Mike Wright Photography

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to 20th April

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Hope you have a good month.

 

​To 2oth Apri

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Mike.

 

 

to 20th March

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Next I returned to Maristowe. The walk around the river to Lopwell reopened on the second of February after being closed during the pheasant shooting season. This time the light wasn't so kind, but it was still and peaceful, and there were canada geese, black headed gulls and a couple of swans quietly feeding and preening on the river before the canada geese took off and headed back downriver towards Bere Ferrers.

 

Finally this month, after two days of frost, I headed off for the River Meavy hoping to get some shots of ice forming along the river, where the water had splashed onto the rocks and plants and frozen. It didn't quite work like that! I walked up the path and then cut across into the trees to reach the river, but before I reached the water, I found some hair ice. As you can see from the picture, it's amazing stuff – looking more like fur, it grows on dead wood and only if that wood has a specific fungus growing on it, so it is quite rare. Due to the special circumstances at this particular location, there was quite a lot of it about, so it was then a matter of setting up the macro lens, splaying out the legs of the tripod to get the camera low enough and crawling round the leaf litter for three quarters of an hour or so trying to get some close ups. Finally, I felt I had enough shots, so put the telephoto lens back on and headed for the river itself. There wasn't much ice around, so I just looked at picking out some of the details of the little waterfalls. Sadly, after only a couple of shots, my battery failed. It's been a bit dodgy for a few weeks, so it's failure wasn't entirely unexpected, but the spare needed recharging, so that was the end of the photography for the day – and was going to cost me a small fortune for a new battery.

 

Hope you have had a good month – I've been pleased with the pictures I got and am looking forward to the improved weather as Spring begins to kick in.

 

/12/17

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Have a good month.

 

Mike. 

 

20th October

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

20th September

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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