Mike Wright Photography

Archive

Well, here we are in the middle of April and the world has changed beyond recognition. We are all staying at home, the streets are pretty much free of traffic and everything is strangely quiet. The highlight of the week is now going out to do the weekly shop – whereas previously, it was something to be got out of the way as quickly as possible. It is certainly interesting going into Tavistock – there are very few people around, the car park is pretty much empty and we don't have to pay – something I didn't notice for the first week! We are also shopping for two other people who are self-isolating and Lesley is shopping for Make Lunch which is delivering food baskets to families around the village. Keeping it all separate in one basket is quite interesting.

 

So what is happening photographically. First of all, Community Photographic Studios in Plympton have really stepped up to the plate, They are running some free online courses and setting photographic challenges twice a week, then running a Zoom meeting on Wednesdays and Sundays to keep people in contact with each other and to share people's pictures in response to the challenges. Last week's challenge was 'Time and Clocks', with the current challenge being 'Eyes'.

 

A big thank you to Jamie Robert House and Hannah Cochrane, who run the studios between them, for all your work. You don't need membership to join in the challenges, so if you would like to get involved, check out their Facebook Page: Community Photographic Studios CIC or their website which is 'communityphotographicstudios.co.uk'

 

So, what has been happening photographically this month? As you might expect, there are a lot of shots from around the garden. And that is how things start – a quick selection of the flowers and blossom blooming in early spring, followed by a couple of shots from the last session of the ten week course, which we just got in before the shutdown. A rare picture of me taken by one of the other course members on my camera and a picture of Emily's eyes, showing the highlights you can get when you get the lighting right.

 

The next set of shots were taken on the Wednesday before they decided that Dartmoor should be closed. We went for a walk up the track from Norsworthy Bridge towards Crazywell Pool and a day of low cloud and mist over the woods. We passed several other walkers, keeping an appropriate distance. Then, over the next few days came the closing of all car parks on the moor and all the confusion about whether you could drive somewhere to get your exercise, or if you could only go out from home.

 

We have decided that we will only go out from home, so I've got my bike out and am riding round the Peninsula a few times a week. Much more slowly than I was eighteen months ago, but I'm gradually getting a bit fitter. I haven't taken the camera out yet, as I don't fancy it banging on my back as I'm struggling up the hills. At some point I might put the panniers on and take the camera and a few lenses out to take some pictures as I cycle around – particularly when the bluebells come out.

 

So from now until the end of the month, all the shots are from around the garden and the house. Close ups of flowers and now that the tadpoles have hatched, pictures from the pond. A rook came to the bird feeder while I was sitting in the garden. They don't usually stay if there is someone around, but this one was either very hungry or very brave and gave me some good shots.

 

The challenge wasSandwiches', so I did a close up side view of my cheese and tomato sandwich and then a shot of the finished sandwich and the rest of my lunch ready to eat. The following challenge was 'Sunsets'. Initially, it was a bit of a pain as the days were cloudy, but then we had the sun lighting up some contrails and clouds as it sank, so I did manage a couple of shots.

 

Then there are a couple of shots from the kitchen. The first being the results of leaving the meat tin to soak overnight after cooking a roast of beef. The colours, shapes and patterns of the cold fat globules caught my eye. This is followed by a shot through the back of one of the kitchen chairs – if you look at it in the right way it gives an optical illusion – particularly the small holes in the chair back.

 

And back to the garden for the next challenge – blossoms and leaves. Lots of leaf bursts at the moment and the colours can challenge those found in the Autumn. 

 

The shots of the goldcrest are interesting. We usually get them in the autumn and spring on passage, but this one seems to have decided to stay around. Unfortunately, it keeps seeing its reflection in the windows and things it has another male competing for territory, so we will be sitting in the front room and hear taps at the window and there will be the goldcrest attacking its reflection! Hopefully it will give up eventually, or find a female and be distracted by the mating and nest-building process.

 

The next challenge was shadows and again it was difficult initially, and then the weather improved and the sun began casting shadows. The first one is the sun shining through the trees outside the window and casting shadows onto a painting giving the colours and textures. The next one is it casting a shadow of an oil lamp onto the wall, then a portrait of Lesley with half of her face in shadow and the last one of the shadow of the railings being cast onto the steps by the early morning sun.

 

Back to the garden for the next set, a few of the flowers and the opening bracken in response to the 'Macro' challenge, including some shots from the pond of marsh marigold and pond skaters. Then at the other extreme, we were set the challenge 'The Moon'. Fortunately skies were clear and it was a supermoon into the bargain. 

 

Finally, more macros – bees on forget-me-nots and some dandelion seedheads. That's it for this month. Hopefully you are coping well with the lockdown and are avoiding any illness. Hopefully by the time I write this next month, there will be less Covid19 cases and things will be beginning to get back to normal and people can get back to work.

 

March 2020

 

This month's period begins in the middle of February and now that we've just gone past the middle of March it seems an awfully long time ago. Corona virus was a distant threat in China and Storm Dennis (I think) had just gone through. This is where the pictures begin. I thought I' get down to Kingsand in Cornwall with the idea of getting some shots of big waves breaking over the clock tower. I set off at some unearthly hour on a Sunday morning. People had been warned not to travel, so the roads were virtually deserted – and there was no problem with the driving. I got to the car park in Cawsand and walked along the front until I found a slipway with a good view of the clock tower. Unfortunately, the wind had calmed down since the previous day, so the waves weren't huge, but they were still quite spectacular and I felt the trip had been worthwhile, despite getting pretty wet due to the continual drizzle.

 

The next day was the latest instalment in the Course I'm doing at Community Photographic Studios in Plympton. Our model was Carol, the self-styled 'Punk Granny'. She was brilliant and really brought the studios to life. We all got a lot of good shots and I picked out the ones I liked the best.

 

For Lesley's birthday, our daughter, Jen, came home and we picked Lesley's mum up and headed off to Charlestown – lunch in 'Wreckers' followed by a stroll down to the sea and then a browse around the unit of small craft and antique shops next to the car park. It's good going at this time of year. I hate to think how difficult parking would be at the height of the season.

 

The next set of pictures are from the Photography Course – we worked on lighting Mark Lawer's motorbike, which was quite spectacular. Lighting is beginning to lose some off its mystery – although I still wouldn't say I have any sort of confidence when setting up a style of lighting. I was pleased with the pictures I got and had some nice comments when I put some up on the studio Facebook page.

 

Then it was back to the outdoors for my next set of shots. This was at the beginning of March and Coronavirus had arrived in the country with dire warnings of what was to come in terms of the effect on our way of life. It still didn't feel like it was going to touch us down here in the Westcountry, although was a little hotspot in the Torquay area. That Sunday morning, when the rain had stopped for a day was lovely. I was up fairly early and after a couple of landscape shots, I concentrated on a small herd of Dartmoor ponies. They also were enjoying the sunshine and weren't just heads down and eating, which is their normal pose. They stayed still long enough for me to use the tripod, so I was very pleased with the quality.

 

For the next instalment of the Photography course, we worked with some of Jonathon Whittaker's work. He is a wood carver (https://carvedbyhand.co.uk) and the pieces we worked with were carved and then covered in a laminate to give them their shine. I had some nice comments from Jonathon himself when I put them up on the studio Facebook page.

 

Next I went out into the garden. Spring is moving along and the frogspawn had all hatched, so I spent an hour or so lying on a sheet of plastic by the pond, trying to get shots of the tadpoles. Not easy getting them in focus when they are under the surface – and made even more difficult when my macro lens doesn't focus consistently since I fell into the River Plym with it a couple of years ago!

 

I determined to go out for certain on the following Sunday, no matter what the forecast was. As it happened, it was for showers clearing as the morning progressed and sure enough, when I arrived at Maristowe Quay and parked, I ended up sitting in the car for quarter of an hour as a shower came through. When it had passed I got out and headed off on the walk around the river. I had gone about two hundred yards when another shower came in. I squeezed between two tree trunks for some cover and set to wait it out. I don't know about you, but when I look at a landscape for any length of time, I begin to see patterns and pictures to take. And so it was – the shots of the fences and reflection of reeds, grasses and branches all came at this point.

 

Walking on I came across a couple of juvenile swans with their parents swimming downriver towards them. I noticed that the cob (male) was swimming in quite an aggressive posture, so I had a feeling there would be a bit of action. Suddenly, the cob began to flap towards the male juvenile. The female skipped out of the way and the pursuit was on. It caught up with the juvenile and got a couple of good pecks on its backside. I don't know if it got the message, but it certainly kept a distance after that.

 

Then it was back to the Photography where we worked on silhouettes. I had to be the model for my partner, and she modelled for me – neither of us were comfortable having our pictures taken, both of us preferring to be behind the camera. Fortunately, pictures of me were on her camera! I liked the silhouettes where colour was involved best.

 

The last set of shots for this month was the last time things were normal. Covid19 was spreading across the country and people were dying from it. Not many, but the numbers were going up all the time. So, for our Wednesday day out, we went to have a walk around Polperro in Cornwall. For those of you who don't know it, it is a little fishing village on the south coast, tucked down at the end of a valley, as many of them are along this stretch of coast. Looking back it seems strange that we could just walk into a cafe and have lunch and not have to worry to much about being close to other people, but the sun shone, and it was a very nice day.

 

So, by the time we get to the middle of April, who knows what will have happened. Cafes, restaurants, bars and leisure centres have been ordered to close. Toilet rolls, bread, flour and many basics are in short supply due to people panic buying and groups offering help and support are being set up in the village – one positive aspect of the virus.

 

The photography course has now finished, and while the next stage of the course is set to begin in April, I can't see it happening. However, I think I will still be able to get out and take pictures – I will be on my own, getting fresh air and exercise and keeping a distance from other people.

 

So, wherever you are in the world, stay safe and I hope you manage to avoid the worst of the Corona virus.

 

February 2020

It's been an interesting month, photographically. Since beginning the Photography Course at Community Photographic Studios in Plympton, the range of pictures I have in my catalogue has widened considerably and I'm really learning a lot about using lights in a studio – although I still tend to rely on the other people on the course to do the setting up!

 

This month begins with work from the course. We did a session on product photography using a range of jewellery imported by Marie Hill of Plymouth. It comes from Thailand and is made using recycled materials – in this case, used bullet cases. It was good being able to use different lighting techniques and backgrounds and I was pleased with the results.

 

After this it was back to outdoor work again. I was actually driving off to somewhere else and had put the camera in, just in case, and when I got to Denham Wood, there was mist down in the valley and it was glowing behind the conifers. I pulled into the car park and took a range of shots, but my favourite is the one where the light is shining across the path and picking out a few beech leaves left over from last year.

 

A couple of days after this, we had one of the few frosts we have had this year. In fact I think it is the only one which was hard enough to make it worthwhile going out. Anyway, I was up before dawn and arrived on the approach to Burratorr in time to catch the pre-sunrise glow on the horizon and then went to Norsworthy Bridge and worked around the nameless stream which runs into the reservoir near the car park. I was particularly pleased with some of the ice patterns in the puddles and with the frozen leaves.

 

Wednesday came around and Lesley and I set off for Fowey for our day out. It was a pretty miserable day, be we did manage to stay dry and had a great lunch in Haverner's on the quay. Recommended if you are down in Fowey at any time.

 

Fowey itself had a strange atmosphere. Most of the properties are holiday lets and hotels and many of them were having building work carried out, so there were a lot more builders around than there were visitors. Going to these placces at this time of year really shows the effect that second home ownership has on a community.

 

After lunch we walked back towards the car park and then went up to St Catherine's Castle. We had intended to do a circular walk, but my knee was giving me a bit of stick, so we went back to the car and headed for home. I must make an appointment with the doctor and see about starting the process for a knee replacement.

 

The next set of pictures are following up on last week's product shoot – we had a model to wear the jewellery. Once again this put me right out of my comfort zone – I find it really hard directing a model into different poses. I suppose I'll get better with practice. The model was Balbina PI Ramsey and was excellent – I think it was more a case of her dicatating the poses rather than me, but I was pleased with the shots I came away with.

 

At this time of year, the frogs are gathering in our little pond. It is good for photographing them, as it is easy to get to eye level without having to lie down, so I can stand for much longer – not to mention I don't have to get up from a prone position, which can be quite tricky these days. It was interesting watching the mating process – who would want to be a female frog? They get squashed not just by one male, but by as many as can get a foothold. I was really pleased with the shot showing a female's hand sticking out of a mass of frogs, almost as if it was a cry for help! I did have a session where I got some shots while it was raining, trying to catch the raindrops landing around the frogs.

 

Back to the photography course and this week we had Mark Lawer come in to model for us. He has been skateboarding for years and has been all around the world to some extremeley challenging pipes (as in huge pipes that come out of dams, or are used as storm drains). He has written several books and his talk was both interesting and inspirational. I decided I would edit the pictures I took and convert them to black and white to bring out his character, and I think they were quite successful. Mark himself is doing one of the beginners' courses to introduce him to photography.

 

Now that the pheasant shooting season is over, the walk around the river between Maristowe Quay and Lopwell Dam is open again, so that was one of my first walks in February. I was a bit late getting up, which is why the sunrise shot was taken from my back door! As usual, there was plenty to take pictures of when I got walking – although wildlife was in shorrt supply, as it has been since the estate began developing the shoot.

 

Wednesday came around again, and our day out was to go up to Princetown to have a look at and exhibition of Diane Giles's photographs of people who live and work on Dartmoor. There was still bits and pieces of snow on the ground when we arrived in Princetown and it was pretty chilly. The photos were really good and it is well worth a visit if you are stuck for something to do. We stopped off at a small car park overlooking Burrator Reservoir and had a short walk before going down for lunch at the Burrator Inn – which is now closed for three weeks while new owners refurbish. Lesley did say that it needed a bit of tlc before we heard this news.

 

Finishing this month are some shots from the village camera club. We had several lensballs to work with and Helena had set up a mirror with a black background for people to shoot down onto. The whole session went really well. People coming to the club are really starting to get confident with their cameras, using a range of different settings and using the objects and set ups available with imagination, and getting some really interesting shots.

 

So, that is it for this month. Next month moves into spring, so – weather permitting – bluebells and wood anemonies may well be finding their way into my catalogue.

 

Hope you have a good month.

January

 

Happy New Year to anyone reading this first update of 2020. The pictures begin with a throwback to Christmas. If you didn't get to Saltram House for their Enchanted Christmas displays, these pictures will give you some idea of what you missed. This was actually our second visit, as we took the children (well, adults, really) while they were staying with us, so the first picture is of David and Jenny – of whom we are extremely proud. The next set are all inside the house, where each room was set up telling a different fairytale. 

 

Going round the grounds, to avoid repeating shots I took last visit, I went for a more abstract approach, using zoom bursts and intentional camera movement to capture the lights on the trail. I'm quite pleased with the results.

 

The next set of pictures are from Wells, where we went to meet up with family between Christmas and New Year. As we were there on a Sunday, I managed to catch the outside of the cathedral while an evening service was going on inside, so the lights were shining outwards through the stained glass. I then went out on the Monday morning and got detail shots of the statues and decoration on the West Front. There is something about the statues, standing there for centuries, looking out over the city. It's funny how some of them have lost their features to the weather, whilst others look as though they were only completed recently.

 

I only had one trip out into the landscape this month – and I didn't go too far from the car on that one. I went to Denham Woods as there was a mist hanging round for most of the day and concentrated on getting shots of the trees and branches. It wasn't quite as misty as I'd hoped, but I was quite pleased with some of the shots. Jen bought me lens ball for Christmas, so I've included my first attempts at using this – I'm sure there will be more next month.

 

I haven't been out walking as much as my knee has been giving me a bit of gyp. While it is quite painful while I walk – particularly going downhill – it is more a confidence issue. If I go out to somewhere quite remote on the moor, am I going to get back to the car? I will make a bit more effort in the New Year and also see about starting the process for a knee replacement operation. I think it is reaching that stage.

 

Finally, there are shots from January's village Photography Club. We had a session on close-ups. Helena bought a couple of plastic slinky springs, and we had a couple of stations set up with a sheet of glass with a flash underneath them so that we could work on backlit images – and I had a suggestion from my Photography Course that smarties under the glass which had been sprayed with water would be quite effective – and I was pleased with the results.

 

One of the shots of the spring looked like an eye, so I played around with it in Affinity Photo and Designer and tried to give the impression of the eye and top part of the beak of a very exotic bird. I have included the original shot followed by the editied version. See what you think.

 

So, not so many photos this month (maybe a good thing?) nor so many trips out. Mind you, the weather has been pretty foul. Hopefully there will be a few more cold and frosty days through the rest of January and February which will make me want to get out there.

 

Have a good month.28th Januarry

Very late update this month - Christmas got in the way, so a very brief blog as well.  Starting with some experiments with diffraction, followed by a few shots of a late afternoon around the Bere Peninsula, then a trip out to Sharpitor on a very foggy morning.  After that, shots from the illuminate festival, followed by a trip out to see the Christmas Garland at Cotehele.  A visit to Saltram to see the lights in the garden came next.  We missed the opportunity to look around the house, but paid a second visit when the children were home (National Trust membership makes these visits very cheap!), so if you didn't get the chance to see the house this year, I'll put some pictures up in the New Year.  Enchanted Saltram was a very apt description.  This months finishes off with a few shots from Wembury.  There was a strong wind and I hoped to catch some big waves, but the tide was out, so they weren't quite what I had hoped for!

Happy New Year to you all

 

20th November

Getting on towards the end of November and winter is beginning to show its hand. A lot of the autumn colour has gone from the trees, particularly on the exposed higher ground, and their bare branches are giving the landscape that black, winter-look. There is still some gorgeous colour down in the valleys, so I will try and get out in the last week or so to catch it before it all disappears.

 

I have been enjoying the photography course on a Monday night. It makes a real change to be working in a studio, with proper lights and backgrounds and with other people. It's a really nice group and we all take turns when it comes to using the flash triggers with no arguments and no one hogging them. It is particularly interesting (and challenging, for me) to be taking pictures of people and having to direct them. I'm also finding getting an interesting composition from a still life tricky, but on the whole I have been pleased with the shots I have come away with.

 

The first set of pictures are from the course. On this particular week we worked on different lighting set ups, using each other as models. Having this list of where to place the lights and some shots to illustrate each setup will be really useful – particularly if I ever invest in my own set of lights. So several portraits to begin with, and I also worked on developing my editing techniques and was pleased with the results from that.

 

Next, come a few shots from the garden. It was a mizzly morning and the droplets were clinging to everything. There was very little or no wind, so it was a good opportunity to get the macro lens out. I worked mostly around the cottoneaster, as the bright red berries made a good background. There were some more subtle backgrounds against which I took pictures of droplet covered spider webs and these were quite pleasing.

 

Next are shots from a very, very proud Dad. Jen graduated from her Ceramics and Glass course at Plymouth College of Arts with a 2-2 and the graduation ceremony was held at the Theatre Royal. It was a really nice Sunday morning, full of happy graduands and proud parents. The awarding of the certificates went off without a hitch and after the usual throwing up of the hats, we treated Jen to a meal at Wildwood in the Royal William Yard.

 

A couple of weeks after that, I was asked to help take pictures of a craft fayre in the village hall which was in aid of a thrombosis charity, so there are several shots of stalls and their owners. There is an amazing range and amount of talent locally.

 

Then it was back to landscapes. An early start to catch the light on the autumn colour took me to Shaugh Prior. Unfortunately, while the light was lovely, the trees hadn't turned much yet and what colour there was came from the bracken. However, there had been a LOT of rain over the previous few days, so the river was running really high. Normally, I go upriver along the branch which the footbridge crosses, but on this day I decided to go up the tributary which joins just below the footbridge and was very pleased that I did, getting some good shots of the river.

 

The next set of shots are back to the photography course. We looked at still life refractions, which were interesting, but I struggled to get compositions which I was happy with, so didn't come away with too many shots. An area of photography on which I need to work.

 

These are followed by just two shots, but behind those is a story stretching back over thirty five years. Back in 1983, I began going on cycling holidays, staying mostly at youth hostels, organised by my friend Ian, who played for the same football team as me. This first holiday became an annual event, wobbling around different parts of the UK, cycling from youth hostel to coffee shop, to pub for lunch and then another couple of coffee shops before eventually arriving at the night's youth hostel. Over the years, various friends joined the rides, some for a few years and others just for one, but through it all, the constants were Ian, Big Dave and me. The last holiday was in 2015, as a couple of days before we were due to travel on the 2016 holiday, Ian fell victim to an unsuspected brain tumor, suffered a stroke, and died a couple of weeks later having never recovered consciousness. After the cremation, most of his ashes were scattered by family and very close friends, but a small amount were sent to Big Dave and myself to scatter somewhere with links to the cycling holidays. We chose The Warren House Inn on Dartmoor, a place where we had stopped as a very cold, wet evening drew in while we still had about three miles to go to the youth hostel at Bellever. A few whiskies and a couple of pints warmed us up a bit and we made it to the hostel – still wet, but not as cold as we could have been. Hopefully, Ian would have approved.

 

Another photography course follows. This time looking at composing different shots. The first challenge was to go outside into the night and take 24 shots from the same spot. I think I managed 23 before we were called in again. After the break, we had to choose an object and shoot ten different shots, using the lights to change the composition. After an initial problem in deciding what to use, I chose a soft toy and worked on that.

 

As I hadn't go much in the way of autumn colour on my previous trip to Shaugh Prior, I tried again and this time the leaves had turned. The river was still running high, so I repeated my trip up the branch of the river and worked on getting detail shots of the water and wider shots with the colours of the leaves to enhance the water. I stopped at Denham Bridge on the way home, and took a shot looking downriver. One for next year's calendar!

 

There is one shot from a trip to The Devon Guild of Craftsmen Centre in Bovey Tracey. I think I have shot this pot before, but this time I tried a macro shot. I really like the creamy white of the pot and the way it contrasts with the glaze pattern. This was the only picture I took all day.

 

By this time Remembrance Day had come around and we made our way down to the War Memorial, as we do every year. This year was the first year Stan Sherrell had not read out the names of the fallen, and while I knew it was a different person reading them, it still sounded strange. Eventually, I worked out what it was - Stan always used to read the full names of the people on the memorial, while this gentleman just read the initals and their last name.

 

Finally for this month, was the last photography course of the session. Jamie had arranged for three dogs and their two owners to come in so that we could work on portraits of the dogs and to try and catch their personalities – both the dogs and their owners – and the relationship between them as they interacted. Hopefully a bit of this shows in my pictures from this session. It's a shame the course has finished, but there is an 'Intermediate Part Two' on in the New Year, so I shall probably sign up for that to see what it's like.

 

Enjoy the rest of Autumn and I hope the preparations for Christmas go well. â€‹

20th September

This month begins with a trip to Maristowe Quay, quite an early one, so I got the lovely, low morning light as I walked round the river. I need to get down there a bit more often over the week or so, as the walk closes on the first of October so that they can set it up for pheasant shooting. It won't open again until 2ndFebruary next year which is a shame, as I shall miss walking along the river during the winter frosts.

 

So, a range of pictures with some of them showing the end of summer and hints of the beginning of Autumn. On the way back I stopped at Denham Woods to get the shot of a branch which had turned into autumn colours while the rest of the wood remains green – the tree just above that particular branch snapped off in a storm last year, so I suspect there will be no leaves on the branch next year. I also got a couple of shots of a juvenile buzzard sitting on a post and eventually flying off into the woods while keeping an eye on me. After that shot it was back home for breakfast.

 

The next few shots are of the birds around the bird table. The starlings are always entertaining, and we have had a good crop of blackbirds this year, so there are usually three or four quarrelling their way around the garden. There is one shot from a walk we had at Tamar Trails. We went up to the remains of the calcifiers in the middle of the spoil heaps from last century's arsenic mining – still very little growing on them after all that time and dire warnings of death to stop people going on them. In spite of this there appears to be cycle tracks running up and down the slopes, We followed the walk with afternoon tea at the Moorland Garden.

 

As the children had gone back to school, we booked three days in a hotel in Bourton-on-the-Water. It's always good going away at this time of year, as we never had the opportunity while we were teaching. On the way up we stopped at Newark Park, which originally was a Tudor hunting lodge which was extended and then went through several different owners over the years until it reached a point where it needed rescuing. It was rescued and is now owned and run by the National Trust. It is not your usual run of National Trust properties and is well worth a visit.

 

Next to the car park was a field full of poppies which were crying out to be photographed. It was a bit breezy and the poppies were not still for very long, but I think I got some nice shots.

 

The hotel was just on the edge of the centre of Bourton and next morning, after an excellent full english breakfast, we went out into the village. If you haven't been before it is a beautiful village, all cotswold stone and with the river Windrush running through it with frequent footbridges crossing it.

 

We spent the morning wandering, calling in at a pottery, drinking tea and wandering a bit more and then went to the Model Village. Even this was made of cotswold stone and the houses and shops looked quite real. When I took a picture while holding the camera low down, it was difficult to tell whether it was the real village or the model. There was also a model making exhibition which is well worth the extra entry fee if you are ever there.

 

After the model village we walked down to Birdland – which is exactly what its name suggests. It had a wide range of birds on show and also included a dinosaur trail which was quite well done. I was quite pleased with the bird photos, although some are a bit soft having been taken through the wire fences.

 

The next day we went to Chedworth Roman Villa in the morning. If you like Roman history, it was really interesting, if you don't, it's probably not for you. It was found in Victorian times – covered in trees – but when cleared revealed and enormous villa with expensive mosaics, its own bath houses and a range of rooms. It was obviously owned by someone very wealthy and yet it had disappeared from all knowledge for about fifteen hundred years. Amazing.

 

For lunch we went to Burford, had a look round the church and then wandered up and down the main street, calling in at a little local museum. I love these little quirky places. They have very normal things in them which aren't of any national importance, but just show how people used to live. Quite charming.

 

It was a nice place, but had a few too many shops for my liking – but Lesley enjoyed this, so I spent a fair amount of time people watching until she emerged.

 

Next day we went home via my cousin's house where we took them out for lunch before travelling the rest of the way – mostly crawling down the M5, which was pretty busy.

 

I have started a photography course to try and extend my knowledge. For the first session we worked on strobe effects, so I have included a selection of shots from this. The course lasts for ten weeks, so there should be a more sets of pictures to come.

 

Next up is a range of shots from Denham Woods. I went looking for fungi, so most are macro shots of a fallen birch tree, with a couple of detail shots. Again, it was an early start and then back home for a late breakfast.

 

Finally, are some shots from the village photography club. We were asked to take a glass dish and the session was dedicated to photographing oil on water. I used some of the ideas from the course – setting a really small aperture (something like f/29) and then firing the flash off camera, using different positions and different backgrounds to change the effects. I was quite pleased with the results.

 

Also this month we have had a lot of work done around the house. After some twenty years we finally had the downstairs room at the front of the house double glazed and a new front door. It is normally our guest room, so should make a real difference to the warmth and noise for people staying there and will hopefully keep the house a bit warmer.

 

We also have a wrought iron gate and some railings leading up to the back of the house and up to the back door which have rusted to a point where they were only supported on one upright, so we have had these replaced. This involved a lot of drilling down into the concrete, using a lot of water to keep the drill bit cool and left a deposit of concrete mud over most of the small patio and steps. This was easily cleared with the power washer, but left a thick coating of sludge on the gravel at the bottom of the steps, so this had to be washed and then some more gravel added to the path.

 

Now that it's done, it all looks very good, but I don't think we'll be having much done to the house for a while.

 

 

20th July 2019

Ihaven't been out taking pictures quite as often this month – seem to have lost a bit of motivation for getting up really early and walking over rough terrain. Having said that, I did get up so early for a trip to Cadover Bridge that I had to sit in the car for half an hour or so while it got light enough to actually take some pictures!

 

This month's pictures begin with the June excursion from the village photo club – a very informal affair, with attendance varying from four to about twelve depending on who is available. June was at the lower end of the numbers, so as it was quite a nice day, we jumped into my car and headed off to Weir Quay on the River Tamar in the hopes of a good sunset. It did look promising for a while, but in the end, the sun dropped into a bank of clouds leaving very little colour behind. Still, it was quite bright for most of the time, so we were quite pleased with the shots we did get.

 

The next set of shots are from my daughter's Degree Show. She is in her final year at Plymouth College of Art and was thrilled to have reached this stage. It was a quite spectacular show, with a real variety of things on show. Loved the colours of Jen's glasses.

 

After that, I tried some experiment's in the garden, looking for some abstracts to enter into a section of the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition. I worked on using intentional camera movement and multiple exposures. I particularly liked the shot of the dying iris flower, with its twists and textures. I did get some entries, but they didn't do anything – not even shortlisted. Still, I've got the main competition coming up over the next few months, so need to begin collecting pictures for that.

 

I did spend a lot of time collecting and editing pictures for Landscape Photographer of the Year, only to find when I came to send of my entry, that it's not actually running this year and won't be up again until 2020. Still, I have prepared pictures for other competitions.

 

With the weather being bright and hot, I had a trip down to Maristowe Quay and had a walk around the river. This time I was concentrating on using the 400mm telephoto as a macro lens, taking pictures of insects and plants which stood out from the background. The nice thing about this technique is that I does throw the background out of focus, but still shows some detail, so you get some idea of the habitat in which the insects and plants live. I took my favourite shot from the lane on the way back to the car – the sun was lighting up the meadow on the other side of the bank, and on top of the bank, the grass seed heads were silhouetted against this.

 

The weather also encouraged sitting in the garden with a cup of tea and the telephoto lens on my knee, taking shots of bits in the garden which caught my eye and there was quite a bit of action. There was a dunnock being quietly industrious around the rockery, a great spotted woodpecker arrived on the feeder – a first – and being pleased with the way the garden is looking, I took a few general shots of that. I also caught a frog as I was weeding the path along the side of the house. It did me the favour of keeping still while I went back into the house, put the macro lens on and came back to take its picture. Very pleasing.

 

Next it was above-mentioned trip to Cadover Bridge. It was a lovely morning and I was pleased with the shots I got. I was out early enough not to see any other people and could set up and take pictures without worrying about getting anyone else in shot – apart from a hint of bright colour which was a couple of tents where some people were wild camping. I was sad to see the tree which had been cut down, as last time I visited the was a huge old oak, spreading its branches across the river similar to the trees earlier in the set. It did look like one branch had been ripped off, and then the rest of it had been cut down for safety reasons – there were always rope swings on its branches.

 

Back to the garden next. It is quite surprising what appears in the garden while I sit in the chair. We've seen sparrowhawks coming through and taking occasional birds over the last few years, but this time, one flew over the wall opposite to where I was sitting and then up onto the roof of the house, where it sat for a minute or so, giving me time to pick up the camera and fire off a couple of pleasing shots before flitting off out of sight. I think it is a male, as it was quite small and quite brightly coloured.

 

We had a day out in Dawlish. We were going to go on the train, but it involved changes and the timings weren't good, so in the end we drove. The weather was very hot and it while it wasn't packed out, it was quite busy. We had a nice lunch, a stroll around the shops, down to the beach where we sat in an arch in the railway embankment overlooking the beach and just sat in the sun. I took some wide-angle shots of the beach and people on it, plus some experiments with intentional camera movements.

&n