Mike Wright Photography

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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.

 

 

Then back to the garden, with some shots of a juvenile blackbird trying to get to a hanging berberis fruit and a frog in the pond. The water looks really green in the picture – and that's because it was. For the last month or so, it had bloom of algae which turned it a bright pea green. On looking up the causes, it turned out that there was too much organic matter in the pond, so out came the net and I scooped up several loads of mud from the bottom of the pond. After spooning out the tadpoles and other livestock which got caught up, I dumped it in the recycling bag. Having done this, it took a couple of weeks, but the green gradually disappeared and the water became more clear and now the pond looks much better – and much fuller after a couple of days of rain.

 

Last month, I invested in a cheap set of backdrops. It included a folding frame and black, white and green backdrops which I could hang over it, so I can now set up a sort of studio. I worked with flowers and bits from the garden against the white backdrop. Lesley had grown and picked some beautiful sweet-peas, so I worked on these using focus stacking and also on some cleavers and iris seed heads. I had another session using the black backdrop and some editing additions which took some doing, using masking layers and painting out one layer to reveal a painted backdrop. Not sure if I can remember how I did, but I'll have another go at some time.

 

Following this, on another hot and sunny day, I had a trip to the wildflower meadow at Lopwell Dam. It was cut short by the battery in the camera running out and then when I put the spare in, that was also completely flat, so home I went. I think that it hadn't sat in the charger properly, so I thought it was charged when it wasn't. It charged successfully when I got home.

 

This wasn't my first abortive attempt to photograph the wildflower meadow. A few days previously I had picked up the camera bag and headed out, and when I opened the bag to go up to the meadow, I hadn't put the camera in. When I got home it was sitting on the table next to where the bag had been. How I missed it when I picked the bag up I have no idea.

 

Finally, it was July's Photo Club. Five of us this time. It had been a nice day, but as evening approached clouds gathered and the sun disappeared behind them, so there was no chance of a sunset. We drove down to Bere Ferrers and walked along to Hallowdene, taking pictures as we went. On my part, mostly details – there were some interesting lichens on the stone walls, which were interesting as they were built with the stones laid vertically rather than horizontally. I caught a bit of a television programme which explained this – apparently, if they are likely to have the sea washing against them, they are less likely to move in this configuration.

 

So that is it for this month. Hope you have enjoyed the good weather and the rest of your summer goes well and that you have enjoyed the pictures.

 

20thJune 2019

 

Apologies for the order of the pictures this month. I couldn't order them by name, so I had to put them in date order and the only option for this is most recent pictures first, so if you want to see the pictures in similar order to the blog, you will need to start at the end and work backwards.

 

There are more pictures than usual this month. The extras are from the Torbay Airshow which we went to on the Saturday. The weather was beautiful and we arrived in good time and got an excellent position, sitting just behind the beach and to the right of the pier. We had a bit of waiting to do, but it was no hardship, sitting there in the sun and people watching.

 

When the show began, it was just constant photography and all from a seated position. It was realldy special when the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight came over – Spitfire and Dakota, so it was a bit disappointing that the Lancaster didn't attend. I was a bit disappointed with the pictures of these two aircraft. I tried to get the shutterspeed slow enough to catch the propellers as a blur, but this meant that the shots were just slightly soft. There were helicopter displays and the real treat of the day was when the Red Arrows roared in overhead – the only display allowed to do so. They were just superb – such tight formations and spectaular use of the coloured smoke. I was really pleased with the shots I got.

 

The display finished with a show from The Typhoon and while it was not as spectacular as the Red Arrows, it was a display of sheer power and speed. I was especially pleased with the shots where the air disturbance concealed some of the plane as it performed its manouvres.

 

Sadly for the people attending, the Sunday was cold and rainy and the Red Arrows had to stop their display due to deteriorating conditions.

 

Anyway, if you like aeroplanes, then I'm sure you'll find something to enjoy in this set of shots. If you don't, then just skip over these pages and on to the rest of the pictures.

 

Now, back to the rest of the month. The pictures begin with the last of the bluebells for this year – they began to fade in the days after taking these two pictures. Then it is a set of macro-art pictures – using multiple exposures and intentional camera movement to make abstract shots of plants and flowers with a view to finding entries for the International Garden Photographer of the Year competion. I have managed to narrow it down to four shots, so we'll have to see how they do. Closing date is the end of June, so I need to get cracking and get them entered.

 

I had an early morning trip to Meeth Quarry next. It is just North of Hatherleigh on the A386 and is an old clay quarry which has been bought by Devon Wildlife Trust and is being developed as a nature reserve. It is relatively early in its development, but is still well worth a visit. It's an extensive site with lots of paths through it and an enormous lake where the workings have flooded and is attracting a lot of wildlife already. Particularly noted for butterflies.

 

The next set of pictures are from a day out at Cockington (just outside Torquay) where we went with Ian and Gill Larkin. It was when the weather was still sunny and warm, so lunch was at an outside table, and then we walked round the estate, looking at the workshops. I tried a few multi exposure experiments in the glass-blowing workshop. It was quite fascinating – the glass blower was blowing a piece which looked like it was going to be a vase and then at the very last stage of the process, he somehow spun it and turned it into a plate. Amazing to watch.

 

The church was really interesting, particularly the pulpit which, according to the information sheet, was 'rescued' from the wreck of a Spanish galleon which had formed part of the Spanish Armada. Don't suppose many of the crew were rescued!

 

Then there are a few shots of some volunteers working on one of the public areas of the village preparing it for the 'Britain in Bloom' competition. Lesley managed to get roped in as one of the organisers and they have put in a lot of work to get the area looking good. While there weren't many volunteers for this particular task, a lot of people have made the effort around their own houses and the village is looking good.

 

It is also time for the Bere Pen – a 10k race around the peninsula which is quite popular with the local running clubs. Starting at the school they come up through the village, and this is my favourite position to take pictures of the athletes. The have got into their stride and are still reasonably fresh and running together.

 

A few days after this we had a couple of days in London with David and Robyn. We took Jen with us and stayed in the Westfield in Stratford – within site of David's flat, so it is an ideal location. The Sunday night saw a stunning sunset, but unfortuately the windows in the hotel don't open, so I had to take the shots through the grubby windows, so they aren't quite as sharp as they should be.

 

On the Bank Holiday Monday, we went into Central London before the concert which we had come down to see. As it was the Bank Holiday, much of it was relatively deserted, so I managed some decent shots of the buildings we passed. Eventually, we made our way to the Barbican and were treated to a fantastic performance of Wallace and Gromit's 'The Wrong Trousers' with the music played live by the orchestra. That was the second half and in the first half the orchestra played a range of music and we particularly enjoyed their version of Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. We were also treated to the Premier of Wallace's 'Symphony in E Lad'. All in all, a very entertaining performance.

 

We finished the day with a meal in a Jamaican restaurant in The Westfield and I have to say after the route march around London (David and Robyn's legs are much younger than mine) I was very glad to sit down.

 

On the way back we called in to see my friends Chris and Jan. Chris was my best man and we have know each other since starting together at Bangor back in 1973. We hadn't seen each other for a few years, so it was good to catch up.

 

The next set of pictures are the airshow, which I have written about above. I took something like two and a half thousand pictures during the day, so it took forever to get rid of the out of focus and duplicates. I've got them down to about nine hundred and fifty now, and could do with getting rid of a few more.

 

After the airshow we went to Antony House with Heather and Terry. After a bit of kerfuffle trying to convert my National Trust membership to a family one so that Lesley was a member, we finally got into the house. While it was grand, as these places are, it did feel a bit more normal and lived in than some other places we have visited. They even let Lesley play the Bechstein Grand Piano, which gathered a small audience when they heard the music start. Many of the pictures are of the trees in the grounds, which were spectacular. I shall return with my tripod at some point and see if I can improve on some of the shots.

 

And finally, there is a set of sunrise shots. At this time of year, you need to be up really early to get to the location in time to catch the sunrise and I think I was out of bed at about 3.30 am. And it was just getting light as I reached Burrator Reservoir and got to the location I wanted. It was well worth it, as the colours were beautiful and I was even treated to mist over the water. As the colours faded, I walked along the bank a bit and got a few shots of the trees that lined the bank, but from the land side looking through them to the water. As an added bonus, just as I got back to the car, an angler arrived and called over to me, and turned out to be the dad of two girls who I used to teach, so it was good catching up with how they were doing – both very successful.

 

So, that's it for this month. Hope you have a good month and the weather becomes more summery.

 

20th May

 

Welcome to this months's ramblings. The pictures will take you through spring, with its ups and downs in the weather and everything coming back to life after the harshness of the winter, although the tree in the first shot will not be coming back to life. It stands in the field in front of Maristowe House. Once upon a time it was a beautiful copper beech and I have quite a few shots of it in all its glory. Then, a few years ago, I noticed it didn't have leaves and gradually the branches disappeared until it was left in its current skeletal form. I suppose one of the storms over the next few years will bring it down completely and it will be chopped up for firewood.

 

So, as you might have guessed the first few shots are from Maristowe. Contrasting with the dead tree, the next one is just coming back to life and then there is a shot of couple of flowers out early.

 

Next is a collection of shots from the garden. I have decided to put all of them together, so there will be quite a range. First is a shot of an english bluebell. Nothing strange about that, you might say, but all the bluebells in the garden are spanish ones, so this one is a complete surprise. Hopfully it will spread and we can continue to remove the spanish ones. Then there are a couple of bee shots, and a dandelion head.

 

Following this is a shot of the front of the house. There had been signs up for a while that the road was going to close and we had speculated on what they were going to do and where it was going to be closed. It turned out it was right in front of our house! We woke up to the sound of pneumatic drills and when we looked out of the window, it was all going on right outside. It was electricity work – someone across the road had asked for an improvement to the way they received their supply and the company decided to do three houses at the same time, so we had this trench dug right in front of our house and a similar one in front of the three houses across the road. We had a couple of problems getting out of the house one day, but generally, they were pretty efficient and put it all back – it did get rid of the weeds that were growing out of the base of the wall.

 

The next shots are macro – there was a beautiful sunset sky, so I picked a dandelion head and shot it from below against the sky. Hopefully one of them will be an entry into a competition. Then more macros of plants and moss and some close-ups of tulips which had started to fade. There is a shot of a slow worm which I came across while gardening. I was pleased to see it, as I haven't seen one for a few years. I had a feeling that the hedgehogs might have been eating them.

 

Finally from the garden are a set of pictures of starlings enjoying the birdbath. I'm quite pleased with the garden at the moment. It's always at its best in spring, and I can just sit and look at it when the sun is shining – with the camera handy just in case something spectacular turns up.

 

There are no shots from Photograpy Club this month, as It was the same night as the Spurs Champions League semi final and I wanted to listen to it on the radio. And I'm so pleased I did! That amazing come back was just astonishing to listen to. And now I can't wait for June 1stand the final against Liverpool. I shall be listening on the radio again – I don't want to change a winning formula!

 

After the garden shots, are a set from Saltram. David and his girlfriend, Robyn, came to stay for a few days so we headed off for a day at Saltram House. The weather was beautiful, so it wasn't too crowded, as most people probably went to the beach. We had a light lunch sitting outside and then went round the house and grounds. All in all, a lovely day.

 

Next up was an early morning trip to the River Meavy. I had actually got up for the sunrise, but there wasn't any colour in it, so I just carried on to the river. Normally I shoot it in autumn, so having the spring colours and the new leaves made a refreshing change.

 

On one of our Wednesday excursions we decided to go to RHS Rosemoor which is up towards North Devon. It was a beautiful drive, with very little traffic, and as we usually do, we arrived just in time for lunch – which was very tasty and recommended if you are ever up that way. It's a bit difficult taking photographs when I'm out with Lesley, as she tends to get a bit impatient if I take too long over a shot, so they tend to be a bit snatched. However, I was quite pleased with the ones I got – again, some potential for competition entries.

 

After Rosemoor, it was an early trip to Maristowe. There was a low mist on the water when I arrived, so I got some nice shots of that, including some obliging swans. The rest of the shots were mainly bluebell related, with some shelducks and blossom thrown in for good measure.

 

Finally, on another of our Wednesday trips, we had been told that Meldon Woods, near Okehampton were a good place for bluebells, so we decided to go and have a look. As we set off, the sky darkened and the thundery rain which had been predicted began to bounce off the car. We stopped for lunch at a garden centre just off the A30 and while we were there it really hammered down. It was a prefabricated building, so the heavy rain and hail was really echoing as we ate and we were a bit dubious about whether we were going to walk or not. However, as we finished lunch and I was dragged kicking and screaming around the garden centre to look at what was there, it stopped and by the time we had reached the woods, there was no reason not to have a walk – and it was well worth it. Although the light wasn't very good and I had to use a high ISO, I was pleased with the shots. I was so inspired that a few days later I got up at about 4am to get out there and catch the first light. Needless to say, Lesley didn't come with me, so I had the time to use the tripod and work out compositions. Those shots will start next month's blog.

 

So, I hope you have had a good month and have enjoyed the pictures.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,