27th March 2009 - A Thieving Magpie
We all know from folklore and childhood stories that magpies will steal shiny objects, even jewellry, to include in their nests, but this is the first time I've seen one stealing the bristles of my yard broom! We have watched a pair of magpies, often together, pull the bristles out of this broom, fly off and come back for more. They pull from the base of the bristle and tug away until they come free. Quite fascinating.
(2009-9426) A Thieving magpie!
I haven't the heart to put the broom away and it has been keeping us watching for days!
21st March 2009 - Along Gritstone Crags
(2007-3981) View from Higger Tor
I have finally added the last of the pages describing the 15 segments of the journey from Howden Edge to Beeley Moor and Harland Edge as my Along Gritstone Crags project. I still have further walking to do, more pictures to take and more work to do to complete the story and journey, but one I have enjoyed every minute of and plan to continue doing so.
22nd March - Update: I have completely refreshed and updated the Along Gritstone Crags section of the image gallery and represents my current portfolio for this project.
18th March 2009 - Bolehill Quarry
(2009-9396) A hazy sunset from Lawrence Field
Serendipity. I managed to get home before dark and the evening light was just fantastic, albeit a little hazy. Just had to go for a walk and had an hour or so before sunset so decided to go to one of my favourite spots - Surprise View. But the view was so hazy that little could be seen. So instead I walked across Lawrence Field and down into Bolehill Quarry. Never set foot there before but read about it; it had been quarried in the late 1800s and very early 1900s to supply the stone needed to build the Derwent Valley dams. It's huge! We shall be exploring there further.
(2009-9383) Millstones by Bolehill Quarry
This is a great place to find old millstones or more accurately millstones that were abaondoned before completion and transport. I'm curious to understand why there are so many, here and in other parts. There are heaps of them neatly stacked, but incomplete. To the people cutting them this must have represented a fortune, but it's as if a bolt of lightning suddenly stopped everything in it's tracks.
1st March 2009 - Beachcomber Cottage, Applecross
(2007-1003046) Deserted croft, Sand, Applecross
Today the BBC aired the first part of a series where Monty Halls moved to a derelict croft near Applecross for a 6 month break from city life. He has recruited locals to help him turn the old croft, part of the Applecross Estate, to something habitable and productive. The first part of this series shows him arriving and getting help from the villagers and those on Skye to convert the croft, start with livestock and some gardening. While it is clear that the BBC has to turn up the ante somewhat to produce a series in a reasonable time, I cannot help thinking this just cannot be realistic of what an individual would need to accomplish and live there. We will have to wait for the rest of the series.
We stayed for a week in Applecross in August 2007. It rained for the whole week - which is of course characteristic of Scotland in general but especially so of the West Coast. I loved it but it has probably put my children off from ever visiting again. I've been before but many years ago and can vouch for the glorious views and weather - when it isn't raining. The beach at Sand did manage to contain the rain for a few hours at least and we took advantage to explore and enjoy. This was before the BBC arrived! This photograph is of the deserted croft that was converted during this programme to become Beachcomber Cottage.
22nd February 2009 - A Fanfare for Spring
(2009-0124) Snowdrops, Renishaw Hall
Renishaw Hall is one of my favourite gardens nearby and we have visited it countless times to walk, admire the variety of gardens, wonder through the woods and enjoy. The Head Gardener, David Kesteven, and his team never fail to create stunning gardens and a visit to Renishaw never fails to impress. They are of course closed throughout the winter months but this year opened specially for one day to welcome spring before they open again in April. Their "Fanfare for Spring" was hugely successful and more than 1200 people attended making it much busier than anyone had probably expected. The weather was beautiful and was even warm enough to sit outside with a cup of tea, how English is that!
Whilst much of the garden lies apparently dormant there are signs that it is waking up again. There are drifts of snowdrops, their little droopy heads cheering up an otherwise plain garden. Crocuses have emerged and flowered in the lawns and the daffodils are not far from opening up either. Many shrubs have buds just starting to show and it feels like it will not be long until the whole garden is back showing off once again. Can't wait to see it again...
7th February 2009 - Carsington Reservoir
(2009-9043) Canada Goose, Carsington Reservoir
So many of my bird photographs are rather pedestrian (and I'm not suggesting that this is any better) and have recently spent a lot of time reading and looking at other photographer's pictures to try to figure out what I can do to improve. Getting to know bird's habits is clearly for me an important step. I thought I had a reasonable idea what they do during their day, but reading "The Secret Lives of Garden Birds" by Dominic Couzens (RSPB 2004) tells me I have muchmore to learn. I've also been re-reading Arthur Morris' "The Art of Bird Photography II" for further inspiration.
Time is a real problem - there isn't enough of it to do everything I want to do, so maximising chances of success is time well spent. Places like Carsington Reservoir are a haven for all kinds of birds and of course at this time of year you can be certain there will be plenty there. Today was a great day to see Canada Geese, hundreds of them...
5th February 2009 - Snow Time
Snow properly arrived here yesterday, last night and during today. We got plenty of it, schools were closed and driving anywhere was impractical. Children had a great day on their sledges, snow boards and skis. Looks like we will get more at the weekend so I really hope we might get out into the hills of the Peak District. But I have been working today so time was very limited apart from walking around the garden with camera or over to the local baker at lunch time.
My favourite image of the day is that below showing the patterns made by snow blown across the frozen duck pond in the local park:
(2009-0041) Snow over frozen pond
2nd February 2009 - Icicles
(2009-8948) Drip forming
The UK is now under siege from extreme weather. More snow than has been recorded for nearly 20 years in many places. Of course, there are parts of the UK where a few inches of snow is nothing and is commonplace, but when it lands on the capital, London, everything comes to a grinding halt, trains stop, schools are closed, buses cannot function and people complain that someone should do something about it. Up here in the Derbyshire Peak District we’re also getting a good amount - enough to make it difficult to get about without the right gear be that clothing or transport. Less than London, so far, but hopeful we will get plenty more over the next 24 hours!
The temperature and snow makes beautiful patterns and outlines the trees wonderfully. I spent a while watching the icicles that have formed on a small part of the house where the guttering still hasn’t been finished by our builders. I must get on to them to fix that, but not until I have looked at them with the macro lens.
Of course, taking a photo of an icicle is one thing but then I wanted to get some images of the drop of water just after it had dropped off. A sturdy tripod, manual focus, high ISO, cable release and careful timing gave me a memory card full of images that have mostly missed the event, but one or two just manage to capture the drop as it was just falling off.
1st February 2009 - Time for Snowdrops!
(2007-3305) Snowdrop, taken at Hopton Hall
It’s that time of year again, when clouds of delicate snowdrops open up across an otherwise bare garden. A hint that winter is on its way and it will soon be spring again. It’s also that time when I look forward to a visit to Hopton Hall near Carsington to see their displays of snowdrops. It’s now open and I intend to visit in the next week or so given we also have a good bit of snow on the ground.
This picture was taken in February 2007.
23rd January 2009 - A Stanage Panorama
(2009-8639) Stanage Edge
The length and shape of Stanage Edge makes it really difficult to get any photographs that show anything but a fraction of its length. The same factors make it difficult to get a picture that is not shrouded in grey clouds or dull lighting. Stanage is my favourite of all the gritstone edges that span the Peak District and I have wondered along its length many times, but I am still searching for the photograph that captures it all. This must only be possible from above although this image is the largest span that I have managed to capture (to date) without resorting to stitching and other techniques. This photograph is cropped from a 1Ds Mk3 image by removing a thin slice of sky and a larger chunk of the rather boring fields in the foreground. I have not cropped anything from the width and as such the image still maintains significant detail when printed.
23rd January 2009 - Rainbow over Curbar Gap
(2009-8812) Curbar Gap
This image was serendipitous. After all, how could I have staged it or predicted it? I was driving through the Peak District on my way home after work taking the back roads to enjoy the views and lack of traffic. Coming up the hill from Curbar towards Curbar Edge this view simply presented itself in front of me. One of those occasions when you simply have to stop the car, take out the camera and take the shot. I had only a couple of minutes before the rainbow faded and I was left with a rather dull, grey sky.
18th January 2009 - Millers Dale
(2009-0083) Millers Dale
A bright sunny day in mid-January rather than the “dustbin lid” weather we’ve had of late (grey skies, little sunshine and clouds like a lid over the whole sky), so just had to go for a walk. There’s a pleasant short walk suitable for the whole family that starts at the old railway station car park, drops down into the Nature Reserve in Chee Dale, along the river and up the bank to the old railway track and back to the car park. There are plenty of diversions which we took to see what else was lurking - further along the river and back again, into the old quarry, exploring the limestone kilns.
The old kilns were cut out of the solid rock face and run by East Buxton Limeworks but ceased production in 1944. It is worth walking up the slope to the top to see the view and the old truck and remaining rails presumably used to move limestone into the kilns.
I have tried on many occasions to get a different perspective on the world and one I find particularly successful - although not for everything - is to get the lens at or near ground level. In this case the camera was held against the old rail to steady it, the lens stopped down and shutter popped as an experiment to see what I might get. I quite like the result.
1st January 2009 - A Winter Wonderland
(2009-8468) Bottom Moor, Matlock Moor
The start of the New Year was bitterly cold and with this came a severe frost that decorated everything in its wake with a beautiful coat of gleaming white frost. On the higher ground this lasted a couple of days but was quickly gone anywhere lower. We went for a rather invigorating walk through the woods on the Moors above Matlock to enjoy what we had only seen from the car windows. It was simply magical and in a couple of hours I had pointed my camera at trees encapsulated in a shimmering coat, grasses dripping with tiny ice crystals and other plants beautifully outlined with a crystalline border. Visibility was hampered by patches of heavy freezing fog, but this simply helped in creating and using a wonderful set of theatre lights for my own use!
1st January 2009 - Crysanthemum
We had a large bunch of flowers to decorate the dining room over Christmas and I wanted to spend a little time exploring these with a macro lens. I knew just what I wanted - to go in real close and isolate small parts of the flower head, limited depth of field to get some striking and abstract views.
The light was nice and soft but bright so I set up the tripod in the conservatory and attached the 180mm f3.5 L macro lens to the 1Ds Mk 3 with 25mm of extension tubes. Mirror lock, cable release, ensuring no-one even walked across the floor to keep vibrations down. An hour or so later - I don’t know exactly as I was immersed in this much smaller world - I emerged and started to look at the images on the computer. It was as if I had spent an hour for nothing! There were small hairs, tiny insects and bits of dust over all the flower heads that I had just not seen, making most of the images either unusable or requiring huge efforts to “adjust”. I do not like such adjustments so deleted the large majority of the images. This is one of the few that escaped the trashing. It looks fantastic printed large - I have an A3 print in front of me right now.
Yes, of course I have done this before! I have explored small plants and been bitterly disappointed when reviewing the images as it is just too easy to forget to find perfect specimens. Even really good plants can be marred by small bits and pieces that litter the leaves and petals like the debris along a busy street. Next time I will get out the blower brush and magnifying glass, I promise myself...
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