Mike Wright Photography

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22/04  Sorry the update is a bit late this month – Easter got in the way a bit.

 

The first set of shots for this month were out on The Moor. I went out with my friend Ian, early on a dull morning, with the clouds dropping down to cover the tops of the tors at various times. We went to the Scout Hut, which is near to Ditsworthy Warren and walked along the old tinners' track to the remains of Eylesbarrow Tin Mine – not that there was much in the way of remains above the ground – pretty much just one wall standing. However, we did get talking to one of the Dartmoor Volunteer Rangers and he gave us a bit of history of the site and told us where the remains of the blowing house were – we would have missed them otherwise – and some detail about how they worked. It's always interesting talking to people you meet on The Moor.

 

Since Lesley retired, we try and keep Wednesdays free as a day we can go out somewhere together and this week we headed out to Challaborough. We didn't quite make it there, as we noticed a sign for somewhere called Aylmer Cove, neither of us had heard of, so decided to give it a try. It was a good decision. There was a small National Trust Car park and as we got out of the car a lady and two dogs came off the path and back to their car. The lady was puffing and blowing a bit, so we worked out that perhaps the way to the beach was quite steep – which turned out to be the case.

 

It was about half a mile down to the beach – along an old smugglers' path according to the information board – with good views of the cliffs either side of the cove. When we got down there, I left Lesley sitting on a seat and went and investigated the rocks for close ups, with very pleasing results. The shots on a larger scale were good too – the cliffs were just huge slabs of slate and very imposing as they reflected the sunlight. It was quite a strenuous walk back up to the car and we understood why the lady was a touch out of breath. I was pleased with the way my knee coped – have it heavily strapped with a knee support helped.

 

Driving into Plymouth, there is a small copse on the left as you go over the cattle grid and onto Roborough Down on the way to the A386. I've been passing it for years and then I thought it might be worth trying for some pictures – especially if there was a mist. So, mist was predicted and I got up early and sure enough, couldn't see past the end of the garden. I set off and the closer I got to the copse, the less mist there was, until when I arrived, it was as clear as a bell. I decided to take some shots anyway and got one that I was half pleased with and the one looking up into the treetops which I was very pleased with.

 

I set off back and then noticed there was still mist in the Tamar Valley so decided to go down to Weir Quay – not a shred of mist. In desperation, I cut across to Bere Ferrers and there was the mist, with the sun just showing through it.

 

For my next trip out, I went to The Garden House to see if I could get some 'Spring Garden' shots for a competition in 'Outdoor Photography' magazine. Had a pleasant morning and ended up with one or two potential entries – but the standard is so high, I shall probably rethink. Then there is a few shots from a fabric shop in Launceston. Lesley is planning on re-covering some old chairs we have and this shop was recommended by a friend. So on a rainy old day, we went to Launceston and had a stroll around until we found the shop and in we went. To pass the time, I asked the lady if I could take some pictures. Lesley did get the material she wanted – for what to me was an eye-watering price!

 

As spring was beginning to show its face, I went down to Maristowe Quay and walked around the river to Lopwell Dam. As a bit of a challenge, I left my big lens in the car and only allowed myself to use my 24mm-105mm zoom lens and the tripod. I was quite pleased with some of the results, although it would have been good to have had the option to zoom in further than I could with the smaller lens. Fortunately, I didn't feel I had missed any great opportunities by not having the big lens with me and I was really pleased with some of the reflection shots.

 

The next set of shots are closer to home. I have grouped all the shots I took around the garden together, so there are a range of shots, from the garden opening up as spring takes hold, to close ups of things growing in it to some experimental shots involving zoom bursts and intentional camera movement, which hopefully will produce some entries for the International Garden Photographer of the Year competion in the macro-art section.

 

Sitting at home one evening, there was a lovely sunset light shining on the living room wall, so I went into the kitchen (we're an upside down house, so all the living rooms are upstairs and the bedrooms downstairs) where the light was shining on the laurel blossom which grow at the top of the laurels growing along the side of the house. It lit the petals up beautifully, so resting the big lens on the window frame, I shot off several pictures until the light faded.

 

And that's it for this month. I didn't feel like I had been out very much, there seems to be quite a few pictures. My knee is getting more painful and I feel I am maybe making the decision not to go out – particularly where it is likely to be steep or need a bit of scrambling. I must try and up my motivation for next month.

 

Hope you have all had a good Easter and enjoyed the hot weather – rarely is it that good over the Bank Holiday. My son and his girlfriend came home for a few days, so we had a really nice time with them.​
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This month starts off with one of those fortunate moments. I was on my way to Maristowe when I spotted the mist behind the trees at Denham Woods as I drove past. Fortunately, there was nothing coming behind, so a quick reverse let me turn into the car park. The mist was actually behind the trees, so it was a matter of trying to find compositions between or involving the trunks and branches. The mist didn't last too long, so I continued on my way to Maristowe.

 

Maristowe, as always, provided a lot of photo opportunities, as well as being utterly peaceful. It must be one of the quietest places in England early in the morning. A sandpiper posed for me on the edge of the quay, with the reflections behind it and then there was my favourite white willow – I have lots of pictures of it and I don't think its colour is the same in any two of them. Walking on along the path, I like the reflections in the flood water behind the embankment.

 

My next trip out was with Lesley for her birthday – she wanted to go and have a luck at Dartmeet, so we picked up her mum and off we went. It was pretty cloudy and quite chilly, so we left her mum in the car while we walked along the river. Following this we drove on to Widdicombe-on-the-Moor and had a cup of tea and a piece of cake at the Cafe on the Green.

 

Shortly after this we had to go to Birmingham for a funeral. We stayed with Lesley's sister, who lives just outside Worcester and I drove them both in for the funeral. As I wouldn't have known anyone, I decided to stay in the car, thinking I would only be there for a couple of hours. Four and a half hours later, they returned, having caught up with a lot of people from their time living in Birmingham. I think I worried the people living in the house outside which I parked, as for the last couple of hours, their curtains twitched regularly!

 

On the way up, we stopped at Slimbridge. We had a good walk around and a trip out to the hides looking out onto the marshes around and got a range of shots. Lunch was good – probably a lot better and cheaper than stopping on the motorway, although factoring in the entrance fee, it probably worked out more expensive.

 

The morning after the funeral, I got up early and went out into the fields around the village. The light was beautiful and while I didn't get to the place I wanted to reach, which looked down into the valley, I did get some pleasing tree shots. I was stopped by a rickety stile – stiles can cause me problems. On one leg I have a flexible hip, but a weak knee, and on the other leg a strong knee, but an inflexible hip and to get on to this stile I would have had to push it at an angle and I think it would have just snapped it off, so I concentrated on the hedgerows.

 

Next it was another trip to Maristowe during the two weeks of unseasonably warm weather at the end of February. It was nice to see the ladies paddle boarding up the estuary. I could quite fancy a go at that, but I don't think my hips would let me stand up for long enough. It must have been quite stunning going up the river that way.

 

Back on land, I got a couple of nice shots of a long tailed tit, some tree details and some shots of seed heads, trying to get the structures so that Lesley could use the pictures as inspiration from some textile images she had planned. Plus a nice shot of a smiling Lesley in the lane, wearing an arran jumper which my mum had knitted quite a long time ago. Something to remember her by.

 

Continuing the good weather, I spotted some red admirals in the tops of the laurels outside our front room window (we live in an upside down house – bedrooms downstairs, kitchen and living rooms upstairs) so it was just a matter of opening the window and using the 400mm telephoto lens to catch them fluttering around the laurel blossom.

 

Finally, shots from Photography Club – working on long exposures with swinging lights and an angle grinder producing spectacular displays of sparks.

 

So, Spring seems to have arrived. The garden is coming back to life (I can tell, because the lawn needs mowing) so lots to look forward to as the pond develops, bluebells come out and wildflowers take over from the dull browns of last year's remnants.
 
 
 
20/02
The first couple of pictures this month are from a walk along the edge of the moor, walking down into Sticklepath Wood and then back along the cycle track towards Yelverton, crossing the viaduct. It was a bit of a scramble at times and my knee did suffer a bit. The tree was interesting – a large branch, broken off and hanging down. As we got further down into the valley, we came across the adit – didn't go into it as there are a lot of old mineshafts dotted about in this area, and it's not worth taking the chance. And we didn't have a torch.

 

Next photos are from Coventry, where the day seemed to revolve around parking. We had to spend a day up there while waiting for a friend to finish in a meeting. Having dropped her off, we headed for the city centre and having checked Google Streetview, new exactly where the car park was. We went straight to it, only to find that it was a construction site – a new multi story car park was being built. So, we had to drive around trying to find somewhere to park.

 

I have to say, the car parks were not well signposted, and it took about half an hour and a couple of turn-arounds before we managed to find one. Having parked, we headed for the Cathedral, looking around the old one first and then – finding the new one wasn't open – went for a coffee. When we got in, the new Cathedral was breathtaking and I hope the pictures I took gave some idea of how impressive it was.

 

After the Cathedral, we went into The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, which was very good. Lots of interesting exhibits and some good pictures in the gallery. By the time we'd finished there, it was lunch time.

 

After lunch, we consulted the tourist guide and decided to go and have a look at Fargo Village. We thought it was a bit far to walk (it wasn't!) so took the car and found the car park for the Village. It had a really good second hand bookshop, which cost us a bit of money and a few second hand/antique shops, which we browsed and then decided to go back to the original car park and have an afternoon tea in the Herbert Museum cafe. After that, we collected our friend and headed back for Devon.

 

About a week later, the parking for Fargo Village came back to bite us in the form of a letter, saying we had parked in a private section of the car park and would need to pay £100, reduced to £60 if we payed within a fortnight. Needless to say we were outraged. We had paid to park and hadn't seen any signs saying the side of the car park in which we had parked was private (had we parked in the other half there wouldn't have been a problem). I appealed, and this was rejected. I read up about private parking charges and decided to write to Coventry City Council. They weren't impressed and sent me a very polite email showing the signs at the entrance to the car park. I didn't feel they were particularly clear, but they were there, so I didn't have a leg to stand on and paid the £60 – reluctantly. So, while the Cathedral and Museum were excellent, I wouldn't recommend visiting Coventry.

 

The next few shots are of Kingsand in Cornwall, where I went for my Birthday and Lesley treated me to lunch at The Devonport. Well worth a visit if you are in the area.

 

I hadn't been out on the moor for a while, so I got out early and did the walk from Norsworthy Bridge car park to the remains of Combestone Farm. It's a while since I've done this walk and there had been a lot of forestry clearance – sections of the path which had been dark and claustrophobic were now light, with devastation where the conifer plantations had been. There were flocks of coal tits feeding on the ground, whereas they would normally have been up in the tops of the trees – quite a change of habitat for them.

 

Next up are a few shots from the garden – some before the snow arrived and some after. As it was the first time we'd had a decent fall of snow this year, we went for a walk from the car park behind the Dartmoor Inn on the A386 and headed for the River Lyd. A few years earlier, I had been to a waterfall there and we tried to get to again for a few photographs. Unfortunately, my knee is not as strong as it was back then and I'd forgotten how narrow and steep the paths were – made more treacherous by the lying snow, so we didn't quite make the waterfall. It was a good walk, though.

 

Then we had more snow, and for a couple of days couldn't get the car out of the car park. Then the roads cleared a bit, and I set off early for Burrator, getting some sunrise shots over the reservoir and then walking up to Leather Tor Bridge, along Devonport Leat and back down through the woods to the car park, getting some pleasing shots along the way.

 

After the snow had gone, my friend, Ian, had some time off and we decided to head for Wistman's Wood. It's a long walk, from the car park, but it is fairly flat, so it wasn't too bad. The wood itself is quite tricky to photograph – lots of trees, obviously, but the ground is covered with some very large, moss-covered boulders, making it tricky to move through. I tended to stay in one area and use my telephoto lens to pick details out. The wood itself is supposed to be one of the most haunted places on the moor, but neither of us felt anything out of the ordinary while we were there. However, on looking at the pictures, quite a few of the trees seemed to make figures or faces. See what you think when you look at the pictures.

 

Finally, it was camera club and we did some splash photography – dropping pieces of fruit into a glass of water, or into watered down paint in some cases. It's very addictive when you get going, trying to get that ideal splash. There were a lot of people there this month – Pete, who started the whole thing – must be very pleased with it.

 

So that's it for this month. Competition wise, I had four shots shortlisted over the past year, but none of them got any further. I'm just wondering what I have to do to get up to that extra level and get them selected for the final positions. I have three entries in at the moment – two for Outdoor Photography's 'One Thing This Month' competition – one for 'Woodland Landscapes' and the other for 'Winter Landscapes and the third one in a new competition – Close up Photographer of the Year. Have to see how well I do in these.

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This month gets the last photos from 2018 and the first few from 2019. I have lost a bit of motivation for going out and taking photographs – I think to some extent it's worry about how my knee will hold up on a walk on The Moor. I struggled a bit on the walk along the River Teign – not just my knee, but the small of my back was really painful. Mind you, it was quite a fast pace, and I didn't stop every twenty yards to look for pictures! The walk to Maristowe was a bit of a test – I was ok on the flat. The big test will be going up and down a tor. I'll make myself go out next week. There is a possibility of snow, so that may be the motivation I need to get up onto The Moor.
 
 

This months pictures begin with another trip to Bowling Green Marsh in Exeter. I went with my friend, Ian, this time. It was either sit in the hide for a few hours or have a trip around IKEA with our wives. It was a bit of a gamble letting them go on their own, unrestrained by our sensible presence, but they didn't do too badly. There weren't any avocets around this time, but some of the ducks and waders did come quite close to the hide and it wasn't anywhere near as cold as it had been last time I went. Ian and I reached the point at which we were supposed to be picked up, but they were about fifteen minutes late – apparently a last minute inability to walk past a display of candles was the problem. At least it wasn't raining and we went on to a nice lunch at Dart Farm.

 

The next set of pictures are from a walk along the River Teign at Fingle Bridge, as mentioned above. It was a pretty miserable day, with a steady drizzle coming down. I don't suppose the damp and cold helped my back and knee, but either way, it was a real relief to get back to the Fingle Bridge Inn and get a cup of tea and a piece of cake in front of their lovely fire.

 

Just one picture from Christmas Day – David got a drone in the shape of the Millennium Falcon for one of his presents and the time spent by him trying to control it as it soared around the room was priceless. He did manage to miss the light fittings and was actually controlling it quite well by the time we had to go and get Christmas Lunch sorted.

 

After Christmas, we have a tradition of meeting up with Lesley's sister and her family about halfway between where we both live. This year it was Wells, staying in The Swan. It was a good choice, as it is right in the centre of the town. Wells was used for many of the locations for the film 'Hot Fuzz, which both David and Jenny really like, so there was a lot of location spotting. It was really quite misty when we arrived, so as dusk fell it gave a good light for shots of the moat around the Bishop's Palace. Next day, the mist had gone, so when I went out early, I didn't get the shots I was hoping for. However, tracking the light in the Cathedral made up for it and I was pleased with the shots I got – particularly the shots of the Jesse Window.

 

After we got home, my next walk was to Maristowe. The main walk around the river is still closed due to the pheasant shooting season, so I just walked down the lane to the dam. Most pictures at this time of year are winter details and this trip was no exception – although there was some good light on the estuary.

 

I have also been taking shots of unusual and interesting cloud formations which are then processed to bring out the texture and patterns in the clouds, so I have included a set of these. These were inspired by a photographer called Stephen ST Bradley (stephenstbradley.com) who photographs from Northern Ireland. His website is well worth a look.

 

Finally, a couple of pictures taken during the village photography club session this month – wqe looked at portraits, well out of our comfort zone – either taking the pictures or posing for the photographs. I have included my favourite pictures from the evening – one of Ian and the other of Helena. Having seen the pictures other people took of me, I'm very pleased they weren't on my camera!

 

Anyway, that's it for this month. Hope you enjoy the pictures and have a happy and prosperous New Year.20thT December: The last set of photos of 2018. Difficult to believe, it has gone so quickly. Quite a momentous year – beginning with Lesley having a hard time at school and leading on to her retirement – she is well out of it. Sadly, the school is becoming an island in the community instead of a part of it. Amazing how one person can have such a drastic effect.

 

But onto the photos. No real successes in competitions over the year. Had two shots shortlisted, but one didn't make it past that stage and I haven't heard anything about the second one yet – and I don't think no news is good news. I did manage to sell a few framed pictures from a stall we had for the village Victorian Evening – although Lesley made more on her crochet. We'll have to try other fetes next year.

 

For the photographs, I began the month with a trip out with Pete. Haven't been out with him for a while, so it was good to catch up. We began at Coombestone Tor, out towards Hexworthy. It was so windy that I lost a few shots through camera shake, even though I had taken them on the tripod. It didn't get any better, so we headed down into the valley to Hexworthy Bridge and took a few shots of the bridge and river and then headed back to Princetown and down a small lane towards Nun's Cross Farm. Lonely and isolated, it made for some good shots.

 

The next shots were in the garden aiming to get some action shots of the starlings as they argued and squabble around the feeder.

 

We had a trip out to the Iluminate Festival at the Royal William Yard in Plymouth. It was quite spectacular and well worth the trip. There were some amazing exhibits, a small flavour of which you can get from the photos.

 

Next up are a couple of abstracts. Lesley was preparing an activity for a children's craft morning and stored the lollipop stick cradles and Mary and Joseph on a tray. I liked the patterns so took a couple of shots. I've included a shot of the finished nativity scene – the activity went down very well with the children.

 

Then the weather deteriorated and one of the named storms swept in, whipping up big waves along the coast, so it just had to be a trip to Trebarwith Strand. It's great having Lesley retired – it means I can drag her along on these cold, rainy windswept days to watch while I take photographs! She didn't find it too bad when we went into the Port William for lunch. I was pleased with some of the wave pictures, but the tide was going out, so I didn't get too many shots of the waves crashing against the cliffs. After we'd finished lunch, I treated Lesley to a pudding while I went back to the cliffs. I got the shot of the kestrel when it flew over the wall on top of the cliff and was intent on something further down. It didn't see me walk up to it, so I got one shot of the back of its head and then one shot as it turned its head and saw me. Then it was gone.

 

We moved on to Boscastle and walked down to the Harbour entrance. If you know Boscastle, you will know that there is a small cave on the North side of the cliff, just about at the waterline on a falling tide, so this fills up with water with one wave and when the next one comes in, it forces trapped air and water out with a boom and a swoosh – quite spectacular to watch. I tried to capture it in a few shots, but not sure how well I have done.

 

Finally this month, I had a short walk at Lowpwell Dam at the end of a dull afternoon, with occasional bursts of sunshine as the sun went down. So that is it for 2018 – although I have taken quite a lot of shots of the Christmas Tree display in the church with a view to getting a picture for the parish Christmas Card for next year. Nothing like planning ahead.

 

Hope you have a great Christmas and that 2019 is a good year for you – particularly if your 2018 was not a good one.

Another month and another bit of me falls apart. As I was going to bed last night, I had a couple of flashes in my left eye and then this morning started seeing lots of black dots, or 'floaters', as they are known – it almost looked like a thin film moving around my eye. When I checked the NHS website, it said that if you had a sudden increase in floaters then it needed to be checked out, so I made an appointment at the opticians.

 

He examined the back of my eye and eventually said that the reason I was seeing black dots was because the jelly that fills the eyeball was pulling away from the retina (apparently something that happens as you get older) and there had been a small bleed around the optic nerve. He wasn't too worried about that bit, but then said that the bottom of the eye was looking a bit 'moth eaten' and the retina was showing signs of detachment which if caught early could be solved with a two minute laser treatment as opposed to two hours of surgery if it became completely detached.

 

So, the result of all this is a trip to the eye infirmary tomorrow, so that they can check it out and decide if it needs treating.

 

Photographically, not so many trips out this month, but some spectacular sunsets and sunrises made up for the lack of quantity.

 

Starting with one shot from a trip to Charlestown and then a few shots from the garden – mostly against the light to make them a bit different.

 

There had been some really spectacular sunsets over the previous few days and I hadn't been out to take advantage. So, thinking that if the sunsets were spectacular, the sunrises probably were as well, I got up early and arrived at a spot overlooking Burrator Reservoir just as it was beginning to get light. The clouds were every but as good as I had hoped and the early start was well worth it.

 

Next, Lesley and I had an afternoon at Wembury Beach. Despite it being towards the end of October, the sun was beating down and as it was half term, it was really busy. Not wanting to take pictures of people on the beach, the pictures are mostly taken on a walk along the coast path.

 

Then the sunset looked promising and I made the effort to go down to Weir Quay on the Tamar and again, it was worth every minute. Some beautiful light as the sun went behind the hills and some lovely colours in the sky.

 

My next trip out was an Autumn regular – to Norsworthy Bridge at the end of Burrator Reservoir and then up the River Meavy to catch the Autumn colours along the waterside. There had been very little rain over the previous weeks so there wasn't a huge amount of water coming down, but the autumn colours were pretty good.

 

Between this trip and my next trip – also to Norsworthy Bridge – I had to go to Coventry so that Lesley could give evidence in an inquiry. What a waste of time that was. Travelling four hundred miles, booking a hotel room and then sitting in a basic, less-than-warm meeting room from 9.30 to 12.15 only to be told that it would have to be postponed and she wouldn't be required to attend again. What a waste of time and money!

 

The journey back was ok as far as Gloucester and then the storm that was coming up from the South West met us. It was a couple of hours of lashing rain, on a busy motorway. It was a hairy journey, particularly when going past lorries and it was a real relief to get home safely.

 

So, on to Norsworthy Bridge again – lots of water in the river this time! Unfortunately, the storm and heavy rain had washed all the leaves from the river and most of them from the trees – just a few hanging on.

 

On the way back I stopped at the top of Denham Bridge Hill and took a few shots looking back down the lane and some shots across the fields from the gate near the car park. A bit more sheltered than up on the Moor, there were some lovely colours still on the trees.

 

Finally this month, there are a few shots from the village Remembrance Service. Well attended as always and very respectful. I've taken pictures of it every year from 2007 and the number of men with ribbons on their chests reading the roll of honour has sadly got less every year until this year we are down to two.

20th September
 
Quite a lot of macros from the garden this month. The teasel has lost all its flowers and the heads and leaves are drying out. Lesley keeps asking if she can cut it down and use the heads as a flower display somewhere round the house, but I want to get more shots of it first. There are also quite a few critters using it as shelter and the goldfinches are occasionally tempted onto it to get at the seeds, so it will stay where it is for the moment.

 

Lesley is now officially retired and totally dedicated to disrupting the routines which I have got used to over the last six years! She keeps making me do things like going out for a cup of tea during the afternoon, or going to a garden centre. What she hasn't managed to achieve yet, is to get me to go to the new IKEA in Exeter. I'll keep fighting, but it's probably only a matter of time.

 

To ease her into retirement, we went away for three days at the beginning of September, staying at Trelew Farm bed and breakfast, just outside St Buryan. If you're looking for a break, I can't recommend it highly enough. Fried breakfasts superb, extremely comfortable rooms (and only two rooms, so never overcrowded), really handy for Penzance, Mousehole and Newlyn and for West Cornwall in general.

 

We crammed a lot into the three days – stopping off at Portreath and Lamorna Cove on the way down and then spending the next day in St Ives – using the park and ride – the train journey in was quite short, but spectacular, and had a look around the Tate Modern, as well as mooching round the town and a pasty on the beach for lunch. Photographically, I was trying some experiments with multiple exposures, so see what you think of them. I would appreciate any comments.

 

The next day I was up early to catch the sun coming up behind St Michael's Mount. Unfortunately there was a bank of cloud on the eastern horizon, but there was a glow which showed for a few minutes, setting it off quite nicely – and I got a few other shots of the bay in the early morning light which I was quite pleased with.

 

For the rest of the day, we went down to Geevor Tin Mine, but didn't get to go down into the mine, as we had booked a seat at the Minak Theatre to watch a play. We arrived in time and on this occasion, had really fine weather. We were watching gannets diving for fish while waiting for the play to start, and the play itself was really funny. At the end of the afternoon, we went into St Just for fish and chips, which we ate on the cliffs at Botallack. We had intended to wait for the sunset, but it didn't look too promising, so after some photographs, we headed back for the farm and travelled home the following day.

 

The downside of this trip, was that just as I had loaded the last of the photographs onto the laptop, it died. When I got home, I called the Apple Support line, who said they don't support my computer any more as it is considered to be 'vintage' (late 2011, if you can believe that)! Anyway, she gave me some things to try and I got more ideas from a website, but nothing worked, so next day it was into the Apple Store for a new machine. Fortunately, there was a way of switching my old machine on and while it wouldn't boot up, it did act as a hard disc for the new machine, so using a cable, I managed to get everything off the old machine and onto the new machine, which meant that despite the disaster of a dead computer, I still had my photographs from Cornwall.

 

Other photography trips out included a walk at Maristowe, concentrating on using the 400mm telephoto as a macro, which gave backgrounds which retained some of their detail, but were out of focus enough to emphasise the main subject. I'm trying to start a new fashion of not having a totally smooth bokeh, but keeping a bit of detail in the background.

 

We also had a trip to Buckland Abbey to see the Cosmic Egg which they have had on display all summer. I thought it was quite impressive and took some detail shots, along with a shot which showed the whole thing sitting in the barn. After we'd seen it we went for a walk around the grounds and I got some good shots of the flowers growing in the walled garden.

 

I next went out onto Dartmoor. The forecast was for the drizzle to stop and the clouds to begin clearing through the morning, so I went out early and they were wrong. The drizzle continued for the whole morning and the clouds opened a gap which allowed the sun to come through, but which only lasted about two minutes before going back to cloud and drizzle. I went to get pictures of the rowan trees which grow below the summit of Leather Tor. I parked at Norsworthy Bridge, went back across the bridge and took the track on the right which leads up to Drake's Leat, and then went over that up a narrow pony trail to where the rowans grow. While they were covered in red berries, there didn't seem to be quite as many as I remembered from the least time I was there. Still, I was quite pleased with the pictures I did get.

 

Next we went out for a walk around the Duke's Drive at Noss Mayo with some friends. We parked in the National Trust Car Park at the top of the cliffs and then walked along the cliffs to the Yealm Estuary and then followed the path to Noss Mayo and had lunch in The Ship. After that, we walked back up the track past the tennis courts to the car park. I hadn't done a straightforward walk like that for a while, and despite sitting down for lunch part way through, my knee gave me a bit of gyp on the last section up the hill back to the car. I'm going to have to get in touch with the hospital and see about starting the process for a knee replacement.

 

Back to the garden for a few teasel and critter shots after that, and then it was the trip to Cornwall which I wrote about earlier.

 

So, I hope you have had a good month. By the time I write this again, Autumn will be well under way and it will nearly be time for the clocks to go back. Enjoy the month, and as usual any comments will be welcome, just to let me know that someone (anyone!) is actually reading this.​​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.