Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Street Party

Well, as I reported earlier, the whole nation took a day off yesterday. I suspect a lot of us just sat in front of the TV, while others headed away from the commotion and ignored it all. Some of us had street parties...

Now the Street Party is a strange and infrequent thing in reserved British society. I don't remember going to one before, and it smacks a little of Empire and flag waving. 

It is the sort of thing we used to do, but now seems rather quaint and at odds with the twenty first century.

However, once the idea takes root and you get enough people involved (about eighty percent of our little street) then it works out well. We didn't quite have the jelly, cake and Union Jack street party from the 1950s, but we did get ourselves proper trestle tables and a real Silver Band.

A nice tight focus shot of a  valve trombone.

Even though it seems a slightly odd thing to do, it worked out well, the neighbours spent more time chatting together than they would normally do in a decade, and therefore, surely it was a Good Thing :-)  Hoorah!

Friday, 29 April 2011

Royal Wedding Day

Don't expect much out of the U.K. today. Royal wedding fever has gripped the media, and even the normally reticent BBC Radio Four has broadcast nothing else so far today. 

Perhaps this would be a good day to dig out all those slides I haven't scanned.  I will keep my self busy and avoid the TV at all costs I think.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Context again

I do like a picture to have context. This covers ground I have already covered in an earlier blog, but I think it is worth another visit. 

While walking around the village recently I saw a wall of blossom near the churchyard, and aimed my trusty 70-300 macro tele zoom at it. There is no problem in capturing the details of the flowers, but the question is, what to place in the background, and how far out of focus should it be?

In this case I wanted to emphasise the local context, and I chose to include a corner of the church in the shot. I wanted this out of focus so that it wouldn't distract from the flowers, but sufficiently in focus to be recognisable. This is where you need to find and use the depth of field preview function on your DSLR.

The same principles apply to this image as well, I am attempting to preserve the context while keeping the viewer concentrating on my subject. Composition, context, depth of field control. It's all art and science.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Lock bolted

I like taking pictures. The actual process of seeing the image and capturing it in the way I wanted is endlessly fascinating. I put them on the web, and I print and display a few of them. I do not sort and catalogue my images exhaustively, that would take too much time.

I used to use Photoshop Elements, with its slightly toy town interface, and that included an image catalogue section. In fact it was quite hard to escape its vice like grip, so I did attempt to sort and tag my images by date and context, but it was such a pain that I soon gave up.

This cavalier attitude does come back to bite me now and then: 

Here, for instance,  is a picture taken at Newbury Lock on the Kennet and Avon canal. This is located in the centre of the town and I have countless boring and conventional shots of it, but I wanted to show something different. So, here is my alternative take on it.

Now I wanted to add another image I remember taking in the same place, something equally unconventional, but because I don't catalogue and tag my images, I can't find it. I don't recall which year it was taken so it lurks somewhere in the fifteen thousand pictures on my disks. Maybe there's a lesson there. 

However I still don't plan to go back over all those pictures, sorting and tagging them.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Three four one two

Newbury town council have reinstated the boating pond, you can actually boat on it again. Here are a selection of pedal boats to prove it.

Quite why it was taken out of service is a mystery to me. I expect it was some health and safety thing, after all the water is nearly six inches deep. 

For a while it was drained dry, but it started to fill with rubbish and shopping trolleys. 
Decades ago it had a nice little brick sculpture in the middle, but that was removed for some reason: Perhaps it was dangerous.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Nice buns

Yes, these are truly nice buns. In fact they are hot cross buns, a peculiarly British thing, I suspect. 

These are presented on a plain curved white card background with diffuse overhead lighting. This image is available as a strictly limited edition 6 x 4 inch print on Fuji paper directly from the photographer for £7008.00 plus 98p postage.

Here is another classic virew. This recreation of the birth of photography honours the humble pinhole camera. This was created directly using a real pinhole, not Photoshop.

This image is available as a strictly limited edition 6 x 4 inch print on Fuji paper directly from the photographer for £9300.00 including postage to the UK.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Green wood

Where they are not disturbed by a thousand hands and boots, the village gatepost and stile are slowly turning green.

A close up (not a macro) image of the subject with a touch of context in the background. I feel context in a picture is an important element in composition.

Saturday, 23 April 2011


Yes, Bunting. You will be pleased to know that the origin of the word is unclear... Anyway, here we are in the small North Hampshire village where I work, and quite suddenly the bunting is out, covering the large village square. Some of the longest bunting I have seen, no less than eight streamers of it stretching from the old well cover to the trees and telegraph posts at the edges of the green.

Colonial cousins and those from distant shores may wonder what is going on. Well, firstly it's Easter so we have a long weekend, then there is a Royal Wedding apparently, which combines with the May holiday to create a second long weekend immediately after the first.

I fear that all this national frolicking will turn the mind of the man in the street. We may  become feckless and inherently lazy, rather like johnny foreigner.... 

By the way, I wonder if you can get Pro Bunting?

I only ask because "Professional" has become the new normal. If you want to sell something in today's meerkat, it seems to me it has to be labelled "Pro"

Friday, 22 April 2011


The spring sunshine has transformed the paddocks and lanes, so opportunist flowers are springing up everywhere. Here is the ubiquitous Dandelion clock with its flower in the background.

The question is, how does one transform into the other? What an amazing process!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Fuji or Olympus

I was out and about at lunchtime in the unseasonably nice weather in the Hampshire village where I work. I was rather lucky to catch this picture.

You see, if you stand in exactly the right spot on a warm day, a rare atmospheric refraction produces a distant view of mount Fuji in Japan. 

Being in the right place at the right time, it was a simple task to position the blossom and produce this evocative image.


Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Shoe string

It seems to me most farms are run on a shoe string. Specifically, farms are run on baling string and nails. There is so little profit on livestock and milk that farmners are natural corner cutters and reclycling experts.

In this case, its staples and nails that are being recycled, kept in a corner of the barn waiting their next use.

The barn smells wonderfully of straw, hay, diesel and oil. This is the oily corner where the grease gun, the oil cans and the electric welder live. When welding and greasing no longer keep agricltural equipment working it is sidelined to a nearby hedge. But it is kept nevertheless, just in case....

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Closely Observed Drains

The humble and much overlooked drain cover. Here we have a Stanton and Staveley Waterway 1800 sited on the corner of the green. What an excellent design this is, see how it enhances the environment, silently carrying out its duties through wind, rain and snow.

Next time you walk the busy pavements of your local town, spend your time looking at the floor....

Monday, 18 April 2011

Flash mob

Here we have a couple of examples of off camera flash, and the effects it can create: The first is a long exposure of a moonrise. The shutter was open long enough to bring up some blue in the night sky, while the rose was lit with a hand held flash.

Here we have the impression of a gathering storm. The background was deliberately under exposed, while off camera flash gives the impression of sunlight on the flowers.

The best guide for manual off camera flash is the Strobist web site mentioned in the box on the right. There are hundreds of pages of examples, tips and hints there...

Finally, here is the ultimate lie: A picture of a chive flower taken in daylight outdoors where the flash power and shutter speed have conspired to turn the background black...

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Light at the end

The Light at the end of the Tunnel is always a tempting photographic subject. It gives the viewer something mysterious to consider. The photographer in turn has to consider the tonal range and how to convince the camera to render all that black space correctly. This usually involves some fairly strong exposure compensation.

The first images comes from the Tombs of the Kings. It sounds like something exotic in Egypt, but in fact its an archaeological site on the edge of Paphos in Cyprus. There are lots of tombs dug directly into the rocky ground here and a splendid disregard of health and safety.

This second image is a passageway in the close near Durham cathedral. As they don't let you take pictures inside, I took this one instead.

Finally the Saxon Crypt under Ripon Cathedral. This tiny space is fantastically old and well worth a visit.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Green is good

Hidden under the canopy, some brand new leaves are forming. They appear red brown, but soon gain their chlorophyll and turn a vivid green for a while.

These leaves are made folded and straighten themselves out over the next few days. What an amazing thing Nature is!

The old barn, always in shadow, has turned green over the years. Leaves, cobwebs and a light breeze make these odd semicircular marks on the wood. Each of these images was taken with my cheap but sharp macro tele-zoom, as discussed earlier.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Pier review

Here is the old slate quarry jetty at Easdale off the Isle of Seil, western scotland. There must be something about the bones of dilapidated piers and jetties that catches my eye, because I have some previous form with these subjects.

So, here we are on Holy Island, the other side of the country. This the the derelict remains of another maritime structure, long since gone.

I wonder what draws me to these? I think they retain an air of mystery. So little remains, yet they must have taken geat effort to construct and maintain. Who built them? How long have they weathered the storms and what was their purpose?

Finally, here's a Pier found at Netley, near Southampton on the south coast, captured in gritty black and white some years ago.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Quick Nap

Sometimes you see something that you just have to photograph:

I'm not certain what's going on here. Did the owner doze off, waiting for the dog to wake up ... and perhaps the dog is catching forty winks waiting for his owner to wake up.

BTW, round here, the dogs drive their own Defenders...

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Fake snowstorm

Its that time of year when selected portions of the hedgerows turn white, looking for all the world like frosted twigs. My lunchtime walk around the village leads through horse paddocks where this fleeting sight greets you at every turn.

I imagine the bees that live in the west end of the church will be busy with these flowers.  They will have to hurry, I suppose they will be gone in a week or so.

Both images taken with the same lens. That excellent 14-54 Zuiko....

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Raising the Standard

This splendid late 1950's Standard Vanguard has been standing guard and occupying a perfectly good parking spot in the village square at Polis in Cypus for at least five years. I wonder if it has been adopted as a town mascot.

This is the real deal, the genuine item, not some carefully restored fiction. Round the corner you can find a Vauxall Victor FB - a strange lumbering item - covered in dust.

Note how well rounded and aerodynamic those 50's cars were. It took another forty years of rectangular boxes before cars became this smooth again. I salute it, and I do hope it stays right where it is, casting its disapproving gaze over mankind's modern madness.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Garden changes

It's finally Spring. This is the time that you start to notice new things in folk's gardens. Yes, this is the time of year that Patio Heaters, new Barbeques and Garden Furniture seem to spring up all over the place.

Its also the time that Catkins and Tulips appear to transform the countryside. I caught these examples in our garden over the weekend.

Aaah, lovely.

Sunday, 10 April 2011


I work in a village close by the Wayfarer's Way, a long distance walking path. You find these little markers on posts to keep you on the straight and narrow. This feature attracts those rather shy creatures, the recreational walker.

It turns out they are rather hard to spot. Being usually retiring (or even retired) they prefer to keep themselves to themselves. In fact they generally carry their own food and water and are a little island universe, not dependent on the likes of you and I.

I can report that when cornered, they are quite harmless, even friendly. It's possible to strike up a nice conversation with them, even if there it is laced with envy of their relaxed and work free lives.

This is, as I say, recreational walking. Just imagine the countryside two centuries ago, when these paths would have been trod by those with no choice about walking. Families on the move, or tinkers and hawkers making their slow and sorry way from town to town. What would they do when old age came upon them?

Saturday, 9 April 2011

A Berkshire Lad

If I may quote from the excellent if gloomy A.E.Housman: These well known lines come from his collection of poetry "A Shropshire Lad" published before the first world war.

Into my heart an air that kills
  From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
  What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
  I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
  And cannot come again.

And here are my own personal Blue Remembered Hills. in the far distance is the Vale of the White Horse, overlooking Wantage, and one time home to another poet hero of mine, John Betjeman


So, in those carefree childhood days, before the dead hand of adulthood falls upon all of us, I lived on the arable farm in the far distance, the one with the red tiled old stone barn. These long evening shadows would grace the sunlit summer school holidays and we played in the fields and lanes. 

Perhaps we all have our own Blue Remembered Hills, our own land of lost content. Perhaps Housman speaks to all of us, whether Berkshire Lad or not.

Thursday, 7 April 2011


Here's a nice picture from a couple of years ago. I make no apologies for revisiting the Hospital of St Cross, near Winchester. It has appeared on these pages before, but here are a  couple of new pictures.

This is the church of St Cross from the ornamental garden one sunny day. I have seen this view taken in autumn and winter with golden leves and snow on the ground respectively. An excellent subject.

And here is an inviting view through a door to the Brother's garden. Beyond the wall there are water meadows leading down to the river. It's a very nice place to visit.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


Outside your comfort zone, that is... Generally I photograph landscapes or buildings, and sometimes abstract shapes. I am not really a people photographer, and the few occasions I have photographed a wedding, it has been a very trying experience.

So, what to do when asked if you can do a small fashion photo shoot for company that sells equestrian clothing. They can call on the services of Sienna, a local model. All I have to do is sort out the pictures.

The first thing is to buy some second hand off camera flashes from e-bay. These are the sort that can be operated in manual mode. Next, I need to learn about lighting and the Strobist blog is the definitive pace to start. Now I need some light modifiers, in this case, those large springy circular diffusers.

Finally, its just a matter of going for it and adapting my methods according to the results on the camera rear screen. It was an awful rush in poor light against the clock, but I think I learnt a lot and I like to think I could do a better job next time. Next time? What am I saying...