Mike Wright Photography

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20/12/17

This month's photos begin with the dining room, which is now painted, with the furniture moved back in and later in the month, new curtains. At long last it's pretty much finished. It really just needs the junk moving back in to complete it, but we'll try and avoid that – at least until after Christmas.

 

Next up is a walk down to Windy Post, at the top of Pork Hill. The weather was clearing, so there were some interesting clouds around and despite it being in the middle of the day, the sky and light were interesting. The toadstools were growing from a tiny piece of pony poo sitting in the middle of a slab of granite. It always amazes me how things can grow where you wouldn't think it was impossible.

 

Sadly, this turned out to be my last walk on The Moors for a while. A few days after this walk, I was taking my daughter to the station when I missed the last step leading down to our path and fell, landing with all my weight on my left knee. At the time, it was a bit sore, but not too bad, but through the next day, it came up like a balloon and the pain also increased through the day. Paracetamol didn't touch it and that night, I couldn't find any position where I wasn't in pain, so after getting up after one of the longest nights ever, I phoned the doctor for an emergency appointment.

 

The result was a prescription of codeine phosphate for the pain and henna for the constrictions caused by the codeine phosphate, strict instructions not to drive - not that I could have anyway, as I couldn't bend my knee – and a trip to the local hospital to pick up a pair of crutches and some physio.

 

I managed to arrange a lift to pick up the crutches (thanks Gill) and the next week was spent between drowsing and heading off for some physio. I stopped the codeine phosphate as soon as possible and managed to drive to the hospital for the physio. On the day of the physio, the light was fantastic and I got the shots of the chimney pots and the rainbows on the way there.

 

Unfortunately, my left knee was the strong one, so using the right knee all the time caused that one to swell and become difficult to walk on. The result that, as one knee improved, the other one deteriorated. To cut a long story short, I'm just beginning to walk properly again, although I still get spears of pain shooting through the knee if I put too much weight in the wrong direction and I'm still working on walking up and down stairs naturally.

 

I hobbled around the annual village Victorian Evening, and was glad to get home and sit down after even that short walk – the shots of the moon came from our back door on the way back in.

 

My next time out with the camera was while taking Lesley to Exeter Racecourse for a conference on assessment. I parked up in Haldon Forest while I was waiting and went on one of the walks. It was reasonably flat, but even the slightest downhill caused some pain and I was walking very slowly – being overtaken by families with toddlers and just about everyone else walking the same path.

 

The shots at Maristowe were all taken within a few yards of the car – I parked on the quay, hoping that there was something about, but the tide was pretty much in, so it was just a matter of shooting the winter trees and some canada geese which happened to be there.

 

A couple of weeks later and I was able to walk a bit further. Driving into Plymouth, there was mist in the Tavy Valley, so when I got home, I picked up the camera, went back to Denham Woods and walked a few hundred yards back up the lane and got the misty shots looking down into the valley from a gateway.

 

As I write this, we're in the last few days before Christmas, so if you have read this far, I hope you have a really good time, however you are spending it and whoever you are spending it with, and thank you for reading.

Another month goes by and still the dining room is not finished – although we are reaching a point where we are putting it back together rather than ripping it apart. I've got two coats of white on the walls, which has covered the red beautifully. I've also put two coats on the ceiling and Lesley has started putting the blue on the walls. After one coat, it looks really good and we are very pleased with it after two coats.

 

In between painting and decorating, I had a trip out onto the Moor. The weather forecast was for one of the first frosts of the year, so I parked at Norsworthy Bridge and followed the track which eventually leads to Crazywell Pool. I got some nice shots as the sun came up – the light was pretty much horizontal and caught an old gatepost and picked out some of the paths and ancient walls which wriggled across the landscape.

 

I didn't go out onto the open moor – I turned off left into some of the plantations and explored some of the paths which not many people walk. Almost the first think I came across was what looked like a stone toadstool. It stood at the edge of the trees and was about three feet high. I have no idea what it is for and would appreciate any thoughts if you know anything about it. Plunging into the plantation proper, the paths became quite rough, with lots of boggy bits and the silence that you get in a conifer wood – just the thin piping of marsh or willow tits high up in the trees and the occasionally the distant cackle of a green woodpecker.

 

I pressed on and followed the downhill path which I thought would lead towards the River Meavy and Leather Tor Bridge. On the way, I heard water and came to a stream which had cut its own mini-gorge through the trees. It was made more interesting by the fact that everything was covered in moss and was an overwhelming bright green. I scrambled down the bank and attempted to get a shot which conveyed the green-ness. I think the picture gives some idea.

 

Continuing, the path did eventually lead to Leather Tor Bridge, so I followed the track back to the car park. On the way home, the water was so still by Burrator Dam, that I stopped and set the camera up again to get some pleasing shots of the reflections around the dam.

 

As half term came along, we had our usual trip to see David, who has moved from Reading to London – living on the Olympic Park in Stratford. It was a long drive – seven hours in total – and interesting driving down almost the full length of the A10. We found the car park and hotel with only a couple of turn-arounds and David turned up at our room shortly after we arrived.

 

It was really nice seeing him again, and we had a good couple of days walking around the Olympic Park and then getting the train to go and have a look at the Cutty Sark, which Lesley had always wanted to do. David is sharing one of the apartments built for the athletes in the 2012 Olympics and has really landed on his feet – close to the Stratford International Station, he has short commute, with Central London within easy reach when he wants to go out and plenty of places to eat and shop near to his flat.

 

David came back with us to stay for a couple of days and as it was a Wednesday, the trip home saw much more traffic on the A10 than there had been when we arrived on the Sunday, so it was almost a relief to hit the M25 – which fortunately was quite clear and we weren't held up. It was very good to get home.

 

My next bit of photography was to Maristowe Quay after dropping David off at Plymouth Station. I just used the car as a hide to see what was about – which wasn't much. I got some nice shots of the autumn trees and then a kingfisher turned up. It was a bit far away, but looked good against the reflections.

 

On the following Sunday, I went out with Pete on our annual Autumn trip to try and catch the colours along the River Meavy near Norsworthy Bridge. The colours weren't as good this year as last – the leaves didn't seem to have lasted as long, but we were still pleased with the shots we got of the river and details of the woods surrounding it. As usual, Pete managed to get his boots filled with water through trying to get shots from a low angle by wading in the river.

 

More decorating followed – getting the radiator painted was my job and very good it looked, too. Lesley made a start on the paintwork and got that finished. During the week when the tide was right and there was a good forecast, I took the hide down to Maristowe and set up in my usual spot. The moon was still visible when I arrived and reflecting in the water.

 

There weren't any waders about, but I was very pleased with the shot I got of the little grebe – they are quite shy and tend to stick to the far side of the river when they see you. I also got more nice shots of a little egret fishing just in front of me, including the one where it has its beak open and is tossing a worm down its throat, plus a few shots of crows, a pheasant, and a tipper truck crossing the ford as the tide dropped. It was a lovely day and I stayed for about four hours, with a flask of soup and a flask of tea for lunch.

 

Camera Club was interesting – we had a guest from Callington Camera Club who brought light stick – it was a stick about a metre and a half long, with LEDs embedded in it. We set the cameras up for exposures of between ten and fifteen seconds and then he walked along the room with the LEDs flashing and we ended up with the pictures and patterns shown. He could program the stick with different things, so we ended up with a range of pictures – trying to figure out how it worked was quite mind-blowing. How somebody worked out how to build it in the first place is just amazing.

 

After a night of drizzle and mist, I took a few pictures in the garden. We have four hydrangeas, but on one of them, the flowers decompose during the autumn and leave a delicate tracery of veins. The trick with photographing these is to find a composition in the chaos. The raindrops helped with this.

 

Finally, this month, There was a frost predicted for the Monday, so I went down to Denham Woods. I did get some nice autumn shots through the pines on the way down to the old car park at the bottom of the track and from there decided to do the circular walk along the river, up a small valley back to the forestry track and then back down the hill to the old car park.

 

About twenty two years ago, Lesley and I did this walk with my Mum and David in a pushchair. We wouldn't have been able to do that today. Several trees have fallen across the pass and parts of the path have collapsed down the steep side of the valley, leaving quite a narrow bit next to quite a steep drop for a few yards. All in all, it is no longer for the faint hearted (or even those with arthritic knees)! I found the worst bit was walking down the forestry track down to the car park – downhills can be quite painful on the knee, and after the hard work of the earlier part of the walk, it was a relief to reach the uphill section back to the car.

 

So, that's it for this month. I currently have entries in the British Life Photography Awards, International Garden Photographer of the Year and Outdoor Photographer of the Year. Haven't heard from any of them yet, so not particularly optimistic.

 

Have a good month.

 

Mike. 

 

20th October

Quite a few cobweb and fungi pictures this month – it's that time of year: Lots of mists and mellow fruitfulness with toadstools popping up all over the place. And the odd gale or two, but I haven't been out in one of those yet. The dining room is coming along nicely – we've had the wall which had the corkboard on replastered and I've put two coats of white over the red, and two coats on the ceiling. Lesley had put one coat of 'blue grass' on the walls and it looks gorgeous. No photos of that yet, but at least we're past rock bottom and are on the way up with it.

 

The disappointment of the month was missing the red sun after the remnants of the hurricane went through. I had noticed the amazing light in the morning, but after that I had my head down editing pictures ready for entry into the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition, so I was vaguely aware of the sky brightening, but couldn't actually see the the sun from where I was working, so only realised what I had missed when I saw it on the news.

 

I travelled up to Lynmouth for a photography workshop run by the RPS in early October. It was really interesting – entitled 'Photographing in all Weathers' and lead by Tony Worobiek. It was a really good day. Picked up lots of ideas and inspiration – just need to make myself go out when it's chucking it down with rain! There would seem to be an opportunity this weekend with Storm Brian heading in our direction.

 

My first trip out this month was down to the Tamar at Weir Quay. I looked out of the kitchen window over breakfast and there was a hint of mist. An hour later and the valley was full, so I hopped into the car. As usual it was stunning. The moored yachts were just visible through the mist and the mist had lined the cobwebs with droplets, so there was a range of shots to be had – even an egret fishing in the shallows. As the mist lifted, more yachts came into view and the sun's rays began to shine down through the trees.

 

The next misty morning saw me going down to Denham Woods – about a mile away – and again, there was a range of shots. I was particularly pleased with the shot of the ivy growing up a tree trunk and into the moss, making scale difficult to judge. It could quite easily be large trees growing up a cliff side. Again, the mist picked out the cobwebs, so there is another range of shots of web shots as well as some wider landscapes.

 

Later in the month I went out with my friend, Ian. No mist, this time. We went up to Burrator Reservoir, parking at Norsworthy Bridge and following the stream which runs past the car park, so shots of the stream itself, but also of some of the tree stumps close to the stream and the fungi growing on them. I actually used the macro lens and suprisingly it worked well for most of the time. It's never been the same since I fell into the River Meavy with it a couple of years ago, so I am currently saving up for a replacement.

 

Then there are a few shots of the moon setting over the Tamar Valley. I didn't have to work too hard for these – two of them were from the kitchen window and the third from the front room window.

 

It was another misty morning which got me out next. I had intended to get up early, but failed miserably and the mist had pretty much lifted by the time I arrived at the River Walkham at Grenofen Bridge. My aim was to walk along the North bank to an old mineworking near the river. It was a beautiful morning and it must have affected everybody, as all the people I came across were polite and considerate – making sure they didn't get in the way of the shot I was setting up and having a conversation before they continued their walk or ride.

 

The photography was good, too. Some lovely light with the sun shining down through the very last vestiges of mist, giving some nice shots down the path and the river and illuminating the bracken, turning it into liquid gold. The workings were a reminder that it was not always the peaceful place that it is today. When the mine was working at its peak, the valley would have been full of smoke and noise, spoil heaps and the water in the river would have been polluted.

 

Finally, I took a few shots looking over the Tamar Valley. On my way into Tavistock in the morning, I had noticed some interesting patterns on a newly ploughed field, so when I got back, I got the bike out and slogged my way up the hill outside the house and reached a vantage point where I could see the field and also look out over the valley to Cornwall. I was disappointed with the ploughed field – the light from the earlier had gone and so had much of the texture on the field, but I did get some nice shots across the valley and even managed to catch a train travelling across Calstock Viaduct, so the effort of cycling up the hill wasn't entirely wasted and it was quite easy coming back.

 

So we reach the end of this month. We will be travelling to London for a couple of days to see David this week. He's moved out of Reading, which was relatively easy to get to and I knew where I was going and has moved into a flat on the Olympic Park in Stratford – so that will add a couple of hours onto the journey we normally make to see him and means a trip around the M25 and then driving into the heart of London down the A10 – and of course doing it in reverse on the way back. I'm encouraging myself with the thought that there are people who do that bit every day.

 

I'm hoping that by the time I write next month's blog, we will have the dining room finished and the stuff which is scattered around the house (especially the piano!) will be back in their places and we can get the rest of the house back into shape. I think it will depend on how long it takes from when we order the carpet to its arrival.

So, if you have got this far, I hope you haven't been too bored by my ramblings and enjoy the photos. Please feel free to leave a message on the guestbook page.

 

20th September

There has been a real feeling that the seasons have changed since I last updated. August the 20th was still very much summer, and now, after a few quite chilly nights and mornings it feels very much like Autumn. We don't seem to be having either a lingering summer, as over the last two years, nor an indian summer – although I suppose there is still time for that to happen before winter sets in.

 

The first set of shots is from a local Gymkhana which I photographed. There weren't many people there, as it was a bit windy and threatening to rain, although as it turned out the weather was fine, and those that came really enjoyed themselves and I was pleased with the action shots which I got, so thank you, Carol, for allowing me to take the pictures.

 

Summer itself was quite busy. Lesley's sister and her youngest daughter came down to stay for a few days, and having my daughter back from college for the summer, meant that the five of us could go out together. We had a couple of really nice meals and a day out where we went to The House of Marbles in Bovey Tracey and then on to the Devon Guild of Craftsmen for a look around there, then drove back via Widdecombe-in-the-Moor. I got some nice shots of the displays in the glass making section of The House of Marbles. The whole place was interesting and they had some really spectacularly huge marble runs which are well worth looking at if you are ever close.

 

Not having much time to go out photographing during August, I took quite a few shots round the garden. There are a few more shots of the starlings flying up from under the bird feeder and I had a few sessions of trying to catch butterflies in flight. There seems to be more butterflies around this year than there have been over the last two years. Mostly red admirals, with occasional visits from other types. There have been very few peacocks, whereas over the last couple of years, they have been more common than the red admirals. I was quite pleased with the flight shots I got. I think my practice might be paying off.

 

The sparrowhawk is probably the one which took a blackbird at about that time. I was cooking in the kitchen when I heard a thump on the window behind me and then the a very strangled blackbird alarm call fading away. When I looked at the window, there were several drops of bird poo and a few feathers drifting down. I thought the blackbird had just flown into the window, but Lesley was on her way out and as she reached the top of the steps leading down to the path, saw the sparrowhawk on the ground under the window with the unlucky blackbird in its talons. It flew off down the path – with its prey – when it saw her. Fortunately we seem to have had a good crop of blackbirds this year, so it won't be missed.

 

I've put a few pictures up of our dining room. We are going for a full decoration and have completely emptied it. The people who had the house before us ran a bit of a nursery, apparently, and had one wall filled with a corkboard. When I came to remove it, it turned out to be cork tiles, glued to the wall. The tiles themselves came off quite easily, but the glue they left behind had to be sanded off, leaving that section of the wall looking like a relief map of a First World War battlefield and in dire need of replastering. This can't be done for another week, so while we can paint some of the walls, it is still a bit of a frustrating wait.

 

At the beginning of September, I photographed a local dogshow. The weather was miserable. I checked Facebook several times during the morning, assuming it would be called off, but it went ahead despite the pouring rain. When not actually showing the dogs, everyone took shelter in the barn, and I dashed in and out with my camera wrapped up in a couple of plastic bags to keep it as dry as possible, took some shots and then went back in to clear the rain off the lens. Under the circumstances, I was pleased with the shots I got, and only went home when I didn't have anything dry enough to wipe the lens with, without leaving a smear.

 

Next up was a Sunday morning trip out with Pete, to the East Okement River near Okehampton. It was quite a cloudy morning, but the light available really brought out the colours in the rocks and stones along the river. There had been a bad flood a few weeks previously, which had scoured out a section of the footpath and washed many of the rocks and shelves clean and exposed some pebbles. Look out for the picture of the damaged tree trunk – that will give you some idea of how deep the water was. I concentrated on the some of the small waterfalls and on catching the colours of the rocks which were exposed.

 

Most recently this month, I had a trip to Maristowe. I might try for another one over the next couple of weeks, as the walk is closed from the end of September for the pheasant shooting season. I got some good shots on my way round. I was early enough for the sun to be quite low, so it was shining through the trees and highlighting the rose hips and the seed heads and the few flowers which were still around. As I parked the car and got out, a flock of redshanks flew past me upriver, turned and flew back again, and as I walked round, I got some nice shots of the returned little grebes, which came closer than they usually do.

 

As I walked, two kingfishers flew past and as I approached the quay at the end of the walk, there was a kingfisher fishing not far from the quay. It stayed long enough for me to set up the tripod get some shots of it sitting on a branch. It then flew down out of sight, but when I moved onto the quay, I saw it again and managed to get some shots of it actually hovering and diving in to the water after some fish. Unfortunately, it flew just out of focus when it did this, so the shots of it in action are not quite as sharp as I would like them to be.

 

20th August

I didn't feel that I'd done so much photography this month, but there still seems to be a lot of photos to look at. I didn't go out looking for landscapes or wildlife as often as I usually do – most of the pictures I've taken have come from trips out to places and events, as it's now the summer holidays and I've been going out with Lesley, now that she has the time.

 

Also, I've been working on a book. Those of you that know me will know that since 1983, I have gone on an annual cycling holiday with friends I used to play football with in London. Sadly, my friend Ian, who used to organise them died suddenly last September, so I have been trying to put together an account of 32 years worth of holidays. Mostly from memory, but fortunately I did take a camera with me, so have a range of pictures from the holidays to help. I've now reached a stage where I have finished a first draft (some 47,000 words!) and I'm now trying to put the pictures and words together to make the final book.

 

It's been an interesting and at times melancholy task. I've really enjoyed reliving the memories, but there was the underlying sadness of not having Ian there to check facts and share them with.

 

So, back to the photographs. I've included two trips out with the village photography group: July's trip was to Kit Hill. When we left the village, it didn't look too promising. There were thick clouds covering the sky, but over towards the west, there was a line of brightness. As we reached the top of Kit Hill the line opened up a bit and spectacularly bright rays suddenly beamed down, lighting up a line of countryside to the west, but leaving the rest in shadow. We all rushed over to the west side of the hill, frantically assembling tripods and lenses to catch the light before it disappeared. We needn't have worried – the light moved across the countryside with the gap in the clouds, changing by the minute, but giving us plenty of time to get shots.

 

After a while, we could see a shower moving towards us and as it hit us, the sun shining through the rain threw up a rainbow to the east, so around went the cameras to take advantage of this amazing light and rainbow. As the shower passed and the rainbow faded, the gap in the clouds closed, but as the light faded, areas of the clouds turned pink, contrasting with the increasing dusk falling over Cornwall.

 

August's trip out was to Cotehele Quay. While the sunset wasn't as spectacular as the Kit Hill trip, it was quite a nice light. I found it a bit frustrating, as I couldn't see any landscape shots which I wanted to take, so I tended to concentrate on details. I did like the way the sun shining down the valley picked out the twisted branches of one of the oak trees growing along the river, and the bridge had that comfortable look of a structure which had settled into the landscape over the years. The old winch near the Discovery Centre provided some interesting close-ups. I also like the lights of a house further up through the valley shining warmly out of the gloom of the evening.

 

Closer to home, I've been trying to catch the starlings taking off from underneath the bird feeder. They arrive en-masse shortly after I've filled the trays and after a few minutes of noisy squawking and bickering while they decide who gets access to the mealworms first, the one feeding gobbles as many down as it can in as short a time as possible, which means the mealworms get scattered far and wide, so the rest of the flock end up feeding on the ground and every now and again, for reasons I can't see, they all take off at once, fly up to the laurels and then return after a few minutes, and it's this flight that I have been trying to capture.

 

I did have of trip to Maristowe on one of the few really hot days we had during July to try and catch some of the insects along the river in flight. The first thing I noticed as I parked the car on the Quay was a Subaru stuck in the mud on the far side of the river. It had obviously driven across the ford, but had just strayed off the firm section into the soft mud. I think it had been there through at least one high tide. Must have been a bit expensive! It could also illustrate the dangers of blindly following the satnav.

 

Walking round the river, there were quite a few of the bright red soldier beetles on the vegetation. I decided to use my 400mm telephoto lens, rather than the macro, so while the insects aren't as big in the frame as they would be with the macro, it did catch more of the habitat and made for an interesting background.

 

They were quite tricky to catch in flight, as they would suddenly fly off whatever flower, or leaf on which they were sitting with no warning, so it was a panicked pressing of the shutter button and a desperate attempt to keep them in the frame and crucially, in the focus points. I don't think any of the shots I've included are perfectly focused, but they are quite close and do show the attitude the little beetles take as they flit from leaf to leaf – often looking like a little red seahorse. I also managed to get nice shots of a comma butterfly and a green-veined white.

 

I also had one early morning trip out. Outdoor Photography Magazine (well worth a read) has the the theme of 'coastal abstracts' for their monthly competition, so I went off to Wembury to try and catch the early morning light. Unfortunately, there wasn't much of it. There were occasional bursts of sunshine, but mostly it was grey – and it even rained on me at one point. I was pleased with the shots of the chap surfing and I did get a set of pictures I felt I could enter, so it was quite a successful morning.

 

My next pictures was on a trip to the Launceston Steam Railway with Lesley. The ride on the train was enjoyable, but a bit disappointing photographically. However, there were lots of opportunities around the station and when we stopped at the end of the ride to turn the train around for the journey back. We also had a really nice lunch in the cafe. Spicy parsnip soup.

 

Our next trip out was to the Okehampton Show. We've been meaning to go for the last two years, but were on holiday two years ago and last year it hammered down with rain on the day of the show, so we gave it a miss. This year the weather was perfect, so off we went.

 

It was a really good day. Lots of food outlets and local food producers, along with the animals and the events in the arenas. As at the Devon show a couple of years ago, I found the carriage driving a good opportunity for pictures, and the parade of champions also gave me some shots. The bulls were just enormous. The terrier racing was also worth watching, just for the mayhem. It was really clear, that some dogs knew exactly what they were supposed to do and had their eyes fixed on the lure from the start, while some dogs just saw other dogs running and ran with them, and the remainder just ran around like headless chickens. It was also quite funny watching the owners trying to get them back under control again!

 

Finally this month, we went to RAF Harrowbeer's 1940s Weekend. For those of you not local, RAF Harrowbeer was a World War Two RAF station which closed towards in the nineteen fifties, but is still remembered by the RAF Harrowbeer Interest Group, who organised the day. The last time we went was about four years ago and it was quite a low key event, with a few stalls and people dressed in 1940s costume, although it did have a static spitfire.

 

This time it was a much larger affair. It was really well attended, with crowds of people around the stalls. There were a lot of stalls and demonstrations, a much wider range of 1940s costumes and military re-enactors, steam engines, a small train giving rides, the static spitfire which also had engine start-ups through the day, the local model aircraft flying club were giving displays, there was live music and the icing on the cake was a flypast by a MK XVI Spitfire. I got some pleasing shots of this and also tried for some video footage, but I don't use the camera for video much, so all I got out of sixteen seconds worth of footage, was a blurred shape at the bottom of the frame which lasted for about a second.

 

Speaking of disasters, there is one shot included of the night of the Perseid Meteor Shower, complete with a meteor streak. It was one of four test shots which I took to set up the camera. After I'd got it set up and it was taking pictures automatically, the lens misted over, so out of the 116 shots it took, only the first four showed any stars and only one of them was fortunate enough to catch a meteor. I'll know what to look out for next year.

 

I currently have entries into 'The Shipwrecked Mariners' charity photo competition, as well as the Outdoor Photography competition. I didn't do anything with my entries into the International Garden Photographer of the Year – square crop theme; nor did my entries into Landscape Photographer of the Year do anything; but the main IGPOTY competition is still coming up, as is the British Life Photography Awards, so I shall be choosing entries for these over the next few weeks.

 

 

20th July

This month's pictures start, appropriately enough, with sunrises. At this time of year you have to be up pretty early, to get to where you need to be at the right time, so the alarm went off at about 3.30am. I even managed to get myself out of bed, so arrived at Burrator Reservoir about twenty minutes before the sun rose. A short walk up to the old railway line on the North side of the reservoir gave me a good view across the water to where the sun would come up. While waiting, I picked out Down Tor with the early morning light catching it.

 

After this, I drove to Norsworthy Bridge and walked up the path to Devonport Leat, where I set myself a mini project to photograph some of the old walls. I find these remnants of an earlier age quite fascinating. Built to divide fields, many are now lost in the conifer plantations and these are in the worst state of repair due to damage from trees. Some of them stretch for miles and others just look like a pile of stones. If they could speak, I would love to hear about who built them. I'm sure some of them have been there for thousands of years – maybe back to the Bronze Age farmers.

 

Next comes a few shots from the garden. We're pleased with the garden this year – it actually looks quite tidy, we've managed to get more summer colour into it and the birds seem to like it – or at least the food I put out. The starlings are particularly entertaining when they argue over feeder rights. We haven't seen any baby hedgehogs yet, but we're still hopeful. A few weeks ago when I was putting food out for the hedgehogs, I noticed one which had lost most of its spines. I tried phoning a hedgehog rescue centre, but there was no answer, and I haven't seen it since, so I'm assuming it didn't make it.

 

My next trip out was with the village photography group. We decided on a trip down to the River Tamar at Weir Quay, as the sunset looked promising and it lived up to its promise. Lots of reflected light, some spectacular clouds and I managed to achieve a photographic ambition and lie directly beneath an electricity pylon and shoot straight up, catching the structure. The gig racing teams were practicing, so I got some shots of them coming in at the end of their session and some pleasing landscapes.

 

Next early start was to Maristowe where I was aiming for some macro pictures. Anyone suffering from hay fever would have known that the grass pollen was in full flow, and this meant that the grass would have flowers. I was really pleased with these shots and with some of the spider and insect shots I got. Considering the focus on the macro lens is not working consistently – and not at all sometimes – I was pleased to get so many shots in focus. I will need to replace it eventually, but not before I have saved up enough money.

 

I've included a few abstract shots of flowers with intentional camera movement, and one shot from a visit to a friend in Chandler's Ford – I was impressed with the way the Valley Park Estate had been greened. There were cycle paths everywhere and many wildflower beds like the one shown.

 

Arriving back home, the weather was really hot and sunny, so donning my disreputable jungle hat, I set off for an morning of macro work. The insects were pretty obliging and along with some shots of grass and flowers, it was a good session. In the afternoon I went out to the Dragonfly Pond in the Arboretum at Burrator Reservoir, hoping that the hot weather would bring out some dragonflies. I used the 400mm telephoto lens, but initially it was disappointing and I was limited to shooting mating damselflies. After a while a dragonfly did put in an appearance.

 

It came from behind a tree from the other side of the pond, which I couldn't get to, flew round a couple of times and then disappeared behind the tree again. This behaviour was repeated through the afternoon, so I spent a lot of time scanning the air looking for movement and then trying to get the dragonfly in the viewfinder (tricky) and having achieved that, getting it into the focus points (very tricky) and then keeping it in there long enough for the lens to focus (very, very tricky). I didn't manage a shot I was really happy with, but I've put a few in to show how close I was getting. Might have another go on the next hot day – I should get better with practice.

 

I've finished this month's shots with three taken at the Colly Brook, where my friend Pete and I went for an evening shoot. Normally we go in the Autumn or the Winter, but going in the height of summer was a different experience. The bracken and brambles were about chest high, so pushing through to get to the water was difficult – especially as I couldn't see where I was putting my feet, and with my dodgy knees and replaced hips, being confident and not feeling I could fall over at any time is important, so in the end I only took three pictures.

 

I have a few entries into competitions – I entered the Magnum Photography Awards with some of the shots I took at Paignton Zoo. No success, but they were offering a free review from an industry professional, so I took them up on that, despite being a bit nervous about putting myself at risk of a poor review, but it was pretty positive and I was pleased I had done it.

 

I also have entries into the International Garden Photgrapher of the Year competition. One in the macro art section and one in a section for square crops. I heard today that I haven't been shortlisted for the macro art section, but I'm still hopeful for the square crop entries.

 

I've also put a stack of pictures into Landscape Photographer of the Year. Each year I say I won't enter, but each year I end up with some landscapes which I like and in they go. Perhaps they will have some sympathy for me eventually! It won't be judged until later in the summer. Until then I'm hopeful, but without expectations.

 

 

It's been an interesting month, weatherwise. As I sit and write this, the temperature is pushing – if not above – 30 degrees and everything is as dry as a bone. Yet some of the pictures taken just a couple of weeks ago were taken as a wind howled across Dartmoor and heavy showers lashed down. We lost a branch off the buddleia and quite a few flowers were hammered to the ground by the heavy rain. Still, it does make it an interesting place to live.

 

This month's pictures begin with a shot of a hedgehog from the garden. Unusually, it was out during the day and I have a feeling it wasn't well. It looked quite hunched in its back and was a bit wobbly as it moved around the garden. It was out for two days and then it went back to being nocturnal. I've picked it up on the trail-cam, and it seems to have recovered from whatever was bothering it.

 

My first trip out this month was to Maristowe. Starting early, I caught the sun just as it came up above the valley side, lighting up Whittacliffe Woods across the river. The tide was in and the water was perfectly still, giving an overwhelming feeling of being in the middle of a green pool. Walking away from the quay, the start of the walk around the river saw the low sun shining through the trees and spotlighting the flowers growing along the top of the bank and leaving the background in shadow. I just caught the end of the bluebells and the red campion, both were just past their best.

 

It's amazing how much growth there has been since I last visited. Areas cleared for pheasant shooting stations during the shooting season are now overgrown and disappearing beneath cow parsely and wild carrot. Sadly, I'm pretty sure that all the clearance has reduced the number and range of wildlife seen along this part of the river. I concentrated on plants and flowers as I walked along until I reached the end of the loop around the river, where a swan was preening itself. I watched this for a while and took several shots, using centre weighted exposure to emphasise the whiteness of the swan.

 

Walking back down the lane to the quay, I concentrated on flowers and the light shining throught he trees and then when I reached the car, worked on catching swallows in flight. A lot of pictures were taken, but there was only one decent shot when I got home.

 

The next set of pictures were taken in the garden. I had nurtured and grown a number of cornflowers from seed during spring, but when I put them out, the slugs had them overnight – except one, so when the rain stopped, I went out to get some shots of the one flowering cornflower I had managed to grow. It had been cloudy and raining during the morning, but it must have been bright behind the clouds, because the light was quite special and really made the colours pop, particularly the blue geraniums, so I went on to take some shots of these and the bees which were visiting.

 

I also had a go at using intentional camera movement, combined with some zoom bursts to create some abstract shots. I was pleased with the results, so tried again with different flowers, and I've put all these together in an 'abstract' section. In addition, the starlings began bringing their fledglings to the bird feeders, so that made for some amusing birdwatching as they argued and worked out was was edible and what wasn't.

 

Speaking of fledglings, I'm worried about the blue tits. Last year I only saw one blue tit fledgling and this year there has been no sign of any – and we're only getting occasional visits from adult birds. I think they have had a bit of a population crash.

 

My next trip out was to Dartmoor. I needed to go into Tavistock, so I got what I needed and headed up toward Princetown, stopping at the car park at the top of Pork Hill, intending to walk down to Wind Post. The weather was pretty dire. It had been windy with showers coming through while I was in Tavistock, but when I got up onto the moor, it was blowing a gale and driving the rain almost horizontally. There were breaks in the cloud allowing splashes of sunshine to make their way across the moor, so I waiting until the current squall had finished and then set off. I could see that there was more rain to come, so I decide to leave the camera bag in the car and just take the camera with a wide angle lens in my pocket and the tripod. I picked out some landscape details as I walked down the hill towards Windy Post and when I was about three quarters of the way down, I remembered that my battery was almost spent – and the spare was back in the camera bag. After kicking myself several times, I continued to the cross and managed three pictures before the battery died. A lesson learned which I should already have mastered.

 

The final shoot of the month was to Endsleigh House and Gardens near Milton Coombe. The International Garden Photographer of the Year competition has a section for pictures of gardens designed by Humphrey Repton, and Endsleigh is the nearest example. Unfortunately they are only open between 10am and 4pm, so the light was really flat, as the sun was pretty much overhead for most of the time I was there. There is a lot of potential there, but I may have to ask for permission to come in early in the morning or late into the evening to catch the sunset light. No harm in asking!​
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20/05

I've started with some shots from our garden. Some dandelion seeds and seedheads and some of the rooks and magpies which have discovered the feeder in the garden. Within minutes of my putting out the mealworms and suet pellets, the jackdaws arrive, and then the majestic rooks turn up and turf off the jackdaws. Occasionally, a magpie turns up and sneaks into gaps between the rooks and jackdaws. Within about twenty minutes, the feeders are empty and the garden pretty much deserted.

 

I've taken to putting out some extras in the afternoon for the smaller birds, frightening off any jackdaws or rooks which notice the food and try to muscle in. This works well, and the sparrows, starlings, blackbirds and robins take advantage, while a pair of pied wagtails pick up bits which are scattered by the other birds and take them back to their nest in relays. Goldfinches, chaffinches and - over the last couple of days – a pair of siskins have visited the hanging feeders.

 

The next couple of pictures were taken at the RSPB's Newport Marshes Reserve. The whole family had gone to visit my sister, who has recently moved there, and we went for lunch and a walk around. There weren't too many opportunities for pictures, but the walk around the reserve was interesting and would probably have been more productive during the winter (but much colder!)

 

Having visited Foggintor Quarry last month, when the clouds were sitting on the top of the tors, I decided to try again with a better light, so with the forecast for bright sunshine the next day, I set the alarm for and early start and went out. As usual, I didn't get up early enough to catch the colour in the sky, but as I arrived, the sun was just rising over South Hessary Tor, so I managed to catch the Manager's House as light moved down while the sun got higher. It also made for some brighter shots during the rest of the morning.

 

It is also bluebell time, so I couldn't resist getting out into the woods. There are flowers from two woods included – the first is Denham Woods, and the second – including the shots of the roe deer - are from a trip out with my friend, Pete, to a wood he has access to, but doesn't want the location broadcasting. I was pleased with the shots of the flies in flight, as I used the macro lens with manual focussing. Even getting them in the frame was tricky, so I was pleased to get a couple of shots with them in focus.

 

I travelled all the way to Somerset for the heron shots. I heard that there was a large heronry at the RSPB's Swell Wood Reserve and that they had just opened a new hide. I set off reasonably early, turned off the M5 at Taunton and found the reserve straight away. There is a good car park, and the hide is close – there are also some good walks through the woods of the reserve.

 

The hide was completely open at the front, which was a bit unexpected, but as the herons' nests were all at the top of some very high oak trees, that explained it. I set up the tripod and got a few shots of a squirrel, a blue tit and a great spotted woodpecker and then realised that to get shots of the herons, I would need the 2x converter to make my 400mm zoom into an 800mm. The disadvantages of that are that my minimum aperture is f/11 and I have to focus manually. Given these difficulties, I was quite pleased with the shots I got of the herons at the nest – and the light was pretty good. The chicks only showed themselves twice during the four hours I was there, so again, quite pleasing getting any shots of them at all.

 

My cousins came down to stay for a few days, bringing their dog, Poppy. She is such a pretty dog, she attracted a lot of attention when she was out at Buckland Abbey, so I have included a few shots of her and the wisteria at the Abbey.

 

My next longer trip was to Paignton Zoo. I concentrated first of all on the hamadrya baboons, because they were being fed when I arrived and were fairly active. I concentreated on trying to capture their behaviour and particularly their eyes. On going round the rest of the zoo, I was also looking to catch the expressions on the faces of the animals and to catch the eye contact. I was particularly pleased with the sadness in the eyes of the gorilla. I also couldn't resist the young orangutan playing with a stick.

 

Some of these pictures I entered into the Magnum Photo Competition – well outside my normal comfort zone, as it concentrates on photojournalism, and was founded by the likes of Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson. There will be feedback for me on my entry and I'm half dreading and half looking forward to receiving it. I may never take another picture if it is too negative!

 

Pete, who I go out and take pictures with, has formed a photo group in the village. Meeting once a month, we range from beginners to quite experienced photographers and try techniques and ideas to develop our photography. This month, as the evenings are getting lighter, we went out and tried a few evening landscape shots. I've included three of mine and am looking forward to seeing other people's pictures at next months meeting.

 

Finally, I went on a walk along the Okement River to the south of Okehampton. I got the walk from the Dartmoor Magazine. It comes out quarterly and i