Mike Wright Photography

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​​To 20th August
 
The end of August is rapidly approaching. Normally this would be the time when Lesley (and me when I was still teaching) would be starting to count the days down to the start of term. The lovely time at the end of July and into early August, when the holiday seemed to stretch into infinity, would have gone and school would be looming; but now, she's retired and is sitting on a Sunday evening watching Downton Abbey and doing a bit of crocheting. I don't think it's really sunk in yet – she is still very much at the stage where she feels she should be doing something for school and then remembering that she doesn't have to.

 

Photographically, the last month has been quite interesting (at least to me). I have finished designing my 2019 calendar and had them printed. So far, I've put ten into the Post Office and Mainly Stationery in Tavistock have also taken a dozen. If you live too far away to come and buy your own, I will be quite happy to pop you one in the post – they are going for £7.95, postage free in the UK. Get in touch through the contact page.

 

The teasel outside the back door continues to provide opportunities for pictures. When it flowers, bumble bees love it and there were always five or six with their heads buried in the flowers. A few spiders have also taken up residence, so they make interesting subjects, as do their webs when it has rained and they have water droplets on them.

 

We've definitely had a good crop of young birds this year. Lots of blackbirds and sparrows, with more of the tits and finches than we had last year. Sadly, there don't seem to be any baby hedgehogs this year. We still have at least two coming to be fed every night, but they may well be two males, as they haven't produced – at least not in our garden. Perhaps it's someone else's turn this year.

 

July's Photography Club was pretty strenuous – we went up to the car park at the top of Pork Hill and walked round to the back of Cox Tor and then back to the car park by walking over the top of the tor, encountering ponies, expansive views, great light and a spectacular sunset over Brentor. The walk down back to the car was really hard on my knee. I took it slowly and steadily and Sean stayed with me all the way down, sticking to my pace, for which I was very grateful. Thanks, Sean, should you be reading this.

 

Then it was back to the garden for a few more shots of the teasel with a trip up to Burrator for a sunset – which didn't materialise. It was a beautiful evening with a totally clear sky, so the sun just sank behind the tor opposite, with no colours and no sunset worth taking. I've included a shot of a few stones on the bank of the reservoir which would normally be under about five or six feet of water. Maybe they formed a wall once upon a time. After this come shots of butterflies, bees and birds and a few shots of the teasel.

 

The next big event was David coming home for a week with his girlfriend – a big event because it was the first time we had met her. We went for a walk at Maristowe in the blazing sunshine. Needless to say I got left behind while I took photographs. Lesley got a bit concerned and came back to look for me and we caught up with the others then went for a tea at the Cafe at Lopwell Dam. There was even music laid on – a Plymouth Ukulele Band set up and treated us to several songs while we drank our tea.

 

The following day we went to Cotehele. That was hard work for me – if you don't know Cotehele House, it is all stairs and they have a policy where you either leave any rucksacks in a locker near the door, or carry it in your hand – not on your back. I chose to do this with my camera bag and what a mistake that was. It weighs a ton when you carry it like that and on a hot day and clambering up and down lots of stairs, my knee was really giving me stick. Got some nice family photos which caused some amusement, as they all made a plan and ducked down behind the wall as I was about to take a picture, then the odd head appeared and then another one, so the series of shots caused some amusement.

 

This is followed by some shots of the sky from the garden. Sitting out there with the camera, there were some spectacular clouds around, and a plane and a buzzard flew over. In the evening, Lesley and I went down to Weir Quay for a walk and to see if there was a sunset. There wasn't much in the way of colour, but the light was good and after walking along the river, we sat on a bench for half an hour and watched the evening draw in.

 

My next trip out was to Maristowe again – by myself this time, so I could take pictures without feeling I was keeping other people waiting. All the shots were using my 100-400mm telephoto almost as a macro lens, at its maximum zoom and minimum focusing distance – it doesn't do life-size magnification, but on a sunny day, the out of focus backgrounds give the shots a bit of a painterly feel, and where there are insects in the shot, they are big enough to make a point of interest. See what you think – I'd appreciate any thoughts on the contact page if anyone has read this far.

 

Finally it was back to the garden for a few shots. While working in the garden – unfortunately without the camera – there was a bit of a kerfuffle in the laurel hedge outside the back door and a blackbird shot out and flew up and over the back porch, closely followed by a sparrowhawk. It gave up the chase when the blackbird went over the porch and flew along the line of the laurel hedge as I watched open-mouthed and then disappeared back into the bushes as it reached the end. I could hear it moving, so I went into the house and got the camera and sat in one of the chairs hoping it would reappear and give me a shot, but it never did. When will I learn to keep the camera with me at ALL times?

 

Finally, there are a few shots from August's Photography Club. Pete had organised some still life work looking for high key and low key shots. It meant using the flash, which is something I don't do very often, so it was good to be forced into using it and getting to know a bit more about which settings to use. On leaving the hall at the end of the session there was a very colourful sunset over Kit Hill, with a brief flow of mist down the Tamar Valley. A good way to finish the month.

 

Hope you enjoy the pictures you look at. As always, any comments appreciated.

20th July

Apologies for the late update this month – I had about 500 pictures from my niece's wedding to edit and then sort through for inclusion in a book for them, and then the design of the book itself, which I am very pleased with. Just waiting to get their new address and then I can send it off.

 

So, the photographs – not a wide range of venues this month. I started off with a trip to Okehampton Station. Having taken Lesley to the Youth Hostel, which is right next to the station – to prepare for her class's overnight stay there, I took some pictures of old railway carriages waiting for restoration and thought that they may be worth a longer session.

 

A few weeks later, I drove up again and went onto the platform. It was a bright day, so the light was good on the carriages. At first sight, there didn't look to be too much to take pictures of, but as I wandered up and down I began to notice peeling paint, cracks with moss growing into them and other bits of decay and weathering. Having got my eye in, I spent a couple of hours alternating between lying down on the platform and getting up close and personal to the higher bits of decay, getting some pleasing abstracts. Fortunately, it wasn't too busy, so there weren't lots of people wondering why this strange man was lying down on the platform and taking photos of apparently featureless carriages.

 

Some of them I entered into the Lensculture Art Photography Awards – without much hope, as I don't think I do contemporary photography very well. Still, you never know. Having looked closely at the pictures, I think next time I would use the tripod more to get a better depth of field.

 

Early on in the spring, we noticed a weed growing in the small space between the steps up to our back door and the pond. It looked fairly substantial, with quite thick wide leaves. We decided to leave it to see what it was and as spring progressed, it grew and grew and grew, reaching the level of halfway up the steps and the the top of the steps and then passing the top of the railings on top of the steps. It still wasn't producing a flower and Lesley suggested pulling it up, but we didn't and finally, it began to produce buds which identified it – it was a teasel and looks totally spectacular outside the back door.

 

It is now about six and half feet tall and has over thirty flower heads which have opened into stripes. The bumble bees love it and there are always four or five of them buzzing around. When the flowers fade, the heads will be worth photographing as the autumn and winter progress, so I think I will make a little project of it across the seasons.

 

The heads make for a good subject – it's quite amazing the difference a slight change of viewpoint, or a change in depth of field makes, and then there are the bumble bees. Catching their eyes in focus is quite tricky, as they spend most of their time on the plant with their heads buried in the flowers.

 

The next set of pictures I took when clearing a small paved area on which we used to have a garden seat. The seat rotted away and was removed a few years ago and the area on which it stood became overgrown. We are planning on putting a new seat in, so I began clearing the area and the pictures are of some of the spiders and insects which I disturbed while digging out the grass and crocosmia bulbs.

 

Finally, a set of pictures from June's Photography Club meeting. As it was a pleasant evening, we just went for a walk up the lane leading out of the village, with a slight detour into path running between the allotments. As always with this type of photography, when you get your eye in, what seems to be a featureless bank and hedge suddenly becomes full of pattern, shape and colour and as a result didn't actually get very far down the lane.

 

So, that's it for this month. Hope you enjoy the pictures and are enjoying this glorious weather

 

 

to 20th July

 

Quite a few pictures from the garden, this month, but also some from further afield where I have had to travel up North for a funeral. Sadly, my Auntie Evelyn died. She was 103 and the last of my Mum and Dad's generation, so I felt it was important to make the effort to attend her funeral.

 

Starting in the garden, I was looking for insects, really, to enter into an Outdoor Photography Magazine competition. There weren't a huge number of insects about, but I was pleased with the shots I got – particularly the bluebottle on the forget-me-nots. You can see from the picture of the forget-me-nots, that most of the flowers have gone and the bluebells also have gone to seed. I cleared both sets of plants out and the garden now looks very different, having lost all the blues which dominate through most of spring.

 

Next I had a trip down to Maristowe, again looking for possible entries into a competition. This time the theme was macro art for the International Garden Photographer of the year. In the end, I didn't use any of these shots, but I do like the light when you get there early in the morning. I thought the family of canada geese was also worth a shot.

 

Browsing thought Facebook, I saw a post which said that people wishing to drive through the village would find delays at about 12.00, as there was going to be a parade of tractors. This was the only reference I saw about it, but decided to go up to the top of the village and catch them as they came through. I went up at about 11.00 to make sure I was there when they came through. Fortunately it was a really pleasant morning and I enjoyed just sitting there in the sun and chatting to the people who came past. The tractor's eventually came through at about 12.30. Apparently they were on their way to a rally nearby. Not many people seemed to be aware it was happening.

 

During the week after that I had my trip up north to Mansfield. I booked a hotel for the night before the funeral, so that I could take my time and then travel the last few miles to the funeral the next morning. I was staying just South of Nottingham, and having researched the area, found a nature reserve near a village called Attenborough. It was close to the River Trent had been a gravel quarry, so there were several deep water lakes which had been reclaimed as a nature reserve, complete with visitor centre and cafe. I was much in need of a cup of tea when I arrived at about four o'clock and after relaxing for a while, I went for a walk around some of the lakes. Unfortunately, I was a bit late to get into the hides, but still managed a few shots as I walked around.

 

On the day of the funeral, I arrived at the crematorium some hours early, and after making sure I could find it again, went to Kingsmill Reservoir, which also had a cafe, so after a walk along the bank (beautifully dressed in my suit and looking out of place with the other walkers/runners/cyclists) I had a quick bit of lunch and then went to the funeral. It was a short service, with only eight of us there, so the singing was a bit shaky, but as funerals go, it was as good as it could be.

 

My next trip out was due to Lesley having to go on a Moderation Course to Tiverton. I dropped her off at the hotel just before lunch and then set off for Knightshayes house which, theoretically, was not too far away. Unfortunately, I missed the sign and ended up driving around for a while not finding it! I ended up at the Grand Western Canal Country Park. I had a walk along the towpath and got some good shots of dragonflies before having to go back and pick Lesley Up.

 

Then it was back to the garden – coming out of the back door to feed the hedgehogs, the full moon was rising. Apparently it is a flower moon, as it is the only full moon during may. It looked really spectacular with the last of the sunset glow lighting up the clouds.

 

The annual Bere Pen 10k race was my next photo session. I like to catch the runners as they come through the village, while they are still reasonably fresh and still able to smile! Other photographers are more cruel and take their pictures towards the end of the run, at the top of a long steep hill. Mentioning no names (Helena!!)

 

During the half term holiday, we went up to Okehampton, mostly for Lesley to have a look at the Adventure Centre that she will be taking her children to for a one-night residential. It was right next to the station and there were some old carriages sitting in a siding, so I took some shots of graffiti and rusting sections. I may return and see if I can get amongst them from the station side. They make good abstract costs. When she'd finished, we went to Sticklepath and had a look around Finch Foundry, something we've been meaning to do for some time. We just got there in time for one of the talks they give, which was really interesting – particularly when he set the hammers going, powered by the waterwheel.

 

The following Saturday, Lesley and I decided to go down to the cafe at Lopwell, little realising that we were about to witness a mass murder. It started innocuously enough, with a family of swans swimming peacefully further down the river, but as we sat at an outside table, the male swan appeared in the river just below us, swimming purposefully across the river towards a female mallard and about ten ducklings. They quickly climbed out of the water and disappeared behind a large lump of soil which had broken off from the main bank.

 

The swan cruised up and down in front of this for about ten minutes and then suddenly took off and flew about a hundred yards down the river. Thinking nothing of this, we continued to drink our cups of tea until there was a flurry of activity. Fortunately I had brought the camera in with the big lens on it and on putting it up to my eye, suddenly I worked out what was going on. The swan was attacking a family of mallards, systematically killing one duckling at a time while the mother frantically flew round it trying to distract it. She didn't succeed and after a few minutes, there were several little yellow corpses floating around the river at that point.

 

By the time the swan was finished, I think there were only two survivors from a family of seven or eight ducklings. I shall never see swans in the same light again.

 

I followed this with a few pictures from Mount Edgcumbe, where I had to go to help Jen dismantle her lighthouse which had been part of an art exhibition in the grounds. It was a beautiful, misty morning and she was a bit late. I had the added bonus of a gannet coming in and flying around for a few minutes before disappearing upriver.

 

Then a shot of Lesley at 1.00 on a Sunday afternoon, surrounded by books for marking and assessing and sheets and sheets of grids to be filled in. She was at it for most of the day (and has pretty much worked non-stop at this for over a week) trying to get extra work ready for moderation. I you are thinking of going into teaching, take this as a warning.

 

Finally this month, back to the garden. For the first time since we moved in (about twenty years) we had song thrushes nesting nearby, so there is a shot of a juvenile song thrush and a juvenile blackbirQuite a few pictures from the garden, this month, but also some from further afield where I have had to travel up North for a funeral. Sadly, my Auntie Evelyn died. She was 103 and the last of my Mum and Dad's generation, so I felt it was important to make the effort to attend her funeral.

 

Starting in the garden, I was looking for insects, really, to enter into an Outdoor Photography Magazine competition. There weren't a huge number of insects about, but I was pleased with the shots I got – particularly the bluebottle on the forget-me-nots. You can see from the picture of the forget-me-nots, that most of the flowers have gone and the bluebells also have gone to seed. I cleared both sets of plants out and the garden now looks very different, having lost all the blues which dominate through most of spring.

 

Next I had a trip down to Maristowe, again looking for possible entries into a competition. This time the theme was macro art for the International Garden Photographer of the year. In the end, I didn't use any of these shots, but I do like the light when you get there early in the morning. I thought the family of canada geese was also worth a shot.

 

Browsing thought Facebook, I saw a post which said that people wishing to drive through the village would find delays at about 12.00, as there was going to be a parade of tractors. This was the only reference I saw about it, but decided to go up to the top of the village and catch them as they came through. I went up at about 11.00 to make sure I was there when they came through. Fortunately it was a really pleasant morning and I enjoyed just sitting there in the sun and chatting to the people who came past. The tractor's eventually came through at about 12.30. Apparently they were on their way to a rally nearby. Not many people seemed to be aware it was happening.

 

During the week after that I had my trip up north to Mansfield. I booked a hotel for the night before the funeral, so that I could take my time and then travel the last few miles to the funeral the next morning. I was staying just South of Nottingham, and having researched the area, found a nature reserve near a village called Attenborough. It was close to the River Trent had been a gravel quarry, so there were several deep water lakes which had been reclaimed as a nature reserve, complete with visitor centre and cafe. I was much in need of a cup of tea when I arrived at about four o'clock and after relaxing for a while, I went for a walk around some of the lakes. Unfortunately, I was a bit late to get into the hides, but still managed a few shots as I walked around.

 

On the day of the funeral, I arrived at the crematorium some hours early, and after making sure I could find it again, went to Kingsmill Reservoir, which also had a cafe, so after a walk along the bank (beautifully dressed in my suit and looking out of place with the other walkers/runners/cyclists) I had a quick bit of lunch and then went to the funeral. It was a short service, with only eight of us there, so the singing was a bit shaky, but as funerals go, it was as good as it could be.

 

My next trip out was due to Lesley having to go on a Moderation Course to Tiverton. I dropped her off at the hotel just before lunch and then set off for Knightshayes house which, theoretically, was not too far away. Unfortunately, I missed the sign and ended up driving around for a while not finding it! I ended up at the Grand Western Canal Country Park. I had a walk along the towpath and got some good shots of dragonflies before having to go back and pick Lesley Up.

 

Then it was back to the garden – coming out of the back door to feed the hedgehogs, the full moon was rising. Apparently it is a flower moon, as it is the only full moon during may. It looked really spectacular with the last of the sunset glow lighting up the clouds.

 

The annual Bere Pen 10k race was my next photo session. I like to catch the runners as they come through the village, while they are still reasonably fresh and still able to smile! Other photographers are more cruel and take their pictures towards the end of the run, at the top of a long steep hill. Mentioning no names (Helena!!)

 

During the half term holiday, we went up to Okehampton, mostly for Lesley to have a look at the Adventure Centre that she will be taking her children to for a one-night residential. It was right next to the station and there were some old carriages sitting in a siding, so I took some shots of graffiti and rusting sections. I may return and see if I can get amongst them from the station side. They make good abstract costs. When she'd finished, we went to Sticklepath and had a look around Finch Foundry, something we've been meaning to do for some time. We just got there in time for one of the talks they give, which was really interesting – particularly when he set the hammers going, powered by the waterwheel.

 

The following Saturday, Lesley and I decided to go down to the cafe at Lopwell, little realising that we were about to witness a mass murder. It started innocuously enough, with a family of swans swimming peacefully further down the river, but as we sat at an outside table, the male swan appeared in the river just below us, swimming purposefully across the river towards a female mallard and about ten ducklings. They quickly climbed out of the water and disappeared behind a large lump of soil which had broken off from the main bank.

 

The swan cruised up and down in front of this for about ten minutes and then suddenly took off and flew about a hundred yards down the river. Thinking nothing of this, we continued to drink our cups of tea until there was a flurry of activity. Fortunately I had brought the camera in with the big lens on it and on putting it up to my eye, suddenly I worked out what was going on. The swan was attacking a family of mallards, systematically killing one duckling at a time while the mother frantically flew round it trying to distract it. She didn't succeed and after a few minutes, there were several little yellow corpses floating around the river at that point.

 

By the time the swan was finished, I think there were only two survivors from a family of seven or eight ducklings. I shall never see swans in the same light again.

 

I followed this with a few pictures from Mount Edgcumbe, where I had to go to help Jen dismantle her lighthouse which had been part of an art exhibition in the grounds. It was a beautiful, misty morning and she was a bit late. I had the added bonus of a gannet coming in and flying around for a few minutes before disappearing upriver.

 

Then a shot of Lesley at 1.00 on a Sunday afternoon, surrounded by books for marking and assessing and sheets and sheets of grids to be filled in. She was at it for most of the day (and has pretty much worked non-stop at this for over a week) trying to get extra work ready for moderation. I you are thinking of going into teaching, take this as a warning.

 

Finally this month, back to the garden. For the first time since we moved in (about twenty years) we had song thrushes nesting nearby, so there is a shot of a juvenile song thrush and a juvenile blackbird, along with some of the flowers we have managed to grow that the slugs haven't eaten.

 

Hope you have a good month. d, along with some of the flowers we have managed to grow that the slugs haven't eaten.

 

Hope you have a good month.It's been a strange month.  Last month I was putting up pictures of snowy landscapes and frozen waterfalls. This month, we're basking in temperatures in the mid twenties and the lanes are lined with bluebells, campion and stitchwort. What can you say about our weather?

 

Taking advantage of the progress through spring, I started with a trip to Maristowe, parking at the quay, walking round the river and then back down the lane to the quay. There was a beautifully painted stone sitting on the post of the stile leading to the footpath – presumably part of the painted rocks craze sweeping Devon and Cornwall. Apparently I should have looked on the back for some instructions and then hidden it again for someone else to find. Instead, I just took the shot and left it there for someone else to find.

 

Clambering over the stile, I saw a potential problem ahead of me on the path – a very large, male swan was preening itself right in the middle. I did wonder whether I was going to have a fight on my hands to get past it, but fortunately, as I got nearer, it took itself back into the water. There was a posse of ducklings with their mother in the pools on the inside of the pheasant fence. As I was looking for some shots of plants for a competition, it was growing things which took up most of my attention as I walked round.

 

After a cup of tea in the cafe at Lopwell, I headed back down the lane. Didn't get as many pictures on this section – one was a sign that the first part of spring was over, with all the early catkins floating on the surface of a ditch, the second of what was to come, with a horde of flies mating on a sun baked mud surface, and one of a dog violet growing on the bank by the side of the road, then it was back home.

 

The next few shots are from the garden – again, looking for entries into a competition – a head of bluebell buds, an open grape hyacinth, some other flowers and some moss growing around the garden.

 

My next outing was in some less clement weather and up to Leeden Tor, which is across the Princetown road from Sharpitor. The forecast was for showers working their way east from Cornwall, so I thought there might be some good light between the showers – and I was right, although I did have to take shelter in a dip in the ground when one of them caught me. It wasn't a perfect shelter, so while my back stayed dry, my legs were pretty wet by the time it had passed. They did dry fairly quickly in the wind.

 

There was some good light over the moor and there were expansive views as I climbed higher. The moor was still pretty much in its winter colours, but looking down towards Horrabridge, Spring was definitely spreading across the lower lands. After a couple of hours of walking and taking pictures, I got back to the car, pretty windswept and quite tired. The legs held up quite well, but walking downhill is hard on the knee, so I was quite glad to get to the car – which was the only one in the car park, giving some idea of how bad the weather was.

 

Next couple of pictures were back in the garden, looking for shots which could be entered for the Macro Art section of the International Garden Photographer of the Year (IGPOTY) competition, followed by an early morning trip to Maristowe again.

 

It was totally peaceful. I arrived early enough to catch the last of the mist on the river, and there was a swan preening and moving through the early morning light and reflections, emphasising the tranquility of the moment. As I walked along the path, I saw the same ducklings that I had seen previously, but this time they didn't seem to have their mother with them. I had the feeling that she had been taken by something, so the ducklings were going to have a bit of a struggle if they are to survive

 

I was pleased with shots I took as I walked round – lots of signs of spring, opening bracken, newly opened leaves. With the sun still quite low in the sky, I worked on shots with the sun picking out leaves and trees and I was especially pleased with the shot of Whittacliffe Wood with the sun lighting the new leaves beautifully. No cafe this time, as it was too early for it to be open, so it was back home for a cup of tea and breakfast.

 

The next few shots were around the garden and then I spent Thursday helping Jen put up her lighthouse which was her exhibit for an art installation around the grounds of Mount Edgcumbe Country Park as part of her course. I had to be there for 9am, so I set off really early, with a couple of bags of stones and all the parts and tools needed to assemble her lighthouse. Shouldn't take long, I thought – about an hour to set it up and then I could have a walk around and take some pictures. Foolish. I didn't get home until four in the afternoon, totally exhausted.

 

First, none of the college staff arrived until half past nine. Then there was some confusion about where to set up her work and then we had to carry the pieces from the car to Barn Pool, which took two trips for me. We got it assembled and tried to fix it in place by driving stakes into the ground. Unfortunately, there is about a foot of topsoil and under that is the Second World War concrete standing built by the Americans to allow the loading of tanks and other armour for sending off to Omaha Beach during D-Day.

 

So we needed the stones. Fortunately, I managed to get a lift from one of the Mount Edgcumbe staff, but even with two bags of stones, it wasn't sufficiently stable to keep health and safety happy, so we had to add several boulders from on the beach and there it stands, proudly – until I have to go back and help her take it down again. Fortunately the weather was beautiful. It would have been pretty awful had been cold and rainy.

 

Lesley, Jen and I went on the Saturday of the Bank Holiday weekend to have a look at all the exhibits and it is well worth a visit, if you have time. I took photos of most of the exhibits, but haven't got permission to post them, so there is only Jen's lighthouse to look at.

 

It was back to the garden for the next set of shots and then, following a trip to the dentist, I went up to Windy Post, off the Tavistock-Princetown road. The light was very flat, so I didn't get many shots, but it was a nice walk.

 

So that's it for this month. Hope you're month has gone well, and you have been able to take advantage of the good weather we have been experiencing. gone, Spring arrived then vanished as winter returned with a vengance. The poor animals and birds It's been another funny month – going from the depths of winter to high summer in the space of about 33 days. The landscape was covered with snow on the 18thMarch and then last week I was taking pictures of spring flowers and this week (19th/20thApril) we've had temperatures of well over 20 degrees.

 

I haven't been out as much this month, so there are less photographs to look at. The first shoot was to Burrator Woods and Waterfall with Ian Larkin. Some nice close-ups of moss-covered, gnarled tree trunks and a fine view of the dam through the trees, giving some idea of scale. The shot of the rocks caused some dispute – I though it looked like a dinosaur, but the balance of everybody elses' thinking was that it was a turtle or tortoise, with the head poking out of the shell.

 

There is the usual sheepshot – it was quite strange seeing a flock of sheep making their way through a wood – generally they're out on the open moor, with vast spaces and huge skies for a background. When we reached the waterfall, a tree had fallen, so most of the shots were somewhat untidy, due to the fallen branches and twigs. To finish, I experimented with some intentional camera movement and got some quite pleasing results.

 

I was in charge of what we did in Camera Club this month, so I arranged a system for working on posing skills and taking portraits – it involved rotating between being the model and being the photographer and then moving on to a different partner. Despite some initial nervousness, people soon got into the swing of it and there were lots of good ideas evident and some good results. Everyone enjoyed the session and I was pleased with the way it went.

 

Then it snowed. We didn't get as much snow as other parts of the country – or even other parts of Devon, but it was worth a trip out. When I reached Burrator Reservoir, there was a very cold wind whipping up some quite big (for Burrator) waves on the water. It was as cold as it looked. My first stop was the waterfall where the overflow from Drake's Leat tumbled down towards the reservoir. There were some spectacular icicles and it looked very arctic. Sheepstor looked spectacular under its covering of snow and of course there was the obligatory sheepshot – this one with particularly mad eyes.

 

After the snow had gone, I had a walk down at Maristowe. Still cold, but signs of spring were beginning to appear. A pair of swans were building a nest in some reeds, but it was only a few yards from the footpath – not an ideal position. Next time I went to Maristowe, they had moved into the enclosed area where the young pheasants are raised by the Maristowe Estate for their shoots. Hopefully they will be safe here.

 

Finally, I took some shots around the garden for a competition run by Outdoor Photography – lots of close up of flowers.

 

Oh yes – I didn't mention the food shot. Lesley doesn't like eggs, so while she was away at Spring Harvest, I treated myself to Spanish baked eggs. It was every bit as delicious as it looks – including chorizo sausage, black olives, tomatoes, peppers and herbs – and of course, two eggs.

 

Hope you have a good month.

 

​To 2oth Apri

 

The birds don't seem to know whether they are coming or going. The winter influx of starlings has disappeared, but there are still redwings around. The hedgehogs have come out of hibernation and then gone back in for a couple of days and the frogs laid a vast amount of frogspawn between the end of January and the coming of the first bout of really cold weather. I'm assuming most of this died after being frozen into the ice for a few days. Then it warmed up a bit and they laid another vast amount of spawn, which has spent the last three days frozen in ice and under snow. Now it's melted, the black dots are still black, so I'm hoping we'll get some tadpoles this year as it warms up over the next few days. We've had two dead frogs and three dead newts floating in the pond.

 

Photographically, it's been a busy month. I actually managed to sell one of the pictures which were on display in Wildwood Arts Gallery and the other three are being displayed on the website and may still sell. Getting on to this month's pictures, I began with some shots of the last year's hydrangea flowers and a rose hip after a very light sprinkling of snow, followed by a picture of a bucketful of tadpoles which I brought inside to ensure that some survived the cold. There is one picture of Denham Bridge with the water a very chocolatey colour as the river floods through.

 

Next up is a set of pictures from this month's camera club – Pete set things up for splash photography; dropping fruits into water and milk and drops of water splashing into a shallow tray with colourful backgrounds reflecting into it. I concentrated on the water droplets and was pleased with the range of patterns I got as the drips fell and hit the water in the tray. Timing got better as the evening went on, so I had quite a few shots to choose from.

 

Next was an hour or so spent at Wembury. Lesley is getting a new car and the garage was on the Wembury side of Plymouth, so after concluding the business, we went to the beach. It was bright sunshine, but pretty cold and Lesley spent most of the time in the car with her crochet, while I stood on the beach and took pictures of waves.

 

A few days after this, I had to go up to Yorkshire for a funeral. I decided to break the journey up with a stop at Matlock, and arrived in time to go out and take a few pictures. I searched for 'waterfalls near Matlock' and it suggested the Lumsdale Valley, which wasn't too far away. When I arrived, it turned out to be the site of the remains of one of Crompton's 18th Century textile mills. There were some interesting ruins and a stream tumbling down into the valley, which had provided the power and water needed when the factory was running. The light was just beginning to go, so I grabbed a few pictures and the low light allowed me to soften the water as it fell down into the valley. The funeral went as well as could be expected, but what it did do was give me the chance to catch up with family who I hadn't seen for a while. Thanks for your hospitality, Dawn and David.

 

After getting back, the weather got really cold. Frost was predicted, so I set off for Burrator Reservoir early enough to catch the sunrise. I went to the track of the old Tavistock to Princetown railway line, which is quite high over the reservoir and very exposed. The wind was really strong and absolutely biting. Within a few minutes of setting up the tripod, all the warmth had been sucked out of my legs and the wind was battering the tripod, so after about four shots, I decided to head back for the shelter of the car. On the way, I managed a few shots of the landscape and clouds to the North, but didn't hang around.

 

As I approached the outskirts of the village, the light and colours which hadn't been there at the reservoir appeared in the sky. I stopped and set up the tripod again – while it was still cold, there was no wind ripping the warmth away, so I got some good shots of the sunrise after all.

 

A couple of days later, I headed up to Kit Hill. From the top, there are good all round vistas – Dartmoor to the East, The River Tamar and Plymouth to the South and then Cornwall stretching off in the other directions. Once again, it was cold, but the wind was light, so I stayed and got the shots which I came for, with some spectacular skies.

 

My next trip out was just before the first snow hit. Lesley had another course in Exeter, so I dropped her off and went down to RSPB Bowling Green Marsh Reserve. It wasn't as good as last time, as the tide was wrong and most of the scrapes were frozen over. There was a large flock of wigeon feeding and a few other ducks, geese and waders. I sat there in the hide for three hours or so and didn't realise how cold I was getting until I started walking back to the car – my legs had no feeling and it was like walking on two sticks! Lesley had had a couple of phone calls saying it was snowing in the village, so I went and picked her up and we headed home early. We didn't see a single snowflake until we drove into the village, which had a light covering. It was really bizarre. Having seen the A30 closed and people trapped on it a few days later, we felt that we had probably made a good decision – it could have all gone horribly wrong.

 

When the snow arrived properly (we still only had a light covering) it forced the fieldfares and redwings into the gardens, so I put a chair in the back porch, threw some bits of apple onto the lawn and sat back to see what would arrive. What did come was a very aggressive fieldfare. It drove off any redwings which ventured into the garden and the resident blackbirds and then stayed just too far away for me to get a decent picture. Later, I did have a walk up the road and along the footpaths to try and get a view of the moors covered in snow, but when I arrived at the viewpoint, they were completely covered in clouds, so I turned around and trudged back down the hill.

 

After the snow had pretty much gone (first time) I went to Pew Tor on a day of sunshine and showers. I got some pleasing pictures of the showers marching their way across Cornwall in the distance, and some of the hawthorns with some spectacular clouds behind them – I may try some of these in black and white - and then I noticed that one of the showers was not going across the landscape, but actually getting nearer, so I thought I'd head back down to the car. Fortunately, it passed to one side of me, although I did get caught by a few windblown drops.

 

Finally this month, Lesley and I decided to have a day in Charlestown, down in Cornwall. There is an excellent bistro there, called Wreckers, which specialises in seafood and they do a really tasty fish pie, so I was quite happy. There are also a lot of craft shops there, so Lesley was happy too. After a tasty lunch, I was dragged around the craft shops and then we had a walk down to the harbour where I took the pictures and then home for a quiet Saturday evening.

 

So that is the story behind this month's pictures. I hope somebody has managed to read as far as this. If you have, I would be pleased to hear what you think – as long as you aren't too critical!

 

Mike.

 

 

to 20th March

Last month I mentioned that I had four pictures selected for an exhibition at the Wildwood Arts Gallery 'Capturing Dartmoor' photographic exhibition. Lesley and I attended the preview evening and was pleased to see that my pictures weren't out of place amidst the other fantastic photographs on display. It was good to have an excuse to have shots enlarged and printed to the highest quality, with equally high quality mounting and framing for two of them, and just mounting for the other two. I doubt whether they will sell, but if they don't they will grace the walls in our house after the exhibition!

 

The gallery itself is well worth a visit – there is a wide range of beautiful art and craft work on display and for sale, all of it from local artists and craftsmen. There are also regular courses on different aspects of arts and craft. The website is: www.wildwoodartsdartmoor.co.uk should you want further information.

 

Through January, the knee began to improve and I began to push myself with some walks on The Moor. I began with a walk from Norsworthy Bridge to the ruins of Combshead Farm along the Danescombe Valley. There were no steep ups or downs, but I did struggle when I came to some stepping stones and didn't feel confident enough to take a step down without support. Quite pleased with some of the pictures – a Winter's day on The Moor, with faded grasses and muted colours on the trees. The light was good after the sun rose and it was fresh and beautiful as I walked back to the car.

 

Next time out I went to Trebarwith Strand after reports of big waves. It was quite pleasant by the time I set off, but by the time I reached Trebarwith, the weather had closed in and it began with a rain shower. It did stop and I had a walk along the track past the Port William pub. The wind was pretty strong and the light pretty poor, but I managed a few shots. Not many other people around and eventually I called it a day when a squall out at see looked like it was heading my way. The trip home saw me driving through North Cornwall at its winter bleakest – through deserted villages and hamlets, past hedgerows with stunted trees all shaped by the prevailing wind and a darkening, lowering sky. It has a character all of its own at this time of year.

 

My poor daughter was ill and came home from College to be looked after for a few days, after which I gave her a lift back to Plymouth. On the way back I had a walk at Maristowe. After the rain on the way in, the sun was kind and broke through with a bit of a weak and watery light. It lit up the bare trees and just brought the colours out – particularly on the trees with moss and lichen on their branches, which shone almost white against the darkness of the other trees. Snowdrops were out and I also took some shots of seedheads agains the light. Again, it was a flat walk, but the knee held up and didn't give me too much trouble.

 

The next time I went out was when we had a frost. I went out to Norsworthy Bridge and decided to try and reach the banks of the reservoir but the deer fences which have been put up over the last couple of years didn't have any gates or stiles along this section, so I only got a few shots. The walking was rougher than I'd been walking over recently and I successfully negotiated some steep drops.

 

This encouraged me to try something a bit more difficult, so my next trip out was to walk up to the top of Great Staple Tor. The weather wasn't particularly good – there was a strong wind which buffeted me the whole time, and there was the odd rattle of hail agains the coat at times. The sky was mostly overcast, but there were breaks where the sun was rising, so I got some lovely light on sections of the landscape and the distant clouds, while other parts remained in shadow. In addition, as the sun got a bit higher there were some spectacular rays breaking out from the gaps. The knee wasn't too bad, although it was a bit uncomfortable coming down, but taking it slowly and picking out a route without too many steep steps down helped. It was still a relief to get back to the car and my right knee certainly ached somewhat for the rest of the day.