pages, so I saved much time by not culling as many as I would normally for the sake of speed in getting them up onto the blog.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Quid pro Quo – Only Narrative–No Gallery

An amusing occurrence this morning made me chuckle; but some background beforehand…

When I moved here I had a toaster that was absolutely ideal if you purchase the standard loaves from your average supermarket; the slices simply drop in to the slots and “eh, Voila!” a minute or so later, it pops up toasted. I buy my bread from Aldi – their Malted Bloomer loaves, and they come just a fraction too wide for the toaster. Incidentally they came tops from Customers.
  Now, I enjoy the company of birds, and my regular visitors are Starlings, so in the spirit of friendliness, I pull open my fridge, undo the wrapper and pull out either one or two frozen slices and carefully cut a slither from one end, putting the offcut in the morning sunshine (if available!) and load the new-sized bread for toasting. By the time my toast is ready, it is loaded in the toast rack, and whilst that is cooling, I open the back door and stand on the threshold breaking the crusts into starling-beak-sized bits and throw them outside the window so I can watch the frenzied feeding activity that follows.
On this occasion, whilst the toasting is taking place I witness lumps of moss dropping outside the back door, so out of curiosity I venture out and look up; and there are two very energetic starlings clearing my gutters of moss, I chuckle gratefully, and mumble my thanks, as the now-startled Starlings promptly take-off to seek moss elsewhere presumably for the lining of their nests, whilst I consider that it was their way of thanking me for their daily bread – ‘Starlings Gutter-Cleaning Services!’
A few minutes later I broke bread into more manageable sized pieces and threw them out to thank my feathered friends, and though they do not read blogs, at least I have offered my thanks for their generosity. For anyone who consider starlings to be simply black, I suggest they look more closely, for their coats rival Jacob’s ‘Coat of Many Colours’! When you ever have the good fortune to see their group-flying coming up to dusk, you realise these birds really are quite special – their murmurations prior to settling to roost at night are a splendid sight to see.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Marston Moretaine – Bus Stop Birds in the Bushes

 
On returning down Station Road, having posted a letter, the cacophony of birds in the bushes by the bus stop was to tempting a sight to ignore, so my return trip was at a brisker pace as I considered grabbing my medium weight tripod putting on the gimbal head and the Sigma 150-600 Sports lens and seeing what I might catch in the sunshine.

When I returned equipped, I noticed that there were the first signs of blossom on the branches, and the chirruping was still as busy as when I had passed before, so I just hoped that my presence was not going to be the kiss of death to my chances of capturing some shots of the birds I had spotted earlier.

To give myself a good chance, I had brought along some seeds to establish I was there to show my potential subjects some generosity, and I liberally spread handfuls close to the bushes but at a good distance from where I had set down the tripod.

The bushes were a mass of fine branches, which I knew would make it tough to capture the birds without intervening branches coming between myself and the birds, but there again it was probably also the reason why the birds felt moderately secure. It was not too long before some of the birds began returning, giving me a chance to see what I could capture, there seemed to be house sparrows and starlings as far as I could tell, with the very occasional pigeon coming in, but though I was not going to take shots of them in the bush, When one settled on a nearby roof ridge, I did sneak a couple of shots since it’s arrival in the bushes had caused a few starlings to make a swift exit, leaving them bare of birds.

I stayed a while and was occasionally involved in conversation from passers by, my next door neighbour heading home to collect her children from school, and a mother and young child, who informed me the bushes were hers, so I showed her and the boy a couple of shots on the back of the camera.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Search for Signs of Spring – Stewartby Lake

Having recently had the first cataract operation, I have not been out with my camera long enough to create a gallery of images, but this afternoon, as the sun was forecast to shine, I gathered a camera and three lenses and headed for the lake at Stewartby, in the hope I might be able to record the first tentative signs of Spring.

Certainly upon my arrival, it did not look too promising. Undeterred, I walked slowly in the counter-clockwise direction, with the 100mm macro on the 5D MkIII, looking into the largely hawthorn bushes to right and left; every so often venturing down paths that led down to the foreshore on my left, or the more dense right side, which had a few paths that led to the outer boundary at first, and later to a brook deep down beyond steep banks, where I did not venture!

I slowly gathered images of occasional attempts at hedge-laying; I was unconvinced that what I saw was likely to be too effective, but I am no expert. I find that very often the dying leaves in hedgerows, are full of rich colour, and on more than one occasion I captured those. There were some new memorial seats along the path, with some excellent incised carvings. I was able to capture some fresh blossom and even a lone daffodil;  I had hoped for more and better shots and some more sunlight, but nevertheless I felt rewarded by what  I had managed from such unprepossessing beginnings, and soon my phone beckoned with its harsh staccato beat to let me know that the next eye drops were due, and I still had to get back to administer them. It will be tougher yet on Saturday, when I will need to carry a freezer block with me when I visit the NEC.

A lone and very chirpy blue tit caught my eye from high in a leafless tree, but it needed massive cropping to get the shot, but it’s a tribute to the Canon lens that I was able to resolve it at all!

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

St. Mary’s Church Visit - in the Snow

At last some sunshine to accompany the Snow! Snow on a cloudy day is just not worth photographing, but really comes alive when the sun catches some of the crystals; the sparkle gives the snow form, and life, and this morning was a good time to walk to Marston Moretaine’s parish Church, which is just a smidgeon different from many village churches, the main structure lacks a tower. A short distance away and out of kilter with the church proper stands the buttressed tower, there is a weird myth surrounding this involving the Devil lifting the tower and tossing it away from the body of the building, and thus far, I have seen no real explanation for the odd juxtaposition of the two structures, but my cursory and ill-informed observation would suggest that both appear to be of different ages and style.
The history, or lack thereof does mean that it is very different from the average Parish Church, so merits interest. I decided it was worth capturing whilst it still has a carpet of snow surrounding it, so I took a wander around, sadly some more interesting views would have to await a later afternoon, as several of the views I was able to capture whilst the snow was moderately fresh were not lit to advantage, and having made a single circuit, clouds were massing to remove that vital ingredient sunshine, which was marked by the ringing of my phone bearing a message from one of my daughters.
The Tower appeared to be a meeting point for pigeons and doves, and the graves themselves were severally decorated with Spring flowers, but sadly the frosts and the burden of snow had caused these floral tributes to take on a sad demeanour, but it was definitely apparent from their numbers, that relatives were keen to keep their forebears in mind. One such was a balloon gently swaying to the light breeze with it’s handwritten message of love to a departed grandparent. What I noticed which was a surprise was how several were marked with headstones whose dates were surprisingly recent considering there is a planned new area for graves on the outskirts of the village, which pre-supposed that this cemetery was close to capacity, I therefore concluded that some must be family plots.
It was a brief visit, but I had been waiting for that vital conjoining of snow and sun, and was not disappointed, I also managed yesterday to gather some small expanses of virgin snow in case they could later be used to adorn a future Christmas Card, since for the last few years, snow has been notable for its fleeting appearance in our winters, and I always enjoy using recently captured images.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Stockwood Discovery Centre – Is Spring on its Way?

I met up with a former gardener for the gardens at the Stockwood Discovery Centre, Jan, to see what our chances were for capturing in photographs, any early signs of the upcoming Spring – at first sight with much of last year’s former glory removed along with any weeds that survived our lacklustre Winter, the prospect looked doomed to failure, but when we looked more closely, there were many signs of new growth, even signs of bloom – there were small clusters of Snowdrops in a couple of different spots.
At this time of the year without the leaf coverage some of the intricate twists of the branches can be seen to form beautiful shapes which become lost to sight when the leaves arrive. Some of the leaves on show on the day were variegated which always adds to their beauty especially when these fresh delicate colours are set against the more saturated and darker colours of older leaves. Grasses from the previous season dry and curl, forming interesting whorls, but are often difficult to capture when there is a wind as one naturally wants minimal depth of field to isolate them from their background, but you are fighting to  get them with minimal movement – high failure rate – but I did get a shot!
Occasionally, I would look around and Jan would be nowhere to be seen, yet on another occasion, I would spot her in deep concentration moving in close to some plant that caught her eye, it was interesting to note how she spotted items of engineering interest in much the same way I spot small details that have no other connection than the shape or the light falling on them sparks the idea for a picture.
We eventually decided that the warmth of the restaurant was calling, so we sat and chatted with one of her friends over cups of hot chocolate and looked on the backs of our cameras at shots we had taken, then headed for the exhibition area where the British Wildlife photos were on display, which were stunning, we also took a wander around the display of vehicles where I learned yet more of Jan’s varied past employment with Electrolux and her time at the Riding Stables in this same complex. I learned a little bit about the nature of the chain on a horse’s bridle and bit, when she spotted it had not been fitted correctly, and duly corrected it and explained its use. As I write this piece I learn that the shot she took of  the Prancing Horse adorning the front of the Steam Engine is now a card for a friend of hers, so already her visit to Stockwood has been profitable!
When we then headed out the sun had been out for a while, but it had had no effect on the temperature, it was bitter still, and the wind was far more noticeable once we were beyond the walls of the Gardens, Jan returned my Macro lens, but I was sad to learn the lens I spotted and suggested she might find useful had not met with the same pleasure as the micro she had borrowed from me.
The time spent was enjoyable and I came away with some interesting images despite my first impressions of what we might find.