Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Passing by

What is your policy on begging? I recall there was a debate running in a Winchester paper about the current problems with begging on the High Street. Someone wrote in and pointed out the problem with street begging in Winchester dated back to at least 1430...

Faced with a street beggar these days, there is doubt in most folks minds. Will the money go straight on drugs or drink? I am sure it will in some cases, but what if this is a genuine case of falling on hard times.

Pictured: This weekend, at Salisbury Cathedral.

I sometimes give street beggars money, but it is always an uncomfortable transaction. I don't feel either of us is improved by the experience. Maybe beggars should feel better about asking, and givers should feel better about giving...

Monday, 30 May 2011

What, when?

Here is a little blast from the past, or is it...?

This new old Morgan is one of their re-issued designs. This is a faithful recreation of the 1966 car, in an original '66 colour. It runs with a modern Ford twin cam engine, but retains the wood frame and sliding pillar suspension. Something for the enthusiast....

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Working the streets

Its Saturday, the shoppers are out and about, their pockets full of change. Now is the time to get your guitar out and wander into town and busk for money.

It looks like a lot of hard work. Do they do it for the money or the fame, or is it just that you can't stop a performer performing?

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Get the point

The horse paddocks around the village are filled with wild flowers at present. The result has a timeless feel to it which appeals to my artistic side. So, here is my homage to Pointillism, the painstaking painting by dots method favoured by painters such as Seurat. 

The result shown here also recalls the Autochrome starch process, one the earliest attempts at colour photography.

These days you can make Photoshop produce an impression of Pointillism, but it still takes very many stages to get the desired look. The process is so complex that it is best handled with a Photoshop action. I keep one for Autochrome and one for Orton Sandwich hidden in my menus.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Afraid of the Dark

What is going on? Denmark has banned Marmite! Do they know what they are doing, this is a dangerous decision and could be misinterpreted as an act of war. Clearly they are in the wrong, and it is hard to imagine any way in which eating Marmite could be considered illegal or ill advised....

Now come on Denmark, pull back from the brink. Revoke this foolishness or we will have to ban your ..... er.....erm... (what does Denmark make) ... bacon.

PS, plenty of Black in this picture...

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Looking up

Wild skies over the Hampshire Village today, with huge wind shear and ice trails. Quite a mild day with warm sunshine.


By contrast, from a couple of years ago, on the same spot, a winter scene with a front moving across from the west. This was a bitterly cold day.

Looking Up. Part of the duties of a Landscape Photographer...

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Cricket Club

There's a Cricket Club just up the road from us, and we were passing by yesterday evening when the shadows were lengthening (one of my favourite times of day).

I quite liked the contrast of the sight screens and shadows, and spent some time shuffling around on a private drive until I found the most pleasing arrangement of light, dark and leaf.

The practice pitch was being watered, and the low sun and heavy tree cover offered this nice contre-jour shot.

As always, the best angles would have involved trespassing, so we must make the best of what we can get, I suppose...

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Old Shed

Secret corners: This old shed stands silent and enigmatic near the recreation ground. It has become so overgrown with ivy that it now resembles a low hill rather than a machinery store.

However, the doors are kept clear of creepers, and it sports a padlock, so I suspect it is still used to keep the roller and the hand mower....

Monday, 23 May 2011

Downward spiral

Routine maintenance: A lesson from history. Beware those small jobs that you keep putting off.

Quite suddenly a small job becomes a major disaster... The old lock keepers cottage, Newbury. 

Long since vanished.

No, I don't know why I am drawn to photographing decaying buildings.. I don't think I am the only one that does this.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Close colour

Aah, the humble Chive flower, one of my favourite subjects. Our Chives are raided by the local bees continuouslly, and this flower is slightly on the turn. It was photographed, as always, with my excellent Olympus 50mm macro lens. 

Provided you and the subject keep still, then this lens will deliver the picture for you...

And here, just a few meters away, is the middle of a giant poppy, also caught up close with that lens.


Saturday, 21 May 2011

Basic Design

Here is the front left corner of a fifty year old Massey Ferguson 35, an agricultural design icon in my opinion. There was one of these on the farm where I grew up, and I drove it regularly from age twelve.

I suppose that form follows function, but I have always been impressed with the simple and basic design of this tractor. Everything is as strong and as heavy as it needs to be, but no more. The blue Fordson tractors of the same era looked like converted steam engines by comparison.

You can see at a glance how the steering geometry works , and how it is optimised to reduce bump steer. You can unbolt the front axle and set the wheels further apart if you wanted to. It was all rather self explanatory.

These days all tractors look roughly the same: Huge tyres, big engines, with suspension, air conditioned cabs and SatNav.

This old Fergie is not some restored show tractor, or an exhibit out of a Countryside Museum. It is still used every day for light duties. In fact, it is lasting rather better than I am...

Friday, 20 May 2011

Root and Branch

Also on the Wintershall Estate, an ancient sunken road bordered by ancient trees like one. (The picture is not up to my preferred standard, I took it with my ten quid ebay point and shoot digital compact)

BTW - There is another sunken roadway featured in this post from last year..

This begs several questions. Why do we regard sunken roadways as ancient? Are they really worn into the landscape by years of animal and cart traffic? One theory is that large stones get picked up by travellers over the years and thrown to the side, which makes the road lower and the banks higher*

Secondly, did the tree chose a bad spot to grow after the road was already there, or did the road wear away the soil round its roots...

*This is a poor theory. Rather like the Victorian theory that brow ridges on ancient skulls were caused by constant furrowing of the Neanderthal brow when faced with the worrying and difficult process of walking fully upright (!) 

Aah, how I wish that particular theory was true :-)

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Square one

Back to square one* after a short break involving a lot of work. Here is an opportunist picture from a recent visit to the Wintershall Estate. They opened their gardens for one afternoon recently, and what an extensive estate it is too.

They have all sorts of things I don't have in my garden: Multiple lakes, mature woodland, outdoor chess...

*Square one doesn't refer to chess of course. It's a phrase derived from the radio football commentary.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Folded paper

There may be a short pause in my daily blogs. Here, as an interlude, is some nice folded paper on a soothing blue background...

Saturday, 14 May 2011


If you blog* then you will be aware that the Blogger website had a problem this week and was down for quite some time. They recovered the situation eventually by reverting to a backup server holding slightly out of date information. All is well again, but for a while my words of wisdom from Thursday had gone down the great plughole of history.

This makes me consider the transient nature of knowledge these days. With one small digital error your first novel could vanish in a moment. There is, of course a solution, and I am sure you would reach for yesterday's backup, but you know that didn't contain the exquisite final chapter that you wrote just this morning.

I write the software and VHDL code that breathes life into the hardware I design, and I reverted to "yesterday's backup" recently. This, however, was a voluntary action. In the rush to develop a new system, I sometimes lose the plot and my mental pile of spinning plates come crashing to the ground. 

I look at the recent hacks and patches in despair, unable to retrace my steps to the last version that worked. 

This is the point that I reluctantly reach for the memory stick and erase today's work and begin again where I started this morning. 


*Blog has become a verb, along with Leverage and Party and Backup. I guess that's progress for you.

Friday, 13 May 2011

How many?

The old seed drill mentioned elswhere has suddenly moved itself to the barn. When I examined it up close I found it has this excellent dial:

How often do you see a dial calibrated in Acres...

Now I am confused as to it's purpose. You fill up the drill with seed, and work on the field, pausing every now and then to see how many acres your 8 bushels of seed covered? Is that it.?

Rather trial and error, but better than no information I guess.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011


The giant poppy. Aah, these start as a promising green bud, then suddenly burst forth as an uncertain crinkly red flower. This matures into a beautiful bloom for a while, but it soon fails and fades. The pure red begins to turn, and flower is past its best.

Finally the petals fall on by one until it is no more. 

Some days I feel like I am past my best, and I'm waiting for the petals to fall.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Nuclear Toffee

If you pile enough old fashioned toffee together you can exceed it's critical mass, and it starts it's own chain reaction, glowing white hot and emitting Alfa Particles*

This is another exercise in lighting. The more I try, the more I learn: Here I am using remote flash to light a subject from underneath. Combine this with a suitably short shutter speed to get this glowing coals effect.

*As any owner of Italian cars will know, Alfa Particles cause painted steel to rust spontaneously from underneath. By the time the paint bubbles, the steel has already gone. This also explains why old fashioned toffee is suspiciously rust coloured.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Soft in yer face

I decided  to try a picture of these indoor Orchid blooms yesterday. The challenge is to illuminate the flowers with a fairly soft light, while keeping the rest of the room dark.

Clearly I could bounce flash off the ceiling, that would be nice and soft, but the background would then be visible. To get this degree of separation I will need to get the camera and flash in close to the subject. In fact the camera is about 15cm from the blooms and the flash on radio trigger is about 30cm away.

In order to soften the light from a flash that close I added my folding home made diffuser to the front which expands the effective light source.


Sunday, 8 May 2011

Flower Bed

This old seed drill has been sidelined on the farm, backed up to a hedge and left there. Nothing ever gets thrown away on a farm, you never know when it might come in handy.

This week they wisely mowed around it, and the result is it is taking on the shape and form of an unexpected flower bed...

Saturday, 7 May 2011


The village where I work, like so many in the south and south west, has an old and unused Methodist chapel. Most of these have been demolished, or the larger ones converted to houses. This one is still standing but unused.

The history of Methodism, particularly the primitive version, is complex and  continuing. This legacy of chapel building points to a time in the late nineteenth century when a need for moral guidance swept the country and I suppose the chapel would have attracted those who had been churchgoers to a simpler more primitive form of worship.

These days it seems that we are throwing away our moral compass and trying to navigate with no rudder. I don't see that we can expect much guidance in right behaviour from our politicians. Science answers the question "How?" but has no thing to say to the question "Why?".

Perhaps we will all end up worshipping at the church of St Dawkins, but it doesn't sound like progress to me.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Rural Democracy

All over the country they were voting yesterday. I took the chance to get a picture of the official looking Polling Station poster that springs out of the vaults at the town hall each time a vote is due.

I suspect that it may be illegal to photograph these items under some ancient law or perhaps its an offence under the Official Secrets Act. However I managed to sneak in and get away without being unavoidably detained.

One thing I didn't see was voters however...

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Confusing Abstract

If I had ten pounds for each time I have photographed sunlit leaves from underneath, I would have a certain amount of money. There is something about the shades of green and the shadows that  find deeply satisfying.

Well, here is another one of these green and black shots, spotted on a lunchtime walk. The more I look at it, the less sense it makes. Never mind, the more abstract the better...

Or, on second thoughts, perhaps you would prefer something more abstract still..

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Party's Over

Well, the party is over. Time to take the bunting down and go back to work. Britain returns to its normal state of affairs after two long weekends. We have just had the driest warmest April on record, so I suspect it's also time it started raining...

Now here is a garden fork that won't be going back to work. It doesn't look like it's done an honest day's toil for quite some time. Perhaps it thinks "I've paid my taxes, it's about time I stopped work and got a decent pension"

Well, there are a lot of us who think that way too...

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Don't Panic

This spring we were told that the Moon was at its colsest approach for some time, and dire consequences were predicted. In the event,  nothing particular happened (apart from a major earthquake and tsunami in Japan) and the moon just receded again and life went on.

What if something new and unexpected appeared out of the night sky, headed in our direction. What would you do? Take for example this unwelcome visitor spotted with my camera yesterday:

Fear not. Having a planet like this hit the Earth is about as unlikely as having this sentence end with the word Ptarmigan.

Monday, 2 May 2011

The Benchmark

Hidden in the Victorian brickwork on the corner of this church is an endangered species. This is a cut benchmark, it is a height datum used by surveyors for the Ordnance Survey when creating maps of the UK.

There used to be hundreds of thousands of these marks, often placed on churches or public buildings that the surveyors felt would be there for a long time. Of course these days surveying is done by GPS, by Radar and Lidar using a host of space age methods that would have seemed like Dark Arts to the Victorian Surveyors.

Just imagine: Being able to summon a measurement of your position out of thin air! Even though I work in the world of electronics I still find the function and accuracy of GPS extremely hard to believe...

It is these modern methods that spell the doom of the humble cut benchmark. They are no longer needed or maintained, so one by one they are being overgrown or demolished as new buildings replace old ones. It was nice to meet one hiding in this Hampshire churchyard 

So if someone offers to benchmark your computer, just check if they are holding a chisel...

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Counter point

Placing light agaisnst dark is an old watercolourists trick, but it works just as well for photographers. I caught this fellow taking a well earned rest in the farm yard one morning with strong backlight. I quickly swapped lenses as I got out of the car and moved slowly around to get the dark wall in the background.

You only get one click then your subject looks round and spoils that alert looking profile view...

Here is a counterpoint of colours. These two trees adjacent to the village green produce wildly different leaves, so I spent some time wandering around in the road seeking the best composition. This shows that landscape photographers are just as dangerous on the road when walking as when driving :-)

There's more of my ramblings on contrast and counterpoint here...