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 , , , | 4 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 , , , , , , | 16 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.

Posted in En Route | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

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

Shrouded in Mist

Today’s image is emblematic of the weather we recently experienced during a fortnight’s holiday in Switzerland. It’s not what one expects of a Swiss Summer holiday. There wasn’t a single blue-sky day from dawn to dusk during our two-week stay. I don’t recall a holiday like that before and I’ve spent well over two dozen holidays in the Alps. So, this summer was exceptional for all the wrong reasons. Everyone was complaining about it. The Mountain Guides were getting few clients. The mountains were not in good condition (rain down low means snow up high) – and anyway, who wants to climb a mountain and probably see nothing? The Hoteliers were not happy – who wants to visit Zermatt and not get a clear view of its famous mountain, The Matterhorn? The operators of the Gornergrat Bahn were not happy – who wants to spend 84 swiss francs on a round trip to Gornergrat and not get the classic view?

_DS70736I count myself lucky. I’ve had the privilege of seeing all the good views on previous visits; but I felt really sorry for all those who had saved up to visit Zermatt – there one and only visit in a lifetime perhaps – to be disappointed by the paucity of the views.

We still had a relaxing holiday. We were well housed, well fed and well watered. We got up late on wet days and got up earlier on days that promised better. For me it was a matter of changing my priorities: I gave up on the long high walks that had been planned, enjoyed the less demanding ones and made the best of the better days. Photographically, the weather presented opportunities to capture the area in less favourable weather than usual. I came home with a different set of images. I am not down-hearted.

I got used to the mornings when the mists swirled around the valley, shrouding the landscape one minute, and teasing the next as the mist lifted briefly, revealing glimpses of one ridge or another. One held one’s breath, anticipating more. And sometimes there was more, but more often the promise was withdrawn. Views like I am describing have undeniable atmosphere and a character all of their own. But after a while it is natural to long for something different. There will be other opportunities, I am sure.

You will understand that I didn’t have time to view and comment on the blogs I follow while I was away, but I will get back into those activities this week. Thank you all for your comments – I think I managed to respond to the vast majority of them.

Finally, a warm welcome to all the new followers of my blog within the last few weeks. I hope you enjoy what you see and read and do add a comment or click the ‘like’ button if there’s something you particularly like.

Posted in MountainScape, Swiss Alps - Summer | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Clouds Parted

In my previous post I talked about a walk up to Trift in cloud on our last day in Zermatt. I waited patiently at Trift (a 1hr 20mins walk up from Zermatt and approx 2250ft of ascent) for the clouds and mist to clear. The cloud cleared a little to allow views higher up above Trift towards the Rothorn Hut and the mountains in that direction. But the clouds stubbornly hid the mountains on the far side of the Matterhorn valley expect for the briefest of moments when a small ‘eye’ opened in the cloud and mist perfectly framing the higher slopes of Monte Rosa. I grabbed my chances, and the eye closed. It was one of those magical moments.

_DS70766When you see mountains like this, detached from their surroundings, they always appear far higher in the sky than you believed them to be.  As I descended, Monte Rosa remained in the clouds but I did get wonderful views lower down of the Mischabel mountains as you will have seen in my previous post. If you missed that, click here, to see that image.

The image in today’s post will enlarge if you click on it. Try it – this is a view really to be savoured and viewed large!

Posted in MountainScape, Swiss Alps - Summer | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments