That Field – Again

Regular visitors and subscribers to this blog will know that there is a certain field that has featured on four previous occasions as I have watched it change with the seasons. The most recent post was in July of this year shortly before harvest (click here to view). I’ve been back again, about 10 days ago.

By early September of last year this field was already ploughed up revealing a rather subdued palette of colours. Here’s the image to refresh your memories.


My most recent visit caught the field with the stubble, after the Wheat had been harvested, still in place showing a subtle mix of gold and grey – grey being the result of the chalky soil of this area showing through.

_DS80829I was dubious about the light, it was fleeting and I’m not the most patient of men (and my wife had stayed back in the car park on this occasion) so I was fidgeting and thinking: ‘how much longer can I hang about?’ when I spotted another patch of light moving across the fields and its trajectory looked promising. Suddenly the field came alive. It didn’t last long, the light drifted silently by and the field became subdued once more, but for a couple of minutes it wore a broad smile and so did I.


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High View

I’ve been going through the archive – re-living a few adventures and enjoyable days out. Whenever I do this I find images I had forgotten and that deserve to see the light of day.

Today’s image dates back to 2006, shot on a little Sony Compact, and it has sat on the hard drive ever since. In those days I’d never heard of Photoshop, I was still using a PC and I was only about a year into my digital experience.

DSC01503_ColMy daughter Sophie and I had decided to make a day trip to Snowdonia, in N Wales – three hours each way – so we had to make an early start. Our objective was to walk over the two highest peaks in the Carneddau. The main A5 road (originally a Roman Road from London to Holyhead on the north coast of N Wales) runs straight past our village in Northamptonshire. Three hours later we parked off the same A5 in the Ogwen valley in Snowdonia. Thankfully our entire route was not along the A5. A good part of the journey was on Motorways, but for much of our journey through Wales we were glued to the A5 – good in parts, but very tiresome in other parts, especially if you get behind a lorry or two.

Our walking route took us up a straight easy-going track just east of a reservoir and then up to a col – Bwlch Eryl Farchog – just west of Pen yr Helgi-du. The path to the col became steeper once the reservoir was left behind. From there a broad ridge led us over Carnedd Llewelyn and then onto Carnedd Dafydd. It was a stunningly beautiful day, no wind and almost continuously blue sky.

The image was taken from Carnedd Dafydd looking south-west. The view is over the southern Carneddau, and then the Nantlle ridge and (I think) the furthest two peaks visible are called The Rivals some way down the Lleyn Peninsula – the long finger of North Wales that juts out into the Irish Sea.

DSC01503_BWFrom there we walked on to the final summit on the main ridge – Pen yr Ole Wen. In those days I wasn’t aware of the easier and less tiring way off the ridge. We took the steep and direct way straight down to Ogwen Cottage: my daughter was not impressed with my choice of descent route! It’s a tough route off the ridge, and then we still had a level walk back to the car. But, altogether it was a great day out – one of the best I’ve had in N Wales, and in delightful company.

I’ve shown you both the colour and the B&W version. The colour version is of course how one remembers days like this, but the B&W seems the timeless version – it could have been taken forty or fifty years ago, and would still look the same and somehow it speaks more eloquently to me.

Posted in Mountain Walking, Walking in the UK | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Ripe for Harvest

A few days before I went on holiday at the end of July I walked round the fields on the edge of our village to see how the Wheat and Barley were ripening. I took my Canon G10, not really expecting to find images – it was more of a reconnaissance trip.

The weather was overcast, but to my surprise the wheat was ripe, and the barley not far behind. Images needed to be taken, this was probably my one and only chance. And I was right – by the time we returned from holiday, the fields had been harvested.

IMG_6361So the image for you today is taken at the edge of a wheat field. I shot this directly at a line of wheat which meant that the majority of the seed heads were in the same plane. Framing this type of shot is always a bit of a nightmare, because there is never going to be a neat edge to a frame. But essentially this is a pattern picture, the edges tend to be largely irrelevant.

The image will enlarge if you click on it and it really is worth taking a closer look at this.

I processed this in Photoshop, as usual, and then used the Curly Smooth preset in Topaz Clean. This is a preset that I rarely use. It adds decorative flourishes to elements of the image that are usually inappropriate in my opinion. But in this instance I feel it has augmented the shape and character of the seed heads, and that appeals to me as a Creative photographer. But true natural history photographers are likely to be aghast at what I have done.

What are your thoughts on this?

Posted in Garden Plants and Wild Flowers | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

A Sea of Poppies and the Roll of Honour

There are many events taking place this year to commemorate the centenary of the start of World War 1. The Tower of London is the venue for two very special acts of commemoration that introduce a very personal element to the act of remembrance for all UK families who lost a family member in WW1.

Firstly, there is the installation titled: ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’. 888,246 ceramic poppies have been progressively planted in the moat around the Tower since 5 August, the date war was declared, and more will follow in the coming weeks.

_DS80860Each poppy represents a British Serviceman who lost his life in that war. There is an opportunity for anyone to purchase one of those poppies once the installation is removed later this year; all proceeds going to charity.

You will find full details of this act of commemoration on the Tower’s website. Click here for the direct link.

_DS80861Secondly, each evening, at dusk a Roll of Honour is being read of names, nominated by families who lost a relative who fought for the Commonwealth forces. About 180 names are being read each night.

Last Sunday 24 August we were at the Tower to hear that particular Roll of Honour read, as it included the name of my wife’s Great Uncle: 2nd Lieutenant Basil Bentley who died in 1917. It was a very moving and poignant ceremony.

Basil Bentley was the youngest of five children born to George and Jane Bentley who lived in Darwen, Lancashire. The children were: Sarah, Philip, Agnes, Daniel, and Basil (the youngest of the five). Daniel died at age 1, the daughters – Sarah and Agnes – died of ill health in early adulthood.

Both Basil and Philip enlisted. Basil died. Philip survived. He married Elizabeth. They had four children: George, Jane, Mary and Basil. My wife (Charlotte) is the daughter of Mary.

2nd Lieutenant Basil Bentley graduated from Victoria University, Manchester with a BSc 1st class honours degree in Geology in 1915. He entered the Officers Training Corps in 1916 and was Gazetted in April 1917 joining the York and Lancashire Regiment. We assume he went to northern France soon after. He was killed on 11 September 1917 aged 23. He is buried in the Favreuil British Cemetery near Bapaume in northern France.

Those are the bare facts, but to the Bentley family they were a very personal tragedy. It’s difficult for us to imagine how a family can cope with the loss of not just one but the loss of four out of five of its children.

_DS80866To stand on the terracing of the Tower last Sunday with our son, as the light drained from the sky, was a very poignant moment. Over the course of an hour or so, a crowd had gathered. Some were perhaps just curious tourists, but the majority I am sure were there for the same reason as we were. Several clutched a print-out of the Roll that was to be read.

_DS80882It was nearly dark at 20:40 when a Yeoman Warder (Beefeater) of the Tower accompanied by an army bugler marched out to a slightly raised green mount within a sea of poppies and stood in the spotlight. The Roll of Honour was read, clearly and audibly.

_DS80925At the end of the list of names, the Yeoman recited the famous lines from the ‘Ode of Remembrance’, part of Lawrence Binyon’s poem ‘For the Fallen’:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them

And then The Last Post was played by the Bugler.

_DS80936Mere words cannot describe how it felt to be there on that evening. But it’s enough to say that we were there, representatives of a current generation, to give thanks and to remember the sacrifices made by a whole generation of men one hundred years ago.

If you have an opportunity, I urge you to consider visiting the Tower in the next two months. I hope to return to do fuller justice to the sea of red that is encircling the Tower. And if someone from your family died in that Great War, then consider making a nomination and make your visit more personal.

_DS80945This Post would not have been possible without information and help from Charlotte (my wife) and her Cousin (Julie Turner) to whom go my very grateful thanks.

For the technically minded this was not easy to photograph. I was using a long lens at a very high ISO. All images were hand-held, at up to 375mm in some instances. Processed in Photoshop and Topaz De-Noise.

A full gallery of images follows. Click on the first image and then navigate through.

Posted in A Personal Viewpoint, After Dark | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments

A shaft of light

We’ve reached that time of the year when the Greens look tired and shabby. That wonderful palette of greens that we enjoyed a few short months ago has gone, to be replaced by a homogenous tone.

I was in the woods on the Ashridge Estate a few days ago. The sky was 90% cloud and the few blue breaks had passed me by. I was searching for an image. Eventually I found one – it was the spread of the foliage at low level that appealed. The light was poor, the wood was predominantly dark. I cranked the ISO up to 1250 and took a shot. And it turned out better than I thought it would.

_DS80839I walked on and a minute later (I’ve checked the timing), suddenly the light was switched on. And… Wow! Instantly the wood came alive and I had just reached an attractive tree. I spent the next few minutes shooting, busily searching for the right image. I knew what I wanted and eventually I found it. Just a spray of a few leaves, diseased, but alive. I shot, aiming up into the canopy, through leaves that despite their age still possessed that quality of translucency that I find so appealing. The light went, I knew it wouldn’t last, but I was happy. I had an image.


Posted in Microscapes | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

From a Train

A journey is always a photo opportunity. On the day we travelled back to Geneva Airport recently a quite violent series of storms was sweeping across central Europe including Switzerland. It caused a landslide that de-railed a train near St Moritz – remarkably there were no fatalities. Click here for a report and images.

From our train, as it travelled around the north side of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman), there were dramatic views of rainstorms in the distance – but none that I was able to get a decent view of. The lake itself was whipped by the wind into a considerable swell and between the showers bright shafts of light lit the troubled water.

IMG_6634_cropAs always the train stopped in Lausanne for a few minutes. A few weeks ago I posted an image from our last visit to this station – click here to view it. This time it was the people crowding the platform opposite that caught my attention. They were not a happy bunch. Summer had gone AWOL for the day but through the rain-spattered windows I captured an image.

IMG_6640Geneva Airport midweek is surprisingly civilized these days and we sat for an hour or so in the main departures lounge – or rather my wife did. I wandered about, camera in hand, and eventually watched our plane arrive for the return flight to Heathrow.IMG_6652 Never neglect the opportunities that a journey provides photographically. There are always surprises and I’ve never been stopped at airports or stations for taking images.

Meanwhile, over on my other blog iSighting there is a post about capturing the Expected and the Unexpected while on holiday – with more images from Zermatt.

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Out after Dark

A resort takes on a new appearance after dark. The windows light up, things you never saw in daylight become visible.

So, one evening after dinner in Saas Fee recently I wound up the ISO (in one instance as high as 5000) and set off for a tour of the village – and in the gallery below are the images that I found. Five shop window shots, including a magnificent stag. Two night clubs including one with the name ‘Poison’ that has the bizarre headline ‘in God we trust': I have to admit I really don’t understand the connection there. Finally  – the last image – I looked up at a house and saw three horses arrayed along the guard rail of a balcony with a puppet suspended at the end: the imaginary rider of the horses perhaps. The image shown constitutes just a small portion of the frame shot with the lens extended right out to 375mm but I thought it made quite a surreal image.

Click on the first image to enter the gallery and navigate through

Posted in After Dark | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments